Google has an idea to make a smart contact lens that runs on solar power

By: Cadie Thompson


The contact lens of the future may do a lot more than just correct your vision.

Earlier this week, Google was awarded a patent for a solar-powered contact lens that is capable of communicating with computers and collecting biological data about the wearer.

The tech giant originally announced its smart contact lens project in 2014 and revealed that it was testing lenses that could measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and a tiny glucose sensor. But the new patent reveals new potential use cases for a smart contact lens.

For example, according to the patent the contact lens could have sensors that detect a range of the wearer’s biological data, including internal body temperature and blood-alcohol content.

The sensors could also potentially gather data about the wearer’s environment. According to the patent, the device could possibly sense allergens like grass or tree pollen, pet dander, and dust mite excretions.

Photo detector sensors and solar cells on the contact lens would harvest light to constantly power the device. The photo detectors could be used to receive data, giving the device the ability to communicate with mobile phones and computers.

Google also suggests in the patent that the lens could enable the wearer to read information in barcodes. Or be used to verify the wearer’s identity.

“Retinal analysis of a user can be performed and an optical signal transmitted in response to an authentication request,” the patent states.

Of course, as with most patents, there’s no guarantee that such a contact lens will become a reality anytime in the near future. However, given that Google has openly said they are working on similar technology, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of these features are included if they ever do roll out a smart contact lens.




Green Buildings Improve Health In Public Housing

Public housing is generally not good for your health, but newly renovated, environmentally friendly buildings could change that.

By: Nathan Collins

Hear the phrase “green building,” and you probably think about sustainable buildings and environmentally sound engineering. You probably don’t think about potential health benefits to public housing projects. But, a new study shows, one of green building’s many benefits is improving the health of people living in public housing.

Public housing is not exactly ideal for your health, researchers have found. Poor property upkeep and the pressures of low socioeconomic status contribute to asthma, respiratory illness, and poor mental health to residents. The question is, could green buildings help?

Taipei 101, located in Taiwan, is the tallest and largest green building of LEED Platinum certification in the world since 2011. (Photo: Alton Thompson/Wikimedia Commons)

To find out, a team of researchers led by Meryl Colton of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health visited three public housing communities in Boston and interviewed residents to find out whether they showed any of 14 symptoms of “sick building syndrome,” including dizziness, burning or itching eyes, and sneezing fits. The researchers also conducted a visual inspection for what the team called “negative environmental factors,” such as inadequate ventilation, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and mold. Among the 235 residents who participated, 135 lived in conventional buildings, while 100 lived in recently renovated buildings that received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (better known as LEED) gold and platinum certifications.

As Colton and her colleagues expected, green homes had fewer negative environmental factors—1.3 on average, compared with 3.6 in conventional homes. Only 27 percent of green homes had inadequate ventilation, four percent had mold, and 20 percent had pest control problems, compared with 60, 18, and 40 percent, respectively, in conventional units.

Residents living in green homes were in somewhat better health, at least with regard to symptoms of sick building syndrome.

More importantly, residents living in green homes were in somewhat better health, at least with regard to symptoms of sick building syndrome. People living in green buildings reported suffering 2.9 of the 14 symptoms on average, compared with an average of 4.2 among those living in conventional buildings. Interestingly, whether they lived in green or conventional housing had little, if any, impact on how healthy people felt. Asked to rate their health on a scale of one to five, green building residents reported an average rating of 3.0, statistically indistinguishable from the 3.2 rating that conventional-building residents reported.

One of the biggest impacts of green building was on children with asthma. Kids with the respiratory ailment had roughly one-third the odds of suffering asthma symptoms or attacks, and were about 75 percent less likely to be hospitalized or miss school because of asthma if they lived in green housing.

“We observed significantly improved outcomes in several key health indicators among low-income residents of multifamily public housing who lived in green rather than conventional buildings,” the researchers write. “Although green buildings are often considered a luxury suitable for middle- or high-income communities, in resource-poor settings, green construction or renovation may represent a significant value, with the potential to simultaneously reduce harmful indoor exposures, promote resident health, and reduce operational costs.”



Energy Efficient Wall Ideas for Green Home-owners

Staying green by trying to save up on energy is not as difficult as it may sound. There are plenty ways of staying green while cutting costs and much hope exists when it comes to saving our planet in the near future, bit by bit. Walls are, as you know, the outer casing of a home. Protecting it from various weather conditions is not the only benefit the walls can provide.


A prime step towards being energy efficient, that which your walls are lined with, is the first thing to keep in mind. Depending on where your insulation will be placed and what type you’ve opted for, you can save up quite an amount of money. Sealing air leaks not only keeps you warmer, but prevents the constant need to get up and fiddle with your thermometer, thus making sure you remain green and keeping your pockets turned the right side in. Unfortunately, an often neglected factor, the Insulation is a key factor towards achieving and maintaining energy efficiency.

Siding and Wall Cladding

If walls are the outer shell of a building, siding is definitively the walls’ answer to human skin. The first line of defense from wind, rain and sun, how it’s applied has a direct influence on your house’s outer layer durability. Cladding systems that are energy efficient have a higher heat resistance, thus resulting in less energy spending. When it comes to protecting your walls (and on that note, your home), stone makes for an extremely durable type of exterior wall cladding. Requiring less energy to maintain the indoors temperature, siding and wall cladding are a great way to support energy efficiency. Therefore, it is of huge importance that you keep quality cladding in mind and reinforce your home’s first line of defense.

Green Walls

Image Source:

Not only will green walls make people turn their heads in interest, but are a fantastic way of staying energy efficient. Consisting of a frame, panels that are waterproof, irrigation systems and plants, this kind of your home’s outer shell is a great way to save up money, as well as energy. The frame is placed along the walls, making sure there’s air between them to avoid having to deal with moisture. Then, the panels are set up, as a means of holding the whole thing together. Green walls have a great deal to brag about. If you’ve covered your walls in green, you’ve chosen sustainability and durability. In addition to providing quality thermal and acoustic isolation, they work as natural air cleaners, even more so if you cover your home’s interior with them.

While staying green by keeping energy efficiency in mind may not come as a breeze after all, a bit more dedication and motivation are a low price to pay for all the benefits provided. Not only will your energy bill be kinder to you in the long term, but it’s a great and progressive
way to nurture a green consciousness in your mind. If you want to help raise global awareness and be that person that supports the trend of saving the Earth, one wall at the time, Think about keeping the last couple of paragraphs in mind.


This modern prefab home has windows that double as solar panels

Image by Mike Chino for Inhabitat

By: Lucy Wang

If you love natural lighting, prepare to swoon over the light-filled Reflect Home. Designed and built by Sacramento State students, this modern prefab house soaks up the California sun and surrounding views through numerous openings. However, not all windows are made equal—our favorite feature of the house is the rows of photovoltaic skylights that harness solar energy while letting the sun shine through.

Chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to compete in the annual Solar Decathlon student competition, Sacramento State’s Team Solar NEST (Natural, Elegant, Sustainable, Tranquility) spent months designing and planning the Reflect Home. The 996-square-foot home was created to meet the DOE’s stringent net-zero and cost-effective requirements without sacrificing stylish and comfortable living. “The Reflect Home’s design is focused on the resident, with the intention of making the house as functional, livable, and comfortable as possible,” says the team. “The Sacramento State team believes net-zero design will achieve widespread application only when homebuyers realize that sustainability can be achieved without sacrificing accommodations.”

Image by Mike Chino for Inhabitat


The Secrets of a Super-Green Home in Oregon, Revealed

By: Patrick Sisson

The exterior of the Karuna House is clad in FSC maple and plaster. All images via Hammer & Hand.

The Karuna House in Newberg, Oregon, may offer a stunning view of nearby vineyards, but the most idyllic aspect of this high-tech residence may be due to what’s hidden within its walls. The second home of Eric Lemelson, a local developer and environmental advocate, the building is so well-insulated, all of its energy needs, including charging Lemelson’s Tesla, are readily provided by a solar photovoltaic array of less than 10 kilowatts. While the home boasts plenty of advanced features, the designers, Holst Architects, probably should have also included an extra-large mantle, considering the unprecedented number of awards and certifications the project has earned: Passive House, MINERGIE, LEED Platinum, Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home and Earth Advantage Platinum.

According to Zachary Semke, Director of Business Development at Hammer & Hand, the company that built the home, the practices and products that went into constructing this green case study, which some have called the “world’s greenest home” for achieving so many different certifications, aren’t as complicated as one may think. The $2 million, three-year project demonstrates that high-minded and high-design aren’t mutually exclusive, or out of the reach of current technology. The L-shaped home, which covers 3,500-square-feet, has an estimated annual energy bill of just $50.

“It’s exciting because it applies physics to building construction in a smart way, and makes it practical and feasible to slash heating and cooling costs by 90 percent,” says Semke. “You’d be doing passive house a disservice by calling it an engineering feat. The whole point is that it’s not really that hard.”

The principles of passive house construction.

Building homes with super-efficient insulation isn’t anything new; contractors tried to do this in the ’70s, spurred on by the growing environmental movement as well as the energy crisis caused by the oil embargo. But without a sophisticated understanding of how air, hear and moisture work inside building assemblies, or the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems that have since been developed to circulate air, these early attempts at super-tight envelopes had significant condensation problems. Today’s computer modeling programs, such as WUFI Passive, can help formulate interiors with better airflow, allowing for a much more livable space.

The exterior of the Karuna House showcases just how far the modeling systems have come; the boxy, plaster-and-maple shape came first, as opposed to strictly focusing on performance. The rectilinear form, boasting large banks of windows, isn’t necessarily the easiest to insulate, but improved modeling and construction techniques make it possible to bring more design-forward homes up to the passive house standard. Karuna is 10 times more airtight than a standard, code-built home.

“You can make a passive house now that looks like anything on the cover of a high-design architecture magazine,” says Semke. Read more »