Archive for November 21st, 2009

Researchers Develop Solid-State, Rechargeable Lithium-Air Battery; Potential to Exceed 1,000 Wh/kg

Sample UDRI solid-state, rechargeable lithium-air batteries, and Dr. Binod Kumar. Click to enlarge.

Engineers at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) have developed a solid-state, rechargeable lithium-air battery. When fully developed, the battery could exceed specific energies of 1,000 Wh/kg in practical applications, the researchers wrote in a paper published online 13 November in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

The cell comprises a Li metal anode, a highly Li-ion conductive solid electrolyte membrane laminate fabricated from glass–ceramic (GC) and polymer–ceramic materials, and a solid-state composite air cathode prepared from high surface area carbon and ionically conducting GC powder.

The cell exhibited excellent thermal stability and rechargeability in the 30–105 °C temperature range. It was subjected to 40 charge–discharge cycles at current densities ranging from 0.05 to 0.25 mA/cm2.

Lithium-air batteries dispense with the intercalation cathode used in a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, instead using a catalytic air cathode in combination with an electrolyte and a lithium anode. Oxygen from the air is the active material for the cathode and is reduced at the cathode surface—the lithium reacts directly with the oxygen. Theoretically, with oxygen as essentially an unlimited cathode reactant source, the capacity of the battery is limited only by the lithium anode. The theoretical specific energy of the Li-air cell is 13,000 Wh/kg—the highest of any metal-air battery system. (Earlier post.)

There are numerous challenges for non-aqueous rechargeable Li-air systems, such as low rates of oxygen diffusion in the porous air cathode and the accumulation of solid reaction products on the electrode, which blocks the contact between electrolyte and air, reducing life and power. As with Li-ion batteries, there are many factors controlling the performance of a lithium-air battery, including cathode structure, anode morphology, electrolyte composition and cell assembly.

We have successfully fabricated and tested the first totally solid-state lithium-air battery, which represents a major advancement in the quest for a commercially viable, safe rechargeable battery with high energy and power densities and long cycle life.

—Binod Kumar, leader of UDRI’s electrochemical power group

In addition to increasing the battery’s energy density, the development is designed to mitigate the volatile nature of traditional lithium rechargeables, such as those used in cell phones and laptops, which can overheat and catch fire or rupture.

Kumar said that the team made and tested more than three dozen lithium-air batteries during the last year, with each exhibiting superior performance even at temperatures as high as 107 °C. As development of the technology continues, researchers will also focus on cycle life, with a goal of 4,000 cycles.

Research to develop the new lithium battery was funded in part by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Propulsion Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.


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Indias Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Mandates Rainwater Harvesting

India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) will implement rainwater harvesting in all the existing ONGC residential complexes across India. ONGC has made it mandatory to implement the system in all future projects also.

The objective of the scheme is to replenish the ground water table which is slowly receding due to urban development and excessive and continued exploitation of ground water.

In a statement, ONGC said that with the concept of triple bottomline getting more relevant and focused, it has been realized that the companies operating in both global and domestic markets are increasingly required to incorporate the social, economic and environmental concerns into their business while building shareholders’ value and taking care of stakeholders’ interest.

In its endeavor to provide sustainable solution to water scarcity, ONGC has focused on rainwater harvesting.

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Hyperion Unveils Design of its Small Modular Nuclear Reactor, the Hyperion Power Module

At the recent Annual Winter Conference of the American Nuclear Society in Washington, and simultaneously at the “Powering Toward 2020” conference in London, England, Hyperion Power Generation Inc. revealed the design for the first version of its Hyperion Power Module (HPM), a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) that it intends to have licensed and manufactured at facilities in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

The HPM is a compact (approx. 1.5m wide x 2.5m tall), sealed and self-contained, simple-to-operate nuclear power reactor, euphemistically referred to by the company as a “fission battery”. Over its 7-10 year operational life, the HPM will deliver 70 MW of thermal energy, or approximately 25 MWe. Each module will cost $50 million; initial deliveries, slated to begin in the second half of 2013, are being scheduled, the company says.

The reason for the low electrical efficiency (36% of 70 MWt) is that the steam loop does not run through the inside of the reactor, for simplicity and safety, the company says.

The HPM is small enough to be manufactured en masse and transported in its entirety via ship, truck, or rail, and is intended to be buried underground for its operational life, after which it will be dug up and refueled at Hyperion.

The US Department of Energy is supporting the development and deployment of SMRs for the domestic market, and plans to establish an SMR program, with a target of FY2011. DOE defines an SMR as producing less than 350 MWe.

The DOE groups SMR technology into three categories: LWR-based designs; non-LWR designs; and Advanced Reactor Concepts and Technologies. The HPM falls into that last category, as do designs and concepts from a few other vendors in the same general power range as the HPM.

Advanced SMR (<350 MWe) Vendor Designs & Concepts
Company Product Power rating
Brookhaven Technology Group Global Energy Module (GEM50) 10 MWe
Westinghouse-Toshiba Toshiba 4S (Super Safe, Small and Simple) 10 MWe
Hyperion Power Generation HPM 25 MWe
Sandia National Laboratory Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor 100 MWe
General Electric Power Reactor Inherently Safe Module (PRISM) 311 MWe
TerraPower Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR) 350 MWe

The first version of the HPM is a uranium nitride (U2N3)-fueled, lead-bismuth (Pb-Bi)-cooled, fast reactor. This will include all of the company’s original design criteria, but is expected to take less time for regulators to review and certify than the initial concept of a uranium hydride-fueled reactor created by Dr. Otis Peterson during his tenure at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to Hyperion CEO John “Grizz” Deal.

We have every intention of producing Dr. Peterson’s uranium hydride-fueled reactor; it is an important breakthrough technology for the nuclear power industry. However, in our research of the global market for small, modular nuclear power reactors—aka SMRs—we have found a great need for the technology. Our clients do not want to wait for regulatory systems around the globe, to learn about and be able to approve a uranium hydride system. A true SMR design, that delivers a safe, simple and small source of clean, emission-free, robust and reliable power is needed today—not years from now. As we construct and deploy this launch design, we will continue to work towards licensing Dr. Peterson’s design.

—John Deal

This initial design for the company’s small, modular, nuclear power reactor (SMR) is the first of several that have been under co-development with staff from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Nuclear Engineering International reports that:

  • The HPM uses 24 assemblies of uranium nitride fuel, and 18 control rods. The center of the core is hollow so that boron carbide marbles could be dropped in the center to shut down the reactor in an emergency.

  • The U2N3 fuel is 20% enriched and set in HT-9 cladding tubes. Flowing around the pins is liquid Pb-Bi coolant. Quartz is used as a radial reflector. A gas plenum is at one end of the 2-3m long fuel pins.

  • Two sets of boron carbide control rods keep the reactivity of the core under control.

  • The hot (500 °C) coolant transfers its heat through an intermediate heat exchanger to another lead-bismuth loop, through another intermediate heat exchanger to a tertiary circuit with an undisclosed fluid, and then through a third heat exchanger to water (at about 200 °C).

Hyperion Power’s market goals include the distribution of at least 4,000 of its transportable, sealed, self-contained, simple-to-operate fission-generated power units.


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Let’s look at one of the illegally hacked emails in more detail — the one by NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth on “where the heck is global warming?”

The answer to the question “where the heck is global warming?” is “precisely where you would expect,” as we will see.

Wired has done some excellent reporting on one of the supposed start-dumping-your-clean-energy-stocks e-mails — the one by Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado:

Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about 18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low….

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

Note:  No, I’m not thrilled with reprinting part of an illegally stolen e-mail, but this was in Wired and has been confirmed by the author and actually deals with the science.

This email allegedly “suggests that reality contradicts scientific claims about global warming,” at least to those who don’t understand and accept climate science.  Not surprisingly, the author, one of the country’s leading experts on climate, disagrees.  Let me first note that Trenberth signed the Must Read Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists, which opens:

The 2007 IPCC report, compiled by several hundred climate scientists, has unequivocally concluded that our climate is warming rapidly, and that we are now at least 90% certain that this is mostly due to human activities. The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now far exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years, and it is rising very quickly due to human activity. If this trend is not halted soon, many millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms, our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction.

One can only dream that we lived in a world where that important declaration by more than 200 of the world’s leading climate scientists would get even one half the media coverage of a bunch of stolen e-mails that do nothing whatsoever to change the scientific evidence or the urgent need for action.  But I digress.

Trenberth says,  “If you read all of these e-mails, you will be surprised at the integrity of these scientists.  The unfortunate thing about this is that people can cherry pick and take things out of context.”  Here is Trenberth explaining what his e-mail in fact meant in context:

But Trenberth, who acknowledged the e-mail is genuine, says bloggers are missing the point he’s making in the e-mail by not reading the article cited in it. That article – An Imperative for Climate Change Planning (.pdf) — actually says that global warming is continuing, despite random temperature variations that would seem to suggest otherwise.

“It says we don’t have an observing system adequate to track it, but there are all other kinds of signs aside from global mean temperatures — including melting of Arctic sea ice and rising sea levels and a lot of other indicators — that global warming is continuing,” he says.

Or, as Gavin Schmidt explains deep in the comments section of RealClimate, when asked “Is Dr Trenberth correct in his claim that we can’t explain why the planet hasn’t been warming as expected?”

[Response: It is the level of explanation that is the issue. The zero-th order explanation is that 'natural variation' and possible structural issues in the surface data sets are plenty large enough. But it would be good to know exactly what form that natural variation has taken and why exactly it has the impact on the global mean temperatures it has. It is this second-order explanation that Trenberth is discussing. - gavin]

I would urge people to read Trenberth’s article, which asks:

The global mean temperature in 2008 was the lowest since about 2000 (Fig. 1). Given that there is continual heating of the planet, referred to as radiative forcing, by accelerating increases of carbon dioxide (Fig. 1) and other greenhouses due to human activities, why isn’t the temperature continuing to go up? The stock answer is that natural variability plays a key role1 and there was a major La Niña event early in 2008 that led to the month of January having the lowest anomaly in global temperature since 2000. While this is true, it is an incomplete explanation. In particular, what are the physical processes? From an energy standpoint, there should be an explanation that accounts for where the radiative forcing has gone. Was it compensated for temporarily by changes in clouds or aerosols, or other changes in atmospheric circulation that allowed more radiation to escape to space? Was it because a lot of heat went into melting Arctic sea ice or parts of Greenland and Antarctica, and other glaciers? Was it because the heat was buried in the ocean and sequestered, perhaps well below the surface? Was it because the La Niña led to a change in tropical ocean currents and rearranged the configuration of ocean heat? Perhaps all of these things are going on? But surely we have an adequate system to track whether this is the case or not, don’t we?

No, we don’t know for certain what explains 2008 — but as I’ve written many times, the combination of an extended La Niña plus “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century” plus natural climate variability offer more than enough explanation for 2008 being … still bloody warm, among the ten warmest years on record – 0.1°C warmer than the decade of the 1990s as a whole – and warmer than any year of last century beside (the El-Niño-enhanced) 1998.  And if you read the article you’ll see that Trenberth goes through all of the relevant factors that contribute to natural variability.

It bears repeating that a new NOAA-led study, “An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950” (subs. req’d, release here) concluded:

[S]ince 1950, the planet released about 20 percent of the warming influence of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to outer space as infrared energy. Volcanic emissions lingering in the stratosphere offset about 20 percent of the heating by bouncing solar radiation back to space before it reached the surface. Cooling from the lower-atmosphere aerosols produced by humans balanced 50 percent of the heating. Only the remaining 10 percent of greenhouse-gas warming actually went into heating the Earth, and almost all of it went into the ocean.

That is from my post Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening: It’s the oceans, stupid! The key figure:

Figure 1: “Total Earth Heat Content [anomaly] from 1950 (Murphy et al. 2009). Ocean data taken from Domingues et al 2008.”

In other words, the surface temperature data — which is subject to the vagaries of climate variability — only represent a tiny fraction of the human-caused warming.  As another recent study showed, if you look at where most of the heat is going, the warming continues unabated:

Figure [2]: Time series of global mean heat storage (0–2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2.

Where the heck is global warming?  Just where you’d expect it.  The study makes clear that upper ocean heat content, perhaps not surprisingly, is simply far more variable than deeper ocean heat content, and thus an imperfect indicator of the long-term warming trend.

Let me end with Trenberth’s science-based call to action, from the Bali Declaration:

Based on current scientific understanding, this requires that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 50% below their 1990 levels by the year 2050. In the long run, greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilised at a level well below 450 ppm (parts per million; measured in CO2-equivalent concentration). In order to stay below 2ºC, global emissions must peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years, so there is no time to lose.

No time to lose.

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Caulkers Cash, Smaller Homes, Green Building Benefits, + Energy Monitors

Week in Review

Also, follow @jetsongreen on Twitter for more news, links, and commentary.

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Solar Impulse Plane Tested

Solar Impulse Plane Tested

A solar plane that was unveiled in Switzerland in June recently made its first test outside of a hangar. The plane is called the Solar Impulse and was an idea of those responsible for the first balloon ride around the world.

The plane has a 207 foot wingspan, which is comparative to commercial airplanes. The wings hold solar cells, specifically 11,628 solar cells. The plane weighs 3,527 pounds, which is equivalent to a car. The propellers are powered by four 100 kilogram lithium batteries.

The goal of the project is for the plane to reach 28,000 feet in the near future. The ultimate goal will be a continuous 36 hour flight without using external energy. The non-stop flight is expected to occur in 2012, while a shorter flight is expected to be tried in February of 2010 which will last about two hours.

The recent tests on the plane took place on a runway in Switzerland. The plane traveled approximately 1.2 miles on the runway, reaching 5 knots in speed. The hope is to test the plane again in the upcoming days and reach 10 knots.

Those behind the project are testing the computers and engines involved in the plane. These tests are also expected to give pilots an idea of how the aircraft will operate in real situations.

Andre Borschberg, who is the chief executive of the project, alluded to the group taking their time to ensure all is in place. Borschberg stated: “This is truly a new design- an airplane the size of an Airbus and the weight of a mid-sized car- so we’re not taking risks by not understanding something.”

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EcoFactor and the Truly Smart Grid

EcoFactor and the Truly Smart Grid
Technology works best when it’s least intrusive and does the heavy lifting for you. Apple understands this. And so, it seems, does EcoFactor, the winner of the recent Clean Tech Open.
What it does behind the scenes is fairly complex, but for the user, easy and out of the way: It keeps your home at an [...]

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Sustainability and Employee Engagement: Anything Goes
Engaging employees through sustainability is not a one size fits all approach.  From Walmart’s Personal Sustainability Project to  Sodexo’s Corporate Citizenship Program to Intel’s intranet to FMYI’s online collaboration, the variety is endless.  Each of the four members of the Net Impact Conference 2009 panel on Sustainable Innovation Through Employee Engagement, had differing approaches on [...]

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Hacked emails and the hockey stick graph


A hacker got into the email server of a climate research institute which had discussions of various scientists who worked on the IPCC and climate change issues. The email seems to contain material which suggests that the scientists have worked together to prove things which the data is not showing.

We need to wait and see how much of this is true.

However, the revelations if true are quite damning. For more – Telegraph, Andrew Bolt, Climate Audit.

Reading through this I found this article which talks about the famous hockey stick graph in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The data shows something totally different.

Posted in Climate Change

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Spring/Summer 2010: Earth Creations

Spring/Summer 2010: Earth Creations
earth creations spring 2010
Earth Creations spring/summer 2010. Credit: Earth Creations

Earth Creations, known for their clay-dyed apparel has been creating sustainable clothing for women, men, and children since 1996. The women’s casual and sportswear line for spring/summer 2010 introduces two new hues; celadon (light green) and moonstone (beige), and is a casual cool collection of dresses, lightweight cardigans… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Eating Roadkill: Vegan, Veganish, or Just Plain Gross?
eating roadkill photo
Image credit: Homegrown Choppers and Vagabond Journey

OK, I’ll admit it. I am a thoroughly confused TreeHugger. On the one hand, I recognize that sustainability needs to appeal to the masses if we have any hope of cutting carbon emissions at the rate necessary. So palatable mainstream solutions like Zip Car, high-tech organic farming, <a href=”ht… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Science, Evidence, and the Importance of Action
mad scientist photo
Image credit: Cedar Consulting

Contradictory science is nothing new within the green movement—from those who claim that solar energy could power the world to those who argue that nuclear power could solve the energy crisis, from those extolling biochar for carbon sequestration and soil improvement to those who say it could <a …
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Submerged is the New Black: ‘Aqualta’ Envisions Flooded Cities
Aqualta: Times Square at Night, NYC. Images via Studio Lindfors

If nothing happens in Copenhagen, if greenhouse gasses continue to spew unabated, if the glaciers melt, and sea levels rise, New York City based architectural firm Studio Lindfors has envisioned a fatalistic, and more-than-slightly idealized vision of the future cityscape. “Aqualta” takes familiar New York City and Tokyo urban scenes as they’d appear submerged under 4 stories of water. … Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Tis the Season for Carbon Neutral Boozen’
carbon neutral wineries.JPG
photo: J.Novak

For some, being in such tight quarters with the family can drive you to drink. Or maybe you just want a nice glass of pinot with your vegan roast. Either way, finding sustainable wines can be as important as finding sustainable eats. And fortunately Mother Nature Network just released its list of completely carbon neutral wineries. Save the guilt for that second piece of pumpkin pie…. Read the full story on TreeHugger
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