From: Integrity Research Institute []
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 1:12 PM
Subject: Future Energy eNews
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APRIL  2012


Dear Subscriber,


We at IRI have been wondering if the US is on the verge of an energy revolution. Once again, we have a blockbuster #1 article.What could be better for the world than a clean replacement fuel which allows us to say, "We have the potential touse electricity as transportation fuel without needing to change current infrastructure." That is the best summary of the breakthrough discovery from UCLA just last month to store electricity very compactly as alcohol. Hopefully the DOE is listening and will offer billions to them instead of to a solar company that goes bankrupt.


 Our story #2 gives us the hope that solar cells will organically integrate into all of the everyday products, including clothing. It looks a lot more hopeful than ever before with work done at the University of Tokyo.


Fusion just received a new shot in the arm with story #3 and Sandia Labs' simulation of a new magnetized inertial fusion (MIF) method that predicts a 50 times more efficient than using X-rays. It's like combining magnetic confinement (e.g., Tokamak) with inertial confinement (laser bombardment) to get the best of both worlds. Edging toward the successful cavitation sonofusion known to work on a microscopic scale, the MIF process maybe a commercial zinger sooner than we expected.


Story #4 shows that new, unheard of materials are still emerging, like porous metal films that are transparent. With applications aimedat fuel cells, batteries and solar energy, Cornell labs can make such films from a variety of metals.


Will algae farms ever compete with imported or domestic oil?Story #5 gives the bet to Sapphire energy with the support of the National Renewable Energy Lab and a loan guarantee from the US Agriculture Dept. Though100 barrels of crude per day sounds like a lot, the operation will have to at least triple in order to become commercially competitive, which is within reach. Only time will tell!


Note that our wonderfully watchable and less than one hour DVD from SPESIF 2011 is now available with a discount (see below).


Thomas Valone  



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1) Producing Fuel with C02 and Sunlight at UCLA Engineering


Imagine being able to use electricity to power your car - even if it's not an electric vehicle. Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have for the first time demonstrated a method for converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuel isobutanol using electricity.

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Producing fuel with C02 and sunlight
Today, electrical energy generated by various methods is still difficult to store efficiently. Chemical batteries, hydraulic pumping and water splitting suffer from low energy-density storage or incompatibility with current transportation infrastructure.

In a study published March 30 in the journal Science, James Liao, UCLA's Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Chair in Chemical Engineering, and his team report a method for storing electrical energy as chemical energy in higher alcohols, which can be used as liquid transportation fuels.

"The current way to store electricity is with lithium ion batteries, in which the density is low, but when you store it in liquid fuel, the density could actually be very high," Liao said. "In addition, we have the potential to use electricity as transportation fuel without needing to change current infrastructure."

Liao and his team genetically engineered a lithoautotrophic microorganism known as Ralstonia eutropha H16 to produce isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol in an electro-bioreactor using carbon dioxide as the sole carbon source and electricity as the sole energy input.

Photosynthesis is the process of converting light energy to chemical energy and storing it in the bonds of sugar. There are two parts to photosynthesis - a light reaction and a dark reaction. The light reaction converts light energy to chemical energy and must take place in the light. The dark reaction, which converts CO2 to sugar, doesn't directly need light to occur.

"We've been able to separate the light reaction from the dark reaction and instead of using biological photosynthesis, we are using solar panels to convert the sunlight to electrical energy, then to a chemical intermediate, and using that to power carbon dioxide fixation to produce the fuel," Liao said. "This method could be more efficient than the biological system."

Liao explained that with biological systems, the plants used require large areas of agricultural land. However, because Liao's method does not require the light and dark reactions to take place together, solar panels, for example, can be built in the desert or on rooftops.

Theoretically, the hydrogen generated by solar electricity can drive CO2 conversion in lithoautotrophic microorganisms engineered to synthesize high-energy density liquid fuels. But the low solubility, low mass-transfer rate and the safety issues surrounding hydrogen limit the efficiency and scalability of such processes. Instead Liao's team found formic acid to be a favorable substitute and efficient energy carrier.

"Instead of using hydrogen, we use formic acid as the intermediary," Liao said. "We use electricity to generate formic acid and then use the formic acid to power the CO2 fixation in bacteria in the dark to produce isobutanol and higher alcohols."

The electrochemical formate production and the biological CO2 fixation and higher alcohol synthesis now open up the possibility of electricity-driven bioconversion of CO2 to a variety of chemicals. In addition, the transformation of formate into liquid fuel will also play an important role in the biomass refinery process, according to Liao.

"We've demonstrated the principle, and now we think we can scale up," he said. "That's our next step."

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs and has an enrollment of more than 5,000 students. The school's distinguished faculty are leading research to address many of the critical challenges of the 21st century, including renewable energy, clean water, health care, wireless sensing and networking, and cybersecurity. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to nine multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in wireless sensor systems, nanoelectronics, nanomedicine, renewable energy, customized computing, and the smart grid, all funded by federal and private agencies.
For more UCLA news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.



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2) Solar Cell Thinner Than Spider Silk Could Power Internet   of Things

 Christopher Mims 04/04/2012  Technology Review  


Will ephemeral plastic solar cells make ubiquitous sensor networks a reality?


When you think about how to power a distributed network of environmental sensors--the kind we'll want to have in order to connect the entirety of our physical world to the Internet of Things--the answer is obvious: solar power. Most of these sensors are by nature too tiny to have access to much of a temperature gradient, and a steady supply of vibrations isn't always available. Batteries have limited lifespans and add bulk and expense.

That's one of the reasons that organic and polymer-based solar cells are so interesting, particularly the latest development: A polymer-based (i.e. plastic) solar cell thinner than spider silk that can be bent and crumpled and still produces power


From the abstract of the paper announcing their development:

These ultrathin organic solar cells are over ten times thinner, lighter and more flexible than any other solar cell of any technology to date.

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This solar plastic only converts 4.2 percent of the sun's energy into electricity, which is awful by the standards of conventional polycrystalline solar cells, but absolutely miraculous when you consider how thin and versatile this material could be.

For example, Tsuyoshi Sekitani from the University of Tokyo, one of the researchers on this project, told the AFP that this material could be worn on clothing like a badge, to power a personal health monitor. So why not a thin film under a protective shield, on the back of gadgets, so that prolonging their battery life is as simple as leaving them in a sunny spot?

When it comes to the Internet of Things, tiny sensors require tiny amounts of energy, and that's exactly what organic solar cells can provide. Price and size are the factors that will determine whether or not they become ubiquitous, and this announcement suggests that it's only a matter of time before both requirements are met by organic solar cells.

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3) Nuclear Fusion Simulation Shows High-Gain Energy Output

Sandia Lab Press Release  March 20, 2012  


Component testing under way at Sandia's Z accelerator for fast-firing magnetic method


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - High-gain nuclear fusion could be achieved in a preheated cylindrical container immersed in strong magnetic fields, according to a series of computer simulations performed at Sandia National Laboratories.

The simulations show the release of output energy that was, remarkably, many times greater than the energy fed into the container's liner. The method appears to be 50 times more efficient than using X-rays - a previous favorite at Sandia - to drive implosions of targeted materials to create fusion conditions.


"People didn't think there was a high-gain option for magnetized inertial fusion (MIF) but these numerical simulations show there is," said Sandia researcher Steve Slutz, the paper's lead author. "Now we have to see if nature will let us do it. In principle, we don't know why we can't."


High-gain fusion means getting substantially more energy out of a material than is put into it. Inertial refers to the compression in situ over nanoseconds of a small amount of targeted fuel.

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Such fusion eventually could produce reliable electricity from seawater, the most plentiful material on earth, rather than from the raw materials used by other methods: uranium, coal, oil, gas, sun or wind. In the simulations, the output demonstrated was 100 times that of a 60 million amperes (MA) input current. The output rose steeply as the current increased: 1,000 times input was achieved from an incoming pulse of 70 MA.


Since Sandia's Z machine can bring a maximum of only 26 MA to bear upon a target, the researchers would be happy with a proof-of-principle result called scientific break-even, in which the amount of energy leaving the target equals the amount of energy put into the deuterium-tritium fuel.


This has never been achieved in the laboratory and would be a valuable addition to fusion science, said Slutz.

Inertial fusion would provide better data for increasingly accurate simulations of nuclear explosions, which is valuable because the U.S. last tested a weapon in its aging nuclear stockpile in 1992.


The MIF technique heats the fusion fuel (deuterium-tritium) by compression as in normal inertial fusion, but uses a magnetic field to suppress heat loss during implosion. The magnetic field acts like a kind of shower curtain to prevent charged particles like electrons and alpha particles from leaving the party early and draining energy from the reaction.

The simulated process relies upon a single, relatively low-powered laser to preheat a deuterium-tritium gas mixture that sits within a small liner.


At the top and bottom of the liner are two slightly larger coils that, when electrically powered, create a joined vertical magnetic field that penetrates into the liner, reducing energy loss from charged particles attempting to escape through the liner's walls.


An extremely strong magnetic field is created on the surface of the liner by a separate, very powerful electrical current, generated by a pulsed power accelerator such as Z. The force of this huge magnetic field pushes the liner inward to a fraction of its original diameter. It also compresses the magnetic field emanating from the coils. The combination is powerful enough to force atoms of gaseous fuel into intimate contact with each other, fusing them.


Heat released from that reaction raised the gaseous fuel's temperature high enough to ignite a layer of frozen and therefore denser deuterium-tritium fuel coating the inside of the liner. The heat transfer is similar to the way kindling heats a log: when the log ignites, the real heat - here high-yield fusion from ignited frozen fuel - commences.

Tests of physical equipment necessary to validate the computer simulations are already under way at Z, and a laboratory result is expected by late 2013, said Sandia engineer Dean Rovang.


Portions of the design are slated to receive their first tests in March and continue into early winter. Sandia has performed preliminary tests of the coils.


Potential problems involve controlling instabilities in the liner and in the magnetic field that might prevent the fuel from constricting evenly, an essential condition for a useful implosion. Even isolating the factors contributing to this hundred-nanosecond-long compression event, in order to adjust them, will be challenging.


"Whatever the difficulties," said Sandia manager Daniel Sinars, "we still want to find the answer to what Slutz (and co-author Roger Vesey) propose: Can magnetically driven inertial fusion work? We owe it to the country to understand how realistic this possibility is."


The work, reported in the Jan. 13 issue of Physical Review Letters, was supported by Sandia's Laboratory Directed Research and Development office and by the National Nuclear Security Administration.



Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Neal Singer, (505) 845-7078




4) Tunable' Metal Nanostructures for Fuel Cells, Batteries 
and Solar Energy

 Bill Steele, CHRONICLE,  April 2012


For catalysts in fuel cells and electrodes in batteries, engineers would like to manufacture metal films that are porous, to make more surface area available for chemical reactions, and highly conductive, to carry off the electricity. The latter has been a frustrating challenge.

But Cornell chemists have now developed a way to make porous metal films with up to 1,000 times the electrical conductivity offered by previous methods. Their technique also opens the door to creating a wide variety of metal nanostructures for engineering and biomedical applications, the researchers said.

The results of several years of experimentation are described March 18 online edition of the journal Nature Materials.

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"We have reached unprecedented levels of control on composition, nanostructure and functionality -- for example, conductivity -- of the resulting materials, all with a simple 'one-pot' mix-and-heat approach," said senior author Ulrich Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering.


The new method builds on the "sol-gel process," already familiar to chemists. Certain compounds of silicon mixed with solvents will self-assemble into a structure of silicon dioxide (i.e., glass) honeycombed with nanometer-scaled pores. The challenge facing the researchers was to add metal to create a porous structure that conducts electricity.
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About 10 years ago, Wiesner's research group, collaborating with the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute, tried using the sol-gel process with the catalysts that pull protons off of fuel molecules to generate electricity. They needed materials that would pass high current, but adding more than a small amount of metal disrupted the sol-gel process, explained Scott Warren, first author of the Nature Materials paper.

Warren, who was then a Ph.D. student in Wiesner's group and is now a researcher at Northwestern University, hit on the idea of using an amino acid to link metal atoms to silica molecules, because he had realized that one end of the amino acid molecule has an affinity for silica and the other end for metals.

"If there was a way to directly attach the metal to the silica sol-gel precursor then we would prevent this phase separation that was disrupting the self-assembly process," he explained.  

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Just about any element in the periodic table can be used (shown in blue and pink). Those in blue can be bought off the shelf.

The immediate result is a nanostructure of metal, silica and carbon, with much more metal than had been possible before, greatly increasing conductivity. The silica and carbon can be removed, leaving porous metal. But a silica-metal structure would hold its shape at the high temperatures found in some fuel cells, Warren noted, and removing just the silica to leave a carbon-metal complex offers other possibilities, including larger pores.

The researchers report a wide range of experiments showing that their process can be used to make "a library of materials with a high degree of control over composition and structure." They have built structures of almost every metal in the periodic table, and with additional chemistry can "tune" the dimensions of the pores in a range from 10 to 500 nanometers. They have also made metal-filled silica nanoparticles small enough to be ingested and secreted by humans, with possible biomedical applications. Wiesner's group is also known for creating "Cornell dots," which encapsulate dyes in silica nanoparticles, so a possible future application of the sol-gel process might be to build Graetzel solar cells, which contain light-sensitive dyes. Michael Graetzel of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and innovator of the Graetzel cell is a co-author of the new paper. The measurement of the record-setting electrical conductivity was performed in his laboratory.

The research has been supported by the Department of Energy and, through several channels, the National Science Foundation.





5) Sapphire Energy Raises $144 Million for an Algae Farm 
 Kevin Bulls,  MIT Technology Review, April 6, 2012

This week, algae-biofuel startup Sapphire Energy announced it has received $144 million in new funding, which brings its total to over $300 million.


The company, which is less than five years old, has been moving quickly to build a 300-acre algae farm as a large-scale demonstration of its process for making algae oils. The U.S. government has supplied over $100 million of the investments, including a $50 million Recovery Act grant designed in part to spur job creation.

But Sapphire's rapid expansion raises the question of whether it is scaling up its technology too soon. Some of its ideas for reducing the cost of algae fuels are at too early a stage to be implemented at the new farm. Yet these technologies might prove vital to making its fuels competitive.

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Knowing when to move technologies out of the lab and into large-scale demonstrations is a perennial challenge for energy startups. According to some experts, Range Fuels, a startup founded to produce ethanol from wood chips, foundered because it built a large-scale plant too soon, before the bugs had been worked out of its technology at a smaller scale. As a result, the plant didn't work well enough to be economical.


The new funding will allow Sapphire to finish building its algae farm, near the small town of Columbus, New Mexico, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border. A 100-acre segment of the farm has already been finished, and when the whole project is complete, by 2014, Sapphire will have the capacity to produce about 1.5 million gallons of algae crude oil, which can be shipped to refineries to make chemicals and fuels such as diesel and gasoline.


Algae is attractive as a source of fuel because the microörganisms naturally make large amounts of oil and can be grown in ponds filled with brackish or salt water, so they don't use up fresh water supplies or quality farmland. But algae are expensive to grow and harvest, so previously they've only been used commercially to produce relatively high-value products such as cosmetics and nutritional supplements.


Sapphire hopes to lower the cost of producing algae fuels by changing every part of the production process. That includes increasing the quality and the amount of oil produced, reducing the cost of building ponds, and developing low-cost ways to harvest the oil. The company aims to have a product that's competitive with oil priced at $85 per barrel, and it expects to meet this goal once it reaches full-scale production in about six years. Oil costs over $100 a barrel now.


Achieving these cost targets will require significant innovation. Last year, a pair of studies from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, concluded that algae-based diesel made by scaling up existing algae technologies would cost several times as much as conventional diesel. According to one of the studies, it would cost about $9.84 per gallon to make algae diesel, as opposed to $2.60 per gallon for petro-diesel, at January 2011 costs. Other studies have estimated even higher costs.


Increasing the amount of oil that algae makes is one of the most promising ways to reduce costs. A number of other algae-biofuels companies are genetically engineering their algae to increase production, but Sapphire, instead, has developed a fast way to breed algae, select those with traits that can improve oil production, and make oil that resembles crude oil closely enough that it can be processed in ordinary refineries.


Sapphire has also bred algae that can flourish in open ponds. Other algae-biofuels companies use closed containers, which are more expensive but can help protect the algae from predators, fungal diseases, and other strains of algae that might take over a pond. Sapphire has bred disease-resistant algae that can grow under harsh conditions, such as high pH or salinity, that most other organisms can't tolerate, reducing competition. It has also made them resistant to certain chemicals that inhibit the growth of other organisms.


Another major challenge is harvesting the algae. It takes about 1,000 grams of water to grow 1 gram of algae, and separating the two efficiently and extracting the oil can require a lot of energy. Borrowing techniques from water-treatment plants, Sapphire treats the algae with chemicals that cause them to clump together. The algae can be "squeegeed off the surface" says Tim Zenk, Sapphire Energy's vice president of corporate affairs. The result is wet slurry that still contains a lot of water. Sapphire treats that with solvents at high pressures and temperatures to make three streams of products: algae oil, nutrients such as phosphates, and the leftover biomass. The oil goes to a refinery, and the nutrients and biomass are used to feed more algae.


The company is finding ways to reduce other costs. Rather than building concrete ponds, it is building cheaper ponds out of dirt and waterproof liners. It plans eventually to do away with the liners and make ponds that resemble rice paddies. Sapphire is also replacing energy-intensive paddle wheels used to circulate the algae with more efficient pumps, and is planning to design systems that use only the wind that sweeps across the New Mexico deserts for circulation.


The company is working with Munich-based Linde Group to develop a low-cost way to supply the algae with carbon dioxide, which is key to high productivity. Linde has developed systems for supplying greenhouses with carbon dioxide from a refinery.

Finally, Zenk says, the company may eventually turn to genetic engineering to further improve the performance of its algae.


When complete, the new 300-acre algae farm project is expected to produce about 100 barrels of algae crude per day, or 35,000 a year. Zenk says the process won't be commercially viable without the economies of scale that will come with much, much bigger farms-1,000 to 5,000 acres.


Sapphire is a major beneficiary of the U.S. government. It received a $50 million grant connected to the 2009 Recovery Act and a $54 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its first customers may be the U.S. military, which is evaluating its fuels. Sapphire's early funders included Bill Gates and a Rockefeller family fund. Monsanto is another major funder. It has an R&D agreement with Sapphire to identify genes in algae that might make corn, cotton, and soybeans more resistant to drought and other stress, and increase their yield.

Phil Pienkos, a research scientist at the National Renewable Energy Lab, says that Sapphire is doing a number of good things to reduce costs. Yet he says making algae fuels competitive will be a challenge. "It takes a certain amount of faith that there is going to be a business there," he says.

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  • Scott Kelsey, Missouri State, explaining Rejuvamatrix, Pulsed EMF therapy to increase the length of DNA telomeres, which directly affect our lifespan.
  • Max Formitchev-Zamilov, Penn State,  discussing Cavitation Induced Fusion, that will soon provide power generation and heat production.
  • Christopher Provaditis, from Greece, explaining Inertial Propulsion and who teamed up recently with Boeing for their space satellites.
  • PJ Piper of QM Power, discussing the motor invented by Charles Flynn, with a revolutionary parallel path that gives double and triple efficiency. 
  • Dr Thorsten Ludwig  from Germany (GASE) discussing the mysterious Hans Coler motor that WWII British Intelligence researched.
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