Tag Archives: alternative energy

Engineers Develop Alternative Solar-Heating Storage Material

Believe it or not. We could keep our homes warm during the cold nights without using electric heaters or burning wood or fossil fuels.

Thanks to the genius of a team of young mechanical engineers of Andhra Pradesh which has invented a technique that converts solar energy into heat energy.

They had found that the ordinary paraffin wax combined with a fat used in making soaps, known as stearic acid, could store solar heat energy collected from the Sun during the day.

Paraffin wax

The energy thus stored could be released slowly over night to warm up our homes without any costs involved.

The research finding is being reported in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology (Source: Inderscience Publishers)

The research team was led by mechanical engineer Meenakshi Reddy of Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering and Technology, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh.

They had explained how certain materials, known as phase change materials (PCM) can store a large amount of heat in the form of latent heat in a small volume.

PCMs have a high heat of fusion and melt/freeze at a certain temperature. Heat is absorbed when the material melts and released when it freezes.

Heated in the sun, the mixture of paraffin wax (which melts at about 37 Celsius) and stearic acid becomes entirely liquid. However, as it solidifies, it slowly releases the stored heat, they said.

The process is akin to the phase changing heating that occurs in hand-warmers that contain a PCM but in this case the material does not need to be boiled in a pan or heated in a microwave oven to absorb latent heat.

The team has tested spherical capsules just 38 millimeters in diameter containing a blend of paraffin and stearic acid, which can be floated on the top of water in a tank.

Stearic acid is a lot cheaper on the Indian market than paraffin and more readily available. The team found that costs could be held down without reducing the overall heating efficiency of the capsules by lowering the proportion of paraffin wax.

At a temperature of 298 K and pressure of 100 bar, the new hydrogen material can store hydrogen at a density of 4.6 wt. %

Ideal hydrogen storage material may have been found

At a temperature of 298 K and pressure of 100 bar, the new hydrogen material can store hydrogen at a density of 4.6 wt. %

At a temperature of 298 K and pressure of 100 bar, the new hydrogen material can store hydrogen at a density of 4.6 wt. %

Developing safe, reliable, compact, and cost-effective hydrogen storage technologies is one of the most technically challenging barriers to the widespread use of hydrogen as a form of energy. Hydrogen is a great fuel, and if used in perfect conditions it can power numerous applications. However, with today’s tech a hydrogen powered car can’t even travel more than a few hundred miles without needing to refill, which makes it a highly frustrating alternative fuel. For the moment, that is.

Scientists have reported in a recently published paper, that they’ve successfully managed to synthesize a material capable of holding large amounts of hydrogen at ambient temperature and pressure. The study, authord by researchers from Peking University in Beijing, China, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, US, has been published in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters.

“Hydrogen storage is a big challenge for the hydrogen economy,” said Qiang Sun, who lead the research team. “Currently the research is behind schedule, but with the advancement of materials design and synthesis, reaching the target for future transportation applications [is becoming] more and more promising.”

The US department of Energy had a goal for 2010 of storing hydrogen with a density of 4.3 wt. % (i.e., the hydrogen accounts for 4.3% of the total weight of the storage material) – this new material made out of metal-containing porous sheets is capable of storing hydrogen at a density of 4.6 wt. %. An impressing figure, by all means.

The biggest difficualty researchers had to face was that of balancing somehow the demanding characteristics of hydrogen in different conditions. You see, there have been previous attempts of developing materials capable of carrying high density hydrogen in the past, however stability has been an issue. For example, researchers once found that light metal hydrides can store hydrogen with a gravimetric density of 20 wt. %, however this made the storage material irreversible, and in consequence non-reusable. Who wants a storage tank that can only get filled once?

Other attempts have been made using materials such as carbon nanotubes and metal or covalent organic frameworks, which have been found to store hydrogen reversibly, however in these environments hydrogen adsorbs only at very low temperatures. The issue, researchers explain, lies in the bonding – in light metal hydrides, hydrogen is held in much stronger bonds than in carbon nanotubes, for instance. The key lies in finding an intermediate state.

“If the bonding is too strong, hydrogen can only be released at high temperature, while if the bonding is too weak, the storage is unstable at room temperature,” Sun explained. “So we require an intermediate bonding energy.”

For their study, the scientists investigated the performance of hydrogen storage in metal-containing porous sheets, made out of made of blue-green dye units called phthalocyanines (Pc) with regularly spaced iron (Fe) atoms or other metal atoms. The researchers systematically investigated 10 Pc-based porous sheets with transition metal atoms from scandium (Sc) through zinc (Zn), and found that porous Pc sheets with Sc atoms could store up to 4.6 wt. % hydrogen.

Hydrogen can be produced using abundant and diverse domestic energy resources, including fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal; renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind, and biomass; and nuclear energy. This study might hold the key to overcoming critical challenges related to capacity, the uptake and release of hydrogen, management of heat during refueling, cost, and life cycle impacts.


Earth Hour is approaching

Yes, I know there’s still a few days until Earth Hour comes, but I just wanted to give you guys the heads up. At 8:30 PM, on Saturday, 26 March 2011, lights will switch off for one hours, in the hope that people will commit to actions that go well beyond that one hour.

In case you don’t know what it’s about, Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.000.000 million people and 2.000 businesses closed down the lights for one hour to take a stand against climate change. The next year, Earth Hour had already become an international movement with growing support throughout the globe, and in 2010, the biggest Earth Hour to date took place.

A record 128 countries and territories from all over the world joined the movement; iconic buildings from Europe, America and Asia were shut down to spread the word even more, and for one our, people from every corner of the planet stand together in celebration of the thing that binds us all together: our planet.

So, Earth Hour 2011, Saturday, 26 March, 8:30 PM local time, remember that ! But hey, if you don’t, we’ll be back with another reminder, so don’t worry.

[VIDEO] A brief history of fossil fuels

As fossil fuel resources significantly diminish every year, the world gets ever tumultuous and panic slowly begins to settle moment by moment. Luckily, suitable energy is a topic which gets a lot of attention nowadays, although not nearly as publicized as it should, seeing how the general public is still at a low awareness level.

The Post Carbon Institute is doing its best to pitch in by releasing this very informative and entertaining animated video which offers a brief history of fossil use by mankind and how the post carbon society might look like in the future if the necessary steps towards sustainable life are taken.

Click on the YouTube player below and enjoy!

How much area would be required to power the world (with solar panels alone)


I came across this particular pic which really made me think. I don’t know if they did the math right, but if they did, with a surface as big as the plastic island floating around in the Pacific covered with solar panels, the whole world could be powered. If we consider other sources of clean energy (hydro plants for example), I’m guessing the surface would go down to half. This is do-able. Probably not by 2030, but then again, why not? This type of technology is developing all the time, and it could be complemented by other methods (wind farms, etc), so the required surface could really go down, and this could also be an economic solution. Or maybe I’m just delusional. I honestly don’t know.


Alternative energy could be the key to the economic crisis

With the US economy tanking, natural disasters caused by climate change, several wars being fought in the world and with Italy announcing they will go back to nuclear power, it seems that nobody is looking deeper into the source of these problems and the solution that solving this problem brings.

Climate change causes natural disasters, and green energy sources would no longer cause this issue. The need for oil and other fuels could become less stringent if other sources are available, and the economy would sense the benefic effects of this emerging industry too; there will also be a lot of new jobs available. It could also be what separates the US candidates, being in the center of almost every debate, including those between Biden and Palin.

Actually, Obama claims that he will continue the to make clean energy and fuel his top priority even in this crisis, and it could be the solutions that help the environment that also help us. However, it seems that he understands how important other projects are too.

“To create new jobs, I’ll invest in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — our roads, schools, and bridges. We’ll rebuild our outdated electricity grid and build new broadband lines to connect America. And I’ll create the jobs of the future by transforming our energy economy. We’ll tap our natural-gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here the United States of America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy — wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels — an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.”

Sugar-powered Cars run on Hydrogen

hydrogenGreen fuels are a really hot topic, with every single day bringing a new (claimed) discovery or breakthrough, but many of them are just minor improvements. Still, every once in a while you hear about something that sounds really promising (like green gasoline). Now it seems that chemists are describing development of a “revolutionary” process for converting plant sugars into hydrogen.

This process could be used to cheaply and efficiently power vehicles equipped with hydrogen fuel cells without producing any pollutants. The process itself is really not that complex too; it involves combining plant sugars, water, and a cocktail of powerful enzymes to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide under mild reaction conditions. This new research could just be the step forward that the “hydrogen economy” needed, despite the fact that many were claiming that it has no future.

Here’s what lead researcher Y.-H. Percival Zhang, Ph.D., a biochemical engineer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. had to say:

“This is revolutionary work! This has opened up a whole new direction in hydrogen research. With technology improvement, sugar-powered vehicles could come true eventually.”

While hydrogen is recognized as a clean, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, its production is considered to be expensive and inefficient at the time. But now, Zhang and his colleagues claim they have found the most promising hydrogen-producing system to date from plant biomass.

Submersible Robot Runs on Sea’s Heat


green sub

This sounds truly great, and I was quite surprised to see it, but it’s a reality. Scientists invented the Prius of ocean-going submersibles — a new “green” robotic glider that runs on energy absorbed from the heat of the sea, rather than batteries. This is one of the best ways of achieving energy.Another thing which makes scientists glad is that it can stay twice as long underwater as its predecessor, which used battery power. It is in fact the first autonomous underwater vehicle to travel great distances for extended periods running on green energy. This type of submersibles achieved world wide fame when WHOI’s remotely-operated underwater vehicle, “Argo,” discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic near Newfoundland. (No, Leonardo di Caprio was not there.)

This robot was built by the Webb Research Corporation in Falmouth, Mass., and it has traveled between two of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix more than 20 times. With the achieved data, scientists are going to study the currents in that area. To power its propulsion, the submersible gathers thermal energy from the ocean. What happens is that when it moves from cooler water to warmer water, its internal tubes of wax are heated up and expand, pushing out the gas in surrounding tanks and increasing its pressure. These compressed gases, much similar to a spring, are used for propulsion.

“This glider allows longer missions than previous [battery-run] versions,” said Ben Hodges, a physical oceanographer at WHOI. “It could be out there for a year or two years. None of the old ones could go beyond six months. And producing fewer batteries is good for the environment.”

Gliders are also the best way to study undersea environment and to perform long underwater journeys that humans can’t make.

“They can be very helpful in getting measurements that would be too expensive to get otherwise — any kind of study that requires long-term measurements from multiple locations,” Hodges told LiveScience. “If you had to be there in a ship, it would cost millions of dollars.”