Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Solar train – OK for millionaires?

Posted: December 1, 2019 by oldbrew in innovation, Travel
Tags: ,

A bit of fun for tourists, but an electric bus would have been a lot cheaper.

Credit: Railfuture


Well, 10% solar-powered – that’s the target. Of course solar has its variables, mainly weather conditions and hours of daylight. So is this ‘solution’ worth the bother and cost, or not? The era of batteries on train locomotives has also arrived – see ‘Adding a third dimension – battery power’ here.

How many times have we looked at clever innovation and wondered why on earth no one thought of doing it before?

Often the simplest of ideas seem to lead to the most elegant of engineering solutions, says RailEngineer.

The truth is, of course, that invention is only half of the story. Sometimes the right meeting of minds must happen before a bright idea can become a reality.

To the best of our knowledge, the direct supply of solar power to rail traction systems has never been done, anywhere in the world.

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Credit: scienceblog.com


It’s claimed this invention could be used to improve any type of cooling system.

Imagine a device that can sit outside under blazing sunlight on a clear day, and without using any power cool things down by more than 23 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).

It almost sounds like magic, but a new system designed by researchers at MIT and in Chile can do exactly that says TechXplore.

The device, which has no moving parts, works by a process called radiative cooling.

It blocks incoming sunlight to keep from heating it up, and at the same time efficiently radiates infrared light—which is essentially heat—that passes straight out into the sky and into space, cooling the device significantly below the ambient air temperature.

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Experimental Aluminium-Air power cell

The military developed and used ALuminium-Air power cell tech decades ago. New discoveries and advances in electrolyte mean it might become viable for commercial and domestic use. The Daily Mail has this:

Two years ago, Jackson claims, motor manufacturers lobbied the Foreign Office to bar him from a prestigious conference for European businesses and governments at the British embassy in Paris, which was supposed to agree a blueprint for ensuring all new cars are electric by 2040. The bid to exclude him failed. Now, with the signing of the Austin deal, it seems he is finally on the road to success.

He has also secured a £108,000 grant for further research from the Advanced Propulsion Centre, a partner of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. His technology has been validated by two French universities.

He says: ‘It has been a tough battle but I’m finally making progress. From every logical standpoint, this is the way to go.’

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CRYOBattery plant (model) [credit: Highview Power]


The fact that this kind of thing gets touted at all says a lot about the state of electricity generation in today’s trace-gas-fearing climate obsessed world. They talk of a ‘carbon free future’, but ignore the reality that world demand for oil, coal and gas is rising year on year as prosperity spreads around the globe and populations continue to increase.

It sounds like magic but it is real – a plan to store cheap night-time wind energy in the form of liquid air, reports BBC News.

Here is how: you use the off-peak electricity to compress and cool air in a tank, so it becomes a freezing liquid.

When demand peaks, you warm the liquid back into a gas, and as that expands it drives a turbine to create more electricity.

The technology, created by a backyard inventor, is about to hit the big time.

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Credit: UN/WWAP


The report says the productivity of the new water harvester is ’10 times that of the previous device and 100 times higher than the early proof-of-concept device’, and that ‘no traces of metal or organics have been found in the water’.

In 2017, UC Berkeley chemists demonstrated that a new MOF design could rapidly adsorb water from even dry air, allowing it to be condensed and collected for drinking, reports TechXplore

A second-generation MOF can now cycle through adsorption and desorption in 20 minutes, allowing continous collection of more than a liter per day per kilogram of MOF using solar power.

The new MOF is the basis of a planned microwave-sized device that delivers 7-10 liters per day.

With water scarcity a growing problem worldwide, University of California, Berkeley, researchers are close to producing a microwave-sized water harvester that will allow you to pull all the water you need directly from the air—even in the hot, dry desert.

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Ex-drone, somewhere in Siberia


Incontinent pigeons could be the least of pedestrians’ worries if any of these headline-seeking flights of fancy come to fruition. Election soon?

Funding will support new technologies including electric passenger planes, flying urban taxis and freight-carrying drones, says Energy Live News.

Up to £300 million of investment has been announced for the development of cleaner and greener forms of transport in Britain.

The government will provide £125 million of funding, which will be supported by industry co-investment of up to £175 million for new technologies including electric passenger planes, flying urban taxis and freight-carrying drones.

It is part of a new Future of Flight Challenge announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which will be delivered by UK Research and Innovation.

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Solar panel road [image credit: Wattway]


The rotting leaves didn’t help, says ScienceAlert. Neither did the local tractors. Solar panels should be angled towards the Sun anyway, but that kills the whole road idea.

In July, the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported that the 0.6-mile (1 kilometre) solar road was a fiasco.

In December 2016, when the trial road was unveiled, the French Ministry of the Environment called it “unprecedented”. French officials said the road, made of photovoltaic panels, would generate electricity to power streetlights in Tourouvre, a local town.

But less than three years later, a report published by Global Construction Review says France’s road dream may be over.

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They call it ‘the world’s most ambitious project‘. Mind-boggling expenditure if it ever gets built. The solar city aspect of the plan gets panned here.

The riches of Silicon Valley have enabled some extravagant and quixotic projects, but they’ve got nothing on what oil money can do, says MNNOFA News.

A new report from The Wall Street Journal shares some of the proposals for Saudi Arabia’s biggest megaproject yet: a city built in the desert named Neom, where robots will outnumber humans and hologram teachers will educate genetically-enhanced students.

The details are stunning. It’s a mixture of dystopian fiction (AI surveillance cameras everywhere!) and childish imaginings (let’s build a robot dinosaur park!). Taken together, the plans remind of you what a dedicated nine-year-old can achieve in Minecraft. Yes, the scale and ambition are impressive, but it’s not like you could do this in real life, right?

Cloud seeding? Robot servants? A fake moon!? Sure, why not.

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H/T The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

Well, possibly but it involves carbon capture. The costs and practicality have to be demonstrated first, and that tends to undermine most of such claims. Worth a try though.

If the Net Zero power plant performs as expected this is a real game changer for natural gas, says Forbes.

Since the United States is sitting on more natural gas than any country in the world, and it’s getting cheaper to get it out of the ground, this is no small game to change.

An actual game changing technology is being demonstrated as we sit in our air-conditioned abodes reading this. And it is being demonstrated by North Carolina–based Net Power at a new plant in La Porte, Texas.

The process involves burning fossil fuel with oxygen instead of air to generate electricity without emitting any carbon dioxide (CO2). Not using air also avoids generating NOx, the main atmospheric and health contaminant emitted from gas plants.

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E-truck test route [image credit: transport-online.de]


Back to the future? This is the truck equivalent of the trolleybuses that operated in some UK cities until the 1960s, and are still in use in a few other countries – except that these trucks do still have engines. Another expensive and over-engineered attempt to make a tiny reduction in trace gases in the atmosphere, in pursuit of futile ‘climate targets’ and to fool the public that such things matter.

Germany has opened its first autobahn test track for overhead power line (catenary) e-trucks, the environment ministry (BMU) announced in a press release [which says: ‘The Federal Environment Ministry has funded the construction of the plant with 14.6 million euros. For the field trial in Hesse, which runs until the end of 2022, a further 15.3 million is available’].

After years on a non-public testing ground, five hybrid test trucks will use the five kilometre long autobahn section between Frankfurt and Darmstadt in the state of Hesse until 2022, reports Clean Energy Wire.

The trucks are equipped with electric and diesel engines as well as batteries that can be quickly recharged via the overhead lines.

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The makers claim that ‘global and orbital travel will never be the same’.

A new air-breathing rocket engine is ready for a major round of testing in the next 18 months after having passed a preliminary design review by the European Space Agency (ESA), reports Space.com.

The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), which is being developed by the U.K. company Reaction Engines, can switch between two modes.

In aircraft-engine mode, it uses oxygen from the atmosphere, and in rocket-engine mode, it burns an oxidizer carried onboard together with the fuel liquid hydrogen.

The technology, deemed particularly promising for suborbital spaceflight and supersonic intercontinental travel, could one day revolutionize space transportation, advocates say.

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Image credit: Biocarbon Engineering


This report is talking about coastal mangrove forests in particular. The target is over a billion new trees, but it’s claimed two operators with ten drones could plant 400,000 trees a day.

British engineers have created a seed-planting drone which could help restore the world’s forests, reports the London Evening Standard.

Biocarbon Engineering, a start-up based in Oxford, designed the drones to fire seed missiles across fields, planting hundreds of potential trees in a matter of minutes.

In September 2018, the drones were deployed in a field just south of Yangon, Myanmar.

The seeds they sowed have since grown into tiny mangrove saplings, about 20-inches tall.

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Thermal battery


Various battery proposals sound promising, but few seem to survive the development stage and make it commercially. This outfit says it already has some sales, and plans to ‘build 100-megawatt-plus installations within a couple of years.’ Will it work out that way?

A South Australia-based startup says it’s built a thermal energy storage device with a lifetime of at least 20 years​ that can store six times more energy than lithium-ion batteries per volume, for 60-80 percent of the price, reports New Atlas.

South Australia has recently put the world’s biggest lithium battery into operation – but perhaps it should’ve waited.

Climate Change Technologies, also known as CCT Energy Storage, has launched its TED (Thermal Energy Device) with a set of remarkable claims.

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Desalination in California


As usual with these types of experiment, nothing can be assumed unless or until the tests of economic and industrial viability have been passed. They say the electrode ‘is able to go more than a thousand hours’ but that’s still only a few weeks. Storage and management of hydrogen is known to be tricky and expensive compared to most other fuels.

Stanford researchers have devised a way to generate hydrogen fuel using solar power, electrodes and saltwater from San Francisco Bay, reports Phys.org.

The findings, published March 18 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate a new way of separating hydrogen and oxygen gas from seawater via electricity.

Existing water-splitting methods rely on highly purified water, which is a precious resource and costly to produce.

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Maybe there’s some military angle to this. As the report says, it ‘will be difficult and costly’. Capturing the sun’s power will be cloud-free, but when transmitting to the ground the clouds are still there.

China wants to put a solar power station in orbit by 2050 and is building a test facility to find the best way to send power to the ground, reports MACH (NBC News).

As the green energy revolution accelerates, solar farms have become a familiar sight across the nation and around the world.

But China is taking solar power to a whole new level. The nation has announced plans to put a solar power station in orbit by 2050, a feat that would make it the first nation to harness the sun’s energy in space and beam it to Earth.

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These types of tech ‘breakthroughs’ tend to have a low survival rate in the real world, so we await any developments – or not.

Bioscience engineers at KU Leuven have created a solar panel that produces hydrogen gas from moisture in the air, reports Science Business.

After ten years of development, the panel can now produce 250 litres per day – a world record, according to the researchers.

Twenty of these solar panels could provide electricity and heat for one family for an entire winter. 

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Top down view of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, ca. 1964 [image credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory]


H/T Discover Magazine

The Oak Ridge molten salt program operated in the mid-1960s but was terminated in January 1973. Could something like it make a comeback in today’s climate-obsessed world? One obvious selling point is the ability to consume spent nuclear fuel from traditional nuclear reactors.

Molten salt nuclear reactors may be the key to producing clean power without the dangers of a meltdown, says The Crux.
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Troels Schönfeldt can trace his path to becoming a nuclear energy entrepreneur back to 2009, when he and other young physicists at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen started getting together for an occasional “beer and nuclear” meetup.

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The coming revolution in LED lighting

Posted: March 1, 2019 by oldbrew in Energy, innovation
Tags: ,

LED street lighting



There’s more to LED lighting than meets the eye, for example in durability and reduced energy use, as Phys.org reports. But claims they can help the climate seem somewhat starry-eyed.

A revolution in energy-efficient, environmentally-sound, and powerfully-flexible lighting is coming to businesses and homes, according to a paper in latest special energy issue of Optics Express, the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal.

The paper envisions the future of lighting—a future with widespread use of light emitting diodes (LEDs), which offer a number of obvious and subtle advantages over traditional light bulbs.

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Credit: carsdirect.com


As with all battery-related news, it has to be treated with caution. Such ideas more often than not fail to turn into practical realities.

New technology promises an end to motorists’ ‘range anxiety’, reports NBC News.

Electric vehicles are easier on the environment than their gasoline-powered counterparts, but their long charging times and the scarcity of charging stations can make life hard for the eco-conscious motorists who drive them.

Now help may be on the horizon.

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