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Ideas | Green and Alternative Energy Information

Solar Wind Power: Generating Power In The Future

As the world discovers new ways to meet its growing energy needs, energy generated from Sun, which is better known as solar power and energy generated from wind called the wind power are being considered as a means of generating power. Though these two sources of energy have attracted the scientists for a very long time, they are not able to decide, which of the two is a better source to generate power. Now scientists are looking at a third option as well. Scientists at Washington State University have now combined solar power and wind power to produce enormous energy called the solar wind power, which will satisfy all energy requirements of human kind.

Advantages of Solar wind power.

The scientists say that whereas the entire energy generated from solar wind will not be able to reach the planet for consumption as a lot of energy generated by the satellite has to be pumped back to copper wire to create the electron-harvesting magnetic field, yet the amount that reaches earth is more than sufficient to fulfill the needs of entire human, irrespective of the environment condition.Moreover, the team of scientists at Washington State University hopes that it can generate 1 billion billion gigawatts of power by using a massive 8,400-kilometer-wide solar sail to harvest the power in solar wind.According to the team at Washington State University, 1000 homes can be lit by generating enough power for them with the help of 300 meters (984 feet) of copper wire, which is attached to a two-meter-wide (6.6-foot-wide) receiver and a 10-meter (32.8-foot) sail.One billion gigawatts of power could also be generated by a satellite having 1,000-meter (3,280-foot) cable with a sail 8,400 kilometers (5,220 miles) across, which are placed at roughly the same orbit.The scientists feel that if some of the practical issued are solved, Solar wind power will generate the amount of power that no one including the scientists working to find new means of generating power ever expected.

How does the Solar wind power technology work?
The satellite launched to tap solar wind power, instead of working like a wind mill, where a blade attached to the turbine is physically rotated to generate electricity, would use charged copper wire for capturing electrons zooming away from the sun at several hundred kilometers per second.

Disadvantages of Solar wind power
But despite the fact that Solar wind power will solve almost all the problems that we were to face in future due to power generating resources getting exhausted, it has some disadvantages as well. These may include:

Brooks Harrop, the co-author of the journal paper says that while scientists are keen to tap solar wind to generate power, they also need to keep provisions for engineering difficulties and these engineering difficulties will have to be solved before satellites to tap solar wind power are deployed.The distance between the satellite and earth will be so huge that as the laser beam travels millions of miles, it makes even the tightest laser beam spread out and lose most of the energy. To solve this problem, a more focused laser is needed.But even if these laser beams reach our satellites, it is very doubtful that our satellites in their present form will be able to tap them. As Greg Howes, a scientist at the University of Iowa puts it, “The energy is there but to tap that energy from solar wind, we require big satellites. There may be practical constraints in this.”

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Converting Waste Heat to Electricity

With rapid industrialization, the world has seen the development of a number of items or units, which generate heat. Until now this heat has often been treated as a waste, making people wonder if this enormous heat being generated can be transformed into a source of electric power. Now, with the physicists at the University of Arizona finding new ways to harvest energy through heat, this dream is actually going to become a reality.

University of Arizona Research Team: The research team is headed by Charles Staffor. He is the associate professor of physics, and he along with his team worked on harvesting energy from waste. The team’s findings were published in the September 2010 issue of the scientific journal, ACS Nano.

Justin Bergfield who is an author and a doctoral candidate in the UA College of Optical Sciences shares his opinion, “Thermoelectricity can convert heat directly into electric energy in a device with no moving parts. Our colleagues in the field tell us that they are confident that the device we have designed on the computer can be built with the characteristics that we see in our simulations.”

Advantages: Elimination of Ozone Depleting materials: Using the waste heat as a form of electric power has multiple advantages. Whereas on one hand, using the theoretical model of molecular thermoelectric helps in increasing the efficiency of cars, power plants factories and solar panels, on the other hand efficient thermoelectric materials make ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, outdated.

More Efficient Design: The head of the research team Charles Stafford is hopeful about positive results because he expects that the thermoelectric voltage using their design will be 100 times more than what others have achieved. If the design of the team, which they have made on a computer does work, it will be a dream come true for all those engineers, who wanted to catch and make use of energy lost through waste but do not have the required efficient and economical devices to do so.

No need for Mechanics: The heat-conversion device invented by Bergfield and Stafford do not require any kind of machines or ozone-depleting chemicals, as was the case with refrigerators and steam turbines, which were earlier used to convert waste into electric energy. Now, the same work is done by sandwiching a rubber-like polymer between two metals, which acts like an electrode. The thermoelectric devices are self-contained, need no moving parts and are easy to manufacture and maintain.

Utilization Of Waste Energy: Energy is harvested in many ways using the car and factory waste. Car and factory waste can be used for generating electricity by coating exhaust pipes with a thin material, which is a millionth time of an inch. Physicists also take advantage of the law of quantum physics, which though not used often enough, gives great results when it comes to generating power from the waste.

Advantage Over Solar Energy: Molecular thermoelectric devices may help in harvesting energy from the sun and reduce the dependence on photovoltic cells, whose efficiency in harvesting solar energy is going down.
How It Works

Though having worked on the molecule and thinking about using them for a thermoelectric device, Bergfield and Stafford had not found anything special till an undergraduate discovered that these molecules had special features. A large number of molecules were then sandwiched between electrodes and exposed to a stimulated heat source. The flow of electrons along the molecule was split in two once it encounters a benzene ring, with one flow of electrons following along each arm of the ring.

The benzene ring circuit was designed in such a way that the electron travels longer distance round the rings in one path, which causes the two electrons to be out of phase when they reach the other side of the benzene ring. The waves cancel out each-other on meeting. The interruption caused in the flow of electric charge due to varied temperature builds up voltage between electrodes.

The effects seen on molecules are not unique because any quantum scale device having cancellation of electric charge will show a similar effect if there is a temperature difference. With the increase in temperature difference, energy generated also increases.

Thermoelectric devices designed by Bergfield and Stafford can generate power that can lit a 100 Watt bulb or increase car’s efficiency by 25%.

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Volvo debuts Bio-DME truck fleet in Sweden

Via Autoevolution

Volvo has announced it has prepared the first five DME Volvo FH trucks for Swedish Roads.

According to Auto Evolution, the trial will take a two-year period with a view to demonstrate the potential for large-scale investment in DME produced from biomass.

Bio-DME is produced from several types of biomass. When it’s made from natural gas, it’s called simply DME. Bio-DME is estimated to achieve a reduction of 95% in carbon emissions. It is also less noisy compared with traditional engines. The Volvo trucks are being fuelled with Bio-DME produced from black liquor, a by-product of the pulp industry.

The fuel will come from Chemrec’s pilot plant in Piteå, which will have the capacity to produce four tonnes of Bio-DME a day. The opening ceremony will take place tomorrow.

Filling stations will be built by Preem and the first one was inaugurated in Stockholm yesterday (September 7). Other stations will be opened in Göteborg, Jönköping and Piteå.

“From an over-riding perspective, Bio-DME is one of the most promising second-generation biofuels. It provides both high energy efficiency and extremely low emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Volvo Trucks Environmental Director Lars Mårtensson.

The EU believes Bio-DME could replace half of today’s diesel usage for heavy commercial transportation by 2030.

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Hemp car sparks a buzz

The blogosphere is abuzz about an electric car made of hemp developed by a team of Canadian companies who plan its debut at the EV trade show in Vancouver next month.

The compact four-passenger car, with its body made of hemp bio-composite, will have a top speed of 55 miles per hour and a range of 25 to 100 miles before needing to be recharged, depending on the battery, CBC News reported.

Calgary-based developer Motive Industries Inc. said hemp achieves the same mechanical properties as glass composite without the weight, an important goal when designing the body of a battery-powered vehicle.

“Didn’t Cheech and Chong already try this?” wrote one observer on Slashdot.org.

“Model THC?” quipped another.

Hemp is a natural fiber product of the Cannabis sativa plant and is comparable to cotton as a fiber. It is bred differently from the Cannabis indica plant that produces marijuana, which is outlawed under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act.

“It’s illegal to grow it in the U.S., so it actually gives Canada a bit of a market advantage,” Nathan Armstrong, president of Motive Industries told the CBC.

Industrial farming of hemp is practiced in 30 countries including Canada, France, England, Germany, Australia and Russia but cultivation is illegal in the U.S.

Last year, an Ontario company secured $1.8 million from investors to open the first North American bio-processing plant for industrial hemp, The Canadian Press reported.

Hemp for the Kestrel is supplied by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, a Crown corporation in the western Canadian province that purchases its cannabis from an industrial hemp farm in Vegreville, Alberta.

The vehicle is slated for prototype and testing later this month.

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Designers pitch ‘trashy’ island in Pacific

From time to time we are reminded there is a floating pool of plastic bottles, caps, and broken down debris roughly the size of Texas swirling in the Pacific Ocean.

There’s a collective disgust when it bobs back into view, like it did this week after the Guardian profiled a group of Dutch eco-architects and their ambitious design of a so-called Recycled Island made entirely of the trash now floating in the North Pacific, between Hawaii and San Francisco.

Most commentators acknowledge the award-winning architects‘ project, with costs still undetermined, is realistically never going to get off the drafting table.

But the project is winning accolades all over the blogosphere for its innovative infrastructure based on natural resources like solar and wave energy. The island even has its own agricultural region (See below).

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How do you take carbon dioxide out of the air?

Via Earth Institute

Can you imagine if we could find a way to get rid of carbon dioxide emissions?

The August issue of National Geographic magazine has a story about physicist Klaus Lackner’s idea to develop filters to scrub the sky of the greenhouse gas. The thing is, removing CO2 out of the air might be easier than building jets and cars that don’t emit it.

The idea is to suck CO2 out of the air with “artificial trees” that operate a thousand times faster than real ones. Alongside Allen Wright, Lackner is experimenting with bits of whitish-beige plastic that work as artificial leaves. The plastic is a resin of the kind used to pull calcium out of water in a water softener. When Lackner and Wright impregnate that resin with sodium carbonate, it pulls carbon dioxide out of the air. The extra carbon converts the sodium carbonate to bicarbonate, or baking soda.

Lackner’s says his plastic offers two advantages over schemes that other labs are working on. “It sponges up CO2 quickly— the porous material has lots of surface area to contact the air – and holds on to it lightly. The latter is crucial. The CO2 must be separated from the sponge for disposal, and in most schemes that step takes a lot of energy. But Lackner and Wright just rinse their plastic with water in a vacuum chamber, and the CO2 comes off”, says the report.

To read the full story please go here.

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GE launches eco challenge to clean energy wizards

General Electric is inviting clean-tech geniuses to come out of the energy closet. The company has launched a $200 million challenge to businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students with novel ideas on how to build the next-generation power grid.

Called GE Ecomagination Challenge, the project is a partnership between GE and venture capital firms, including Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Rockport Capital.

The competition is split between three categories: Renewable Energy, Grid Efficiency and EcoHomes/EcoBuildings.

Selected entries will be given the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through investment, validation, distribution, development and growth. Applications are open now and close on September 30.

Each entry must include a clear, detailed proposal describing an innovative, original smart grid technology. English is the lingua franca of the project and GE asks applicants to disclose whether they already have filed a patent application or received a patent on any part of the project submitted. Information about the applicant, his/her team and how the idea came up is also welcome.

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