Archive for October 31st, 2009

REPORT: Suzuki to put hydrogen two-wheelers into production

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Suzuki fuel cell concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show – Click above for high-res image gallery

Suzuki and Intelligent Energy have been working on hydrogen fuel cell-powered two-wheelers for the last few years, with the Crosscage, their first public concept, debuting back in 2007 at the Tokyo Motor Show. Then, earlier this year, we heard rumblings that Suzuki hoped to have its first production hydrogen cycle ready within the next 12 months.

Falling right in line with those expectations, Suzuki unveiled a new concept just last week at the most recent show in Tokyo, and instead of using a pie-in-the-sky motorcycle chassis with single-sided suspension bits that have little chance of actual production, the Japanese company placed its proprietary fuel cell and storage system in a regular old Burgman scooter.

Now, Wired reports that we can expect these hydrogen two-wheelers in production in very short order. Says Dr. Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy, “These clean fuel cell engine-powered motorcycles are not simply for motor shows, and can be widely available to everyone in the near future.”

If that does indeed take place, as cool as the Crosscage may be, we’d expect the initial offering to take a form similar to the conceptual Burgman scooter. We’ll know for sure soon enough.

[Source: Wired]

REPORT: Suzuki to put hydrogen two-wheelers into production originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Sat, 31 Oct 2009 11:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Time-of-use pricing: Will it undermine solar domestic hot water programs?

Smart meters and time-of-use pricing are always well-read stories because there’s true division within the general public on whether smart meters are consumer-friendly gadgets that encourage conservation or utility-friendly devices that make it easier to gouge consumers. See my story in the Toronto Star from Friday. My take is that electricity prices are going up whether we get smart meters or not, and that smart meters — and the applications they enable — offer households a way to shift and even lower their electricity use to buffer the impact of rising prices. The mistake — and again, just my view — is that smart meters have been improperly marketed to consumers as some kind of sexy wonder tool that will help them lower their bills. Instead, utilities should have downplayed the introduction and simply moved ahead with their installation as part of a less exciting grid modernization play — equivalent to a telecom company upgrading from analog to digital networks so that, down the road, new services can be offered to customers. Customers don’t care about the bandwidth, they just care about the handsets and what they can do.

By positioning smart meters as more of an infrastructure play the cost of deployment can be simply incorporated into annual capital budgets and households are more resigned to the fact that getting the new device is mandatory. Let’s face it, initially smart meters are about helping utilities manage their networks better — i.e. they can pinpoint problems and do more detailed analysis of individual household, neighbourhood, and community power consumption, improving system planning and maintenance operations and preparing utilities for increased distributed generation in their service territories.

By making this seem like some gift to consumers, as has been done, utilities open themselves up to consumers expecting certain results and wanting the option of getting or not getting the smart meter. I witness this every day in the e-mails I get and conversations I have with disgruntled Toronto Hydro customers. Later, once the smart meter infrastructure is in place, the utility can begin deploying the in-home monitors and Web applications that allow customers, on an optional basis, to better take advantage of time-of-use pricing and demand-response programs. This, of course, needs to be preceded by gradual price hikes that are blamed on the rising cost of new generation and grid renewal so that consumers more clearly see smart-meter-enabled applications as a way to offset those inevitable increases (which are simply the reality of our times, not the cause of smart meters).

So how, as my subject line hints, does time-of-use pricing potentially undermine programs that promote the uptake of domestic solar hot-water systems? I have one of these systems on my roof, and I like it. It works well. I’m not sure I use enough water every month to justify the payback (disclosure: I’m part of a pilot program, so when I say “payback” I’m referring to the typical installed cost of these systems), but it’s nice to know the hot water we use for our dishwasher, showers, and occasionally our laundry can come from the sun, not natural gas. But here’s the problem with time-of-use pricing. If I want to run the laundry or dishwasher when the hot water in my house is completely heated by the sun, I must do it during what are typically peak times under time-of-use schedules. It means I pay double for the electricity so I can save on the natural gas. Alternatively, I can do the laundry during off-peak hours when power is cheap, but the sun is down and my water tank relies more on natural gas.

So, it seems, this is a classic case of the law of unintended consequences — two programs aimed at reducing our use of non-renewable energy that end up undermining their respective objectives. This is a good argument against mandatory time-of-use pricing. At the very least, it’s a good argument for retail electricity providers such as Direct Energy, Bullfrog Power, and others who offer fixed-rate pricing. Using green-energy retailer Bullfrog Power, for example, is a nice complement to solar thermal because you pay the same rate for green electricity at any time of the day so are not penalized for running your dishwasher or laundry machine in the afternoon on a sunny day.


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Mylow Magnetic Motor Debunked: NSA Involved – It Can’t Be Fake

A guy named Mylow has tried to, and seemingly succeeded to build a magnetic motor whose power was self-sufficient to run it. The invention was not his, but Howard Johnson’s, who, in the 80′s, tried the same experiment and at that time it’s said it was a success. Anyway, nobody seems to have publicly replicated the magnetic motor until Mylow.

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Developing Residential Solar Installation Monitor

rooftop solar

A partnership between two companies will develop a home energy monitoring device for residential solar power installations.

Two startups – Tendril Networks, known for its home energy monitoring technology and Fat Spaniel technologies, a solar panel monitoring company – make up the partnership. The purpose of the partnership is to develop a monitoring device for homes that can gauge the sun’s intensity for any particular time and automatically adjust, or even shut down, home appliances as needed.

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Zombies for Climate Action

Zombies for Climate Action
OK, here’s a Halloween-day climate treat for you via and the fine zombiefied folks at the Orlando Brewing Company:

Dude in the army jacket gets top marks for his quality zombie moves. Happy Halloween!

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New York Area to Have 17 GW of Renewable Energy Projects

According to a recent report by SNL Financial, a business research firm, more than half of all planned energy projects in the Northeast Power Coordinating Council region, comprising part of Canada and 6 US states, are renewable energy projects.

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Desal project at Egyptian thermal power plant goes to Aquatech
Following wins for desal tech in India and wastewater reuse in Egypt, U.S.-based OEM takes on a new Mediterranean Sea facility.

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Nanomaterial Being Produced By the Ton

Nanomaterial Being Produced By the Ton

Nano carbon Graphene is already being produced in decidedly non-nano quantities by Ohio-based Angstron. Yet the atom-thick nano-material was discovered so recently that researchers are still in the process of discovering what to use it for.

Graphene is an extremely low density material, almost an atomic-scale chicken wire made of carbon atoms and their bonds. It has been the focus of much research because of its exceptional electrical, mechanical and optical properties. It holds great promise in renewable energies.

Among the so far underutilized advantages Graphene offers are that it is fifty times stronger than steel, and it has five times the conductivity of copper, with only one quarter of the density.

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Chasing the Junk Food Dragon: How Junk Food Affects Brain Like Heroin
A sobering snap of a dazed and skeletal addict after copping his fix. Credit: Religion Compass

Before you or your child dig into that plastic jack-o-lantern (or its post-consumer equivalent) full of sugary snacks, you might do well to check out former FDA Commissioner David Kessler’s new book The End of Overeating. The book highlights the addictive nature of junk food, show… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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EU-Funded Project Targets Sustainable Production of Ethyl Levulinate from Biomass as Diesel Miscibile Biofuel

Representation of DIBANET processes, products and linkages. Source: Carbolea. Click to enlarge.

An EU-funded research project is seeking to develop new technologies that will enable the sustainable production of diesel miscible biofuels (DMB) from cellulosic biomass wastes in Europe and Latin America.

Specifically, the DIBANET (Development of Integrated Biomass Approaches Network) project will advance the art in the production of ethyl levulinate from organic wastes and residues. Ethyl levulinate (EL) is a novel diesel miscible biofuel (DMB) produced by esterifying ethanol with levulinic acid. The project will also use fast pyrolysis to convert the residue left over from biofuel production to bio-oil for subsequent upgrading to DMB.

EL has an oxygen content of 33%; a blend of 20% EL, 70% petroleum diesel and 1% co-additive has a 6.9% oxygen content, resulting in a significantly cleaner burning diesel fuel. The fuel has high lubricity, reduced sulfur content, meets all the ASTM D-975 diesel fuel specifications, and experiences no significant losses in fuel economy, according to Prof. Michael Hayes of the Carbolea Research Group at the University of Limerick in Ireland, the DIBANET co-ordinator.

The DIBANET project has received €3.73 million (US$5.5 million) under the Energy Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). In addition to the Carbolea Research Group, the DIBANET consortium comprises partners from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Greece, Hungary and the UK.

DIBANET aims to:

  • Optimize the yields of levulinic acid from the conversion of biomass.

  • Improve the energy balance and the total biofuel yields possible from a feedstock by sustainably utilizing the residues in pyrolysis processes to produce a bio-oil that will be upgraded to a DMB.

  • Reduce the energy and chemical costs involved in producing ethyl levulinate from levulinic acid and ethanol.

  • Select key biomass feedstocks for conversion to levulinic acid, analyse these, and develop rapid analytical methods that can be used in an online process.

  • Analyze the DMBs produced for their compliance to EN590 requirements and, if non-compliant, suggest means to achieve compliance.

The envisioned production process for the optimized production of DMBs entails six main steps (see diagram above):

  1. Optimization of the sourcing, selection and preparation of the feedstock.

  2. The hydrolysis and subsequent degradation of biomass. This can produce (i) levulinic acid, (ii) furfural (which can be converted to levulinic acid via hydrogenation), (iii) formic acid, and (iii) solid residues (SR).

  3. The esterification of levulinic acid with (sustainable) ethanol to produce the DMB ethyl-levulinate.

  4. Pyrolysis of some or all of the SR to produce a bio-oil and a biochar. Pyrolysis can be enhanced by using the formic acid produced in (2) as a co-feed.

  5. Catalytic upgrading of the bio-oil to produce an upgraded bio-oil (UBO) that is miscible with diesel.

  6. Utilization of the biochar as a soil-amender for plant-growth promotion or to fuel the processes. (The Carbolea Group suggests that a configuration of the DIBANET process chain may provide a means for obtaining carbon negative biofuels through using biochar as a soil amender.)

Levulinic acid (LA) can also be used to produce methyltetrahydrofuran (MTHF), an oxygenated fuel extender for gasoline. Produced via the hydrogenation of LA, MTHF has an octane value of ~87, and a low Reid Vapor Pressure. It is hydrophobic, and has a LHV of 32 MJ/kg—somewhat higher than that of ethanol. Gasoline has an LHV of about 44 MJ/kg.


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GE Technology Selected for Hydrogen Energy IGCC Project in California

GE Energy has signed a technology licensing agreement with Hydrogen Energy (HEI) for a proposed 250-megawatt power plant that would use integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technology. The plant, to be located near Bakersfield, in Kern County, Calif., would be designed to capture up to 90% of its carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery and sequestration in an adjacent oil field. (Earlier post.)

HEI is a joint venture of BP Alternative Energy and multinational mining company Rio Tinto Hydrogen. In 2007, GE and BP formed a global alliance to jointly develop and deploy technology for at least five IGCC power plants that could significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation. The Hydrogen Energy California County project would be the first power plant built under that alliance.

IGCC plants gasify solid fuels into syngas, which then is used by a gas turbine combined-cycle system to generate electricity, providing a cleaner, economical coal-to-power option. IGCC also significantly reduces criteria emissions—sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury and particulate matter—and decreases water consumption by up to 30% (as compared to a conventional coal plant).

The technology proposed for the Hydrogen Energy California plant would convert petroleum coke, coal or a combination of each into syngas. Chemical scrubbers would filter out pollutants and would separate CO2, leaving a hydrogen-rich fuel to power the gas turbine combined-cycle system. The carbon captured from the plant would be piped to an adjacent oil field, where it would be used for enhanced oil recovery and sequestration operations.

GE Energy has been developing IGCC technology for more than two decades. GE technology was involved in several milestone projects, including the pilot IGCC plant, Coolwater, in Barstow, Calif., and the Polk Tampa Electric IGCC plant in Florida, that helped demonstrate the commercial feasibility of IGCC. GE also is supplying IGCC technology for Duke Energy’s plant in Edwardsport, Ind., that is expected to be the world’s largest IGCC facility when it reaches commercial operation in 2012.

There are nearly 70 GE-licensed gasification facilities operating around the world today and approximately 40 of these plants use commercial technology to separate carbon.

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REPORT: Bolivia will make its own lithium-ion batteries by 2018

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Asia and Michigan, watch out. It’s a long-term goal, but Bolivia is looking to capitalize on its large in-ground lithium supply by producing li-ion batteries by 2018. While lithium might not ever be in short supply, Bolivia certainly has the advantage of not needing to import the valuable material. The country’s deputy minister of Science and Technology, Roger Carvajal, said this week that the basic outline of the government strategy to commercialize the lithium deposits (estimated to be about half of the world’s supply) have been decided on. They include making lithium carbonate on a commercial scale in 2013 and possibly an electric car factory after that.

[Source: Latin American Herald Tribune]

REPORT: Bolivia will make its own lithium-ion batteries by 2018 originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Sat, 31 Oct 2009 08:40:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Cyclone Power Technologies Successfully Completes Engine Tests for Raytheon Company; 30% Thermal Efficiency

Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. successfully completed performance tests of its external combustion engine for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). The tests demonstrated that Cyclone’s prototype water-cooled Mark II engine achieved thermal efficiencies of more than 30%, results that exceeded original engineering calculations.

Operating at temperatures of 1,000 °F (538 °C) and steam pressures of 1,150 psi (8 MPa), the compact 98 lbs Mark II ran at 2,133 rpm and produced 13.4 hp (10 kW) and 33 lb-ft (45 N·m) of torque at a diesel fuel burn rate of 0.8 gal/hr.

Raytheon IDS and Cyclone are currently in discussions regarding the next phases of this project, the details of which have not been finalized at this time.

The demonstration of these new technologies was in fulfillment of an Independent Research and Development (IR&D) contract from Raytheon IDS signed last year. In February, Cyclone announced the completion of the first stage of testing, which involved running the Cyclone Engine by the combustion of an environmentally friendly monopropellant called Moden Fuel. When burned, Moden Fuel produces pure water and carbon dioxide.

A team of engineers and technicians from Cyclone, Raytheon IDS, James R. Moden Inc. and Advent Power Systems pioneered, performed and monitored the tests.

Raytheon IDS is a business of Raytheon Company. Moden Fuel, a monopropellant able to burn in the complete absence of air, was originally developed by James R. Moden, Inc. of Richmond, RI, to power US Navy torpedoes. Advent Power Systems, based in Coconut Creek, FL, is the exclusive licensee for US military applications of the Cyclone Engine technology.

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Michigan State University Receives $2.5M ARPA-E Award to Build Wave Disc Engine/Generator for Series Hybrid Applications

Schematic model of a wave disk engine, showing combustion and shockwaves within the channels. Source: MSU. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Michigan State University has been awarded $2.5 million from the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program (earlier post) to complete its prototype development of a new gasoline-fueled wave disc engine and electricity generator that promises to be five times more efficient than traditional auto engines in electricity production, 20% lighter, and 30% cheaper to manufacture.

The wave disc engine, a new implementation of wave rotor technology, was developed by the Michigan State group in collaboration with researchers from the Warsaw Institute of Technology. About the size of a large cooking pot, the novel, hyper-efficient engine could replace current engine/generator technologies for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

The award will allow a team of MSU engineers and scientists, led by Norbert Müller, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, to begin working toward producing a vehicle-size wave disc engine/generator during the next two years, building on existing modeling, analysis and lab experimentation they have already completed.

Our goal is to enable hyper-efficient hybrid vehicles to meet consumer needs for a 500-mile driving range, lower vehicle prices, full-size utility, improved highway performance and very low operating costs. The WDG also can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 95 percent in comparison to modern internal combustion vehicle engines.

—Norbert Müller

The Wave Disc Engine. The wave disc engine is a new implementation of wave rotor technology (also called Pressure Wave Machines or Pressure Exchangers). Wave rotors are unsteady-flow devices that utilize shock waves to transfer energy directly between a high-energy fluid to a low-energy fluid, thereby increasing both temperature and pressure of the low-energy fluid. Wave rotor technology has shown a significant potential for performance improvement of thermodynamic cycles.

Hyprex pressure wave charger. Source: Swissauto Wenko. Click to enlarge.

Wave rotor technology has been explored since 1906, although its first significant application was in 1940 by Brown Boveri Company (BBC, today ABB) which used it as a high pressure stage for a gas turbine locomotive engine. In 1986, Mazda introduced the Mazda 626 Cappela model, which had a 2-liter diesel engine equipped

with a Comprex wave rotor (from BBC) used as a supercharger. Mazda produced 150,000 Comprex diesel cars. Other car manufacturers including Opel, Mercedes, Peugeot and Ferrari used the Comprex. Swissauto Wenko AG of Switzerland produces a modern version of the Comprex—the Hyprex—designed for small gasoline engines.

Earlier wave rotor implementation were mainly axial flow. In axial-flow configurations, noted Müller and co-authors in a 2004 paper, pure scavenging is a challenging task. Although it is possible to achieve a full scavenging process for both through and reverse- flow configurations, the solutions lead to more complex configurations. The wave disc technology, however, uses a radial and circumferential flow.

This can substantially improve the scavenging process by using centrifugal forces…Compared with straight channels, curved channels provide a greater length for the same disc diameter, which can be important to obtain certain wave travel times for tuning. With curved channels also the angle against the radius can be changed freely. This allows modulating of the inflow direction acting accelerating component of the centrifugal force and also to choose the inlet and outlet angle independently.

The latter enables independent matching with the flow direction through the stationary inlet and outlet ports or the use of a freely chosen incidence angle for a self-driving configuration. Furthermore, curved channels may be more effective for self-propelling and work extraction in the case of a wave turbine or work input for additional compression, analogous to the principle of turbomachines.

—Piechna et al. (2004)

The earlier MSU investigations of wave rotor and radial wave rotor technology were exploring gas turbine applications in addition to supercharging or refrigeration. In a gas turbine application, the team noted, positioning the combustion process internally in the wave rotor could simplify porting between the turbo-compressor and the wave disc “enormously”. This led to a proposed concept of a Radial Internal Combustion Wave Rotor—the precursor to the wave disc engine.

Piechna   Early concept of an internal combustion wave disc engine. The fuel supplies (green) are located at the inner inlet port. The mixture in the channel is ignited either by a stationary igniter acting through holes in the channel (yellow) or by rotating electrical igniters activated only in a certain angular position of the mixture-filled channel.

The air-fuel mixture can be radially stratified. Combustion starts in the central part of the channel, where the fuel/air mixture is rich and flame propagates to inner and outer end of the cell. Since heat release increases

pressure inside the channel, opening the outer channel end generates an outflow of the exhaust gases. For curved channels, torque is given to the disc during the flow scavenging.

This can be used for self-driven rotation or for external work extraction through a shaft or a generator. The outflow of the burned gases can induce an inflow of air and air-fuel mixture into the channels, refilling and cooling the cell before the cycle starts again.

Source: Piechna, 2004. Click to enlarge.


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