Friday, January 26, 2007

Brickmuppet Blogs Batteries, Biogas & Biodiesel,

After a long week of working on energy alternatives, one of the Brickmuppet's crack team of science babes relaxes with some tea and relays her findings...(and has a good laugh explaining the wacky lab accident that turned her hair lavender.)

A series of great posts at Energy Blog, Jim Fraser has an informative post on how the President has just signed an executive order mandating flexfuel and hybrid vehicles for government agencies with more than 20 cars! Read the whole thing. According to Mr. Fraser...

I find the increased use of non-petroleum-based fuel is extremely aggressive, as it could require the purchase of flex-fueled vehicles before the current vehicles would normally be replaced.

This will help with the chicken/egg problem that manufacturers face.They will be able to sell vehicles to government fleets while the infrastructure to support them is brought online.

Energy Blog also posts on a new and quite promising geothermal study from MIT that greatly increases the number of areas that geothermal power could be viable in.

And there is this very neat article in Technology Review . This concerns the recent claims of a Texas firm to have a revolutionary new battery design (actually closer to an ultracapacitor) that is non-toxic and will about quintuple the range of electric cars. This has been greeted with much skepticism but they are moving forward with plans to power the new ZENN car which should be available later this we'll certainly see!

Anonymous PHD sends this story in Research News concerning continued progress in making fuel cells economically viable.They still use platinum, but the amount has been drastically reduced via a nickel/platinum alloy...and a lifespan shortening issue regarding erosion due to hydroxide reactions is now greatly reduced as well.

Over at Green Car Congress they are following the activation of the first LNG refinery to run off of landfill THAT'S cool :)

GCG also reports on a new fertilizer/fuel plant that actually produces all of its own power from its biogas! This is big, carbon neutral fertilizer on an industrial scale seems to me to be a big thing. Though their main product is fertilizer, they are producing as a byproduct, 5 gallons of liquid fuel per bushel of soybeans. A 2 fer!
The proprietary liquid fuel is not actual biodiesel, but it may still have applications. Here's how it stacks up.

Left to right: USSEC Biodiesel ULSD #2
Approximate Heating Value
(BTU/gallon) 125,000 117,000 128,000
Pour point (°F) -90 30 0
Cloud point (°F) -70 35 15
Flash point (°F) 90-95 266 125
Viscosity 0.8-1.1 1.9-6.0 1.9-4.1

Not sure what 'cloud point' is but it looks pretty good otherwise. Check out the viscosity though ... If I read this right, the stuff is relatively thick, but it still looks like it could have applications...especially since it's the BYPRODUCT.

On to splitting atoms, over at Energy from Thorium, Kirk Sorensen posts on the considerable advantages of Thorium reactors over the regular light water reactors in the waste dept from the mining phase to the disposal phase. While nuclear waste issues are exaggerated, they are very real and greatly exacerbated by our not using breeders to get more energy out of the fuel. Thorium is not only more common, its fuel cycle generates less waste. These reactors have gotten some attention recently but what seems to be missed often is that this technology is far more mature than many people think. We built several of these reactors in the 50's and 60's and designed a very compact 200 MW power-plant for a nuclear powered utterly batshit concept that thankfully never got off the ground.
On the ground however, this type of reactor worked fine. Its more compact safer and uses cheaper, more abundant fuel.

India uses thorium reactors with some success though these particular ones operate on different principles from what Mr. Sorensen proposes.

Well, that's it for energy today. The science babes are going to focus on space travel next.

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