Business Spotlight 26th April

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solar-powered pavement

As part of our ongoing mission to support UK businesses with innovation and funding, our business spotlight section contains news and resources which your company may find useful.

Solar-Powered Panels New Source Of Energy

Platio, a company based in Hungary, makes solar panels out of recycled plastics and then uses them as pavements. Miklós Illyés, co-founder and one of the three friends who came up with the idea back in 2015 said the panels that deliver solar energy “to places where it was not possible before,”. The team can power buildings and electronic devices through people’s footsteps. The more you walk on the solar panels, the more they generate energy.

Solar-powered panels pavement

Credit – EuroNews

Platio says it uses the equivalent of 400 plastic bottles to make one square metre of solar pavement. It claims this mixture makes for more durable bricks than some other materials in the road building industry. By using a special pressuring method, the company can make use of otherwise non-recyclable plastic to build the bricks that the solar panels rest on. Despite being for humans rather than vehicles, the pavement can “easily carry the weight of even a heavy truck,” reassures Illyés. One solar panel unit provides about 20 Watts of energy. And a 20-30 square metre surface can provide enough energy for a family home in a Hungarian climate.

“Our product is not made to replace the traditional solar panels on the roof, for example, but to be a complementary effort to use clean energy where other energy resources are not available,” says Illyés. “It is very interesting that in the USA, for example, there are some places in the southern states where due to tornado threat it is difficult to install a solar panel. And if we can install solar panels in these places, we can also increase green energy production.” The product will be available in 36 countries.

Anomalies In Space Detected With Artificial Intelligence

Researchers at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg are training Artificial Intelligence on a satellite to discover anomalies in space. Circular holes previously unseen on the surface of Mars have become visible; geysers were discovered on Saturn’s moon; and structures that look like fossilised worms were found on the images sent to Earth by Curiosity, the Mars rover. These phenomena, some of which appear to be temporary, were discovered by chance. “Artificial intelligence technologies would make it much easier to detect previously unknown anomalies,” said Hakan Kayal, Professor of Space Technology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany. According to Kayal, using AI in astronautics is still in its infancy: “There are only a handful of projects on this.”. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the project, which began on 1 March 2021, with 2.6 million euros. 


In order to use AI to detect unknown phenomena in space, it must be trained; it must be ‘fed’ with the known so it can learn to recognise the unknown. “As soon as you go interplanetary, communication with the satellite becomes a bottleneck,” explained the professor. With increasing distance from Earth, data transfer takes longer, “you cannot keep sending data back and forth. That is why the AI must be able to learn independently on the satellite. And it must only report relevant discoveries to Earth.”. Kayal’s team will employ this technology on the satellite SONATE-2 and test it in orbit. “Miniaturised IT systems are becoming more and more powerful. And we take our time for AI training. So a learning process in orbit can take several days.” Kayal wants to use small satellites with AI to monitor not only Earth, but to undertake interplanetary missions, discover new extra-terrestrial phenomena, and potentially even traces of extra-terrestrial intelligence. In a mission intended to last one year, the satellite is due to be launched into orbit in spring 2024.

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