Monthly Archives: June 2010
Shale-gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing has been increasingly used in the United States and Canada. A new documentary called Gasland focuses on the impact that the natural gas extraction process has on communities and the environment.
The Solar PowerFlower is a portable concentrated photovoltaic power generator intended for agricultural use. It was designed by Jason Halpern, co-founder of PowerFlower Solar, who began developing the technology while still a student at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Plumas and Sierra Counties in California are testing a smart grid using the television broadcasting system’s "white space". "White space" is the part of the broadcast spectrum left vacant when television broadcasting is switched from analogue to digital. It can transmit data significantly faster than the current standard Internet Wi-Fi, and can be broadcast for extended distances and through obstacles – making it ideal for use in smart grid communications. The Plumas and Sierra Counties are located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and present some very technical challenges with respect to wireless coverage – making them a good test … Continue Reading
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Associate Professor Yang Shao-Horn, in collaboration with Professor Paula Hammond, have found that using carbon nanotubes for one of the battery’s electrodes produced up to a tenfold increase in the amount of power that a lithiun-ion battery could deliver from a given weight of material. In the new battery electrode, carbon nanotubes are "electrostatically self-assembled" into a tightly bound structure that is porous at the nanometer scale. The carbon nanotubes have many oxygen groups on their surfaces, which can store a large number of lithium ions. This enables carbon nanotubes to … Continue Reading
Spain has overtaken the US as the biggest solar electricity generator in the world. The opening of the new La Florida solar plant at Alvarado, Badajoz, in the west of the country, takes Spain’s solar output to 432 megawatts, compared with the US output of 422 megawatts. The La Florida plant produces 50 megawatts of power with a parabolic trough system covering 550,000 square metres. Protermosolar, the association that represents Spain’s solar energy sector, says that within a year another 600 megawatts will have come on-stream and that by 2013 solar capacity will have reached 2,500 megawatts.. Spain is also … Continue Reading
The media is fond of quoting claims that the internet will soon be using more power than the airline industry, that it will consume half of all the electricity produced or that two Google searches release as much CO2 as boiling a kettle of water. The Google search myth arose from a Times article in January 2009 which said that "a typical search generates about 7g of CO2. Boiling a kettle generates about 15g". Urs Hölzle, Google’s Senior Vice President Operations, posted a response saying the typical search actually releases only 0.2 grams of CO2 – that’s 75 searches per … Continue Reading
Four men from the remote village of Licapa in Peru have decided to combat global warming by painting the Andes white. In the last 35 years, rising temperatures have reduced the size of glaciers in the Peruvian Andes by 22%. The hope is that the whitewash will reflect heat away and stop the glaciers melting. Peruvian Andes (by Martin St-Amant via Wikimedia) As eccentric as it may seem, the whitewashing project was selected as one of the top proposals in the World Bank’s "100 Ideas to Save the Planet" competition held last year. As a result, Eduardo Gold, who proposed … Continue Reading
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a new highly efficient technique for making hydrogen fuel cells suitable for vehicles. The technology has the potential to be twice as effective as current fuel cells at around half the temperature and much lower pressure. The process uses ammonia borane, a high hydrogen-content powdered chemical and combines two hydrogen generating processes — hydrolysis and thermolysis — to achieve conditions appropriate for use in vehicles. Currently hydrogen fuel cells run at pressures of aound 5,000 psi. Hydrolysis alone requires a catalyst to turn hydrogen into energy, and thermolysis requires a temperature of 170°C to … Continue Reading
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed a new air conditioning process with the potential of using 50 to 90 percent less energy than the best current units. The process uses a unique combination of membranes, evaporative cooling and liquid desiccants. It uses the desiccant (highly concentrated aqueous salt solutions of lithium chloride or calcium chloride) to create dry air using heat and then uses evaporative cooling to make the dry air cold. Engineers have known for decades the value of desiccants in air conditioning but, because of the complexity of desiccant cooling systems, they have … Continue Reading
For years, we have been warned that low-lying coral island states will be drowned by rising sea levels. Now the first analysis of the data broadly suggests the opposite – most have remained stable, while some have even grown, despite rising sea levels, over the last 60 years. Nanumea Atoll, Tuvalu (NASA image) Paul Kench at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and Arthur Webb at the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji used historical aerial photos and high-resolution satellite images to study changes in the land surface of 27 Pacific islands over the last 60 years. Local … Continue Reading