Subject:                          FW: Future Energy eNews



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Future Energy eNews




April 2016 TOC




Dear Jacqueline,


With a stunning aerial photo of a launch pad, the New York Times reports how Cape Canaveral is planning for sea level rise of 20 to 30 feet by the end of the century, based on a new climate study. More significant is the projected rise of CO2 from its present level of 400 ppm up to 600 ppm in the same time frame, which reminds me of an indoor schoolroom study that showed "cognitive impairment" as the CO2 levels approached 1000 ppm. IRI believes it is important to support the EPA's efforts to enforce the pollution classification of CO2, just as the SO2 and NO2 emissions are categorized today. This reality check increases the value of nonpolluting fuel-free energy development.


Speaking of new forms of clean energy and propulsion, our eighth Conference on Future Energy is  where you can learn about our energy future, at COFE8. All of our speakers are now listed online with the two-day schedule for July 29-30, 2016 and registration is now open, which also includes free admission to two days of the concurrent ExtraOrdinary Tech Conference  in the same hotel. (IRI was the first organization to publicize the "future energy" concept in 1999 with our first COFE.) IRI Members get 10% off too.


Of course, it is always exciting to see what the near future will bring, such as Story #1 with the latest DARPA spaceplane XS-1. Designed to have a launcher the size of a business jet, the reusable spaceplane will fly daily with up to a 3000 pound payload and will be contracted out soon.


Story #2 is a breakthrough. Reporting from the University of Houston, a discovery has been made in the "trapped field magnets" which are capable of superconducting levitation. With a change in theory that has been in place for the past 50 years, about three to four times the magnitude can now be stored in such magnets. Thus motors, MRI, and X-ray machines will soon have greater capability.


Story #3 sounds similar in the magnitude of improvement with three times the efficiency for the production of hydrogen from water splitting.  The University of Toronto reports the "biggest breakthrough to date" with a new catalyst made from tungsten-iron-cobalt which also provides at least 500 hours of continuous use.


Story #4 hopefully is a sign of the future solution to the existing hoards of coal and natural gas with a declining demand. Texas is showing the way by demonstrating a "zero emissions" natural gas power plant that has a capture rate of 100% and a net efficiency of 59% with supercritical CO2 as a working fluid with pure oxygen to produce 50 megawatts. Credit is given to Excelon and CB&I who are funding the multi-million dollar project.


While we know that Nevada is a hot bed for many things including solar, it is interesting that our Story #5 show that Nevada also has a wellspring of geothermal energy as well. With great diagrams and a US map of geothermal sites, Nevada leads the nation with temps above 212 degrees Farhrenheit under the ground. It is expected that this year will bring another 836 megawatts online from geothermal plants in Nevada, which by the way is one of the cleanest energy sources on the planet!


Tune in next month for a special Future Energy eNews story on a NASA test of a clean new electromagnetic propulsion device.




Thomas Valone,  Editor









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1) DARPA Announces Phase 2 of Space Plane Project



By Anthony Wood  Gizmag, April 2016


DARPA has announced the second phase of its ambitious XS-1 program. The agency is seeking to make access to space more regular and affordable by employing an entirely re-usable high-speed, sub-orbital automated spaceplane as the first stage of its launch vehicle.




Upon reaching a designated height, an expendable upper stage would separate from the space plane, and insert a payload into low-Earth orbit (LEO). The spaceplane would then autonomously land and be serviced for the next launch.


Phase 1 of the program saw DARPA award contracts to three companies, each of which was paired with a launch service provider. The teams were tasked with analyzing the feasibility of the project, and designing their own versions of the launcher.


"During Phase 1 of the XS-1 program, the space industry has evolved rapidly and we intend to take advantage of multiple impressive technological and commercial advances," states Jess Sponable, program manager for the XS-1. "We intend to leverage those advances along with our Phase 1 progress to break the cycle of escalating DoD space system launch costs, catalyze lower-cost satellite architectures, and prove that routine and responsive access to space can be achieved at costs an order of magnitude lower than with today's systems."


Phase 2 will integrate state-of-the-art technologies in combination with the advances made in Phase 1 of the program to design and fabricate a functioning launcher roughly the size of a conventional business jet. Whereas multiple contracts were offered in the first stage of the program, DARPA only envisions awarding a single commitment in Phase 2.


The second stage of the initiative will have four primary technical goals.


  • Fly 10 times in a 10-day period (not including weather, range and emergency delays) to demonstrate aircraft-like access to space and eliminate concerns about the cost-effectiveness and reliability of reusable launch.
  • Achieve flight velocity sufficiently high to enable use of a small (and therefore low-cost) expendable upper stage.
  • Launch a 900 to 1,500-lb (408 to 680-kg) representative payload to demonstrate an immediate responsive launch capability able to support both DoD and commercial missions. The same XS-1 vehicle could eventually also launch future 3,000+-lb (1,361-kg) payloads by using a larger expendable upper stage.
  • Reduce the cost of access to space for 3,000+-lb payloads, with a goal of approximately $5 million per flight for the operational system, which would include a reusable booster and expendable upper stage(s).

According to DARPA the final design will make use of advanced heat-resistant materials, cryogenic tanks and modular subsystems that will combine to lower the cost and reduce downtime. Conventional rocket-based launch providers can only offer a limited number of launch slots each year, and the launches are booked years before the launch time.


Even the Ariane 6, Airbus Safron Launchers' next-generation rocket, will offer only 12 launches per year. Employing a reusable spaceplane has the potential to provide cheaper, more flexible access to LEO. Beyond finding its uses in the commercial sphere, the XS-1 project will be used to assure American military satellites can be launched more frequently.


Source: DARPA


Related story:




2) Physicists Discover Flaws in Superconductor Theory That Makes MagLev Three Times easier.



By  April 8, 2016


University of Houston physicists report finding major theoretical flaws in the generally accepted understanding of how a superconductor traps and holds a magnetic field. More than 50 years ago, C.P. Bean, a scientist at General Electric, developed a theoretical explanation known as the "Bean Model" or "Critical State Model."




The basic property of superconductors is that they represent zero "resistance" to electrical circuits. In a way, they are the opposite of toasters, which resist electrical currents and thereby convert energy into heat. Superconductors consume zero energy and can store it for a long period of time. Those that store magnetic energy -known as "trapped field magnets" or TFMs-can behave like a magnet.


In the Journal of Applied Physics, the researchers describe experiments whose results exhibited "significant deviations" from those of the Critical State Model. They revealed unexpected new behavior favorable to practical applications, including the possibility of using TFMs in myriad new ways.


Much of modern technology is already based on magnets. "Without magnets, we'd lack generators [electric lights and toasters], motors [municipal water supplies, ship engines], magnetrons [microwave ovens], and much more," said Roy Weinstein, lead author of the study, and professor of physics emeritus and research professor at the University of Houston.


Generally, the performance of a device based on magnets improves as the strength of the magnet increases, up to the square of the increase. In other words, if a magnet is 25 times stronger, the device's performance can range from 25 to 625 times better.


TFMs are clearly intriguing, but their use has been largely held back by the challenge of getting the magnetic field into the superconductor. "A more tractable problem is the need to cool the superconductor to the low temperature at which it superconducts," Weinstein explained.


"Bean assumed the superconductor had zero resistance and that the basic laws of electromagnetism, developed circa 1850, were correct," Weinstein said. "And he was able to predict how and where an external magnetic field would enter a superconductor."


The method widely used today is to apply a magnetic field to a superconductor via a pulse field magnet after the superconductor is cooled. Bean's model predicted, and until now experiments confirmed, that to push as much magnetic field as possible into a superconductor, the pulsed field must be at least twice as strong, and more typically over 3.2 times as strong, as the resulting field of the TFM.

Read more



3) Hydrogen Splitting from Water Three Times more Efficient 


By Mark Dansie, Revolution Green. April 2016


We can't control when the wind blows and when the sun shines, so finding efficient ways to store energy from alternative sources remains an urgent research problem. Now, a group of researchers led by Professor Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering may have a solution inspired by nature.




I received a lot of emails regarding this topic today so I thought I would repeat a post I did responding to Simon and hopes it puts this a little more in perspective

This new research has three big factors in its favor in splitting hydrogen from water

  1. Low Cost
  2.  Long life
  3. 3 x efficiency

If the numbers stack up this is proberbly one of the biggest breakthroughs I have seen to date


I received a lot of emails regarding this topic today so I thought I would repeat a post I did responding to Simon and hope it puts this a little more in perspective

I think this is a work in progress and it is only part of the equation, solving the bottle necks or hurdles one by one. In this case quote: " the scientists focused on a step where oxygen atoms pair up to form a gas that bubbles away, which has been a bottleneck in the process"

I never expected it to be overunity as they need to work out the hydrogen side, however the biggest barrier seems to be overcome. I also am excited how they are using so many disciplines of science and developing completely new genres of material science. This really is a collaborative effort of skill sets and international collaberation.

In a previous article we published they mentioned they are at 100% at this part of the equation, now the other half has to be attended to.

This step, from my perspective, after 12 years of researching in the area is the first real major breakthrough that has provided the tools, science and direction to tackle the other hurdles and bottlenecks.

There will never be a single bullet which has often been claimed in the past, but a series of solutions for a very complex equation.


The team has designed the most efficient catalyst for storing energy in chemical form, by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, just like plants do during photosynthesis. Oxygen is released harmlessly into the atmosphere, and hydrogen, as H2, can be converted back into energy using hydrogen fuel cells.


"Today on a solar farm or a wind farm, storage is typically provided with batteries. But batteries are expensive, and can typically only store a fixed amount of energy," says Sargent. "That's why discovering a more efficient and highly scalable means of storing energy generated by renewables is one of the grand challenges in this field."

This new catalyst facilitates the oxygen-evolution portion of the chemical reaction, making the conversion from H2O into O2 and H2 more energy-efficient than ever before. The intrinsic efficiency of the new catalyst material is over three times more efficient than the best state-of-the-art catalyst.


The new catalyst is made of abundant and low-cost metals tungsten, iron and cobalt, which are much less expensive than state-of-the-art catalysts based on precious metals. It showed no signs of degradation over more than 500 hours of continuous activity, unlike other efficient but short-lived catalysts. Their work was published today in the leading journalScience.


"With the aid of theoretical predictions, we became convinced that including tungsten could lead to a better oxygen-evolving catalyst. Unfortunately, prior work did not show how to mix tungsten homogeneously with the active metals such as iron and cobalt," says Dr. Bo Zhang, one of the study's lead authors. "We invented a new way to distribute the catalyst homogenously in a gel, and as a result built a device that works incredibly efficiently and robustly."




4) Zero Emissions on New Natural Gas Power Plant


By Sonal patel, PowerMag April 2016


Construction of a 50-MWt plant that will demonstrate a novel oxyfuel natural gas power system using Allam Cycle technology with zero atmospheric emissions has kicked off in La Porte, Texas.




The demonstration plant is being built by the technology's developer, Durham, N.C.-based NET Power, along with Exelon Generation, CB&I, and 8 Rivers Capital. NET Power's Allam Cycle-named for its lead inventor, Rodney Allam-burns natural gas (or synthetic gas from coal gasification) with pure oxygen and uses high-pressure, supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) as a working fluid in a semi-closed loop to drive a combustion turbine. Its byproducts are mostly liquid water and the CO2 that is recycled by the process.


The technology can produce "pipeline-quality CO2 that can be sequestered or used in various industrial processes, including enhanced oil recovery," NET Power said in a statement announcing the demonstration project's groundbreaking on March 9. The company has claimed that the system has a net efficiency of 58.9% and has a carbon capture rate of nearly 100%. "Additionally, for a small reduction in efficiency, the technology can operate without water, actually becoming a net water producer," it said.


NET Power is giving the demonstration plant a 50-MWth rating because marketing of power output  will "vary with the testing program of the demo, rather than having a constant output to the grid," as company spokesperson Walker Dimmig told POWER. 


Exelon and CB&I are funding the $140 million program that includes the demonstration plant's design and construction with a combination of cash and in-kind contributions. The program also includes technology advancement, a complete testing and operations program, and commercial product development.


According to NET Power, Toshiba developed and is now manufacturing the world's first gas turbine combustor for a supercritical CO2 system. The turbine has an inlet pressure of about 30 MPa and inlet temperature of 1,150C. CB&I is performing the engineering, procurement, and construction of the plant, and Exelon is providing operations, maintenance, and development services. 8 Rivers invented and continues to advance the technology behind the project.


For now, NET Power anticipates that commissioning of the plant will begin in late 2016 with first fire scheduled at the beginning of 2017. The demonstration has enough funding for at least 8,000 hours of operation, Dimmig said.

The company's end goal is to build a commercial power plant, and NET Power is actively talking to potential end-users, particularly in the oil and gas sector, he added.


-Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

CORRECTED (March 11): Corrects inlet temperature of Toshiba-manufactuered supercritical CO2 turbine. Clarifies quote attributed to Walker Dimmig. 



5) Nevada a Hot Bed for Geothermal Energy  



By  Jackie Valley, LasVegasSun, March 29, 2016 


Humans have been using geothermal energy for more than 10,000 years, since American Paleo-Indians used hot springs for cooking, bathing and cleaning. But it wasn't until 1904 that the first geothermal electric power plant was invented to generate electricity, when Italian scientist Piero Ginori Conti figured out how to turn steam into power.


The amount of heat in the top 33,000 feet of the Earth's surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all of the oil and natural gas resources in the world.

Worldwide, geothermal power plants produced more than 11,700 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the annual needs of more than 6 million typical U.S. households. The first geothermal plant in the United States debuted in 1992, and now, two decades later, 69 geothermal plants operate nationally. Several are in Nevada, and more are coming.




 As of 2013, there were 29 operating geothermal power plants in Nevada producing 518 megawatts of electricity. By 2016, plants producing another 834 megawatts are expected to come online.




■ There are about 60 hydrothermal sites statewide that can be used with existing technology to generate geothermal energy.

■ Geothermal power plants are online or planned for the following counties: Humboldt, Mineral, Esmeralda, Churchill, Pershing, Washoe, Lander, Elko, and Nye, as well as the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Reservation.

■ Northern Nevada produces roughly 7 percent of its power from geothermal sources because heat from deep, hot water with temperatures above 212 degrees Fahrenheit rises through faults in the Earth's surface. Improving technologies, required to produce more electricity, could extract more heat from circulating ground water and increase Nevada's potential power production from renewable energy sources.


The United States produces the most geothermal energy in the world - 17 billion kilowatts in 2013, or 0.4 percent of the country's total electricity. All of it is made in eight states.




■ Workers drill wells into geothermal reservoirs, where water heated by magma sits relatively close to the earth's surface. Such hot spots typically are found in areas with active or geologically young volcanoes and lots of seismic activity. Nevada has hundreds of hot spots, mostly in the north.

■ Production wells carry hot water from the reservoir to a power plant; injection wells return the water to the reservoir.

■ At the power plant, the hot, pressurized geothermal fluid expands, causing resulting steam to turn the blades of a turbine. The rotating turbine shaft spins magnets inside a large coil, which creates an electrical current.

■ The current in the generator is sent to a transformer outside the plant, where voltage is increased and transmitted over power lines to homes and businesses.




Geothermal systems aren't limited to large power plants. Homeowners and businesses can install residential geothermal heat pump systems to produce heat in winter and cold air in summer. They work in tandem with existing heating and cooling systems and can be installed anywhere; no hot spots are needed.


The heat pumps take advantage of the fact that shallow ground remains at a constant temperature - about 68 degrees year round. In winter, the system of tubes drilled a few hundred feet down absorbs heat from the ground and distributes it to a building through a conventional duct system. In summer, the system transfers heat from the building to the underground piping loop, where it is cooled by the Earth.


Installing a geothermal heat pump in a 2,500-square-foot home costs about $25,000. That's close to double the price of a conventional system, but geothermal systems can reduce utility bills by up to 70 percent. Savings come quicker in bigger buildings, making the systems especially suitable for schools, apartments and government buildings.





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