David Berry on Novel Biofuels

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David Berry is the 29th years old genius behind the innovation of Renewable petroleum from microbes.

“Berry took the lead in designing a system that allowed LS9 researchers to alter the metabolic machinery of ­micro­örganisms, turning them into living hydrocarbon refineries. He began with biochemical pathways that microbes use to convert ­glucose into energy-storing molecules called fatty acids. Working with LS9 scientists, he then plucked genes from various other organisms to create a system of metabolic modules that can be inserted into microbes; in different combinations, these modules induce the microbes to produce what are, for all practical purposes, the equivalents of crude oil, diesel, gasoline, or hydrocarbon-based in­dustrial chemicals.”

The TR35 Innovator of the Year below explains how to create organisms that produce hydrocarbons. Here is the link to the video and the link to the Technology Review page.

DIY 1000 watt wind turbine

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Click on the pic to learn!

fuel cell that uses bacteria to generate electricity from waste

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Researchers at the Biodesign Institute are using the tiniest organisms on the planet ‘bacteria’ as a viable option to make electricity. In a new study featured in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, lead author Andrew Kato Marcus and colleagues Cesar Torres and Bruce Rittmann have gained critical insights that may lead to commercialization of a promising microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology.

“We can use any kind of waste, such as sewage or pig manure, and the microbial fuel cell will generate electrical energy,” said Marcus, a Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate student and a member of the institute’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology. Unlike conventional fuel cells that rely on hydrogen gas as a fuel source, the microbial fuel cell can handle a variety of water-based organic fuels.

“There is a lot of biomass out there that we look at simply as energy stored in the wrong place,” said Bruce Rittmann, director of the center. “We can take this waste, keeping it in its normal liquid form, but allowing the bacteria to convert the energy value to our society’s most useful form, electricity. They get food while we get electricity.”

Original article via BioDesign Institute Arizona State University

How Africa’s desert sun can bring Europe power

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A £5bn solar power plan, backed by a Jordanian prince, could provide the EU with a sixth of its electricity needs – and cut carbon emissions,

Europe is considering plans to spend more than £5bn on a string of giant solar power stations along the Mediterranean desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East.

More than a hundred of the generators, each fitted with thousands of huge mirrors, would generate electricity to be transmitted by undersea cable to Europe and then distributed across the continent to European Union member nations, including Britain.

Billions of watts of power could be generated this way, enough to provide Europe with a sixth of its electricity needs and to allow it to make significant cuts in its carbon emissions. At the same time, the stations would be used as desalination plants to provide desert countries with desperately needed supplies of fresh water.

Last week Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan presented details of the scheme – named Desertec – to the European Parliament. ‘Countries with deserts, countries with high energy demand, and countries with technology competence must co-operate,’ he told MEPs.

The project has been developed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation and is supported by engineers and politicians in Europe as well as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan and other nations in the Middle East and Africa.

Europe would provide initial funds for developing the solar technology that will be needed to run plants as well as money for constructing prototype stations. After that, banks and financial institutions, as well as national governments, would take over the construction programme, which could cost more than £200bn over the next 30 years.

original article via Guardian UK

Genetically modified algae could be efficient producers of hydrogen and biofuels

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(via Technology Review)

Algae are a promising source of biofuels: besides being easy to grow and handle, some varieties are rich in oil similar to that produced by soybeans. Algae also produce another fuel: hydrogen. They make a small amount of hydrogen naturally during photosynthesis, but Anastasios Melis, a plant- and microbial-biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that genetically engineered versions of the tiny green organisms have a good shot at being a viable source for hydrogen.

Melis has created mutant algae that make better use of sunlight than their natural cousins do. This could increase the hydrogen that the algae produce by a factor of three. It would also boost the algae’s production of oil for biofuels.

The new finding will be important in maximizing the production of hydrogen in large-scale, commercial bioreactors. In a laboratory, Melis says, “[we make] low-density cultures and have thin bottles so that light penetrates from all sides.” Because of this, the cells use all the light falling on them. But in a commercial bioreactor, where dense algae cultures would be spread out in open ponds under the sun, the top layers of algae absorb all the sunlight but can only use a fraction of it.

Melis and his colleagues are designing algae that have less chlorophyll so that they absorb less sunlight. That means more light penetrates into the deeper algae layers, and eventually, more cells use the sunlight to make hydrogen.

The researchers manipulate the genes that control the amount of chlorophyll in the algae’s chloroplasts, the cellular organs that are the centers for photosynthesis. Each chloroplast naturally has 600 chlorophyll molecules. So far, the researchers have reduced this number by half. They plan to reduce the size further, to 130 chlorophyll molecules. At that point, dense cultures of algae in big bioreactors would make three times as much hydrogen as they make now, Melis says.

(rest of the article)

Water as Fuel

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There have been various stories going around the internet on the subject of water being used as a fuel source/carrier. I have compiled a few of these notable stories here for your convenience. The first story I found interesting is (salt) water being burned if it is subjected to a specific frequency. The person who discovered this is John Kanzius who was researching how to use radio frequencies to kill cancer cells. See video here:

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The implication of the usefulness of water as fuel is obvious as it would completely change our civilization. Although the net output of the energy from the burning compared to the initial input energy needed must be calculated to determine how useful it is, the fact that water can be used this way is still curious and an oddity. It is interesting that it burns “as hot as the sun”, supposedly, and that it is still cool to the touch?! This is odd.
Next is a story about Stan Meyer, an inventor who designed a car powered by water. His story is pretty interesting and controversial. Of course the actual efficiency and net output of the water power needs to be verified and proven useful, but the usage of water is the key point of interest. Video here:

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Some links to check out:
Pennsylvania Man Claims He Made Fuel From Salt Water

“Crowd Farm” harvest energy of human movement

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Two graduate students at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning want to harvest the energy of human movement in urban settings, like commuters in a train station or fans at a concert.

The so-called “Crowd Farm,” as envisioned by James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk, both M.Arch candidates, would turn the mechanical energy of people walking or jumping into a source of electricity. Their proposal took first place in the Japan-based Holcim Foundation’s Sustainable Construction competition this year.

A Crowd Farm in Boston’s South Station railway terminal would work like this: A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed beneath the station’s main lobby. The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current.

The electric current generated by the Crowd Farm could then be used for educational purposes, such as lighting up a sign about energy. “We want people to understand the direct relationship between their movement and the energy produced,” says Jusczyk.

The Crowd Farm is not intended for home use. According to Graham and Jusczyk, a single human step can only power two 60W light bulbs for one flickering second. But get a crowd in motion, multiply that single step by 28,527 steps, for example, and the result is enough energy to power a moving train for one second.

And while the farm is an urban vision, the dynamo-floor principle can also be applied to capturing energy at places like rock concerts, too. “Greater movement of people could make the music louder,” suggests Jusczyk.

Read the rest of the article

Popeyes’ dream home

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We all know how good spinach is for your body, but did you know that it is also good for your house? That’s the proposition behind the house designed by Matthew Coates and Tim Meldrum. Together, they have designed a residence which obtains its electricity from spinach, making it worthy of being declared the winner of Cradle to Cradle contest.

original article via Inhabitat

Car with a clean breath

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MD!, a French company has developed a car that uses compressed air as its primary fuel source. Their special designed engine uses Compressed Air Technology(CAT) that incorporates compressed air and gasoline and enables up to 2000 km (1242 miles) mileages with zero pollution in cities.

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Turn Plastics back to Oil and Gas through microwave

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How do you turn Plastics back into Oil and Gas? Use a big ass microwave! Here’s a description of this GRC TECHNOLOGY– “NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTICS are bombarded with our specific microwave frequency in the form of “molecular vibrations” which causes the “cracking” of the hydrocarbon chain. As a result, the hydrocarbon components in the PLASTICS are gasified. The NATURAL GAS is then collected – the remaining gases are converted into OIL.”

John Doerr: Seeking salvation and profit in greentech

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John Doerr, one of the most influential venture capitalist of his generation who made upwards of $1 billion picking dot-com stars like Amazon, Google, Compaq and Netscapes, returns and warn us the carbon-dioxide-sputtering, gas-powered capitalism will destroy us all, and that going green may be the “biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century.”

“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” John Doerr proclaims, in an emotional talk about climate change and investment. Spurred on by his daughter, who demanded he fix the mess the world is heading for, he and his partners at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers embarked on a greentech world tour — surveying the state of the art, from the ethanol revolution in Brazil to Wal-mart’s (!) eco-concept store in Bentonville, Arkansas. KPCB is investing $200 million in green technologies to save the planet and make a profit to boot. But, Doerr fears, it may not be enough.

Watch the original video from TED.

Wave Forms: underwater power generation

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AWS Buoys

A nice piece here on new ways to harness wave energy with underwater buoys. These would be less intrusive than surface buoys and present no boating hazards . . . would be fun to explore while diving too!

“A town with 55,000 inhabitants would need half a square kilometre of seabed covered with 100 buoys to power it,” AWS states.

The Pacific coast and the Western edge of Europe would be prime candidates because of their active surf, no luck for the Mediterranean though, too calm . . . 

Original Story via New Scientist

William McDonough: The wisdom of designing Cradle to Cradle

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Architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account “All children, all species, for all time.” A tireless proponent of absolute sustainability (with a deadpan sense of humor), he explains his philosophy of “cradle to cradle” design, which bridge the needs of ecology and economics. He also shares some of his most inspiring work, including the world’s largest green roof (at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan), and the entire sustainable cities he’s designing in China.

Seville Solar Thermal Tower powered 6,000 homes

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This stunning Lord Of The Rings looking PS10 Solar Power Tower in Seville, Southern Spain, is Europe’s first commercial concentrating solar power plant. Upon completion in 2013, the plant will produce enough energy to power 180,000 homes, equivalent to the needs of the city of Seville without producing one particle of carbon emission.

From ENS:

“Known as PS10, the project produces electricity with 624 large movable mirrors called heliostats. Each of the mirrors has a surface measuring 120 square meters (1,290 square feet) that concentrates the Sun’s rays to the top of a 115 meter (377 foot) high tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity. PS10 is the first of a set of solar electric power generation plants to be constructed in the same area that will total more than 300 MW by 2013. Power generation will be accomplished using a variety of technologies.”

More related links:

Here’s an article from BBC. Inhabitat has a detailed report with more pics. Abengoa, the mother company of Solucar is creating a new U.S. subsidiary.

Australia’s EnviroMission that propose to build the Solar Tower Buronga (here’s an article on CNN Money), proposed to build a similar skyscraping solar tower in Texas.

Wikipedia articles on how Solar Thermal Energy and Solar Updraft Tower works.

Enertia’s Geo-Solar House Wins National Inventor Award

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Michael Sykes’ “Enertia” building system wins the Grand Prize in the Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge hosted by the History channel.

Michael Sykes’ invention… is technology to turn a piece of wood into a thermal battery. Wood is no longer just a structural member, or just a decorative trim or paneling- it becomes a solar energy storing device, and when the house is properly configured and sited it can heat and cool itself. Obviously, the more wood the better, so the invention is especially applicable to solid wood homes. This energy from a shift-in-time is called “Enertia®” a word, like the word “Laser,” that Sykes made up and trademarked to describe the phenomenon. Enertia® Building Systems has developed a line of solid Gluelam wall homes to maximize the energy-storing potential of the wood, and to offer the mainstream appearance necessary to attract traditional housing buyers.

In the Enertia® Building System, solid Energy-Engineered(tm) wood walls replace siding, framing, insulation, and paneling. An air flow and access channel, or Envelope, runs around the building, just inside the walls – creating a miniature biosphere. Here solar heated air circulates, pumping and boosting geothermal energy from beneath the house, storing it in the massive wood walls. Thermal inertia causes the house to “float” between the cycles of night and day, and even between the seasons.

Physorg has the a list of the runner-ups winners. New York Times has an interview with Michael Sykes. And if you cannot afford to build a brand new house, Newsday.com has an article about economically greening your home bit by bit.

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