Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Researchers figure out how to outperform nature's photosynthesis

"The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last week published a paper titled "Solar hydrogen-producing bionanodevice outperforms natural photosynthesis." They modified the photosynthetic proteins found in cyanobacteria -- bacteria which gain their energy through photosynthesis.

Says io9: “They frankensteined together proteins from Synechococcus sp. with those from Clostridium acetobutylicum using molecular wire to create a 'hybrid biological/organic nanoconstruct' that was more efficient than either on their own.”

More @ PhysOrg

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Engineers can build a low-carbon world if we let them


The engineering solutions to combat climate change already exist. Politicians must be brave enough to use them before it's too late

One word sums up the attitude of engineers towards climate change: frustration. Political inertia following the high-profile failure of 2009's Copenhagen climate conference has coupled with a chorus of criticism from a vocal minority of climate-change sceptics. Add the current economic challenges and the picture looks bleak. Our planet is warming and we are doing woefully little to prevent it getting worse.

Engineers know there is so much more that we could do. While the world's politicians have been locked in predominantly fruitless talks, engineers have been developing the technologies we need to bring down emissions and help create a more stable future.

Wind, wave and solar power, zero-emissions transport, low-carbon buildings and energy-efficiency technologies have all been shown feasible. To be rolled out on a global scale, they are just waiting for the political will. Various models, such as the European Climate Foundation's Roadmap 2050, show that implementing these existing technologies would bring about an 85 per cent drop in carbon emissions by 2050. The idea that we need silver-bullet technologies to be developed before the green technology revolution can happen is a myth. The revolution is waiting to begin.

More @ New Scientist

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Japanese breakthrough [Wind Lens] will make wind power cheaper than nuclear

A surprising aerodynamic innovation in wind turbine design called the 'wind lens' could triple the output of a typical wind turbine, making it less costly than nuclear power.

Of course, the challenge is in storing the energy.

More @ Mother Nature Network

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cars could run on recycled newspaper, scientists say

Cars could run on recycled newspaper, scientists say
Tulane has applied for a patent for a method to produce the biofuel butanol from organic material, a process developed by associate professor David Mullin, right, postdoctoral fellow Harshad Velankar, center, and undergraduate student Hailee Rask. Credit: Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano

Here's one way that old-fashioned newsprint beats the Internet. Tulane University scientists have discovered a novel bacterial strain, dubbed "TU-103," that can use paper to produce butanol, a biofuel that can serve as a substitute for gasoline. They are currently experimenting with old editions of the Times Picayune, New Orleans' venerable daily newspaper, with great success.

More @ PhysOrg

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brazilian wind power cheaper than natural gas

The Brazilian authorities have this week confirmed that wind power in the country currently costs less than natural gas, after a series of energy auctions saw wind farm operators undercut other forms of energy generation.

Seventy-eight wind power projects won contracts in last week's energy auctions held by Brazil's National Electric Power Agency, totalling 1,928MW and priced at approximately 99.5 reals (37.4 GB pounds) per MWh.

Friday, August 19, 2011

13-Year-Old Makes A Solar Breakthrough With Fibonacci Sequence : TreeHugger

solar pioneer photo
image via American Museum of Natural History
(...) the Fibonacci sequence: Starting with the numbers 0 and 1, each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two - 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13.... These numbers, when put in ratios, happens to show up in the patterns of branches and leaves on trees. Aidan, having been mesmerized by tree-branch patterns during a winter hike in the Catskills, sought to investigate why. His hunch: "I knew that branches and leaves collected sunlight for photosynthesis, so my next experiments investigated if the Fibonacci pattern helped."
One thing led to another, and before you know it, this kid, three years from being eligible for a driver's license, had built a tree-like stand affixed with small solar panelsin the Fibonacci pattern. He compared its ability to collect sunlight to a flat-panel collector. And Nature won.
Summing up his research and imagining the possibilities, Aidan wrote: "The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don't have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don't hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find."

More @ TreeHugger

Monday, July 25, 2011

Water purification unit generates its own energy

Water purification unit generates its own energy

"A new biological water purification facility developed by Siemens generates enough methane gas to power its own operations. It also produces much less sludge than conventional systems. The pilot facility for this process, which is located at a site run by Singapore’s Public Utilities Board, has been operating in an energy- neutral manner since June 2010. Now, the city state is building a much larger pilot facility – one that will process 300 times more effluent than its predecessor, or about as much sewage water as is produced by around 1,000 people. "

More @ PhysOrg.com

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

MIT researchers are printing solar cells on sheets of paper

Solar power is a great alternative energy source, but it’s unfortunately a rather expensive one. However, researchers at MIT are working on a new and less-expensive way to make solar cells which involves printing them directly on to fabric or paper."

More @ Geek.com

Bringing light to the poor, one liter at a time | Video | Reuters.com

A bottled liter of water with a few teaspoons of bleach is proving to be a successful recipe for dwellers in the light-deprived slums of the Philippines. The simple technology is spreading sunlight in places where it has never been, and saving residents money at the same time.

More @ Reuters.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Google R&D Team Charged With Making Renewable Energy Work For The Market

New Google R&D Team Charged With Making Renewable Energy Work For The Market | Fast Company

As new CEO, Larry Page is under pressure to deliver something big. Recently, Malcolm Gladwell argued (in his typically contrarian fashion) that the Internet "search solves problems that aren't really problems":

Can we make a better Google or Bing? Yeah; sure we can. But it solves a problem that isn't really a problem. You cannot point to any area of intellectual activity or innovation that is today being compromised or hamstrung by their lack of access to search technology. Can we honestly go to some scientist to say that the reason you haven't cured cancer is because you don't have access to some information about cancer research? No!

There isn't a problem that's any bigger or more real than generating renewable energy and bringing it to market. If Google can find big ways in just the next few years to solve only a part of that puzzle, turning Google's energy wing into a business remotely as robust as its search and software core, then Page will have delivered something big indeed.

More @ Fast Company

Monday, April 25, 2011

Solar power goes viral: Modified virus improves solar-cell efficiency by one-third

Solar power goes viral: Modified virus improves solar-cell efficiency by one-third

In a solar cell, sunlight hits a light-harvesting material, causing it to release electrons that can be harnessed to produce an electric current. The new MIT research, published online this week in the journal , is based on findings that carbon nanotubes — microscopic, hollow cylinders of pure carbon — can enhance the efficiency of electron collection from a solar cell's surface.

Previous attempts to use the nanotubes, however, had been thwarted by two problems. First, the making of carbon nanotubes generally produces a mix of two types, some of which act as semiconductors (sometimes allowing an electric current to flow, sometimes not) or metals (which act like wires, allowing current to flow easily). The new research, for the first time, showed that the effects of these two types tend to be different, because the semiconducting nanotubes can enhance the performance of solar cells, but the metallic ones have the opposite effect. Second, nanotubes tend to clump together, which reduces their effectiveness.

And that’s where viruses come to the rescue. Graduate students Xiangnan Dang and Hyunjung Yi — working with Angela Belcher, the W. M. Keck Professor of Energy, and several other researchers — found that a genetically engineered version of a called M13, which normally infects bacteria, can be used to control the arrangement of the nanotubes on a surface, keeping the tubes separate so they can’t short out the circuits, and keeping the tubes apart so they don’t clump.

(...) In their tests, adding the virus-built structures enhanced the to 10.6 percent from 8 percent — almost a one-third improvement.

More @ PhysOrg.com

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Leaked: 30,000 BP oil spill memos, emails and transcripts

Leaked: 30,000 BP oil spill memos, emails and transcripts | Crikey

"In the middle of last year, Greenpeace started submitted a string of Freedom of Information requests to US government agencies in relation to last year’s disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

As a result the environmental group have obtained some 30,000 memos, emails and transcripts which document the worst oil spill in American history. Taking cues from WikiLeaks, Greenpeace has begun to leak its considerable cache online for all to see.

More @ Crikey

RC car runs on soda can rings

RC car runs on soda can rings

dAlH2Orean H2 R/C Car powered by Aluminium from Aleix Llovet on Vimeo.

A pair of Spanish engineers have recently unveiled the dAlH2Orean (see what they did there?), a R/C car that runs on aluminum. Dropping a few soda can tabs into a tank of sodium hydroxide produces enough hydrogen to power the little speedster for 40 minutes – at almost 20mph.

More @ Engadget

Monday, April 18, 2011

Magnetic Effect of Light May Lead to Better Solar Power

A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.

The researchers found a way to make an "optical battery," said Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics."This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation," Rand said. "In solar cells, the light goes into a material, gets absorbed and creates heat. Here, we expect to have a very low heat load. Instead of the light being absorbed, energy is stored in the magnetic moment. Intense magnetization can be induced by intense light and then it is ultimately capable of providing a capacitive power source."
This new technique could make solar power cheaper, the researchers say. They predict that with improved materials they could achieve 10 percent efficiency in converting solar power to useable energy. That's equivalent to today's commercial-grade solar cells.

More @ Michigan Today

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Home Solar Panel Kits Come To Costco

Home Solar Panel Kits Come To Costco | EarthTechling

Costco members will soon be able to add solar power systems alongside power tools and pancake mix on their shopping lists. Euegene, Oregon based Grape Solar has recently announced that several of its solar kits will soon be available through Costco’s website in the ”Hardware” section under the Generators & Backup Power subcategory. Costco members will have a choice of 880W, 2300W, 3680W or 5060W ready-to-install kits, with prices ranging from around $3,600 upwards to around $18,000.

The solar kits are “grid-tied” systems that include Grape Solar panels, inverters, and racking systems that are ready to install onto the roofs of homes and other structures. Grape Solar says the kits are designed to be expandable, so customers can start small and grow their system over time if they wish. In order to facilitate installation, Grape Solar says that they developed a network of over 5,000 installers who will be available to provide locally based customer support.

Grape Solar Kit

More @ EarthTechling

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pepsi bottles: no more plastic

Pepsi bottles: no more plastic - CSMonitor.com

This product image shows the new Pepsi bottle made entirely of plant material. The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business. The new Pepsi bottles are scheduled to begin appearing in 2012.

More @ CSMonitor.com

Monday, February 28, 2011

Micro petrol engine

New mini petrol engine

New mini petrol engine

Small ... world's tiniest engine on the tip of a finger

SCIENTISTS have built the smallest petrol engine ? tiny enough to power a WATCH.

The mini-motor, which runs for two years on a single squirt of lighter fuel, is set to revolutionize world technology.
It produces 700 times more energy than a conventional battery despite being less than a centimeter long ? not even half an inch. It could be used to operate laptops and mobile phones for months on end ? doing away with the need for recharging(...)

More @ The Sun

Monday, January 31, 2011

Aerial ropeways: automatic cargo transport for a bargain

Aerial ropeways: automatic cargo transport for a bargain

Adam wybe 1 These days, we use them almost exclusively to transport skiers and snowboarders up snow slopes, but before the 1940s, aerial ropeways were a common means of cargo transport, not only in mountainous regions but also on flat terrain, with large-scale systems already built during the Middle Ages.

Cargo tramways can be fully or partly powered by gravity, and some deliver excess power that can be utilized to generate electricity or to drive cranes or machinery in nearby factories. Some innovative systems have been constructed in recent years.

More @ Low-tech Magazine

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A brave new world of fossil fuels on demand?

A brave new world of fossil fuels on demand

In September, a privately held and highly secretive U.S. biotech company named Joule Unlimited received a patent for “a proprietary organism” – a genetically adapted E. coli bacterium – that feeds solely on carbon dioxide and excretes liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (U.S.) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, “fossil fuels on demand.”

More @ The Globe and Mail

Monday, January 10, 2011

Horizon MiniPak personal fuel cell charger hits shelves for $100 -- Engadget

Horizon MiniPak personal fuel cell charger hits shelves for $100 -- Engadget

Designed for charging portable electronics on the go, the MiniPak has two refillable cartridges, each with the juice equivalent of around 1,000 AA batteries. The MiniPak -- which uses Hydrogen to produce electricity -- isn't the first portable fuel cell, but it's certainly the cheapest.

More @ Engadget [Video]