From:                              Integrity Research Institute <>

Sent:                               Wednesday, April 30, 2014 2:49 PM


Subject:                          Future Energy eNews


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 April 2014




This month we are happy to announce the release of the NEW and improved  EM Pulser! It is an improved version with a stronger magnetic field pulse coil and rechargeable battery, designed by the late medical doctor Glen Gordon. EM-Pulser  still has the nanosecond rise time based on an impressive NASA study. As an accompanied DVD lecture of his indicates, the fast magnetic pulse stimulates the heat shock protein 70 (HSP 70) which is a chaperone protein able to repair inflammation on site very quickly. His list of recommended applications accompanies each device we sell and several of his articles are included in the hefty User Manual. We also offer a thirty day money back and one year warranty as well.


We are also introducing a Clearance Sale of $20 on the past NPA-20 Conference Proceedings (where COFE6 was held in parallel) with the 383-page (bound 8.5"x11") book, as well as a wonderful monograph, Cosmology and Zero Point Energy by Barry Setterfield for only$15 for the  465-page masterpiece (bound 8.5"x11"), since they were donated to IRI for our viewers and readers by the Natural Philosophy Alliance. The one-page summary back cover of Cosmology and Zero Point Energy is online. Also the list of all of the papers (Page One of the Table of Contents and Page Two of the Table of Contents) in the NPA-20 Conference Proceedings has been posted online for your perusal.


Our first #1 story is an exciting and expanding field of bio research from Columbia University where bacterial spores on a rubber sheet are now generating electricity directly just from a wet surface which causes a repeated bending of the rubber sheet. This the same type of action reported last year in our Future Energy eNews (January, 2013) with a totally different polymer technology developed by MIT and a piezoelectric actuator.


Our Story #2 is a nice update to an old renewable energy technology that is now considered future energy since the theoretical output is estimated to be about 20 Gigawatts. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) has operated successfully off the coast of Hawaii for at least 20 years but now 21st century engineers are planning to expand its production worldwide. This is a great, in-depth analysis of its potential since the thermal gradient is very consistent and probably increasing with global warming of the atmosphere.


Story #3 deals with a new view of the world's largest solar electric generator also reported on in the Future Energy eNews last month when it first opened in Ivanpah, CA. The concern is how the energy can be used at night and the solution is found in a well-known technology reported on, once again, in a past Future Energy eNews (January, 2012) where a chart of four phase change materials on the market now can store massive amounts of heat by melting (in clothing or in buildings). However, the new article below is looking for "new" materials -including new kinds of salt and glass-that can store heat at these high temperatures.


Story #4 is a celebration of private space enterprise with SpaceX successfully recovering its rocket booster thus aiming at lowering the cost of transporting goods to low earth orbit.


Our last Story #5 gives mankind a glimmer of hope for controlling and perhaps reducing one of the major greenhouse heat-trapping gases in our earth's atmosphere - CO2. Now it has been discovered that CO2 can be stored and vitrified into rock itself through a chemical reaction with volcanic minerals. No clean future energy technology can be a revolution if the earth keeps trapping more and more heat so this new technology is a marriage made in heaven perhaps, if millions of tons of CO2 can be sequestered in this manner.




Thomas Valone, PhD, PE.
















 EM Pulser 

 Now Available



New Proceedings from NPA. Click on picture to order


New 465-page ZPE Monograph from NPA

Click on picture to order







1) Electrical Generator Uses Bacterial Spores as Fuel

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard 

 A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to new research. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.




The prototype generators work by harnessing the movement of a sheet of rubber coated on one side with spores. The sheet bends when it dries out, much as a pine cone opens as it dries or a freshly fallen leaf curls, and then straightens when humidity rises. Such bending back and forth means that spore-coated sheets or tiny planks can act as actuators that drive movement, and that movement can be harvested to generate electricity. 


"If this technology is developed fully, it has a very promising endgame," said Ozgur Sahin, Ph.D., who led the study, first at Harvard's Rowland Institute, later at the Wyss Institute, and most recently at Columbia University, where he's now an associate professor of biological sciences and physics. Sahin collaborated with Wyss Institute Core Faculty member L. Mahadevan, Ph.D., who is also the Lola England de Valpine professor of applied mathematics, organismic and evolutionary biology, and physics at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, and Adam Driks,Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. The researchers reported their work yesterday in Nature Nanotechnology.


Water evaporation is the largest power source in nature, Sahin said. "Sunlight hits the ocean, heats it up, and energy has to leave the ocean through evaporation," he explained. "If you think about all the ice on top of Mt. Everest -- who took this huge amount of material up there? There's energy in evaporation, but it's so subtle we don't see it."


But until now no one has tapped that energy to generate electricity.


As Sahin pursued the idea of a new humidity-driven generator, he realized that Mahadevan had been investigating similar problems from a physical perspective. Specifically, he had characterized how moisture deforms materials, including biological materials such as pinecones, leaves and flowers, as well as human-made materials such as a sheet of tissue paper lying in a dish of water.


Sahin collaborated with Mahadevan and Driks on one of those studies. A soil bacterium called Bacillus subtilis wrinkles as it dries out like a grape becoming a raisin, forming a tough, dormant spore. The results, which they reported in 2012 in theJournal of the Royal Society Interface, explained why.


Unlike raisins, which cannot re-form into grapes, spores can take on water and almost immediately restore themselves to their original shape. Sahin realized that since they shrink reversibly, they had to be storing energy. In fact, spores would be particularly good at storing energy because they are rigid, yet still expand and contract a great deal, the researchers predicted.


"Since changing moisture levels deform these spores, it followed that devices containing these materials should be able to move in response to changing humidity levels," Mahadevan said. "Now Ozgur has shown very nicely how this could be used practically."


When Sahin first set out to measure the energy of spores, he was taken by surprise.

He put a solution thick with spores on a tiny, flexible silicon plank, expecting to measure the humidity-driven force in a customized atomic force microscope. But before he could insert the plank, he saw it curving and straightening with his naked eye. His inhaling and exhaling had changed the humidity subtly, and the spores had responded.


"I realized then that this was extremely powerful," Sahin said.


In fact, simply increasing the humidity from that of a dry, sunny day to a humid, misty one enabled the flexible, spore-coated plank to generate 1000 times as much force as human muscle, and at least 10 times as much as other materials engineers currently use to build actuators, Sahin discovered. In fact, moistening a pound of dry spores would generate enough force to lift a car one meter off the ground.


To build such an actuator, Sahin tested how well spore-coated materials such as silicon, rubber, plastic, and adhesive tape stored energy, settling on rubber as the most promising material.

Then he built a simple humidity-driven generator out of Legos™, a miniature fan, a magnet and a spore-coated cantilever. As the cantilever flips back and forth in response to moisture, it drives a rotating magnet that produces electricity.


Sahin's prototype captures just a small percentage of the energy released by evaporation, but it could be improved by genetically engineering the spores to be stiffer and more elastic. Indeed, in early experiments, spores of a mutant strain provided by Driks stored twice as much energy as normal strains.


"Solar and wind energy fluctuate dramatically when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow, and we have no good way of storing enough of it to supply the grid for long," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. "If changes in humidity could be harnessed to generate electricity night and day using a scaled up version of this new generator, it could provide the world with a desperately needed new source of renewable energy."


The work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Rowland Junior Fellows Program, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. In addition to Sahin, Driks and Mahadevan, the authors included Xi Chen, a postdoctoral research associate at Columbia University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Xi Chen, L. Mahadevan, Adam Driks, Ozgur Sahin. Bacillus spores as building blocks for stimuli-responsive materials and nanogenerators. Nature Nanotechnology, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2013.290 





Generating electricity from viruses

Generating electricity from viruses


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2) OTEC, Oceans of Power at 20,000 Megawatts

 03 March 2014 by Helen Knight, New Scientist, 


Jules Verne imagined this limitless power source in Victorian times - now 21st-century engineers say heat trapped in the oceans could provide electricity for the world


IF ANY energy source is worthy of the name "steampunk", it is surely ocean thermal energy conversion. Victorian-era science fiction? Check: Jules Verne mused about its potential in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. Mechanical, vaguely 19th-century technology? Check. Compelling candidate for renewable energy in a post-apocalyptic future? Tick that box as well.


Claims for it have certainly been grandiose. In theory, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) could provide 4000 times the world's energy needs in any given year, with neither pollution nor greenhouse gases to show for it. In the real world, however, it has long been written off as impractical.

This year, a surprising number of projects are getting under way around the world, helmed not by quixotic visionaries but by hard-nosed pragmatists such as those at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. So what's changed?


It's possible that Verne dreamed up the idea for OTEC to help out Captain Nemo, the protagonist of Verne's deep-sea yarn who needed electricity to power his submarine, the Nautilus - it is the first written mention of the idea. "By establishing a circuit between two wires plunged to different depths, [it should be possible] to obtain electricity by the difference of temperature to which they would have been exposed," Nemo told his shipmate. Eleven years after the book was published, French physicist Jacques-Arsène d'Arsonval proposed the first practical design for a power plant that does exactly that. Instead of using wires, he used pipes to exploit the temperature difference between the cold deep ocean and the warm surface waters to generate steam energy.


The idea is brilliant. The ocean is a massive and constantly replenished storage medium for solar energy. Most of that heat is stored in the top 100 metres of the ocean, while the water 1000 metres below - fed by the polar regions - remains at a fairly constant 4 to 5 °C.


To make energy from that heat difference, modern-day systems pump warm surface water past pipes containing a liquid with a low boiling point, such as ammonia. The ammonia boils and the steam is used to power a turbine, generating electricity. Cold deep-ocean water is then piped through the steam, causing the ammonia to condense back into a liquid, ready to begin the cycle again (see diagram). Steam-powered turbines drive nearly every coal and nuclear power plant in the world, but their steam is produced by burning polluting coal or generating long-lived nuclear waste. OTEC, by contrast, provides steam in a clean and theoretically limitless way.


Electric ocean

That's in an ideal world. In reality, what the ocean's thermal gradient gives, the equipment takes away. The main problem is accessing the cold deep water: pumping the vast amounts of water needed requires 1000-metre-long pipes that are wide enough and strong enough to handle several cubic metres of seawater per second for every megawatt of electricity produced. Tally all the inefficiencies in the process and the theoretical efficiency of an OTEC plant drops to a dismal 4 to 6 per cent.

Thanks to this and other factors, the process needs a temperature difference of at least 20 °C between the surface and deep water to work. Such conditions exist in a relatively narrow band around Earth's equator that includes the tropics and subtropics (see map).


Despite these constraints, the 20th century was filled with fitful efforts to make OTEC work. The most ambitious of these, in the 1970s, was sparked by an oil crisis, after which the US president Jimmy Carter signed into law the production of 10,000 megawatts of electricity using the technology by 1999. However, the price of oil then fell again, and alternatives to petroleum sank once more to the bottom of the to-do list.


So when Lockheed Martin last year announced that it would begin construction on a 10-megawatt plant off the coast of southern China, the news was met with a marked lack of interest. We had been here before.


A closer look, however, reveals that the project may signal a sea change for OTEC. The time may finally have come for this 19th-century technology to become part of the 21st century's renewable energy mix, thanks to a strange partnership of other renewables, the oil industry - and perhaps even climate change.

Many calculations are changing. OTEC's efficiency may be low, but since it uses seawater, which is abundant and free, it still makes economic sense if done on a large-enough scale. Oil prices are unstable and climate change is becoming an increasingly urgent driver of alternative energy sources. The shortcomings of intermittent renewables such as wind and solar energy, which only produce electricity when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, are still keeping these on the margins. By contrast, OTEC plants can operate 24 hours a day, says Ted Johnson of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation, which plans to commercialise the technology. Round-the-clock power means an OTEC plant could simply be plugged directly into a municipal grid to replace fossil fuel power plants, without the adjustments and balances necessary to integrate unpredictable solar and wind power.


But what use is that power if the equipment needed to harness it costs more than the electricity it provides? Here, too, advances have been made. Lockheed Martin borrowed techniques from bridge and wind-turbine manufacturing - both of which use advanced fibreglass and resin composites to make their ultra-light, ultra-strong materials - to design a cheap pipe that is strong and flexible enough to withstand the stresses and strains of ocean currents. Even better, it can be assembled on the ocean-surface platform of the OTEC plant itself and gradually lowered in as it is made, eliminating the risk of transporting the huge structure into position - and dropping it. A promising OTEC project in the Bay of Bengal had to be scrapped in 2003, after engineers building a 1-megawatt plant lost not only their first pipe but also its replacement.


Then there are myriad lessons from the offshore oil and gas industry, where it has become commonplace to operate in ocean depths greater than 1000 metres. These have made equipment available for commercial purchase that just 20 years ago would have needed to be designed from scratch.

Thanks to such developments, a 100-megwatt plant would cost about $790 million to build, says Luis Vega, who researches OTEC at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Taking the costs of building and running an OTEC plant into account, Vega reckons the price of the electricity produced would come in at around 18 US cents per kilowatt hour, not far from US Department of Energy estimates of 14 cents for coal with carbon capture and storage, and 14 to 26 cents for solar energy.


In this changed landscape, OTEC projects have begun to pop up all over the world. Last year, a 50-kilowatt pilot OTEC plant began operating on Kume Island in Okinawa, Japan. Meanwhile in Hawaii, Makai Ocean Engineering is building a 100- kilowatt plant at its Ocean Energy Research Center in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. This year, Bluerise, a spin-out from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, is planning to start building a 500-kilowatt OTEC plant close to Curaçao International Airport in the Carribbean. "These smaller islands are likely to be the first market, as they are all suffering from a dependency on expensive imported fuels," says Remi Blokker, CEO of Bluerise.


But they won't be the last. Recent advances promise to bring OTEC into the mainstream.

Various research groups have investigated the possibility of combining OTEC with solar power. Paola Bombarda at the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy has modelled the output of an OTEC plant that uses solar power to increase the temperature of the warm ocean water before it is used to boil the ammonia. She found that even a low-cost solar collector - a simple device that traps heat in lenses or tubes - could triple a plant's daytime electricity output (Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power, vol 135, p 42302).


Similar techniques could help plants in countries that lie a bit too far north to rely on OTEC all year round, such as South Korea. In the summer months, the temperature difference between the surface and deep water around South Korea exceeds the all-important 20 °C minimum, but that isn't the case in winter. So to make it work year-round, engineers at the Korea Ocean Research & Development Institute (KORDI) in Goseong-gun are beginning to modify a 20-kilowatt demonstration plant so that heat from solar power, wind farms and waste incineration plants can pre-heat the incoming surface water before it meets the ammonia.


An even better idea would be to combine OTEC with another 24-hour power source. Hyeon-Ju Kim and his colleagues at KORDI are looking to geothermal energy, which taps heat deep underground, to boost the temperature of the seawater that boils the ammonia in a combined "GeOTEC" plant. Such tweaks could expand the "equatorial waistband" for productive OTEC plants by a factor of two.


In light of these rapid developments, OTEC has become promising enough that the prospect of its expansion has begun to ring alarm bells among environmentalists.Concerns have been raised by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others, about the risk of algal blooms forming as nutrient-rich, bacteria-free water from the sunless depths is introduced to the hungry algae in warmer, sunlit waters. But computer modelling suggests that as long as the cold water is returned to the ocean at depths lower than 60 metres, the risk of algal blooms should be minimal, says Vega.


To eliminate even this modest risk, London-based Energy Island has patented a design for an OTEC plant in which the ammonia vapour is no longer condensed into liquid at the surface but at depth. This means nutrient-rich water would never need to be pumped up to the surface, says founder Dominic Michaelis.

Another question being posed echoes previous concerns about the large-scale take up of other renewables: does OTEC have local and global effects on the environment,such as changing global temperatures?


Happily, research suggests we can ramp up OTEC production without affecting the ocean. Researchers at the University of Hawaii's Ocean and Resources Engineeringdepartment in Honolulu modelled the effect of widespread, commercial-scale OTEC production on the seas, including the global thermohaline circulation - the network of slow currents that transport deep water throughout the oceans. They found that OTEC plants could safely extract the equivalent of 7 terawatts of electricity, or nearly 50 per cent of global energy consumption, before they would have any noticeable effect on ocean temperatures (Journal of Energy Resources Technology, vol 135, p 41202). However, the authors acknowledge the difficulties of drawing strong conclusions about the environmental effects of OTEC.


It is certainly a good time to add a new form of renewable-energy generation to the mix, since climate change may have unforeseen circumstances for some existing clean technologies. In July, the US Department of Energy released a report on the energy sector's vulnerability to climate change, which found that higher temperatures could reduce the amount of fresh water available for both hydropower generation and concentrated solar power plants, whose superheated equipment requires water cooling.

By comparison, OTEC sweet spots don't appear to be vulnerable to climate change, says Robert Thresher, a research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. "Most of the OTEC resources are along the equator, and you wouldn't expect the sea surface temperature to dramatically change there," he says.


Out of the blue

Indeed, climate change might even increase the global output for OTEC by expanding the OTEC-friendly zone: "As the oceans warm with climate change, you might find warmer [surface] water further north and south from the equator," he says. Though the idea has also been proposed elsewhere, he hastens to add that this is "an intuitive notion" that would need to be confirmed by rigorous modelling.


More problematic is the suggestion that the deep oceans may have absorbed a great deal of the heat of climate change, which could reduce the all-important temperature difference of surface and deep water (New Scientist, 7 December 2013, p 34). However, according to research published last year by Magdalena Balmaseda and colleagues at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, it is far from clear where exactly that heat is going. "The heat absorption is not uniform in space, depth and time," says Balmaseda (Geophysical Research Letters, vol 40, p 1754).


Whether or not the warm equatorial waistband OTEC relies on expands, the technology might not be limited to countries in the tropics for much longer. At the Offshore Symposium in Houston, Texas, in February 2013, SBM Offshore, which develops technology for oil exploration and drilling, revealed that it has been investigating designs for a 10-megawatt OTEC ship as a means of providing power to remote oil wells. OTEC plants become more expensive the further they are built from shore, but ships, which are cheaper to build, have no such constraints. OTEC ships could roam the seas in search of spots with the best temperature ratios, tethering to submarine cables to return power to shore.


Indeed, proponents of the technology believe the future lies in OTEC ships that "graze" the oceans for electricity. To get around the problem of delivering it to shore by submarine cables, the electricity generated could be used in situ to split seawater into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen stored in fuel cells before being transported for use around the world. A 100-megawatt OTEC ship could produce 1.3 tonnes of liquid hydrogen per hour, says Vega, albeit at a present cost of about three times what a barrel of oil costs today. The hydrogen economy, after all, is still finding its feet.


Nonetheless, it appears, after all this time, that Jules Verne may have been onto something. If anything, he was thinking too small. Instead of a ship powered by the ocean, a fleet of ships may bring the ocean's energy to the world. Steampunk indeed.


This article appeared in print under the headline "Sea change"


Leader: "Society turns to steampunk to fix its climate woes"


Helen Knight is a writer based in London


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3) Cheap Solar Power Generated at Night

Kevin Bullis, MIT Technology Review, April 2014 


New solar thermal technologies could address solar power's intermittency problem. 


When the world's largest solar thermal power plant-in Ivanpah, California-opened earlier this year, it was greeted with skepticism. The power plant is undeniably impressive. A collection of 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, focus sunlight on three 140-meter towers, generating high temperatures. That heat produces steam that drives the same kind of turbines used in fossil-fuel power plants. That heat can be stored (such as by heating up molten salts) and used when the sun goes down far more cheaply than it costs to store electricity in batteries (see "World's Largest Solar Thermal Power Delivers Power for the First Time").


But many experts-even some who invested in the plant-say it might be the last of its kind. David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, one of three companies, including BrightSource Energy and Google, that funded the plant, says the economics looked good when the plant was first proposed six years ago. Since then, the price of conventional photovoltaic solar panels has plummeted. "Now we're banking on solar photovoltaics," he told a crowd of researchers and entrepreneurs at a conference earlier this year.


The allure of solar thermal technology is simple. Unlike conventional solar panels, it can generate power even when the sun isn't shining. But in practice, it's far more expensive than both fossil fuel power and electricity from solar panels. And that reality has sent researchers scrambling to find ways to make the technology more competitive.


One big challenge, says Philip Gleckman, chief technology officer of Areva Solar, is that the arrays of mirrors, as well as the motors and gearboxes used to aim them at the sun, are expensive. One potential fix, he says, comes from a San Francisco startup, Otherlab, which replaces the motors with pneumatics and actuators that can be made cheaply using the manufacturing equipment that's currently used to make plastic water bottles.


The head of Otherlab's solar efforts, Leila Madrone, says the technology could cut the cost of mirror fields for concentrating sunlight by 70 percent. But even this cost reduction, she says, won't be enough to make the technology competitive with solar panels-even though the mirrors account for a third to a half of the overall cost of a solar thermal plant.


Getting overall costs down will require increasing the amount of power a solar thermal plant can generate, so it can sell more power for the same amount of investment. One approach to increasing power output is to increase the temperatures at which solar thermal power plants can operate, which would make them more efficient. They currently operate at 650 °C or less, but some researchers are developing ways to increase this to anywhere from 800 °C to 1,200 °C. That approach is being pursued by another startup, Halotechnics, which uses high-throughput screening processes to develop new materials-including new kinds of salt and glass-that can store heat at these high temperatures (see "Cheap Solar Power at Night").


Another option, being funded by a new program at the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, is to make power plants that add solar panels to solar thermal power plants. The basic idea is that solar panels can only efficiently convert certain wavelengths of light into electricity. Much of the energy in infrared and ultraviolet light, for example, doesn't get converted, and is instead emitted as heat. The new projects look for ways to harness that heat.


Solar systems that combine heat and solar panels aren't new. For many years, companies have offered solar systems that run water pipes behind solar panels-the waste heat from the panels makes the water hot enough for showers.


The new approach, however, is to look for ways to reach much higher temperatures-high enough to be used for generating electricity. Such methods typically involve concentrating sunlight to generate high temperatures, and then diverting some of that concentrated sunlight to solar panels.


In one case, nanoparticles suspended in a fluid absorb wavelengths of sunlight that solar panels don't convert efficiently. Those nanoparticles heat up the fluid. Light that the solar panels can use pass through the fluid to a solar panel. Other researchers use mirrors that allow only certain wavelengths to pass through them. 


Howard Branz, the program manager in charge of these projects at ARPA-E, says the hope is that the added cost of these hybrid systems will be made up for by two things. First, the systems will be more efficient, potentially converting more than half of the energy in sunlight into electricity, compared to 15 to 40 percent with existing conventional solar panels.


Second, the ability to store heat for use whenever it's needed will become more valuable as more solar power is installed. Germany, which has far more solar power than any other country, sometimes has to pay its neighbors to take excess solar power generated on some sunny days. "This program is looking out to a future that might be tomorrow in Germany, three years away in California, five years away in Arizona," Branz says. "But eventually this future will come to everywhere that people want to generate a lot of electricity with solar energy."



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4) First Reusable Rocket Booster


Later this month, if all goes well, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, will achieve a spaceflight first.


After delivering cargo to the International Space Station, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket used for the flight will fire its engines for the second time. The burn will allow the rocket to reenter the atmosphere in controlled flight, without breaking up and disintegrating on the way down as most booster rockets do.


The launch was originally planned for March 16, but the company has delayed the launch until at least March 30 to allow for further preparation.


The machine will settle over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of its Cape Canaveral launchpad, engines roaring, and four landing legs will unfold from the rocket's sides. Hovering over ocean, the rocket will kick up a salt spray along with the flames and smoke. Finally, the engines will cut off and the rocket will drop the last few feet into the ocean for recovery by a waiting barge.


The test of SpaceX's renewable booster rocket technology will be the first of its kind and could pave the way to radically cheaper access to space. "Reusability has been the Holy Grail of the launch industry for decades," says Jeff Foust, an analyst at Futron, a consultancy based in Bethesda, Maryland. That's because the so-called expendable rockets that are the industry standard add enormously to launch costs-the equivalent of building a new aircraft for every transatlantic flight.


SpaceX began flying low-altitude tests of a Falcon 9 first stage with a single engine, a rocket known as Grasshopper, at its McGregor, Texas, proving grounds in 2012. The flights got progressively higher, until a final test in October, when the rocket reached an altitude of 744 meters. Then, following a flight to place a communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in November, a Falcon 9 first stage successfully restarted three of its nine engines to make a controlled supersonic reentry from space.


The rocket survived reentry, but subsequently spun out of control and broke up on impact with the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a call with reporters after the flight that landing legs, which that rocket lacked, would most likely have stabilized the rocket enough to make a controlled landing on the water. The March 16 flight will be the first orbital test with landing legs.


After recovering the rocket from the water on Sunday, SpaceX engineers and technicians will study it to determine what it would take to refurbish such a rocket for reuse. SpaceX also has plans to recover and reuse the second stage rocket, but for now, it will recover only the first stage and its nine Merlin engines, which make up the bulk of the cost of the rocket.


Even without reusable rockets, SpaceX has already shaken up the $190-billion-a-year satellite launch market with radically lower launch costs than its competitors. The company advertises $55.6 million per Falcon 9 launch. Its competitors are less forthcoming about how much they charge, but French rocket company Arianespace has indicated that it may ask for an increase in government subsidies to remain competitive with SpaceX.


Closer to home, SpaceX is vying for so-called Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, contracts to launch satellites for the U.S. Air Force. Its only competitor for the contracts, United Launch Alliance, charges $380 million per launch.


Musk testified before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense meeting on March 5 that his company can cut that cost down to $90 million per launch. He said the higher cost for a government mission versus a commercial one was due to a lack of government-provided launch insurance. "So, in order to improve the probability of success, there is quite a substantial mission assurance overhead applied," Musk said in the hearing. Still, SpaceX's proposed charge for the Air Force missions is a mere 23 percent of ULA's.


SpaceX is counting on lower launch costs to increase demand for launch services. But Foust cautions that this strategy comes with risk. "It's worth noting," he says, "that many current customers of launch services, including operators of commercial satellites, aren't particularly price sensitive, so thus aren't counting on reusability to lower costs."


That means those additional launches, and thus revenue, may have to come from markets that don't exist yet. "A reusable system with much lower launch costs might actually result in lower revenue for that company unless they can significantly increase demand," says Foust. "That additional demand would likely have to come from new markets, with commercial human spaceflight perhaps the biggest and best-known example."


Indeed, SpaceX was founded with human spaceflight as its ultimate mission. It is now one of three companies working with NASA funds to build ships capable of sending astronauts to the International Space Station. Musk plans to take SpaceX even further-all the way to Mars with settlers. And colonizing Mars will require lots of low-cost flights.


Michael Belfiore ( is the author of Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space.




5) Carbon Dioxide Stored in Rock

Kevin Bullis, MIT Technology Review,  April 25, 2014 


Capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground could help address climate change, but some experts worry that the gas will leak back out.


Research described in the journal Science points to a more secure way of storing it-as rock. The scientists showed that when carbon dioxide is pumped along with water into certain types of underground formations, it reacts with the surrounding rock and forms minerals that could sequester the carbon dioxide for hundreds or thousands of years.


Last week, a major U.N. climate report called attention to the importance of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) for dealing with climate change, and suggested that the cost of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius would greatly increase if CCS isn't used (see "The Cost of Limiting Climate Change Could Double Without Carbon Capture Technology"). But the report also noted that concerns about leaks could slow or block large-scale use of the technology.


In the new work, researchers from University College London and the University of Iceland added carbon dioxide to a stream of water being pumped underground at a large geothermal power plant in Iceland, as part of normal plant operations. The carbon dioxide quickly dissolves in the water, and in that state it no longer has a tendency to rise to the surface. Once underground, the carbon dioxide-laden water reacts with basalt, a type of volcanic rock. The researchers showed that, within a year, 80 percent of it had reacted with magnesium, calcium, and iron to form carbonate minerals such as limestone.


Researchers have proposed storing carbon dioxide by reacting it with basalt and other types of rock before. What's surprising about this study is just how fast the reactions occurred, says Sigurdur Gislason, a professor at the University of Iceland. The researchers report that 80 percent of the carbon dioxide they'd injected had formed carbonates in just one year.


One challenge with the new approach is that it requires very large amounts of water-10 to 20 times the mass of the carbon dioxide being stored, says Eric Oelkers, a professor of aqueous geochemistry at University College London. The researchers estimate that this will make it twice as expensive as conventional approaches to storing carbon dioxide-at least in the short run.


Mark Zoback, a professor of earth sciences at Stanford University, says there may be other challenges. While basalt is common, especially on the ocean floor, basalt that is porous enough to accommodate the large volumes of water and carbon dioxide might be hard to come by. If the approach were to be used at a large scale, it "would probably necessitate transport of CO2 in pipelines for thousands of miles."

Yet Zoback, whose research suggests that earthquakes could cause carbon dioxide gas to leak out of underground storage sites, says, "the advantages of storing carbon in a mineral form are absolutely clear. It would be great if this could scale up" (see "Researchers Say Earthquakes Would Let Stored CO2 Escape").







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