Friday, December 11, 2009

Bacteria engineered to turn carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

Bacteria engineered to turn carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

Genetically engineered strains of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus in a Petri dish. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)

Global climate change has prompted efforts to drastically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels.

In a new approach, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have genetically modified a cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide and produce the liquid fuel isobutanol, which holds great potential as a gasoline alternative. The reaction is powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.

The research appears in the Dec. 9 print edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology and is available online.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Plastic Solar Breakthrough: 7.9 % Efficiency -- Record Broken by Solarmer

Plastic Solar Breakthrough: 7.9% Efficiency -- Record Broken by Solarmer

solarmer plastic solar panels photo
Photo: Solarmer

Plastic Organic Photovoltaic Technology is Maturing
The Californian startup Solarmer has been making good progress with its plastic organic PV in the past few years. It hit 6% efficiency in 2007, 7.6% a few months ago, and they've now broken their own record with 7.9%

Solarmer's roadmap aims for a 10% conversion efficiency for its OPV cells by the end of 2010. The company is currently doing some pilot manufacturing with roll-to-roll technology, and plans to bring some products to market next year.

Here's more details on Solarmer's technology:

First, low-cost plastic is used as the active materials to convert solar energy into electricity. Thanks to the extraordinary light absorption capability of the plastics, the active plastics layer is extremely thin - only a few tenth of micrometer thick, i.e. less than 1/1000 of silicon cell. This material cost is significantly lower.

Second, very low cost printing techniques can and will be used to manufacture plastic solar cells (just thinking of the newspaper). The combination gives much lower cost of equivalent energy (only ~10 - 20% that of silicon technology). In addition, the fabrication process is both low temperature and environmentally friendly, significantly reduces the amount of energy consumption in the manufacturing process.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Traffic Light Augmented by Progress Bars

Traffic Light Augmented by Progress Bars

The Ecological and Economical Traffic Light Concept [] by Damjan Stankovic is a Red Dot Design 2009 Award winner and consists of a simple yet, potentially highly practical visualization concept for everyday traffic lights that could reduce pollution and promote safer driving. There might already be quite some traffic light time counters around today, but few focus on informing the car drivers in a physically integrative and visually glanceable way like this proposed design concept.

Eko Light is specifically designed so it can be easily installed onto existing traffic light systems without much effort. It claims to bring forward following benefits:
- Less pollution, as drivers can turn their engines off and cut carbon emissions while waiting for the green light,
- Less fuel consumption, as turning off vehicle engines lowers fuel consumption in the long run,
- Less stress, since drivers know exactly how long to wait, and
- Safer driving, as all traffic participants are fully aware of how much time they have left before the light changes, reducing the chance for potential traffic accidents.