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The Edge of Energy

Energy Squeeze

March 2nd 2012

Research and Development Chemistry

A polymer is a mesh of chains, which slowly break over time due to the pressure from ordinary wear and tear. When a polymer is squeezed, the pressure breaks chemical bonds and produces free radicals: ions with unpaired electrons, full of untapped energy. These molecules are responsible for aging, DNA damage and cancer in the human body.

In a new study, Northwestern University scientists turned to squeezed polymers and free radicals in a search for new energy sources. They found incredible promise but also some real problems. Their report is published by the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The researchers demonstrated that radicals from compressed polymers generate significant amounts of energy that can be used to power chemical reactions in water. This energy has typically been unused but now can be harnessed when polymers are under stress in ordinary circumstances -- as in shoe soles, car tires or when compacting plastic bags. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

E-Car Adjusts Its Shape According to Situation

March 2nd 2012

Elektroauto

Researchers of the DFKI Robotics Innovation Centre in Bremen have developed a smart electric car with flexible morphology that can change its shape according to the current needs. The prototype has been built in the scope of a project "New mobility in rural spaces" which among other topics explores innovative technologies associated to electromobility.

The EO smart connecting car disposes of a flexible undercarriage which enables multiple vehicles to be connected to a single "road train". When the undercarriage is folded together, the driver cabin is automatically moved into a vertical position. Thus, the vehicle reduces its overall length by about half a meter to a total of about 2 meters. Conversely, its height grows from 1.60 meters to about 2 meters. This change in shape facilitates the formation of so called road trains: Shorter vehicles result in a shorter, more agile train. "If multiple vehicles have to travel over the same distance, they can effectively connect to each other and increase energy efficiency", explained Fank Kirchner, head of the DFKI Robotics Innovation Center. "Data and energy are carried over among the vehicles and only the front vehicle steers the train." Read more ..


The Toxic Edge

Delayed Diesel Study Finally Released

March 2nd 2012

Diesel Smog

A much-anticipated government study of more than 12,000 miners — whose publication was delayed by litigation from a group of mining companies — has found that exposure to diesel engine exhaust significantly increases the risk of lung cancer.

For the most heavily exposed miners, the risk of dying from lung cancer was three times higher than it was for those exposed to low doses. For non-smokers, the risk was seven times higher.

“[T]he findings suggest that the risks may extend to other workers exposed to diesel exhaust in the United States and abroad, and to people living in urban areas where diesel exhaust levels are elevated,” Joseph Fraumeni Jr., director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, said in a press release Friday morning. Read more ..


Turkey and Israel

Turkey’s Possible Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches

February 29th 2012

netanyahu and christofias
Israeli PM Netanyahu and Cypriot President Demetris Christofias

On Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently visited Cyprus, only three months after a similar trip by President Shimon Peres.

The state visits followed a series of ministerial-level meetings to discuss the development of newly discovered offshore natural gas fields and a range of associated diplomatic and security complexities relating to neighboring Turkey and Lebanon. Both Israel and Cyprus have found enough gas in their maritime exclusive economic zones (EEZs) to satisfy domestic demand for many years, with additional quantities available for export, but managing regional diplomatic tension over these resources may prove tricky. Netanyahu’s trip to Cyprus, the first by an Israeli prime minister, reflects increasing cooperation between the two countries over natural gas resources but will likely heighten tensions with Turkey. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Will Smart Sockets Change the Economics of Efficiency?

February 28th 2012

Light Bulb

Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission said this to a group of science writers in 1954: “Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter…” While this comment is often given as an example of overly-optimistic technological predictions, electricity is incredibly inexpensive.  Just look at how much is wasted illuminating the night sky.

Would Strauss have ever imagined that people would be able to afford the energy required to make it snow in Dubai?  Or that the hundreds of megawatt-hours used to remove salt from seawater would cost less than fresh water?

Sony intends to solve this “too cheap to meter” problem by lowering the cost of metering small amounts of electricity and by making it possible to measure electricity usage for individuals and their devices with smart sockets. Read more ..


The Race for Fuel

Green Fuel versus Black Gold

February 26th 2012

Biofuel field

A life cycle assessment of growing crops for fuel as opposed to refining and using fossil fuels has revealed that substitution of gasoline by bioethanol converted from energy crops has considerable potential for rendering our society more sustainable, according to a Japanese study published in the International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy.

Kiyotada Hayashi of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organisation in Tsukuba and colleagues explain how biomass derived from sugarcane, sugar beet and other crops, has emerged as one of the most promising renewable energy sources. Some observers suggest that it makes an excellent substitute for oil-derived fuels and it is being used widely in certain parts of the world already. However, there are concerns about land use and the overall life-cycle impact on raising fuel crops and the energy required to process and exploit biomass compared with fossil fuels. The Japanese team has now put to rest some of those concerns in a life cycle assessment of energy crop production for bioethanol in Japan.

The team hoped to clarify the potential of biomass utilisation while taking into account the cumulative fossil energy demand and climate change impact. They looked at two scenarios: one in which cultivation technologies improves and breeding of new crop varieties is made possible. The second scenario looked at how the establishment of regional biomass utilisation systems that used biomass resources from various industries might function mutually and effectively and again reduce fossil fuel demand and reduce carbon emissions. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Oil Sands Pollution Comparable to a Large Power Plant

February 23rd 2012

Oil sand

It takes a lot of energy to extract heavy, viscous and valuable bitumen from Canada's oil sands and refine it into crude oil. Companies mine some of the sands with multi-story excavators, separate out the bitumen, and process it further to ease the flow of the crude oil down pipelines. About 1.8 million barrels of oil per day in 2010 were produced from the bitumen of the Canadian oil sands—and the production of those fossil fuels requires the burning of fossil fuels. In the first look at the overall effect of air pollution from the excavation of oil sands, also called tar sands, in Alberta, Canada, scientists used satellites to measure nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide emitted from the industry. In an area 30 kilometers (19 miles) by 50 kilometers (31 miles) around the mines, they found elevated levels of these pollutants. "For both gasses, the levels are comparable to what satellites see over a large power plant—or for nitrogen dioxide, comparable to what they see over some medium-sized cities," said Chris McLinden, a research scientist with Environment Canada, the country's environmental agency. "It stands out above what's around it, out in the wilderness, but one thing we wanted to try to do was put it in context." Read more ..


Electricity Edge

US Companies Look to Invest in African Electricity Generation

February 23rd 2012

electric power lines

U.S. companies are looking to invest in projects to boost electricity in Africa, which has long been one of the biggest impediments to broader economic growth on the continent. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State William Fitzgerald says an energy trade mission to Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Mozambique showed vast potential for American firms to invest in African energy projects. In Nigeria, Fitzgerald says U.S. firms will be among those who bid on the privatization of power plants and power distribution networks. Bids are due by June for contracts expected to be announced by October in a country where estimated demand tops 10,000 Megawatts but regular supply is less than 4,000 Megawatts. “Thirty-nine hundred Megawatts is a woefully small amount, and the Nigerian government realizes to promote - certainly to diversify the economy - to bring the manufacturers back on line they need to boost power," said Fitzgerald.

In Ghana, Fitzgerald says many U.S. firms are interested in offshore oil and natural gas, especially if Ghana and Ivory Coast resolve differences over the location of their maritime border. “It is an exciting time to be in the energy sector in Ghana," he said. "And I think what you are seeing is very much of a commitment on the part of the Ghanian government to embrace private sector companies to come in and do the work. You are going to see employment levels increasing and reaching record heights. Part and parcel of that you will also see education improving, health sector clinics improving.” Read more ..


The Race for Biofuel

‘Mini-Cellulose’ Molecule May be Key to Maximizing Biofuel Production

February 18th 2012

MMP-9 (enzyme)

A team of chemical engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has discovered a small molecule that behaves the same as cellulose when it is converted to biofuel. Studying this ‘mini-cellulose’ molecule reveals for the first time the chemical reactions that take place in wood and prairie grasses during high-temperature conversion to biofuel. The new technical discovery was reported in the January 2012 issue of the journal Energy & Environmental Science and highlighted in Nature Chemistry.

The "mini-cellulose" molecule, called α-cyclodextrin, solves one of the major roadblocks confronting high-temperature biofuels processes such as pyrolysis or gasification. The complex chemical reactions that take place as wood is rapidly heated and breaks down to vapors are unknown. And current technology doesn’t allow the use of computer models to track the chemical reactions taking place, because the molecules in wood are too large and the reactions far too complicated. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Sandia National Laboratories Researchers Find Energy Storage “Solutions” in MetILs

February 18th 2012

Battery

Sandia researchers have developed a new family of liquid salt electrolytes, known as MetILs, that could lead to batteries able to cost-effectively store three times more energy than today’s batteries.

The research, published in Dalton Transactions, might lead to devices that can help economically and reliably incorporate large-scale intermittent renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, into the nation’s electric grid.

The grid was designed for steady power sources, making fluctuating electricity from intermittent renewable energy difficult to accommodate. Better energy storage techniques help even out the flow of such fluctuating sources, and Sandia researchers are studying new ways to develop a more flexible, cost-effective and reliable electric grid with improved energy storage. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

European Research Project to Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

February 14th 2012

Technology - Solar Cells

A three-year European research project aims to push solar-cell efficiency towards 25 percent and reduce power conversion losses by 20 percent.

The project is set to meet Europe’s 2020 climate targets and general energy policies.

The ERG program is set to improve the efficiency of solar cells, devise innovative harvesting techniques, reduce power-conversion losses, and enhance energy-management strategies.

European researchers will focus on the design and development of innovative solar cells that includes printable dye-sensitized solar cells as a low-cost alternative to silicon solutions. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Energy

Researchers Develop Method to Examine Batteries—from the Inside

February 13th 2012

Energy Topics - batteries

There is an ever-increasing need for advanced batteries for portable electronics, such as phones, cameras, and music players, but also to power electric vehicles and to facilitate the distribution and storage of energy derived from renewable energy sources. But, once a battery fails, there are no corrective measures—how do you look inside a battery without destroying it?

Now, researchers at Cambridge University, Stony Brook University, and New York University have developed methodology, based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to do just that. Their technique, which is described in the journal Nature Materials, also creates the possibility of improving battery performance and safety by serving as a diagnostic of its internal workings. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

In Wake of Solyndra, Energy Department Needs Better Risk Management

February 11th 2012

America Themes - US Department of Energy BLDG
U.S. DOE Building

An outside consultant hired by the White House to assess the Department of Energy’s hot-button green energy loan program suggests the agency hire a “chief risk officer” to better track companies backed by taxpayer-funded loans.

“To enhance the independence of the oversight function, DOE should create a new Risk Management department,” wrote Herbert Allison, the independent consultant. That conclusion is among the core recommendations detailed in the 75-page report, just released.

The report was intended to help resolve concerns triggered by the political backlash over the Obama administration’s failed $535 million investment in upstart solar firm Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy last fall.

But the review never directly addresses Solyndra’s failure, or another DOE-backed green energy venture that went bankrupt, Beacon Power Corp. Allison, a longtime official in the public and private sectors who most recently served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability, writes that he “did not evaluate the loans to Solyndra and Beacon” because those companies have already failed. He also notes that his review was less exhaustive than it could have been because it was put on a 60-day fast track by the White House.

Read more ..

The Fuel Economy

Average Fuel Economy Shows Improvement over Four Years Ago

February 9th 2012

Automotive - car door

The average fuel economy of current model year vehicles is 14 percent higher than just four years ago, say researchers at the University of Michigan. For all 2012 light-duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, minivans, vans and SUVs) offered for sale, average mpg is 21.5, compared to 18.9 mpg for model year 2008 vehicles. The averages were 21.2 for 2011, 20.7 for 2010 and 19 for 2009.

For new vehicles actually purchased, average fuel economy is typically one-to-two miles per gallon higher—22.5 mpg for model year 2011 (the last full year of sales), 22.1 for 2010, 21.3 for 2009 and 20.8 for 2008. "This implies that consumers tend to choose vehicle models with better fuel economy than the average of all vehicles available," said Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "The recent economic downturn, coupled with rising gas prices, has led to an increased interest in purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles."

Using data from the EPA, Schoettle and UMTRI colleague Michael Sivak also examined fuel economy changes by vehicle characteristics: cars vs. light trucks, vehicle class size, transmission type, number of engine cylinders, drive type, fuel type and hybrid vs. conventional vehicles. Read more ..


Energy vs Environment

New Cooling Lagoons Could Save Marine Enviornments

February 8th 2012

Energy / Environment - power plant crystal lagoon

Crystal Lagoons—the company behind the planned world’s largest artificial lagoon for the Red Sea—has developed an alternative cooling and energy harvesting system for power plants that doesn’t require the use of seawater.

Gulf countries that lack freshwater resources rely deeply on seawater desalination to meet their daily needs and cool down thermal generation plants. According to Gulf News, the United Arab Emirates alone uses four trillion litres of Gulf seawater each year to cool down its power plants, foundries, and desalination plants. A report released last year revealed that UAE coastal development has seriously jeopardized the health of the marine environment. This technology has the potential to seriously arrest further damage. The byproduct of these operations produces a hot briny fluid that is then pumped back into the Gulf. But Crystal Lagoons is marketing a new closed-loop cooling system that would ensure that no more water would have to be extracted from the Gulf to cool down industrial plants. Read more ..


Book Review

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement: How America's Oil Addiction Created a Legacy of Deceit and War

February 2nd 2012

Book Covers - redline agreement

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement. Edwin Black. 2011. Dialog Press. 277 pages.

British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement: The West's Secret Pact to Get Mideast Oil is the third and latest entry in an series of books written by award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black that tackles the issues surrounding automobiles, energy, and transportation. The previous two books are Internal Combustion and The Plan: How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops. As with all of his other books, Black relies upon a crack research team to uncover and compile an exhaustive trove of heretofore unknown factual information and data.

Buy it here. See Book TV here.

To me, as a dedicated free-market capitalist and defender of American ideals, I would like to believe that the story of petroleum oil exploration should be one of entrepreneurial glory. Instead, the more I learn about the corruption and machinations employed by British Petroleum and its industry cohorts and competitors, the more I realize that we have been the victims of oil’s subjugation for well over 100 years.

With the rise of industrialization and the advent of the automobile and other forms of engine-powered transportation, the world needed a standardized source of fuel for the new machines. That fuel could easily have been a fuel produced by virtually anyone using organic materials. However, a fuel based on simple vegetation or human waste, and a common distillation process that couldn't be patented left little on the table for those who sought unbridled power and wealth. British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement reads like the most exciting Tom Clancy novel entwined with a devious international conspiracy worthy of Ian Fleming’s wildest James Bond adventure; although even for a 007 yarn it might run the risk of being considered too implausible a plot. Buy it here. Read more ..


Energy vs Environment

How Seawater Could Corrode Nuclear Fuel

February 1st 2012

Japan - Fukushima damage

Japan used seawater to cool nuclear fuel at the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant after the tsunami in March 2011—and that was probably the best action to take at the time, says Professor Alexandra Navrotsky of the University of California, Davis.

But Navrotsky and others have since discovered a new way in which seawater can corrode nuclear fuel, forming uranium compounds that could potentially travel long distances, either in solution or as very small particles. The research team published its work in January in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is a phenomenon that has not been considered before,” said Alexandra Navrotsky, distinguished professor of ceramic, earth, and environmental materials chemistry. “We don’t know how much this will increase the rate of corrosion, but it is something that will have to be considered in future.” Read more ..


The Race for Biofuel

Etihad Airways Leads the Way in Biofuel Use

January 29th 2012

Technology - airplane

Etihad Airways from the United Arab Emirates scores a double play in the Green World Series:  It has become both the first airline to fly on biofuel directly from the factory and the first biofuel-flying Gulf carrier. Although, not yet on its fuel-efficient Dreamliners, Etihad’s new Boeing 777-300ER traveled from its Seattle birthplace to its home base at Abu Dhabi International Airport this past Wednesday, powered by a mix of traditional fuel and plant-based biofuel. The biofuel having been created from recycled vegetable cooking oil.  Used oil from the food industry qualifies as a bio-based waste stream, its resulting carbon footprint is especially trim.

“This flight marks a significant milestone in our efforts to drive commercialization of sustainable aviation fuel in Abu Dhabi, the region, and globally. Use of presently available biofuel is just part of a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we are able to use biofuel to decarbonize an entire industry sector in the long term”, said Etihad Airways’ President and CEO James Hogan in a public statement.

Financed by $2 million of Etihad funding, this ground-breaking R&D lab is pioneering use of salt water-tolerant plants in production of alternative aviation fuel. As a member of the global Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, the airline is fully committed to developing biofuel feedstocks, which protect drinking water supplies; are non-competitive with food sources and maintain optimal biodiversity. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Illuminating Dark Continents with Solar Power

January 28th 2012

Energy Topics - Solar/LED streetlight

How can local governments keep public spaces and roads illuminated at night in places where there’s no electricity, or an unreliable supply? Solar power, obviously.

But there’s a catch.

“The vast majority of solar-powered streetlights and similar fixtures on the market don’t survive for long,” according to Zeev Jakoby, managing director of Israeli startup Globe Light & Water System. “That’s why we’ve devised a sturdy, solar-powered light fixture that needs no infrastructure.”

This could prove a godsend to developing nations where a lack of street lighting results in dangerous driving conditions and far slower economies. “It’s designed with the African market in mind,” explains Jakoby, who spent many years in Nigeria overseeing construction projects. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

Congressional Legislation may Inadvertently Encourage Production of Highly-Enriched Uranium

January 27th 2012

Energy / Environment - Nuclear danger sign

In the post 9/11 world, the threat of a nuclear bomb being fabricated and used by terrorists is real. Now a group of nuclear experts has told Congress that a loophole in a bill meant to limit the use of bomb-grade uranium in medical isotopes could undo years of work to curb the risk of such material being diverted to such a bomb.

Signed by over a dozen experts in the medical and nuclear non-proliferation fields, the letter raises concerns about the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2011, passed by the Senate in November. The bill, currently awaiting a House vote, is aimed at reducing the use of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in developing the medical isotope Molybdenum-99 — a key ingredient in the medical diagnosis of millions of American patients a year.

Highly-enriched uranium is also a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, and experts say its continuing production for civilian use poses many security risks. The letter, submitted by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP), argues that the bill might unintentionally promote the heightened production of HEU by Russia, in particular. Read more ..


The Race for BioFuel

Microbubbles provide new Boost to Algae for Biofuel Production

January 27th 2012

Science - algae biofuel

The technique builds on previous research in which microbubbles were used to improve the way algae is cultivated. Algae produce an oil which can be processed to create a useful biofuel. Biofuels, made from plant material, are considered an important alternative to fossil fuels and algae, in particular, has the potential to be a very efficient biofuel producer. Until now, however, there has been no cost-effective method of harvesting and removing the water from the algae for it to be processed effectively.

Now, a team led by Professor Will Zimmerman in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Sheffield, believe they have solved the problem. They have developed an inexpensive way of producing microbubbles that can float algae particles to the surface of the water, making harvesting easier, and saving biofuel-producing companies time and money. The research is set to be published in Biotechnology and Bioengineering on 26 January 2012. Read more ..


The Race for EV's

London to be European Electromobility Capital

January 25th 2012

Automotive - Ford Focus electric

The British government and a number of private-public initiatives are successfully building the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, says Frost & Sullivan. "London has over 500 public charging stations and is dynamically adding more to it", explains Research Associate Prajyot N. Sathe. “The launch of the Source London scheme is working towards getting 1.300 public charging stations by 2013.” By 2015, about 25.000 charging stations will be available in the greater London area. The North East England region also is pushing ahead electromobility infrastructure - the region recently has installed 300 charging stations; the goal is to get 1300 charging stations already in 2013. North East England has been included in the “Plugged-in places” project, that offers matched funding to business and public sectors to install charging stations. They have also been formulated to integrate residential charging stations with a provision for smart meters.

Nissan's strategic use of its Sunderland plant for developing Electric Vehicles (EVs) across Europe has accelerated the government’s vision to increase sustainable and 'green-collar’ jobs. The ambitious targets set by the government and heavy contracts secured by leading EV infrastructure providers are the major grounds for the impressive deployment of the EV charging stations network at strategic locations such as car parks, residential and commercial locations as well as leisure facilities. Read more ..


Oil Addicition

Keystone XL Pipeline Rejection Minor Setback for Canadian Tar Sands Development

January 23rd 2012

Energy / Environment - Alberta tar sands operations

The Obama administration’s recent decision to reject a pipeline that would have carried crude from Canada’s tar sands deposits to Texas oil refineries isn’t likely to end investment in the carbon-rich fuel, industry analysts say.

In killing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama blamed congressional Republicans, who he said “forced this decision” by requiring an expedited 60-day review of the pipeline as a provision of the recent payroll tax extension. President Obama also reaffirmed his support for domestic oil and gas exploration and expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. “In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security,” he said. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

AORA’s Solar Sun Tulip Says Ola Sol in Spain

January 23rd 2012

Energy / Environment - Solar Tulip

With a 35 meter high sun-ray collection tower and about 50 mirrors positioned to direct the sun, Israel’s AORA is about to flip the switch on its latest solar power plant in Spain. The company created a huge buzz in Israel in 2009 when it was the first solar energy company to connect to the national grid.

Since, it has been under the radar, and has recently emerged at the prestigious Platforma Solar Almeria in Almeria, Spain.

The new ultra-high temperature concentrating solar power (CSP) technology it is showcasing there focuses heliostats, small mirrors, onto a sun collecting turbine built on top of the “tulip”. Read more ..


The Race for Wind

The Answer for more Energy is Blowing in the Wind

January 22nd 2012

Energy / Environment - Wind Farm

By looking at the stability of the atmosphere, wind farm operators could gain greater insight into the amount of power generated at any given time.

Power generated by a wind turbine largely depends on the wind speed. In a wind farm in which the turbines experience the same wind speeds but different shapes, such as turbulence, to the wind profile, a turbine will produce different amounts of power.

This variable power can be predicted by looking at atmospheric stability, according to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Sonia Wharton and colleague Julie Lundquist of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In a paper appearing in the Jan. 12 edition of the journal Environmental Research Letters, Wharton and Lundquist examined turbine-generated power data, segregated by atmospheric stability, to figure out the power performance at a West Coast wind farm."The depend ence of power on stability is clear, regardless of whether time periods are segregated by three-dimensional turbulence, turbulence intensity or wind shear," Wharton said. The team found that power generated at a set wind speed is higher under stable conditions and lower under strongly unsteady conditions at that location. The average wind power output difference is as high as 15 percent less wind power generation when the atmosphere is unstable. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

In Solar Cells, Tweaking the Tiniest of Parts Yields Big Jump in Efficiency

January 22nd 2012

Technology - Solar Cells

Researchers from the University at Buffalo, Army Research Laboratory and Air Force Office of Scientific Research have developed a new, nanomaterials-based technology that has the potential to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells up to 45 percent.

Specifically, the researchers have shown that embedding charged quantum dots into solar cells can improve electrical output by enabling the cells to harvest infrared light, and by increasing the lifetime of photoelectrons. The technology can be applied to many different photovoltaic structures.A  new company the researchers founded, OPtoElectronic Nanodevices LLC. (OPEN LLC), is commercializing this technology. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Findings Prove Miscanthus X Giganteus Has Great Potential as an Alternative Energy Source

January 22nd 2012

Nature - Miscanthus

Concerns about the worldwide energy supply and national, environmental and economic security have resulted in a search for alternative energy sources. A new University of Illinois study shows Miscanthus x giganteus (M. x giganteus) is a strong contender in the race to find the next source of ethanol if appropriate growing conditions are identified.

M. x giganteus is a bioenergy crop that can be grown to produce ethanol. The study investigated the establishment success, plant growth and dry biomass yield of the grass. Tom Voigt, lead scientist and associate professor in the U of I Department of Crop Sciences, said the overall goal is to promote biomass yield per acre for ethanol production using the fewest inputs with no environmental damage. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Labor Union Leaves BlueGreen Alliance Over XL Pipeline

January 20th 2012

Energy Topics - Keystone Pipeline

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) left the BlueGreen Alliance Friday, citing a disagreement with the group’s members over the Keystone XL pipeline. LIUNA, a vocal Keystone supporter, took aim at other unions for opposing the project. “We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement. The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups and labor unions, confirmed LIUNA’s exit Friday afternoon. “The BlueGreen Alliance regrets the decision of the Laborers' International Union of North America to leave our strategic partnership of labor and environmental organizations,” the group’s executive director, David Foster, said in a statement.

The move underscores the intense political divide among unions over the pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Gulf Coast. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said earlier this month that the group’s membership has been unable to come to a unified position on the pipeline Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Using Water to Power Itself

January 19th 2012

Energy / Environment - Water Supply

Hydroelectricity is among the cleanest of today's clean energies. As water flows through a hydraulic turbine connected to a generator -- often at a dam -- its kinetic energy creates electricity, and it emerges at the other side no worse for the wear. This is a wonderful way to produce power in places blessed with raging rivers.

Israel isn't, which would make it an unlikely place for a breakthrough in hydroelectric technology. But HydroSpin, based at Kibbutz Lavi in northern Israel, has come up with a new way to power a "smart water network"  (SWAN) by marshaling the flow of water in pipes.

"Our system generates one to five watts of electricity," says HydroSpin CEO Gabby Czertok. "That's enough to power a network and send the data forward every five minutes or so, instead of once a day in other smart water network systems." Read more ..


The Race for LED's

Energy Efficient 100-W LED Light Bulb Uses Only 12 W

January 16th 2012

Energy Topics - LED bulb

Anomax has invented a revolutionary 100-W LED bulb that uses only 12 W of energy. Compared to today's most energy efficient 100-W bulb (CFL Compact Florescent Light at 23 W) Anomax's bulb is 48% more efficient!

Anomax's super energy efficient lights pair their patent pending IPCHS™ substrate technology (a low cost metal-core board with circuits directly plated on alumina) with off-the-shelf LED diodes. Anomax names this break-through technology LMR™ for Light Made Right.

H.A. Chan, Director of Anomax, states, "Today's LED bulbs' bottleneck is their extremely low heat transfer (3 W/mK) board that overheats the LED diodes and greatly lowers the light output. That's why brighter than 60-W LED bulbs exist only in R&D labs and are very expensive to produce. The very high thermal transfer (30 W/mK) of IPCHS™ enables efficient power-to-light conversion, improving energy use by almost 50%." Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Impoverished Nigerian Workers Strike over Fuel Subsidy Suspension

January 15th 2012

Nigeria - Nigeria Oil

A labor union representing 20,000 oil and gas workers in Nigeria threatened on January 12 it would shut down all production starting Sunday, January 15 to take part in the crippling nationwide strike over spiraling fuel prices. Nigeria’s main workers’ unions are scheduled to resume their strike today (Monday) after the group said talks with the government failed to resolve their concerns over the removal of a popular fuel subsidy.

The spokesman for the Nigeria Labor Congress, Owei Lakemfa, says negotiations failed after the government refused to reinstate the subsidy. “We felt that the first thing to do is to stop the price increase, which has incensed a lot of Nigerians and pushed them on the streets,” said Lakemfa. “But the government felt that all it needed to do was to offer a price reduction, which wasn’t fundamental to us.” The unions want the government to return fuel prices to the levels before the $8 billion subsides were eliminated at the beginning of this month.

The removal, union workers say, caused fuel prices to double and led to sharp increases in food and transportation prices. The groups, which include the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Action Front (JAF) suspended their initial strike over the weekend to make room for talks with the government. But President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration have refused to reinstate the subsidy, saying it’s unaffordable. Labor spokesman Lakemfa said the government has been unwilling to resolve their concerns. Read more ..


Edge on Washington

The Prospect of Keystone Pipeline Jobs Makes Capitalists Bullish and Environmentalists Skittish

January 15th 2012

Energy Topics - Keystone Pipeline

When U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue proclaimed that the Keystone XL pipeline would create 250,000 jobs, he touched a nerve in the environmental community. “That’s just not true,” Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program, told reporters Friday, calling Donohue’s jobs estimate “wildly inflated.”

It’s a familiar refrain from the environmental community, which has been working overtime in recent weeks to counter Republican and industry claims that the 1,700-mile pipeline would create a mini-job boom in the United States.  The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, is increasingly becoming a knock-down, drag-out fight over jobs. And with President Obama slated to make a decision on the pipeline by Feb. 21 under a provision included in a payroll-tax-cut package, the pressure is on.

The fight over jobs is a pivotal issue in the Keystone XL war. Green groups have seized on the issue, realizing that their concerns about the environmental implications of the project are not enough to counter Republican support for the project. And the GOP hopes to inflict political damage on Obama going into the 2012 election by arguing that the rejection of the pipeline would be a missed opportunity to mend the ailing economy. Supporters of the pipeline, armed with a handful of industry-sponsored studies, say the pipeline will create 20,000 temporary construction and manufacturing jobs in the short-term, along with hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs in the coming decades. Read more ..


Edge on Oil

Iran warns Neighbours Against Augmenting their Oil Exports

January 15th 2012

Energy Topics - Iran Esfandiar oil

Iran has warned its Persian Gulf neighbors such as Saudi Arabia not to raise their oil exports if the West imposes an embargo on Iranian oil supplies. In an interview published today in Qatar's "Sharq" newspaper, Iran's OPEC representative, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, said Tehran would not see such actions as "friendly" and that those countries "will be held responsible for what happens." European Union nations have tentatively agreed to embargo imports of Iranian oil as part of Western efforts to pressure Tehran over what the West says is its program to develop nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia, the region's biggest oil producer, has already said it is ready to meet an increase in consumer demand. Meanwhile, China has criticized the United States for imposing sanctions on a state-run oil firm for exporting petroleum products to Iran. The United States on January 12 imposed sanctions on China's Zhuhai Zhenrong, barring it from doing business in the United States, saying it brokered delivery of more than $500 million worth of gasoline to Iran from July 2010-January 2011. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Brookhaven Gets New Electrocatalyst Technology for Fuel Cells in Electric Vehicles

January 14th 2012

Energy Topics - Hydrogen car

N.E. Chemcat Corporation, Japan’s leading catalyst and precious metal compound manufacturer, has licensed electrocatalysts developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory that can reduce the use of costly platinum and increase the effectiveness of fuel cells for use in electric vehicles. In addition, the license includes innovative methods for making the catalysts and an apparatus design used in manufacturing them.

Platinum is the most efficient electrocatalyst for fuel cells, but platinum-based catalysts are expensive, unstable, and have low durability. The newly licensed electrocatalysts have high activity, stability, and durability, while containing only about one tenth the platinum of conventional catalysts used in fuel cells, reducing overall costs. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Republicans Seek Political Gains by Assailing Obama on Keystone Pipeline Project

January 13th 2012

Energy Topics - Keystone pipe

House GOP leaders hope to reclaim political momentum from the White House by bashing President Obama for dithering over the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. Republicans, bruised by December’s battle over extending the payroll tax cut, see Keystone as a weak spot for a president focused on the economy as he enters a difficult reelection campaign. “Attacking Obama on the pipeline delay is definitely a good hit,” said GOP strategist Tyler Harber. “This issue gives another example to Republicans that demonstrates that Obama hasn’t fully embraced policies that could grow jobs.”

Republicans argue that approving pipeline to carry Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries would create thousands of jobs while curbing reliance on oil from unstable nations. It’s a case GOP lawmakers are making at every turn – Republicans have unloaded on Obama with a stream of tweets, Fox News appearances and even homage to Bob Dylan as they call for approval of TransCanada Corp.’s project. The GOP is coming off a politically disastrous fight over extending the payroll tax cut for two months that appeared to put them on the wrong side of helping struggling workers. “Waging war on the White House for the pipeline delay will successfully shift the public debate from the payroll tax cut extension to an issue that Republicans can use to make headway against Obama,” Harber said.

House GOP leaders last month held up the payroll deal when rank-and-file members initially bristled at legislation that had the backing of Senate Republicans. Ultimately, House Republicans relented, but only after handing the White House political ammunition for a week while they balked. But the silver lining for the House GOP is that bill included language intended to force the president's hand on Keystone by requiring a permit decision within 60 days, a countdown that expires Feb. 21. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Republicans Weigh Options if Obama Nixes Keystone pipeline

January 12th 2012

Energy Topics - Keystone Pipeline

Capitol Hill Republicans are mulling new efforts to win approval of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline if the White House rejects the project in February.

The short-term payroll tax cut deal struck in December requires a permit within 60 days for the pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries — that is, unless President Obama determines that it’s not in the national interest.

Republican aides signaled Wednesday that the GOP won’t give up the fight if Obama rejects the project or finds a way to avoid the deadline.

The GOP could seek to add new Keystone provisions to the year-long payroll bill that lawmakers plan to negotiate. Read more ..


Edge on Emissions

Average U.S. Fuel Economy drops in 2011

January 12th 2012

Energy / Environment - exhaust pipe

After two months of increases, the average fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States fell by a half mile per gallon last month, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Average fuel economy of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs purchased in December 2011 was 22.2 mpg, down from 22.7 mpg in November and 22.6 in October.

According to Michael Sivak, research professor and head of UMTRI's Human Factors Group, average fuel economy of all new vehicles bought last month was down from 22.3 in December 2010, but up slightly from 22.0 in December 2009. The all-time high of 23 mpg occurred in March 2011. Average fuel economy for new vehicles sold is now up about two miles per gallon from just four years ago. Read more ..


Edge on Bio-Fuels

Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis Boosts Biomass Transformation in Petrochemicals by 40 Percent

January 11th 2012

Energy Topics - switchgrass
Switchgrass

Chemical engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, using a catalytic fast pyrolysis process that transforms renewable non-food biomass into petrochemicals, have developed a new catalyst that boosts the yield for five key "building blocks of the chemical industry" by 40 percent compared to previous methods. This sustainable production process, which holds the promise of being competitive and compatible with the current petroleum refinery infrastructure, has been tested and proven in a laboratory reactor, using wood as the feedstock, the research team says.

"We think that today we can be economically competitive with crude oil production," says research team leader George Huber, an associate professor of chemical engineering at UMass Amherst and one of the country’s leading experts on catalytic pyrolysis. Read more ..


Edge on Bio-Fuel

Obama's Tax Cuts to Energize Burgeoning Brazilian Bio-Fuel Supplies

January 11th 2012

Farming - sugar cane

After decades of taxing foreign ethanol, the United States government decided to open up its market by allowing the federal tariff impost to expire on December 31, 2011. Previously, foreign ethanol producers had to forfeit USD 0.54 in taxes per gallon of ethanol exported to the U.S. In addition, Congress passed the country’s federal spending bill without renewing the VEEC subsidy that would have been granted to domestic U.S. ethanol producers. Brazil is quite interested in this change, as it is the biggest sugarcane ethanol producer on the globe. The revocation of the trading barrier represents a big win for the country’s ethanol industry, which seeks to maximize its production and exportation to the United States. Marcos Jank, President of UNICA (Union of the Sugarcane Industry), Brazil’s biggest representative of the sugar and bioethanol market, expects an increase of 12 billion liters of Brazilian ethanol exported to the U.S. until 2020.

Currently, the majority of the ethanol production in the U.S. comes from corn crops, which have heavily influenced world food price increases in recent years. This is because it takes a significant amount of corn to produce ethanol and, consequently, more land is needed for food production. On the other hand, Brazilian ethanol originates from sugarcane, which involves a cleaner production process and is 5 times better than corn ethanol. Also, since the use of ethanol reduces around 90 percent of pollutants compared to gas use, the aforementioned measures also represent a significant achievement for environmentalists. Read more ..


Edge of Electric Vehicles

CES: Mercedes foresees progress in batteries, composites

January 11th 2012

Environment Topics - S500 Hybrid
Mercedes S-500 Hybrid

While the German automaker talks up its rolling Facebook platform, serious alternative-vehicle research is going on behind the scenes. LAS VEGAS—In its keynote showcase at CES, Mercedes-Benz emphasized advances in telematics, which is seemingly turning its automobiles—like those of its competitors—into rolling social-media platforms. However, off the show floor, Daimler researchers interviewed by EE Times told a potentially more impactful story of research which could ultimately deliver serious weight reductions and range boosts for electric vehicles.

The keynote speech was given Jan. 10 by Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz. Zetsche became famous in the U.S. a decade ago as "Dr. Z," the star of television commercials for Chrysler Corp., which Daimler owned at the time. At CES, Zetsche turned his Teutonic charisma to the task of marketing what he called the next level of auto mobility. That would be Daimler's telematics system, called mbrace2, which is making its first appearance in Mercedes' new SL, and will soon become standard on all its U.S. models.

Billed as cloud based, mbrace2 uses Daimler's Vehicle Backend Server to continuously stream navigation information to the car, and to enable connectivity to social media sites such as Facebook. In the other direction, it'll send real-time automotive diagnostics back to the dealer.  Read more ..



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