VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Nov-Dec 2011

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New and Renewable Energy Nov-Dec 2011

ISSN: 0971-5630

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

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

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India promotes renewable energy projects

India’s Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has asked all central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) to set up renewable energy projects or procure Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), as part of efforts to boost sustainable development. Generally, one REC is equivalent to 1 MW of electricity. According to an official statement, “The scope of the Energy Management Programme has been expanded by including renewable energy as a specific activity to be pursued by CPSEs.” The decision is expected to accelerate the growth of the blossoming market for RECs in India and make it a valuable business model, the statement said. The CPSEs can execute carbon management plan by participating in any of the missions in the National Action Plan under Climate Change. They can also purchase RECs to offset their carbon footprints. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy already provides incentives for setting up renewable energy projects.

Sri Lankan renewable energy use grows

Sri Lanka’s latest central bank data reveal that non-conventional renewable energy use in the country has grown sharply in 2011, accounting for the fastest growth among the different sources of energy. Non-conventional renewable energy generation rose by 56.8 per cent from 72 GWh during January-October 2010 to 112.9 GWh during the same period this year. Overall, electricity generation rose 7.6 per cent (680 GWh) to 9,582 GWh in the same period, with thermal energy showing the second biggest increase: by 55.7 per cent to 1,951 GWh. The central bank data has also shown a slight fall in wind energy generation – by 10.7 per cent to 2.5 GWh during January-October 2011 from the same period in the previous year.

Small-scale, grid-connected hydro resources not tapped conventionally accounts for most of the non-conventional energy output in Sri Lanka, according to the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority. Small hydropower has contributed the bulk of the growth in the non-conventional renewable energy industry in the past 15 years. The Sri Lankan government target is to have non-conventional renewable energy contribute 10 per cent to the national grid by the end of 2015.

Pakistan to add 550 MW of alternative power by 2013

To increase power generation from alternative sources, the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), Pakistan, has initiated wind power generation projects worth US$1.6 billion in Sindh province to add 550 MW power by 2013. Currently, 10 wind projects are at various stage of development. Construction work for three 50 MW projects has begun in Jhampir area and the remaining are expected to achieve financial close by June 2012.

AEDB has also facilitated large pipeline projects that are expected to come on line next year. AEDB has worked with National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) and the feed-in tariff (FiT) has been announced for wind power projects. Under this fast track policy, another 1,000 MW projects are expected to come on line by 2013. Furthermore, AEDB has negotiated and arranged a ‘Counter Guarantee’ programme with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), accelerating foreign investment in the wind sector. Under ADB’s Renewable Energy Development Sector Investment Programme (REDSIP), which AEDB is managing, three projects (56.2 MW) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, five in Punjab (24.04 MW) and two (30 MW) in Gilgit Baltistan are at different stages of implementation. AEDB has arranged Technical Assistance (TA) to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for their renewable energy projects. The TA for Sindh and Balochistan is being negotiatws with donors. The Punjab government has issued letters of intent (LoIs) to private investors for establishing 10 small hydro power projects, with a cumulative capacity of 142 MW at different locations in Punjab. Similarly, the Small Hydel Development Organization (SHYDO) has issued six LoIs for small hydropower projects.

China is world’s biggest investor in renewable energy

China has become the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy sources, according to a senior official of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee. China invested 300 billion yuan (US$47.3 billion) in renewable sources of energy in 2010, outranking every other nation, stated Mr. Wang Yuqing, Deputy Director of the Committee of Population, Resources and Environment. It is expected that 3,000 billion yuan (US$473.1 billion) would be poured into industries related to environmental protection during 2011- 2015. Issues relating to the environment and resources are becoming more urgent in the country, as the world’s second largest economy is currently on a fast track to industrialization, according to Mr. Wang, who is also the President of the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences. “The Chinese’s government is now fully aware that China must develop its economy in a green way and is striving to nurture green industries,” Mr. Wang added.

Power generators in the Republic of Korea stand by renewables

The Republic of Korea’s 13 power utilities pledged to increase the use of renewable sources for electricity generation, in line with the government’s plan for an alternative-energy quota in 2012 to reduce emissions. The 13 generators signed contracts with the government to cooperate on meeting the mandatory quotas and also to install renewable energy power generators at all their sites by 2013, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement. The generators, each with more than 500 MW of capacity, include six units of state-run Korea Electric Power Corp., Posco Power Corp., Korea District Heating Corp. and GS Power Company. Korea Energy Management Corp. will provide technical and other aid as an accredited approval organization for the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), according to the statement.

The quota will increase investment in cleaner energy, as the government of the Republic of Korea strives to bolster the country’s share in the world markets for solar and wind power equipment to 15 per cent of each by 2015. The Republic of Korea had 11 per cent of the global solar market and 4 per cent of the wind market in 2010, according to government data. The quota for electricity generated by renewable sources will be raised to 10 per cent in 2022 from 2 per cent in 2012. As current solar energy technology is less economically viable, the government will impose separate energy quotas on those generators in the initial five years to promote the industry, the Ministry stated.

Philippine energy projects get the nod for CER trading

Among the 54 projects in the Philippines, endorsed for carbon emission reduction (CER) trading, under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 16 are ventures related to renewable energy, reports the Philippines’ Department of Energy (DoE). Based on data presented by DoE Director Mr. Mario C. Marasigan at the Asia-Korea Renewable Energy Partnership Forum 2011 – held at Manila, the Philippines, on 17 and 18 November 2011 – the country ranked number 9 when it comes to the scale of CDM-eligible projects.

The projects submitted by DoE for CDM certification include projects in biogas-to-energy, mini hydroelectricity, biomass co-generation power plant and wastewater treatment, biomass hot air generator and gasifier fuel, hydel power plant rehabilitation project, methane recovery from advanced wastewater treatment system, waste heat recovery, rice hull co-generation, and process steam generation using renewable biomass residues.

Mr. Marasigan explained that the projects could be endorsed for CER trading if they would contribute to the national energy goals – such as those on increasing energy self-sufficiency, wider access to reliable supply of electricity through the use of renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – and if these can help generate savings from energy efficiency programmes or adoption of new or improved process/technology. The prospects of having ‘clean energy projects’ set for CER credits also serve as enticement for project developers, on top of the other incentives that may be offered via established government policies.

Thai Airways holds biofuel test flight

Thai Airways International (THAI) has completed its first passenger biofuel flight in Asia, confirming its commitment towards green travelling and effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. THAI President, Mr. Piyasvasti Amranand, stated that the experimental flight echoes the airline’s corporate social responsibility policy. Under “travel green” concept, this flight aims to create awareness on biofuels among all parties, particularly regional airlines that need to reduce consumption of fossil fuel. “THAI wants to push forward jet biofuel development to ensure sustainable use in Thailand and the region,” Mr. Amranand said. Flight TG 8421 was the first biofuel flight that welcomed the media and representatives from related organizations, including Rolls Royce and Boeing, while TG 104 was the first passenger biofuel flight. The biofuel for the flights, worth about US$2.5 million, was imported from Sky NRG, the Netherlands, which supplies the fuel to KLM and Finnair. Airports of Thailand (AOT) plc. is turning all its buildings into green building and using clean, renewable energy for all vehicles operating in the airport.

Renewable energy certificate prices hit a new high in India

In India, trading in renewable energy certificates (RECs) touched a new high on 28 December 2011, both in volumes and in prices. As many as 111,621 RECs were traded on the two exchanges – Indian Energy Ex-change (IEX) and Power Exchange of India Ltd (PXIL). IEX accounted for 95 per cent of the trading and saw the number of RECs traded on reach 105,942. On the price front, the average prices were Rs 2,950 (US$57.50) for an REC on both the exchanges. A little over 105,000 RECs were traded in the previous month, for an average price of Rs 2,900 (US$56.50) on the IEX and Rs 2,800 (US$54.50) on PXIL.

RECs are generation-based certificates awarded (electronically, in demat form) to those who generate electricity from renewable energy sources, if they opt not to sell the electricity at a preferentially higher feed-in tariff (FiT). These certificates are tradable on the exchanges and are bought by obligated entities – either specified consumers or electricity distribution companies. These obligated entities may be required to purchase a certain quantum of either green power or RECs.

Cleared volumes have been picking up each month. In September 2011, 46,363 RECs were traded – more than twice as much as in the previous month. In October and November, the number rose to 95,504 and 105,000, respectively. Up till now, close to 220,000 RECs have been issued, meaning that only half the available certificates got traded. “The price hike has been very marginal, which reflects that the prices are very near to their maturity,” said Mr. Vishal Pandya, Director, REConnect Energy Solutions, a consultancy that specializes in facilitating REC trading. “The future market movement will depend heavily upon how the new demand shapes up as next month onwards we can expect additional supply of RECs coming into the market.”

Malaysia sets quota for renewable energy technology

Malaysia’s Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) has set the quota for all renewable energy (RE) technologies at 190 MW for 2011-2012. The revision is mainly because the feed-in tariff (FiT) system for RE has been postponed and would only be launched on 1 December. The original plan was to offer 219 MW this year. “I had been informed by SEDA that the quota is 190 MW, 1,980 MW and 250 MW for 2011-2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively,” said Green Technology and Water Minister, Mr. Seri Peter Chin Energy. “There is a critical need to create a fair and transparent system when opening the quota to interested RE players,” Mr. Chin said, adding that SEDA had developed an e-FiT on-line system to process applications for approval. Of the 190 MW, 50 MW is fixed for solar photovoltaics (PV) for 2011-2012, 30 MW each for small hydro and biogas, and 80 MW biomass.

Meanwhile, consumers would start paying the 1 per cent levy to cover the costs associated with the FiT scheme for RE from 1 December. Mr. Chin stated the levy was expected to rake in M$300 million (US$ 98.1 million) a year to facilitate the implementation of FiT. Because of the overwhelming response to solar PV, the FiT applications for solar PV were limited to maximum 5 MW rated capacity. “The maximum limit is determined because SEDA needs to manage the RE fund required for all the different RE sources under the FiT and to avoid oversubscription,” Mr. Chin stated. According to SEDA Chairman Dr. Fong Chan, solar PV currently has the highest FiT rates and it is only fair for all applicants to have a chance.

Fiji to run biodiesel project in 2012

A total of US$2.7 million has been allocated for Fiji’s biodiesel implementation project for 2012. The Fiji government, through the Department of Energy, continues to promote the development and use of renewable energy sources such as hydro, wind, wave, tidal, biomass, geothermal and biofuels. The 2012 national budget supplement highlighted the government’s support for the development of biofuels using copra and jatropha and ethanol from molasses. According to the budget supplement, renewable sources of energy met around 51 per cent of the country’s requirement for electricity – hydropower (48 per cent), biomass (2 per cent) and wind and other renewable resources (1 per cent). Imported petroleum (industrial diesel and heavy fuel oil) for back-up generators makes up the remaining 49 per cent.

The Department of Energy coordinated the installation of 500 diesel generators, 1,400 solar home systems and 3 mini hydros in rural communities and schools. The budget supplement stated, “Through donor assistance (from Japan), a sum of US$4 million has been directed towards this project in 2012.” On its part, the Government of Fiji has allocated a total of US$300,000 for the renewable energy development projects.


A brighter way to make solar cells

Making solar cells involves subjecting silicon wafers to temperatures in excess of 1,000°C. The process normally involves the use of heating elements and takes a large amount of energy. A new optical furnace developed by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) heats up solar wafers by focusing light on them. This is a much more efficient process as it uses about half the energy of a conventional furnace. More importantly, the new design also utilizes light to remove certain impurities from the silicon wafers, a step that can improve the power output of finished cells. So far, the researchers have improved the efficiency of the resulting solar cells only by 0.5 percentage point. Based on lab tests, however, the research team thinks it can raise the efficiency from around 16 per cent to 20 per cent – 4 percentage point increase.

Furnaces are employed to introduce dopants into the silicon to create electric fields within the material, to create electrical contacts and to oxidize surfaces to improve efficiency. The new furnace also allows for better control of some of these processes, thereby potentially improving the solar cell’s efficiency. NREL’s design is not the only one that uses light to process silicon. But it employs highly reflective and heat-resistant ceramics to ensure that the light is absorbed only by a silicon wafer, not by the inner walls of the furnace. “That makes it many times more efficient,” explains Mr. Bhushan Sopori, the researcher in charge of the furnace project. By precisely designing the shape of the interior of the furnace, the focus of the light can be controlled precisely to ensure even heating of the wafers. The process reduces thermal stress on the wafers and allows precise control of the chemical reactions that heating enables. Precise control of the rates and timing of the heating can also improve the electrical contacts on the solar cell, improving its efficiency. According to Mr. Sopori, NREL has developed processes that take better advantage of photonic effects than the rapid thermal processing furnaces. As photons interact with the silicon, they can cause deleterious impurities such as iron to move out of the material, while keeping advantageous ones such as boron, which is needed for the solar cell to perform properly.

Breakthrough in dye-sensitized solar cell

Researchers in the Taiwan Province of China report a breakthrough in the development of dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) that improves energy conversion efficiency to a level that could not be achieved in the past 20 years. According to the National Science Council, the research team replaced the ruthenium-based dyes generally utilized in DSSCs with a modified porphyrin molecule, and successfully pushed up the energy conversion efficiency from 11 per cent – the highest achieved in the past two decades – to 13.1 per cent.

The research team was led by Prof. Eric Diau from National Chiao Tung University, who worked with Mr. Yeh Chen-yu of National Chung Hsing University and Mr. Michael Graetzel of Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, Switzerland. Mr. Yeh said that the porphyrin molecule-based dye could be seen as artificial chlorophyll and was developed by mimicking the principles photosynthesis in plants has successfully adopted over billions of years through evolution. In comparison with the silicon based and thin film-based solar cells – the first and second generations, respectively – Prof. Diau said the third generation of DSSC has the advantages of low cost, high efficiency, simplicity of manufacturing process, and being colourful, flexible and transparent. In addition, it could be easily applied to household electric appliances that work with low-voltage electricity, such as remote controls, cell phone chargers and clocks.

High-efficiency heterojunction silicon solar cell

Kaneka Corporation, Japan, has developed a high-efficiency silver-free heterojunction silicon solar cell in collaboration with imec, Belgium. The collector electrodes of conventional heterojunction solar cells are created via silver screen printing – a process involving costly silver and difficulties of lowering the resistance or narrowing the electrodes. The new silver-free method uses copper electroplating instead of silver screen printing to successfully reduce resistance, enable narrowing of electrode as well as achieve a substantial lowering of production costs. Copper electroplating is an economical and industrially proven process that addresses the deficiencies of silver screen printing while boosting conversion efficiency and substantially reducing production costs. The new method involves the application of copper electroplating technology to Kaneka’s existing heterojunction solar cell production processes. Tests conducted at imec showed that six-inch square solar cells with copper electroplated collector electrodes on transparent conductive oxide can boost conversion efficiency to 21 per cent or more.

Electrode alternative for dye-sensitized solar cells

Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology (AIST) has developed a ternary material with a core shell structure consisting of multi-walled carbon nanotubes, an ionic liquid and a conducting polymer. When used as the counter electrode of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), the material exhibits photoelectric conversion efficiency as high as that of platinum counter electrodes. Because of the fast-increasing use of platinum as catalysts in vehicles and fuel cells, there is concern that the supply of platinum may be affected. The new ternary material, produced using simple processes, can help reduce consumption of platinum. It would also lower production costs and increase the area of DSSCs. Contact: Mr. Hiroshi Shimizu, Senior Research Scientist, Nanosystem Research Institute, Japan. E-mail:

Nanotech improves organic solar cell efficiency

Researchers from Yale University, the United States, report to have made improvements to solar cell efficiency levels that could result in less expensive, more efficient solar power systems and promote wider use of clean energy technology. The Yale team developed a method of guiding and channelling electrons within hybrid organic-inorganic photovoltaic (PV) systems, maximizing the amount of light converted to electricity. Cheap to produce, non-toxic and recyclable, organic solar is a rapidly growing field, but with light-to-energy efficiencies of around 4-6 per cent, the technology lags behind traditional silicon-based PV.

According to the Yale team, much of the light absorbed by hybrid solar devices is wasted due to the poorly ordered structure of the active materials used in the organic part of the device, resulting in a convoluted path for the flow of electrons. Using aligned arrays of polymer-coated nanowires to reconfigure the natural pathways within the active material of the organic solar cell, the team allowed more efficient channelling of electrons throughout the system. A magnetic field aligns the nanowires and creates more direct pathways for charge transport in the device. “The key here is controlling the structure of the system on multiple levels, or length scales, and doing it in a manner that is conducive to fabrication of devices over large areas,” said Mr. Chinedum O. Osuji, a Yale engineering professor and a principal investigator behind the research.

High-efficiency multicrystalline photovoltaic cells

JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd., China, claims that it has reached 18.5 per cent efficiency in large volume production with its Maple multicrystalline photovoltaic (PV) cells. This is a new record for the company and is significantly higher than the industry standard conversion efficiency of multicrystalline PV cells (16.8 per cent).

JA Solar’s Maple technology features silicon crystals that are more broad and flat than traditional multicrystalline silicon, with fewer grain boundaries. By utilizing its process technology, the company is able to achieve conversion efficiencies that are similar to that of monocrystalline PV cells while maintaining the lower costs of multicrystalline process technology. At present, the company offers 60-cell Maple PV modules with a power output of 245-250 W. Through further optimization, the company expects to increase the power output of its Maple modules to 255-260 W.

Large DSSC strip cells with increased efficiency

Dyesol, Australia, has announced achieving a 15 per cent increase in the efficiency of large, strip-type dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), bringing industrial dye solar cell efficiency up from 6.9 per cent to 8 per cent. According to Dyesol, an important point in ongoing research into efficiency and product optimization is that using larger strip cells gives a valid representation of commercial product performance. The increase in efficiency results from improved materials and structural design elements. The dye solar cell works as a system, with each input impacting the others. The achieved gain means the amount of energy generated by any product will significantly increase. These gains feed directly into Dyesol’s product development work under way.


Floating wind turbines catch the wind

By placing wind turbines in the open seas, engineers are taking advantage of several natural phenomena. For example, though wind speeds can vary considerably on land, the wind blows consistently around 10 m/s just 32 km offshore. Offshore wind projects have run into regulatory approval issues in the past, but engineers assert they can devise new systems that would not disturb natural views. Two wind turbine companies – Principle Power, the United States, and Sway AS, Norway – are developing floating wind turbines that could be placed farther out in the ocean. This eliminates one of the biggest obstacles facing offshore wind development – the ocean floor precipitously dropping.

Principle’s wind turbine design sits atop a base made up of three floatation devices that are tethered to the sea floor with cables. The wind turbine’s nacelle weighs 240 t, and as a result of the innovative design, the turbine is able to turn to meet wind patterns, as a land-based wind turbine would. The company is currently testing a prototype. Sway’s prototype resembles a small tower. Engineers designed the wind turbine’s centre of gravity to lie below the structure’s centre of buoyancy, thereby enabling it to stay upright even in rocky waters. Sway’s wind turbine also manoeuvres to take advantage of wind patterns, augmenting energy production. While both systems are currently being tested in Europe, United States officials are keeping an increasingly watchful eye on testing.

CleanTechnica reports that some other companies too are designing floating wind turbines in the hope that they will soon replace conventional ones. Statoil ASA of Norway recently filed an application for a pilot demonstration of its Hywind floating wind turbine in Maine, the United States. Backers of offshore wind turbines in the United States assert that they could supply power more readily than land-based wind turbines to metropolitan areas with high population.

Novel design for wind turbines

An innovative design by Dr. Majid Rashidi, a mechanical engineering professor at Cleveland State University’s Fenn College of Engineering, the United States, has developed a “helical wind turbine” that alters the basic structure of wind turbines. Dr. Rashidi’s research focuses on increasing the velocity of wind, and thereby the amount of power generated, by using “wind amplification structures” like the cylinder shown in the figure. The 18 ft wide cylinder constantly rotates to find the most turbulent wind that will keep the four 6 ft circular turbines spinning, and generating energy, as fast as possible. “Wind amplification structures result in higher power output and reduce the minimum wind speed required to begin spinning a turbine,” Dr. Rashidi stated. “Our research shows that by placing a turbine next to the cylinder, the wind energy output can be up to three to four times greater than a stand-alone turbine of the same size.”

3 MW high-adaptability double-feed wind generator

China’s CSR Zhuzhou Electric Co. Ltd. has developed a 3 MW high-adaptability wind generator, said to be the country’s most powerful wind power generator of its kind in commercial operation and volume production. Features such as small size, light weight and mature technology have led to double-feed wind generators become a mainstream product in the domestic wind power market, with a share of 75 per cent. However, the gearbox and a few other structural features make them susceptible to environmental vagaries and frequent repair. CSR Zhuzhou has addressed these issues in its double-feed wind generator. The machine is resistant to salt, fog, mould and cold and can comply with special environmental requirements of coastal and high-altitude areas such as damp heat and severe cold. Compared with similar products, the CSR model boasts advantages such as lower temperature, higher efficiency and better reliability as well as resistance to gales.

MRI technology to scale-up wind power systems to 15 MW

GE Global Research, the technology development arm of General Electric Co., the United States, is applying its vast experience in developing superconducting magnets for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems to design an advanced generator for large-scale wind power systems. With the wind power industry moving towards larger wind turbines, GE said that it has begun work on the first phase of a US$3 million, two-year project to develop a next-generation wind turbine capable of supporting large-scale wind applications, in the 10-15 MW range. The project is one of many in GE’s wind research portfolio with a focus on scaling up wind power in the most economically feasible way.

“For MRI systems, we are applying superconducting magnets to make lower cost systems with higher image quality,” said Mr. Keith Longtin, Wind Technology Leader, GE Global Research. “For wind turbines, we want to apply them to generate more wind power at a lower cost of electricity. The applications are different, but the basic technology is the same,” he added. According to Mr. Longtin, the innovative application of superconducting technology could enable significant improvements to the generator and make the elimination of the gearbox more economical. The keys are reducing the size and weight of the generator while reducing speed and increasing torque. Using superconducting technology reduces weight by virtue of the high magnetic fields created and the reduction of heavy iron in the superconducting generator.

The design of GE’s superconducting machine will employ a novel architecture and proven cryogenic cooling technology, resulting in improved reliability of the complete machine. GE’s superconducting machine proposes to have double the torque density of competing technologies and will additionally reduce the dependence on rare earth materials prevalent in all permanent magnet machines for wind power. The larger power levels of these machines, together with their improved energy conversion efficiency, lead to more favourable economies of scale (e.g., fewer towers for a given wind farm output) that will help reduce the cost of energy produced by wind turbines. Contact: Mr. Todd Alhart, GE Global Research, 1 Research Circle, Niskayuna, NY 12309, United States of America. Tel: +1 (518) 3877 914; E-mail:

Wind turbine prototype for rural environment

A new wind turbine concept to replace the badly damaged Chicago windmills – wind-driven water pumps that have formed an intrinsic part of the rural landscape of Malta for many years – has been initiated by the Maltese Rural Affairs Ministry and the University of Malta. The construction of the first prototype turbine is nearing completion. The wind turbine consists of a 3.4 m diameter 9-blade rotor, a generator with a rating of 1.8 kW and a 15 m tall lattice tower. The prototype will be tested for its performance under local climatic conditions.

According to the 2001 census on agriculture, around 300 Chicago windmill pumps exist across Malta and Gozo. Unfortunately, with the introduction of electricity generation technologies powered by fossil fuels, many were abandoned and are now deteriorating. The main aim of the project is to design a new wind turbine rotor with an aerodynamic efficiency significantly higher than that of traditional wind mills while retaining, as far as technically possible, the original visual characteristics of a multi-bladed rotor. The turbine will also produce electricity and will be grid-connected, implying that it could provide clean energy for purposes other than for pumping water only. The project is being undertaken by the University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Faculty of Engineering.

Small wind turbine

Kestrel Wind Turbines Ltd., South Africa, offers model e400i, a 3 kW wind turbine for low-power applications such as charging batteries, powering water pumps and powering remote telecom sites. The e400i is the next generation of small wind turbine that generates electricity at relatively low wind speeds. The high performance three-blade rotor with pitch control powers a single-axial flux direct drive alternator. The turbine maintains its rated output even in high wind speeds, optimizing the potential power output and energy yield.

The e400i has a peak power output of 3,200 kW at a wind speed of 11 m/s. The cut-in wind speed is as low as 2.5 m/s. The rotor has blades moulded of glass fibre epoxy resin, a maximum speed of 520 rpm and a swept area of 12.5 m2. The 230 kg nacelle and rotor assembly has a rated sound level of less than 40 dB at 5 m/s wind speed. The turbine is available in 48, 110 and 200 Vdc models. Contact: Kestrel Wind Turbines, PO Box 3191, North End, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Tel: +27 (41) 401 2500; Fax: +27 (41) 394 5066; E-mail:


Tidal energy start-up delivers first turbine to test site

Flumill, a tidal energy start-up from Norway, has delivered its first turbine to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) test site at Orkney Islands, north of Scotland in the United Kingdom. Flumill develops tidal power converters that utilize patented, highly efficient 30-40 m long glass fibre “helix screw” Kaplan propeller systems designed specifically for water-based streams. Flumill has based its patented turbine concept on the design of the excess flow valve, from which the lift angle of the turbine has been developed. This ensures early kick in for the rotation of the device and the subsequent generation of electrical power. The Flumill power generator can also be adapted for use in rivers, without buoyancy chambers and mounted horizontally.

Wave treader device developed

Green Ocean Energy Ltd., a renewable energy company based in the United Kingdom, has developed a wave power machine that uniquely attaches to an offshore wind turbine thereby giving combined wind and wave power from one installation. The economics of both machines will be enhanced as expensive infrastructure such as the foundation and cabling would be shared. Wave Treader generates about 500 kW – adequate electricity to power 125 homes. The machine uses the core concept of Ocean Treader, a stand-alone wave power device also being developed by Green Ocean Energy. Mounting the device on the foundation of an offshore wind turbine will ensure the commercially viability of the technology because of the relatively low technical risk. Wave Treader, with a design life of 25 years, has been designed to ensure that its highly reliable and use of standard marine equipment.

The Wave Treader comprises sponsons mounted at the end of arms in front and behind the turbine’s column, which is vertically mounted on the seabed. Hydraulic cylinders are attached between the arms and an interface structure. When a wave passes along the device, the arms and sponsons lift and fall, stroking the hydraulic cylinders. The cylinders pressurize a hydraulic fluid that, after smoothing by accumulators, spins first the hydraulic motors and then the electricity generators. The electricity is brought to the shore via the same cables used by the wind turbines. Wave Treader can turn to face the direction of the wave train, thus ensure maximum operational efficiency. Active on-board adjustments allow for the effects of tidal range.

Wave power, desalination system

A new wave energy project is being planned off the Garden Island coast in Western Australia. The “Perth Project” was designed by Carnegie Wave Energy, Australia, and will use Carnegie’s Ceto wave energy technology. The company has completed the “basis of detailed design” for the project. Carnegie will begin the project’s final design stage now. Carnegie’s Ceto wave power system is unique in not requiring construction of undersea grids or high-voltage transmission lines; it also produces fresh water through sea water desalination. The system is composed of buoys anchored to the seabed and tethered to pump units. When waves pass over, the buoys drive pumps that pressurize water and deliver it onshore through a pipeline. The high-pressure water drives onshore hydroelectric turbines, generating zero-emission electricity. The system is also said to have no notable impact on marine life and will be constructed out of the way of popular surfing areas.

The Perth Project has already completed a pilot test, using a stand-alone Ceto unit. The system, while not grid-connected, provided valuable performance data for Stage 2. During Stage 2, the company will set up a grid-connected commercial-scale demonstration project, comprising multiple submerged Ceto units in an array. The units will be linked to an onshore power generation facility via a sub-sea pipeline. The project will be commissioned in two stages. The first stage will have 2 MW peak rated capacity and the second stage 3 MW.

Giant wave power demo moves forward

In Sweden, power company Fortum and wave power generator developer Seabased are joining hands to construct a wave power demonstration plant in the North Sea. The 25 million euros project would be the world’s largest full-scale demonstration project of its kind. The project will integrate technology from Seabased, which was developed based on research from Uppsala University. The system uses a buoy on the ocean surface to capture energy from slow-moving waves and transfer it to a ballasted generator on the sea floor. The modular system can be easily joined in larger arrays. By the time the project is completed in 2014-2015, it will host 420 buoys, with a combined output of about 10 MW.


Cheaper method to manufacture fuel cells

At Aalto University, Finland, scientists have developed a significantly cheaper method for manufacturing fuel cells. Atomic layer deposition (ALD) method is used to prepare a noble metal nanoparticle catalyst for fuel cells. The most commonly used fuel cells cover anode with expensive noble metal powder that reacts well with the fuel. The ALD method allows this cover to be made much thinner – using 60 per cent less of the costly catalyst than current methods – thereby lowering costs and increasing quality.

The researchers are also developing better alcohol fuel cells using either methanol or ethanol as the fuel. It is easier to handle and store alcohols than commonly used hydrogen. In alcohol fuel cells, it is also possible to use palladium as catalyst. The most common catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells is platinum, which is twice as expensive as palladium. ALD method, alcohol fuel and palladium together are expected to bring more economical fuel cells to the market.

Micro fuel cells for microchips

Microfluidic devices have been hailed as the technology that will revolutionize areas such as food safety, medical diagnostics, drug development and genetic sequencing ever since their conception in the late 1980s. However, a limiting factor in translating neat microfluidic ideas to practical, portable devices has been integrating all the necessary device components. While a microfluidic chip is small and perfectly formed, the power source, pumps and control electronics for sample analysis are often external, bulky components existing in the macroscale. Now, researchers have designed the first microfluidic device with an integrated micro fuel cell that is capable of both powering the device as well as pumping the analyte around the device.

A team led by Ms. Neus Sabate at the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona, Spain, has integrated a micro direct methanol fuel cell into a microfluidic platform, which is capable of producing up to 4 mW – sufficient to power the device. The carbon dioxide produced as a by-product of the fuel cell reaction is utilized to push liquids through the microchannels, removing the need for an external pump. The team has shown that by controlling the fuel cell operating conditions, they can control the flow rate of the liquid, bearing an almost linear relationship to the current generated in the device. The next step for the team is to demonstrate that the device can truly function independently. “We are trying to prove that we can indeed perform measurements on analytes by integrating a low power electronic chip module and amperometric sensors,” Ms. Sabate said. Her team is also working on higher degrees of device integration by fabricating them from just one type of polymer and experimenting with different fuels such as glucose.

Graphene-based catalyst shows promise for fuel cells

Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the United States have prepared a graphene-based catalyst to improve fuel cells. The researchers – Ms. Hye Ryung Byon, Mr. Jin Suntivich and Ms. Yang Shao-Horn doing part of their work at the National Synchrotron Light Source – prepared a graphene-based iron-nitrogen-carbon (Fe-N-C) catalyst with high oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) activity as well as good stability in acid. The process involves heat treatment of a mixture of Fe salt, graphitic carbon nitride and chemically reduced graphene (rGO). The graphene-based catalyst exhibits reduction activity approaching those of the state-of-the-art, non-noble-metal catalysts reported to date, highlighting the opportunities of using the unusual surface chemistry of rGO to create active Fe-N sites and develop an improved catalyst.

“Our approach is uniquely different from other groups,” said Ms. Yang, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We start from molecular building blocks and precisely control the surface chemistry of graphene as we build the catalyst.” The researchers examined the surface chemical composition of Fe-N-rGO by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and studied the atomic coordination of Fe by extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS). XPS and EXAFS of the Fe-N-rGO sample provided evidence for the incorporation of Fe ion and N into the rGO upon annealing.

Characterizing the Fe-N functionalization is experimentally very difficult, explained Ms. Yang, and X-ray absorption is one of the few techniques that can accomplish this task. The ongoing work includes examination of Fe-N-rGO’s performance and lifetime in a more realistic fuel cell configuration.

150 kW fuel cell system

A 150 kW fuel cell system supplied by Dantherm Power – the back-up power company of Ballard Power Systems, Canada – to Anglo American Platinum Ltd., South Africa, was deployed near the venue of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a high-level summit on climate change held in Durban, South Africa. The zero-emission fuel cell system demonstrated clean energy production during COP17, held from 28 November to 9 December, by supplying power to the local electricity grid. During COP17, fuel for the system was provided by Air Products South Africa (Pty.) Ltd., a subsidiary of United States-based Air Products and Chemicals Inc., which operates an extensive hydrogen pipeline network around the globe. Contact: Mr. Guy McAree, Public Relations, Ballard Power Systems Inc., 9000 Glenlyon Parkway, Burnaby, BC, V5J 5J8, Canada. Tel: +1 (604) 412 7919; E-mail:

World’s largest fuel cell power plant

FuelCell Energy Inc., the United States, has announced the opening of the world’s largest fuel cell power plant in Daegu City, the Republic of Korea. The 11.2 MW fuel cell park comprises four 2.8 MW DFC3000 Direct FuelCell® power plants. The plant forms a scalable solution for providing ultra-clean baseload distributed generation close to where the power is used. The electricity generated by this facility is sold to the grid and usable high quality heat is provided to a neighbouring water treatment facility. DFC power plants have total efficiencies up to 90 per cent when the heat is used.

The 11.2 MW fuel cell park installed at The Cobalt Sky, an investment and energy consulting firm based in the Republic of Korea, occupies only about one acre of land, which is an advantage for providing environmentally friendly power in urban locations. By comparison, a concentrating solar power plant of similar capacity will occupy approximately 55 acres, according to the United States Department of Energy.

Aluminium could be a hydrogen fuel cell

In the United States, scientists have made a breakthrough in their search for ways to break down and capture individual hydrogen atoms for use in environmentally friendly fuel cells. A research team from University of Texas and Washington State University found that with minor alterations aluminium can be used to break down and capture hydrogen – a discovery with the potential to transform hydrogen into an affordable and reliable green fuel.

The researchers explained that the key to the potential of aluminium as a hydrogen fuel storage system is to impregnate it with a noble metal that would encourage the hydrogen bonds to break, such as titanium. “The results prove for the first time that titanium-doped aluminium can activate hydrogen in ways that are comparable to expensive and less abundant catalyst metals such as palladium and other near-surface alloys consisting of similar noble metals and their bimetallic analogues,” explained co-lead researcher Mr. Santanu Chaudhuri. Hydrogen can be released from the aluminium by simply increasing the temperature.

Stationary fuel cell systems

ClearEdge Power, the United States, has introduced two new on-site fuel cell power systems – ClearEdge CP and ClearEdge Plus – both micro combined heat and power (CHP) systems that use natural gas as the fuel. Designed as continuous power solutions, they offer up to 90 per cent efficiency and need less fuel than a traditional power plant to generate a unit of energy.

ClearEdge CP is a 10 kW indoor system that offers what the company calls a ‘triple redundant archi-tecture’, providing three layers of fail-safe mechanisms to protect up-time. The system brings a sustainable and reliable power availability level for telecommunications and data applications. ClearEdge CP offers as option a heat recovery of 34,000-54,000 Btu/h. The fuel cell module measures 122 cm (W) × 48 cm (D) × 183 cm (H) and weighs 682 kg. The operating noise level is less than 60 dBA at 1 m.

ClearEdge Plus offers 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 kW models that can be configured modularly to offer outputs of up to 200 kW. The fuel cell measures 92 cm (W) × 69 cm (D) × 178 cm (H) and weighs 500 kg for indoor systems. The operating noise level is less than 60 dBA at 1 m. As an option, the sytem offers a heat recovery of 21,300-135,000 Btu/h. Contact: ClearEdge Power, 7175 NW Evergreen Parkway, Building 100, Hillsboro, OR 97124, United States of America. E-mail:


Liquid-based storage material for hydrogen

In the United States, University of Oregon (UO) chemists have developed a boron-nitrogen-based liquid-phase storage material for hydrogen that works safely at room temperature and is both moisture- and air-stable. In addition to its temperature and stability properties, the cyclic amine borane-based platform, called BN-methylcyclopentane, displays hydrogen desorption – without any phase change – that is clean, fast and controllable. The storage material uses readily available iron chloride as a catalyst for desorption and allows for the recycling of spent fuel into a charged state. The big challenges that remain, the researchers cautioned, are the needs to increase hydrogen yield and to develop a more energy-efficient regeneration mechanism.

The UO approach differs from many other technologies being researched in that it is liquid-based rather than solid, which would ease the possible transition from a petroleum to a hydrogen infrastructure. “The availability of a liquid-phase hydrogen storage material could represent a practical hydrogen storage option for mobile and carrier applications that takes advantage of the currently prevalent liquid-based fuel infrastructure,” said Mr. Shih-Yuan Liu, an Assistant Professor at UO Materials Science Institute.

Mr. Liu’s team originally discovered six-membered cyclic amine borane materials that readily trimerize – form a larger desired molecule – with the release of hydrogen. These initial materials, however, were solids. By tweaking the structure, including reducing the ring size from a 6- to a 5-membered ring, the group succeeded in creating a liquid version that has low vapour pressures and does not change its liquid property upon hydrogen release. Mr. Liu said the new platform could be adopted more readily for use in portable fuel cell-powered devices. Contact: Mr. Shih-Yuan Liu, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science Institute, University of Oregon, United States of America. Tel: +1 (541) 346 5573, E-mail:
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Hydrogen compression and storage boosted

RE Hydrogen, the United Kingdom, is hoping to spur small-scale production of hydrogen by making it easier and cheaper to compress and store hydrogen gas. It has developed a device that can compress hydrogen to the high pressures required for storage at just 30 per cent of the cost of existing equipment. The company claims that its compressor will make the production of hydrogen from water and electricity using small electrolysers easier because, unlike most conventional equipment, it can raise the pressure of gas with a small flow rate from 1 to 350 bar in a single step. Most conventional devices would either require around five stages of compression, that too with cooling in between, to get up to the levels required for storage or would need the hydrogen to be produced at a higher pressure, increasing the cost of the electrolyser.

RE Hydrogen’s electrolyser operates at up to 5 kW at atmospheric pressure and is more than 90 per cent cheaper than most conventional models. RE Hydrogen’s technology employs a non-mechanical-based method of compression with few moving parts. It avoids the need for cooling by utilizing the heat naturally produced by the compression process and containing it within the system. The firm has produced a working model of the technology and is now looking for private investment to commercialize it.

More efficient production of molecular hydrogen

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) have developed an extraordinarily efficient two-step process that electrolyses hydrogen atoms from water molecules before combining them to make molecular hydrogen (H2) that can be used in any number of applications, from fuel cells to industrial processing. While a great deal of hydrogen is created by reforming natural gas at high temperatures, that process creates carbon dioxide emissions. “Water electrolysers are by far the cleanest way of producing hydrogen,” explained Mr. Nenad Markovic, a materials scientist at ANL. “The method we have devised combines the capabilities of two of the best materials known for water-based electrolysis,” he added.

Mr. George Crabtree, an ANL materials scientist who helped initiate the establishment of ANL’s energy conversion programme, the success of the researchers is attributable to their ability to work on single-crystal systems – defect-free materials that allow scientists to accurately predict how certain materials will behave at the atomic level. “We have not only increased catalytic activity by a factor of 10 but also now understand how each part of the system works. By scaling up from the single crystal to a real-world catalyst, this work illustrates how fundamental understanding leads quickly to innovative new technologies,” said Mr. Crabtree.

Helping hydrogen move back home

At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the United States, scientists have discovered cobalt and nickel complexes that activate hydrogen, enabling the spent fuel to be recycled. These metals are not precious metals that have availability and cost issues. The cobalt and nickel complexes could facilitate efficient and affordable refuelling. “The hardest part is getting the hydrogen back onto the storage material,” said Dr. Tom Autrey, a chemist at PNNL who was involved with the study. This necessitated the development of a cost-effective chemical process.

In early work, PNNL scientists had demonstrated that rhodium complexes could be used, but rhodium is far too expensive. Their recent discovery shows that complexes of cobalt and nickel, abundant and inexpensive metals, could recharge an amine borane-based hydrogen storage system. The researchers began by studying the underlying mechanics of the reactions. The team performed extensive electronic structure calculations using the NWChem software, previously developed in part at PNNL, to predict the reactivity of a large number of potential reaction schemes. “The calculations let us screen targets fast,” said Dr. Don Camaioni, who led the theoretical portion of the research. “We quickly learned what influenced reactivity and what did not.”

With the properties determined, the research team focused on the synthesis of a select number of cobalt and nickel complexes. They then analysed the effectiveness of these complexes in activating hydrogen for transfer to the target molecules identified. The experimental work confirmed that the cobalt and nickel complexes managed the job at reasonable temperatures and pressures. “There is a lot of balancing required to match the energetics of all the different steps in the hydrogen refuelling process,” Dr. Autrey explained, asserting “This is a very good step forward.”

Harnessing sunlight to produce clean hydrogen fuel

HyperSolar Inc., the United States, claims it is developing a zero carbon method of producing hydrogen gas from wastewater by harnessing solar energy. Hydrogen is a clean source of fuel in that the only waste product from its use is water. But hydrogen gas does not occur naturally on Earth, and needs energy to create. Typically that energy comes from traditional sources that emit carbon dioxide, rendering hydrogen the whole process rather less environmentally friendly than it has the potential to be. HyperSolar’s work may mean truly clean, renewable hydrogen fuel could be a commercial reality sooner than imagined.

HyperSolar’s CEO, Mr. Tim Young says that powering cars with fossil fuel-based hydrogen is not sustainable, renewable or cleaner option to today’s fuels. Because hydrogen fuel has to be made using energy, it is better considered as an energy store and not an energy source. A car running on HyperSolar hydrogen gas would effectively be powered by the Sun, which provides the energy to produce hydrogen. HyperSolar’s approach adopts a breakthrough solar-powered nanoparticle system inspired by the natural process of photosynthesis. The photoelectrochemical nanoparticles that float in wastewater in transparent vessels use solely the energy of sunlight to create hydrogen gas. The process simultaneously purifies wastewater.

Metal nanoparticles for hydrogen storage

In the Netherlands, researchers from Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) and VU University Amsterdam have demonstrated that the dimensions of a metal alloy nanoparticle influences the speed with which hydrogen gas is released when stored in a metal hydride. The smaller the size of the nanoparticle, the greater the speed at which the hydrogen gas makes its way to the fuel cell.

Professor of Materials for Energy Conversion and Storage at TU Delft, Mr. Bernard Dam, and his colleagues from the two universities have demonstrated experimentally that the interaction between the nanoparticles and the matrix can cause the hydrogen gas to get released faster. Using models consisting of thin layers of magnesium and titanium, the scientists showed how the pressure of the hydrogen being released from magnesium increases as the layers become thinner. This means that it indeed makes sense to store hydrogen in nanoparticles in a matrix. The choice of matrix determines to what extent the hydrogen desorption pressure rises.


Chemicals and biofuel from wood biomass

A method developed at Aalto University, Finland, makes it possible to use microbes to produce butanol suitable for biofuel and other industrial chemicals from wood biomass. Butanol is particularly suited as a transport fuel because it is not soluble in water and has higher energy content than ethanol. The starting point in the Aalto University study was to use only wood biomass, or lignocellulose, which does not compete with food production. Another key feature of the study was the use of biotechnology on modern pulp. The cellulose and hemicellulose in wood biomass can be used as a source of nutrition for microbes in bioprocesses. The Kraft process currently used in pulping produces black liquor, which is not suitable for microbes. The Aalto researchers altered the pulping process so that, besides cellulose, the other sugars remain unharmed and could therefore be used to grow microbes.

When wood biomass is boiled in a mixture of water, alcohol and sulphur dioxide, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin separated into clean fractions. The cellulose can be utilized to make paper, nanocellulose or other products while the hemicellulose is efficient microbe raw material for chemical production. The project run by Aalto University is part of the Biorefine technology programme, which aims to increase the refining value of forest residues that cannot be used in, for example, the pulp process. Prof. Aadrian van Heiningen, Mr. Tom Granstrom and a group of scientists carried out the study. Contact: Mr. Tom Granstrom, Aalto University School of Chemical Technology, Department of Biotechnology & Chemical Technology, Finland. Tel: +358 (50) 512 4232; E-mail:

E. coli as catalyst for conversion of sugar to biodiesel

At Stanford University, the United States, researchers studying how biodiesel can be generated using Escherichia coli as a catalyst have determined that the bacteria have what it takes to produce the fuel in high volumes. E. coli may prove to be “the little bacterial engine” that could make biodiesel cheaply and efficiently enough to be commercially feasible, say the researchers. “The good news is that the engine that makes fatty acids in E. coli is incredibly powerful,” Prof. Chaitan Khosla said. “It is inherently capable of converting sugar into fuel-like substances at an extraordinary rate.

The bad news is this engine is subject to some very tight controls by the cell,” he added. It turns out that like any high-performance engine, the catalytic process in E. coli can only attain peak efficiency when all the controls are tweaked just right. Scientists do not yet understand how all the cellular controls function, and will take a deeper understanding of the biochemistry of E. coli than they now have. But Prof. Khosla’s research team is homing in on the most promising part of the conversion process.

The researchers managed to isolate all the enzymes and other molecular participants involved in the process that produces fatty acids in E. coli and assemble them in a test tube for study. By doing so, they were able to study how the enzymes involved in fatty acid biosynthesis performed when free from other cellular influences. That was critical to their analysis, because too much fatty acids would hurt the bacteria. E. coli has some very elaborate and effective ways to contain the amount of fatty acid biosynthesis inside the cell. If the researchers can figure out how to manipulate the cellular means of production in E. coli, biodiesel could be made very cheaply. Contact: Mr. Chaitan Khosla, Chemistry Department, Stanford University, United States of America. Tel: +1 (650) 7236 538; E-mail:

Novel chemical process for biofuel production

In the United States, a University of Maine (UMaine) engineer and his research team have discovered a revolutionary chemical process that can transform forest residues, grass, municipal solid waste, construction waste, etc. into a hydrocarbon fuel oil. Based on a mixed-carboxylate platform, the new fuel was developed by a research team led by Mr. M. Clayton Wheeler, an Associate Professor of chemical and biological engineering. The fuel has been found to have a number of properties that make it better suited to serve as a drop-in fuel. An early round of analysis found the UMaine oil to have boiling points similar to those of jet fuel, diesel and petrol. Further refinement will be needed to meet the emission standards, but the researchers believe the oil can be refined as simply as any other cur-rent oil at a standard refinery.

Thermal deoxygenation (TDO), the process used to make the oil, is relatively simple and works on the cellulose found in biomass or other substances that contain cellulose or carbohydrates. The TDO process starts with the conversion of cellulose to organic acids. The acids are combined with calcium hydroxide to form a calcium salt. That salt is heated to 450°C in a reactor, which constantly stirs the salt, to get a dark amber-coloured oil. The reaction removes nearly all the oxygen from the oil, a key step that distinguishes TDO from other biofuel processes. Oxygen is removed from both carbon dioxide and water, and without the need for any outside source of hydrogen. Hence, most of the energy in the original cellulose source remains in the new oil.

Researchers in Mr. Wheeler’s lab at UMaine used unpurified, mixed carboxylates that were produced from grocery store waste such as banana peels, cardboard boxes and shelving to make a batch of the fuel. The use of municipal solid waste illustrates another important point about the potential of the UMaine fuel – it does not require an uncontaminated cellulose source, which makes the process and the product even more attractive. Contact: Mr. Clayton Wheeler, Associate Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469-5737, United States of America. Tel: +1 (207) 581 2280; E-mail:

Continuous biodiesel reactor technology

Biodiesel manufacturing process is constrained by lack of real technical advancement in the design of the core conversion reactor. Most of the conversion technologies are all inefficient batch processes; not continuous processes found in conventional fuel refining. NewSouth Innovations Pty. Ltd., Australia, has come out with a continuous biodiesel reactor technology that offers four core improvements on conventional processing, totally redefining the way biodiesel is produced:
  • Combination of the reaction and product separation steps into a single processing step;
  • Using water as a solvent, thereby drastically reducing the purity of ethanol required as feedstock and thereby significantly reducing running costs;
  • The reactor runs continuously, bringing the biodiesel production technology into the world of modern processing technology; and
  • The use of innovative process intensification techniques that have reduced the reactor footprint to a fraction of that required for batch operations, and thereby lowering capital cost.

The reactor technology is suited to a wide range of oil feedstocks, from waste oils to lipid oil (derived from algae). Pilot-scale demonstrations of the technology have been successful. The company is seeking potential licensees or development partners to build and test industrial- scale units. Contact: Ms. Laura Issa, Senior Business Development Manager, NewSouth Innovations Pty. Ltd., University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 (02) 9385 5592; E-mail:

A new approach to biofuel production

In Utah, the United States, a couple of students from West High School – Mr. David Larkin and Mr. Andy Law – are patenting a new way that they invented to making biodiesel. The young inventors are making the fuel by mixing used cooking oil with potassium hydroxide and methanol. While this is a common approach to making biofuels, the two students worked with Mr. Colby Wilson, their biotechnology teacher, to come up with a different way of getting all the ingredients to mix and react. Looking for a cheaper that uses much less energy, the students forced the mixture through a tiny tube at room temperature, instead of using heat to cook the ingredients. The tube’s inside diameter is less than the thickness of a human hair. The small diameter of the tube causes the particles to collide and react. The students also came up with a new way to extract waste glycerol from the fuel much faster than it is done with conventional processes. They even figured out how to pack their biofuel set-up into a plastic box with a lid that doubles as a solar panel. It is perfect for whipping up diesel fuel in places with limited access to electricity. The students have started Bio-Me Innovations, a company to market the package.


Handbook of biofuels production: Processes and technologies

Research and development in biofuels production is targeted at improving the quality and environmental impact of biofuels production as well as the overall efficiency and output of biofuels production plants. This guidebook provides a comprehensive and systematic reference on the range of biomass conversion processes and technology. While Part 1 reviews the key issues in the biofuels production chain, including feedstocks, sustainability assessment and policy development, Part 2 reviews chemical and biochemical conversion. Part 3 discusses thermal and thermochemical conversion, and Part 4 looks on detail at developments in the integration of biofuels production, including biorefineries and by-product valorization as well as the utilization of biofuels in diesel engines.

Contact: Woodhead Publishing Ltd., 80 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge, CB22 3HJ, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (1223) 499 140; Fax: +44 (1223) 832 819; E-mail:

Chemical and Biochemical Catalysis for Next Generation Biofuels

Despite decades of research, there remain significant challenges to be overcome before biofuels can be produced in large volumes at competitive prices. One obstacle is the lack of efficient and affordable catalytic systems to dissolve and hydrolyse polysaccharides into sugars. These sugars are then fed to microbes and fermented into biofuels. The price of these catalysts – be they biological, chemical or thermochemical in nature – represents one of the largest costs in the conversion process. While a number of catalytic schemes are available, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. This book presents a general yet substantial review of the most promising processes and the spectrum of biomass pre-treatment, enzymes, chemical catalysts and hybrid approaches of hydrolysing biomass into fermentable sugars. It is the only currently available book that compares the biochemical, chemical and thermochemical conversion processes with biofuel production.

Contact: Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BA, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (20) 7437 8656; Fax: +44 (20) 7437 8883; Website:


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