VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Jul-Sep 2013

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New and Renewable Energy Jul-Sep 2013

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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Indian government to target arid regions to produce electricity

The recent announcement to set up the world’s largest solar park near Sambhar lake in Rajasthan is a part of a much bigger plan, cleared by the Prime Minister’s Office, to target the arid regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat to pro-duce 300,000 MW electricity — about the amount India consumed in 2012 — over the next decade. Hindustan Salt Works has shed some 23,000 acres of land in a joint venture with BHEL and Solar Energy Corporation of India.

Buoyed by the prospects of this, the PMO is learnt to have held a slew of meetings to scale up solar power and turn it into a mainstream energy source. While Sambhar is the first ultra-mega solar power project, sources said more are in the pipeline. A larger exercise is underway to somehow neutralize the cost escalation by a simultaneous push to manufacturing solar panels and related equipment in India itself.

EIB supports renewable energy and efficiency projects in India

The European Investment Bank (EIB, Luxembourg) has signed a USD 54 million (EUR 40 million) long-term loan to SREI Infrastructure Finance Limited (SREI, Kolkata, India) to fund projects in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors in India. The projects financed will target especially electricity and heat generation schemes like solar photovoltaics (PV), wind power, hydro power and high-efficiency cogeneration.

SREI will furnish the funds to final beneficiaries identifying and pre-selecting the projects. The EIB will then ensure that all projects are economically viable and technically appropriate. The EIB loan is provided under the USD 6 bil-lion (EUR 4.5 billion) Energy Sustainability and Security of Supply Facility (ESF). Since the start of its lending activities in Asia EIB has provided over USD 6.6 billion for long-term investment projects, including USD 3 billion in the energy sector.

Sri Lanka’s Pan Asia Bank to get $20 mn from climate funds

Sri Lanka’s Pan Asia Bank said it had struck a deal to get 20 million US dollars to finance green energy, from in global climate fund. The Global Climate Partnership Fund (GCPF) is promoted by the German and Denmark gov-ernments; KfW, a development financier and the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank arm. The funds will come as a 7-year unsecured loan.

The bank said it will get technical support to “build its green lending portfolio of economically viable and climate friendly projects.” The funds will be loaned for renewable energy projects and to promote energy saving and green energy. The bank said it will give ‘green leases’ to import hybrid vehicles and energy saving refrigerators, air conditioners and solar electricity installations. The funds will also be given for large scaled projects such as wind power. The bank is inviting clients to submit proposals for green projects.Source:

Wind power mapping in Bangladesh

The Power Division has decided to conduct mapping of wind resources in eight places of the country with a view to assess the possibility of power generation. The mapping would be conducted in coastal zones, onshore and inland areas: Inani Beach of Cox’s Bazar, Sitakunda and Anwara of Chittagong, Khepupara of Patuakhali, Morelgong of Bagerhat, Chandpur and Rajshahi. Under the project, wind velocity in the proposed spots will be assessed.

The physical work of the project will begin after a team of the USAID visits Dhaka in mid- October. German-based Centre for International Migration and Development and US-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will conduct the mapping. “The project will be implemented with the financial assistance of the USAID. The estimated cost of the project is Tk 119 mn,” said the official, who is also a deputy secretary of the Power Division.

China to offer tax breaks to solar power manufacturers

China’s Ministry of Finance announced it will offer tax breaks in the form of receiving immediate refunds of 50 percent of value-added taxes, to manufacturers of solar power products. The official Xinhua news service cited data from the China Renewable Energy Society saying that the country’s top 10 solar panel makers are in debt up to 100 billion yuan ($16.34 billion), with a debt to asset ratio above 70 percent on average.

Beijing has said it wants to consolidate the industry, but the sector continues to enjoy protection at the central and local level; the latter is particularly strong because solar power companies are frequently major employers.
China’s LDK Solar Co. Ltd. partly defaulted on a bond payment in April, then failed to meet another payment on time in August. Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., China, said its Chief Executive David King had resigned from the company in mid-September, weeks after three directors left amid the solar panel maker’s efforts to restructure its debt.


Solar cell with 44.7% efficiency

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Freiburg, Germany, Soitec, France, CEA-Leti, France, and the Helmholtz Center, Berlin, Germany jointly announced today having achieved a new world record for the conver-sion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns.

Back in May 2013, the German- French team of Fraunhofer ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin had already announced a solar cell with 43.6% efficiency. These solar cells are used in concentrator photovoltaic (CPV), a technology which achieves more than twice the efficiency of conventional PV power plants in sun-rich locations. The terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally came from space technology, has prevailed to realize highest efficiencies for the conversion of sunlight to electricity. “We are incredibly proud of our team which has been working now for three years on this four-junction solar cell,” says Frank Dimroth, Department Head and Project Leader in charge of this development work at Fraunhofer ISE. “This new record value reinforces the credibility of the direct semiconductor bonding approaches that is developed in the frame of our collaboration with Soitec and Fraunhofer ISE. We are very proud of this new result, confirming the broad path that exists in solar technologies for advanced III-V semiconductor processing,” said Leti CEO Laurent Malier.

New technology to enable development of 4G solar cells

Professor Ravi Silva of the Advanced Technology Institute of the University of Surrey, the United Kingdom, has identified the range of combinations of organic and inorganic materials that will underpin new 4th generation solar cell technology. The new 4G solar cells defined by Professor Silva are a hybrid that combine the low cost and flexibility of conducting polymer films (organic materials) with the lifetime stability of novel nanostructures (inorganic materials). This ‘inorganics-in-organics’ technology improves the harvesting of solar energy and its conversion into electricity, offering better efficiency than the current 3G solar cells while maintaining their low cost base. In turn, these 3G cells offer significant cost improvements on first and second generation solar cells — based on crystalline and polycrystalline silicon — which are still responsible for over 90% of the solar power being generated today.

Along with a number of notable research institutions, the University of Surrey is part of the European Union FP7 SMARTONICS programme — a €11.6m project led by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. This project is currently developing the smart machines, tools and processes for large-scale production of 4G solar cells, using roll-to-roll printing technology for high throughput and cost-efficient fabrication.

Professor Silva said: “These new generation materials for solar cells have been truly engineered at the nanoscale. They are designed to maximise the harvesting of solar radiation, and thereby efficiently generate electricity.”

‘Cleaning’ boosts solar cell efficiency

Energy losses in nanowire solar cell can be significantly reduced by ‘cleaning’ the surface of the cells with a special etching method. This has been shown by researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Netherlands, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, and Philips, Netherlands, in a paper published in the journal Nano Letters. The solar cell has an efficiency of 11.1%, putting it just below the current world record, but it was reached with much less use of material. This is the latest step forward in the rapid development of this type of solar cell in recent years.

The nanowire solar cell is a relatively new type of cell in which a bundle of semiconducting wires, each with a thickness of around 100 nanometers collect light and convert it into electricity. Big advances have been made in the development of this type of solar cell in recent years, and the efficiencies achieved are increasing rapidly by around 5% per year — much stronger growth than that of competing solar cell technologies.

Cheap, spray-on solar cells developed by Canadian researchers

The solar cells are made using nanoparticles — microscopic particles just 30 to 40 atoms across — that are very cheap to produce from zinc and phosphorus, said Jillian Buriak, a University of Alberta, Canada, Chemistry pro-fessor and senior research officer of the National Institute of Nanotechnology (NIN), Canada. “We turn these things into inks or paints that you can spray coat onto plastics,” Buriak told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald in an interview that airs Saturday.

Silicon solar cells are made from sand in a process that involves heating the materials repeatedly to very high temperatures — around 1000°C. As a result, Buriak estimated, it takes three to six years for the resulting solar cell to generate the amount of power used to manufacture it in the first place. On the other hand, the solar nanoparticles are “actually made in a standard, bubbling pot glassware set up in the lab — the traditional image of chemistry — ” from elements that are very abundant, Buriak said. Buriak and her colleagues published a description of their solar cell-making process in a recent issue of the scientific journal ACS Nano.

Australian scientists develop printable A3 sized solar cells

Solar energy sounds like a dream, but buying and installing the equipment necessary to harness the power of the Sun can be expensive. But what if you could print your own solar panels?

The researchers at Australia’s Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) — a collaboration between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the University of Melbourne, Monash University and industry partners — have managed to print photovoltaic cells the size of an A3 sheet of paper.

“There are so many things we can do with cells this size. We can set them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements. We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the machine inside,” said CSIRO materials scientist, Dr. Scott Watkins. These cells produce 10–50 watts of power per m2, and could be used to laminate the windows of skyscrapers, giving them an additional source of power. Or they could be printed onto materials such as steel, meaning they could be embedded into roofs of buildings.

Solar cells which heal themselves developed in USA

Replacing old or poorly performing solar panels could one day be a thing of the past — now researchers claim solar powered cells can be developed to heal themselves. The two academics at North Carolina State University, the United States, were inspired by natural processes which allow leaves and human hands to regenerate.

They believe solar cell devices with channels which mimic organic vascular systems — similar to the way a field is irrigated with water — can effectively reinvigorate cells whose performance deteriorates because of the effect of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Rather than industry standard silicon cells, the method would use dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), made of a water-based gel center, electrodes and light-sensitive, organic dye molecules. These dye molecules capture light and generate electric current but eventually degrade and lose efficiency which is why researchers began to look at self-healing cells.

Photovoltaic cells rendered ineffective by high intensities of ultraviolet rays were regenerated by pumping fresh dye into the channels while cycling the exhausted dye out of the cell. This process restores the device’s effectiveness in producing electricity over multiple cycles.


New low noise wind turbine blades designed by GE

General Electric of the United States has been tackling the problem of noise in wind turbine head on in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories, the United States, and the company has just announced a new design model for wind turbine blades that could result in a two percent increase in output. That might sound like small potatoes, but consider that according to GE, about 240 gigawatts worth of new wind turbines are set to be installed over the next five years, so any small increase in efficiency is going to translate into a big difference worldwide.

In terms of the annoyance factor, wind turbine noise can be highly subjective. In 1985, for example, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) undertook a study of noise complaints regarding the experimental DOE/NASA MOD-1 wind turbine in North Carolina. Of more than 1,000 families living within 3 kilometers of the turbine, only about 12 reported noise complaints, but the investigation revealed a probable design flaw leading to generation of a “thumping” phenomenon.

While there is nothing subjective about measuring wind turbine power output, it is linked to wind turbine noise. Specifically, the aerodynamic noise created by the blades is the most significant source of noise from advanced wind turbines. With the right design approach, a quiet blade will be a more efficient blade, too.

Bladeless wind turbine with no moving parts

While most wind turbines generate electricity by converting kinetic energy into mechanical energy of the blades rotating, which in turn generates electrical energy, the Ewicon (which somewhat awkwardly stands for Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter) creates electrical energy directly from wind energy. It does this through the displacement of charged particles by the wind in the opposite direction of an electrical field. The device comprises a steel frame holding around 40 horizontal rows of insulated tubes — giving it the appearance of a large tennis racket. Each tube features several electrodes and nozzles which release positively-charge water into the air, through a process that’s been dubbed “electrospraying”. The technology was developed by the researchers Johan Smit and Dhiradi Djairam of the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands. A scale model of the Ewicon has been developed by Mecanoo Architects and is located in front of the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

The whole system comprises a battery, inverter, HVDC source, pump and charging system. All components are placed on a metal plate which is supported by ceramic insulators. The insulated metal plate acts as a capacitor, which is charged by the removal of the charged droplets. Positively charged particles naturally move towards the negative electrode, but when the wind is allowed to push the particle away from the negative electrode, it increases its potential electrical energy — a little like pushing a rock up a hill against gravity. This increased energy can then be collected.

The Ewicon’s advantages include the fact that it can come in many different shapes and sizes, and it has no moving parts, meaning much less mechanical wear and tear and thereby maintenance costs. Thanks to the lack of moving parts, it is also much quieter and creates fewer vibrations, making it suitable for urban settings.

Floating offshore turbines can reduce wind energy cost

Texas leads the United States in energy production with a combination of conventional and alternative energy sources. The state also produces the most wind power of any state in the nation, but with a growing population, there is a demand for more resources of renewable energy. A new design of floating offshore turbines that is being developed by scientists at Texas A&M University, the United States may be a cost-effective answer to that challenge.

Typical land-based wind turbines have blades diameters exceeding the wing span of a 747 jet plane. Offshore wind turbine structures can be even larger and are rigidly attached to the sea floor. Near the coast; however, these very large structures can interfere with the ocean view. Dr. Bert Sweetman, associate professor of Maritime Systems Engineering Texas A&M University at Galveston, the United States, is studying a new type of structural design that enables substantial reductions in cost, with only minimal decrease in the amount of electricity generated. Sweetman describes the engineering challenges involved constructing offshore turbines. Beyond improving floating wind turbines, the new mathematical models they adopted could potentially be used to improve the design of other com-plex mechanical systems, such as cars and airplanes. The models use less computer power than previously thought possible.

Super wind turbines represent a major technological breakthrough

Harnessing the wind’s energy is the objective of a new project, which aims to provide an important breakthrough in offshore wind industrial solutions. The EU-funded project, called SUPRAPOWER, is working on a more powerful, reliable and lightweight superconducting offshore wind turbine. The four-year project has the expertise of nine European partners from industry and science under the coordination of Tecnalia in Spain.

The SUPRAPOWER team believes that current turbines need new solutions to provide better power scalability, weight reduction and reliability. This is because their enormous size and weight drives up the cost of both fixed and floating foundations, as well as operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. Manufacturers have been focusing on ways to reduce the O&M costs of wind turbines for some time. This is where the team at Technalia thinks it may have the edge by means of superconduction. They see this as the way forward in building an efficient, robust, and compact wind power plant with a 10 MW superconducting generator. This will contribute to substantial savings on energy and raw materials, and extend the service life of the turbine.

Pioneering new 51 kW medium wind turbine

Orenda Energy Solutions (UK), a recent addition to the UK medium wind market, has designed and manufactured a pioneering 51 kW wind turbine which facilitates simple and safe servicing due to a patented proprietary design mechanism embedded in its tower. Orenda’s Skye turbine has a fully integrated hydraulically hinged tower, designed to be lowered and raised by one operator using a wrench. It has its power pack located in the tower base and the company claims this innovative technology makes Skye the most durable and efficient medium wind turbine currently available.

Moreover, its patented ‘tilt’ mechanism has been designed to alleviate the need for extensive and costly maintenance with servicing carried out ‘in-situ’ — a vitally important measure in hostile terrain or rural environments where there is little road access for cranes or heavy lifting gear. From a health and safety perspective, there is no need to climb the tower and hence, no need for a climbing certificate. In the rare event of extreme storm conditions, such as tornado or hurricane, the turbine can also be tilted and lowered to the ground thereby offering a degree of asset protection, rather than be fully exposed to the elements.
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Hybrid wind- and wave-powered generator under development

A Japanese firm, named Modec, has been developing and conducting small-scale testing of a new generator which utilizes both wind and wave energy. It is an offshore turbine which was dreamed up by Takuju Nakamura that has a vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) on top as well as a vertical-axis wave-powered generator on the bottom end, submerged underwater. The unit is called a “floating wind and current power generation system.” One will be deployed off the southwest coast of Japan this fall for testing.

Apparently, this turbine won’t be small, as it is expected to generate enough electricity to power up to 500 houses, with a power generation capacity of 1.5 MW. The unit will be tethered to shore using cables which will also transmit power to land energy storage units.


Best arrangement of tidal sails device determined

Just as wind turbines tap into the energy of flowing air to generate electricity, hydrokinetic devices produce power from moving masses of water. In a paper appearing in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, Ramon Fernandez-Feria, a professor of fluid mechanics at Universidad de Málaga in Spain, and his colleagues Joaquin Ortega-Casanova and Daniel Cebrián performed a computer simulation to determine the optimum configuration of one such system to enable it to extract the maximum amount of energy from any given current.

The system, developed by a Norwegian company, called Tidal Sails AS, consists of a string of submerged blades or sails, connected via wire ropes, angled into the oncoming current.

In their analysis, the researchers found that the maximum amount of power could be generated using blades with a chord length (the width of the blade at a given distance along its length) equal to the separation between each indi-vidual blade, that are positioned at about a 79 degree angle relative to the oncoming current, and that move at a speed about one and half times faster than the current.

Wave power generator bags Dyson award

Sam Etherington, an engineering graduate who studied mechanical design at Brunel University in London, has come up with a design of a wave power generator, to harness the energy that abounds in such restless waters. His design uses a long chain of loosely linked enclosed pistons.

Dr. David Forehand from the Institute for Energy Systems at Edinburgh, the United Kingdom, said that seas can sometimes have a number of dominant wave directions and Mr. Etherington’s multi-axis device might be good for such situations.

The cash award will allow Mr. Etherington to conduct more tests and enrol his device in European trials for fledgling tidal power systems. Mr. Etherington’s project was one of 63 in the UK selected by the judges on the James Dyson panel to compete for the UK prize. His project now goes through to the international final where a cash prize of £30,000 is up for grabs. For this year’s competition, engineers in 18 countries have submitted more than 650 entries.

The next generation of tidal stream power plants

Siemens, Germany, continues to develop its technology for tidal stream power plants. In the future, the new model will deliver higher performance at lower costs due to optimized construction. Today, the SeaGen power plant in a northern Irish narrows has an installed capacity of 1.2 megawatts (MW). The SeaGen-S will deliver two MW. The Welsh government has now approved the construction of five of these turbines for a ten MW power plant off the northwestern coast of Wales. It is scheduled to go into service in 2015 and supply around 10,000 homes with environmentally friendly electricity.

The new rotors are the most apparent change in construction. Their diameter has been increased to 20 meters and each of them has been equipped with an additional rotor blade. That means that the new model looks somewhat like an underwater windmill. The Siemens experts promise that the new rotors will be better able to distribute the pressure of the water current. This in turn will reduce wear and lengthen the service life of the power plant.

The company wants to build more power plants using the SeaGen S in underwater arrays similar to the one in Wales. In that way, large amounts of electricity could be brought together — as is the case with wind farms — and transmitted to the mainland. The construction of arrays also makes sense when the topological requirements for tidal stream power plants are taken into consideration. By contrast to tidal barrage power plants, tidal stream units don’t require a dam. But that means that these power plants won’t work just anywhere — they should only be constructed in locations with especially strong currents.

Oceanflow uses Siemens technology to harness tidal power

Gear units assembled by Siemens in Leeds are being put to work in a new tidal power turbine to be situated off coast of Scotland.

The ‘Evopod’ is a semi-submersible turbine developed by Oceanflow Energy, which incorporates Siemens gear and inverter units. At full size the Evopod should generate enough power for up to 800 homes and scale models of the turbine, designed to operate in exposed sites where severe wind and waves make up the environment, have been extensively tested in the North East.

Oceanflow Development Limited has secured a seven year lease from The Crown Estate on an area of seabed in Sanda Sound, South Kintyre. The lease will allow Oceanflow to deploy and test the Evopod tidal stream turbine at the site from 2013.

As a floating, tethered device, it has lower installation costs than seabed mounted devices, and it is claimed to impose less disturbance on sensitive seabed ecosystems.

Oceanflow, based in North Shields, is the first company to go through the complete process of permitting and leasing a grid connected tidal site for a commercial project in Scotland and it plans to install the unit later this year.

New system to harness energy from ocean currents

Researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), Spain, within the framework of PROCODAC-GESMEY project, have participated in the construction and testing of the prototype of a device to harness energy from ocean currents able to work in deep water.

In collaboration with the Astilleros Balenciaga company and the Fundación Centro Tecnológico Soermar, researchers at the Group of R&D GITERM, assigned to the Higher Technical School of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, are participating at the PROCODAC project, focused on the design, construction and testing on a marine environment of an experimentation prototype at a ten to one scale of what would be an industrial unit able to provide a 1 MW of electricity (GESMEY project). This prototype is complemented by an underwater buoy that was designed to operate in areas of 40 metres of depth.

The test results were very successful and have confirmed that this prototype can produce the expected energy and to be maneuvered by remote control, what can be of interest to use it in future underwater power plants. The tested prototype of the GESMEY project belongs to these second-generation systems, the design is protected by patents and the co-owner is the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid within a Framework Agreement signed between UPM and Soermar.

During the development of the project, tests of integration and the tune-up were conducted in the LEEys Lab of the ETSIN and at the shipyard. They also conducted sea trials divided into tests of maneuvers and trailer. The project was complemented with a research on hydrodynamics and structures as well as maneuvers and energy control. These studies were embodied in various numerical simulations. The test results were very successful and have confirmed that the prototype has accomplished their objectives by reducing costs of construction, installation and maintenance. In addition, the development and construction of these units of marine renewable energy production are affordable for a medium sized shipyard.

World first small waves energy converter

Hann-Ocean Energy’s (HOE) wave energy converter (WEC) Drakoo (Dragon King of Ocean), Singapore, has the potential to revolutionise the global wave energy market in both shallow and deep seas. Drakoo can extract energy at significantly lower cost compared to other existing wave technologies, giving it an enormous competitive advantage in the rapidly growing wave energy sector.

Drakoo concept was invented by Henry L. Han, the founder of Hann- Ocean. With the support of Spring Singapore’s Technology Innovation Grant, Hann-Ocean has been developing this technology since 2008. Right from the beginning, Drakoo was designed with efficiency, simplicity, reliability, durability, versatility and cost-effectiveness as well as eco-friendliness in mind.

The working principle of Drakoo (Dragon King of Ocean), being a twin-chamber oscillating water column system, is to transform waves into a continuous water flow which drives a hydro turbine generator. The Drakoo working principle has been proven with various scale models in lab tests and sea trials.


New hydrogen fuel cell developed in the UK

Scientists from the Newcastle University in north-east England have developed a new hydrogen fuel cell that is designed to operate using sewage. Researchers believe that the fuel cell could be a boon for waste disposal and treatment, turning refuses into electrical power. The research team suggests that this process can produce enough gas to power 8,000 homes. The fuel cell is not the first of its kind and will not likely be the last. As the human population continues to grow, finding ways to manage the waste that the population produces is becoming a very prominent issue. Turning this waste into electrical power can effectively solve the waste problem as well as those concerning energy.

Northumbrian Water, a prominent water company in the United Kingdom, is part of the research project that went into developing the new hydrogen fuel cell. The next step for the research team is to develop a way to send the gases produced by the facility into the national grid. Once part of the national grid, the gases will be able to be used for a variety of purposes. Thus far, the project has cost nearly $100 million, but researchers suggest that hydrogen fuel is high in value, thereby justifying the costs that are associated with the project.

Bahrain students develop water producing fuel cell car

A group of Bahrain University students have developed a new hydrogen fuel cell car that could produce drinking water, a report said. The engineering students, who are all part of the university’s Go Green 2013 project, have been developing alternative energy products, including a solar-powered car. “We are actually building two new modified vehicles — solar and hydrogen fuel cell,” said team leader Ahmed Mohamed Al Balooshi.

“The hydrogen fuel cell is the first-of-its-kind in the Middle East which runs on hydrogen fuel by sucking in oxygen and hydrogen. The engine produces electricity and pure water as a by-product which come out of the exhaust. The water that the engine produces is too pure for human use, but with the addition of some salts it can actually produce high quality drinking water.

Al Balooshi explained that hydrogen fuel cell technology is viable in the region as most of the chemical required can be attained as a by-product of oil drilling, which is not being utilized locally. He also said the solar-powered car, which has a theoretical top speed of 105kmh, is still in its production phase. Although he is excited about the pos-sibilities, but said the vehicle is still in its research and development stage and would be a while before a fully tested concept car is unveiled.

A new fuel cell with 80% less platinum

Matthias Arenz has built and tested a number of catalysts and is showing he can generate the same amount of electricity in a fuel cell with just a fifth of the platinum. If the technology can be commercialized it would be a huge financial advantage. Arenz, an associate professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in collaboration with researchers from the Technical University München, Germany, and the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research in Düsseldorf, Germany, is confident that his discovery can show the way for economically viable fuel cell production. Arenz knows and expects not to do quite that well in an everyday situation, but a marked reduction in platinum need is certainly realistic. The group’s discovery has been published in the journal Nature Materials.

Because fuel cells use the fuel much more efficiently fuel cells ought to replace internal combustion engines in our cars. They are better for the climate and for the environment and because they emit no smoke, no smog, no particulates and no CO2. But unfortunately the fuel cells have a technical limitation. They only work if they contain the metal platinum which is less common and more costly than gold. This has been a considerable obstacle to the development of energy efficient power generation with fuel cells. Other ideas have come out, yet there is no fuel cell market taking off with new technology.

Fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen and oxygen in a what’s called a catalytic reaction that is kept going by the platinum. The greatest effect is achieved by flowing the gasses over a sheet or film of platinum that requires large amounts of the costly element. The best commercial modern fuel cells are made with particles, little granules of platinum.

The research in Arenz’ group showed that these granules could be placed for more efficiency. When tested in the laboratory, catalysts bought on the market today will produce around one Ampere for every milligram of platinum. The group has developed a fuel cell catalyst that got a whopping eight Amperes per milligram of platinum.


New hydrogen-making method could give a boost to fuel-cell vehicles

Hydrogen-powered vehicles have been pitched as a greener alternative to gas-powered vehicles, but one problem with this is that the hydrogen is typically produced from a fossil fuel — natural gas — in a process that releases a lot of carbon dioxide.

BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, may have found a solution. It’s developing a process that could cut those emissions in half, making hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles significantly cleaner than electric vehicles in most locations (the environmental benefits of electric cars vary depending on how the electricity is generated). Beyond providing a cleaner source of hydrogen for fuel-cell vehicles, the process could also help clean up industrial processes, like oil refining, that use large amounts of hydrogen.

BASF is working on a pilot plant to demonstrate the technology as part of a $30 million project partially financed by the German government. A second part of the project will demonstrate a new way to use carbon dioxide emissions as a raw material for chemicals and fuels, by combining them with the hydrogen produced in BASF’s low-carbon emissions process. A handful of automakers have plans to start selling fuel-cell vehicles as early as 2015.

Hydrogen fuel from sunlight

A University of Colorado, Boulder, the United States, research team lead by Chris Muhich has moved closer to what some call the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy — splitting water with sunlight. They have published their research finding in Science.

The University of Colorado-Boulder team has devised a solar-thermal system designed to use a vast array of ground mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a single point atop a central tower up to several hundred feet tall. The tower would gather heat to roughly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,350°C) and then deliver it into a reactor containing metal oxides. As the metal oxide compound heats up, it releases oxygen atoms, changing its material composition and causing the newly formed compound to seek out new oxygen atoms. The team showed that adding steam to the system would cause oxygen from the water molecules to adhere to the metal oxide surface, freeing up hydrogen molecules for collection as hydrogen gas. To get the steam, the concentrated sunlight beam to the tower would heat the water to boiling.

Hydrogen fuel without using costly platinum

A new finding could advance the quest to create a “hydrogen economy” that would use that abundant element to store and transfer energy, scientists say. Mark Lukowski, a Ph.D. student working with chemist Song Jin at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, the United States, has used a different catalyst other than platinum. “Most people have tried to reduce the cost of the catalyst by making small particles that use less platinum, but here we got rid of the platinum altogether and still got reasonably high performance,” he said. They used molybdenum disulfide as the catalyst.

Theoretically, hydrogen is the ultimate non-polluting fuel for storing intermittent energy from the wind or sun. When burned for energy, hydrogen produces water but no carbon dioxide, considered the chief culprit in global warming. But producing hydrogen from water, and then storing and using the gas, have proven difficult. The new study, published online at the Journal of the American Chemical Society, introduces a new system to facilitate the use of electricity to produce the gas.

To make the new material, Lukowski and Jin deposited nanostructures, or molecular-scale structures, of molybdenum disulfide on a disk of graphite. They then applied a treatment using the element lithium to create a different structure with metallic properties, and greater catalytic capacities.

Hydrogen from molten salt gasification pilot plant

Western Hydrogen Limited, USA, reported first production of hydrogen from its Molten Salt Gasification (MSG) pilot plant in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The MSG process, under license from Idaho National Laboratory, United States, uses a combination of molten sodium salts (sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide) to convert a carbon feedstock and water into hydrogen. The technology allows the production of high-pressure hydrogen without the need for compression and can use a variety of feedstocks, including renewables. Following six years of testing at the Idaho National Laboratory, the pilot plant was constructed to demonstrate the technology’s reliability in a large-scale production facility.

The MSG process occurs in a single high-pressure reactor in which a carbon-based feedstock and water react with a molten salt bath. Depending on operating conditions, the system can produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide at pressures up to 2000 psig; or synthesis gas (i.e. CO + H2) at similar pressures.

Advantages of combining MSG with FT include heat integration (i.e. Molten Salt Gasification is endothermic and Fischer Tropsch is exothermic); MSG supplies the synthesis gas at high pressure, which the Fischer Tropsch process requires; and the hydrocarbon-contaminated water produced by the Fischer-Tropsch reaction can be recycled back into the Molten Salt Gasification process.

Scientists reverse engineer plants to make hydrogen fuel from sunlight

In the search for clean, green sustainable energy sources to meet human needs for generations to come, perhaps no technology matches the ultimate potential of artificial photosynthesis. Bionic leaves that could produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, with no byproducts other than oxygen, represent an ideal alternative to fossil fuels but also pose numerous scientific challenges. A major step toward meeting at least one of these challenges has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Depart-ment of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP).

Gary Moore is the corresponding author, along with Junko Yano and Ian Sharp, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and JCAP, of a paper describing this research in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). The article is titled “Photofunctional Construct That Interfaces Molecular Cobalt-Based Catalysts for H2 Production to a Visible-Light-Absorbing Semiconductor.” Co-authors are Alexandra Krawicz, Jinhui Yang and Eitan Anzenberg. “We’ve developed a method by which molecular hydrogen-producing catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light,” says, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and principal investigator for JCAP. “Our experimental results indicate that the catalyst and the light-absorber are interfaced structurally as well as functionally.”

Earth receives more energy in one hour’s worth of sunlight than all of humanity uses in an entire year. Through the process of photosynthesis, green plants harness solar energy to split molecules of water into oxygen, hydrogen ions (protons) and free electrons. The oxygen is released as waste and the protons and electrons are used to convert carbon dioxide into the carbohydrate sugars that plants use for energy. Scientists aim to mimic the concept but improve upon the actual process. While artificial photosynthesis can be used to generate electricity, fuels can be a more effective means of storing and transporting energy. The goal is an artificial photosynthesis system that’s at least 10 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis.

Nanocrystal catalyst transforms impure hydrogen into electricity

The quest to harness hydrogen as the clean-burning fuel of the future demands the perfect catalysts — nanoscale machines that enhance chemical reactions. Scientists must tweak atomic structures to achieve an optimum balance of reactivity, durability, and industrial-scale synthesis. In an emerging catalysis frontier, scientists also seek nanoparticles tolerant to carbon monoxide, a poisoning impurity in hydrogen derived from natural gas. This impure fuel — 40 percent less expensive than the pure hydrogen produced from water — remains largely untapped.

Catalysts inside fuel cells pry free the intrinsic energy of hydrogen molecules and convert it into electricity. Platinum performs exceptionally well with pure hydrogen fuel, but the high cost and rarity of the metal impedes its widespread deployment. By coating less expensive metals with thin layers of platinum atoms, however, scientists can retain reactivity while driving down costs and creating core-shell structures with superior performance parameters.

Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory — in research published online September 18, 2013 in the journal Nature Communications — have created a high-performing nanocatalyst that meets all these demands.


Scientists use ‘wired microbes’ to generate electricity from sewage

Engineers at Stanford University in the United States have devised a new way to generate electricity from sewage using naturally-occurring “wired microbes” as mini power plants, producing electricity as they digest plant and ani-mal waste. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-authors Yi Cui, a materials scientist, Craig Criddle, an environmental engineer, and Xing Xie, an interdisciplinary fellow, call their invention a microbial battery.

One day they hope it will be used in places such as sewage treatment plants, or to break down organic pollutants in the “dead zones” of lakes and coastal waters where fertilizer runoff and other organic waste can deplete oxygen levels and suffocate marine life.

At the moment, however, their laboratory prototype is about the size of a D-cell battery and looks like a chemistry experiment, with two electrodes, one positive, the other negative, plunged into a bottle of wastewater. The Stanford engineers estimate that the microbial battery can extract about 30 percent of the potential energy locked in wastewater. That is roughly the same efficiency at which the best commercially available solar cells convert sun-light into electricity.

“We demonstrated the principle using silver oxide, but silver is too expensive for use at large scale,” said Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, who is also affiliated with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “Though the search is underway for a more practical material, finding a substitute will take time.”

Microbial enzyme cocktails for biofuel production

Clemson University, the United States, researchers are developing the right combination of enzymes from bacterial and fungal sources to hasten the utilization of plant biomass as raw material for biofuel production.

Conversion of plant biomass into cost-competitive biofuels requires an efficient way to break down the tough cellulose and xylan molecules bound in plant cell walls. These complex molecules can be enzymatically degraded into simple sugars which can be fermented into ethanol. Scientists aim to tap the natural abilities of bacteria and fungi in decomposing plant materials to aid in this process.

A research at Clemson University involves identifying the right bacteria and fungi and the right enzymes that will break down the cellulose and xylan in switchgrass and waste paper to release fermentable plant sugars. As fungi and bacteria work additively as a community, research is focused on developing an “enzyme cocktail.” This work aims to reduce the cost of making ethanol from plant biomass.

Biofuel created from bacteria and fungus

By throwing together a common fungus and a common bacterium, researchers are producing isobutanol — a biofuel that gallon-for-gallon delivers 82 percent of gasoline’s heat energy. The more common ethanol, by contrast, only gets 67 percent of gasoline’s energy, and does more damage to pipelines and engines. The University of Michigan, United States, research team did it using stalks and leaves from corn plants as the raw material.

The fungus in question was Trichoderma reesei, which breaks down the plant materials into sugars. The team used corn plant leftovers in this case, but many other forms of biomass like switchgrass or forestry waste could also serve. The bacterium was Escherichia coli — good old-fashioned E. coli — which then converted those sugars into isobutanol. Another team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States, recently came up with a similar process by studying leaf cutter ants, but their work produced ethanol instead.

The big advantage of a cellulosic biofuel like this is twofold. One, because it can be produced from crops that don’t double as a food source, demand for it won’t drive up food prices or contribute to global food insecurity. Two, by driving up demand for food crops, traditional biofuels encourage individuals and countries to clear ever more natural land for agriculture. Grasslands and natural forest store more carbon from the atmosphere than cropland. So the growth in biofuel production, means less natural ecology to absorb carbon, leaving more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. On top of that, agriculture involves its own carbon emissions from driving tractors and such. So put it all together and traditional biofuel production is largely self-defeating in terms of the final amount of carbon dioxide left in the atmosphere.

But if a process like this one produces biofuel purely from waste materials — stuff left over from crops we would’ve grown regardless, on land we would’ve cleared regardless — those biofuels will deliver a much bigger net positive when it comes to fighting climate change.

Biofuels from wet, unprocessed waste

Biofuels company NextFuels introduced its hydrothermal process for economically producing transportation and industrial fuels from wet, unprocessed agricultural waste. The underlying technology — developed by Shell Oil over several years — will allow NextFuels and its partners to produce bio-based crude at commercial scale for $75 to $85 a barrel out of wet biomass that has not been mechanically or thermally dried.

The California, USA-based company said that its process will provide palm plantation owners and others a way to transform the tons of residual plant matter generated by agricultural operations into a new, profitable second crop.

The company is collaborating on its commercial strategy with Enagra, a biofuel trading company, on the development of its technology. The two companies are owned by the same investors and managed by executives with extensive experience in biofuels. Over the past ten years, Enagra has conducted more than $1 billion in biofuel transactions and will achieve revenues of approximately $150 million in 2013.

Unlike many other biofuels processes, NextFuels does not need to dry biomass before processing. The process is uniquely and specifically designed to work with wet biomass. As a result, the energy balance achieved by NextFuels process is approximately 65 to 70% — i.e., 65 to 70% of the energy put into the system becomes useable energy. By contrast, processes like Fischer- Tropsch achieve energy balances of 40% or less, according to the company.

Technology to make Jatropha oil biodiesel

The Indian Oil Corporation Limited — an Indian state-owned oil and gas corporation — has successfully developed and commercialized a technology to co-process non-edible vegetable oil in the existing diesel hydrotreating (DHDT) units of a petroleum refinery to make biodiesel. This is the first time in India when jatropha oil has been used for co-processing in a petroleum refinery. This technology for co-processing of jatropha oil has been developed by the R&D Center of IndianOil located at Faridabad.

Jatropha curcas is a species of flowering plant in the genus Jatropha in spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, that is native to the American tropics, most likely Mexico and Central America. It is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, becoming naturalized in some areas. Currently the oil from Jatropha curcas seeds is used for making biodiesel fuel in Philippines, Pakistan and in Brazil, where it grows naturally and in plantations in the southeast, north, and northeast of Brazil. Likewise, jatropha oil is being promoted as an easily grown biofuel crop in hundreds of projects throughout India and other developing countries.

During the development of this process technology, IndianOil has also developed a process for demetallation and degumming of vegetable oils. It should be noted that the demetallation of oils is a prerequisite for the ?o-processing since metals have a negative effect on the catalyst in a DHDT unit.

Mutated yeast speeds up waste-based biofuel production

Belgian researchers have created a new genetically mutated yeast strain that can turn waste into bio-ethanol with unprecedented efficiency.

The team of researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and the VIB Research Institute, Belgium, have picked some of the best yeast strains used in the industry and modified their DNA to make them able to ferment a wider variety of sugars while at the same time boosting their robustness.

“Our new yeast strains come at a good moment because the entire industry of second-generation biofuels has now clearly come quite a bit closer to becoming economically viable,” said Johan Thevelein, the leader of the team. “We are working at full capacity to further improve our yeast strains in order to continue to increase the efficiency of fermentation, and in this way we hope to further strengthen our leadership position in this burgeoning industrial sector.”


Practical Design and Theory

The second edition of Biomass Gasification and Pyrolysis is enhanced with new topics, such as torrefaction and cofiring, making it a versatile resource that not only explains the basic principles of energy conversion systems, but also provides valuable insight into the design of biomass conversion systems. This book will allow professionals, such as engineers, scientists, and operating personnel of biomass gasification, pyrolysis or torrefaction plants, to gain a better comprehension of the basics of biomass conversion.

Biofuels from Algae

This book provides in-depth information on basic and applied aspects of biofuels production from algae. It begins with an introduction to the topic, and follows with the basic scientific aspects of algal cultivation and its use for biofuels production, such as photo bioreactor engineering for microalgae production, open culture systems for biomass production and the economics of biomass production. It provides state-of-the-art information on synthetic biology approaches for algae suitable for biofuels production, followed by algal biomass harvesting, algal oils as fuels, biohydrogen production from algae, formation/ production of co-products, and more.

Small Wind: Planning and Building Successful Installations

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