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Posts Tagged ‘Research’

MendoCoastCurrent, March 14, 2011

Dear President Obama,

Continuing to hear comments that you, your administration and your cabinet members consider nuclear power as a clean, renewable solution is most alarming.

Mr. President, let’s consider the nuclear event occurring in Japan right now and learn the simple truth that any safe renewable energy portfolio DOES NOT include nuclear energy.

The ramifications of the current Japanese nuclear trauma will be felt worldwide as will the fall-out, for months and possibly years to come.

Mr. President, I strongly encourage your team to change course, hit the ground running in alternative, renewable and sustainable energy r&d right now.

Here’s a solution that may be started TODAY ~ http://bit.ly/t7ov1

I call it Mendocino Energy and am not attached to the name, yet very passionate about this important safe, renewable energy development concept. Time has come for us to get rolling!

Mendocino Energy ~ At this core energy technology incubator, energy policy is created as renewable energy technologies and science move swiftly from white boards and white papers to testing, refinement and implementation.

The Vision

Mendocino Energy is located on the Mendocino coast, three plus hours north of San Francisco, Silicon Valley. On the waterfront of Fort Bragg, utilizing a portion of the now-defunct Georgia-Pacific Mill Site to innovate in best practices, cost-efficient, safe renewable and sustainable energy development – wind, wave, solar, bioremediation, green-ag/algae, smart grid and grid technologies, et al.

The process is collaborative in creating, identifying and engineering optimum, commercial-scale, sustainable, renewable energy solutions with acumen.

Start-ups, utility companies, universities (e.g. Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford), EPRI, the federal government (FERC, DOE, DOI) and the world’s greatest minds gathering at this fast-tracked, unique coming-together of a green work force and the U.S. government, creating responsible, safe renewable energy technologies to quickly identify best commercialization candidates and build-outs.

The campus is quickly constructed on healthy areas of the Mill Site as in the past, this waterfront, 400+ acre industry created contaminated areas where mushroom bioremediation is underway.

Determining best sitings for projects in solar thermal, wind turbines and mills, algae farming, bioremediation; taking the important first steps towards establishing U.S. leadership in renewable energy and the global green economy.

With deep concern & hope,

Laurel Krause

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SUPREET SHARMA, TopNews.India, November 22, 2009

Bhubaneswar, India – The underwater behaviour of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins of Chilka Lake in Orissa will now be monitored with special hydrophones developed to catch their high-frequency “click” sounds.

The Chilka Development Authority, along with the Underwater Technology Research Center of Tokyo University, has developed the hydrophones that are being tested in the lake. The devices would help in chalking out long-term conservation plans for the endangered species, an official said.

“This is the first time that such a study is being conducted to observe the underwater behaviour of the Irrawaddy dolphins. The software for the hydrophones has been developed by Underwater Technology Research Center of Tokyo University,” said Ajit Pattnaik, chief executive officer of the Chilka Development Authority.

Studies have found that dolphins interpret the meaning of the click sounds through its complex nerve system after the sound bounces off the objects.

The hydrophones are designed to capture the high frequency clicks which can travel through water at a speed of about 1.5 km/sec, which is 4.5 times faster than sound travelling through air.

These hydrophones have been designed to capture the clicks and underwater behaviour of the dolphins.

“These devices would help determine the responses of dolphins to approaching boats and noise from the boat and other sources. It will also help to develop protocols for dolphin watching,” he said.

The data gathered from the devices would help in determining the size, shape, speed and migration behaviour of the dolphins in the lake, without disturbing them.

An MoU had been signed in 2006 to develop these devices and tests were also conducted before these complete devices were decided on. The Japanese scientists have now developed a set of eight devices with inbuilt software to interpret the data. The World Wide Fund for Nature is also collaborating on the project. (IANS)

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WENDEE HOLTCAMP, National Wildlife, December/January 2010

Frank Fish was browsing in a Boston sculpture shop a few years ago when he noticed a whale figurine. His first thought was, “This isn’t right. It’s got bumps on the leading edge of its flipper. It’s always a straight edge.”

Fish, a West Chester University professor specializing in the dynamics of locomotion, was surprised because all flippers he knew of had straight edges—including those of dolphins, penguins and even most whales. The straight-edge blade is also shared by ceiling fans and most industrial blades and rotors. But the store manager showed him a photo of a humpback whale, and sure enough, it had tubercles on its flippers. Humpbacks have a unique habit of catching fish in a bubble net that they create by diving deep and swimming in a spiraling circle, and Fish speculated that the tubercles may somehow give them a hydrodynamic advantage.

Turns out he was right. After testing a scaled-down flipper replica in a wind tunnel, Fish and colleagues Loren Howle and Mark Murray found the tubercles reduced drag by 32% and increased lift by 6% compared with a smooth-edge flipper. The bumps have the same effect on rotors and blades in air—a revolutionary discovery in aerodynamics. Fish co-patented so-called “Tubercle Technology” and in 2005 he helped found Whale Power, a company that is building energy-efficient windmills using scalloped-edge blades. The technology could eventually improve energy-efficiency for any machine that uses turbines, fans or pumps.

Fish is among an increasing number of scientists, inventors and companies turning to the natural world to help them create better, more sustainable products and to find solutions to some of humanity’s most vexing problems. The concept is called biomimicry and the idea behind it is simple: Over the millennia, living organisms in the natural world already have tested and solved many of the challenges humans are grappling with today.

“People are looking for ways to reduce material use, get away from toxic substances and reduce energy use. When they hear about biomimicry, they realize it’s an R&D program that’s been going on for 3.8 billion years,” says biologist Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Guild, a Montana-based consulting firm that provides research and guidance on natural solutions for some of the country’s largest companies and government agencies.

In her landmark 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Benyus issued a call to action, urging people to engage not just in shallow biomimicry—copying nature’s forms—but to push for deep biomimicry where manufacturing processes follow nature’s lead of sustainability. The ideal industrial loop, she says, would work as seamlessly as a redwood forest, where one’s processed wastes become food or input for another and nothing is wasted. In the book, Benyus also compiled dozens of examples of how people are emulating natural processes.

Velcro, for example, one of the most famous products to come from mimicking nature, was created by a Swiss engineer in the 1940s after observing how cockleburs got stuck in his dog’s fur. Three decades later, a German botanist discovered that lotus leaves contain tiny waxy bumps that cause water to bead up and run off the surface, washing and cleaning the leaves in the process. The discovery has since inspired a number of waterproof products including Lotusan, a self-cleaning paint that keeps the outsides of buildings free of algae and fungi.

More recently, scientists from the University of New South Wales discovered a revolutionary antibacterial compound in a type of red algal seaweed that lives off the coast of Australia. Bacteria form slimy biofilms but require a “quorum” to congregate, and so they constantly communicate with one another. The seaweed stays bacteria-free by emitting the compound furanone, which jams the bacteria’s communication sensors. Mimicking that natural action, the Australian company Biosignal created cleaning fluids that keep surfaces bacteria-free without killing them, which is a breakthrough because its use does not lead to the evolution of antibiotic resistance, as has happened with the proliferation of so many antibacterial cleaning compounds. So far, furanone works on various bacteria, including staphylococcus and vibrio, which causes cholera. It also works on the bacteria that corrode pipes, leading to oil spills.

In another flip on tradition, Mercedes-Benz recently modeled an ecologically friendly, fuel-efficient concept vehicle called the Bionic Car after the yellow boxfish, a squarish tropical creature found in reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Traditionally, aerodynamic cars have been built long and lean, but it turns out the boxfish has a drag coefficient nearly equal to that of a drop of water, which has one of the lowest drags possible. The automobile company not only borrowed from the boxfish’s boxy but aerodynamic shape but also from its unique skeletal structure that protects the animal from injury, making the car safer by putting extra material in certain parts of its frame and economizing by lightening up the load elsewhere.

Another product, the UltraCane, was developed not long ago as a result of research at the University of Leeds in Great Britain to help the blind “see” by utilizing the echolocation systems of bats. The cane emits an ultrasonic sound that bounces off objects, allowing vision-impaired people to develop a mental picture of where and how far away objects are—and hence better navigate around them.

In Zimbabwe, the architectural design firm Arup Associates modeled the country’s largest office complex, Eastgate Centre, after the passive cooling system used by African termites in their mounds. Termites farm fungus that they must keep at a precise 87 degrees F, while outside air varies from 35 degrees at night to 104 by day. To accomplish this amazing feat, termites constantly plug and unplug cooling vents that create convection currents, drawing air through the mound as needed. The Eastgate Centre builders copied this model, using fans and chimneys to shunt hot air out, and ground-level cavities to allow cooler air in—a concept known as passive cooling. Without any modern heating or air conditioning, the facility uses only 10% of the electricity of a conventional building its size. The energy-cost savings trickle down to tenants, who pay 20% lower rent than in neighboring buildings.

Elsewhere, scientists are turning to Mother Nature for inspiration for other energy-related materials. To increase the amount of sunlight that is absorbed by solar panels, for instance, a University of Florida researcher is developing a coating for the panels based on the structure of moth eyes, which reflect little light. In China and Japan, scientists are modeling more efficient solar cells after the scales on butterfly wings, which serve as highly effective, microscopic solar collectors.

The benefits humans gain as a result of such research provide a strong argument for conserving wildlife. “Protecting plant and animal habitats means also preserving the wellspring of ideas for the next industrial revolution,” says Benyus, who in 2007 was named by Time magazine as one of its “International Heroes of the Environment.”

That same year, she also founded the nonprofit Biomimicry Institute, which urges companies to donate a percentage of their profits to the habitat from which their biomimicry-inspired products come from. “We must become nature’s apprentice at this point,” she says, “and part of that path has to be preserving the wild places we now realize are the homes of geniuses.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 15, 2008

Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton today launched the Business, Environment and Social Responsibility (BESR) Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, offering “Sustainability Meets Entrepreneurship,” a new Friday forum series designed to provide UW students and members of the community access to experts on clean technology and alternative energy.

“This new program will give bright entrepreneurs both the vision and tools they need to develop innovative strategies to address the opportunities of developing a green economy,” said Lawton. “Local economic growth and job creation begins with sustainable development.”

The forum series was motivated and inspired by Lawton’s Green Economy Agenda, an agenda to empower smart individual and institutional action related to energy, water and climate change while strengthening Wisconsin’s competitive position in a global economy

“I am approached again and again by people wanting to start up a clean tech or alternative energy business,” said Lawton. “Now they can learn from green business experts who will share their experience – stories of the challenges they’ve met, trends they see and the successes they’ve realized in this growing sector. We want Wisconsin’s entrepreneurs poised to take advantage of the opportunities that can come with a new president who is committed to driving green-collar jobs creation.”

The first community forum is scheduled for Friday, January 30 at noon. UW-Madison professors Tom Eggert and Xuejun Pan are providing an overview on cleantech and alternative energy companies, on-going research, and future opportunities. The forum will be held in 5120 Grainger Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Lunch will be provided.

Subsequent forums will be held on the following Fridays: February 13, February 27, March 13, March 27 (Lt. Governor Lawton), and April 17. Interested individuals will need to register for each of these forums separately at the above internet address.

The BESR forum is part of the Wiscontrepreneur Initiative, made possible in part by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and administered by the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations. Additional support is provided by the MGE Foundation.

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MendoCoastCurent, December 9, 2008

sri-wave-generator1SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research and development organization, demonstrated and tested a buoy-mounted, wave powered generator in the ocean near Santa Cruz, Calif. This demonstration was part of a program sponsored by HYPER DRIVE Corporation, a Japanese company focused on the development of wave powered generators around the world. The generator converts energy from ocean waves to electrical energy.

This wave-powered generator is unique in that it uses SRI’s Electroactive Polymer Artificial Muscle (EPAM™) technology, a rubbery material that can generate electricity by simply being stretched and allowed to return to its original shape. This “artificial muscle” technology can generate electricity directly from the motion of waves without the need for complicated and costly hydraulic transmissions that are typically found in other wave-power generators.

In 2004, the technology was licensed exclusively to Artificial Muscle Inc., an SRI spin-off company. HYPER DRIVE has licensed the background technology for wave power generator applications from Artificial Muscle Inc., and application-related technology from SRI International.

An earlier version of the generator was deployed in August 2007, in Tampa Bay, Florida. The Tampa Bay experiment used a generator design that was intended to show how the EPAM™ technology could supply electricity to existing buoys, such as navigation buoys, and eliminate the need to replace large numbers of costly batteries. In today’s experiment, SRI will test a new design that shows how the technology might be used on a buoy intended to harvest larger amounts of power for use on shore or nearby industries.

The EPAM™ technology allows rubbery polymers to change shape in response to applied electrical energy, much like biological muscles change shape in response to an electrical stimulus. As a generator, the technology operates in reverse — changing the shape of the polymer creates electrical energy. Since this solution requires few moving parts and is based on relatively low-cost polymers, there is great potential for low-cost production of electricity.

“In our first demonstration we proved that SRI’s wave-powered generator could be mounted on a typical buoy and operate in a marine environment,” said Philip von Guggenberg, director of business development, SRI International. “For this demonstration, we will test a new design that we anticipate will produce greater amounts of energy in harbors and bays, as well as unprotected ocean waters. For this reason, this year’s test location was selected to be off the coast of Northern California.”

“HYPER DRIVE is excited to see the new wave powered buoy design and the results it will produce,” said Shuji Yonemura, CEO, HYPER DRIVE. “We look forward to seeing this technology at work in an ocean environment.”

Although the power output of the buoy is still quite modest, the same basic design can be used to produce significantly greater amounts of power. The long-term goal of this development is to design a system that will supply electricity to the buoy or to feed the power grid on land. The wave powered generator tested today in the Pacific Ocean could, in time, produce many kilowatts of power from a relatively small buoy.

Background

HYPER DRIVE Corporation, founded in 2006, is a venture-backed startup company based in Tokyo, Japan. The company is focused on the application of EPAM™ to wave power generation. HYPER DRIVE is the only company to commercially develop SRI’s EPAM™ technology for wave powered generation. The company is planning large scale (hundreds of watts or several kilowatts) sea trials in Japan in the near future. HYPER DRIVE has been developing other water-based EPAM™ generators including a watermill generator, and continues to focus on developing power-generating systems using water, wind, and other renewable energy. In December 2007, HYPER DRIVE won the “best paper award” at the Eco Design Fifth International Symposium on Environmentally Conscious Design and Inverse Manufacturing. 

Artificial Muscle, Inc. (AMI) is a high-technology company that designs and manufactures actuator and sensing components based on the new technology platform called electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM™). AMI was founded by SRI International, which is a Silicon Valley nonprofit research and development institute that has a history of more than 60 years of developing advanced technologies, to exclusively commercialize artificial muscle technology. EPAM™ technology was developed at SRI over a 12-year period. AMI became an independent company in early 2004 with venture fund financing from Vanguard Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, and NGEN Partners.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 23, 2008

A new hybrid inorganic/organic material could usher in solar cells that absorb all solar wavelengths. Researchers have created a new material that overcomes two of the major obstacles to solar power: it absorbs all the energy contained in sunlight, and generates electrons in a way that makes them easier to capture.

Ohio State University chemists and their colleagues combined electrically conductive plastic with metals including molybdenum and titanium to create the hybrid material.
This new material is the first that can absorb all the energy contained in visible light at once.

The new polymer could also enable much more efficient charge separation since electrons dislodged by light in the material remain free much longer than in conventional solar cells used in solar powered battery chargers. 

The inorganic/organic hybrid polymer material can be made into polymer blends that can “absorb essentially across the entire solar spectrum–they go from about 300 nanometers down to about 10,000 nanometers,” said professor Malcolm Chisholm of Ohio State University. 

Solar materials work by using incident light to boost the energy of electrons, thereby separating then from the hull of atoms in the material. They can then be harvested to generate electricity.

However, separated electrons fall back into their host atoms if not collected quickly. Usually, solar materials either fluoresce (called singlet emisson) or phosphoresce (triplet emission). The new hybrid material does both, further increasing potential efficiency.

“The materials we have made show both singlet and triplet emissions,” said Chisholm. “The singlet state lasts a relatively long time, in the region of about 10 pico seconds; the triplet lasts a lot longer–up to a 100 or so microseconds, which should be good for separating the electrons and the hull.”

At this point, the material is years from commercial development, but he added that this experiment provides a proof of concept — that hybrid solar cell materials such as this one can offer unusual properties.

The project was funded by the National Science Foundation and Ohio State’s Institute for Materials Research.

Chisholm is working with Arthur J. Epstein, Distinguished University Professor of chemistry and physics; Paul Berger, professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics; and Nitin Padture, professor of materials science and engineering to develop the material further. That work is part of the Advanced Materials Initiative, one Ohio State’s Targeted Investment in Excellence (TIE) programs.

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 19, 2008

The University of Hawaii (UH) has won an intensely sought-after award, being selected as one of two National Marine Renewable Test Centers, with Oregon State University as the other.

As a test center, UH will receive federal funding to study and encourage the implementation of wave energy systems in Hawaiian waters. The strong wave climate, combined with the highest use of fossil fuel and electricity rates in the nation, make Hawaii an ideal location for the development of lower-cost wave power.

It has been a banner year for renewable energy in Hawaii. After Congress passed the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” the U.S. Department of Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Hawaii in January, seeking to produce 70% of Hawaii’s electricity needs from renewable resources by 2030.

In February, Oceanlinx, one of the world’s leading wave energy developers, announced plans for a wave energy facility off Maui’s northern coast.

The extent to which wave energy companies are drawn to Hawaii will ultimately determine how many jobs are created by their presence. However, given the large market and available resources, the potential is tremendous. Wave energy converters require engineers, consultants, commercial divers, maintenance crews, marine transport services, technicians and shipyard services. In other words, a vibrant wave energy industry will create well-paying jobs while keeping billions of dollars in our state economy instead of shipping them primarily to foreign countries to pay for oil.

With the recent surge in oil prices, renewable energy systems have been experiencing a renaissance. Investors who wanted nothing to do with renewable energy companies a few years ago are now scrambling to get their money invested in leading technologies. Those investors now can compete to catch the wave.

While the UH’s designation as a National Marine Renewable Test Center will certainly make Hawaii a more attractive destination, it’s important to note that Hawaii lacks a mechanism to connect wave energy systems to its power grid. Enter the Wave Hub, an undersea “outlet” that enables multiple wave energy systems to hook into the grid.

Construction of a Wave Hub about 10 miles off the southwest coast of England is creating a real-world testing ground. That Wave Hub should prove a commercial success, as there is already intense competition between rival wave energy companies seeking berths allowing their systems to plug into the Wave Hub.

In conjunction with the UH Marine Test Center, we must develop a Wave Hub here in Hawaii, so wave energy systems can compete to prove their commercial viability. Once an optimal location is selected, then the state can prepare the necessary environment and permit documents and install the seabed device and cable. Wave energy companies will be able to “plug in” their devices, without each spending years in the application phase.

In addition to the vibrant wave energy climate, federal, state and academic support can make Hawaii the premier destination for wave energy development in the United States, not to mention the Pacific theater. This is an innovation economy by definition – one that will make Hawaii more secure and environmentally protected.

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