Category Archives: World

UAE unveils real-time air quality index

I was pleased in reading His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi’s, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, statement that “air pollution is arguably one of the most important concerns around the world today and has a serious impact on human health and the environment” while launching the UAE Air Quality Index in collaboration with Khalifa University of Science and Technology.

The index displays real-time readings of the satellite-monitored air quality index (AQI) across the UAE, which can forecast air quality up to three days in advance and predict the concentration of dust and particulate matters with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5).

The AQI is based on the concentration of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter that are worldwide known as being potentially detrimental for human health.

“That is why the quality of the air we breathe is a key issue highlighted in the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021” added Dr Al Zeyoudi.

His Excellency added that the ministry believes that providing the public with access to real-time air quality data will help them “make informed decisions to help the national achieve its targets.”

The index is easily available from the MOCCAE smart application available in the Apple Store or Google Play and on the dedicated website.

As also reported by the Emirates News Agency, Dr. Al Zeyoudi stated that “we are confident we will see enhanced projects and initiatives that aim to cut down carbon emissions”. A good news for the UAE and the planet.

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Emaar’s new Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour unveiled

Finally it has been made official. Emaar Properties, one of the most appreciated developers in Dubai with several successful projects already completed like The Greens, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and the whole Downtown neighborhood, is going to beat his own records.  After having developed the current tallest building in the world, it has recently unveiled what could be the world’s new tallest tower.

Even though the official height still has to be disclosed, Emaar management has confirmed that it will be a “notch taller than Burj Khalifa” that with its 828 meters mesmerizes thousands and thousands of visitors every day.

The tower is expected to cost 1 billion USD and will face competition from the 1,000 meter high Kingdom Tower in Jeddah (KSA), currently under construction, for the “tallest building in the world” title.

The tower was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has designed masterpieces of architecture like the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro or Athen’s Olympic Sports Complex, and was inspired by the Islamic minaret structure as well as a lily bud.

Emaar New Creek Tower

“Inspired by a Nation. designed for the World” is Emaar motto for the challenging Project – Photos from Emaar website.

The tower is going to be built as part of a wider Project knows as Dubai Creek Harbour, a mixed use development located in proximity to Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary and its flamingos and many species of waterbirds.

The aim of the 6 sq km development was very well explained by Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties:

“With The Tower, we are delivering a compelling destination that will add long-term economic value to Dubai and the UAE. It will also position Dubai Creek Harbour as one of the most desired residential, leisure and touristic attractions, providing visitors and residents with a modern, luxurious and sustainable environment in which to live, work, learn and entertain.”

The Tower and the Project are presented in the recently released videos prepared by Emaar.

 

The sky is the limit.

 

UAE to be Solar Thermodynamic Energy’s World Leader by using sand to generate electricity

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) uses mirrors to reflect heat from the sun to one point, most typically the tow of a tower filler with a fluid (usually molten salt) capable of storing heat for prolonged periods then used to produce electricity.

Thermodynamic Solar Plant with Central Tower

Traditional Thermodynamic Solar Plant that concentrates sun light in the tow of the tower – photo from http://www.fotovoltaicosulweb.it

An alternative to the central tower is represented by curved mirrors concentrating the sun light in a suitable pipe that runs all the way from/to the storage accumulating heat while running in the plant.

Thermodynamic Solar Plant

An alternative to the central concentration tower – photo from http://www.strettoweb.com

In both cases, the molted salts are heated up to 600 degree Celsius and transferred in a hot storage.

The fluid so heated is used to produce high temperature/high pressure steam that is used to generate electricity by evolving in a steam turbine.

The main benefit of this technology is that energy is easily stored and can be used at night when the source of heat (the sun) is absent. However, the popular photovoltaic modules are currently more cost effective and therefore preferred over the concentrated solar power plants.

But now the situation can drastically change.

Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s scientists, indeed, have published a breakthrough research into more efficient solar power plants by using sand as vector fluid to transport and store energy.

Named “Sandstock”, the research published at the Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems Conference in South Africa in December 2015, showed sand can withstand temperatures of up to 1,000°C and the higher you can push the temperature, the more efficient the plant will be in generating electricity.

The approach chosen by the researchers at Masdar Institute completely eliminates the most expensive components of the traditional CSP, the molten fluid and the pump system, by substituting it with sand and gravity. The design concept, which is inspired by a traditional sand hourglass, features a ‘cold tank,’ where sand is initially stored – before flowing into a ‘hot tank,’ located directly underneath. The cold tank will take the form of a hollow cylinder, designed to allow the concentrated solar flux to penetrate an empty central cylinder part.

Sandstock diagram

Schematic concept of the Sandstock  design – photo from social.csptoday

 

“Sand is really always a drawback in this country but in this project we wanted to use it as an advantage because it can withstand very high temperature, and of course it is very cheap here,” said Dr Nicolas Calvet, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and guide for the research project, as also reported by The National.

“Photovoltaic is more popular because of more than 40 years of research, and the Chinese entering the market and driving prices down,” Dr Calvet said.

“If you want to make CSP more competitive you must significantly reduce the cost.”

The main costs for CSP are the reflective material, and whatever is used for heat transfer and storage. Dr Calvet and his students are using sand for the last two steps at almost no cost.

“When you build a CSP plant you need to import usually several thousand tonnes of molten salts from Chile,” he said.

“With this concept you can just build your plant in the desert and you don’t have to bring any other material, you have it on site.”

Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, interim provost at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, said: “The research success of the Sandstock project illustrates the strength of our research and its local relevance.

The Most and the least powerful passports in the World

During my trips in the Middle East and in the far east, I noticed that holding an Italian passport is very convenient. I usually get a Visa on arrival issued without any problem or I get visit visa issued in a very short time to many Countries. While I pass borders in a easy way, other people have to make long queue and provide loads of papers to get in a country for business or tourism.

For this reason I was curious to investigate how powerful the Italian passport is in the reality and compare it with the most and least powerful  ones. The so called “power” of a passport is measured in how many countries the holder can go without the need to request a Visa in advance.

In this very special list, the least powerful passport in the world is held by Afghani people that can travel in just 28 countries without any particular visa requirement.  Afghanistan is followed by Iraq with 31 countries and Somalia and  Pakistan with 32. I think that it is easily understandable the reason why these countries are at the bottom of the list.

least powerful passports

Scrolling up the list, we encounter the Top 10 of the most powerful passports that, thankfully, includes the Italian one.

10th, 9th and 8th most powerful passports

We find in this group three different countries that can travel in 171 places without any particular visa requirement.

10th, 9th, 8th most powerful passports

7th, 6th, 5th and 4th most powerful passports

There are citizens of 4 countries that can travel to 172 different states without any specific visa requirement. These countries are the States, Luxembourg, Germany and Denmark.

most powerful passports

3rd, 2nd and 1st most powerful passports

Honestly I was a bit surprised in reading the first three nationalities in terms of number of countries they can visit visa-free. I was expecting to find the UK passport in one of the top positions but I did not expect to find the other two that can visit 173 countries without any visa issue.

most powerful passports

Were you expecting to find your passport in the top 10 but it is not listed above? Don’t worry, here there is the complete list of the world countries and their “power” in terms of number of visa-free accesses they can get.

most powerful passports

Original Infographic available on Good