nature of technology

how technology evolves

New technologies such as 3-D printers often evolve slowly as new materials, designs, or processes are invented. Solar-powered cars are a good example. For several decades, researchers have been working on developing practical solar-powered cars. Why? Cars powered by sunlight have at least two important advantages over gas-powered cars. The energy they use is free and available almost everywhere, and they produce no pollution. The timeline in Table Milestone 1954: First modern solar cell 1955: First solar car 1983: First practical solar car 1987: First World Solar Challenge 2008: First Commercial solar car The first modern solar cell was invented in 1954 by a team of researchers at Bell Labs in the U.S. It could convert light energy to enough electricity to power devices. In 1955, William G. Cobb of General Motors demon- strated his 15-inch-long Sunmobile, the worlds first solar-powered automobile. Its tiny electric motor was powered by 12 solar cells on top of the car. In 1983, the first drivable solar car was created by Hans Tholstrup, a Danish inventor who was influenced by the earlier Sunmobile. Called the Quiet Achiever, Tholstrups car was driven 4000 km across Australia. However, its average speed was only 23 km/h, despite having more than 700 solar cells on its top panel. Inspired by his success with the Quiet Achiever, in 1987 Tholstrup launched the first World Solar Chal- lenge. This was the worlds first solar car race. The race is now held every other year. In that first race, the winner was General Motors Sunraycer, shown here. It had an average speed of 67 km/h. Its aerodynamic shape helped it achieve that speed. In 2008, the first commercial solar car was introduced. Called the Venturi Astrolab, it has a top speed of 120 km/h. To go this fast while using very little energy, it is built of ultra-light materials. Its oversized body protects the driver in case of collision and provides a lot of surface area for solar cells. Q: Why was the invention of the solar cell important to the evolution of solar car technology? A: The solar car could not exist without the solar cell. This invention provided a way to convert light energy to electricity that could be used to run a device such as a car. Q: The 1955 Sunmobile was just a model car. It was too small for people to drive. Why was it an important achievement in the evolution of solar car technology? A: The car wasnt practical, but it was a working solar car. It showed people that solar car technology is possible. It spurred others, including Hans Tholstrup, to work on solar cars that people could actually drive. Q: How have the World Solar Challenge races influenced the development of solar cars? A: The races have drawn a lot of attention to solar car development. The challenge of winning a race has also stimulated developers to keep improving the performance of solar cars so they can go faster and farther on solar power alone.

what is technology

Printers like the one that made the plastic bicycle are a new type of technology. Technology is the application of science to solve problems. Because technology finds solutions to practical problems, new technologies may have major impacts on society, science, and industry. For example, some people predict that 3-D printing will revolutionize manufacturing. Q: Making products with 3-D printers has several advantages over making them with machines in factories. What do you think some of the advantages might be? A: Making products with 3-D printers would allow anyone anywhere to make just about anything, provided they have the printer, powder, and computer program. Suppose, for example, that you live in a remote location and need a new part for your car. The solution? Just download the design on your computer and print the part on your 3-D printer. Manufacturing would no longer require specially designed machines in factories that produce pollution. Another advantage of using 3-D printers to make products is that no materials are wasted. This would lower manufacturing costs as well as save natural resources.

instructional diagrams

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questions

what was the first step in the development of solar car technology?

a) development of a model solar car

b) design of a solar panel

-->  c) invention of the solar cell

d) launch of the world solar challenge

technology may include

a) materials.

b) devices.

c) processes.

-->  d) all of the above

diagram questions

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