Thursday, January 31, 2013

Carbon tax v cap-and-trade: which is better? | Environment |

Carbon tax v cap-and-trade: which is better? | Environment |

carbon tax imposes a tax on each unit of greenhouse gas emissions and gives firms (and households, depending on the scope) an incentive to reduce pollution whenever doing so would cost less than paying the tax. As such, the quantity of pollution reduced depends on the chosen level of the tax. The tax is set by assessing the cost or damage associated with each unit of pollution and the costs associated with controlling that pollution. Getting the tax level right is key: too low and firms and households are likely to opt for paying the tax and continuing to pollute, over and above what is optimal for society. Too high and the costs will rise higher than necessary to reduce emissions, impacting on profits, jobs and end consumers.
By contrast, a cap-and-trade system sets a maximum level of pollution, a cap, and distributes emissions permits among firms that produce emissions. Companies must have a permit to cover each unit of pollution they produce, and they can obtain these permits either through an initial allocation or auction, or through trading with other firms. Since some firms inevitably find it easier or cheaper to reduce pollution than others, trading takes place. Whilst the maximum pollution quantity is set in advance, the trading price of permits fluctuates, becoming more expensive when demand is high relative to supply(for example when the economy is growing) and cheaper when demand is lower (for example in a recession). A price on pollution is therefore created as a result of setting a ceiling on the overall quantity of emissions.
In certain idealized circumstances, carbon taxes and cap-and-trade have exactly the same outcomes, since they are both ways to price carbon. However, in reality they differ in many ways.

Humans Have Already Set in Motion 69 Feet of Sea Level Rise | Mother Jones

Humans Have Already Set in Motion 69 Feet of Sea Level Rise | Mother Jones
Last week, a much-discussed new paper in the journal Nature seemed to suggest to some that we needn't worry too much about the melting of Greenland, the mile-thick mass of ice at the top of the globe. The research found that the Greenland ice sheet seems to have survived a previous warm period in Earth's history—the Eemian period, some 126,000 years ago—without vanishing (although it did melt considerably).
But Ohio State University glaciologist Jason Box isn't buying it.
At Monday's Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, DC, Box, who has visited Greenland 23 times to track its changing climate, explained that we've already pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide 40 percent beyond Eemian levels. What's more, levels of atmospheric methane are a dramatic 240 percent higher—both with no signs of stopping. "There is no analogue for that in the ice record," Box said.
And that's not all. The present mass scale human burning of trees and vegetation for clearing land and building fires, plus our pumping of aerosols into the atmosphere from human pollution, weren't happening during the Eemian. These human activities are darkening Greenland's icy surface, and weakening its ability to bounce incoming sunlight back away from the planet. Instead, more light is absorbed, leading to more melting, in a classic feedback process that is hard to slow down.
"These giants are awake," said Box of Greenland's rumbling glaciers, "and they seem to have a bit of a hangover."
Chart of declining areas of glaciers
To make matters worse, there's also Antarctica, the other great planetary ice sheet, which contains 10 times as much total water as Greenland—much of which could also someday be translated into rising sea level. While Greenland is currently contributing twice as much water to sea level rise as Antarctica, that situation could change in the future. It's kind of as though we're in a situation of "ice sheet roulette" right now, wondering which one of the big ones will go first.
Box also provided a large-scale perspective on how much sea level rise humanity has already probably set in motion from the burning of fossil fuels. The answer is staggering: 69 feet, including water from both Greenland and Antarctica, as well as other glaciers based on land from around the world.
Chart of rising Greenland temperatures
Scientists like Box aren't sure precisely when, or how fast, all that water will flow into the seas. They only know that in past periods of Earth's history, levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases and sea levels have followed one another closely, allowing an inference about where sea level is headed as it, in effect, catches up with the greenhouse gases we've unleashed. To be sure, the process will play out over vast time periods—but it has already begun, and sea level is starting to show a curve upward that looks a lot like…well, the semi-notorious "hockey stick."
So what can we do? For Box, any bit of policy helps. "The more we can cool climate, the slower Greenland's loss will be," he explained. Cutting greenhouse gases slows the planet's heating, and with it, the pace of ice sheet losses.
In the meantime, to better understand where we're headed, Box has launched a scientific project called "Dark Snow," which seeks to crowdfund a Greenland expedition to help determine just how much our darkening of the great ice sheet in this unprecedented "Anthropocene" era will push us well beyond Eemian territory. The video for that project is below. If the remote, dangerous science of ice sheets intrigues you enough (or scares you enough), then you definitely will want this research to succeed.

Front page image: NASA

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Death of a Battery | Do the Math

Death of a Battery | Do the Math

Now the Conundrum

Okay, so I have a bad cell in a battery. Maybe the situation is salvageable. Perhaps a “battery doctor” could bring the battery back to an operable state. I’ve seen prescriptions online for how to recover some functionality from a bad cell. You can’t expect original performance, I gather. But perhaps it is possible to turn an otherwise heavy block of junk into a useful battery again.
Let me say up front that I am not a battery expert. I may be carrying misconceptions that need to be cleared up. Please correct me if I have things messed up. It’s a safe bet that when I get through this failure episode, I’ll know more than I do now.
Whether or not battery repair is possible/effective, I judge it to be a near certainty that the revived battery would be poorly matched to its brethren. We have, in my 2×2 arrangement, a series problem and a parallel problem. In series, when one battery is in worse condition than its partner, it will sit at a lower voltage in both charging and discharging scenarios. It would seem, then, that the partner in better health gets a higher absorb state (or equalization) voltage, which has the effect of keeping that battery in relatively better condition than its lesser companion. So there is a self-reinforcement going on that I imagine will ultimately go unstable, producing another cliff-edge.  Perhaps this is also why single cells in a battery (stacked in series) drive off the cliff.
The parallel problem is that if one chain is weaker than the other chain, a similar phenomenon happens. The “good” chain gets higher current during charging, better conditioning that chain while in absorb state. And then we have the power swap issue after sunset, where the weaker battery drains energy from the better battery until the two are at a similar charge state.
I am not, therefore, convinced that I want to try and revive the defective battery, almost certainly leaving me with a mismatched condition. So what’s the conundrum? Just buy a new battery!
Firstly, a new battery paired with old Battery F would produce a series mismatch problem, and also a parallel mismatch problem—assuming C, D, and F are in similar shape. To avoid the series problem, I could buy two new batteries, but this seems an unfortunate waste of battery F. For all I know, Battery E is an anomaly and I can expect another several years out of the other batteries.  [It's this sort of thinking that often gets me labeled as an optimist, despite impressions you might have otherwise formed from the content of Do the Math.]
Secondly, even biting the bullet and buying two new batteries will leave me with a parallel mismatch and attendant problems.
So it seems like a really bum deal! Must I replace all batteries at once?
I suspect that I am missing something here, and a new battery in an otherwise old set may work itself out in some non-destructive way. I am still adapting to my reduced-capacity PV reality, and meanwhile needed a bloggable topic that I could cover quickly, even if the saga is incomplete. I still need to do some research, and perhaps comments will help set things straight.


I have written before about the disappointment inherent in batteries.  Now I have another personal example.  Just when I had decided that my batteries were in their prime, crash. In our forced migration from fossil fuels over the coming century, large scale implementations of solar and/or wind are likely to transpire only in connection to energy storage solutions.  With storage comes headaches, even for technologies as mature as lead-acid.  Batteries will fail, and seldom at convenient times.  I liken my recent experience to driving a car without a gas gauge.  How tolerable will this situation be to our demanding society?  Big adjustments ahead…
Note to readers: I will be taking a holiday break in my normal two-week cadence, so that I plan to be back on Jan. 8.

very good comments below,  various other battery chemistries, links,!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Safety doubts raised at U.S. Hanford nuclear waste cleanup project | Enformable

Safety doubts raised at U.S. Hanford nuclear waste cleanup project | Enformable

The Energy Department has asserted that Bechtel Corp. underplayed safety risks from equipment it is installing at the nation’s largest nuclear waste cleanup project, according to government records.
A federal engineering review team found in late July that Bechtel’s safety evaluation of key equipment at the plant at the Hanford site in Washington state was incomplete and that "the risks are more serious" than Bechtel acknowledged when it sought approval to continue with construction, the documents say.
But the plant has been repeatedly stung by problems and delays, including a 2006 work stoppage when engineers determined it could not withstand a severe earthquake and that major retrofitting was required.
Senior scientists at the site said in emails obtained by The Times that Bechtel’s designs for tanks and mixing equipment are flawed, representing such a massive risk that work should be stopped on that part of the construction project.
"Clearly, the management system or safety culture is broken," said Donald H. Alexander, a chemist in the division of nuclear safety, in an Aug. 2 email to top Energy Department officials. "I find the behavior of management to be appalling."
Alexander said he was pressured to concur on technical issues but refused, and that top managers at the project had attempted to discredit his technical work. He is the second top scientist at the project to allege that management is running roughshod over scientists.
Walter Tamosaitis, the research and technology chief for Bechtel subcontractor URS Corp., was removed from his job last year and put in a basement office with nothing to do after raising similar safety concerns about the plant’s design.

Solar Report | 2012 solar PV year in review: A complex picture of a changing market - SolarServer

Solar Report | 2012 solar PV year in review: A complex picture of a changing market - SolarServer

The difficulties that the global solar industry experienced in 2012 were both clear and expected. Continuing excess solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing capacity spurred a collapse in prices across the PV value chain, creating consistently negative margins and negative profitability for upstream PV manufacturers.
This led to a large number of bankruptcies, insolvencies and acquisitions, but also trade wars between the United States and China, the EU and China, and between India and everyone else.
However, as in 2011 these difficulties masked the continued progress in PV markets, policy and technology. Many of Solar Server's predictions for 2012 played out, including the increasing diversification of global PV markets and the dramatic expansion of a number of emerging markets in 2012.

A difficult year: falling prices
The most fundamental problem of the global PV industry in 2012 was, and continues to be, too much manufacturing capacity for global demand. Exact numbers are hard to come by, given the difficulty in information collection in China, where much of the new capacity is located. However, Greentech Media estimated that in 2012 global PV module manufacturing capacity  reached nearly 60 GW, with global polysilicon, wafer and cell capacity more than 40 GW each.
This represents a module capacity roughly double the estimates of the 2012 PV market. Given that large inventories are still left over from 2011, a continuing collapse in prices was inevitable.
Polysilicon spot prices fell an estimated 47% in 2012
Polysilicon spot prices fell an estimated 47% in 2012
And fall they did, across the PV value chain. In the first 11 months of 2012 crystalline silicon module spot market prices had fallen between 19% and 29%, with Chinese crystalline silicon modules falling to EUR 0.56 (USD 0.74) per watt, according to Sologico. This follows on a price fall between 36% and 46% from January 2011. In just two years, Chinese c-Si modules are being sold for a little more than a third of their previous market value per watt.
Polysilicon spot prices likewise fell an estimated 47% globally in 2012 to a low of USD 15.3/kg, with Xinhua reporting a fall of more than 50% in China, as the second straight year of price collapse. While much polysilicon is sold through long-term contracts, the collapse in polysilicon prices has eroded the contract market, making manufacturers more willing to depend on the spot market.
Wafer and cell manufacturers have reported similar stories. The net result is that the only large PV manufacturers reporting positive operating margins in 2012 are those who have diversified into PV project development.
PV equipment manufacturing revenues fell 72% to USD 3.6 billion in 2012
PV equipment manufacturing revenues fell 72% to USD 3.6 billion in 2012
Perhaps the worst hit are makers of PV manufacturing equipment, who have seen orders collapse over the past six quarters. While some orders continue for upgrades, most expansions have been halted. SEMI's most recent report found that PV equipment bookings remained flat in the third quarter of 2012 at only USD 234 million, 56% below a year prior, and Solarbuzz reports that global sector revenues fell 72% to USD 3.6 billion over the full year 2012.
Again, diversification has been key, and those players that have survived often have multiple product lines in multiple industries to soften the impact of the collapse in PV equipment demand.

Bankruptcies, insolvencies and acquisitions
The fallout of the collapse in profitability has been a large number of bankruptcies, insolvencies and acquisitions among PV manufacturers. The largest of these was Q-Cells' insolvency and subsequent sale to Hanwha Chemical Corporation, a major fall from its position as global PV market leader in 2008.
However, Q-Cells was the tip of the iceberg. Mercom Capital has counted 35 solar bankruptcies or insolvencies in 2012, and 50 restructuring or downsizing announcements, including major workforce reductions at SMA and Schott's departure from crystalline silicon PV manufacturing.
REC closed the last of its wafer production in Norway during 2012 (Image courtesy REC ASA)
REC closed the last of its wafer production in Norway during 2012 (Image courtesy REC ASA)
While much noise was made about the US PV industry, the United States never had a very large scale of PV manufacturing to begin with. Instead, Europe was the hardest hit, particularly silicon wafer production. REC ASA completely shut down its wafer division at three locations in Norway during 2012, with Schott and PV Crystalox closing wafer facilties in Germany.

Chinese manufacturers also spilled considerable red ink during the year, however none of the large Chinese PV companies have failed yet. Instead, Chinese manufacturers have posted worse and worse balance sheets, have received minor bailouts from government entities, and in some cases have sold off portions of their businesses to state-owned enterprises.

Global trade war
The global solar trade war which erupted in 2012 must be seen in light of these extremely difficult conditions. Prompted by a coalition led by SolarWorld, the United States slapped anti-dumping and countervailing duties of 24% - 255% on Chinese-made PV cells, and modules made from those cells. However, these tariffs have been easy to avoid, given the option to outsource cell production and the relatively small size of the US PV market.
The trade investigation before the European Commission has the potential to impact the global PV industry much more than US tariffs (Image courtesy jlogan)
The trade investigation before the European Commission has the potential to impact the global PV industry much more than US tariffs (Image courtesy jlogan)
Much more serious is an EU investigation into imported Chinese PV products, which is currently underway. Meanwhile, China has not sat idly by while all of this has occurred. It has launched an anti-dumping investigation of its own into US and EU polysilicon, from which 30-50% tariffs are expected.
Not to be outdone, India has also responded with anti-dumping investigations into PV products, naming China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the US.
While many in the industry have opposed these trade actions, the extremely difficult positions that US and EU PV manufacturers and Chinese polysilicon producers have found themselves in is undeniable. What is more difficult to establish is the intentional damage alleged by some claimants. In the end, there is simply too much capacity for the market.

The good news: A growing PV market
Despite all of the difficulties which manufacturers are facing, the global PV market continued to grow by 10% - 17% in 2012 to an estimated 31 - 33 GW, with growth even in highly mature PV markets like Germany. The latest figures from the German Ministry of the Environment indicate that despite feed-in tariff cuts, Germany's 2012 PV market reached 7.6 GW by the end of the year, another world record for annual PV installed.
The Italian market for large commercial and utility-scale PV has been effectively killed by the near-elimination of the feed-in tariff in the fifth Conto Energia, but as this came in August, Italy will still post impressive 2012 installation figures, estimated by Mercom at 3.5 GW.
However, other trends indicate that the big story will not be in Europe anymore.

Asian PV markets rise
In our 2011 year in review, Solar Server noted the passage of feed-in tariffs in China and Japan as among the most important trends in the global solar industry. In 2012, we have not been disappointed.
China installed an estimated 5 GW of PV in 2012, making it the world's second-largest PV market (Image courtesy Astonergy)
China installed an estimated 5 GW of PV in 2012, making it the world's second-largest PV market (Image courtesy Astonergy)
It is likely that the Chinese PV market more than doubled again this year. While final numbers are not in, IMS Research's October 2012 prediction of 5 GW installed in 2012 would make China the world's second-largest PV market. This includes not only installations under the feed-in tariff, but also 1.7 GW of projects under the nation's Golden Sun Program.
Japan likewise has seen an extraordinary boom in PV installations, driven by what may be the world's most lucrative feed-in tariff and a need to put generation online to replace shuttered nuclear power plants and reduce costly fossil fuel imports.

Mercom Capital estimates that Japan's PV market doubled to 2.5 GW in 2012. Also, JPEA found that the nation's PV cell and module imports increased more than 300% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2012 to 32% of the total market, as Japan's PV manufacturers struggled to meet this sharp increase in demand.

Ongoing diversification
China and Japan were hardly the only markets that grew dramatically in 2012, as PV technology continued its viral growth across the globe. While both India and the United States showed impressive growth during the year, the growth in other emerging markets in 2012 may indicate a more significant trend over the next decade.
Throughout 2012 there were frequent announcements of utility-scale projects either initiated or completed on six continents, including locations as unlikely as Costa Rica, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Peru.
Of these emerging markets, one that is notable for its size is South Africa. The end of 2012 was filled with a flood of project groundbreakings and supply deals for the 1.45 GW of PV plants which were approved under the first phase of the nation's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program (REIPP), which aims to install 8.2 GW of PV by 2030.
Other notable regions include Southeastern Europe. While Romania installed only 29 MW, the Greek and Bulgarian markets were much more impressive. A number of large PV plants came online in both nations during 2012, including a 50 MW PV plant built by Astronergy and a 60 MW PV plant built by SunEdison in Bulgaria in 2012.
Chilean Energy Minister Jorge Bunster at the Calama 3 PV plant. While more than 3.1 GW of solar projects have received approval, the nation had only 2.4 MW of utility-scale PV commissioned by the end of 2012. (Image courtesy Chilean Ministry of Energy)
Chilean Energy Minister Jorge Bunster at the Calama 3 PV plant. While more than 3.1 GW of solar projects have received approval, the nation had only 2.4 MW of utility-scale PV commissioned by the end of 2012. (Image courtesy Chilean Ministry of Energy)
Many had higher expectations for Latin America. Chile has built an impressive pipeline of over 3.1 GW of solar projects which have received environmental approval, but the nation reached only 2.4 MW of installed utility-scale PV capacity by year's end, with another 2.5 MW under construction.
Peru showed greater progress, with four PV plants 20 MW and larger, totaling 84 MW, commissioned during 2012. AES Solar also commissioned a 24 MW PV plant in Puerto Rico, one of several utility-scale projects underway in the island territory.
Also this year two very large projects were announced in sub-Saharan Africa. Blue Energy announced plans to build a 155 MW PV plant in Ghana, and Helios Energy signed an MOU with a state government in Nigeria to build a 30 MW PV plant.

Technology progress: CPV
At 30 MW, the Alamosa Solar plant is much larger than any previous CPV plant (Image courtesy Amonix)
At 30 MW, the Alamosa Solar plant is much larger than any previous CPV plant (Image courtesy Amonix)
As predicted by Solar Server at the beginning of 2012, during the year concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology continued its progress into the mainstream. In April, Cogentrix commissioned a 30 MW CPV plant in the US state of Colorado, the Alamosa Solar project. The plant is many times larger than any existing CPV installation, and was featured by Solar Server as our November 2012 Solar Energy System of the Month.

Also, in December 2012 Soitec announced the long-awaited opening of its CPV factory in Southern California, which will supply modules for hundreds of megawatts of plants under contract which are based on its Concentrix technology.
CPV also saw new technical achievements in 2012. In October 2012 Solar Junction announced that it had reached 44% cell efficiency with its multi-junction technology, and in the same month Amonix reported that it had achieved a 33.5% outdoor efficiency with its CPV modules.
CPV still faces many challenges, most notably bankability. However, 2012 saw important progress for CPV, with more growth expected in 2013 as developers begin work on large projects in South Africa and California.

2013 and beyond
Given the fundamental underlying problem of overcapacity, the difficulties faced by the PV industry in 2012 are far from over. Multiple research firms have forecast an ongoing fall in sale prices in 2013, and IHS has made the particularly grim prediction that the number of companies in the PV supply chain will be reduced by 70% over the course of the year.
However, these falling prices have aided market growth, particularly in nations such as the United States, and have benefited developers and installers.
Global PV markets continue to grow and diversify, and with this diversification comes new opportunities, including in those markets which were previously considered closed to outsiders.
NPD Solarbuzz has predicted significant opportunities in the PV balance of systems market in China, and Japanese industry data shows that despite the cultural preference for domestic products in the nation, the share of imported PV is growing rapidly in Japan.
The center of the global solar market is moving towards Asia (Image courtesy Solar Frontier)
The center of the global solar market is moving towards Asia (Image courtesy Solar Frontier)
In other nations, falling prices mean that PV is finally becoming cost-competitive without subsidies, as has been shown by successful "grid-parity" projects underway in Spain. 2013 promises to be another difficult year. However, for the companies that survive, there are excellent  prospects for substantial long-term growth in the PV industry. We can look forward to a new PV market that is both more global and more stable, less prone to strong quarter-to-quarter changes and less dependent upon boom-and-bust cycles in individual nations.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nanosilicon rapidly splits water without light, heat, or electricity

Nanosilicon rapidly splits water without light, heat, or electricity

(—Although scientists know that when silicon mixes with water, hydrogen is produced through oxidation, no one expected how quickly silicon nanoparticles might perform this task. As a new study has revealed, 10-nm silicon nanoparticles can generate hydrogen 150 times faster than 100-nm silicon nanoparticles, and 1,000 times faster than bulk silicon. The discovery could pave the way toward rapid "just add water" hydrogen generation technologies for portable devices without the need for light, heat, or electricity.
The researchers, Folarin Erogbogbo at the University of Buffalo and coauthors, have published their paper on using nanosilicon to generate hydrogen in a recent issue of .
If hydrogen is ever to be used to deliver energy for wide , one of the requirements is finding a fast, inexpensive way to produce hydrogen. One of the most common techniques is splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. There are several ways to split water, such as with an electric current (), heat, sunlight, or a substance that chemically reacts with water. Such substances include aluminum, zinc, and silicon.
As the scientists explained, silicon- reactions have so far been slow and uncompetitive with other techniques. However, silicon does have some theoretical benefits, such as being abundant, being easy to transport, and having a high . Further, upon oxidation with water, silicon can theoretically release two moles of hydrogen per mole of silicon, or 14% of its own mass in hydrogen.
For these reasons, the scientists decided to take a closer look at silicon, specifically , which have not previously been studied for hydrogen generation. Because silicon nanoparticles have a larger than larger particles or bulk silicon, it would be expected that the nanoparticles can generate hydrogen more rapidly than the larger pieces of silicon.

But the improvements the scientists discovered with silicon nanoparticles far exceeded their expectations. The reaction of 10-nm silicon particles with water produced a total of 2.58 mol of hydrogen per mol of silicon (even exceeding theoretical expectations), taking 5 seconds to produce 1 mmol of hydrogen. In comparison, the reaction with 100-nm silicon particles produced a total of 1.25 mol of hydrogen per mole of silicon, taking 811 seconds to produce each mmol of hydrogen. For bulk silicon, total production was only 1.03 mol of hydrogen per mol of silicon, taking a full 12.5 hours to produce each mmol of hydrogen. For a rate comparison, the 10-nm silicon generated hydrogen 150 times faster than 100-nm silicon and 1,000 times faster than bulk silicon.
"I believe the greatest significance of this work is the demonstration that silicon can react with water rapidly enough to be of practical use for on-demand hydrogen generation," coauthor Mark Swihart, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Buffalo, told "This result was both unexpected and of potential practical importance. While I do not believe that oxidation of silicon nanoparticles will become a feasible method for large-scale hydrogen generation any time soon, this process could be quite interesting for small-scale portable applications where water is available."
Nanosilicon rapidly splits water without light, heat, or electricity

A comparison of hydrogen generation rates for different forms of silicon. Maximum rates are in the left column with images of the samples on them. Average rates are in the right column. The red line indicates the maximum reported rate for hydrogen generated from aluminum. Credit: Folarin Erogbogbo, et al. ©2013 American Chemical Society
In addition to producing hydrogen faster than larger silicon pieces, the 10-nm silicon also produces hydrogen significantly faster than aluminum and zinc nanoparticles. As Swihart explained, the explanation for this inequality differs for the two materials. "Compared to aluminum, silicon reacts faster because aluminum forms a denser and more robust oxide (Al2O3) on its surface, which limits the reaction," he said. "In the presence of a base like KOH [potassium hydroxide], silicon mostly produces soluble silicic acid (Si(OH)4). Compared to zinc, silicon is simply more reactive, especially at room temperature."
Although the larger surface area of the 10-nm silicon compared with larger silicon pieces contributes to its fast hydrogen production rate, surface area alone cannot account for the huge rate increase that the scientists observed. The surface area of 10-nm silicon is 204 m2/g, about 6 times greater than the surface area of 100-nm silicon, which is 32 m2/g.
To understand what causes the much larger increase in the hydrogen production rate, the researchers conducted experiments during the silicon etching process. They found that, for the 10-nm particles, etching involves the removal of an equal number of lattice planes in each direction (isotropic etching). In contrast, for 100-nm particles and microparticles, unequal numbers of lattice planes are removed in each direction (anisotropic etching).
The researchers attribute this etching difference to the different geometries of different-sized crystals. As a result of this difference, the larger particles adopt non-spherical shapes that expose less reactive surfaces compared to the smaller particles, which remain nearly spherical, exposing all crystal facets for reaction. Larger particles also develop thicker layers of oxidized silicon byproducts through which water must diffuse. Both of these factors limit the rate of the reaction on larger particles.
To confirm that that the 10-nm silicon-water reaction generates hydrogen with no byproducts that could interfere with applications, the researchers used the silicon-generated hydrogen to operate a fuel cell. The fuel cell performed very well, producing more current and voltage than the theoretical amount of pure hydrogen, which is due to the fact that the 10-nm particles generated more hydrogen than the theoretical 14 wt %.
The researchers hope that this surprising ability of silicon nanoparticles to rapidly split water and generate hydrogen could lead to the development of a hydrogen-on-demand technology that could enable fuel cells to be used in portable devices. This technology would require a large-scale, energy-efficient method of silicon nanoparticle production, but could have some advantages compared to other hydrogen generation techniques.
"The key advantage of silicon oxidation for hydrogen generation is its simplicity," Swihart said. "With this approach, hydrogen is produced rapidly, at room temperature, and without the need for any external energy source. The energy needed for hydrogen generation is effectively stored in the silicon. All of the energy input required for producing the silicon can be provided at a central location, and the silicon can then be used in portable applications.
"The key disadvantage of silicon oxidation is its relative inefficiency. The energy input required to create the silicon nanoparticles is much greater than the energy available from the hydrogen that is finally produced. For large scale applications, this would be a problem. For portable applications, it is not. For example, the cost of electricity supplied by an ordinary household battery can easily be 10 to 100 times higher than the cost of electricity from a utility, but batteries still play an important role in our lives."
In the future, the researchers plan to further increase the hydrogen generation capacity of silicon oxidation by experimenting with different mixtures.
"One direction that we are presently pursuing is the use of mixtures of silicon nanoparticles with metal hydrides, which also react with water to produce hydrogen," Swihart said. "Compounds like lithium hydride and sodium hydride react with water to produce the base (LiOH or NaOH) that is needed to catalyze the silicon oxidation. However, they can react too fast with water (explosively) and are not stable in air. Mixing them with silicon nanoparticles or coating them with nanoparticles may serve to both temper their reactivity and increase the capacity of the system by replacing the added base (e.g., KOH in the published paper) with a material that also generates ."
More information: Folarin Erogbogbo, et al. "On-Demand Hydrogen Generation using Nanosilicon: Splitting Water without Light, Heat, or Electricity." Nano Letters. DOI: 10.1021/nl304680w
Journal reference: Nano Letters search and more info website
Copyright 2013
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vuzix Wrap 920 3-D glasses promise big screen experience

Vuzix Wrap 920 3-D glasses promise big screen experience

The Vuzix Wrap 920 glasses deliver the equivalent image of a 67-inch screen as viewed from 10ft via twin high-resolution 640 x 480 LCD displays, 60Hz progressive scan update rate with ultra-low video distortion and 24-bit true color (16 million colors).
The unit is compatible with iPods, iPhones, portable DVD players, cell phones with video out, all composite video devices, digital cameras and camcorders, PCs and laptops with a VGA port. It also works with video sources equipped with HDMI connectors, such as set-top boxes, video game consoles and Blu-ray players.
The glasses onscreen display can be adjusted for brightness, contrast, hue and color saturation and they also feature removable noise-isolating earbuds, an adjustable nose bridge and are wearable over prescription glasses.
Two AA alkaline batteries will power the device for up to six hours according to Vuzix.
Accessories include a Wrap Lightshield: that blocks distracting outside light, and changeable lens that allow you to pop out the standard dark grey lens for alternates to match your mood or style.
The Vuzix range is also set to expand with the Wrap 920AR augmented reality glasses we tried at this year's CES. This platform incorporates a Stereo Camera that mounts to the front of Wrap eyewear and captures real-life images that can be combined with mixed reality software to overlay computer-generated graphics.
There's also the Wrap 6DoF Tracker/Compass that, when connected to a supporting device, transforms your Wrap eyewear into a virtual reality system that senses 6° of head movement and compass direction.
The Vuzix Wrap 920 glasses cost US$349.95 and are available online.

Monday, January 21, 2013

hypermiling afforbly, with Organic Transit

Organic Transit

The ELF is designed with the busy commuter in mind. The ride height puts you in sight of other drivers while the body is still slim enough to navigate bike trails. There is plenty of room to stash your laptop case and pick up several bags of groceries on the way home. Recharge the removable battery pack by parking your ELF in the sun or by plugging it in to a standard outlet. Upgrade to a more powerful solar panel to stay off grid or add a NuVinci 360 hub to ease your ride. Additional upgrades and features will be available.

Standard Features:

  • Lithum battery pack
  • 30w solar panels
  • PWM controller
  • 750 watt permanent neodymium magnet motors
  • Three speed transmission
  • 26" wheels front & rear w/20mm through axles
  • LED headlights, tail lights, and signals
  • Side mirrors
  • Disc brakes
  • Adjustable seat
  • 350+ lb payload
Base price: $4,000
The Truckit is a more rugged vehicle designed for the light delivery market. Whether your business is flowers or hot meals, the Truckit can save you big money on local delivery. This OTV can carry over 800 lbs and can be customized with hot/cold boxes, a lockable trunk, extra shelving, or whatever you might need to make the Truckit fit your business.

Standard Features:

  • Up to 30 mile range on a single charge
  • Built in solar panels
  • LED headlights, tail lights, and signals
  • Side mirrors
  • Front and rear brakes
  • Customizable body panels for advertising
  • up to 800 lb payload

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Hyper-Efficient TWIKE Human-Electric Hybrid Vehicle : TreeHugger

The Hyper-Efficient TWIKE Human-Electric Hybrid Vehicle : TreeHugger

World's Best City Car?

In fact, Möscheid enthuses that the best way to drive a TWIKE is to pedal just below a sweat-inducing speed. In the city, where cars can move barely faster than bicycle speed, the TWIKE finds its element. Driver and passenger arrive at their destination exhilarated but not stinky; range extends to up to 200 km (124 miles) at such lower speeds.Even if your commute currently covers miles of highway, changing to a slower alternative route more optimized for the TWIKE could bring you to your desk filled with the joy of a peaceful cruise away from the rush hour madness.

TWIKE on Tour

© Christine Lepisto Two battery packs worth of Lithium Ion cells.Faster speeds quickly drain the batteries, but that has not stopped TWIKEs on tours. Whether out of desire to prove this new sustainable transportation concept, or purely for the love of travel, TWIKE aficionados have cruised high and low in their three-wheelers. A top speed of 85 km/h (55 mph) enables the TWIKE to take to the highway, although the road less traveled will always be the preferred route. By pedaling, the touring range can be increased from 5 to 20%, the perfect road game for those with a hypermiler inclination.
Möscheid explains how he uses the LEMnet to identify recharge points along his planned route. He looks for a refueling point about every 125 km (75 miles) for a sufficient safety net to ensure the TWIKE does not run out of power in the still sparse landscape of EV-charging opportunities.

Of Fitness and Efficiency

TWIKE lacks a lot of the convenience of the modern car. Sure you get to sit side-by-side with a passenger, and a small amount of cargo can be stowed behind the seats in the battery compartment. Sure you can drive fast enough to take even the famous German autobahn. But when you start to consider that a pretty stripped TWIKE, unpainted but with a full load of 5 Li-Ion battery packs, will lighten your wallet by almost €40,000, you need to get creative with the cost accounting.
© Christine Lepisto
TWIKE floor reinforcement -- an option you don't need.
Of course, you are paying for most of the fuel costs of the vehicle life cycle up front. Almost half the price comes from the Lithium ion battery packs alone. The batteries are expensive, true, but you get what you pay for: the battery quality ensures a long life with consistent performance and stable recharge cycles, guaranteed. The Lithium Ion battery packs can also be augmented as you can afford them, unlike Nickel cadmium battery packs. You could save €10,000 on initial purchase price by starting out with the minimum set of 2 LiIon battery packs.
A user-friendly TWIKE price calculator makes the cost of options transparent.
A true hypermiler could keep the energy use as low as 4kWh per 100 km (62 miles), the lower end of the rated 4 - 8 kWh/100 km which equates to approximately €1-2 per 100 km at the mid-2012 average household cost of electricity in Germany. Over 100,000 km (62,000 miles), savings of over €10,000 euros could be realized (assuming 7L/100km or 34mpg. Of course, gas in Europe costs over $8/gallon, so the benefit of a TWIKE in America would be less.) Add a few pennies to the "entertainment" column of the budget sheet; after all, how much will you save on amusement parks while "flying" your TWIKE through the countryside?
Also, with not too much creativity, you can calculate in a cost benefit for the extra years of health to be enjoyed due to the fitness factor. Driving a TWIKE could also help fight those extra pounds, with a small proviso: in one of many forthright explanations we received at the factory, Möscheid reminds of the discipline needed to avoid snacking during recharging breaks while on tour.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Resurgence • Article - Last Call for Capitalism

Resurgence • Article - Last Call for Capitalism

The Capitalism Papers concludes with a hopeful checklist of field-tested strategies to rescue us from the death-clutch of capitalism (and sustain us after the house of credit cards crumbles). These Four Megashifts Toward a New Economics encompass biological restoration, direct democracy, worker-owned cooperatives, ‘power-down’ societies, sustainable zero-growth economies, and global declarations establishing the “rights of Nature”.

Converting Solar Power To Car Miles - Which Is Better, Photovoltaic Or Biofuels?

Converting Solar Power To Car Miles - Which Is Better, Photovoltaic Or Biofuels?
Converting Solar Power To Car Miles - Which Is Better, Photovoltaic Or Biofuels?
By News Staff | January 17th 2013 10:30 AM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
In 2005, a decade and a half of environmental lobbying convinced President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress that corn ethanol was a promising fossil fuel substitute which would reduce both American dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions. The 2005 energy bill mandated that 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel be added to the gasoline supply in 2006. That rose to 4.7 billion gallons in 2007 and 7.5 billion in 2012, to the delight of corn farmers, activists and almost no one else.
Since then, life cycle assessments (LCAs) have shown that corn ethanol doesn't reduce CO2 emissions, it actually increases them even without its lower fuel efficiency than gasoline, while growing the corn poses a threat to natural habitats and food supplies as food stocks are turned to fuel and marginal lands are used to keep up with government mandated and subsidized demand. In 2010, fuel ethanol consumed 40 percent of U.S. corn production while environmental claims that mandates and subsidies would inspire research and optimization turned out to be untrue - with a captive market and a guaranteed profit, ethanol companies had no reason to improve. 2012 prices for corn were at record highs. Since the U.S. also accounts for 40 percent of the world's corn, U.S. ethanol production has affected corn prices around the planet.
More electric vehicles have entered the market and are competing with alternative-fuel vehicles. Using electricity generated by coal-fired plants to power the cars defeats the purpose and the resource cost (batteries) for electric vehicles are quite high but what if the energy came from the ultimate clean and renewable source, the sun?  Both have monstrous land use costs but when life-cycle emissions and dollar cost are factored in, photovoltaics look good - relatively. When it comes to energy density, gasoline is still the way to go.
But if you use sunlight efficiency, producing solar energy beats out photosynthesis. This is true. While Mother Nature is spectacular, photosynthesis in plants is only 5% efficient whereas solar panels are 8-10% and gasoline internal combustion is 25% (showing that efficiency is not always the correct way to look at the problem). But if your only choice is biomass or photovoltaics, and your metric is best use of the sun, then photovoltaics are much more efficient than biomass at turning sunlight into energy to fuel a car.
The academics examined three ways of using sunlight to power cars: a) converting corn or other plants to ethanol; b) converting energy crops into electricity for battery powered vehicles rather than producing ethanol; and C) using photovoltaics to convert sunlight directly into electricity for
battery powered vehicles
. Because land-use decisions are local, they examined five prominent "sun-to-wheels" energy conversion pathways – ethanol from corn or switchgrass for internal combustion vehicles, electricity from corn or switchgrass for  battery powered vehicles, and photovoltaic electricity for
battery powered vehicles
– for every county in the contiguous United States.
Focusing the life cycle assessment in that closed system and on three key impacts – direct land use, life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and fossil fuel requirements – the researchers identified PV electricity for battery electric vehicles as the superior sun-to-wheels conversion method.

"Even the most efficient biomass-based pathway…requires 29 times more land than the PV-based alternative in the same locations," the authors write. "PV BEV systems also have the lowest life-cycle GHG emissions throughout the U.S. and the lowest fossil fuel inputs, except in locations that have very high hypothetical switchgrass yields of 16 or more tons per hectare." Photovoltaic conversion also has lower greenhouse gas emissions throughout the life cycle than do cellulosic biofuels, even in the most optimistic scenario for the latter. "The bottleneck for biofuels is photosynthesis," says U.C.Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science&Management Professor Roland Geyer . "It's at best 1-percent efficient at converting sunlight to crop, while today's thin-film PV is at least 10-percent efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. Finally, while cost was not a key component of the study, Geyer says, "The cost of solar power is dropping, and our quick calculations suggests that with the federal tax credit, electric vehicles are already competitive."
What does this mean for the future?
"What it says to me is that by continuing to throw money into biofuels, we're barking up the wrong tree," Geyer explains. "That's because of a fundamental constraint, which is the relative inefficiency of photosynthesis. And we can't say that right now, biofuels aren't so great but they'll be better in five years. That fundamental problem for biofuels will not go away, while solar EVs will just continue to get more efficient and cheaper. If they're already looking better than biofuels, in five years the gap will be even greater. A search for a silver bullet is under way through "synthetic photosynthesis," but using genetic engineering to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis is a pipe dream. If there is a silver bullet in energy, I think it's solar power."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Raspberry Pi Raspberry Pi with Clear Case | Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Raspberry Pi with Clear Case | Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi with Clear CaseMCM Part #: 83-14631  |  Raspberry Pi

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The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video.
More information can be obtained at the Element 14 Community page
Shop all Raspberry Pi accessories

Product Description

New Cased Kit includes Clear Raspberry Pi case plus the 512Mb Raspberry Pi Board
The design is based around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC, which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, and 512 Megabytes of RAM. This revision 2.0 board features two mounting holes for easy installation, a built-in reset circuit, and can be powered via the USB data ports. The design does not include a built-in hard disk or solid-state drive, instead relying on an SD card for booting and long-term storage. This board is intended to run Linux kernel based operating systems.
The Raspberry Pi use Linux-kernel based operating systems. Debian GNU/Linux, Iceweasel, Calligra Suite and Python are planned to be bundled with the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi does not come with a real-time clock, so an OS must use a network time server, or ask the user for time information at boot time to get access to time and date info for file time and date stamping. However a real time clock (such as the DS1307) with battery backup can be easily added via the I2C interface.

Essential Raspberry Introduction Videos

Introduction to Debian Linux

Installing packages (programs) and using Linux

Limited Warranty and Returns for 83-14421 (Raspberry Pi)

Who is a "Customer" for purposes of this limited warranty?
If you have purchased a Raspberry pi directly from MCM Electronics, Inc. ("MCM"), you are considered a "Customer" for purposes of coverage under this limited warranty.
What does this limited warranty NOT cover? MCM has no obligation to repair, replace, or provide refunds in the following instances:
  • If the alleged defect arises because Customer has altered or repaired the Raspberry pi without the prior written consent or authorization of MCM;
  • If Customer did not follow any applicable instructions for proper storage, usage, or maintenance of the Raspberry pi;
  • If Customer has failed to notify MCM of any defect where the defect should have been reasonably apparent on inspection; or
  • If Customer fails to notify MCM of the defect within 12 months of MCM's shipment of Raspberry pi to Customer.
This limited warranty does not cover the cost of shipping the defective Raspberry pi to MCM Electronics for repair, or the cost of shipping the repaired or replacement Raspberry pi to you.
How to return Raspberry pi to MCM to receive warranty service:
  • Call (1-877-626-3532) or e-mail the Customer Service Department and request an RA (Return Authorization) number, which will be valid for 30 days.
  • Place the original package inside another shipping carton, along with a copy of your invoice and a brief explanation of why the original merchandise is being returned. Do not mark on the original container or use as a shipping carton.
  • Print the RA number legibly on the outside of the outer shipping carton in bold, visible letters.
  • Download the return authorization form (.pdf, 14kb)
  • Send the package to:
    MCM Electronics
    405 South Pioneer Blvd
    Springboro, OH 45066-3001
Note: Certain products classified as "ORM-D" require special packaging and shipping procedures. If you are unsure of how to handle these items, please contact your freight carrier for information

Building a Green Economy after the Great Leap Sideways - Environment - Utne Reader

Building a Green Economy after the Great Leap Sideways - Environment - Utne Reader

The Leap is first and foremost a cognitive jump, a shift in perspective and priorities. There is new technology and infrastructure involved—some of it fresh from the lab, some ancient in design—but it is not fundamentally about the tools. Whereas technological revolutions like the one that has reshaped telecommunications in the last twenty years are driven by new kinds of tools—“disruptive technologies,” in the preferred lingo of the digital world—The Leap is propelled by disruptive techniques. New kinds of policy, new metrics, new design parameters for vehicles and homes and whole cities, new ways of solving problems and thinking through challenges. It is not about material wealth or technical know-how but about creating the social and political will to commit to making the jump.
And finally—critically—The Leap is not just about escaping from but also moving toward, not motivated solely by the avoidance of disaster but also, even principally, by the desire to pursue our brightest possible future. The track on the other side leads not just somewhere safer but somewhere better.
The reason I can state this so baldly is because, as I said, I’ve been there. And what follows is, in one sense, a travel guide to the places where we arrive upon landing. I’ve seen first hand the exhilaration the Great Leap Sideways inspires, and I can see no good reason why anyone wouldn’t want to be where this Leap lands us. These are not allegorical scenarios like the train ride I described but real communities, cities, businesses, even whole nations—places that are already thriving in the sustainable twenty-first-century world order, all of them as real as Jeremiah Thompson’s New York and the yellowed pages of an 1818 shipping list. The Leap does not take us to a place of hardship or deprivation. It’s not about sacrifice, not a world predicated on going without or getting by. Quite the opposite: it’s a leap from a failing system to one that works, from decline and imminent peril to a new kind of prosperity with a healthy future stretching far out in front of it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Graphene: The Next Big Thing in PV? - Solar Feeds

Graphene: The Next Big Thing in PV? - Solar Feeds:

The result is a device that uses a less expensive option than the indium tin oxide (ITO), which has been used as a transparent electrode for flexible PV cells. “Currently, ITO is the material of choice for transparent electrodes,” Gradečak said in a release about the research. The rarity of indium is main cost-driver in such applications.
In their abstract the researchers wrote that they were able to demonstrate growth of highly uniform and well-aligned zinc-oxide nanowire arrays on the graphene by modifying its surface with conductive polymer interlayers. “On the basis of this structure, we then demonstrate graphene cathode-based hybrid solar cells using two different photoactive materials,” they wrote. The cells used PbS quantum dots and the conjugated polymer P3HT. devices had AM 1.5G power conversion efficiencies of 4.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. Such conversion efficiencies, while far below that of conventional silicon PV is close to the performance of ITO-based devices with similar architectures.
The resulting device has additional advantages beyond cost, including its light weight, flexibility, strength and chemical robustness, the institute said.
A chief challenge was dealing with graphene’s slipperiness, otherwise known as its stable and inert structure—without impacting its electricity conductive characteristics, Gradečak said. The polymer coatings modified its properties, allowing the researchers to bond the zinc oxide nanowires to it. The nanowires are layered over with a light reactive material aka, the aforementioned lead-sulfide quantum dots or polymer.
Thus far Gradečak and her team have only made proof-of-concept devices a half-inch in size. But given the processes used to make such devices, she anticipated a short road to making larger-sized devices. “I believe within a couple of years we could see [commercial] devices” based on this technology, she said.
Other researchers—including some at MIT are looking at other means of using graphene in a new generation of photovoltaic devices that could usher in a new generation of less expensive, flexible and more robust solar cells.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tornado wind generator lands VC funding

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s foundation recently invested $300,000 in a start-up company that aims to harness energy from tornadoes. A single twister-generator machine could produce as much energy as a coal-fired power plant without the downside of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Atmospheric Vortex Engine is the brainchild of Louis Michaud, a Canadian engineer who first started talking about the concept in the early 2000s. He’s successfully proven it works with 13-foot diameter version.
The investment money from Thiel “will allow us to carry out well documented development experiments in an academic environment,” Michaud told NBC News in an email. “Such results are required to get financial and power industry support to move to the next stage.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

About Us | Sun Country Highway

About Us | Sun Country 

Sun Country Highway Ltd is a progressive Canadian owned company leading the electric vehicle movement across the nation by raising awareness and promoting the adoption of zero emission transportation. Founded by president, Kent Rathwell, Sun Country Highway was created to build the most sustainable electric vehicle infrastructure in the world.


Empowering Canadians to lead global change by adopting a model for economic and environmental sustainability.


To create the most ‘earth-friendly’ country in the world. Our aim is to empower Canadians to make choices that promote economic and environmental sustainability; we want to help green Canada’s highways by fostering a culture shift toward greener living.

2012/2013 Strategic Objectives

  • Develop a national infrastructure for green vehicles

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lessons learned about the A13 OLinuXino with A13-LCD7-TS | Skaag's Virtual Diary

Lessons learned about the A13 OLinuXino with A13-LCD7-TS | Skaag's Virtual Diary

I was initially trying to purchase a Raspberry Pi, but supplies being non-existent I was forced to look for alternatives, and I’m very glad I did because the end result is that I have a more powerful platform to work with. It’s faster, has 3 USB ports with tons of gpio pins, has an on-board nand chip, wifi adapter, sd card reader, audio in/out, and the pretty useful UEXT connector. It runs very cool, and since there are no moving parts or fans it is naturally silent.
In addition to this specific product being quite amazing, feature wise, Olimex has a very talented team of engineers who crank out new boards and designs at a pace rarely seen. They are already working on an A10 board, which packs even more impressive hardware and features. Once in a while they even find the time to write a new guide or how-to, and post it on their blog.
Apart from the Olimex engineers who are obviously dedicated to their cause, there’s a good number of individuals working on the “ARM Netbook” project. The Olimex and ARM engineers, as well as the community of users, all hang out on the Freenode IRC Network, on channels #olimex and #arm-netbook (If you have an IRC client you can click those links to directly join the rooms). I strongly urge you to join those chat rooms if you have questions, or if you feel you can help others with your skills and knowledge.

Using Thermodynamics & 100-Year-Old Technology To Break The $20 Per MWh Barrier - CleanTechnica

Using Thermodynamics & 100-Year-Old Technology To Break The $20 Per MWh Barrier - CleanTechnica
low cost solar panels a stirling engine and a generator, to make plentiful cheap local power!