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Titanium: A Star is Born

21/09/2010 2 comments

Titanium TiIn an age where hydrocarbons still reign supreme, Titanium is finally starting its ascent to a higher orbit around the Technological Sphere, where it will certainly offer us much better views of what the world could actually be, as opposed to what it is at present.

Even though Titanium is the 7th most common element on earth, and is found in everything from reflective paint to orbital satellites, it’s still a long way from being a common household name though. Fortunately, a steady succession of exciting new developments in key areas such as Metallurgy, NanoTechBioTech, and Environmental & Health Sciences, and even Hydrogen production means that Titanium isn’t going to be dutifully playing the humble part of the unsung hero for very much longer now…

Titanium TiIn fact, Titanium (either it’s Oxides or ductile metallic forms) are now poised to far surpass their already enormous roles in countless current technologies and applications (which we’ve already looked at if you’re curious), and start rocketing Humanity into some truly exciting new areas via emerging technologies and revolutionary industrial applications that promise exciting new sources of clean energy, as well as pollution controlling methods for the old ones.

The only remaining question isn’t ‘how’ or ‘when’ we’re going to see genuine signs of Titanium-based progress gaining mainstream visibility, but rather, just how far will Titanium take us into a clearly visible Future which is imminently ready to become our new current Reality!

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Algae Fuels Hopes for Life Without Big Oil!

26/08/2010 1 comment
Let’s cover off what you what you might already know…. Algae are a rather simple life-form that come in well over 65,000 different varieties (with possibly 100’s of thousands more to be identified still!), and they remain on the bleeding edge of Renewable Energy research, and represent a Holy Grail for many of the Disciples of BioFuels since they can also convert light and CO2 into oils and sugars like nothing else on Earth! The trouble with this ‘soon to bloom’ solution, is that most of the large PetroChemical Giants are also already well up to speed in their efforts to squeeze oil out of algae, and they are even starting to be awarded Patents on both processes, and even certain breeds (or mutations) of Algae in order to keep someone else from getting a competetive edge in this newly developing industry.
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Of course, this is a familiar story about how progress gets held back by powerful interests that seek to monopolize new ideas, and effectively kill growth prospects for everyone else…But in the case of algae, there might actually be enough biodiversity to go around for everyone, and we might all soon be singing the praises of this smelly, slimy deterant for swimmers, as we thumb our noses at the oil giants who are still trying to get the most from their well-heads.
That is of course, if there’s enough desire for cooperation between Bankers, Researchers, and the independent Industrialists who can move these ideas forward , rather than holding all their cards too close to their chest… Surely we don’t need another reason to wonder what companies like BP, Shell, and Exxon-Mobile have hidden in their sleeves, when it comes to assimilating good energy ideas, and then sitting on them until the oil runs dry!
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Copper Spurs New NanoTech Growth!

02/06/2010 2 comments

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” Copper Nanowires can now be ‘grown’ in bulk and then ‘printed’ on a surface to transparently conduct current! ”
– Benjamin Wiley, Duke Chemistry

Most people probably don’t realize that thin film solar panels and flat screen TV’s share alot in common, since they both rely heavily on the technologies of ‘thin-film dialectrics’ (TFD) to produce the substrates (electrode layers) that control either the emission or absorption of light. So obviously, any advances made in the manufacturing processes for these films could create both cost and technical efficiencies that would enable TFD’s to either consume less power, or generate more energy on an even cost basis for a given amount of light. This would be no small achievement if you consider the growing demand for efficient display screens, and the persistent cost barriers to all the solar panels that people are hoping to install in the very near Future.  The exciting Science News here is that new discoveries in copper-based ‘Nano Tech’ are offering the first cheaper and efficient alternatives to existing methods that we’ve seen in quite awhile, and could genuinely change the surface of playing field if Cu-based nanotech can continue to overcome the hurdles of establishing a brand new TFD process.

thin film solar array goes online in Arizona

Currently the status quo of TFD manufacturing is based in a predominance of electrode films made from Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), and this rather expensive method still has quite a few nagging drawbacks. First of all, ITO is pricey to process, it’s also brittle and thus fragile; so its production process remains highly inefficient; and it’s already an expensive technology that’s becoming even more costly because of the dual increases in market demand (scarcity) for both raw materials and the finished product. Currently the only alternatives we see on the horizon are coming from nano technology that uses either silver or carbon nano-tubes – which both remain highly cost prohibitive and difficult to produce. However a research team at Duke University have recently announced that they’ve perfected a method to grow nanowires from Copper, which promises to dramatically reduce not only the manufacturing demands for these thin films, but also allow for them to be much more flexible, durable, and cost efficient – Especially since copper is an abundant resource who’s price can’t be as easily cornered and manipulated by merchants and market forces…
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A Diesel Powered Future?

19/05/2010 1 comment

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Diesel Power was a revolution that still inspires new innovations even today.
Bridging the gap for Industry and Transportation as they seek out a sustainable Future.
Check the Green History of Diesel!

Rudolf Diesel's first Engine, 1897 - deutsches-museum.deUpon operating his first successful engine design back in 1897  Rudolph Diesel changed the world in ways that most people still don’t fully appreciate today. Especially now, as we begin the long process of moving out of the petroleum-powered era, we should pause to take lessons from visionaries like Tesla and Diesel, and consider how they harnessed natural forces and physical phenomena to revolutionize existing technologies, and enabled enormous leaps into the Future by allowing others to build upon the solid foundations that they laid. The venerable diesel engine was an innovation of the internal combustion engine that continues to be improved upon even today, with the new methods and materials that are offered by modern science.

Many of us associate diesel power with loud smelly trucks and buses, so it might come as a great surprise that Diesel technology is actually still being improved upon after all this time. In fact, in just the past few years we’re seeing a level of improvement to efficiency and emissions that are actually positioning diesel as a sustainable interim solution for our transportation needs…While other options continue to be researched for that quantum leap in technology that will slingshot both Industry and Society towards the next century. So If you’re ready to see how diesel power still holds a few tricks up it’s sleeve, then let’s start exploring, by looking at railway locomotives as our prime motivator!

BTW: If you’re curious about Rudolf Diesel’s sense of environmental and social responsibility, as it was well over a century ago…Just pop-open another window by clicking HERE for further insights.

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Has PR trumped Science at MIT ?

15/01/2010 8 comments

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Suspected anomalies discovered in article published at MIT News :

” Major Discovery from MIT is
primed to unleash a Solar Revolution! “

The ongoing, yet destructively repressed and polarized, debates between so called Climate Skeptics (and their ilk) VS. the popular proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) may have cooled slightly in the post-Copenhagen lull. But questions around the scope of Scientific Method employed in determining AGW, are only now beginning to rise to the forefront of Public Consciousness.

The primary question has been to wonder if it’s indeed possible for ‘pure science’ (at least at the educational research level) to be bent or distorted in order to serve pre-ordained objectives.

So can science be bent around the points of peerage that are always subject to new review (according to said Method), to instead selectively support current states of research. In effect whatever specific agendas, that might tap into otherwise unavailable funding, or even simply to act as a public relations tool –  in service of much larger visibility campaigns?

If we can possibly leave aside (just for now) the temporarily cooled question of Climate Change, we could look for signs of all of the above in a surprisingly exuberant article published on the MIT News site in July 2008 instead of wondering if science is above promoting itself for the sake of funding or notoriety.

Even though it’s exultant title wildly proclaims that a “Major Discovery from MIT is primed to unleash a Solar Revolution”! the hard science and empirical data or comparative results behind the article are thinly presented (at least from the Layman’s POV), and there still doesn’t seem to be much obvious evidence of wider public discourse or a proper ‘peer review’ process around this “major discovery” either.

 

Perhaps this is just the style employed for wider press releases via “MIT News”, however one would at least expect to see evidence of  published papers/results, or at least links to some shared or foundation research. Perhaps MIT is operating under the principals of private enterprise, and it wouldn’t want to jeopardize plans to commercialize it’s discovery by giving away any un-patented trade secrets.

That last possibility would indicate that we’ve already seriously diverged out of the field of publicly funded research, and into corporately (privately?)  held intellectual property. Perhaps someone could clarify the business model that supports MIT, or other such institutions to dispel any such naivete that could be evidenced here.

In any case, let’s try to leave commercial interests aside, and get back to some hard Science.

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A New Mission…

26/11/2009 Leave a comment

You’ve discovered a Mission Category that still hasn’t been used yet…

If this notice is still appearing at the top of the page then this empty Mission Category is wide open to new explorations…

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From there we will create a Mission Profile Stub for you, and assign full Contributor privileges to your account, so that you can write/edit your new Mission Profile, as well as contribute to any other Mission Categories. Once your contribution is approved, you’ll have attained the role of Mission Specialist here at Environauts!

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Greening the Rustbelt

18/11/2009 Leave a comment

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Simplistically speaking, someone, somewhere might just call it “Corporate Welfare” (or worse), but a couple of smaller renewable energy players are planning something really big in the State of Michigan

Look up...Look waaaayyyyyy up!

Look up...Look waaaayyyyyy up!

The central hub to these plans would be a sprawling 320 acre facility in Wixom Michigan where the Ford Motor Company has held silent watch over its shuttered auto plant since the huge facility was shut down in 2007. Now in 2009, two renewable energy players have stepped up with a bold plan to change the state of affairs in Michigan.

Xtreme Power of Kyle, TX is a 5 year old company employing 90 people that provides solid-state power management and storage systems, which would dovetail very nicely with it’s larger partner in this grande venture. Clairvoyant Energy of Santa Barbara, CA is the American presence for a Spanish solar panel company that has already deployed a 12-Megawatt installation on top of a General Motors plant in Zaragoza, Spain, and expects to generate big change from the derelict infrastructure in Wixom

Xtreme expects to directly create some 2,500 jobs, with 1,500 of these being either right in Wixom, or within a 10 mile radius. An impressive topspin is added to this proposed venture with 10,000 additional supplier jobs supposedly being created – under their best projections of course. Anyone familiar with UAW negotiation tactics and PR strategy might be able to determine (and share with us) how such “spin-off” job figures are actually derived, because clear sources for such things just never seem to be credited, much less readily available in support of such claims. I presume this figure includes the extra morning drive-through attendants at the local McDonalds, or something equally distended.

From it’s own side of the venture, Clairvoyant expects to run one solar panel manufacturing line initially to employ 300 people, with projections to operate 3 more lines eventually. We are left to presume that they ultimately expect to employ 1200 people, but I’ve not found any sources at this early stage of the proceedings.

You see both companies have been fairly reserved in the dealings with the Press thus far, since they are both seeking State and Federal loan guarantees and tax incentives to move ahead with the project. When the timing is right however, there would be several prominent politicians involved who’d certainly like to (at least) share in the enormous PR value, if not the actual economic impact associated with the very first venture to transform a mothballed auto plant into a new Green manufacturer. Of course, brandishing the bragging rights to being the first political leader to get ex-autoworkers in the “rust belt” back to work in the new jobs of a budding Green economy, is made even more pointed by the piercing irony that the Wixom Ford plant had previously been rolling out the legendarily luxurious, gas-guzzling Lincoln Town Car.

How does this line get re-tooled now ?

How does this line get re-tooled now ?

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