Technology Journal

April 27, 2013 06:15 PM
Technology Journal

Cell Signal Booster Shot

One of the challenges with living in a rural area is spotty cellular service. Wilson Electronics offers a potential plug-and-play solution with its new Sleek 4G cellular signal boosters.

"It’s great that we can offer a device that works with multiple carriers’ 4G networks, as well as legacy networks, that is small and affordable," says Laine Matthews, director of business development for Wilson Electronics.

The booster is 2.5"x4.5"x2.5" and weighs 3 oz. Farmers can mount the device’s antenna to the roof of their truck or tractor. The antenna receives weak cell tower signals and sends them to the booster via a thin coax cable. A built-in amplifier boosts the signal when the cell phone is placed in the device’s cradle.

The process also works in reverse—the device can send a boosted signal from a cell phone back to the cell tower.

The benefits of the signal booster include fewer dropped calls and no-service "dead zones," faster transfer rates and improved cell phone battery life. Matthews says the Sleek 4G can boost a signal as much as 20 times more than the signal that might be present when using a cell phone by itself.
Visit for more information about the Sleek 4G cell signal boosters.

Your Trash, My Electricity

For decades, Russ Lester watched in frustration as truckload after truckload of walnut shells from his California farm (Dixon Ridge Farms) were shipped several hundred miles north to a facility that burned them, converted the resulting energy into electricity and buried the toxic ash in a landfill. He was equally frustrated at the slowness of the industry to move toward energy independence.

pW8 Tech Journal Your Trash, My Electricity

Russ Lester hopes smaller-scale bioenergy solutions will help power more individual processing facilities or even small communities.

"I decided it was all ridiculous," he says. "We set a goal in 2007 to become 100% energy independent in five years."

Lester contacted the Community Power Corporation to discuss the potential of gasifying his shells to produce on-site electricity and thermal energy. Through a cost-shared California Energy Commission grant, they installed an initial 50 kW BioMax system that has been in operation since January 2008; they added a second 100 kW unit in 2012.

Lester says the system burns 10% to 15% of the farm’s walnut shells to achieve 2,000ºF. The remainder of the shells are baked in this intense heat, causing chemical bonds to break down into combustible gases—including carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane. These gases are collected and run through a combustion engine.

The ash resulting from the biogasification process is not toxic—in fact, it can be mixed back into the soil. Lester says the carbon-laden ash has also effectively sequestered that carbon for the next thousand years. "This is actually a net carbon negative."

This technology can use a broad range of agricultural byproducts in the conversion process—everything from wood chips, spoiled produce, food scraps and even cardboard and paper waste. Currently, the company is looking into the conversion efficiency of cornstalks and other row-crop residue.

Lester says some of the hurdles of energy independence are more about perception than reality.

"Everyone says it’s more expensive, but it’s not," he says. "Everyone says we don’t have the tools, but we do!"

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