Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Guest post from Doomberg. Original is posted at https://doomberg.substack.com/p/where-stuff-comes-from

this dovetails in sinister fashion with the basic idea that any sufficiently advanced technology cannot be distinguished from magic. highly evolved capitalism becomes such a technology and the largess and plenty it produces gets mistaken for a property of the universe rather than a made thing, a thing that must be created rather than simply reaped.” – el gato malo

Modern society is awash in stuff. There’s stuff at the grocery store. At the hardware store. At Amazon and eBay. We eat stuff, wear stuff, buy stuff, and store stuff. Click some buttons, swipe a card, tap a phone – and presto! Stuff appears, like magic.

At least for now.

We are a carbon-based species. Carbon forms the foundation of our bodies and the external world we experience. Almost everything we touch is carbon-based. As I type this, I’m sitting on a couch made predominantly from foamed polyurethane, my feet resting on a carpet made from synthetic nylon. I just sipped water from a bottle made of polyethylene terephthalate, which I then placed on a coffee table made of wood.

Not only is our stuff mostly based on carbon, but the energy required to manipulate materials – to make stuff – comes predominately from carbon-based feedstocks as well. While not all stuff is based itself on carbon – copper wire is made of copper, after all – we can’t make use of it without first extracting energy from carbon fuels. In other words, we can’t mine copper without carbon. Those excavators, dump trucks, and bulldozers aren’t going to run themselves.

Since energy is life, mastering the chemistry of carbon and harnessing the energy of stuff to make other stuff is core to the human endeavor.

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Image credit: Rail Technology Magazine

The BBC headline says ‘dry ice’ [etc.], which is the solid form of carbon dioxide. When deployed ‘The dry ice then quickly turns back into gas’. Surely that won’t do for climate obsessives?
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The new method of removing leaves from tracks will be trialled across northern England in the coming weeks, reports BBC News.

The technique, developed by University of Sheffield engineers, involves blasting tracks with dry ice from a passenger train.

It will be trialled by operator Northern in the coming weeks.

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Windy Standard wind farm, Scotland [credit: RWE.com]

Ideas, opinions, feedback etc. are invited here. It could be said they’ve already had decades to think about this, but any negativity will no doubt be ignored. Existing uses include children’s play areas and bike sheds, but there’s only so many of those that would find a place.
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One wind farm company is looking for imaginative ways to repurpose turbines at the end of their lives, says BBC News.

When Windy Standard was built in Dumfries and Galloway in the mid-1990s, it was Scotland’s second largest wind farm.

Now it is coming to the end of its functional life and the old turbines are set to be replaced by more powerful machines.

But what happens to the original turbines? Owner Fred Olsen Renewables wants to find creative and sustainable ways to ensure they do not end up in landfill.

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rectenna

Credit: NASA

The UK is not alone in what’s billed as a new space race. China for one is in the game. If you think you’ve heard it all before, you probably have
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Vast solar power satellites in Earth’s orbit, beaming energy back to Earth. It’s a serious idea for green energy from the UK Space Agency, say insurers MS Amlin.

In one of his early dystopian short stories, the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov imagined a mile-wide space station that could “feed solar energy to the planets”.

Published in 1941, under the title Reason, it described a fantastical “energy converter” that gathered sunlight and beamed it across the entire solar system.

Some 80 years later, Asimov’s flight of fancy is starting to take real shape.

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enlil1

ENLIL vertical axis wind turbine

Most of the traffic will be powered by the supposedly dreaded fossil fuels, but never mind. Natural wind can also play a part. It’s the impression of trendy modernity and conformity to prevalent climate theories that counts, presumably, as the amount of electricity produced will be limited, to say the least.
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Istanbul has installed wind turbines that generate electricity using the air turbulence generated by traffic, reports The Independent.

ENLIL is a vertical turbine developed by Istanbul Technical University and tech firm Devecitech have been placed on roadsides in Turkey’s largest city to harness the wind generated by passing vehicles, and to soak up solar energy at the same time.

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iso-tech2

Credit: Infinite Power

Are power companies and solar panel producers getting nervous yet? If not, they may see difficulties ahead for this idea.
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Infinite Power’s breakthrough is a semiconductor that can convert high energy beta particles, X-rays, and gamma rays into electricity.

The Infinite Power cells function similarly to a photovoltaic solar cell, with two critical differences: The precise materials and design of the cells allows us to replace solar radiation with high energy releases from natural decay of radioisotopes.

Critically, our proprietary semiconductor can withstand higher energy releases associated with radioisotope decay over a long period of time.

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nuclear_battery

Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

‘Plug and play’ nuclear power in a box, or container, is the basic idea.
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We may be on the brink of a new paradigm for nuclear power, a group of nuclear specialists suggested recently in The Bridge, the journal of the National Academy of Engineering. TechXplore reporting.

Much as large, expensive, and centralized computers gave way to the widely distributed PCs of today, a new generation of relatively tiny and inexpensive factory-built reactors, designed for autonomous plug-and-play operation similar to plugging in an oversized battery, is on the horizon, they say.

These proposed systems could provide heat for industrial processes or electricity for a military base or a neighborhood, run unattended for five to 10 years, and then be trucked back to the factory for refurbishment.

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buoyant-energy

Image credit: buoyant-energy.com

That’s the headline, but is ‘novel’ its only merit? Buoyant Energy is described as promising but then, aren’t they all? Energy storage on a meaningful scale seems as far away as ever, having rejected the obvious ones: coal, oil, gas and sometimes even nuclear.
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What do pipes and anchors have to do with storing energy? More than you might think, suggests TechXplore.

A new IIASA-led study explored the potential of a lesser known, but promising sustainable energy storage system called Buoyancy Energy Storage.

There is general consensus that renewable energy sources will play an important role in ensuring a healthier and more sustainable future for the planet and its people, and many countries are indeed already seeing such technologies displacing “dirty” fossil fuels in the power sector in an effort to lower emissions. [Talkshop comment – CO2 emissions have absolutely nothing to do with dirt].

The biggest problem with renewable energy sources, however, is that power supply is intermittent, meaning that the energy output at any given time does not necessarily meet the demand at that time.

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flyingferry

Image credit: Brittany Ferries

Battery weight is always a problem for electric-powered flight. No reason to think this type of machine would be any different, meaning the economics of the idea remain questionable.
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Ferry operator Brittany Ferries has announced that it will work with US-based start-up Regent Craft to develop sea-skimming “flying ferries” that could reduce sailing times between England and France to as little as 40 minutes, says E&T.

Brittany Ferries described the proposed battery-powered vehicle as combining “the convenience of passenger ferries with the comfort of hydrofoils, the aerodynamic efficiency of hovercraft and the speed of aircraft”.

It resembles a small aircraft which skims the surface of the sea. It uses the wing-in ground effect, which would involve riding on a cushion of air trapped between a wing and the water surface; this is similar to how a hovercraft supports itself as it moves.

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RR_SMR2

Rolls-Royce’s revised reactor building design.

As most of the UK’s existing reactors will have closed down by 2030, time for dither and delay is over, or should be. The percentage of reliable electricity on the grid system is already sinking too fast due to climate obsessions.

H/T The GWPF
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The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the UK Small Modular Reactor (SMR) project has revamped the proposed mini reactors to increase their output.

The factory-built reactors will now generate 470 megawatts, enough to provide electricity to a million homes.

The project, launched in 2015, aims to bring ten mini nuclear reactors into use by 2035, with the first due to enter service around 2030.

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biomassThe notion of buying a climate with the aid of future tech is looking as far away as ever. Certainly not within the dreamt-up deadlines we’re fed with almost daily, at the present rate of ‘progress’. The obvious solution being of course to ditch the unscientific ‘net zero’ fantasies and rejoin the real world, but that’s too much to ask of the climate obsessives running most governments today.
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Global climate targets can only be reached with a major acceleration in clean-energy innovation, as many of the technologies required to bring down CO2 emissions are currently only at the prototype or demonstration phase.

This is the conclusion of a joint report released Tuesday from the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), reports DW.com.

“Around half the emissions reductions to get to net zero by 2050 may need to come from technologies that are not yet on the market,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol in a press release.

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Orbital02They keep trying, but tidal turbines have yet to make it to the big league in terms of competing with established alternatives like wind turbines. The report calls it a vessel.
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Scottish floating tidal turbine technology provider Orbital Marine Power has successfully launched its 2MW tidal turbine, the Orbital O2, from the Port of Dundee , reports insider.co.uk.

The operation was managed by Osprey Heavy Lift and saw the 680-tonne tidal turbine transferred from the Forth Ports quayside facility in Dundee into the River Tay using a submersible barge.

The launch marks the completion of the turbine build, managed by TEXO Fabrication, and the O2 will now be towed to the Orkney Islands, where it will undergo commissioning before being connected to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), becoming the world’s most powerful operational tidal turbine.

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battery_ev

Typical electric car set-up

Reducing both costs and mining waste sounds good, if it can be developed to industrial scale.
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A UK-based company has unveiled its what it believes to be the world’s most sustainable motor for electric vehicles, says ElectricHybridVehicleTechnology.

Its new motors are completely free of rare earth magnets, yet are said to be able to offer all of the performance and efficiency benefits and more of a conventional permanent magnet motor, without their considerable environmental drawbacks.

Unlike today’s standard EV motors, its HDSRM and SSRD motors do not feature rare earth magnets so do not require the harmful mining of materials such as neodymium and dysprosium.

According to independent research, every tonne of rare earth material mined produces up to 1.4 tonnes of radioactive waste, 200m3 of acid-containing sewage water, 60,000m3 waste gas containing hydrochloric acid and 27.6 tonnes of CO2.

Based on a global car production of 97 million vehicles, AEM’s technology could save the production of 133 million tonnes CO2 per year as well as 300,000 tonnes of radioactive waste.

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Struc_batt

Schematic of a laminated structural battery cell containing carbon fiber electrodes and a structural battery electrolyte [image credit: Quay2021 @ Wikipedia]

Another day, another battery ‘breakthrough’, you may be thinking. The idea being to make the battery part of the device itself, rather than being inserted into it. Tesla has already designed its own version of the idea.
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Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have produced a structural battery that performs ten times better than all previous versions, says TechXplore.

It contains carbon fiber that serves simultaneously as an electrode, conductor, and load-bearing material.

Their latest research breakthrough paves the way for essentially ‘massless’ energy storage in vehicles and other technology.

The batteries in today’s electric cars constitute a large part of the vehicles’ weight, without fulfilling any load-bearing function.

A structural battery, on the other hand, is one that works as both a power source and as part of the structure—for example, in a car body.

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clouds17

Credit: airbus.com

Another attention-seeking billionaire with too much time on his hands, dreaming up Hollywood-style schemes? A planned small-scale test is in the offing.
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The Microsoft co-founder, who has donated about $50 billion to various charitable causes, considers climate change one of the most acute problems humanity is facing and has spearheaded several initiatives on research and development of clean energy, says Sputnik News.

A Bill Gates-backed project aims to stop climate change by dropping tonnes of chalk dust into the stratosphere, The Times reported.

According to the newspaper, the initiative funded by several private donors, including the Microsoft co-founder, will be the first serious attempt to deal with the issue of climate change by dimming the Sun.

Essentially, scientists will attempt drop chalk dust in the atmosphere hoping it will create sunshade that will reflect some of the Sun’s rays and heat back into space and dim those that get through, thus preventing our planet from getting warmer.

This summer scientists plan to launch a large balloon carrying 2 kg of chalk above the Swedish town Kiruna and then drop the chalk. Researchers will then monitor how it interacts with the atmosphere.

This information will be used to run simulation tests to see whether increasing the amount of chalk dust will help deal with the issue of climate change.

The scientists behind the project were inspired by the 1991 volcano eruption in the Philippines. Back then, Mount Pinatubo released an enormous ash cloud containing millions of particles of sulphur dioxide, which then formed into droplets of sulphuric acid that floated in the air for more than a year and acted as sunshade.

Scientists say that global temperatures went down 0.5 Celsius as a result of this.

Excuse for Politicians and Potential Impact on Weather System

Despite its popularity, the project has raised concerns among the scientific community.

Full article here.

A model for California? [image credit: Hitesh vip @ Wikipedia]


Worth asking what is meant by ‘could be economically feasible’ in this context. Running power stations 24/7 looks a lot simpler than having thousands of miles of solar panels to install and maintain, which sit idle without sunlight.
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UC Santa Cruz researchers published a new study—in collaboration with UC Water and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced—that suggests covering California’s 6,350 km network of public water delivery canals with solar panels could be an economically feasible means of advancing both renewable energy and water conservation.

The concept of “solar canals” has been gaining momentum around the world as climate change increases the risk of drought in many regions, claims TechXplore.

Solar panels can shade canals to help prevent water loss through evaporation, and some types of solar panels also work better over canals, because the cooler environment keeps them from overheating.

Pilot projects in India have demonstrated the technical feasibility of several designs, but none have yet been deployed at scale.

California’s canal network is the world’s largest water conveyance system, and the state faces both a drought-prone future [Talkshop comment: evidence-free assertion] and a rapid timeline for transitioning to renewable energy.

Solar canals could target both challenges, but making the case for their implementation in California requires first quantifying the potential benefits. So that’s exactly what researchers set out to do in their paper published by Nature Sustainability.

“While it makes sense to cover canals with solar panels because renewable energy and water conservation is a win-win, the devil is in the details,” said Brandi McKuin, lead author of the new study and a UC Santa Cruz postdoctoral researcher in environmental studies. “A critical question was whether the infrastructure to span the canals would be cost-prohibitive.”

Canal-spanning solar panels are often supported either by steel trusses or suspension cables, both of which are more expensive to build than traditional support structures for ground-mounted solar panels.

But McKuin led a techno-economic analysis that showed how the benefits of solar canals combine to outweigh the added costs for cable-supported installations. In fact, cable-supported solar canals showed a 20-50 percent higher net present value, indicating greater financial return on investment.

In addition to benefits like increased solar panel performance and evaporation savings, shade from solar panels could help control the growth of aquatic weeds, which are a costly canal maintenance issue. Placing solar panels over existing canal sites could also avoid costs associated with land use.

Now that the new paper has provided a more concrete assessment of these benefits, members of the research team hope this could lead to future field experiments with solar canals in California.

Full article here.

Credit: Vortex Bladeless


The makers say: ‘Vortex Bladeless is a vortex induced vibration resonant wind generator. It harnesses wind energy from a phenomenon of vorticity called Vortex Shedding. Basically, bladeless technology consists of a cylinder fixed vertically with an elastic rod. The cylinder oscillates on a wind range, which then generates electricity through an alternator system.’
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New tech developments are happening in the wind power sector, says ZME Science.

Wind power is mostly associated with sweeping white blades, taking advantage of the strong gusts that blow over the land or the sea.

But what if we could forget about the blades and even the wind and instead just have a turbine?

That’s the idea of a group of European companies, who have come up with new ways to expand wind energy without the limitations of a conventional turbine.

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Posted on  by Green Alliance blog

This post is a reblog of an article by Dr Robert Sansom, independent consultant and member of the IET’s Energy Policy Panel.

Recently, Professor Cebon wrote on this blog that pursuing the hydrogen economy would be a mistake. I am neither an advocate of hydrogen nor am I associated with the oil and gas industry, but I was the lead author of a report, produced by the IET in 2019, which focused on the engineering questions that need to be addressed if the UK is to transition to hydrogen.  There are also major questions around the electrification of heat. Until these questions are dealt with, I do not believe anyone can say that one technology is better than another.

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Upper reservoir (Llyn Stwlan) and dam of the Ffestiniog Pumped Storage Scheme in north Wales
[credit: Arpingstone/English Wikipedia]


The idea would be to have either a smaller site or a lower site, compared to a standard pumped hydro scheme, or a combination of both. Reasonable cost is suggested.
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An energy storage system from RheEnergise could be installed on thousands of hills around the UK, according to the company.

It uses dense liquid, which is two-and-a-half-times denser than water, and could therefore potentially provide two-and-a-half-times the power of equivalent conventional systems, reports Elemental.

As reported by Professional Engineering, the High-Density Hydro systems would be built underground.

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Boeing 767 flight deck [image credit: Continental Airlines]


In the midst of pandemic-related hard times, airline survival means looking for fuel savings ahead of trivia like emissions of harmless trace gases. A mix of nature and new tech might do the trick.
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Airlines could save fuel and reduce emissions on transatlantic flights by hitching a better ride on the jet stream, new research has shown.

Scientists at the University of Reading have found that commercial flights between New York and London last winter could have used up to 16% less fuel if they had made better use of the fast-moving winds at altitude, says TechXplore.

New satellites will soon allow transatlantic flights to be tracked more accurately while remaining a safe distance apart.

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