Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

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With sadness, I’m sharing the news that my Talkshop co-blogger Tim Channon passed away on Friday. Tim had been bravely battling with cancer for some time, and was still upbeat and lively-minded when I spoke with him last week. Since then unfortunately, medical complications set in.

Tim was one of a kind. A humorous, thoughtful and technically brilliant individual. His contribution to our understanding of cyclic phenomena through the analysis software he wrote propelled me into my own research. His patient recording of weather data and survey of UK weather stations demonstrate the depth of interest and passion he had for bringing facts to bear on the climate debate. His dedication, skill and good natured rebukes against uninformed speculation and bad theory puts him in the Pantheon of great sceptical thinkers and scientists.

Tim will be missed and remembered.

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It’s the tube train with a difference – viable public transport or a fairground novelty? Testing is under way.

The first images of the Hyperloop One test track were shown off during the Middle East Rail conference, demonstrating progress on the high-speed transport system that promises to be faster than air travel, as Sott.net reports.

Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd unveiled never-before-seen images of the ‘DevLoop’ development site, in Las Vegas, during the 11th annual Middle East Rail conference in Dubai on Tuesday. The images show an aerial view of the construction of the world’s first full-system Hyperloop test site, with a test track of 500 meters or about one-third of a mile long and 11 feet wide.

The Los Angeles startup, Hyperloop One, has designed a near supersonic transport system that uses levitating pods that travel through a low-pressure tube at speeds up to 760 miles per hour. The goal is to make a test track during the first half of 2017.
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Electric car charging station [credit: Wikipedia]

Electric car charging station [credit: Wikipedia]


The battery can be made from ‘earth-friendly materials’ like sodium, which can be extracted from seawater.

A new longer-lasting battery technology that can’t catch fire has been developed by a team of engineers led by 94-year-old Professor John Goodenough, the co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, the Daily Mail Online reports.

Lithium-ion batteries are one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries used in many mobile devices, but they can sometimes explode and catch fire – as was the case for Samsung’s Galaxy 7 exploding battery fiasco.

But this new battery technology could increase the distance electric cars can drive for between charges, and recharge within minutes rather than hours.
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Vertical axis wind turbine [credit: Challenergy]

Vertical axis wind turbine [credit: Challenergy]


‘Wind power on steroids’ or another madcap ‘sustainability’ scheme that never gets off the ground? No mention of storage, and typhoons are far from everyday events.

In what could be the ultimate clean energy, Japan is set to start harnessing the energy of typhoons, with wind turbines that are able to withstand intense storms – and turn them into power, reports the IB Times.

Typhoon turbines, also known as the Magnus Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT), were first thought up by Atsushi Shimizu, chief executive of Challenergy Inc. After seeing the widespread destruction caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he wanted to find a way to provide a safe and sustainable source of energy.
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Kingdom of Judah [credit: IB Times]

Kingdom of Judah [credit: IB Times]


The ‘two Iron Age spikes’ in magnetism could be worth investigating further.

Ancient clay jar handles can act as a record of the Earth’s magnetic history, a new study finds, confirming evidence of sudden, sharp spikes in the strength of the field, as the IB Times reports.

Fragments of pottery were historically stamped with an emblem of the rulers of the Kingdom Judah, which encompassed Jerusalem and nearby areas. These jars were also marked by the state of the Earth’s geomagnetic field at its time of construction, offering researchers a unique chance to reconstruct the past of the Earth’s magnetic field.

The study is based on the technique of archaeomagnetism. Some minerals in clay are magnetic, and before they are heated they are aligned randomly. As the pottery is heated during the firing process, the magnetic particles tend to align with the Earth’s magnetic field. The stronger the magnetic field, the greater the degree of alignment in the magnetic minerals.
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Credit: cleantechnica.com

Credit: cleantechnica.com


One claim by the developer is that ‘its devices could increase the revenue of a wind farm by 25 per cent, through increased output and exploiting higher wholesale prices when the wind isn’t blowing’. It has to be said that battery and storage innovations have a poor record of turning into commercial success, but as ever time will tell.

An Adelaide company has developed a silicon storage device that it claims costs a tenth as much as a lithium ion battery to store the same energy and is eyeing a $10 million public float, reports Sott.net.

1414 Degrees had its origins in patented CSIRO research and has built a prototype molten silicon storage device which it is testing at its Tonsley Innovation Precinct site south of Adelaide.

Chairman Kevin Moriarty says 1414 Degrees’ process can store 500 kilowatt hours of energy in a 70-centimetre cube of molten silicon – about 36 times as much energy as Tesla’s 14KWh Powerwall 2 lithium ion home storage battery in about the same space.
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fusiongrid
The latest contenders for the elusive fusion crown are reviewed here. Chasing the ‘holy grail’ of energy is an expensive and time-consuming business, as IB Times reports.

In a world struggling to kick its addiction to fossil fuels and feed its growing appetite for energy, there’s one technology in development that almost sounds too good to be true: nuclear fusion, writes Matthew Hall.

If it works, fusion power offers vast amounts of clean energy with a near limitless fuel source and virtually zero carbon emissions. That’s if it works. But there are teams of researchers around the world and billions of dollars being spent on making sure it does.

In February last year a new chapter of fusion energy research commenced with the formal opening of Wendelstein 7-X. This is an experimental €1 billion (A$1.4bn) fusion reactor built in Greifswald, Germany, to test a reactor design called a stellarator.
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Solar panel road [image credit: Wattway]

Solar panel road [image credit: Wattway]


Five million Euros to power a few street lights sounds expensive. What effect traffic has on the panels remains to be seen, but dirt could be an issue.

A solar panel road, claimed to be the world’s first, has opened in France, reports the Daily Mail Online.

The 0.6 miles (1km) stretch of road in the small Normandy village of Tourouvre-au-Perche is paved with 2,880 solar panels, which convert energy from the sun into electricity. It is hoped that the the road could eventually provide enough energy to power the small village’s street lights.

The ‘Wattway’ road features 2,800 sq m (9,186 sq ft) of panels and was showcased today at an inauguration ceremony attended by French minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal.

The road is expected to produce 280 MWh of electricity a year.
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Former US iron mine

Former US iron mine


Whatever the economics of this plan may be, it highlights the fact that lack of storage capacity is one of the serious drawbacks of renewable energy. Phys.org reporting.

Some look at an abandoned, centuries-old iron mine in New York’s Adirondacks and see a relic. An ambitious group of engineers sees the shafts in Mineville as a new way to provide a steady flow of electricity in a growing market for renewable energy.

They are pitching a plan to circulate some of the millions of gallons of groundwater that have flooded the mine shafts over the years to power an array of 100 hydroelectric turbines a half-mile underground.

They envision the operation as a solution for solar and wind power producers, who need ways to ensure an uninterrupted flow of energy when the sun isn’t shining and winds are still.

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The evolution of gas reciprocating engines 

Posted: December 10, 2016 by oldbrew in Energy, innovation
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Experts say reciprocating gas engines can respond faster to load changes than any other prime mover, can compete with small gas turbine systems and also help fill in an efficient way the gap left by the lack of energy storage in most grid systems, as Power Engineering reports.

In southern Minnesota, where wind turbines and ethanol plants are commonplace, two communities have turned to reciprocating engine technology to meet their future power generation needs.

The Fairmont Energy Station, a 25-MW project completed in 2014, and the Owatonna Energy Station, a 38-MW project now under construction, feature highly flexible, quick-starting, low-maintenance reciprocating engines suited for today’s market, which places a premium on rapid-cycling capabilities.

Minnesota is home to about 100 wind power projects and ranks No. 7 in net wind power production in the U.S. That means Minnesota power producers must have reliable backup power to fill the sudden gaps created by growing supplies of intermittent wind power. The $30 million Fairmont plant is well suited for the job, capable of reaching full capacity in just eight minutes. That’s significantly faster than power plants using the latest gas turbine technology.

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Achates engine design

Achates engine design


That’s the sales pitch for an opposed-piston alternative to today’s vehicle engines. No valves, no cylinder head. But will it get off the drawing board? WIRED reporting.

IF YOU POP THE hood on your car and yank out the plastic cover beneath it, you’ll see a beautiful bit of mind-boggling engineering: the internal combustion engine.

Today’s engines harness around 100 explosions of fuel and oxygen each second, generating massive power with minimal emissions. That’s great, but tightening pollution standards around the world mean automobiles must become increasingly efficient.

Electric cars offer one way forward, but they remain expensive and hobbled by range anxiety—the fear, often unfounded, that you’ll end up stranded with a dead battery. Internal combustion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, with advancements like turbochargers, direct injection, and variable valve timing squeezing more miles from every gallon.

Achates Power in San Diego believes it has a better way: Ditch the design that has dominated engine design for the past 130 years in favor of an idea abandoned in the 1940s and see a 30 percent bump in efficiency.

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Credit: atlanticsuperconnection.com

Credit: atlanticsuperconnection.com

The proposed route in to the UK is via Scotland. Could be interesting with Scottish leaders keen on leaving the UK.

A multibillion pound project aimed at using the power generated by Icelandic volcanoes to fuel British households has lined up a major French infrastructure investor to back its development.

Sky News has learnt that Meridiam, a global asset manager…has agreed to finance part of the development cost of a new 1,000-mile-long pipeline between Iceland and the UK.

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Lift-off [image credit: NASA]

Lift-off [image credit: NASA]


Forecasters will get pictures “like they’ve never seen before” reports Phys.org. ‘More data, more often, much more detailed’ is promised.

The most advanced weather satellite ever built rocketed into space Saturday night, part of an $11 billion effort to revolutionize forecasting and save lives.

This new GOES-R spacecraft will track U.S. weather as never before: hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, volcanic ash clouds, wildfires, lightning storms, even solar flares. Indeed, about 50 TV meteorologists from around the country converged on the launch site—including NBC’s Al Roker—along with 8,000 space program workers and guests.

“What’s so exciting is that we’re going to be getting more data, more often, much more detailed, higher resolution,” Roker said. In the case of tornadoes, “if we can give people another 10, 15, 20 minutes, we’re talking about lives being saved.”

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Subaru telescope, Hawaii (far left) [image credit: Wikipedia]

Subaru telescope, Hawaii (far left) [image credit: Wikipedia]


Being able to measure things like the mass, temperature and atmospheric composition of exoplanets should generate some interesting new data for analysis, with possible implications for climate theory.

A team of scientists and engineers led by Princeton researchers recently reported the successful operation of a new instrument for the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii that will allow astronomers to make direct observations of planets orbiting nearby stars.

The instrument, dubbed CHARIS, was designed and built by a team led by N. Jeremy Kasdin, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. It allows astronomers to isolate light reflecting from planets larger than Jupiter and then analyze the light to determine details about the planets’ size, age and atmospheric constituents.

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Gal Fridman, co-founder of Aquarius Engines, with the firm's single-piston car engine [image credit: phys.org / Aquarius]

Gal Fridman, co-founder of Aquarius Engines, with the firm’s single-piston car engine [image credit: phys.org / Aquarius]

Too good to be true? If not, what might the future hold for this innovation? Phys.org takes a look.

An Israeli firm says a super-efficient engine it has created could drastically reduce fuel consumption and help power an auto industry revolution as manufacturers search for environmentally sound alternatives.

Industry analysts, however, question the reinvented internal combustion engine’s chances of success at a time when purely electric car technology is advancing and attracting investors.

The invention from Israeli-based Aquarius Engines is currently being discussed by France’s Peugeot, the firm said.

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Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

Posted: October 24, 2016 by tallbloke in Education, History, innovation

leeuwenhoeksmall

. . . my work, which I’ve done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof.Antony van Leeuwenhoek. Letter of June 12, 1716


Antony van Leeuwenhoek was an unlikely scientist. A tradesman of Delft, Holland, he came from a family of tradesmen, had no fortune, received no higher education or university degrees, and knew no languages other than his native Dutch. This would have been enough to exclude him from the scientific community of his time completely. Yet with skill, diligence, an endless curiosity, and an open mind free of the scientific dogma of his day, Leeuwenhoek succeeded in making some of the most important discoveries in the history of biology. It was he who discovered bacteria, free-living and parasitic microscopic protists, sperm cells, blood cells, microscopic nematodes and rotifers, and much more. His researches, which were widely circulated, opened up an entire world of microscopic life to the awareness of scientists.

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clexit-header

After several years of fighting, and losing, various elections, winning the EU referendum campaign has been a real tonic for me. If it had been fought on the same electoral ‘first past the post’ basis constituency by constituency, ‘the Brexit party’ would have won 70% of the seats. In my home region of Yorkshire and Humberside, where I was a Leave campaign director, it would have been a landslide, with all but a few of its 54 constituencies voting for an exit from the EU.

While Brexit is being negotiated, we are starting another campaign – Clexit. The aim is to get all nations to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. The founders, Marc Morano in the States, Christopher Monckton in the UK and Viv Forbes in Australia, have now invited me to head up the Clexit-UK campaign. I’ll have more details soon, discussions are ongoing.

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Small modular reactors [credit: ANS Nuclear Cafe]

Small modular reactors [credit: ANS Nuclear Cafe]


Climate News Network reports on a possible alternative to the mega-sized nuclear plants of the last century.

The nuclear industry sees the UK as a springboard for its plans to expand in the next 20 years, especially as a pioneer in the deployment of a new breed of small reactors.

Despite the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union, the industry is confident that many small reactors will be built in Britain and that the country will become a showcase for the industry and an exporter of the technology. The ideal is for each town to have its own reactor.

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Stirling engine model  [image credit: Wikipedia]

Stirling engine model [image credit: Wikipedia]


Daily Mail Online reports on a new twist to the Stirling engine concept. Will the motor industry be overjoyed? Possibly not.

For thrifty motorists, squeezing an extra few miles out of each gallon of fuel can become an obsession. But some have been striving for a semi-mythical goal of achieving 100 miles per gallon of fuel from their vehicles.

Now an inventor in Texas claims to have built an engine that can reach this efficient milestone – using a design that is more than 200 years old.

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Small modular reactors [credit: ANS Nuclear Cafe]

Small modular reactors [credit: ANS Nuclear Cafe]


A thousand or two of these and Hinkley Point C could be surplus to requirements. — PEI reporting.

A UK-based small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) development consortium has announced a co-operation agreement with the Polish National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) aimed at deploying its U-Battery technology in Poland.  

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