VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Jul-Aug 2007

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New and Renewable Energy Jul-Aug 2007

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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United Nations-backed solar project poised for expansion

In rural India, an estimated 100,000 people now receive several hours of reliable solar-powered lighting every night. The credit for this achievement belongs to a United Nations-led pilot project that is now set to expand to a number of other developing countries. According to Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), The project underlines the multiple benefits accruing by providing clean and renewable energy in developing countries. Its success, he added, should also serve as a catalytic blueprint for similar schemes across the developing world and lead to the scaling up of renewable energies.

The pilot project, budgeted at US$ 1.5 million and managed by UNEP, has already inspired a sister effort in Tunisia, where the market for solar water heaters has been shifted from cash to credit, with over 16,000 systems financed. Similar programmes are planned for China, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico, Algeria, Morocco and Ghana. Even a few hours of 20-40 W solar-powered lighting in homes and small shops nightly has been credited with better grades for schoolchildren, higher productivity for needlework artisan groups and other cottage industries, and even higher sales at fruit stands, where the produce is no longer spoiled by fumes from kerosene lamps, UNEP said in a news release.


ADB supports wind energy project in India

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is promoting renewable energy in India by financing the construction and operation of wind energy facilities of Tata Power Co. The project is expected to produce about 100 MW of electricity. ADB will provide a loan of up to US$79.3 million to Tata Power without a government guarantee to set up and operate wind energy facilities at two locations in Maharashtra. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd. will co-finance up to US$22.4 million. The tenor of the loan will be for 13 years and will have a fixed interest rate during the entire tenure of the loan.


Safety standard for fuel cell power systems

IEC 62282-3-1, Stationary fuel cell power systems Safety is a new standard from IEC for stationary fuel cell power systems. It is particularly interesting in that it deals with conformity assessment issues that are vitally important in ensuring the best protection for the user and the environment.

Fuel cells are ideal as alternative energy sources especially when used in conjunction with renewable energies that cannot be relied on to supply 100 per cent uninterrupted power so that, in cases when renewable energy diminishes, they can serve as a back-up source. Stationary fuel cells can either be used as stand-alone units or integrated with other systems. Fuel cells are fast becoming commercially viable products in their own rights, and hence the need for standardization.

Since the new standard applies to stationary fuel cell power systems, it covers those fuel cells that supply power from a fixed location whether indoors or outdoors, commercial, industrial or residential. IEC 62282-3-1 addresses situations that could potentially be risky, either to those using a fuel cell or to the surroundings in which it is being operated. While the standard covers all known designs and constructions, it is not restrictive. Technical Committee 105, Fuel cell technologies, which produced this latest standard, is well represented by all countries currently considering this technology as a viable new source of energy. The committee deals with many types of fuel cells.

Contact: Mr. Dennis Brougham, Communications Manager, IEC, Switzerland. Tel: +41 (22) 9190 260.


India and China take lead in green energy

A report prepared by Ernst & Young reveals that India and China will become the most attractive countries for investment in renewable energy projects by 2012. In its quarterly rankings on Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness, the global accounting firm states that the two Asian countries would share the top three spots along with the United States on its overall All Renewables Index within the coming five years. Ernst & Young ranks countries for investment in all forms of renewable energy and by individual types, including wind, solar and biomass.

China maintained the sixth spot on the All Renewables Index, although it climbed to fifth spot from eighth on the Wind Index. China is set to overshoot a 5 GW target set for installed wind generation capacity in 2010 after it hit 2.6 GW at the end of 2006, according to experts from the Global Wind Energy Council and their Chinese colleagues. India is in second place on the index again this quarter, with tax exemptions and government legislation on compulsory renewable obligations stimulating growth in the sector, the report states. Five countries were on the 25-country index for the first time, with Poland ranking highest at 19.

Brazil, Japan, New Zealand and Turkey were also placed, with each developing their own renewable energy industries. Poland has set renewable generation targets of 7.5 per cent by 2010 and 14 per cent by 2020, while Brazil targets 3.3 GW worth of renewable energy by 2008. The United Kingdom was one of the five European Union nations to fall in ranking, falling from fourth place to fifth on the overall index. Italy, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria also fell in the quarter.


Korea seeks cleaner sources of energy

The Republic of Korea aims to break ground for the worlds biggest solar power plant, as it tries to diversify its power sources and use cleaner energy. The US$170 million plant, along with the worlds largest tidal power plant that is already under construction off the countrys west coast, is part of an aggressive effort to seek new and renewable energy sources at a time when global concerns about reducing the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases is rising. The nation is attempting to increase the use of renewable energy from its current 2.28 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020.

Scheduled to be completed by late 2008, the new solar plant will have 109,000 rectangular solar modules that will cover a seaside plot the size of 80 football fields, engineers said. The modules will feature a sun-tracking system to generate up to 20 MW of electricity. The plant will produce more than 27,000 MWh of environment-friendly electricity per year, said Mr. Kim Ji Hun, President of the Korean subsidiary of SunTechnics, the German solar power company which will build the plant on a turnkey contract. The plant will supply 6,000-7,000 households, and save 20,000 t/y of carbon dioxide, equal to the annual emission from 23,000 cars.


ADB loan to clean energy projects in the Asia-Pacific

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) will loan US$250 million to finance clean energy projects in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In a statement, the bank said that the Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility aims to provide a resources pooling system for loans, low-interest credits, guarantees or other forms of contributions to finance projects on clean energy.
Mr. Werner Liepach, Principal Director of ADBs office of co-financing operations stated that the facility encouraged development partners of ADB to cooperate in the financing of clean energy projects in the Asia-Pacific region. The facility will support activities such as investment and technical assistance projects.


Development of Indian biofuels sector

The Indian government has set up a National Mission on Biodiesel to ensure enterprise-driven biodiesel production in the country as well as to test, develop and demonstrate the viability cost-benefit analysis of the programme. At the Conference on Biofuels and Optimum Utilization of Agriculture, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Dr. S. K. Chopra, Special Secretary, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, informed that a comprehensive long-term biofuels policy is on the anvil. The policy, expected to be in place in the near future, would focus on the development of biofuels sector and fiscal and financial incentives.

The issue of energy security is important in view of the fast-growing Indian economy. Indias biodiesel programme, based on Jatropha and other feedstock, is not likely to lead to any conflict in the nature of Food vs. Fuel debate as seen in other countries. While delivering the keynote address, Ms. Susan Hansen, Head of Clean Tech Research Food and Agribusiness Research Department, Rabobank International, the Netherlands, said Compared with many other countries around the world, Indias biodiesel industry is still in its infancy stage. This can be used to Indias advantage, as India can benefit from the success stories available in other countries. Development of biodiesel as an alternative and renewable source of energy for the transportation sector has significant potential to contribute to Indias energy security, Ms. Hansen added.


Viet Nam project bags Global energy award

Viet Nams Natural Gas and Fertilizer Project was awarded the first prize at the 2006 Global Energy Awards. Viet Nam beat more than 700 entries worldwide to bag the award. After being awarded the prestigious prize, Mr. Andre Haspels, the Dutch Ambassador to Viet Nam, said that the Netherlands would invest about US$6.05 million in the project to fund the construction of a further 140,000 domestic biogas units. The Dutch Development Organization will provide Viet Nam with technical support, the ambassador stated. The two nations had signed a cooperation agreement in 2003.

As per the agreement, the Netherlands would help decrease carbon dioxide emissions in Viet Nam by approximately 420,000 tonnes and reduce the amount of firewood used by 300,000 tonnes. It is expected that the expansion of the biogas industry will create at least 2,500 rural jobs. Households will also receive financial aid to convert to biogas. Currently, there are nearly 27,000 households using biogas in 24 provinces and cities, benefiting around 100,000 residents. The Livestock Breeding Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development estimates that a single biogas unit can cut annual consumption of firewood by 2-3 tonnes equivalent to 0.03 ha of forest. Furthermore, some 30 tonnes of nitrogen-rich and odourless fertilizer is produced as a by-product.


Investments in the renewable energy industry climb up

A set of drivers including climate change worries, high oil prices and increasing government support is fuelling soaring rates of investment in the renewable energy industries, according to a recent trend analysis from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). According to the report, investment capital flowing into renewable energy climbed from US$80 billion in 2005 to a record US$100 billion in 2006. Besides, the renewable energy sectors growth although still volatile ... is showing no sign of abating.

The report offers a host of reasons behind and insights into the world's newest gold rush, which saw investors pour US$71 billion into new sector opportunities and companies in 2006, a 43 per cent jump from 2005. The trend continues in 2007 with experts predicting US$85 billion worth of investments of this year.

While renewables today are only 2 per cent of the installed power mix, they now account for about 18 per cent of world investment in power generation, with wind generation at the investment forefront. Solar and biofuel technologies grew even more quickly than wind technologies, but from a smaller base. Renewables now compete head-on with coal and gas in terms of new installed generating capacity and the portion of world energy produced from renewable sources is sure to rise much when the billions of new investment dollars bear fruit.

One of the new and fundamental messages of this report is that re-newable energies are no longer subject to the vagaries of rising and falling oil prices they are becoming generating systems of choice for increasing numbers of power companies, communities and countries irrespective of the costs of fossil fuels, said UNEP Executive Director Mr. Achim Steiner.


Canadian Solar opens manufacturing facility in China

Canadian Solar Inc. (CSI) recently celebrated the grand opening of its subsidiary, CSI Cells Co. Ltd., in China. The first phase of CSI Cells new facility, with an area of about 10,000 m2, has an annual capacity of 25 MW, and is expected to be ramped up to 100 MW by the middle of the fourth quarter of 2007. The manufacturing of cells is another step in CSIs move towards vertical integration, and the timing of the new cell line is perfect as we face increased demand for CSIs modules, said Dr. Shawn Qu, the CEO of CSI. The new cell facility will further strengthen CSIs competitive edge in the current consolidation of solar industry.


BP and Tata launch cell manufacturing expansion in India

In March this year, Tata/BP Solar opened a new 36 MW solar photovoltaic cell production line, which will see Tata/BP Solar more than double its cell manufacturing capacity to reach some 50 MW/y. This expansion represents another step towards realizing the designed po-tential of the 300 MW plant. The next phase of the expansion will add 128 MW of cell manufacturing capacity during 2007-08.

Apart from the cell manufacturing capacity increase, the Tata/BP Solar Board has also approved investment that will double the facilitys module manufacturing capacity from 45 MW to 85 MW by the end of 2007. The state-of-the-art technology, developed by BP Solar, will deliver products and solutions that serve both the Indian and global markets, earning substantial foreign exchange for India while also increasing product supply locally.



Nanoscale coaxial cables to harvest solar energy

In the United States, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have designed a new type of nanowire that could help solve many hurdles currently associated with renewable energy applications. Currently available semiconducting materials that have potential use in renewable energy devices lack one key characteristic. When electrons in these materials are excited by light and jump to higher energy levels, leaving vacancies (holes) in the lower levels, both the electrons and the holes typically move around in the same region. Thus, they tend to recombine. This is desirable for some applications, such as light-emitting devices, where electron-hole recombination produces light, but is not ideal for renewable energy devices. The separation of the excited electrons from the holes is better in the case of solar cells, for example, so that the electrons can be drawn off and used for electricity.

According to Mr. Yong Zhang, the studys corresponding researcher, the new nanowires are designed to provide this feature, together with a superior electrical conductivity. Both these properties are critical for renewable energy devices to reach their ultimate efficiency limits. The nanoscale coaxial cable consists of a central wire, or core, surrounded by a hexagonal shell. The research team employed two semiconducting materials gallium nitride (GaN) and gallium phosphide (GaP). They made two samples, one with a GaN core and GaP shell, and the other with a GaP core and GaN shell. Both wires were approximately 4 nm in diameter. When GaN and GaP are combined into a wire, the structure as a whole assumes its own band gap, which is very different from that of either component but much more appropriate for solar energy applications. Apart from providing efficient charge separation, the nanowires design could help widen the solar spectrum coverage and minimize energy loss associated with electron-hole recombination.


Solar modules for remote site power

SunWize Technologies, the United States, has launched a new line of single-crystalline modules. The new SunWize SL series have FM approval for Class I, Division 2, Groups A, B, C & D hazardous (classified) locations, and includes 6, 12 and 24 W modules.

Manufactured in accordance to ISO 9002 standards, SL modules carry a 10 year, 80 per cent power output warranty. They are very durable, which makes them an excellent module for remote site locations.
The SL modules include an impact-resistant glass front, Tedlar back, EVA encapsulate, anodized aluminium tubular frame with pre-drilled mounting holes and an all weather resistant junction box with a terminal for adding a blocking diode. The glass surface allows maximum light transmission and is impact resistant to hailstones of one inch diameter at terminal velocity (5 ft-lb). The frames are constructed to withstand constant wind speeds of about 177 km/h and gusts to about 214 km/h. An adjustable universal side-of-pole mount, using clamps to eliminate the need to drill additional holes, is among the accessories. The mounts have a 0-90 mounting arm with tilt indicators.

Contact: SunWize Technologies, 1155 Flatbush Road, Kingston, NY 12401, United States of America. Tel: +1 (845) 3360 146; Fax: +1 (845) 3360 457



Cheaper solar panels

Scientists at the Rice Universitys Centre for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), the United States, have reported that the manufacture of cheaper solar panels may soon be a reality. This prediction relies on a recent breakthrough for producing quantum dots molecular specks of semiconductors. The chemical method developed is for producing four-legged cadmium selenide quantum dots, which previous studies have shown as very effective at converting sunlight into electrical energy. According to Dr. Michael Wong, Assistant Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, Our work knocks down a big barrier in developing quantum-dot-based photovoltaics as an alternative to the conventional, more expensive silicon-based solar cells.

Quantum dots are megamolecules of semiconducting materials and are smaller than living cells. They interact with light in unique ways to give off different-coloured light or create electrons and holes, due partly to their tiny size, partly to their shape and partly to the material they are made of. One way towards cheaper solar cells is to make them out of quantum dots. Other research has shown that the four-legged quantum dots, which are called tetrapods, are many times more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than regular quantum dots.

A major hurdle till now was the lack of a good way to produce the tetrapods. Existing methods lead to a lot of particles with uneven-length arms, crooked arms and even missing arms. Even in the best recipe, 30 per cent of the prepared particles are not tetrapods. CBENs formula produces same-size particles, in which more than 90 per cent are tetrapods. The essence of the new recipe is to use cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) instead of the standard alkylphosphonic acids (APAs). CTAB is safer and cheaper than APAs. For producers looking to eventually ramp up tetrapod production, this assures cheaper raw materials and less purification steps.


Record in solar cell conversion efficiency

In Japan,Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (MEC), reports to have achieved a world record photoelectric conversion efficiency rate of 18 per cent using a multicrystalline silicon solar cell, an improvement of 1.2 per cent over its previous models. This conversion efficiency was achieved by adding a low-reflectivity surface texture on the multicrystalline silicon, as well as developing a process to print electrodes on the surface of the silicon (metallization) and reducing shade loss of electrodes in the front grid. In the same surface area as previous products (150 mm2), MEC has achieved 7 per cent higher electric output, making it suitable for even smaller installations such as narrow roofs.

Contact: Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Tokyo Building, No. 2-7-3, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-8310, Japan. Tel: +81 (3) 3218 2111.


Nanoparticles enhance plastic cell efficiency

Researchers headed by Dr. David Carroll, a physicist at Wake Forest University, the United States, report to have raised the sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency of plastic solar cells. Last year, the team approached 5 per cent efficiency with these cells, nearly 2 per cent more than other cells at the time. Now, they have achieved another 20 per cent increase, bringing the total efficiency to over 6 per cent.

Previous research revealed that embedding carbon nanoparticles into plastic solar cells could enhance their photoabsorption and electrical conductance. Dr. Carroll and team kept tweaking the conditions under which the nanoparticles were introduced into the plastic to see how they changed the cell efficiency. By using a temperature at which the nanoparticles form tiny crystals (as opposed to large ones), they were able to form nanowhiskers inside the plastic to boost the efficiency to 6.1 per cent. The team hopes to hit the 10 per cent efficiency mark in another two years.


High-efficiency space solar cells

In the United States, the Photovoltaics Division of Emcore Corp., has achieved a record conversion efficiency of 31 per cent for a new class of multi-junction solar cells optimized for space applications. The Inverted Metamorphic (IMM) solar cell comprises a novel combination of compound semiconductors allowing for a superior response to the solar spectrum compared with conventional multi-junction solar cells.

Owing to its new design, the IMM cell is only about one-fifteenth the thickness of normal multi-junction solar cells. Developed together with the Air Force Research Laboratory, the IMM cell will enable a new class of extremely lightweight, flexible and high-efficiency solar arrays to power the next generation of spacecrafts and satellites, as well as form a platform for future generations of terrestrial concentrator products.

Using a production terrestrial concentrator cell that is an evolution of its proven concentrator triple junction production technology, Emcore has achieved 37 per cent peak conversion efficiency under concentrated illumination. Emcore believes that its investment in technology development should enable the introduction of concentrator solar cell products with conversion efficiency of 40 per cent as part of its planned high-volume product road map.


Cheaper and more effective panels

A new breakthrough at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, could lead to 30 per cent cheaper domestic solar systems. Up to 45 per cent of the cost of solar cell technology is due to the silicon used in cells to convert sunlight to electricity. However, silicon is a poor absorber of light and the 1-2 m thick films commonly used in solar cells convert only 8-10 per cent of incoming sunlight into electricity. With thicker, more costly silicon wafers, this figure rises to 25 per cent.

Researchers, led by PhD student Ms. Supriya Pillai at the UNSW ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence, have developed a technique that provides a 16-fold increase in light absorption in 1.25 m thin-film cells for light with a wavelength of 1,050 nm. The researchers also reported a seven-fold enhancement in light absorption in the more costly wafer type cells for light at wavelengths of 1,200 nm. The key to the breakthrough is the addition of a film of silver about 10 nm thick on to a solar cell surface. When this film is heated to 200C it is broken into tiny 100 nm islands of silver that boost the cells light trapping ability, thereby boosting its efficiency. While the efficiency of current thin-film solar cells is between 8 and 10 per cent, the new technique could increase the efficiency to between 13 and 15 per cent.


Solar device to convert carbon dioxide into fuel

In the United States, researchers at the University of California San Diego have demonstrated the feasibility of using sunlight to transform a greenhouse gas into a useful product. The device, prototyped by Dr. Clifford Kubiak, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and his graduate student Mr. Aaron Sathrum, can capture energy from the sun, convert it to electrical energy and split carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen (O2). However, since the device is not yet optimized, the process still needs to draw on additional energy for it to work.

The device to split CO2 utilizes a semiconductor and two thin layers of catalysts. In a three-step process, it splits CO2 to generate CO and O2. The first step involves the capture of solar energy photons by the semiconductor. The second step is the conversion of the captured optical energy into electrical energy by the semiconductor and the third step relates to the deployment of electrical energy to the catalysts. The catalysts convert CO2 to CO on one side of the device and to O2 on the other.

Since electrons are passed around in these reactions, a special type of catalyst that can convert electrical energy to chemical energy is needed. Researchers in Dr. Kubiaks laboratory created a large molecule with three nickel atoms at its heart that has proven to be an effective catalyst for this process. Choosing the right semiconductor is also critical to make CO2 splitting practical.


Industrial-grade solar module

The ASE-270-DGF/50, utilized in a wide range of applications, is a member of the ASE line of solar power modules. This industrial-grade module from Schott Solar Inc., the United States, delivers maximum performance in large systems that require higher voltages. The 270 W module takes up an area of 2.43 sq. m and weighs approximately 47 kg.
The large surface area needs fewer interconnects and structural members, while the multi-contact plug-and-play connectors mean source circuit wiring takes just minutes. Bypass diode protection is provided for every 18 solar cells in series, thus minimizing power loss and mitigating overheating or safety problems. Moisture-proof glass on both sides protects the module also against perforations, tears, fire, electrical conductivity and delamination.

Each of the 216 semi-crystalline silicon cells is inspected and matched to ensure consistent inter-module power performance. Special mounting systems are available for commercial roofs.

Contact: Schott Solar Inc., 2260 Lava Ridge Court, Suite 102, Roseville, CA 95661, United States of America. Tel: +1 (916) 774 3000; Fax: +1 (916) 784 9781




Self-regulating vertical axis wind turbine

Pacwind Inc., the United States, has launched a fixed 3-blade vertical axis wind turbine. Delta I is a proprietary, self-starting and self-regulating foil shape that captures very low winds allowing the turbine to start itself. Delta I also acts as a governor in high wind speeds, ensuring that the turbine maintains peak power output without over spinning. The design also allows the turbine to transfer from drag mode to nearly pure lift mode, resulting in a quick four-fold surge in power output in winds of 4-5 m/s.

Delta I employs Pacwinds patented 3.4 kW permanent magnet generator, built with the most powerful rare earth magnets in the industry. The compact design of the Delta I (48 79 inches) allows installation nearly anywhere, and it is built to withstand extreme weather conditions (-40 to 49C temperature and 170 km/h winds).

Contact: Pacwind Inc., #23930 Madison Street, Torrance, CA 90505, United States of America. Tel: +1 (310) 3759 952; Fax: +1 (310) 375 2331



Hydraulic pitch drives

Hydraulic pitch drives from Bosch Rexroth help maximize the value of wind energy by enabling turbines to shift automatically with changes in wind velocity. As the wind grows stronger, the hydraulic pitch drives actively turn the rotor blades away from the wind so that the turbine can continue to produce the nominal output. In the event of storm or gusts, the pitch drives can automatically secure the turbine, by bringing the rotor blades to the neutral position for safety. Wind turbine pitch drives significantly reduce the forces that act on the basic structure and the mechanics of the wind turbine, thus protecting it from damage, excess wear and generator malfunction.

Wind turbine pitch drives are built from a combination of advanced, intelligent Bosch Rexroth hydraulics, and integrated to meet the unique operating conditions of wind power generation. Advanced proportional valves control the hydraulic actuators, with communication between the turbine and the intelligent proportional valves occurring through current/voltage interface or directly via field bus. Hydraulic pressure is provided by axial piston pumps with pressure controllers. Bladder-type accumulators for wind turbine generators store sufficient energy for an emergency operation of the pitch control and operate with high reliability. The hydraulic control block is the central drive element and integrates all components in a compact, modular assembly. The entire pitch drive undergoes rigorous testing to ensure optimum performance.


New turbine design

The British Standards Institute (BSI) awarded the first prize in its Sustainability Awards 2007 to Mr. Ben Storan for his affordable personal wind turbine suited to the urban environment. Mr. Storans design uses vertical, rather than the traditional horizontal rotation. This allows for a slower rotational speed, which permits the turbine to capture more energy from turbulent air flow, common to urban environments. It also means quieter operation.

The wind turbine can generate almost three times more energy than domestic models currently on the market. Comparably sized existing personal wind turbines typically generate just 40 per cent of the claimed 1 kW at a wind speed of 12 m/s. The clever vertical rotation design of this new turbine uses lightweight materials, making the turbine more stable than other personal turbines and leading to better energy capture and easier installation.


Advanced testing for wind turbine

Dynastrosi Laboratories Inc., the United States, has installed its first wind turbine prototype in the atrium of the Western Kentucky University Centre for Research and Development. It will be conducting computer-controlled wind turbine tests inside the centre. The indoor test facility is the first of its kind operated by a private firm in the United States.

The new wind turbine generator design developed by researchers at Dynastrosi Laboratories, under contract to Wind Energy Corporation, promises to be more efficient than current designs. The wind turbine generator capable of producing cheap, clean electricity even at low-wind-speed sites is expected to be the first wind turbine that is economically viable without government subsidies. This unit, which features a vertical-axis design, is commonly known as a Savonius wind turbine. The drag from the wind allows the turbine to collect energy in an omni-directional fashion. The turbine is self-starting and no pointing mechanism is necessary to allow for wind shifting.


Magnetic levitation wind turbine

MagLev Wind Turbine Technologies, the United States, has proposed a magnetically levitated wind turbine that can generate 1 GW of power (enough to power 750,000 homes). This device is reported to be able to deliver clean power for less than US$0.01/kWh.

Magnetic levitation is a very efficient method of capturing wind energy. The blades of the turbine are suspended on a cushion of air, and the energy is directed to linear generators with minimal fiction losses. However, the biggest advantage with maglev is its low maintenance costs and the increased lifespan of the generator. Moreover, building such a turbine reduces construction costs and it requires less land space than hundreds of conventional turbines. It is speculated that turbines like these would use full-permanent magnets, meaning that there are no electro-magnets, only cleverly placed permanent ones (probably Halbach arrays).


Start-up launches first wind turbine

Energy Recovery Engineering and Construction Ltd., New Zealand, has launched its first wind turbine for rural customers. The 11 kW prototype is designed to provide affordable and renewable energy, thereby enabling farmers and people in remote locations to offset and finally eliminate the effects of rising rural electricity prices.

The 12 m high turbine can be erected without a crane and is easy to maintain. The mast pivots in the middle enable raising and lowering of the unit for installation and maintenance. The turbine can generate enough electricity power three houses and any excess power may be sold back to the national grid. The wind turbine was developed together with New Zealands Industrial Research, Solwind, ATV of France and Van der Graaf International. A second 11 kW wind turbine will be installed later this year.


Wind power for household electricity

In Australia, Mr. Graeme Attey has developed a new way to generate electricity for households using wind power. Mr. Atteys concept uses a modular wind turbine that is small enough to sit on the roof of a house. The turbine, measures about 1 m in length and 0.5 m in height, creates power using blades that are rotated by the wind. This system can also be used together with solar panels. Mr. Attey believes the turbine could generate extra power that could be fed back to the electricity grid.


New wind energy systems

TMA Inc. in the United States has developed a new wind turbine for converting wind energy into electrical energy. This design includes a rotatable central shaft, a plurality of rotor blades attached to the central shaft and a plurality of convex airfoils spaced along the periphery of the rotor blades. The ratio of the number of rotor blades to the number of airfoils is at least 1.25:1. The size of the system may vary and the system is useful in a variety of applications and environments. It is reportedly very efficient in converting wind energy to electrical energy. It may be operated even in very high wind conditions.

A key feature of the system is that its design creates a pull on the backside, thereby contributing to more than 40 per cent wind conversion efficiencies. Other notable advantages are that it does not kill birds, runs more quietly and blends better with the landscape. Generating cost is estimated to be competitive with the best horizontal wind turbines, yielding a higher return on investment than the horizontal turbines at higher wind speeds.

Contact: TMA Inc., Wyoming Financial Centre, #2020 Carey Avenue, Suite 700, Cheyenne, Wyoming, WY 82001, United States of America. Tel: +1 (307) 7720 200; Fax: +1 (307) 7720 222




Biofuel from trees

Researchers at the University of Georgia, the United States, have developed a new chemical process to obtain biofuel from wood chips. A major feature of this fuel is that, unlike previous fuels derived from wood, it can be blended with diesel and biodiesel to power conventional engines. While technologies to derive oils from wood have been available, a key obstacle had been the inability to process the derived oil effectively or inexpensively so that it could be employed in conventional engines.

In the new process, wood chips and pellets roughly a quarter inch in diameter and six-tenths of an inch long are heated in the absence of oxygen at a high temperature, a process known as pyrolysis. Up to a third of the dry weight of the wood is converted into charcoal, while the rest transforms into a gas.

Most of this gas is condensed into a liquid bio-oil and chemically treated. On completion of the process, about 34 per cent of the bio-oil (15-17 per cent of the dry weight of the wood) can be used to power engines. The fuel is nearly carbon neutral: it does not significantly increase heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as long as new trees are planted to replace the ones used to create the fuel. The team has also set up test plots to explore the usability of the charcoal that is produced as a fertilizer.


Cellulosic ethanol from bagasse

Dedini SA, Brazils leading manufacturer of equipment for the sugar and biofuel industries, is reported to have come up with a new way to produce cellulosic ethanol on an industrial scale from plant wastes. This development has the potential to revolutionize the industry by increasing the competitiveness and energy balance of biofuels.

Dedinis So Luiz Mill in So Paulo state began producing cellulose bioethanol from bagasse the biomass leftover after the sucrose is pressed out in 2002 at approximately US$0.40/litre. However, with improvements in processing technologies, the production costs have decreased to US$0.27 a litre. Mr. Jose Luiz Oliverio, Dedinis Operations Vice President, said that this makes the fuel competitive in cost with oil at US$42 per barrel.

Dedinis technology is based on a combination of two processing steps that convert bagasse, the by-product from cane processing rich in lignocellulose, into ethanol. The first step involves pre-treatment of the biomass with organic solvents and the second step is hydrolysis with dilute acid. The innovation comprises the pre-treatment phase, which allows the diluted acids to act much faster and more efficiently. The liquid hydrolysates are then easily fermented and distilled into ethanol. Owing to the speed of the process, the proprietary process has been dubbed Dedini rapid hydrolysis (DHR). The DHR technique was developed in collaboration with the Centro de Tecnologia Copersucar as well as Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa of So Paulo state. Dedinis first large-scale DHR demonstration facility produced 5,000 litres per day.


New biofuels process

Researchers at Purdue University, the United States, have proposed a new environmentally friendly process for producing liquid fuels from plant matter or biomass potentially available from agricultural and forest waste. The new approach modifies conventional methods for producing liquid fuels from biomass by the addition of hydrogen from a carbon-free energy source, such as solar or nuclear power, during the gasification stage. Hydrogen addition in this step suppresses the formation of carbon dioxide and increases the efficiency of the process, making it possible to produce three times the volume of biofuels from the same quantity of biomass.

The researchers are calling the new approach a hybrid hydrogen-carbon process or H2CAR. However, further research is required to make this a large-scale reality. Dr. Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E Stone Dis-tinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at Purdue, We could use H2CAR to provide a sustainable fuel supply to meet the needs of the entire United States transportation sector all cars, trucks, trains and airplanes.



New wave energy generator

Ocean Navitas Ltd. from the United Kingdom has developed a new device to harness wave energy the Aegir DynamoTM. The name comes from the name for the Norse god of the sea girand the definition of a dynamo an electrical generator. The Aegir Dynamo works in a unique fashion by generating electrical current from the motion of the prime mover in one phase through a direct mechanical conversion and the use of a bespoke buoyancy vessel. The result is predictable, clean and reliable electricity.

This new solution is claimed to be not only more efficient than existing wave generation technologies, but also equivalent fossil fuel and wind turbine technologies. Moreover, it complies with all current renewable energy policies. Presently available devices in all of these technologies are problematic in that they must, by their nature, be large in scale and therefore need massive investment. The Aegir Dynamo overcomes these problems through its unique power generation properties, conversion efficiency (93 per cent) and its easy adaptability to various environments.

Contact: Ocean Navitas Limited, Nursery House, Marton, Lincolnshire, DN22 5BQ, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (845) 943 861; Fax: +44 (845) 943 862




Lamprey simulation aids wave power flow

At the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, a team led by Dr. Leena Patel is using a genetic algorithm computer program, which apes the way natural selection breeds fitter creatures, to improve the way Pelamis a long eel-like machine swims in different sea conditions. Pelamis, fabricated by Ocean Power Delivery, slithers through the water, wriggling faster as sea conditions change. The 140 m long Pelamis comprises four floating tubular segments. When flexed by the waves, hydraulic rams inside them move in and out of power converters in the joints between the segments, generating up to 750 kW of electricity. Three Pelamis machines are currently generating power at a site off Portugal, while four will begin to do so in the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland in 2008.

Dr. Patel explains that machines like the Pelamis cannot adapt when the wave speed changes and so they operate at less than optimum efficiency. To overcome this, Dr. Patel turned to the lamprey, the eel-like fish that uses skin sensors to adjust its swimming motion as the current changes. Lampreys have a central pattern generator (CPG) a cluster of neurons in the spinal cord which signals the muscles to contract rhythmically and make them swim. A genetic algorithm was applied to a computer model of a lamprey CPG to mutate its connections repeatedly to see if this would breed successively better swimming motions under different conditions.

This greatly extended the lampreys repertoire of swimming patterns and made it wriggle at up to 12.7 times per second, compared with just 1.7 times a second previously. Initial simulations showed that altering the flexibility of Pelamis joints in line with these fitter swimming patterns could improve energy capture under different wave conditions. Further, the principles could be applied to any bobbing wave-power generator, Dr. Patel states.


Powerful wave energy converter

Green Ocean Energy Ltd., the United Kingdom, offers an innovative and unique wave energy converter capable of extracting large amounts of energy from a wave system and efficiently converting it into electrical power. The initial p/kWh figure for the Wave Treader leads its class, and the design is backed by a very experienced team.

Contact: Green Ocean Energy Ltd., 29 Abbotshall Crescent, Cults, Aberdeen, AB15 9JQ United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (1224) 865325; Fax: +44 (1224) 865325



Kinetic hydropower turbine

Hydro Green Energy LLC from the United States offers a kinetic hydropower turbine that is at the heart of the hydro system, where wave power is converted into rotational force that drives the generator. The kinetic hydropower turbine arrays operate differently than a traditional hydropower plant. However, like a traditional hydropower station, the electricity produced is renewable and clean though quite different.

The companys Krouse turbines generate power from the energy in the motion of the moving water, i.e. the velocity of the moving water be it river, tidal or ocean current. Since the turbine arrays are inexpensive to produce, they can be engineered and designed for many different conditions. They produce the cheapest hydropower commercially available. In addition, the amount of environmental damage from infrastructure creation and modification is significantly reduced with these turbine arrays compared with other kinetic hydropower designs.

Contact: Hydro Green Energy LLC, 5090 Richmond Avenue, 390, Houston, TX 77056, United States of America. Tel: +1 (877) 5566 566; Fax: +1 (713) 3399 537



Commercial marine energy plant

Wavegens first commercial breakwater wave energy plant will be built on the Spanish Atlantic coast for the Basque Energy Board, Ente Vasco de Energia. It will be based on the Oscillating Water Column technology of Wavegen. An opening in the front of the breakwater allows the sea to rise and fall within a chamber. This motion compresses and decompresses an enclosed volume of air, which drives a Wells turbine and generator to produce electricity. The modestly sized installation will feature Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generations wave equipment.

This project will integrate 16 turbines into a new breakwater being constructed by the local government. The plant, which is intended to provide electricity to around 250 households with a rated power of almost 300 kW, is to be commissioned in the winter of 2008/2009.


Ocean wave-powered generators deployed

SRI International an independent, non-profit R&D organization based in the United States has reportedly deployed a buoy-mounted, ocean wave-powered generator just off the coast of Florida. SRIs generators can be deployed on existing ocean buoys, which use batteries as their energy source. The new generator prototype utilizes patented electroactive polymer artificial muscle technology (EPAMTM) to continuously power ocean buoys. The company will use instrumentation that allows remote monitoring of the generators output energy, and wave height and buoy motion. The generator is capable of generating 20 J of energy per stroke, an average output power of more than 5 W under typical ocean wave conditions.

The current development programme aims at developing generators that can produce 25 W of average output power. This is sufficient to supply all the power needed by navigational buoys. Future efforts will address the design, development and deployment of wave-powered generators capable of producing power in the kilowatt range.

Contact: SRI International, 333 Ravenswood Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025-3493, United States of America.


Turbine to prove commercial viability of tidal power

FreeFlow 69 Ltd., the United Kingdom, has developed the Osprey, a turbine that is reported to solve the commercial viability of tidal power. The Osprey turbine can be used to create electricity offshore at sea or in tidal rivers and inland waterways.

The Osprey turbine is a vertical axis free flow device that produces power independently or as part of a larger system. It will not interfere with river or marine life, can be mounted on the sea bed or suspended on pontoons, is bi-directional and will turn the same way in flood or ebb tide. Since the gearbox and generator are above the water level, Osprey operates effectively in variable depths to maximize the efficiency of power available through the tidal cycle or in differing river heights. Owing to its modular design, a bank of these turbines can be built to increase the power produced. Power output is expected to be from 1kW up to 5MW in a multiple system. Following successful testing of a model rotor, the company is about to design, build and test a full-scale prototype. An Archimedes screw-type turbine will also be produced, first in prototype, for rivers with a weir or leat, such as old mill sites.


Wave energy plant

In Russia, scientists at the Centre of Renewable Energy have developed and patented an original scheme of a small, though very effective, wave energy plant. The innovation is very cheap and assembling the plant is simple. Pilot plants are already functioning in Norway and Portugal. The plant uses gravity and wave energy, thus producing very cheap electric energy. Researchers plan to start full-scale tests shortly.



Improving fuel cells using nanocrystals

At the University of California-Davis (UCD), the United States, a team of researchers have discovered a new way to produce cubic zirconia with extremely small crystal sizes. This breakthrough could make hydrogen fuel cells cost-effective and reliable for normal market usage. Fuel cell designs presently available run at temperatures of 800-1,000C. Just achieving the working temperature requires energy, and the heat quickly wears out metal, plastic and ceramic components. Current fuel cell designs also require an expensive platinum catalyst. The new technology could allow cells to run at much lower temperatures 50-100C.

The team, led by Dr. Zuhair Munir Distingusihed Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, invented a method to make oxides such as cubic zirconia (zirconium oxide) with extremely small grain sizes, on the order of 15 nm. At that scale, the crystals conduct electricity well through the movement of protons. The material could be used in fuel cells based on chemical oxides. The research team has applied for patents.


The absolute hybrid

In the United Kingdom, a team at Imperial College has developed and bench-tested a series-hybrid power train that combines an intermediate-temperature solid oxide fuel cell (IT-SOFC) with a sodium-nickel chloride battery. The Advanced Battery Solid Oxide Linked Unit to maximize Efficiency (Absolute Hybrid), the prototype power system pairs a 300 W SOFC stack with a 45 Ah sodium-nickel chloride battery. The absolute power train combination of this type of high-performance ZEBRA battery exploits thermal synergy between the two technologies to overcome known limitations of each.

IT-SOFCs operate at a temperature range lower than that of SOFCs, but offer faster start-up, simpler system needs and lower costs. Hybridization with a battery to accommodate the maximum and dynamic load can further offset some of the issues with high-temperature SOFCs, particularly in transport vehicles. The aim of the design, according to the team, is to minimize the size of the IT-SOFC and DC/DC converter. The SOFC works with a fuel processor, which uses heat generated by the SOFC as well as from the battery. In turn, the fuel processor can supply heat to the battery.


Platinum-gold catalysts for fuel cells

In the United States, researchers at the Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) are looking for ways to use gold to prevent the destruction of platinum in the chemical reactions that take place in fuel cells. Platinum is the most efficient electrocatalyst for fuel cells. However, it dissolves in reactions during the stop-and-go driving of a fuel cell-powered electric car. In accelerated tests, as much as 45 per cent of the catalyst can be lost during five days.

Under lab conditions that imitate the environment of a fuel cell, the team added gold clusters to a platinum electrocatalyst, which kept it intact during an accelerated stability test that simulates stop-and-go driving in an electric car. The team placed gold on carbon-supported platinum nanoparticles by displacing a single layer of copper and subjected it to several sweeps of voltage. Copper reduces the charged gold particles to neutral atoms; it then conveniently forms a monolayer of platinum by adsorption. It has been shown that less platinum is oxidized with this method. In laboratory tests, the platinum electrocatalyst remained stable under conditions mimicking stop-and-go driving conditions. Next, the researchers will test the catalyst in real fuel cells.


High-power SOFC bundle

A consortium of Japanese companies has successfully developed a small solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) bundle by integrating very fine ceramic tubes in a volume the size of a sugar cube. Toho Gas Co. Ltd. evaluated the electrochemical performance of the SOFC bundle and confirmed that it has the worlds highest output power density, 2 W/cm3, at an operating temperature of below 600C for a current of 4.5 A.

This feat was previously considered impossible for SOFCs as they operate at high temperatures, typically 800-1,000 C. The easy-to-make micro fuel cell stacks now open up the possibility of developing small SOFC systems with output power ranging from several tens of watts to several kilowatts for auxiliary power supplies in vehicles, small co-generation systems, etc.
The SOFC bundle uses lanthanum- cobalt as the air electrode material that forms part of the SOFC bundle. The SOFC cube bundle comprises an integrated structure that has a volume of 1 cm3 and tubular cells with a diameter of 0.8-2.0 mm. The bundle is the worlds smallest fully fledged micro-tube SOFC cube with passages for fuel and air.


Fuel cell battery with a sweet tooth

Researchers at Saint Louis University, the United States, have developed a fuel cell battery that runs on virtually any sugar source from soft drinks to tree sap. The device has the potential to run 3-4 times longer on a single charge than do conventional lithium ion batteries. Developed by a team headed by Dr. Shelley Minteer, the new battery, which is also biodegradable, could eventually replace lithium ion batteries in many portable electronic applications, including computers.

This new device is the longest lasting and most powerful of its type to date. So far, the batteries have been operated using glucose, flat sodas, sweetened drink mixes and tree sap, with promising results. Like other fuel cells, the sugar battery contains enzymes that convert fuel in this case, sugar into electricity, leaving behind water as main by-product. But unlike other fuel cells, all of the materials used to build the sugar battery are biodegradable. If the battery continues to show promise during further testing and refinement, it could be ready for commercialization in 3-5 years. Future work would focus on modifying the performance of the battery for varying environmental conditions, including high temperatures, and extending the life of the battery.


Breakthrough could improve catalyst efficiency

At Georgia Institute of Technology, the United States, electrochemists and materials scientists have made a breakthrough that could improve the efficiency of chemical processes such as the production of hydrogen for fuel cells. The research team has produced a new form of platinum that has catalytic activity per unit area around four times higher than the platinum catalysts available today.

This increased efficiency is due to the tetrahexahedral structure of the new 24-facet nanocrystals, and could prove vital in the development of green energy products believes Prof. Zhong Lin Wang at the School of Materials Science and Engineering. This new shape for platinum catalyst nanoparticles greatly improves their activity. This work also demonstrates a new method for producing metallic nanocrystals with high-energy surfaces, Prof. Wang said. The nanocrystals were produced electrochemically from platinum nanospheres on a carbon substrate.


Enzyme-powered fuel cells

Researchers led by Mr. Fraser Armstrong at the University of Oxford, the United Kingdom, have used an enzyme to catalyse the oxidation of hydrogen to water in a safe, non-inflammable atmosphere of only 3 per cent hydrogen. The team investigated enzymes from hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria, called knallgas bacteria, which are tolerant to gases such as oxygen that might poison traditional platinum catalysts. The work is a significant development, according to Mr. Anthony Wedd, an expert in bio-inorganic chemistry from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Mr. Wedd says, It marries a naturally occurring system with practical experimental conditions for the first time, making a hydrogen economy that much more feasible.


Small fuel cell for continuous use

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Germany have developed a small direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) system, which can supply energy for more than six days without interruption. The DMFC runs on liquid methanol, one tank of which will supply 300 Wh of energy over 150 hours of continuous operation. The DMFC system is equipped with an injection-moulded stack. A built-in lithium-ion battery serves as a buffer to offset fluctuations in energy use, thus simplifying fuel cell operation. The system has an output of 2 W, which is sufficient to operate a small camera or a transmitter. The fuel cell can be hooked up through a USB interface to other devices.



Hydrogen storage breakthrough

Scientists in Greece report that they have discovered how to make carbon nanoscrolls to store hydrogen in quantities greater than possible with any other material to date. The team of scientists that included Mr. George Froudakis from the University of Crete found that by adding lithium ions to carbon nanoscrolls their hydrogen uptake can be improved at atmospheric pressure and room temperature. It has also been suggested that by reducing temperature, uptake could be improved further.


Splitting water using sunlight

At Washington University, the United States, researchers have developed a photocatalytic cell that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen by using sunlight and the power of a nano-structured catalyst. The group is developing novel methodologies for the synthesis of nano-structured films with superior opto-electronic properties.

One of the methods which sandwiches three semiconductor films into a very compact structure on the nanoscale range is smaller and more efficient and stable than the currently available photocatalytic methods, which require many steps and can take from several hours to one day to complete. This achievement provides a new, low-cost and efficient option for hydrogen production and can be used for a variety of distributed energy applications.

The well-controlled, gas phase process devised by Dr. Pratim Biswas and his graduate student Mr. Elijah Thimsen has been shown to synthesize oxide semiconductors such as iron and titanium dioxide films in a single-step process. The method relies on a simple, inexpensive flame aerosol reactor (FLAR) and consists of four mass flow controllers to regulate process gases, a standard bubbler to deliver a precursor, a metal tube that functions as a burner and a water-cooled substrate holder. When put in water, these films promote some reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen, states Dr. Biswas. Any oxide material such as titanium dioxide, tungsten oxide and iron oxide can be used in nanostructures sandwiched together to make very compact structures. The process is direct and takes only a few minutes to set up. Furthermore, these processes can be scaled-up to produce larger structures in a very cost-effective manner in processes at atmospheric pressure.


Low-cost hydrogen combustion engine

In Australia, scientists at the University of Melbourne, plan to develop an efficient and low-cost hydrogen combustion engine and fuel tank. The project, with the collaboration of Ford Australia and Haskel Australia and led by Dr. Michael Brear, will focus particularly on overcoming the practicalities of storage and delivery of hydrogen.

According to Dr. Brear, hydrogen storage is an issue for the future commercialization of hydrogen engine and fuel cell technology, especially in the transport sector. Existing storage methods such as pressurization of hydrogen to 350-700 atm are very heavy, excessively large or unaffordable and do not show a clear path to meeting automotive requirements.


High hydrogen recovery from ethanol

Power+Energy (P+E) in the United States is reported to have developed and demonstrated an energy efficient fuel processor that extracts over 90 per cent of the available hydrogen from ethanol using palladium alloy membrane reactor technology. The company says that the system can be configured to utilize a variety of liquid fuels and deliver the ultra-pure hydrogen needed for long-term operation of a fuel cell. P+E plans to offer a range of systems that will process other fuels, including E-85, petroleum, methane, propane and diesel.

P+E stated that its fuel processor coupled to a PEM fuel cell can more then double the mileage (or work) per gallon of fuel compared with an internal combustion engine. The reduction in fuel consumption is said to reduce carbon dioxide emission by at least 50 per cent. The P+E fuel processor is capable of operating with a wide variety of alternative fuels, such as bio-fuels, ethanol and butanol.

Contact: Power+Energy Inc., Bucks County, Pennsylvania, United States of America. Tel: +1 (215) 942 4600; Fax: +1 (215) 942 9300.


Lithium opens road to carbon-free cars

In the United Kingdom, scientists report the development of a compound of the element lithium that may make storage of adequate hydrogen on-board fuel cell-powered cars practical enough to enable a drive of over 483 km before refuelling. Achieving this driving range is considered essential if a mass market for fuel cell cars is to develop in the future, but has not been possible using currently available hydrogen storage technologies.

With current technologies to achieve a 483 km driving range, an on-board space the size of a double-decker bus would be needed for storage of hydrogen gas at standard temperature and pressure. Storing it as a compressed gas in cylinders or as a liquid in storage tanks would not be practical due to the weight and size implications. The United Kingdom Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UK-SHEC) came up with the option of a well-established process, called chemisorption, in which atoms of a gas are absorbed into the crystal structure of a solid-state material and then released as and when needed. UK-SHEC, after testing numerous solid-state compounds, has produced a hydride of lithium (specifically Li4BN3H10) that offers the right blend of properties. Development work is now needed to further investigate the potential of this powder.


Hydrogen from water electrolysis

Quantumsphere Inc. in the United States offers nano-metal (such as nano-Ni) electrodes to produce hydrogen and oxygen through the electrolysis of water. Heat is the only by-product generated from the electrolysis process using nano-nickel electrodes. No greenhouse gases are produced, unlike steam reformation of hydrocarbons, which generates 1.81 kg of carbon dioxide for every 0.45 kg of hydrogen produced (this is for methane, the most efficient hydrocarbon for the generation of hydrogen by steam reformation). Water electrolysis can be used to generate hydrogen from sea water, which can then be stored (liquefied or as a compressed gas) and used for powering fuel cells that generate electricity and fresh water as a by-product.

Contact: Quantumsphere Inc., 2905 Tech Centre Drive, Santa Ana, CA 92705, United States of America. Tel: +1 (714) 5456 266; Fax: +1 (714) 5456 265.


Enzymatic pathway to hydrogen production

In the United States, researchers at Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and University of Georgia have developed a method, using multiple enzymes as a catalyst, for the direct, low-cost production of hydrogen from biomass. Applying the principles of synthetic biology, the researchers used a combination of 13 enzymes to form an unnatural enzymatic pathway to completely convert polysaccharides such as starch and cellulose and water into hydrogen at a yield higher than the theoretical yield of biological hydrogen fermentations.

As a carrier, starch has a high energy density 14.8 hydrogen-based mass percentage. When added to the biomass solution, the enzymes use the energy in polysaccharides to break the water into carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen. The CO2 is bled off by a membrane and the hydrogen is used by a fuel cell to create electricity. The water generated as by-product is recycled for the starch-water reactor.

Laboratory tests confirm that it all takes place at low temperature (30C) and atmospheric pressure. The hydrogen production cost using this method is estimated at approximately US $2/kg. The overall process is spontaneous and unidirectional owing to a negative Gibbs free energy and separation of the gaseous products with aqueous reactants.



Handbook of Fuel Cell Modelling

Fuel cells are growing in importance as sources of sustainable energy and will doubtless form part of the changing scheme of energy resources in the future. This handbook looks at how engineers can model fuel cell systems to achieve optimal results for any application. Modelling mainly concerns the electrodes and electrolytes in fuel cell systems, and this hands-on book provides a practical summary of how to create models, how to manipulate them and how to interpret results. It is useful for fuel cell manufacturers, electrochemical engineering companies, utility companies, consultants and researchers.

Science and Technology of Ceramic Fuel Cells

Ceramic fuel cells, commonly known as solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), have been under development for a broad range of electric power generation applications. The most attractive feature of the SOFC is its clean and efficient production of electricity from a variety of fuels. This topical second edition provides a comprehensive treatise on SOFCs and continues to successfully fill the gap in the market for a reference book in this field. Aimed at scientists, engineers and technical managers working with SOFCs as well as ceramic devices based on conducting materials, and in related fields, the book will also be invaluable as a textbook for science and engineering courses.

Nano-structured Materials for Solar Energy Conversion

This guide covers a wide spectrum of materials and device types, from inorganic materials to organic ones. It deals with basic semiconductor physics, modelling of nano-structured solar cell, nano-structure of conventional solar cells such as silicon, CIS and CdTe, dye-sensitized solar cell, organic solar cell, photosynthetic materials, fullerene, extremely thin absorber (ETA) solar cell, quantum-structured solar cell, intermediate band solar cell, carbon nanotube, and so on, including basic principles and the latest results. This book is suitable as a guide for researchers, students and engineers who have an interest in next-generation photovoltaic solar cells using nano-structured materials.

For the above books, contact: The Customer Service Department, Elsevier B.V., 3 Killiney Road, Winsland House I, Singapore 239519. Tel: +65 6349 0222; Fax: +65 6733 1510



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