Friday, January 31, 2014

For a better concrete, mix sand with bacteria and urea?

Concrete is the second most consumed substance on Earth, after water. It’s primary ingredient, cement, accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. From bricks made with leftover brewery grains to concrete modeled after ancient Roman breakwaters, researchers have been looking hard for less energy-intensive alternatives.

And now urea. For his thesis project at University of Edinburgh, Peter Trimble wanted to see if it was possible to grow our building material instead of using intensive heat, Wired reports. “I thought, Is there an equivalent material that’s more environmentally friendly but structurally comparable out there?” he says. Turns out, all you need is some sand, bacteria, calcium chloride and a decent amount of urea.

Trimble’s design replaces the energy intensive methods with the low energy biological processes of “microbial manufacture.” He calls the method Dupe, and he's created a little stool capable of holding all his weight.

Pack sand (right on the beach) into a cast of a stool.
Then, pump a liquid mixture of Bacillus pasteurii, calcium chloride, and urea into that sand-filled mold.
The bacteria cements the sand particles together. When urea and calcium chloride come into contact with the bacteria, they form a bond (a biological cementation), creating a sandstone-like biomaterial.

More @

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab

While there are big problems with algae farming such as salt deposits, scalability issues, contamination of cultures, etc. it's very exciting to hear about the progress in the field.
From the article:
While a few other groups have tested similar processes to create biofuel from wet algae, most of that work is done one batch at a time. The PNNL system runs continuously, processing about 1.5 liters of algae slurry in the research reactor per hour. While that doesn't seem like much, it's much closer to the type of continuous system required for large-scale commercial production.
The PNNL system also eliminates another step required in today's most common algae-processing method: the need for complex processing with solvents like hexane to extract the energy-rich oils from the rest of the algae. Instead, the PNNL team works with the whole algae, subjecting it to very hot water under high pressure to tear apart the substance, converting most of the biomass into liquid and gas fuels.
The system runs at around 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit) at a pressure of around 3,000 PSI, combining processes known as hydrothermal liquefaction and catalytic hydrothermal gasification. Elliott says such a high-pressure system is not easy or cheap to build, which is one drawback to the technology, though the cost savings on the back end more than makes up for the investment.
"It's a bit like using a pressure cooker, only the pressures and temperatures we use are much higher," said Elliott. "In a sense, we are duplicating the process in the Earth that converted algae into oil over the course of millions of years. We're just doing it much, much faster."

The products of the process are:

  • Crude oil, which can be converted to aviation fuel, gasoline or diesel fuel. In the team's experiments, generally more than 50 percent of the algae's carbon is converted to energy in crude oil — sometimes as much as 70 percent.
  • Clean water, which can be re-used to grow more algae.
  • Fuel gas, which can be burned to make electricity or cleaned to make natural gas for vehicle fuel in the form of compressed natural gas.
  • Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — the key nutrients for growing algae.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Futuristic water-recycling shower cuts bills by over $1,000

 In space, astronauts go for years without a fresh supply of water. Floating in a capsule in outer space they wash and drink from the same continuously recycled source. So why, asked Swedish industrial designer Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, do we not do the same on Earth?

This was the concept behind the OrbSys Shower -- a high-tech purification system that recycles water while you wash. In the eyes of Mahdjoubi, we should start doing it now, before it becomes a necessity.
So how does it work? Similar to space showers, it works on a "closed loop system:" hot water falls from the tap to the drain and is instantly purified to drinking water standard and then pumped back out of the showerhead. As the process is quick, the water remains hot and only needs to be reheated very slightly.

More @ [video]

Monday, May 27, 2013

Google acquires kite-power generator


Google has acquired a US company that generates power using turbines mounted on tethered kites or wings.
Makani Power will become part of Google X – the secretive research and development arm of the search giant.
The deal comes as Makani carries out the first fully autonomous flights of robot kites bearing its power-generating propellers.

Google has not said how much it paid to acquire Makani, but it has invested $15m (£9.9m) in the company before now.

In a statement posted to its website, Makani said the deal would “provide Makani with the resources to accelerate our work to make wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuels”.
Rather than use fixed turbines to generate power, Makani has been experimenting with “flying wings” adorned with several smaller turbines that act as propellers as the craft takes off.
Makani claims that mounting the turbines on a wing is more efficient as large numbers can be built with fewer materials than traditional tower-based turbines. In addition, the robot wings can land to avoid damage if wind speeds are too high or during bad weather.

It plans to operate the tethered wings in small groups of six with each one anchored at the points of a hexagon. The wings operate between 250m (820ft)and 600m above ground.

Monday, May 13, 2013

SheerWind claims its INVELOX wind turbine produces 600% more power

SheerWind claims its INVELOX wind turbine produces 600% more power
The idea behind the INVELOX system is to capture wind using wide mouthed funnels and channel it via ducts to a turbine sitting at ground level. The wind picks up speed as it is concentrated through a series of  and pipes before it is delivered to a turbine, which produces electricity. SheerWind claims in its announcement that the system is capable of producing electricity with  as low as 1mph.
As an example, they say that tests have demonstrated that the system operating in natural wind speeds of 10mph is able to increase that speed to 40mph before it enters the turbine. After passing through the turbine, the wind is exhausted back into the environment, in this case, at 15mph.
NOTE: The claims from this company are dubious and no third-party has been allowed to test it, so take this with a grain of salt.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Tiles Harvest Marathon Runners' Energy

Recently the Paris Marathon showed that such a feat is possible. Race organizers laid out an 82-foot span of rubber tiles along the route made by the London-based company Pavegen Systemsfrom recycled truck tires. The tiles took kinetic energy from footfalls and converted it into very small amounts of electricity.
The tiles generated up to 8 watts with each step, Bloomberg’s Alex Morales reported. Admittedly that’s nothing. But with 40,000 runners it was enough to power screens and signs throughout the race. Not bad for a start.

More @ Discovery News

Monday, April 30, 2012

Wind turbine creates water from thin air

(CNN) -- Wind turbines have long produced renewable energy but a French engineering firm has discovered another eco-purpose for the towering structures.

Eole Water claims to have successfully modified the traditional wind turbine design to create the WMS1000, an appliance that can manufacture drinking water from humid air.

The company aims to start rolling out the giant products for sale later in 2012, initially focusing on remote communities in arid countries where water resources are scarce.

"This technology could enable rural areas to become self-sufficient in terms of water supply," says Thibault Janin, director of marketing at Eole Water.

"As the design and capabilities develop, the next step will be to create turbines that can provide water for small cities or areas with denser populations," he adds.

Eole Water is currently displaying a working prototype of the 24 meter tall WMS1000 in the desert near Abu Dhabi that has been able to produce 62 liters of water an hour, says Janin.

More: Wind turbine creates water from thin air []