VATIS Update New and Renewable Energy . Oct-Dec 2015

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New and Renewable Energy Oct-Dec 2015

ISSN: 0971-5630

VATIS Update New and Renewable Energy (formerly Non Conventional Energy)* is published 4 times a year to keep the readers up to date of most of the relevant and latest technological developments and events in the field of New and Renewable Energy. The Update is tailored to policy-makers, industries and technology transfer intermediaries.

* This update has been renamed as 'VATIS Update: New and Renewable Energy' from Jan-Mar 2015 onwards.

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India approves national offshore wind energy policy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Union Cabinet has approved the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy. The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been designated as the nodal ministry for use of offshore areas within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It also puts the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) in charge of offshore wind energy development in the country, authorizing it to allocate offshore wind energy blocks and to coordinate functions with related ministries and agencies.

India, which already has 23 GW of onshore wind power capacity, has a coastline of more than 7,600 kilometers (km) and has been thought to have enormous wind energy potential offshore. “One of the key advantages of off-shore wind energy is that large sized projects of 1,000 MW and above can be built with the capacity utilization factor ranging from 45%-50%. This also enables better utilization of transmission infrastructure and better dispatchability, with insignificant impact on land requirements,” said Tulsi Tanti, at Suzlon, India.

Suzlon is conducting a techno-commercial feasibility in Gujarat, where it has identified more than 1 GW of offshore wind energy potential on the Kutch Coast. To increase energy security and diversify supply reliance beyond coal, hydro, nuclear, and natural gas, India wants to expand its renewable power capacity to 175 GW by 2022, including 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind power, 10 GW of biomass, and 5 GW of small hydropower. The country’s current installed renewable capacity stands at 34 GW.

India’s solar potential is still under one percent

According to a recent study by Deloitte and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), India’s solar power potential estimated at 749 GW while the tapped solar power output is still under one percent. All this while the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) has estimated India’s solar power potential at 749 GW. The study also revealed that installed solar power capacity in India grew from 14 MW in 2010 to 3,744 MW by March 2015.

“There are 300 million people in India without power; 400 million people are supplied erratic power; more than half the population of India does not get proper power. The government of India’s ambitious target of achieving 100 GW solar power capacity by 2022 compared to China’s 100 GW by 2020,” ,” said Ashish Khanna, at Tata Power Solar, India. The central and state governments have embarked on initiatives like rooftop solar projects, solar parks, standalone mini-grids for rural electrification and off-grid applications such as solar cookers, lanterns and others for producing maximum solar power in India.

“Karnataka’s solar policy aims to install 400 MW solar rooftop projects by 2018. Harvesting solar energy through rooftop installation not only enables flexibility but also reduces dependence on diesel-based captive and back-up generation units for industrial and commercial consumers,” said M. Maheshwar Rao, at Karnataka Power Corporation Limited, India.

Sri Lanka to get $200 million loan

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has $200 million to support the wind energy sector in Sri Lanka. The Bank would provide financial support by buying debt instruments issued in the national and international market. The Wind Power Generation Project does not provide any quantitative details about capacity addition but does mention 2018 as a landmark year. Through this program Sri Lanka is looking to tap its substantial wind energy resources. Sri Lanka lies just south of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which has the highest wind energy resource as well as installed capacity.

Sri Lanka has estimated its theoretical wind energy potential at 35 GW; but the actual potential feasible to be tapped would be quite low. Sri Lanka’s Sustainable Energy Authority has set a target to have 10% of all installed power capacity in the country based on renewable energy sources by the end of this year. The progress made against this target is not known, but to achieve the target the country would require having 460 MW of renewable energy capacity installed. Hydro power is expected to be the leading technology, followed by wind energy and biomass, in the renewable energy installed capacity mix.

Pakistan approves net metering law

Pakistan’s energy regulator, NEPRA (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority), has approved and put into effect net metering schemes for solar and wind generation of up to 1MW. The plans were drafted in October 2014 and approved at government level as far back as January of this year. NEPRA named it a “framework for the regulation of Distributed Generation by using alternative and renewable energy net metering”. NEPRA would grant generation licences to solar and wind system owners, who will need to register the critical equipment, used the maker and model of inverter and generator.

Among other technical considerations, the generator would install a manual disconnect device to take the system off the network if necessary. Distributed generators that signed up to the scheme paid a one-off fee to NEPRA. The charges ranged from PKR500 (US$4.80) for systems between 20kW and 50kW, and up to PKR5,000 for systems of 100kW to 1,000kW, although those of 20kW capacity or below will be exempted. The country has introduced feed-in tariffs (FiTs) for larger systems, leading to companies such as Meeco, Switzerland, to carry out a number of commercial rooftop installations under power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Meanwhile Aleo Solar, Germany, has kicked off its involvement in Pakistan in March by providing PV modules to 18 solar systems of 100kWp capacity each in rural areas where diesel is still one of the main sources of fuel. The Aleo Solar systems will be linked to energy storage to maximise the use of solar. Similarly, Meteocontrol China, would add integrated remote control systems to 100MW of a larger 900MW project in Punjab. The move to add net metering is hoped to add momentum to the residential and smaller scale markets.

China leads renewable energy push in Asia-Pacific

According to GlobalData’s Asia-Pacific Renewable Energy Policy Handbook 2015, the Asia-Pacific Region continues to move toward renewable energy, with China leading the way and becoming a major global player. The handbook finds that many countries throughout the Asia-Pacific Region “have adopted policy instruments such as Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), soft loans, and tax incentives to promote renewable energy.” Unsurprisingly, according to GlobalData, “Investment in renewable energy projects increased following the introduction of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997,” of which Australia, Japan, and New Zealand are all signatories.

China and India, who were only faced with non-binding targets as part of the Kyoto Protocol, later signed the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, pledging to work toward binding targets for carbon intensity reduction of 20 to 25% and 40 to 45% by 2020 respectively. GlobalData also highlighted the importance of China in the Asia-Pacific Region, describing it as an emerging “major player in the global renewable energy industry” and a “leading country” in the Asia-Pacific Region. China announced its 12th five-year plan in 2011, covering the period 2011 to 2015, with targets to install 70 GW of wind power capacity, 20 GW of solar power, and 7.5 GW of biomass power by 2015.

GlobalData claimed that China “has already achieved its target by reaching a total installed renewable capacity of 224.8 GW in 2014,” adding that “renewable sources accounted for 16.4% of its power in 2014 and are expected to reach 22% in 2020.” Specifically impressive is China’s role as the leading wind power market in the world – a position the American Wind Energy Association loves to challenge – with a total installed capacity of 115.6 GW in 2014, with the US following behind with only 66 GW. A record 13.8 GW of wind capacity was installed in 2009, which was then surpassed with 18.9 GW in 2010.

China’s largest wind turbine is operational

China’s biggest onshore wind farm has gone into operation in Hebei province. It’s part of a national effort to increase the use of renewable energy. The 160-meter high turbines are intended to ensure that all the power supply for venues in Zhangjiakou for the 2020 Winter Olympics will come from clean energy. The generators have been integrated to the national power grid. Its intelligent control system can ensure smooth distribution of electricity to the entire grid.

Capacity is three times that of the unit formerly deployed across China. The unit generates 5,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity an hour. Daily maximum power generated reaches 120,000 kilowatt-hours. That amount could meet the demand of nearly 10,000 households. The city is part of the integration plan of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei.

It’s the only demonstration city for renewable energy in the country. Zhangjiakou plans to increase its share of renewable energy from 7 percent in 2014 to 30 percent by 2020. It hopes renewable energy can meet half of the city’s needs by 2030. That would mean a reduction of 85 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide.

New renewable energy generation system in Philippines

The Republic of Korea Energy Agency (KEA) is developing new renewable distributed energy generation systems based on photovoltaic power generators in the Philippines. The energy corporation announced that it has recently signed a joint contract with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) of the Philippines to develop new renewable energy distributed generators.

The distributed generation system produces the energy using sunlight and wind, and then stores the electricity in small-scale facilities such as in-house power generating stations. This is in sharp contrast to large-scale power plants like nuclear and thermal power plants. Under the agreement, a 30kW solar power plant, a 175kW lithium battery, and a 25kW power conversion system (PCS) will be installed in Cobrador Island of the Philippines. Along with an existing 15kW diesel generator, the distributed generation system will be established.

Thailand to invest in renewable energy

Thailand’s energy policymakers are expecting an investment of 100 to 200 billion baht ($2.97-5.97 billion) in renewable energy, mainly due to an increase in capacity of solar farms and solar rooftop projects. “The forecast was based on the assumption that installation costs for renewable energy would be about 50-70 million baht per megawatt (MW),” said Viraphol Jirapraditkul, of the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Thailand uses natural gas for 65 percent of its power generation but wants to reduce its dependence to 40 percent over the next two decades and focus more on clean coal technology and renewable power. In May, the energy ministry approved a plan to buy power from 172 solar farms with total capacity of 980 MW. It has also approved plans to give licences to private firms to produce a combined 800 MW of solar capacity for government organisations and agricultural cooperatives.

That is part of the government’s plan to increase renewable capacity to 19,635 MW by 2036, up 20 percent from a previous target, with solar energy making up 31 percent, biomass 28 percent and wind power 15 percent. According to the ministry’s latest power development plan, solar power capacity is expected to rise to 6,000 MW over the next 21 years from 1,570 MW.

Indonesia to incentivise renewables

Indonesia is to introduce incentives for renewable energy investors including a reduction in import taxes for equipment. “We aimed to create a more attractive investment environment for developing renewables in the country. We need regulations that give more opportunities for investment, such as the elimination of import taxes for capital goods used for developing new and renewable energy,” said Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said.

Said added that lowering import taxes would generate less income for the country, however, it would result in added value in the sector in the long-term. Despite strong solar resources, development in renewables has been hindered by financing issues, regulation and land acquisition issues. Although most new capacity from renewables in the near future is expected to come from geothermal projects, state-owned oil and gas firm Pertamina said it had 60MW of PV projects in the pipeline for before 2019.

Malaysia implemented B10 biodiesel mandate

The Malaysian government has implemented the B10 biodiesel programme using crude palm oil (CPO) from October this year. “We are looking at about one million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) usage per year from the B10 biodiesel programme,” said Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas. About 700,000 tonnes of CPO per year were used in the B7 biodiesel programme.


Novel semitransparent perovskite solar cells

The Department of Applied Physics of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), China, has successfully developed efficient and low-cost semitransparent perovskite solar cells with graphene electrodes. The power conversion efficiencies (PCEs) of this novel invention are around 12% when they are illuminated from Fluorine-doped Tin Oxide bottom electrodes (FTO) or the graphene top electrodes, compared with 7% of conventional semitransparent solar cells. Its potential low cost of less than HK$0.5/Watt, more than 50% reduction compared with the existing cost of Silicon solar cells, will enable it to be widely used in the future.

Solar energy is an important source of renewable energy, in which solar cell will be used to convert light energy directly into electricity by photovoltaic effect. The first generation crystalline silicon solar panel is highly stable with efficient energy conversion, but opaque and expensive. The second generation solar cell, namely thin film solar cell, is light in weight and can be made flexible. However, they are made of rare materials with complicated structure and need high temperature treatments. With the research objectives of producing solar panels of high PCEs, easy fabrication, and low cost, in recent years, scientists have been investigating third generation solar cells.

Perovskite solar cell as a novel third generation solar cell has attracted much attention recently due to its high power conversion efficiency, convenient fabrication process and potentially low cost. PolyU researcher developed the first-ever made semitransparent perovskite solar cells with graphene as electrode. Graphene is an ideal candidate for transparent electrodes in solar cells with high transparency, good conductivity and potentially low cost. Because of the excellent mechanical flexibility of graphene and the convenient preparation of the devices, PolyU’s invention can be used for the mass production of the semitransparent perovskite solar cells with printing or roll to roll process.

Scientists develop WPVS reference cells

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE), Germany, have developed a new version of reference cells for calibrating solar cells. At the Fraunhofer ISE’s laboratory, a new cell type based on negative, conductive silicon material (n-type) was incorporated while the structure of the reference cell was optimized. For the calibration of different types of solar cells, the reference cell’s spectral response can be accurately adjusted using optical filters, thereby significantly reducing any measurement uncertainty. The new cells will allow test laboratories and cell and module manufacturers in particular to significantly improve the quality of their measurements.

The outdoor version of the cell also makes it possible to take exact measurements of solar insolation in the field. The more accurately the irradiation can be measured, the more accurately the performance of PV systems can be determined. For many years, Fraunhofer ISE’s calibration laboratories – CalLab PV Cells and CalLab PV Modules – have been measuring various types of solar cells and PV modules for international customers pursuant to international norms. Fraunhofer ISE also offers globally recognized services for yield forecasting and monitoring PV systems.

For the first time, the Freiburg researchers incorporated a silicon solar cell made of n-type material, which allows for a significant expansion of the spectral response in comparison to the p-type reference cells, which are still available. The thermal coupling of the cell and housing was also improved, reducing the temperature gradient between the solar cell and the housing of the reference cell. In combination with optical filters, the new reference cells can be adjusted for the calibration of various solar cell technologies.

Researchers study efficacy of Japanese paper cutting

A new study done by the research team at the University of Michigan, the United States, claims that thin, flexible, solar cells could be shaped like cut paper and might actually work more efficiently because of it. In fact, the study says, “As a result, residential, pitched rooftop systems, which account for ∼85% of installations, lack conventional tracking options entirely. To further decrease installation costs and enable new applications, a novel approach to compact and lightweight solar tracking is required.”

According to the lead author Aaron Lamoureaux, “It looks extremely simple because it is extremely simple – it’s just linear cuts. The other patterns we looked at were harder to make, and didn’t perform as well as far as tracking goes. The larger the affected area is, larger the amount of power you’re going to get.”

New process to manufacture solar cells

Researchers at the Natcore Technology, the United States, has achieved a breakthrough in solar cell structure development that could eliminate the need for silver, replacing it with aluminum. Researchers have developed an all-back-contact silicon heterojunction (SHJ) cell structure that uses no silver at all, yet records no drop in performance. Conventional solar panels use about 0.5oz of silver, representing around 11% of the total raw material cost of a solar module. Silver was initially chosen for the modules due to its high-conductivity; however, its use makes the solar modules more expensive as silver costs about $15.28 per troy ounce.

The same quantity of aluminum would be $0.05. Although the new modules would use twice the amount of aluminum than the current level of silver to achieve the same conductivity from cell to cell, it will still result in significant savings. “Within the past month, our scientists have wrought historic changes in the architecture and the economics of the solar cell. Solar cell manufacturers will no longer be subject to the vagaries of the silver market. We are now able to produce solar cells at a substantial cost savings thanks to improvements achievable by our proprietary laser technology,” said Chuck Provini, at Natcore.

Researchers develop green antenna

Researchers at the University of Connecticut, the United States, have developed a ‘green’ antenna that has the potential to double efficiencies of certain kinds of solar cells and make them more affordable. According to the researchers, the existing silicon solar cells available in the market are ‘not very efficient in the blue part of the light spectrum’. Led by Challa V. Kumar, the team has developed an antenna having the ability to collect those unused blue photons, which is then converted into lower energy photons that the silicon can turn into current.

“If you want to use solar energy to produce electric current, you want to harvest as much of that spectrum as possible,” said Kumar. Commercial solar cells have an efficiency rate of 11% to 15%. While the high-end cells can deliver 25% efficiency, those are expensive for most people. Lab prototypes of solar cells can promise even higher efficiencies, but are not ready for commercial production. The research team had used organic dyes to enable conversion of the unused portion of the light spectrum in to wavelengths that can be used by solar cells.

The method, besides being inexpensive, can lead to the emission of more silicon friendly photons. These artificial green antennas are made of biological and non-toxic materials that are edible. The research team is coordinating with a Connecticut-based firm to find out how the antennas can be made to function with commercial solar cells.

Microscopic rake doubles efficiency of solar cells

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, the United States, have developed a manufacturing technique that could double the electricity output of inexpensive solar cells by using a microscopic rake when applying light-harvesting polymers. When commercialized, this advance could help make polymer solar cells an economically attractive alternative to those made with much more expensive silicon-crystal wafers. In experiments, solar cells made with the tiny rake double the efficiency of cells made without it and are 18 percent better than cells made using a microscopic straightedge blade.

The research was led by Zhenen Bao, at Stanford. “The fundamental scientific insights that come out of this work will give manufacturers a rational approach to improving their processes, rather than relying simply on trial and error. The SLAC/Stanford researchers’ solution is a manufacturing technique called “fluid-enhanced crystal engineering,” or FLUENCE, which was originally developed to improve the electrical conduction of organic semiconductors.

The researchers used computer simulations and X-ray analyses at two DOE Office of Science User Facilities -- SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) -- to customize the FLUENCE rake for making solar cells. To achieve the polymer patterns they wanted for the solar cells, the researchers made the pillars in the rake much shorter and more densely packed than those used earlier for organic semiconductors. They were 1.5 micrometers high and 1.2 micrometers apart; for comparison, a human hair is about 100 micrometers in diameter.


Researchers develop coating for quieter wind turbines

Based on an investigation into owls’ silent flying, researchers at University of Cambridge, the United Kingdom, have developed a prototype coating for wind turbine blades that could make them much quieter. The new material could also allow the wind turbines to spin faster and produce more energy as they are now heavily braked in order to limit the noise. The scientists used high resolution microscopy to examine owl feathers and developed a prototype material that mimics the intricate structure of an owl’s wing. They tested it on a full-sized segment of a wind turbine blade.

Wind tunnel tests showed a substantial reduction in noise without any noticeable impact on aerodynamics, according to the announcement. The next step is to test the surface on an operating wind turbine. The coating could be used to reduce the noise made by other types of fan blades, such as those in planes or computers. The study was funded by the US National Science Foundation and the US Office of Naval Research.

New hybrid glass carbon composite blade

Developed in association with DNV GL, Norway, STRUCTeam Ltd., the United Kingdom, the cost effective use of materials in blades for offshore wind energy installations in new wind blade design portfolio enables wind turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to benefit from turbine performance and operating cost improvements based on proven composites blade solutions and positive business case assessments.

“It has been an exciting time for STRUCTeam’s wind energy team with several successful new product launches. We delivered a certified blade for onshore turbines that is currently in full production. Building on our team’s extensive experience, we have extended our reference designs into the offshore arena. Our 78.5m hybrid glass-carbon blade (STL-785- C) is tuned for use on 6MW turbines in large Class IIA offshore wind farm developments.” said Chris Monk, at STRUCTeam.

As part of the work completed on the new STL-785-C blade, STRUCTeam also developed a number of other reference designs and business case assessments that deliver materials usage at the correct technology level for the client’s needs. The key findings and business benefits of the tuned design solutions have been shared with the international wind energy community at the International China Windpower show in Beijing and GoCarbon Fibre conference in Cologne. Contact: STRUCTeam, Old Riggers Loft, Marina Walk, Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO31 7XJ, UK. Tel: + 44-1983-240-534; E-mail:

Piezo sensor to predict wind farm failure

Engineers at Sheffield University, the United Kingdom, have developed a piezoelectric sensor that lets wind farm operators know when bearings are about to fail, a development that could prevent costly downtime. The sensor, developed by Wenqu Chen, at Sheffield University, uses ultrasonic waves to measure the load transmitted through a bearing in a wind turbine. Prof. Rob Dwyer-Joyce, of the Leonardo Centre for Tribology, the United Kingdom, said that a limiting factor with wind turbines is gearbox reliability, particularly in relation to bearings where manufacturers and operators have faced issues with reliability. A paper describing the advance is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

The 2mm2 sensor has been validated in the lab and is currently being tested at the Barnesmore wind farm in Ireland by Ricardo. The patented sensor has been installed in the raceway of a transmission bearing. The time of flight of the ultrasonic pulse from the sensor is affected by the stress level in the material, making the new method the first to directly measure the transmitted load through the rolling bearing components. Current sector-related condition monitoring methods come in the form of acoustic emission signal, vibration sensing, or oil debris analysis that alert operators to damage after it has occurred, which puts the new sensor – and its size – at an advantage.

Researchers study nesting pattern & wind turbines

Researchers at University of Waterloo (UW), Canada, and Colorado State University (CSU), the United States, have done a new study that maps both potential wind-power sites and nesting patterns of the birds reveals sweet spots, where potential for wind power is greatest with a lower threat to nesting eagles. Brad Fedy, at UW, and Jason Tack, at CSU, took nesting data from a variety of areas across Wyoming, and created models using a suite of environmental variables and referenced them against areas with potential for wind development.

Increased mortalities threaten the future of long-lived species and, when a large bird like a golden eagle is killed by wind development, the turbine stops, causes temporary slowdowns and can result in fines to operators. “Our work shows that it’s possible to guide development of sustainable energy projects, while having the least impact on wildlife populations,” said Fedy. Golden eagles are large-ranging predators of conservation concern in the U.S. With the right data, stakeholders can use the modelling techniques the researchers employed to reconcile other sustainable energy projects with ecological concerns.

An estimated 75 to 110 golden eagles die at a wind-power generation operation in California each year. This figure represents about one eagle for every 8 MW of energy produced. Fedy’s map predictions cannot replace on-the-ground monitoring for potential risk of wind turbines on wildlife populations, though they provide industry and managers a useful framework to first assess potential development. The results of their research have been appeared in PLOS ONE.

Scientists develop 5 MW reference gearbox

In a research paper, scientists from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, presented detailed descriptions, modeling parameters and technical data of a 5MW high-speed gearbox developed for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the United States, offshore 5MW baseline wind turbine. The main aim of this paper is to support the concept studies and research for large offshore wind turbines by providing a baseline gearbox model with detailed modeling parameters.

This baseline gearbox follows the most conventional design types of those used in wind turbines. It is based on the four-point supports: two main bearings and two torque arms. The gearbox consists of three stages: two planetary and one parallel stage gears. The gear ratios among the stages are calculated in a way to obtain the minimum gearbox weight. The gearbox components are designed and selected based on the offshore wind turbine design codes and validated by comparison to the data available from large offshore wind turbine prototypes.

All parameters required to establish the dynamic model of the gearbox are then provided. Moreover, a maintenance map indicating components with high to low probability of failure is shown. The 5 MW reference gearbox can be used as a baseline for research on wind turbine gearboxes and comparison studies. It can also be employed in global analysis tools to represent a more realistic model of a gearbox in a coupled analysis.

New hybrid wind and solar turbine

Power equipment manufacturer SkyWolf Wind Turbine, the United States, has unveiled its new Solar Hybrid Diffused Augmented Wind Turbine technology with the capacity to generate both wind and solar energy. It is world’s first turbine after integration these two types of energy generation in one. Static pressure behind the rotor blades has been reduced in the turbine, which has boosted its efficiency and electric energy output. Developed over a 12-year period, the equipment uses SkyWolf’s patented Diffused Augmented Wind Turbine (DAWT) technology, and can even generate increased amounts of energy at wind speeds as low as 3mph.

Following a Beta installation, DAWT had been able to produce an average of around 600KwH to 800KwH of renewable power a month from an average wind speed of 16mph to 18mph. In addition to rotor blades, the turbine model features solar panels that enable it to capture energy from sun rays. “After two installs and 12 years of design and development and four patents, we have finalised our Solar Hybrid DAWT product to a point that these units are capable of producing more electrical power than conventional wind turbines at wind speeds as low as 3mph, all within a lower height of only 28ft, and smaller swept blade area footprint of only 11ft diameter,” said Gerald Brock, at SkyWolf.


New tidal energy system

Harnessing tidal power around the UK’s coast has so far been limited by the cost of the large dams and barrages required and unpredictable results. Now, Kepler Energy, the United Kingdom, in conjunction with researchers at Oxford University, the United Kingdomm has devised a way to overcome this obstacle by creating a new type of horizontal axis turbine that can be used underwater at depths of up to 30 meters, at an economical cost. Conventional propeller-type turbines are like underwater wind turbines and the number of suitable sites for them are vastly reduced by the size of their large blades, limiting their use to waters at least 30 meters deep.

The THAWT (Transverse Horizontal Axis Water Turbine) technology, by contrast, is designed for deployment in shallower, lower velocity, tidal waters. Put simply, as the water flows past the fence a head of water is produced that increases the turbine’s efficiency. The phenomenon is called a ‘blockage’ of the turbines and gets larger in proportion to the length of the fence. “The original Darrieus turbine has blades that are parallel to the axis of rotation, and that means that the loads in the blades are carried entirely by bending of the blades. That results in very high stresses. The re-design that we’ve done changes the blades so that they form this triangulated structure, and that’s a very stiff and very strong structural form,” said Guy Houlsby at Oxford.

The design has minimal moving parts in the water, while its generator and other electrical equipment are installed in dry columns, increasing their reliability, efficiency, and shelf life. The generating units consist of two sets of blades sitting on three columns with a single generator in between. The THAWT has a series of other advantages. It’s hardy, with each rotor having a 25 year design life and the columns and electricity connectors 100 years. It could also have positive knock-on effects for Britain’s carbon fiber manufacturing industry. THAWT’s electrical output would be equal to that of a nuclear power station, without any of the risk, and because the blades move at a relatively slow speed there is no danger to fish swimming through the fence.

Tidal turbine technology certified

Certification body DNV GL, Norway, has issued a ‘statement of feasibility’ for France based Alstom’s Oceade 18 tidal turbine. Alstom has received orders to deliver four of the turbines, each with a power generation capacity of 1.4MW, at one of the world’s first tidal stream arrays in France. The firm used DNV-OSS-312 for the certification process, which involves an initial full risk assessment of the turbine, assenting to actions aiming for risk mitigation in case of failure.

DNV GL will co-ordinate with the turbine manufacturer to carry out a review and approval of the turbine design documents before proceeding with the fabrication stage. This will include evaluation of the manufacturing quality and equipment testing, as well as surveillance of the installation and commissioning of the model. Final Prototype Certification of the turbine will be issued after successful completion of the actions agreed upon in the statement of seasibility stage.

“Issuing the DNV GL statement of feasibility is an important step demonstrating that Alstom is taking a responsible approach to managing risk and putting in place the foundation for a successful project,” said Claudio Bittencourt, at DNV GL. Last year, Alstom, along with GDF SUEZ, was selected by France to supply equipment for a tidal energy pilot farm at Raz Blanchard. Expected to be operational in 2017, the sea-based project is designed to generate 5.6MW of wave energy, which is enough to meet the needs of 5,000 people.

Tidal generator on storm barrier

Tocardo Tidal Turbines, the Netherlands, has installed first 1 MW tidal array in the world on the Oosterschelde storm barrier, part of the famous Dutch Delta Works. This Delta storm barrier has been designed to prevent flooding of the low lying land in the event of a North Sea storm surge and it is normally left open until higher tides than normal are forecast. This allows the tide to flow freely in and out and the tidal generators make use of this flow and the fixed barrier to generate electricity. This new installation is the largest tidal energy project in the Netherlands as well as being the world’s largest commercial tidal installation of five turbines in an array.

Tocardo has spent 6 years developing tidal current generators and this installation represents the first full working installation of their latest developments. The Tocardo turbines come in a variety of sizes to match the operating requirements. Those installed on the storm barrier are each rated at around 200 kW and use a direct drive from the propeller to the permanent magnet generator. The twin bladed propeller is shaped to a patented design that allows it to operate efficiently in the flow from either direction and is made from composites. The blade length is varied according to the expected rate of current flow.

By installing five turbines, this pioneering installation will generate around 1.2 MW and Tocardo claims that it is simpler and easier to install five smaller turbines that one larger one of the same total capacity. The foundation system of the storm barrier was specially designed for this project in such a way that the storm barrier constantly remains fully operational. This initial installation only uses one arch of the extensive barrier leaving scope for more similar installations along its length. Special care was given to the environmental challenges around this operation as the Oosterschelde is a protected area and monitoring will therefore be an important part of the project.

Wave energy device installed in UK

Wave energy developer Polygen, the United Kingdom, has deployed a full-scale device at Cornwall. Volta is a 46-metre long, sub-100kW oscillating surge converter made using high density polyethylene. Polygen is a spin-off of Chesterfield-based polyethylene pipe and fittings manufacturer Fusion, where the device’s components have been made. Polygen is not generating electricity but testing the pressure and flow rates in the hydraulic circuits. It is considering generating power at a later stage.

“The occasional extreme wave conditions makes FabTest an ideal site for us to prove the strengths of our flexible design, whilst the frequent periods of very calm conditions allow us regular access to the device for monitoring and engineering works. We are now busy studying the already encouraging performance data and really looking forward to some winter storms coming through,” said Rob Eavis, at Polygen Volta’s mooring system has been designed by Mojo Maritime, the United Kingdom.

“We are very pleased to work on this exciting project. Volta is exactly the type of project for which FabTest was intended. It is a low cost development of wave energy technology ahead of more demanding deployment at commercial scale sites,” said Richard Argall, at Mojo Maritime. The wave energy device is the first deployed at FabTest since Fred Olsen shipped its Bolt Lifesaver wave energy converter to Hawaii in January.

PowerBuoy deployed in the United States

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (OPT), the United States, has announced that it successfully deployed its APB350 A1 PowerBuoy approximately 14 miles northeast of New Jersey. The APB350 A1 contains an improved Power Takeoff (PTO) system compared to the APB350 that was deployed in 2011 in connection with the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Expeditionary Autonomous PowerBuoy (“LEAP”) Program and then redeployed in 2013 in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“We believe that the APB350 represents a very appealing value proposition to provide persistent and renewable, offshore power in key markets including ocean observing, defense and security, oil and gas and offshore wind. The APB350 is designed to provide a robust and cost effective alternative to incumbent solutions that utilize battery, solar and diesel power. We continue to have interest from potential customers in the APB350, and we look forward to sharing our A1 performance data with them,” said George H. Kirby, at OPT.

The APB350 A1 features an advanced PTO design with a focus on reliability, manufacturability, cost and efficiency improvement. It utilizes OPT’s prior generation modular energy storage system (ESS) capable of supplying uninterrupted power to its payloads for up to seven days in calm sea states. Real-time performance and weather data will be collected and transmitted to OPT’s monitoring and analysis center at its corporate headquarters in Pennington, NJ.


Fuel cell capable of using biogas

An Indian entrepreneur has developed a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) generator fueled by biogas that can be used for domestic as well as commercial purposes. Siddharth Mayur, founder president of h2e Power Systems Inc, India, has developed the generator using biogas produced by the breakdown of organic material like waste from fields in absence of oxygen. “We have developed a fuel cell capable of using biogas, ammonia or any other hydrocarbon in gaseous form as well as liquid fuels like methanol and ethanol. Hence, the input is renewable,” said Mayur.

A fuel cell is equivalent to planting 500 trees per farmer per year. His company along with Fraunhofer IKTS, Germany, has commissioned the first SOFC-based power generator. The company has for now manufactured fuel cell of 10KW to 500 KW capacity. A 1 KW power generator costs Rs 2.5 lakh. A three-bedroom house normally consumes 15 to 16 units per day and 1 KW fuel cell produces 24 unit per day. SOFC technology combines hydrogen and oxygen in an electro-chemical reaction to generate electricity, with the only by-products being water vapour, heat and a modest amount of carbon dioxide.

Scientists develop new fuel cell catalyst

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have developed a new fuel cell catalyst using earthly abundant materials with performance that is comparable to platinum in laboratory tests. If commercially viable, the new catalyst could replace platinum in electric cars powered by fuel cells instead of batteries, which would greatly extend the range of electric vehicles and eliminate the need for recharging. Fuel cells generate electricity by using hydrogen from a fuel tank with oxygen in the air. The only waste product emitted to the environment is water. But fuel cells are expensive, largely because they depend on the precious metal platinum to cause the hydrogen-oxygen reaction.

Argonne’s fuel cell catalyst replaces much of the platinum with a non-precious metal. Many automakers see sales of vehicles powered by fuel cells as eventually outpacing battery-powered electric vehicles for several reasons: fuel-cell vehicles emit only water, can travel over 300 miles between fill ups, can be refilled quickly and place no burden on the electrical grid because they don’t need recharging. Since both technologies lack refilling or recharging infrastructures and are expensive, both are currently suitable mainly for early adopters and use in corporate fleets. But this may change, if advances made by Argonne researchers can be realized in commercial fuel-cell vehicles.

Flora-inspired fuel cells

A professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), the United States, has received a six-month $50,000 Innovation Corps Teams (I Corps) Program grant from the National Science Foundation to accelerate tech-transfer and explore commercialization of a biology-inspired polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell. And the campus flora is his inspiration.

The technology was developed during four years of research led by Dr. Ming Leu, the Keith and Pat Bailey at Missouri S&T. To get useable energy out of fuel cells, they have to be stacked together, which takes up a lot of space to produce minimal results. However, the bio-inspired fuel cells are expected to increase peak power density by up to 30 percent over conventional fuel cells, Koylu said. That means bio-inspired cells would take up less space than current models, or more could be stacked in the same amount of space, increasing power.

Fuel cell electric vehicle

National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Taiwan (Province of China) has unveiled the country’s first home-grown fuel cell electric vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells and lithium batteries. The university has applied for patent protection and is prepared to transfer the technology to a car manufacturer and sell the product on the market.

According to Lai Wei-hsiang, at NCKU, lithium batteries can provide high power output, while hydrogen-powered fuel cells can supplement the power lost and supply stable electricity. The range of the vehicle reaches 150 kilometers, and most importantly, it does not generate any carbon emissions. Europe, the United States and Japan have already launched fuel cell electric vehicles on the market, but while those vehicles are four-seat models, the one designed by NCKU is a two-seat model.


New advancement in storing hydrogen

Researchers at University of Bath, the United Kingdom, have discovered that hydrogen absorbed in specialised carbon nanomaterials can achieve extraordinary storage densities at moderate temperatures and pressures. The research marks a major development in our understanding of efficient hydrogen storage. It was led by Dr Valeska Ting in conjunction with researchers from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and collaborators in the USA and Germany. Hydrogen presents a significant opportunity as a sustainable, low-carbon alternative to fossil-based transport fuels. However, hydrogen is typically stored as a compressed gas in bulky high pressure tanks and these costly storage problems are a barrier to its use as a transport fuel of the future.

Researchers found that when hydrogen is stored in materials with optimally-sized sub-nanometer pores, it is able to be simultaneously compressed and stored at much higher densities than in conventional tanks. These materials include activated carbons, zeolites, metal-organic framework materials and certain porous polymers which act as ‘molecular sponges’. Using inelastic neutron scattering, which is one of the few experimental techniques that can be used to obtain direct information on the state of the hydrogen inside a solid material, the team observed hydrogen gas with a solid-like behaviour, indicating hydrogen densities almost 1,000 times the density of gaseous hydrogen at ambient temperatures and pressures.

“Greater understanding of how the nanoscale structure of the storage material can influence gas storage capacities is expected to lead to more accurate evaluation methods for existing porous hydrogen storage materials. This, in turn, should have an impact on the design and evaluation of new hydrogen storage materials for future automotive applications,” said Dr Ting. These findings open the door to a shift in focus towards pore design with future research looking to exploit storing high density hydrogen in solid materials, rather than as a liquid or a gas. The findings has been published in the journal ACS Nano,

Refuelling with hydrogen

Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), together with partners from science and industry, have developed a new method for producing hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel as part of the EU NEMESIS 2+ project. In future, this could be used in all areas where decentralised hydrogen production is needed – for example, for filling up fuel cell vehicles, or for processes used within the glass and steel industry. During the project, a prototype the size of a shipping container was also built and successfully tested. “One promising application is the production of hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel directly on site at conventional filling stations, which would make it much more convenient to fill up fuel cell vehicles, as well as further support the breakthrough of this technology,” said Stefan Martin, at the DLR.

Fuel cell vehicles could pave the way for more sustainable mobility in the future: through an electrochemical process, the fuel cell converts hydrogen and oxygen into water and electricity. The resulting current produced is then turned into kinetic energy by an electric motor. Currently, there are less than forty hydrogen filling stations in Germany – one of the reasons why fuel cell vehicles are still struggling to enter the market. “The technology developed during the NEMESIS 2+ project could act as a bridge for creating the necessary hydrogen infrastructure, which would enable fuel cell vehicles to be filled up across the country,” added Martin.

Rather than delivering hydrogen in lorries within compressed gas cylinders, the process being investigated by DLR scientists uses the existing infrastructure for storing and transporting diesel and biodiesel. The only added ingredient is a compact facility for producing the hydrogen. Compared to pressurised hydrogen, liquid fuels, such as diesel, are characterised by their higher volumetric energy density, which makes them easier to transport and store. The prototype that has been built by the Dutch project partner, HyGear, produces 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen from 20 litres of biodiesel in one hour – this roughly corresponds to the fuel tank of a B-Class F-cell vehicle.

New invention in hydrogen production

Phillips Company, Netherlands, has invented a new hydrogen-producing carbon catalyst that can be used to produce hydrogen from water and scrap metals. The new hydrogen production process can be used to generate hydrogen at commercially-useful rates. Phillips announced that information is now available for designers and R&D product development professionals who want to use a new carbon catalyst invention and new economical methods being used to generate hydrogen at commercially-useful rates. One embodiment of this new breakthrough is that it can be combined with electrolysis, requiring some electrical power to start, operate and stop the hydrogen-producing reaction.

This makes possible, for the first time, effective electrical control to start and rapidly stop this kind of catalytic-carbon hydrogen-production process. An important characteristic of the second embodiment of this new breakthrough is that it requires no external power input after the hydrogen-producing reaction is started, making possible, for the first time, the scale-up to high production rates of hydrogen on demand (HOD) using water and scrap metal for fuel. The carbon catalyst (CC = catalytic carbon) is not a fuel. The carbon catalyst is not consumed in the hydrogen-production process.

A growing number of equipment manufacturers are planning the commercialization of this new method for producing hydrogen fuel at high flow rates by extracting hydrogen from water, using scrap iron and scrap aluminum, two of the world’s safest and lowest-cost industrial materials. The use of a carbon catalyst makes the process very flexible with wide design margins. The hydrogen production can operate in any water, including tap water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth. The process can be used in a wide range of applications because it can be operated at atmospheric pressure or at high pressure.

Scientists invent solar hydrogen production panel

Scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EFPL), Switzerland, have developed a cost-effective new method for converting and storing solar energy by making free hydrogen fuel. The team thinks their liquid-liquid method can be scaled up on a commercial level. Storing solar energy as hydrogen could be a promising way for developing comprehensive renewable energy systems. So far traditional solar panels can be used to generate an electrical current that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter being considered a form of solar fuel. But, the cost of producing efficient solar panels makes water-splitting technologies too expensive to commercialize.

Many different materials have been considered for use in direct solar-to-hydrogen conversion technologies but “2-D materials” have recently been identified as promising candidates. In general these materials – which famously include graphene – have extraordinary electronic properties. However, harvesting usable amounts of solar energy requires large areas of solar panels, and it is notoriously difficult and expensive to fabricate thin films of 2-D materials at such a scale and maintain good performance. Kevin Sivula and colleagues at EPFL addressed this problem with an innovative and very low cost method that uses the boundary between two non-mixing liquids.

The researchers focused on one of the best 2-D materials for solar water splitting called “tungsten diselenide”. Past studies have shown that this material has a great efficiency for converting solar energy directly into hydrogen fuel while also being highly stable. Before making a thin film of tungsten diselenide, the scientists first had to achieve an even dispersion of the material. To do this, they mixed the tungsten diselenide powder with a liquid solvent using sonic vibrations to “exfoliate” it into thin, 2-D flakes, and then added special chemicals to stabilize the mix. The study paper has been published in journal Nature Communications.

Prototype metal hydride storage tank

GKN Sinter Metals, Germany, recently demonstrated its development of hydrogen storage systems, incorporating metal hydride structures produced by Powder Metallurgy, to Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalian Minister of Economic Affairs, Garrelt Duin. Metal hydrides provide a safe and efficient solid state approach to hydrogen energy storage. During his visit, Minister Duin was able to inspect a prototype of a hydrogen storage tank developed by GKN together with a partner company.

The pilot tank features metal hydrides made of structures produced by Powder Metallurgy. “Hydrogen will play a central role in low-emission energy supply in the future and this is why GKN is working intensively on this trend. We are again demonstrating our leadership in innovation and fully utilising GKN’s competencies in material and production techniques to bring this pioneering technology to full production-readiness,” added Degen,” said Guido Degen, at GKN.


Researchers create microbe for isobutanol production

The US Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) has developed a microbe, which is claimed to increase isobutanol yield ten-fold. The latest breakthrough follows the first genetically engineered microbe to produce isobutanol directly from cellulose. “When we reported our initial finding four years ago, we were using Clostridium celluloyticium, which is a less complex organism from a metabolic engineering perspective. We have successfully engineered similar traits in the much higher yielding Clostridium thermocellum, and that has taken us to new levels of consolidated bio-processing efficiency,” said James Liao, at UCLA.

The team used five genes with the microbe, and identified that Clostridium thermocellum produced around 6g of isobutanol per litre. “In addition to this development, which moves the BESC team closer to the production goal of more than 20g per litre, the prospects of commercial realisation of this approach are greatly enabled by the fact that the microbe works at temperatures high enough to keep competing bugs from contaminating the microbial fermentation tanks and interfering with the conversion process,” Paul Gilna, at BESC. With the previous genetically engineered microbe, they achieved conversion results of 0.6g per litre. Consolidated bio-processing involves integrating various processes in a single microbe to extract sugar from cellulose and convert those sugars into a biofuel.

Scientists discover new biofuel producing bacteria

Scientists from the University of Maryland, the United States, have isolated several different strains of bacteria that make high concentrations of biofuels from cellulosic biomass or from carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen gas. The findings of the report have been published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. The authors isolated bacteria that make high concentrations of alcohols including ethanol and 1-butanol, and other strains that make hydrocarbons, like hexane and octane. These compounds are similar to components already found in gasoline.

Although the U.S. Department of Energy and many investors have invested millions of dollars trying to genetically engineer organisms like these, the scientists from Maryland led by UM professor Rick Korn said that such organisms are already common in nature. The reason the fuel doesn’t accumulate in natural environments is because it is more thermodynamically favorable to make other products. When the products are made in nature, they are converted to other products by different organisms.

Using mathematical models of natural ecosystems incorporating the laws of thermodynamics, the authors identified conditions that favor production of desired fuels. When they applied those conditions to mixed cultures of organisms taken from the rumen, or first stomach chamber of a cow, the desired fuel-producing organisms thrived and were enriched in the culture. Eventually, using those favorable conditions, the fuel-producing bacteria were isolated. The organisms may be used to produce fuels directly from biomass, including cellulosic biomass.

Using fungi to harvest microalgae for biofuels

Scientists from EPFL, Switzerland, and the Universities of the Western Cape and Stellenbosch, South Africa, have come across a filamentous fungus that could cut the cost of biomass harvesting. Burning biogas made from microalgae only releases as much carbon into the air as the algae absorb during their growth, making algal biogas a potential carbon neutral substitute for natural gas. Curiously, the bottleneck to making the technology competitive is not in the technologically challenging process of transforming the algae into biogas, a mixture of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Researchers have solved this step using a highly efficient process called hydrothermal gasification as part of the SunCHem project. Instead, the bottleneck lies in the technologically much simpler step of harvesting the algae. When testing different types of microalgae, they noticed that in one of their samples, the algae lumped together into little pellets. Upon close investigation, they identified the culprit: a filamentous fungus, Isaria fumosorosea that had contaminated their samples.

The pellets that they observed were in fact lichens, hybrid structures made up of algae and fungi. A few millimeters in diameter, the pellets are large enough to be harvested from the water with a simple filter, with much lower energy expenditure than conventional approaches such as drying and dewatering. According the Jean-Paul Schwitzguébel from EPFL, the next steps would be to assess the energy savings that could be made using the approach if it were to be scaled up.

Researchers make biodiesel from weeds

Researchers at Islamic Azad University (IAU), Islamic Republic of Iran, have produced biodiesel from the flixweed crop as a potential renewable energy substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels. Under a project to deliver a new generation of green transport fuel, researchers produced 2 liters of biomass with a capacity to turn into a biofuel.

Alami said they had selected flixweed as an oilseed crop for fuel production because it needs few inputs to grow. It needs no cultivation, attention, herbicides and irrigation. Moreover, the plant grows in various climates and is non-edible, making it an ideal choice given the fuel-versus-food debate weighing on the viability of biofuels. Flixweed is also known by other names. Also called herb-Sophia and tansy mustard, it is a member of mustard family like the oilseed crop, canola.

Alami said their experiments with the crop revealed it contained 22% of oil and a fatty acid composition which makes it apt for being turned into a biofuel and biodiesel. Their experiments also led them to discover oxygenated chemical components in flixweed biomass. “This issue is important because the atomic oxygen in the fuel of a car directly cuts exhaust and the dangerous carbon monoxide and cancerous particles suspended in air,” Alami added. The sulfur rate in biodiesel is also 500 times less than the diesel used in Iranian cars.

New microbe that helps in biofuel production

According to a study conducted by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) and published in the journal Metabolic Engineering, with the engineering of a microbe that improves isobutanol yields by a factor of 10 another barrier to commercially viable biofuels has fallen. The new research builds on previous results from 2011 that reported on the first genetically engineered microbe able to directly produce isobutanol from cellulose.

Because of its energy density and octane values isobutanol makes an attractive alternative energy source. Those values are close to gasoline. This means that isobutanol is useful as a direct replacement for gasoline, but another advantage is that the product can also be used as a chemical feedstock for various derivate sub-products. For instance, isobutanol can be upgraded chemically to be used as a hydrocarbon equivalent for jet fuel.

This new research represents a significant step forward. The initial findings of the study conducted four years ago were based on studying Clostridium celluloyticium. This is a less complex organism, according to the scientist. The new research was successful in engineering similar traits in a more complex microbe from a metabolic engineering perspective. The new approach also helps to overcome the challenges of a plant’s natural defenses to being chemically dismantled, called recalcitrance.

Researchers develop green catalytic system

Researchers from Peking University (PKU), China, and National University of Singapore (NUS), have developed a cheap and green catalytic system for turning fatty acids into fuel that doesn’t require hydrogen or a solvent. Hydrocarbon biofuels made from waste fats and oils, such as leftover cooking oil could help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Traditionally, these biofuels are synthesised by transesterifying lipids under harsh alkaline conditions; in addition to generating waste solvent, this technique does not remove enough oxygen, so the products are incompatible with diesel engines. The process also doesn’t work with fatty acids as they become soapy and deactivate the catalyst.

Ding Ma from PKU, and Ning Yan from the NUS, and their colleagues, have tested a series of cheap and commercially available nickel-based salts as pre-catalysts for deoxygenating fatty acids and triglycerides into shorter chain hydrocarbons, in solvent-free conditions. The nickel nanoparticles acting as the catalytic species are generated during the reaction and are stabilised by the fatty acids.

They are much more active than conventional nickel catalysts and work on a variety of substrates. Nevertheless, several technical issues must be overcome before this technology can be commercialised.


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