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Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby kublikhan » Sun 24 Aug 2014, 05:15:23

Scientists at Stanford University have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis. Unlike other water splitters that use precious-metal catalysts, the electrodes in the Stanford device are made of inexpensive and abundant nickel and iron.

"Using nickel and iron, which are cheap materials, we were able to make the electrocatalysts active enough to split water at room temperature with a single 1.5-volt battery," said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. "This is the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low. It's quite remarkable, because normally you need expensive metals, like platinum or iridium, to achieve that voltage."

Saving energy and money
The discovery was made by Stanford graduate student Ming Gong, co-lead author of the study. "Ming discovered a nickel-metal/nickel-oxide structure that turns out to be more active than pure nickel metal or pure nickel oxide alone," Dai said. "This novel structure favors hydrogen electrocatalysis, but we still don't fully understand the science behind it."

The nickel/nickel-oxide catalyst significantly lowers the voltage required to split water, which could eventually save hydrogen producers billions of dollars in electricity costs, according to Gong. His next goal is to improve the durability of the device. "The electrodes are fairly stable, but they do slowly decay over time," he said. "The current device would probably run for days, but weeks or months would be preferable. That goal is achievable based on my most recent results." "We're very glad that we were able to make a catalyst that's very active and low cost. This shows that through nanoscale engineering of materials we can really make a difference in how we make fuels and consume energy."
Stanford scientists develop water splitter that runs on ordinary AAA battery
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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 09 Sep 2014, 17:56:59

Power Satellite Progress

This is a follow-up on my "Dollar a Gallon Gasoline” article from April 2. That article proposed power satellites as a way to solve energy, carbon, climate, water and even economic stagnation problems. The follow up is on an alternate transport system powered by microwaves rather than lasers.

Power satellites are a complicated subject. It involves economics, "rocket science," i.e., the rocket equation, orbital mechanics, radiators, thermodynamics, microwave and laser optics, geography, geometry, radio frequency interference with communications, Skylon (rocket plane), atmospheric damage effects (from NOx), chemistry, electrochemistry, military policy, international politics, and in-space operations and assembly. It's difficult to put enough detail in an article for it to be believable and little enough detail for it to be readable. But I will try.

The engineering has developed over the decades from 1968. It's unusual to need an update even once a year, much less one in a few months. However, progress has recently picked up. In May, there was an article about Japanese plans for power satellites in the IEEE Spectrum by Susumu Sasaki, a senior scientist with JAXA. JAXA is Japan's equivalent of NASA. The IEEE is the largest technical society in the world

http://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/sol ... solar-farm

More recently there was a CNN article on Skylon, one of the keys to making power satellites economical.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/08/tech/inno ... ?hpt=hp_c3

The current schedule for Skylon is for it to fly in 2021. That means that on an ambitious schedule the first power satellite could come on line in 2023. Rapid growth could lead to displacing fossil fuels by the mid 2030s.


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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sun 21 Sep 2014, 17:00:05

Japanese construction giant Obayashi announces plans to have a space elevator up and running by 2050

Once the realm of science fiction, a Japanese company has announced they will have a space elevator up and running by the year 2050.

If successful it would revolutionise space travel and potentially transform the global economy.

The Japanese construction giant Obayashi says they will build a space elevator that will reach 96,000 kilometres into space.

Robotic cars powered by magnetic linear motors will carry people and cargo to a newly-built space station, at a fraction of the cost of rockets. It will take seven days to get there.

The company said the fantasy can now become a reality because of the development of carbon nanotechnology.

"The tensile strength is almost a hundred times stronger than steel cable so it's possible," Mr Yoji Ishikawa, a research and development manager at Obayashi, said.

"Right now we can't make the cable long enough. We can only make 3-centimetre-long nanotubes but we need much more... we think by 2030 we'll be able to do it."

Universities all over Japan have been working on the problems and every year they hold competitions to share and learn from each other.

A team at Kanagawa University has been working on robotic cars or climbers.

Professor Tadashi Egami said tension on the cable will vary depending on height and gravity.


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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby lpetrich » Sat 11 Oct 2014, 13:38:25

It will be necessary to get launch costs way down for orbiting solar panels to be feasible.

Consider the numbers of a well-known rocket company that brags about its prices: Capabilities & Services | SpaceX
$61.2 million to send 13150 kg into low earth orbit (LEO) or 4850 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This turns out to be
  • LEO: $4650/kg
  • GTO: $12600/kg
To get an idea of the state of the art, I looked at the first solar panel that shopping.google.com returned: 300W Polycrystalline | Renogy Store

Output: 300 watts
Price: $275.99
Weight: 23 kg
Dimensions: 2 m * 1 m * 5 cm

So getting it up into outer space would cost $110 thousand. However, a single Falcon 9 launch could get 570 of these panels into LEO, and they would produce 170 kilowatts of electricity.


I haven't been able to find comparable numbers from the United Launch Alliance, Arianespace, or Roskosmos.
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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sat 11 Oct 2014, 16:36:00

“Radical Polymers” Could Fuel Next Solar Technology Spike

Radical Polymers and Solar Technology

Radical polymers refers to a particular family of polymers (aka plastics) that can conduct electricity.

If you’re familiar with organic solar cells (here’s another example), you can already see the potential for radical polymers to yield low cost, flexible, transparent solar technology that could be applied to just about any surface, including windows.

That’s the goal set by a research team at Purdue University, which has just announced the results of their work on a radical polymer called PTMA.

For those of you keeping score at home, PTMA is short for poly(2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidinyloxy-4-yl meth-acrylate). Previous research has demonstrated that PTMA holds some promise, since it is about 10 times more conductive than other types of semiconducting polymers.


Don’t hold your breath for your local dollar store to stock superconducting Plexiglass solar cells that will bring virtually free energy to your doorstep any time soon, because the Purdue team is aiming for an increase in conductivity of about 100 to 1,000 times before commercial applications are viable.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Purdue study, which was recently published in the journal Macromolecules.

For those of you new to the topic, radical polymers belong to a class of polymers that have small offshoots, called pendants, hanging from a long central chain of molecules.


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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sat 18 Oct 2014, 15:20:26

Superconducting circuits, simplified

mputer chips with superconducting circuits -- circuits with zero electrical resistance -- would be 50 to 100 times as energy-efficient as today's chips, an attractive trait given the increasing power consumption of the massive data centers that power the Internet's most popular sites.

Superconducting chips also promise greater processing power: Superconducting circuits that use so-called Josephson junctions have been clocked at 770 gigahertz, or 500 times the speed of the chip in the iPhone 6.

But Josephson-junction chips are big and hard to make; most problematic of all, they use such minute currents that the results of their computations are difficult to detect. For the most part, they've been relegated to a few custom-engineered signal-detection applications.

In the latest issue of the journal Nano Letters, MIT researchers present a new circuit design that could make simple superconducting devices much cheaper to manufacture. And while the circuits' speed probably wouldn't top that of today's chips, they could solve the problem of reading out the results of calculations performed with Josephson junctions.

The MIT researchers -- Adam McCaughan, a graduate student in electrical engineering, and his advisor, professor of electrical engineering and computer science Karl Berggren -- call their device the nanocryotron, after the cryotron, an experimental computing circuit developed in the 1950s by MIT professor Dudley Buck. The cryotron was briefly the object of a great deal of interest -- and federal funding -- as the possible basis for a new generation of computers, but it was eclipsed by the integrated circuit.

"The superconducting-electronics community has seen a lot of devices come and go, without any real-world application," McCaughan says. "But in our paper, we have already applied our device to applications that will be highly relevant to future work in superconducting computing and quantum communications."

Superconducting circuits are used in light detectors that can register the arrival of a single light particle, or photon; that's one of the applications in which the researchers tested the nanocryotron. McCaughan also wired together several of the circuits to produce a fundamental digital-arithmetic component called a half-adder.


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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sun 02 Nov 2014, 15:21:45

Brace Yourself, Here Comes The Plasmonic Solar Cell Of The Future

We’ve been keeping tabs on the plasmonics scene for a while and we just got wind of an interesting new development from the Netherlands in partnership with Caltech. If the Netherlands connection doesn’t exactly ring your bells, recall that Caltech is the institutional home of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is heavily invested in the related field of photonics.

As for the Netherlands angle, that would be FOM Institute AMOLF, which belongs to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. AMOLF has been partnering with Caltech on plasmonics for a number of years now, so let’s see what they’re up to in terms of influencing the next wave of low cost, high efficiency solar cells.

The Plasmonic Effect

For those of you new to the topic, plasmonics (aka the plasmo-electric effect) refers to the ability of certain metals to capture light and convert it to an electrical charge.

For more details you can check out an article on plasmonics at our sister site PlanetSave, but for now let’s just say that plasmonics refers to electrons that are in an excited state when exposed to light.

Today’s solar cell technology is based on silicon and other semiconductors, so introducing another class of materials into the mix could bust the solar field wide open in terms of cost, efficiency, and application.

Think of the new opportunities afforded by the emerging generation of flexible, lightweight thin film solar cells compared to conventional silicon solar cells and you can see what the future could bring.


Instead of creating rods or pillars, they engineered tiny circuits consisting of a film of gold only 20 nanometers thick, into which they “drilled” holes measuring only 100 nanometers in diameter (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, for those of you keeping score at home).


Image

The figure above, provided by AMOLF, shows (a) a rendering of a metal nanoparticle exposed to light, (b) an electron microscopy image of the nanoscale holes in gold film, (c) a chart of the measurements taken for different spacings between the holes, and (d) the same measurements interpreted for their electrical potential.

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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Graeme » Thu 18 Dec 2014, 21:01:46

Space-based solar power: the energy of the future?

In space there's no atmosphere, it's never cloudy, and in geosynchronous orbits it's never night: a perfect place for a solar power station to harvest uninterrupted power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The concept has been around since the 1940s when science fiction writer Isaac Asimov posited the idea of a robot-manned space station that delivered energy to Earth via microwaves.
Today, the idea is less science fiction than a steadily advancing reality.

Clean energy from above

The United States, China, India and Japan all have projects at various stages of development that would see robots assemble solar arrays that could provide the Earth with massive amounts of clean and renewable energy delivered wirelessly.

Some variants of the idea could even see as much as 1GW of energy beamed to receivers on Earth -- enough to power a large city.

According to Dr Paul Jaffe, spacecraft engineer at the US Naval Research Laboratory, the concept is scientifically sound.

"NASA and the US Department of Energy did a study in the late 70s that cost $20 million at the time and looked at it in pretty great depth," Dr Jaffe told CNN. "The conclusion at that time was that there was nothing wrong with the physics but the real question is the economics."
The cost lies in the number of space launches required to build the power-transmitting satellite. With costs as high as $40,000 per kilogram for some space launches, the final price-tag for the first space-based solar power station could be as high as $20 billion.

Private contractors

While the recent entry of private space companies stands significantly to cut costs, basic physics dictates that getting payloads into space is still an expensive undertaking.
"The subject is revisited every 10 years when the technology changes and some of the factors affecting the economics change."


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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby lpetrich » Fri 02 Jan 2015, 07:44:39

Polymer solar cells look interesting, though they still have a way to go. Semiconducting polymers seem like they could also be useful as electrodes in electrolytic cells and fuel cells. If they could replace platinum, or at least drastically reduce the amount of platinum necessary, then that would be a big step forward for both technologies. I've found various articles about research into polymer electrodes for both technologies.

Superconductivity? There's a certain problem. Superconductivity requires supercold temperatures. Like liquid-helium temperatures for most practical applications of it. Helium boils at about 4 K -- that's 4 Centigrade degrees above absolute zero. 0 C, the melting point of water, is about 273.15 K. That's why superconductivity has mostly been used to make superstrong magnetic fields. One needs a liquid-helium refrigerator to make the effect happen, and it's easiest to afford one when it's for a big magnet.

Outer space? From the numbers I'd cited earlier, the cost to send a common solar panel into orbit is about 400 times its retail price, and that assumes a rocket that's fully loaded with that kind of panel.

I checked on that great fount of knowledge, Wikipedia, and I found several articles: Launch service provider, Comparison of orbital launch systems, List of orbital launch systems, List of private spaceflight companies, List of government space agencies There are now several companies offering launch services, companies based in the US, Europe, Russia, China, and India.

The downside for rocket development comes from the nature of the beast: orbit-capable rockets are expensive and complicated, there aren't many individual ones used, they have to work right the first time, and that time is the only one that nearly all of them get used. Part of the expense comes from using liquid propellants, and often cryogenic ones, something that is a necessity for getting high exhaust velocities. One can get as much as 3 km/s from a solid rocket, but about 3.5 km/s for kerosene and liquid oxygen, and 4.6 km/s for liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen (Solid-fuel rocket - Wikipedia).

So it's not surprising that rocket design has tended to be rather conservative. The Russians have been using variants of the Soyuz design for about 50 years now. The ULA's Delta II rockets have been in use for some 26 years. Even SpaceX has been somewhat conservative, using its Merlin rocket engine in all its rockets. Its first one, Falcon 1, used 1 of them, and its current one, Falcon 9, uses 10 of them, 9 in its first stage and 1 in its second stage. Its upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket will be essentially a Falcon 9 with two strap-on boosters that are essentially two Falcon 9 first stages, thus giving a grand total of 28 Merlin engines.

So I don't see much prospect of lowering launch costs by a factor of 400 or so, what would be necessary to make orbiting solar power stations economically feasible.
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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Keith_McClary » Sat 03 Jan 2015, 18:38:31

"I could go on, but let’s veer off in another direction instead."

– The Archdruid
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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby dolanbaker » Sat 03 Jan 2015, 18:58:22

Keith_McClary wrote:Image
boingboing

I remember those things being advertised in the 1970s, claimed to have smoother ignition amongst other things.
Ronald Coase, Nobel Economic Sciences, said in 1991 “If we torture the data long enough, it will confess.”
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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby lpetrich » Thu 08 Jan 2015, 08:52:36

I've discovered Launch Costs - United Launch Alliance
Its price for one Atlas V launch is $165 million, with $100 million for additional launches in a series. A low-end Atlas V can launch 9.8 metric tons into LEO (Atlas V - United Launch Alliance). So that's about $10,000/kg, twice as much as SpaceX's quote.

The ULA has what looks like some FUD about competitors like SpaceX:
There is a reason customers rely on ULA for mission assurance – you cannot risk a multi-billion dollar satellite that may have taken 10 years to build. It’s not just the cost of a replacement satellite. It is the essential capability that our troops and national security depend on. It would be risky to bet on a potential new entrant who is not yet certified, has a history of launch delays, and an overcommitted manifest that they may not be able to deliver on.


From Ariane 5 ECA - Spaceflight101, the Ariane 5 has a launch cost of about $10,000/kg, comparable to the ULA's launch cost.


So the ULA and Arianespace have launch costs about 800 times that solar panel's cost.
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Re: Future Energy Technology News Pt 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sat 13 Jun 2015, 19:15:47

Please watch this 13-minute video.

10 Energy Sources That Will Power Our Future

When we run out of fossil fuels, how are we going to power our planet?

You've probably heard quite a bit about solar panels, wind turbines and nuclear energy, but there are quite a few sources of power that could revolutionize the way we do things. From a recent geothermal discovery in Iceland, to the development of windows that can harness the power of the sun, some of these might sound crazy, but in reality, they're just around the corner.
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