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
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.
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
#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
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!
that our wonderfully watchable and less than one
hour DVD from SPESIF 2011 is now available with a
discount (see below).
Producing Fuel with C02 and Sunlight at UCLA
By Wileen Wong
Kromhout March 29,
Producing fuel with C02 and
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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.
to table of contents
2) Solar Cell Thinner Than
Spider Silk Could Power Internet
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
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
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
These ultrathin organic
solar cells are over ten times thinner, lighter
and more flexible than any other solar cell of
any technology to date.
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
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
or get in touch
table of contents
Fusion Simulation Shows High-Gain Energy
Lab Press Release March
testing under way at Sandia's Z accelerator for
fast-firing magnetic method
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
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
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."
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.
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
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.
has never been achieved in the laboratory and
would be a valuable addition to fusion science,
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.
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.
simulated process relies upon a single, relatively
low-powered laser to preheat a deuterium-tritium
gas mixture that sits within a small liner.
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.
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.
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 -
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.
of the design are slated to receive their first
tests in March and continue into early winter.
Sandia has performed preliminary tests of the
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.
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
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
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
news media contact: Neal Singer, firstname.lastname@example.org (505)
Metal Nanostructures for Fuel Cells,
Bill Steele, CHRONICLE,
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
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.
results of several years of experimentation are
described March 18 online edition of the journal
"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.
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
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
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.
|Just about any element in
the periodic table can be used (shown in blue
and pink). Those in blue can be bought off 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.
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.
has been supported by the Department of Energy
and, through several channels, the National
5) Sapphire Energy
Raises $144 Million for an Algae
Bulls, MIT Technology Review, April 6,
week, algae-biofuel startup Sapphire Energy
announced it has received $144 million in new
funding, which brings its total to over $300
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Zenk says, the company may eventually turn to
genetic engineering to further improve the
performance of its algae.
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.
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.
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
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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.
Formitchev-Zamilov, Penn State,
discussing Cavitation Induced Fusion, that will
soon provide power generation and heat production.
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
- Dr Thorsten
Ludwig from Germany (GASE)
discussing the mysterious Hans Coler motor that WWII
British Intelligence researched.