From: Integrity Research Institute []
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 12:20 AM
Subject: Future Energy eNews
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Dear Subscriber,


This month features an exciting summary Press Release article #1 for the upcoming Space, Propulsion & Energy Sciences International Forum (SPESIF) 2012 to be held February 29 - March 2, 2012 at the University of Maryland.  The Proceedings from SPESIF 2011 are online for FREE download ( and the SPESIF 2012 proceedings will be available a few months after the conference, published by Elsevier Science through ScienceDirect.


Everyone knows that energy demand is a crucial turnkey for the future of mankind. Do we go up or down? As all of the developing nations keep going up, Rocky Mountain Institute has a new scenario in its "Reinventing Fire" program to add increased energy efficiency to the mix, thereby flattening or decreasing the overall energy demand. Article #2 is a great research tool with lots of links to other information sources and references on this important subject for future energy.


Now how about getting the bugs to work for us and low wages? Before they can unionize and fight for higher wages, Joule Unlimited plans to put them to work turning sunlight and CO2 into liquid ethanol to sell for just over a dollar a gallon. See article #3 for an encouraging solar investment story that promises to be profitable for a change.


In article #4, which could be the blockbuster of this month's FE eNews, I'm revisiting a topic that was a subject included in the Environmental Science class I used to teach at Erie Community College in Buffalo, NY in the 1980's, when "ThermoCrete" was on the market with phase change mass (PCM) energy storage built into concrete. In fact, Jan Kosny says that he explored the potential of the same subject three decades ago but now it's an idea whose time has come. How about an energy storage medium 1.25 cm thick with the same thermal mass of 25 cm of concrete? Or how about bed rolls for the third world warmed by cooking stoves during the day to keep people warm at night? The rediscovery of PCMs by several companies featured in article #4 can reduce the volume of storage material by two-thirds, which is huge! This is an article to study and pass onto your local high school for science class experiments. 

Lastly, you might wonder what our Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been up to these days as it undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change. Article #5 shows two examples of artificial birds that demonstrate controlled flight and hovering, the "nano-hummingbird" and the related video on an "Airplane that flies like a bird". I must say that it is exciting to see nature copied so precisely that it looks eerie.  


Another energy conference of interest is with a Feb. 10, 2012 deadline for abstracts.


Thomas Valone, PhD,PE   













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1) IRI Hosts SPESIF 2012 at the University of MD with High Tech Energy & Propulsion 


Integrity Research Institute, Press Release, January 24, 2012,


The presentations are lining up to make this 2 1/2 day event one of the best ever, covering the expansive topics of space, propulsion and energy sciences.

Our draft Program Schedule is posted online and features a great selection of breakthrough topics like ion propulsion, NSF energy initiatives, Casimir forces, LENR, zero point energy, fluctuations and spin, gravitation, electrokinetics, dark energy, Coler magneto-acoutics, planet landing energy, coulomb force monopole motor, Podkletnov, Bose-Einstein condensates, energy storage microdevices, space applications noncontact manipulations, fission power, relativity, artificial body weight change, plutonium production, science and SciFi of Robert L. Forward, advanced design for space vehicle, stellar industrial archeology, Mars mission, and bridging "death valley" for new energy development.


Some of the outstanding presentations at Space, Propulsion & Energy Sciences International Forum (SPESIF) 2012 include George Washington University Dr. David Nagel's plenary slideshow on the "Science and Commerce of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR)" which is a field that has now been buzzing because researcher Andrea Rossi made the news by experimenting with methods to obtain energy from high pressure Ni-H systems.  He succeeded in getting usefully high energy gains with adequate reproducibility and control for production of prototypes and products.  Rossi calls the systems e-Cats, short for energy catalyzers.  In October of 2011, he demonstrated a kilowatt (kW) class system. Systems that produce 5 kW for home use are promised for sale in 2013.  Hence, LENR is now also the basis for a rapidly-growing and apparently major new commercial field of energy production. 


Another exciting plenary talk will be given by a University of Maryland postdoc Ekaterina Pomerantseva on the "Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) nanotemplates for next generation energy storage microdevices." Why is this interesting? It turns out that the autonomy and functionality of microsystems such as microsensors, microactuators, and miniaturized medical implants are limited by the lack of suitable power sources. The sizes of these devices are often determined by the size of the power supply, and an urgent need exists for scaled-down power sources without compromising their performance. That's where the self-assembled TMV molecules are used on gold substrates for effectively doubling the energy storage capacity of supercapacitors and fuel cells. The use of nanostructured materials for energy storage device electrodes has advantages of better mechanical integrity, higher electrode/electrolyte contact area and shorter diffusion distances for electrons and ions. This novel technology enables a significant increase in energy density without increasing electrode footprint or compromising power density, and it has demonstrated compatibility with a variety of energy storage materials (Si, TiO2, and V2O5)


We also will have Dr. Paul Werbos updating us on the developments at the National Science Foundation and Dr. Thomas Valone explaining the latest discoveries in the field of electrogravitics and electrokinetics, with the application of the electrokinetic equation. For our banquet speaker, Dr. George Miley from the University of Illinois Fusion Lab will be summarizing his new autobiographical book and "Bridging 'death valley' for new energy development".


Join us for the most progressive energy and propulsion event this year by registering for one day or for the whole event at

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2) Unprecedented Energy Change is Necessary


Rocky Mountain Institute Press Release, 1/18/12, 


Electricity is the connective tissue of the information age, powering everything from smartphones to giant data centers and enabling virtually every transaction in daily life. Electricity is the lifeblood of both buildings (72%) and industry (28%). The U.S. electricity system is the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century. Yet while the information economy creates new value by innovating to meet diverse customer preferences, the electricity system remains slow to respond and reluctant to adapt. To meet market expectations, capture new technological opportunities, and manage risks, the electricity industry must accelerate its own change toward speed of the information technology (IT) that is pervading society. That shift can also help liberate America from its dependence on fossil fuels, one-third of which are burned by their biggest user-68%-fossil-fueled power stations.


Today's electricity system faces a perfect storm of deferred major infrastructure investments, financial constraints, stagnating or falling demand, a fundamentally altered competitive landscape, and evolving environmental and health priorities. But there's also an astonishing menu of solutions. Rapid technological progress has overcome or bypassed many previous constraints on how electricity is made and delivered. Advances in renewable generation technologies, communications and controls, distributed generating technologies, and storage have laid the foundation for a customer-centric electricity system that is renewable, distributed, and resilient.  The central challenges in adopting these advances are no longer technological or economic; they are cultural and institutional. Their resolution needs a coherent vision of how this vast industry can execute the greatest change in its history.


Shifting to efficient use and renewable supply


Reinventing Fire envisions first how systematically and dramatically increased energy efficiency could flatten or even modestly decrease total electricity use, despite a 158% bigger 2050 economy and electrified autos. In both buildings and industry, smarter technologies and designs can cost-effectively deliver the same or better services with 70% less electricity per dollar of GDP than in 2010 (or 65% with electrified automobiles).


Next, most of America's aging steam power plants can continue to be replaced by renewable energy sources, which since 2007 have captured half the world market for new generating capacity and now make up one-fourth its total and 18% of all power generation. Today's commercially and practically viable renewable resources have the potential to generate over 20 times America's total 2010 electricity use, and all regions have ample potential, though their mix differs widely. Extensive modeling based on market price and performance data suggests that the renewable energy needed to supply 80% or more of all U.S. electricity by 2050-probably all ultimately-can be captured cost-effectively (even without subsidy) and integrated reliably. A smarter electricity grid plus distributed generation, chiefly renewable, can also greatly enhance reliability and security.


Dramatic technological progress, production scaleup, and global investment are radically improving the costs and performance of maturing renewable power generation technologies, including wind and solar. Reliable power supply based largely on renewable and distributed resources can have total costs broadly comparable to those of business-as-usual-but comprehensively lower risks.

A smarter grid, omnidirectional flows of energy and information, and distributed generators will empower customers and increase adaptability. Operating existing electricity systems in nontraditional but proven ways can cost-effectively manage wind and photovoltaic power's variability and uncertainty by four means: diversification in type and location, forecasting, integration with flexible generators and demand, and (if needed) real or virtual storage. Large thermal power plants are no longer the only nor the cheapest source of reliable power (the "baseload fallacy"), and their weak business case has triggered sharp declines in investment.


Evolving business models and institutions


The emerging electricity system is far more varied, transparent, innovative, and entrepreneurial. Integrating pervasive information and demand-side technologies lets customers participate as "prosumers" who both consume and produce energy, can choose the reliability they want for different uses, and can earn revenue by unobtrusively providing such valuable services as flexible demand. Many demand-side and some supply-side technologies offer customers more choices, non-utility firms huge growth markets, and utilities both threats and opportunities. Utilities must make wrenching changes in their business models-or lose out to more nimble competitors, who for the first time can invest without regulators' consent, bundling unregulated products into a potent "virtual utility" offering.


The regulatory compact, based on a fair return for providing low-cost, reliable power, must better match profit-making incentives to societal goals: for example, rewarding utilities for cutting customers' bills, not for selling more electricity. Leveling the playing field and allowing and rewarding innovation can expand options, promote fair competition, and make the industry's transition efficient and profitable. System operation and planning need wider regional cooperation and larger, faster markets. Creating the new electricity system also needs more R&D, more dialogue between sectors, and more pilot projects demonstrating fast-moving techniques for distributed resource integration, distributed intelligence, and grid architectures.


Four futures, one broad direction


The U.S. electricity system's unprecedented risks and opportunities now make "business-as-usual" unrealistic. Decades of steadily slackening demand growth have dwindled to about zero or less and can no longer be counted on to raise revenues.Just replacing aging U.S. power plants and infrastructure-for example, over 70% of U.S. coal plants, half of U.S. coal capacity, are over 30 years old and 33% over 40-would cost $3.5 trillion (undiscounted). The transmission and distribution grid is inherently prone to blackouts that scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimate cost U.S. businesses and residents up to $160 billion annually. Perpetuating this system would not only degrade national security but also drive up carbon emissions 40% by 2050-nearly 600% above levels needed to meet U.S. treaty obligations.


Electricity's carbon risks could be managed by new nuclear plants and "clean coal," sustaining and even bolstering many of the power sector's century-old institutions -traditional business models, vendors, and regulators, coal-mining, even railroads. But that wouldn't meet all of the needs of the 21st century and would indeed create new risks: high and uncertain costs plus increased financial, fuel, security, and technological risks. Such "bet the company" investments in large conventional power plants would also foreclose other choices for decades.


Alternatively, climate-safe power from quintupling today's utility-scale renewable capacity, so it meets 80-90% of 2050 electricity needs, would cost slightly less and cut carbon emissions even more. This approach would sustain or improve reliability while reducing financial, fuel, and technology risks. Finally, letting distributed generators compete and interconnect fairly could nearly eliminate blackout risks by organizing the grid into local "microgrids" that normally interconnect but can stand alone at need ("islanding"). This resilient future, already demonstrated in about 20 experiments worldwide and being successfully adopted in Denmark and Cuba, would cost about the same as business-as-usual, but would manage all its risks and maximize customer choice, entrepreneurial opportunity, and innovation.

In short, many different electricity futures are possible. They differ immaterially in cost but greatly in risk. Choosing a future with similar cost but far lower risk, while fitting and speeding powerful market trends, can restore American energy leadership and security by building the electricity system of the 21st century with high skill and ambition, just as we did with the technology of more than a century ago.

3)Photosynthesis Fuel Company Gets Large Investment 

Thursday, January 19, 2012, By Phil McKenna

Joule Unlimited will build a production plant for turning sunlight and CO2 into liquid fuels.




Joule Unlimited, a startup based in Bedford, Massachusetts, has received $70 million to commercialize technology that uses microörganisms to turn sunlight and carbon dioxide into liquid fuel. The company claims that its genetically engineered bacteria will eventually be able to produce ethanol for as little as $1.23 a gallon or diesel fuel for $1.19 a gallon, less than half the current cost of both fossil fuels and existing biofuels.


The new funding comes from undisclosed investors and will allow the company to expand from an existing pilot plant to its first small-scale production facility, in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Joule Unlimited has designed a device it calls the SolarConverter, in which thin, clear panels circulate brackish water and a nitrogen-based growth medium bubbling with carbon dioxide. Inside the converter, the engineered microörganisms use energy from the sun to convert the water and gas into ethanol or paraffinic hydrocarbons, the primary component of diesel fuel.


Enclosed solar conversion systems are expensive and difficult to manage. But Joule Unlimited's technology could prove practical because its microbes produce fuel continuously and efficiently.

The company, formerly known as Joule Biotechnologies, claimed in 2009 that its organisms could in theory produce as much as 20,000 gallons of ethanol on an acre of land in single year. Company officials now say their target is 25,000 gallons per acre, and that efficiencies they have already demonstrated take them 60 percent of the way to that goal.


The achievement would put Joule's fuel ahead of cellulosic ethanol in terms of productivity. "Even at 60 percent of our ultimate goal, our productivity is still leaps and bounds above cellulosic ethanol," says Dan Robertson, Joule Unlimited's senior vice president of biological sciences. Cellulosic fuels such as grass and wood chips yield only 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year, Robertson says.


The facility in New Mexico will consist of a five-acre "module" made up of multiple 100-meter-long rows of SolarConverters connected to a central processing plant that collects and separates the fuel. The facility, slated to begin producing ethanol this summer, is located near three natural-gas power plants, each of which can provide carbon dioxide. Joule Unlimited has leased a total of 1,200 acres at the site and says it plans to add additional five-acre modules over time.


In a peer-reviewed paper published last year in the journal Photosynthesis Research, Robertson and others showed that their process can achieve an overall efficiency of 7.2 percent in converting sunlight to liquid fuel. The figure is roughly seven times higher than the efficiency rate of systems that use naturally occurring microörganisms. The key to the increased efficiency, Robertson says, is that the engineered bacteria can secrete liquid fuels continuously. Nonengineered microbes produce oils that have to be harvested and refined into fuels, and the organisms have to be ground up to release the oils, so each batch yields only a single harvest.


The microbes that attain 60 percent of the company's stated productivity goal have been secreting ethanol in outdoor SolarConverters at the company's three-acre pilot plant for the past six months. To increase efficiency, Robertson says, the company will further manipulate the organisms' genetic makeup to limit all biological processes that compete with fuel production. For example, Joule has been working for several years to shut down genetic pathways that allow the organisms to keep growing. That should enable them to devote more energy to fuel production.

Robertson says that the company has just begun to optimize production in its diesel-secreting microbes, which currently yield fuel at a rate that is only 10 percent of the company's goal of 15,000 gallons per acre per year.  


4) Buildings & Clothes Could Melt to Save Energy
New Scientist,  05 January 2012 by Phil McKenna

Phase-change materials that freeze at around room temperature could revolutionize energy storage, cooling things that are too hot and warming them later on.


THE sun has risen, and a brand new building on the University of Washington's campus in Seattle is about to melt.


It is no design flaw: encapsulated within the walls and ceiling panels is a gel that solidifies at night and melts with the warmth of the day. Known as a phase change material (PCM), the gel will help reduce the amount of energy needed to cool office space in the building - scheduled to house the molecular engineering department when completed this month - by a whopping 98 per cent.


PCMs don't have to be as high-tech as this, of course. We have been using ice, a phase change material that melts at 0 °C, to keep things cool for thousands of years. But advances in materials science and rising energy costs are now driving the development of PCMs that work at different temperatures to help people and goods stay cool or warm, or to store energy.

PCMs are attractive energy-savers because of their ability to absorb or release massive amounts of energy while maintaining a near-constant temperature. "To melt ice takes the same amount of energy as would be required to warm an equal volume of water by 82 °C," says Jan Kosny of the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who began to explore the potential of PCMs three decades ago by looking at beeswax as a way to store heat from the sun. The reason PCMs are so useful is because energy is needed to break the molecular bonds between atoms when a substance melts, and is released when bonds are formed as it solidifies.



The "bioPCM" gel in the university building, derived from vegetable oils, will be "charged" each night when windows automatically open to flush the building with cold outdoor air. The solid gel then absorbs heat as it melts the next day. The idea is the same as using thick concrete or adobe walls, which reduce indoor temperature fluctuations, but only a fraction of the material is required. "Our bioPCM is 1.25 centimetres thick yet it acts like the thermal mass of 25 centimetres of concrete," says Peter Horwath, founder of Phase Change Energy Solutions, based in Asheboro, North Carolina.


A recent report by technology research firm Lux Research predicts the use of phase change materials in buildings will grow from near zero today to $130 million in annual sales by 2020.

Meanwhile, a number of other applications are emerging. UK-based Star Refrigeration is using carbon dioxide, which changes phase from liquid to gas at a very low temperature, to keep data centres cool. Heat emitted by today's high-performance server farms can overwhelm even the most advanced water cooling systems. By piping CO2 through heat exchangers, the company recently demonstrated an ability to pull nearly twice as much heat from the computers as the systems used at present.


In western China, PCMs derived from yak butter and local plant oils are helping yak herders keep warm. The material is encased in plastic and then woven into traditional clothing. It melts as herders work up a sweat walking to mountain pastures then, when they stop moving, the pent-up heat is slowly released, keeping them warm as they watch their herds. More than 100 families are now using the materials as part of an ongoing pilot project that also includes bed rolls warmed by cooking stoves in the day to keep people warm at night. "Families that use them are starting to see a significant difference in the amount of fuel they need," says Scot Frank of One Earth Designs, also based in Cambridge, which developed the compounds.

Another promising application for PCMs is vaccine delivery in developing countries. Vaccines need to be kept cold during transport, which is a challenge in countries with limited refrigeration. They are typically packaged in ice, but their effectiveness can be severely compromised if they freeze. Using materials that change phase between 4 and 8 °C, US packaging manufacturer Sonoco says it has developed a solution that can keep vaccines cool for up to six days. Sonoco is now testing the Greenbox with a non-profit biotechnology developer called PATH, to meet World Health Organization standards.


Harnessing PCMs for energy storage could also give solar power a boost. Today systems that concentrate solar thermal energy rely on liquid salts to store heat. This allows power plants to produce energy when the sun is not shining, but requires massive amounts of liquid and large, well-insulated storage facilities. By using chemicals that change phase instead, German manufacturer SGL Carbon says it can reduce the volume of storage material required by roughly two-thirds. The company is currently testing a prototype.

For Kosny, all of the recent interest in PCMs is something of a vindication. "Ten years ago, when I argued for the development of phase-change materials, no one was interested," he says. "Now we can't seem to develop these materials fast enough."

5) Hummingbird Drone One of the Best 2011 Inventions

 AeroVironment, Dec,20  2011


AV is developing the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) under a DARPA sponsored research contract to develop a new class of air vehicle systems capable of indoor and outdoor operation. Employing biological mimicry at an extremely small scale, this unconventional aircraft could someday provide new reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in urban environments.

The Nano Hummingbird met all, and exceeded many, of the Phase II technical milestones set out by DARPA:

  • Demonstrate precision hover flight.
  • Demonstrate hover stability in a wind gust flight which required the aircraft to hover and tolerate a two-meter per second (five miles per hour) wind gust from the side, without drifting downwind more than one meter.
  • Demonstrate a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source.
  • Fly and demonstrate controlled, transition flight from hover to 11 miles per hour fast forward flight and back to hover flight.
  • Demonstrate flying from outdoors to indoors, and back outdoors through a normal-size doorway.
  • Demonstrate flying indoors 'heads-down' where the pilot operates the aircraft only looking at the live video image stream from the aircraft, without looking at or hearing the aircraft directly.
  • Fly the aircraft in hover and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings.   


The Associated Press, 02-11-11

A tiny, drone aircraft designed to mimic a hummingbird, known as the "nano-hummingbird," is seen with a quarter for scale, during a briefing at the AeroVironment facility in Simi Valley, Calif., Friday, Feb. 25, 2011. With a 6.5-inch wing span, the remote-controlled hummingbird plane weighs less than an AA battery and can fly at speeds of up to 11 mph, propelled only by the flapping of its two wings. It can climb and descend  vertically, fly sideways, forward and backward, as well as rotate clockwise and counterclockwise, and hover. 


A project manager has demonstrated a tiny spy plane with flapping wings like a hummingbird.

Matt Keennon of AeroVironment showed off the high-tech device Friday to journalists at company facilities in Simi Valley, Calif. 


The aircraft with a 16.5-centimetre wing span can record sights and sounds on a video camera in its belly. Developers say it can perch on a window ledge and gather intelligence unbeknownst to an enemy.

The craft can hover and move quickly in almost any direction, a capability defence officials want in a small aircraft for intelligence and reconnaissance. The craft was developed for a U.S. defence agency, but it's not clear if it will ever leave the lab. It buzzed Keennon's head before landing on his hand during the demonstration.     


AeroVironment's Nano Hummingbird UAV - Without Landing Gear
AeroVironment's Nano Hummingbird UAV - Without Landing Gear


A robot that flies like a bird
A robot that flies like a bird
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