VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . May-Jun 2007

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New and Renewable Energy May-Jun 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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Renewable energy materials: a US$2.4 billion market

The total global market for advanced materials and devices for renewable energy systems was valued at around US$2.4 billion at the end of 2006, according to a report by BCC Research. At a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8 per cent, this market by 2011 is estimated to be worth US$7.5 billion.

Solar photovoltaic devices, worth US $1.2 billion in 2006, hold the highest share of the market throughout the forecast period, comprising 55.1 per cent of the total global market. By the end of 2011 they will be worth more than US$4.9 billion, a CAGR of 28 per cent and their share of the market will increase to 56 per cent. Ocean energy is tipped to have the highest growth rate in the forecast period, reaching

US$360 million in 2011, at a CAGR of 66.5 per cent. Crystalline silicon, which is used in solar PV arrays, has the largest consumption of any type of advanced material, followed by thin films at a distant second place. Though composites were the third largest material consumed during 2005-06, nanomaterials are expected to surpass composites by 2011.


China goes for more solar energy

China has proven and mature solar technologies for water heating, housing and cooking, with an increasing application scale. As of 2006, the country had developed an annual capacity of 18 million sq. m for solar water heaters, with application areas amounting to 90 million sq. m on a combined basis, making China the largest solar water heater producer and user in the world. A preliminary plan published by the State Development and Reform Commission of China in 2005, the country will raise its renewable energy from 7 per cent to 15 per cent by 2020 as a proportion of primary energy, with a total application area of 300 million sq. m for solar water heaters a yearly saving of 40 million tonnes of coal equivalent. China will also see its solar capacity increased to 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity.


Renewable energy devices to get SEZ

A special economic zone (SEZ) for the manufacture of renewable energy devices would be established on 675 acres of land in Tamil Nadu, India. The states electricity minister Mr. N. Veerasamy, submitting the policy note of his department in the legislature, said private promoters from Europe and America and renowned universities of the United Kingdom and the United States had shown interest in setting up manufacturing facilities related to renewable energy and a world-class technology park within the proposed SEZ. He reported that the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board has plans to augment its generating capacity by 11,768 MW and to correspondingly expand the transmission and distribution system during the 11th plan period.


Alternative fuels muster support in the Philippines

In the Philippines, the government has been promoting the use of alternative fuels in view of the continued rise in the price of imported oil. As the Philippines is almost 100 per cent dependent on imported oil, the present scenario has made it imperative for the government to find solutions that would help the nation move towards greater use of indigenous energy resources.

As further research is needed, the Philippine National Oil Companys Alternative Fuels Corporation and the Department of Science & Technology (DOST) have entered into a partnership for the development of alternative fuels. DOST, which is in the forefront of R&D in renewable energy, has agreed to focus its cooperation in collaborative activities on biofuels, technical assistance and capacity building. The Biofuels Act of January 2007 mandated the DOST to identify and develop viable feedstock for the production of biofuels, and implement a R&D programme supporting a sustainable improvement in biofuel production and utilization technology.


Biofuel can help halt global warming

Pioneer Bio Industries Corp., a company backed by the Government of Malaysia, reports to have found a new source of energy to replace fossil fuels ethanol from nipah palm trees. The company is building the worlds first refinery to commercially produce ethanol from the short palm trees, found in equatorial countries, that could fuel everything from automobiles to power plants. The company says the nipah palm sap will be used in a patented process to make ethanol, which generates hardly any carbon emissions that are blamed for the climate-changing greenhouse effect and for the ozone depletion.

As nipah palm trees are not a food source, its sap can be drained on a daily basis, that too without the need to harvest the plants. The company envisions a fuel of the future that would have 85 per cent nipah ethanol and 15 per cent petrol, thus greatly reducing the dependence on fossil fuels. With a production capacity of 450 million litres, the refinery will commence production towards the end of 2008. Pioneer plans to build 15 such refineries across Malaysia. It has already received an order worth more than US $66 billion from one of the biggest trading companies in the world to buy its ethanol from 2009 to 2013.


New biofuel mission

In India, the Planning Commission has set up an expert committee to study and recommend measures to promote biofuels development. In a recent report, the committee suggested that the government launch a nationwide biofuels mission, with special focus on encouraging the plantation of Jatropha and Pongamia. According to the Minister of State for Rural Development, Mr. Chandra Shekar Sahu, the national mission would shortly be launched in two phases. In the first phase, the demonstration phase, Jatropha and Pongamia plantation would be undertaken in 400,000 ha of land owned by government. In the next phase, Jatropha would be planted in 11.2 million hectares of private and government land to increase the production of biodiesel. The mission aims to achieve a target of 20 per cent blending of biofuels with petroleum and diesel.

Furthermore, the expert committee has suggested that the Ministry of Rural Development be appointed as the prime agency for the implementation and monitoring of the biofuels mission. India has a programme in place for sugarcane-based ethanol, but it has done little to develop other sources of renewable energy such as biodiesel, for which the country has a large potential. Moreover, the draft of Indias first-ever integrated energy policy, which is under discussion at various forums, also laid emphasis on the need to encourage the production of biofuels.

In a move to encourage the production of biofuels, the Prime Ministers energy coordination committee has asked state-owned oil companies to take the lead in developing large-scale Jatropha plantations through contract farming, self-help groups, rural co-operatives as well as village governments.


China joins wind turbine business

Chinese firms are joining the technically complex industry of wind turbine manufacturing, creating a supply glut that may temporarily complicate Chinas push towards cleaner energy, industry executives opine. Over 30 Chinese firms now offer wind power generating equipment, creating stiff competition that should eventually push down global prices and turn Chinese firms into export powerhouses. Though a majority of these firms do not have significant experience in the hi-tech engineering of modern windmills, their strategies include adapting other types of turbines and buying licenses from overseas firms that have decided not to venture into the market themselves.

In local market, Chinese firms are gaining ground over foreign competitors, taking 40 per cent of orders last year compared with just 20 per cent in 2004. Some plan to raise production up to ten-fold in the next couple of years, according to Mr. Paulo Fernando Soares of Suzlon Energy. Such companies are receiving a boost from government policies that need at least 70 per cent of new machines to be manufactured at home, and a power pricing system that trims margins to razor-thin levels. However, quality remains a challenge. Though Suzlon machines cost up to 15 per cent more than those of Chinese competitors, repairs and time lost to breakdowns narrow the price difference for foreign developers calculating their long-term prospects.


Biodiesel blend for vehicles mandatory

From 2008, drivers in Taiwan will be required to add biodiesel in addition to petroleum to their vehicles to reduce air pollution. This measure is the result of a revised Energy Administration Law by a committee of the Legislative Yuan. Taoyuan and Chiayi counties have been designated as the first to implement the biodiesel programme, with all petroleum stations there supplying biodiesel beginning in July this year. All vehicles are required to add 1 per cent of biodiesel to their total purchase when they fill up, under the law.

The ratio will be increased to 2 per cent by 2010.
The state-run Chinese Petroleum Corporation and the private sectors Formosa Petrochemical Corp. will be responsible for supplying biodiesel at stations that purchase their petroleum. The new rule is aimed at coping with a possible shortage of supply in energy sources, particularly petroleum. Other preliminary rules approved by the lawmakers include a reduction in the safety reserves for petroleum importing companies to 10,000 kilolitres from the current 50,000 kilolitres to promote market competition. Other measures too have been drafted to enable Taiwan to better cope with energy and environmental problems.

As part of a pioneer project to promote biomass energy, from September this year, seven stations in Taipei will provide ethanol-blended fuel, which comprises 97 per cent petroleum and 3 per cent ethanol. Though vehicles owned by government agencies will be the main consumers, private vehicles will not be banned. The Environmental Protection Administration has announced a plan that would ask each household to recycle its waste cooking oil to be used in the production of biodiesel starting in July. Made from waste cooking oil or rapeseed and soybeans, biodiesel can be used instead of, or in a mixture with, the regular diesel to fuel machinery to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.


Denmark and Norway support Nepal on renewable energy

The ambassadors of Denmark and Norway, on behalf of their respective governments, signed an agreement with Nepal pledging a grant assistance through a five-year period for renewable energy programmes in Nepal. The support will be provided through Phase II of the Energy Sector Assistance Programme (ESAP), which received Denmarks support in its first phase. The programme will be implemented by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, a joint press release issued by the Danish and Norwegian embassies said.

The programme will provide institutional and technical support to the government of Nepal to strengthen its capacity to deliver energy to rural areas. This programme will include support to develop a new national policy for rural energy delivery, which covers both non-renewable and renewable sources. It will support renewable energy solutions through the Rural Energy Fund, which will provide financial subsidies for consumers who wish to invest in these solutions. The programme will focus on three solutions: biomass energy, which is cleaner and more energy-efficient than traditional cooking fire; micro- and mini-hydro power installations of up to 1 MW that can supply electricity to rural communities besides adding capacity to the grid during electricity shortage in the nation; and solar home power systems of around 36 Wp, which can power lights and small appliances in the households.


Scouting for new biofuel sources

In Pakistan, the Planning Commission has approved a project that aims to explore new sources of biofuel in a bid to diversify the energy basket and minimize the dependency on imported fuels. Apart from determining key parameters, with the collaboration of private and public sectors, the project would also work on the production of ethanol and methane gas from lignocellulosic biomass over the next three years. Four major labs of National Institute for Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering would take part in the research process.

A few months earlier, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet had approved, on an experimental basis, E10 fuel (90 per cent petroleum and 10 per cent ethanol) in Islamabad and Karachi. A few sugar mills are already producing ethanol from molasses. A tonne of biomass can produce 200 litres of bioethanol using the prevailing technology.

Research and development of new techniques could help the yield reach 350-400 litres/tonne of biomass.


Consortium to work for fuel cell-based cars in India

Leaders of the automotive industry in India have formed a partnership to develop a viable and sustainable fuel source. Eicher Motors, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto have formed the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) for finding the right blend of compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen to run vehicles, while fuel cell technology will be used for distributed-generation. The CNG-hydrogen mixture SIAMs researchers are looking to develop is known as Hithane, which is seen as advantageous as it needs minimum modifications to be made to the involved parties existing range of cars. Hithane also emits lower levels of nitrous oxide (NOX).



New manufacturing process for flexible cells

In the United States, a new technology for manufacturing flexible solar cells promises to reduce the costs associated with the use of photovoltaic energy while, at the same time, expanding possible applications. The new technology from the Institute of Energy Conversion (IEC) of the University of Delaware enables more efficient manufacture of flexible solar cells in long sheets using roll-to-roll reactors, much like newsprint speeding through a press. As such, the system allows extremely high production throughputs, thus reducing manufacturing costs. It also provides for lightweight and flexible solar cell panels that could find interest in the space, military and recreational markets. For standard applications, the solar cells can also be encapsulated into a more traditional rigid structure.

The solar cell sheets are made by depositing copper-indium-gallium-diselinide, which the IEC scientists call CIGS, on a 10-inch wide polymer web, which is then processed into the flexible solar cells. CIGS solar cells are currently the only thin-film technology products that have achieved efficiencies comparable to silicon solar cells, presently the standard of the industry. IEC has evaluated the quality of CIGS on the molybdenum-coated web by characterizing the uniformity of the film.

Researchers found that average solar cell conversion efficiencies of 10 per cent were achieved. A solar cells energy conversion efficiency is the percentage of power converted from absorbed light to electrical energy and then collected when a solar cell is connected to an electrical circuit. According to Mr. Erten Eser, IEC associate scientist, thin-film CIGS-based solar cells have a multi-layer structure stacked on a, in this case, high-temperature polyimide substrate coated with CIGS, molybdenum, cadmium sulphide, zinc oxide and indium-tin oxide.


Self-recharging solar batteries

Scientists at the European Union-funded EUROPSB project have designed a polymer battery with integrated thin-solar cells, which can recharge itself from natural or artificial light. Weighing just 2 g and measuring less than 1 mm thick, the prototype battery is flexible enough to be used in a wide range of low-wattage electronic gadgets, including flat but bendable objects like a smart card and, potentially, mobile phones with curves. The device is designed to ensure that the battery is always charged with the optimum voltage, independently of the light intensity. Each solar strip in a cell can produce 0.6 V and the battery can fit the needs of the device by simply adding extra strips to a cell.

To sustain the life of the cells, which are vulnerable to photodegradation after only a few hours of exposure to air, the scientists encapsulated them inside a flexible gas barrier and thus extended their life to about 3,000 hours. According to the team, production of the solar cells is cost-effective, since they can be printed on a roll-to-roll machine at low temperatures. Tests have shown that using solar-powered batteries is a feasible alternative to existing batteries. They were proved effective under low-light conditions, such as sunlight shining in through a window. Researchers, however, believe that artificial light, such as office light, may be too weak to generate adequate power for mobile phones.


Cheaper and efficient solar cells

A start-up company in the United States is aiming to capture and use photons that normally pass through solar cells without generating electricity. StarSolar, which is licensing technology developed at MIT, claims that its designs could make it possible to cut the cost of solar cells by half while maintaining high efficiency. This would make solar power about as cheap as electricity from the electric grid. MIT researchers had found that by creating a specific pattern of microscopic spheres of glass within a precisely designed photonic crystal, and then applying this pattern in a thin layer at the back of a solar cell, they could redirect unabsorbed photons back into the silicon.

The photonic crystal makes it possible to do things with light that have never been done before, states Dr. John Joannopoulos, a professor of physics at MIT who heads the lab where the new designs for solar applications were developed. Photonic crystals, which can be engineered to reflect and diffract all the photons in specific wavelengths of light, have long been attractive for optical communications, in which the materials can be used to direct and sort light-borne data. New manufacturing processes can now make the photonic crystals practical for much larger-scale applications like photovoltaics.


3D solar cells

Unique three-dimensional (3D) solar cells that capture nearly all of the light that strikes them could boost the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) systems while reducing their size, weight and mechanical complexity. The new 3D solar cells capture photons from sunlight using an array of miniature tower structures. The cells could change the way solar cells are designed for a broad range of applications.

Mr. Jud Ready, a senior research engineer from the Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), the United States, says that the goal is to harvest every last photon that is available to a cell. Capturing more of the light in the 3D structures enables the use of much smaller PV arrays. The GTRI cells trap light between their tower structures, which are 100 m tall, 40  40 m square, 10 m apart, and built from arrays that contain millions of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes.

Fabrication of the cells begins with a silicon wafer that can also serve as the solar cells bottom junction. The wafer is first coated with a thin layer of iron using a photolithography process that can create a wide variety of patterns. The wafer is then placed into a furnace heated to 780 C. Hydrocarbon gases are passed into furnace, where the carbon and hydrogen separate.

Through chemical vapour deposition, the carbon grows into arrays of multi-walled nanotubes atop the iron patterns. Once the carbon nanotube towers have been grown, molecular beam epitaxy process is used to coat them with cadmium telluride (CdTe) and cadmium sulphide (CdS). These serve as the p-type and n-type PV layers. Atop that, a thin coating of indium-tin oxide is added to serve as the cells top electrode. In the finished cells, the carbon nanotube arrays serve both as support for the 3D arrays and as a conductor connecting the PV materials to the silicon wafer.

Contact: Mr. Jud Ready, Georgia Institute of Technology, 75, 5th Street, N.W., Suite  100 Atlanta, Georgia 30308, United States of America. Tel +1 (404) 4076 036




New wind generator

Helyx wind generator from Oregon Wind Corporation, the United States, produces electricity at both low and high wind speeds. Wind energy captured by the vertical axis turbine is converted into rotational torque. This torque drives a generator that produces electricity. Features include:
  • Helyx can accept wind from any direction;
  • Runs silently; produces almost no vibration;
  • Generates power in a wide range of wind speeds, starting from app. 5.5 mph;
  • Does not stop producing electricity at high wind speeds;
  • Very durable, with only few moving parts;
  • Wings are replaceable and offer high recycled content;
  • Appropriate for all environs, temperatures and conditions; and
  • Compact (1 m high, 56 cm wide) and weighs only 9 kg.

Contact: Oregon Wind Corporation, East Bank Commerce Centre, No. 1001 SE Water Avenue, Portland, Oregon, OR 97214, United States of America. Tel: +1 (503) 5950 140; Fax: +1 (503) 5950 145



Plastic wind turbines

Engineers at the University of Hong Kong and a private renewable energy company have developed a new micro wind turbine that can generate electricity even at wind speeds as low as 2 m/s. The main inventor of the technology, Mr. Lucien Gambarota, said that the small turbines are ideal for crowded cities, such as Hong Kong, because they can be installed on rooftops and balconies. The design is simple. Plastic gearwheels, each about 25 cm in diameter, are linked to one another and turn when moved by the wind. Groups of such gearwheels can be arranged in an array of shapes and sizes, ranging from about two to a few thousands of square metres, depending on how much energy is needed and on the space available. The energy generated by the turbines is stored in a battery, which then powers electrical appliances. Moreover, the wind turbine is easy to install and comparatively cheap.


Motor technology spins off wind turbine

AEG Electric Motors has used its expertise in designing squirrel-cage and permanent magnet motors to produce a generator for a new 1 kW wind turbine for domestic sector. The WS1000 turbine, developed by Windsave in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, is considerably cheaper than previous domestic turbines. The system would cut electricity bills of an average house by a third, and to pay for itself in about four years. The payback could be even quicker if subsidies become available.

The turbine comes with an inverter that plugs into a 13 A socket and synchronizes itself with the mains supply. Costs have been reduced by eliminating any form of energy storage and by cutting off the output if the mains supply fails - thus avoiding the risk of feeding power into the public network. Successful field trials would allow British Gas to sell and install the wind turbine. The turbines generator is based on an AEG 90 mm frame motor and incorporates a braking system to prevent the turbine from spinning too fast in high winds. The motor uses rare-earth magnets, and special rotor laminations and windings, to maximize its efficiency and output.


Vertical-axis wind turbine

Gual Industrie, Belgium, has developed a novel vertical-axis wind turbine composed of a fixed stator that directs the wind at its optimal force on to a mobile rotor. This approach allows the turbine, Gual StatoEolien, to be installed in urban environs and take advantage of the strong, turbulent winds that a horizontal wind turbine cannot exploit. This French design sports a power curve that is different from the power curves for conventional turbines because the output increases until the velocity of the wind is above the lower hurricane levels. The turbine can generate power in wind speeds of up to 150 km/h and withstand winds up to 200 km/h. Hence, the electricity production rate is 30 per cent superior to horizontal axis wind turbines.

The rotor blades of the Gual Stato-Eolien are built on the principle of modern aircraft wings (a technique known as Skin+Ribs), which renders the rotor blades and the stator wings to be rigid as well as light in weight. Turbulence in the leeward side prevents wind from entering the machine to push the blades in the wrong direction, thus reducing this braking effect.

Contact: Gual Industrie, Avenue Gustave Eiffel, 66600 Rivesaltes, France. Tel: +33 (4) 68 64 3105; Fax: +33 (4) 6864 8586



Wind-hydrogen hybrid generator

Hydrogen Engine Centre, Canada, successfully demonstrated its wind-hydrogen hybrid generator system in April. The generating system uses hydrogen fuel and is part of a more advanced wind-hydrogen project. Mr. Ted Hollinger, CEO of Hydrogen Engine Centre, said that the deployment of the near-zero emissions, hydrogen-fuelled 4+1TM power generator system is an important step towards the large-scale development of reliable renewable energy sources. During high wind periods, hydrogen fuel is produced by water electrolysis and stored.


In-mould surfacing solution for blade manufacturers

Gurit has developed an all-in-one, in-mould surfacing solution for wind turbine blade production. Sprint IPT reduces manufacturing time, making prepreg blade production cost-effective. Many manufacturers of composite components currently employ prepreg technology to produce composite blades, and Gurit supplies epoxy prepreg and gelcoat products to produce these high quality parts. Sprint IPT is a multi-layer product, comprising a Sprint trial material and new surfacing film. On curing, the film provides a tough and abradable surface that can be painted directly onto, thus reducing production time and costs while increasing product quality.


A novel design for wind turbine blade

WhalePower Corporation, Canada, has designed a turbine blade with rounded, teeth-like bumps along the leading edge. The design was inspired by the flipped of humpback whale. The agility of the humpback whale is astonishing, given that they can be over 15 m long and weigh nearly 36,000 kg. An advantage of the animal, according to scientists, is the tubercles or the unique row of bumps along the leading edge of its flipper that dramatically increase the aerodynamic efficiency of the whale. Specifically, the researchers found a 32 per cent lower drag and 8 per cent improvement in lift from a flipper with a serrated edge compared with a smooth one.

WhalePower claims that their turbine design can capture more wind energy at much lower speeds than conventional designs. The channels created by the teeth at the blade's edge cause separate wind streams to accelerate across the surface of the blade in rotating flows. These energy-packed vortexes increase the lift force on the blade. For instance, the power produced by this design at 11 miles per hour is the same as that one would expect at 18 miles per hour.

Furthermore, the company claims that the channels prevent airflow from moving along the span of the blade and past the tip, which can create noise, instability and a loss of energy. By keeping the air flow nicely channelled, more wind is captured and noise reduced.

The Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Ontario Power Authority have contributed over US$60,000 for early research and to encourage collaboration with a wind engineering group at the University of Western Ontario. The next and arguably most critical step to commercial production is an independent, third party verification to substantiate the blades performance.



Small algae bioreactors commercialized

BioKing based in the Netherlands has introduced small-scale photo-bioreactors that produce algae for biodiesel production. The patented technology in BioKings scaleable photo-bioreactors can contribute to the production of biodiesel as well as other valuable bio-commodities from algae oil. This technology has the potential to dramatically improve biodiesel yields from algae oil, according to the company. After only 3 hours inside the newly designed continuous photo-bioreactor system, algae can be collected and only takes four days to be in full production and to collect the first algae, says Mr. Hans van de Ven, President of BioKing.

Algae have the highest potential of energy yield in any vegetable oil crop. Some species of algae are ideally suited for biodiesel production owing to their high oil content, some as much as 50 per cent, and extremely fast growth rates. They can be grown in adverse conditions like deserts and saline water. Proponents say algae are the solution to the food vs. fuel issue of todays ethanol and biodiesel.


Biofuels from plasma arc waste gasification

In the United States, Losonoco Inc. and MPM Technologies Inc. have formed a new joint venture, called Losonoco Skygas LLC, to develop biofuel and chemical manufacturing facilities based on the Skygas waste gasification process. The Skygas gasifier converts feedstock at moisture contents of up to 55 per cent to a synthesis gas high in carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Using different catalytic processes, the syngas can be converted into ethanol, methanol, DME and diesel, or it can be used to manufacture ammonia or to generate electricity. The Skygas reactor operates at lower temperatures than other plasma arc gasifiers and consumes less power.


Farm wastes end up in fuel tanks

In the United States, the University of Missouri-Columbia and Midwest Research Institute have jointly developed a record-breaking methane storage system. Utilizing corncob waste as a starting material, the research team made carbon briquettes capable of storing natural gas at an unprecedented density and at one-seventh the pressure of natural gas tanks. Moreover, these briquettes are the first to meet the 180 to 1 storage to volume target set by the Department of Energy in 2000.

This breakthrough is a significant step forward in the nationwide effort to outfit more automobiles to run on methane, an abundant fuel that is domestically produced and cleaner burning than petroleum. The carbon briquettes have networks of pores and channels that can hold the gas at a high density without the cost of extreme compression, ultimately storing the fuel at a pressure of 500 psi, the pressure found in natural gas pipelines.

Researchers discovered that fractal pore spaces, made by the repetition of similar patterns at different scales, are remarkably efficient at storing natural gas.


A disposable source of biodiesel

Scientists at Polytechnic University in the United States have bioengineered a fuel-latent plastic that can be converted into biodiesel. The new bioplastic, developed by Dr. Richard Gross, Director of the Centre for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing of Macromolecules, is produced using vegetable oils. Dr. Gross partnered with DNA 2.0, a biotechnology firm specializing in gene synthesis, to develop enzymes that can synthesize and break down the fuel-latent plastic into biodiesel after its use.
The next phase of the research will involve developing a more efficient low-cost process for both manufacturing the bioplastic and converting it into biodiesel.

Contact: Polytechnic University, Brooklyn Campus, Six MetroTech Centre, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States of America. Tel: +1 (718) 2603 600; Fax: +1 (718) 2603 136



Carbon-neutral power generation

Wartsila Corp., Finland, manufactures liquid biofuel power plants based on high-efficiency reciprocating diesel engines. The Wartsila power plants offer an excellent form of distributed power generation.

Wartsilas plant concept is based on using vegetable oil typically soy oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil or palm oil. Crude palm oil is the most attractive commercial liquid biofuel today, because of its easy availability and relatively attractive price. To minimize the life-cycle impact on greenhouse gas emissions, the power plants are designed to operate on clarified crude vegetable oils, which can be extracted using relatively simple, low-energy methods, thereby keeping carbon dioxide emissions low. Sulphur emissions are not an issue, as vegetable oils do not contain significant amounts of sulphur, eliminating the need for sulphur dioxide abatement, which is both expensive and technically demanding. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission levels vary, depending on the liquid biofuel in question, and are generally similar to those associated with reciprocating diesel engines using heavy fuel oil. Selective catalytic reduction technologies enable 90 per cent removal of NOx emissions from exhausts.

Contact: Wartsila Corporation, John Sten-bergin ranta 2, 00531 Helsinki, Finland. Tel: +358 (10) 7090 000; Fax: +358 (10) 7095 700



New biodiesel production method

A novel material developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the United States, might replace an expensive but essential manufacturing process in biodiesel production that consumes energy, water and chemicals, and also reduces the yield of the final product.

Catalysts are needed to transform biodiesel from a thick and sticky substance into a fluid that can easily be pumped into vehicles. After that process, the corrosive catalysts must be neutralized and washed from the fuel. Made up of solid acid nanocatalysts, the new material, can be fixed inside a reusable filter or column through which the biodiesel can flow thereby allowing the catalyst materials to be removed. According to the researchers, the nanomaterial could be useful in other applications as well batteries, fuel cells and other energy storage and conversion technologies.


New green process for biofuel production

An environment-friendly process for producing significant amounts of liquid fuels from plant matter has been developed by chemical engineers at Purdue University, the United States. The technique involves addition of hydrogen from a carbon-free energy source, such as solar or nuclear, during the gasification step. According to Prof. Rakesh Agrawal, addition of hydrogen during that step would suppress the formation of carbon dioxide and increase the efficiency of the process, thus tripling the volume of biofuels produced from the same quantity of biomass. However, further research is imperative to make this a large-scale reality.


Biodiesel from waste vegetable oil

A research team led by Mr. Min-Hua Zong at the South China University of Technology has used sugar catalysts to prepare biodiesel from waste vegetable oil. Sugar catalysts, pre-pared by sulphonating partially carbonized D-glucose, have previously been employed for making biodiesel from new vegetable oils, but had not been successfully used in making biodiesel from waste oil. Though several solid acid catalysts, such as zeolites, have found limited success in producing biodiesel from waste oil, they cannot operate effectively under the required harsh conditions. Mr. Zongs sugar catalysts have a higher activity than zeolites, and are cheaper to prepare than the expensive zirconia catalysts.


New husk-powered stove for cooking

Prof. Alexis Belonio of the College of Agriculture at the Central Philippine University, has invented a water and rice husk-powered stove. The new super-turbo rice husk stove uses super-heated steam injected into the burning chamber to obtain a luminous pinkish-flame, which is rich in hydrogen gas. While cooking, the stove produces clean gas that is released to the atmosphere. The stove parts include:
  • A conical hopper made of galvanized iron, where the rice husk is fed for burning inside the combustion chamber fitted with a cover;
  • A steam tank (5 litres) for boiling water and convert it into super-heated steam;
  • A 2 inch diameter air pipe that supplies the air needed for the combustion of rice husk;
  • A char discharge lever for the removal of the burnt rice husk during operation; and
  • A steam burner made of 2 inch dia. stainless steel pipe that ignites the hydrogen gas from the steam.

The rice husk is ignited inside the combustion chamber, and the water inside the steam tank is heated till it reaches the state of superheated steam. As the steam passes through the burner, hydrogen gas is fed and ignited inside the burner. Burnt rice husk is discharged at the bottom of the grate. The amount of fuel fed into the combustion chamber controls the burning of rice husk.



Wave energy machine

Rothman Energy Systems, Canada, offers a wave energy device with its main structural design based on well established truss-and-bridge building construction. The machine can be engineered in many ways and sizes to suit the end application. The materials of choice are standard engineered steel members and tubular connectors. However, the choice of materials can vary, depend on the location and the local economy in which it is being used.

In operation, the truss structure is anchored to a pivot point on the shore of a body of water. This provides the teeter-totter effect, which is essential to the translation of the wave motion into useable mechanical energy. A float device, such as a large plastic (or other flexible material) hollow ball, is attached to the end spanning the body of water. The float is cradled and stabilized using metal rods running at right angles around its circumference and fastened securely to the main structural beam on the truss.

Since the hollow ball is efficient at floating, counter-weights are applied over or near the float to trim the floating level of the truss and provide some control over potential excessive heaving of the assembly in the event of high seas. This can be an adjustable sliding concrete weight that rides along the top rails, as is currently done in a high-rise crane or simple weight-lifting plates attached to a rod. The connector rod acts as the primary energy transfer system, converting the teeter-totter motion of the truss into a downward motion.

Contact: Rothman Energy Systems Inc., Canada.



Floating wave energy converter

FO is a robust floating wave energy converter that the SEEWEC project, involving a 11-member consortium from five European Union countries, developed for near shore installation. This device is meant to lead to competitive and economical exploitation of wave energy. The concept of the FO device combines experience from the offshore industry with knowledge of wave energy conversion by use of point absorbers. A full-scale prototype of FO is to be launched in autumn 2007 and will be grid-connected. The project will focus on robust and cost-effective solutions and design for large-scale manufacture.


New wave energy converter

Dexa Technologies Ltd., Denmark, is focused on developing production viable ocean wave energy converters, based on plane angular modulation (PAM). PAM is a very simple and reliable principle wherein two planes or pontoons floating in the waves change angle relative to each other when modulated by the ocean waves. The tilt action generates oil pressure in a hydraulic cylinder to drive a hydraulic motor and generator to produce electricity. The Dexa converter is meant for open ocean deployment with deep water or GPS/ thruster anchoring. The energy is converted on-site to hydrogen, which is then transported to shore by ship.

Contact: Dexa Technologies Ltd., Christiansgade 1, DK 7500 Holstebro, Denmark. Tel: +45 3113 9101



Renewable energy pumps

Periodic undulations have potential as well as kinetic energy in the form of a large volume of fluid at a small head. The renewable energy wave air pump (REWAP), devised by Mr. Shamil Ayntrazi, the United States, harnesses wave energy to compress air. The compressed air is collected and fed to the air inlet of a turbo generator for generating electric power at reduced fuel consumption. This also maintains generator output irrespective of wave heights.

The energy in the wave has a high flow at a low head. The renewable energy wave pump (REWAP) converts this energy to a low flow at a higher head, collecting sufficient flow to operate a hydroturbine for generating electricity or to compress air and feed it to the air inlet of a turbo-generator, thus producing dependable electric power irrespective of wave heights. With proper selection of the REWP, 29 litres of water can be elevated to a height of 90 m.



Self-sufficient MFC

A research team led by Dr. Peter Clauwert at the University of Ghent, Belgium, has developed the first microbial fuel cell (MFC) that can generate power while removing nitrate from wastewater, without the need for additional energy sources. In this MFC, microbes sit directly on the graphite anode and cathode without any intermediary. The colonies can rid water of nitrate almost completely, without extra inputs. At the same time they generate a small amount of electricity.

The team took soil and sediment samples with various microbes and directly incubated them on the surface of graphite beds in both the anode and cathode chambers of an MFC for a month. Once the microbial populations equilibrated, they released a steady current in the system. The team also observed the almost complete denitrification of a nitrate-laden solution fed through the cathode side of the reactor in an experiment run over eight months. Attempts to boost the power output of the MFC, however, led to deterioration in the bugs efficacy in denitrifying the water.


Fuel cell gas and vapour extractor

Researchers at the National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, have developed a simple device to extract waste gas and vapour from direct methanol fuel cells, potentially increasing their efficiency. The device works as a waste removal system within the fuel cell, removing water and methanol vapours that can dilute the fuel, reducing overall efficiency. Unlike earlier systems, this device functions as a filter, does not require power and occupies less space than pump-based systems.


Brush anode and tubular cathode scale up MFCs

Scientists at Penn State University, the United States, have developed a carbon fibre, bottle-brush anode that will provide more than enough surface for bacteria to colonize in a microbial fuel cell (MFC). In addition, a membrane-tube air cathode, adapted from existing wastewater treatment equipment, will complete the circuit. The carbon fibre brushes are electrically conducting, very inexpensive to produce and supply large surface area for the bacterial biofilm attachment, says Environmental Engineering professor Mr. Bruce E. Logan.

About two years ago,Prof. Logan and his colleagues had successfully demonstrated rectangular MFCs that used a carbon fibre paper as anode and a carbon fibre paper with platinum catalyst as cathode to produce electricity and clean water from wastewater. Using brush anodes, which have 300 to 1,500 times more surface area than the earlier used carbon paper anode, the team exhibited that the fuel cells created more than twice the power produced by the earlier fuel cells. A fuel cell using a small brush about 1 inch in diameter and 1 inch long produced the equivalent of 2.4 W for every 1,180 litres of water using the carbon paper cathode. Other carbon anodes were problematic because the pores or spaces became clogged with the biofilm and lost efficiency. However, dead bacteria do not clog the brush as it contains very fine fibres with lot of circulation room around them.


New broad patents on fuel cell technology

Recently, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued two broad patents on fundamental fuel cell technology to PolyFuel Inc. The patents, titled Ion Conductive Block Co-polymers and Sulphonated Co-polymer, cover some of the sophisticated chemistry and breakthrough behind PolyFuels broadening family of high-performance, hydrocarbon-based polymer fuel cell (PFC) membranes. The patents are significant because such membranes, which resemble flexible sheets of cellophane, are the critical technology behind portable fuel cells, and to a large degree dictate their size, cost, power and efficiency. Together, the patents describe a nearly infinite number of permutations of hydrocarbon membranes, which gives the company outstanding protection in such a commercially important field.

The hydrocarbon membrane material from PolyFuel self-assembles proton channels nanoengineered to be significantly smaller than those in fluorocarbon membranes. The polymer matrix is also much tougher and stronger so that it does not swell to the same degree as fluorocarbon membranes do. The net result is that more of the water and methanol remain on the fuel side of the fuel cell, where they can be used to create useful electricity. The fuel cell is also able to breathe easier, and does not create as much heat, water and carbon dioxide. This in turn enables the fuel cell to be smaller, lighter, less expensive and longer running.


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.



Solar assistance for hydrogen fuel

Prof. Manoranjan Misra at the University of Nevada, the United States, is focusing on harnessing photoactive material from the sun to generate hydrogen, one of the cleanest forms of energy. Studies have shown that hydrogen is 33 per cent more efficient than liquid fuels. Prof. Misra and his team have created a new material that has more than a billion nanotubes, giving it excellent potential to produce hydrogen from water another abundant resource. The small-scale hydrogen generation system produces the hydrogen material using an electrochemical process from applied ultrasonics.


Efficient hydrogen production gets one step closer

Researchers in Japan have simplified and improved a common process for generating hydrogen gas, a potentially green energy source. The new approach, developed by Dr. Shunichi Fukuzumis group at Osaka University, is a modification of existing methods of hydrogen production where several reactions form a cycle in which electrons from a readily available source are transferred to hydrogen ions.

Dr. Fukuzumis adapted method, described as an important step for the use of hydrogen as a clean energy source, uses a molecule that combines two stages of the cycle. Normally, electrons from a donor molecule, such as ethanol, are supplied to a mediator, which can pass them on to a molecule that is activated by ultraviolet light. The light-activated molecule then supplies the electrons to the hydrogen ions in the presence of a platinum catalyst, generating hydrogen gas. In the new method, the molecule plays the role of both the electron mediator as well as the light-activated species, transferring electrons from ethanol to the hydrogen ions.

Results show a significant increase in the efficiency of the process and the amount of hydrogen produced. The research team employed nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, an enzyme co-factor that plays a vital role in energy production in living cells, as the source of hydrogen ions. According to Dr. Fukuzumi, a method of generating hydrogen ions using just water and sunlight represents the next challenge for the future of hydrogen generation.


Breakthrough in hydrogen storage technology

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick, Germany, report to have achieved a breakthrough in hydrogen storage. They have successfully condensed hydrogen gas into a useable solid under mild conditions. Dr. Sean McGrady, the lead researcher on the project, stated: The challenge is to find a safer, more efficient and economical way to store hydrogen so that it can be released on demand. The way to do this is to turn hydrogen into a compound, a solid, so you can use it when you want, safely, in the amount you want.

Hydrogen is normally stored under pressure in large metal cylinders. These cylinders are heavy and ex-pensive to transport. They also pose a safety hazard, as the hydrogen is stored under pressure. By condensing hydrogen into a useable solid, a major milestone has been accomplished. The next step would be to produce a safe and compact storage system for the compound that is both lightweight and affordable, said Dr. McGrady. Research in the future is expected to produce reversible hydrogen storage materials that can be processed into a powder for use in limitless commercial applications.

HSM Systems Inc., a local company dedicated to the development and commercialization of novel technologies and materials for the storage and transport of hydrogen, has a licence agreement with the university. In collaboration with Dr. McGradys team, the company is currently testing a product that stores more than 6 per cent hydrogen by weight. The next step is to develop a more cost-efficient product that will store more than 9 per cent hydrogen by weight.


Performance breakthroughs

ECOtality Inc., the United States, has reported improved performance breakthroughs in the development of ECOtalitys HydratusTM technology. Hydratus is a portable device that produces hydrogen on demand and operates in conjunction with existing hydrogen fuel cell technology. This modified system is referred to as Phase II by the technical teams.

NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory Task Force reports that hydrogen storage capacity in a laboratory unit, based on fuel alone, has increased from 4.7 per cent to between 8 and 9 per cent; the storage capacity is dependent on the mode of operation. Critical results from the advancement of Hydratus to Phase II are expected to include:
  • Hydrogen storage, and output increase of 70-90 per cent;
  • Reduced temperature results in ability to use low-cost materials;
  • Meet or exceed the Department of Energys 2010 goals for hydrogen storage and weight;
  • Reduced cost and size system owing to reduced complexity; and
  • Increased regeneration efficiency approximately 400 per cent.

Hydratus addresses the commercialization issues facing hydrogen fuel cell technologies by producing hydrogen on demand, using magnesium and water, in a system that emits no exhaust other than pure water. Based on its performance breakthroughs, ECOtality intends to develop a 7 kW prototype to power various commercial applications.

Contact: ECOtality Inc.,6821 E. Thomas Road, Scottsdale, Arizona, AZ 85251, United States of America.Tel: +1 (480) 219 5005; Fax: +1 (480) 219 5338



On-demand hydrogen generation

AirGen Corp. of the United States has developed new technology for controlled on-demand generation of hydrogen. This technology has the potential to replace conventional water electrolysis as the most prevalent method of hydrogen production not reliant on fossil fuels as the feedstock.

The foundation of the patent-pending technology is the use of reactions catalysed by nano-sized colloidal metal particles. In tests, both thermal and electrical energy sources have been used successfully to regenerate the metal electrodes. This regeneration feature is an important advantage of the technology and enables a closed loop system wherein only water and energy are consumed.

Contact: Mr. James Lupino, Senior Vice President, Business Development, AirGen Corporation, United States of America. Tel: +1 (715) 3601 143



Hydrogen generation from aluminium alloy

Researchers at the Purdue University, the United States, have demonstrated their method for producing hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminium and gallium. The method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy, said Mr. Jerry Woodall, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and inventor of the process.The technology could be used to drive small internal combustion engines in applications such as portable emergency generators, lawn mowers and chain saws. In theory, the process could also be used to replace petrol for cars and trucks.

When water is added to the pellets, the aluminium in the solid alloy reacts as it has a strong attraction to the oxygen in the water, Prof. Woodall said. This reaction splits the oxygen and hydrogen contained in water, releasing hydrogen in the process. The gallium is critical to the process because it hinders the formation of a skin usually created on aluminiums surface after oxidation. This skin prevents oxygen from reacting with aluminium, acting as a barrier.

Prof. Woodall discovered the process while he was working in the semiconductor industry in 1967. I was cleaning a crucible containing liquid alloys of gallium and aluminium, Prof. Woodall said. When I added water to this alloy talk about a discovery there was a violent poof. I went to my office and worked out the reaction in a couple of hours to figure out what had happened. He added Gallium is critical because it melts at low temperature and dissolves aluminium, and it renders the aluminium in the solid pellets reactive with water. This was a totally surprising discovery, since it is well known that pure solid aluminium does not readily react with water.

The waste products are gallium and aluminium oxide (alumina). Combusting hydrogen in an engine produces only water as waste. No toxic fumes are produced. As the gallium doesnt react, it can be recycled over and over again. This is important since gallium is currently much more expensive than aluminium. Besides, for the technology to be economically competitive with petrol, the cost of recycling alumina must be reduced, Prof. Woodall said. However, the cost of aluminium could be reduced by recycling it from the alumina using fused salt electrolysis process.



Photovoltaics for Professionals

This book describes the practicalities of working with photovoltaics, from marketing and selling PV products to designing and installing PV systems (both grid-tied and stand-alone). It provides designers and installers with a practical introduction to designing and installing high-quality solar electric systems and provides a comprehensive overview of the major PV market sectors.

Contact: James and James, 8-12 Camden High Street, London NW1 0JH, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (20) 73 87 8558; Fax: +44 (20) 7387 8998


World Ethanol and Biofuels Report

This report provides comprehensive information on biofuel statistics. It offers detailed news and analysis on the latest developments in this sector and looks at the role of biofuels in lowering GHG emissions. Key features include world and regional prices for feed stocks, biodiesel, fuel ethanol and co-products of biofuel production; world trade statistics; regular world ethanol and world biodiesel production estimates; and ethanol trade analysis for different countries.

Contact: Agra Informa Ltd., No. 80 Calverley Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 2UN, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (20) 7017 7500; Fax: +44 (20) 7017 7599


China Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development Report

The April 2007 edition of this report has been released. The latest in a series of reports that focus on China's renewable energy industry, the report covers developments in the countrys solar, wind, biomass, biofuel, small hydroelectric and other renewable energy sectors. The information in each report is drawn from original materials of Chinese companies, industry associations, central and local government agencies and non-governmental organizations. Coverage includes regular features on investment, growth, local and national laws and regulations, leading Chinese companies, industrial events and business opportunities.

Contact: China Strategies LLC., # 6400 Aylesboro Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, PA 15217, United States of America. Tel: +1 (412) 521 1846



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