Posts tagged ‘energy storage’

November 6, 2012

Breakthrough – fuel from the air?

A British company, Air Fuel Synthesis recently announced that they managed to create five litres of synthetic petrol from air.

Their process uses carbon-dioxide from air, combines it with hydrogen (from split water molecules) and thanks to a catalyst it eventually turns it into methanol, and afterwards petrol.

In its current phase the process is quite expensive and low-scale but it could be stepped up for the future. Furthermore, it currently uses electricity from the National Grid, however if it’s supplied from only renewable source, it could be a completely ‘clean method’.

While it could be a great way for storing energy, there are some who doubt it’s efficiency and whether it can achieve a high-enough rate to provide a significant share as a fuel source.

The company is not the only one in this field. Icelandic Carbon Recycling International already captures carbon-dioxide for creating renewable methanol – so called RM. It can be blended with gasoline for cars or used for biodiesel.

Also, in 2009 the Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology announced that they were able to convert carbon-dioxide into methanol, while Isis Innovation also has a patent pending in this area.

Linc Energy‘s one key research area is the gas-to-liquid process, while the company UOP earlier teamed up with the University of California to focus on turning carbon-dioxide into methanol.

Therefore with so many companies working on how to solve two problems at once, in the future we may be using carbon-dioxide for running our vehicles.


February 29, 2012

A New Way of Carbon Capture? Let’s Plant Artificial Trees

Trees lock away and store carbon-dioxide for hundreds of years. Scientists now want to mimic this feature by creating artificial trees for our parks, which could even act as street lights and harness wind power.

The key scientist behind the idea is Dr. Klaus Lackner from the Earth Institute at the Columbia University. His “synthetic trees”resemble real trees with trunks and branches, which are in fact arrays with sorbent chemicals for capturing the carbon-dioxide.

Synthethic Trees

Leaves can be more dense than on normal trees, increasing efficiency. Also, the collected carbon dioxide could be utilised and not only stored, for instance in agricultural processes.

Another concept is the so-called uTree, a photovoltaic tree that would soak up the sun during the day, then fed into the electricity grid or even stored inside – for instance for lighting spaces.

Some artificial tree ideas go further and try to merge the various capabilities. Some may harvest rainwater and generate electricity via solar panels at the same time. Some others act like solar street lights, or create a whole park with saving rainwater and even using wind energy.

Challenges for artificial trees are the high initial investment, long-term maintenance costs and some worries about the actual efficiency of small artificial leaves compared to solar panels, but if these can be overcome, walking in the park could have a new meaning in the future. [6]

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: BBC Online

February 6, 2012

Bacteria and viruses: the future of energy storage?

One of the most crucial questions surrounding renewable energy generation is how to store the electricity so consumers can access it when they need it.

There are already dozens of solutions, and new ways are being investigated almost every day. Viruses and bacteria are no exception.

In 2009 scientists at the MIT announced that they managed to genetically engineer viruses, which can act as the positive and negative ends of a lithium battery. The manufacturing process is promising as it can be done at room temperature, while it doesn’t require any chemicals to be added and is therefore safer for health reasons. Of course the viruses themselves are also harmless to humans. Another key advantage of this solution is that the batteries could be charged about a hundred times without losing capacity.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus by AJC1

Last year researchers at the University of Maryland discovered that the tobacco mosaic virus – which ‘normally’ destroys tobacco, tomato or peppers – can be modified to extend the battery life of lithium-ion batteries by even ten times. Manufacturingthem can also be cheaper in this case as the virus binds itself to the metal surface and there is no need for a special procedure.

Bacteria are also thoroughly researched for enhancing energy storage opportunities. The so-called microbial fuel cells (MFC) use the chemical energy generated by bacteria, which is then converted into electrical energy. Initially mediators were needed for this process but today there are already solutions without any toxic materials. An example is the MFC by Lebone Solutions, using African soil for generating electricity and even charging mobile phones.

In May 2011 scientists at the University of East Anglia announced that they found out how electrons were passing in and out of the cells of the bacteria called Shewanella oneidensis. This will be a great help for researchers developing bacteria-batteries and should enhance the amount of collectable electricity. This type of bacteria creates electricity by respiration (as all living cells do), but bacteria can breathe many more things than just oxygen. In this case electrons of the bacteria are conducted metals like iron or manganese. Eventually these batteries may be ‘programmed’ to charge themselves with appropriate nutrients anywhere. Also, benefits are that bacteria can be found almost anywhere and they could even eat waste to generate electricity.

Virus and bacteria researches for energy storage solutions are more and more widespread and promising, hence it may even mean the basis for future energy storage solutions, solving one of the most important questions about renewable energy development.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image by AJC1

February 1, 2012

What Exactly Are Fuel Cells?

Everyone has heard a lot about fuel cells – mainly as a promising future energy source for cars and other vehicles, but now Apple has applied for two patents on using fuel cells in their iconic devices, the iPhone and the iPad. The use of these technologies would make it possible to provide small devices with extended battery life of days or even weeks – without charging.

But what is a fuel cell?

Fuel cells are largely like a battery but with a constant fuel supply they won’t run down, hence they don’t need to be recharged. They feature two electrodes inside, with oxygen and hydrogen passing over one of them and thus generating electricity, alongside water and heat. The principle of its operation is more based on chemistry and not on combustion.

Where can you find them?

Fuel cells come in various designs using various chemical components, and they are applied in many fields. Besides the most commonly known market – vehicles, fuel cells are also used in several systems in hospitals, hotels, schools, offices, as well as telecommunications facilities, wastewater treatment plants, landfill plants, breweries or even wineries. As they are light and work well without the need for a connection to the electricity grid, they are also used by the military or emergency services.

And now Apple wants to use them in their devices, which therefore could become smaller, lighter, and don’t need to be charged as often as current ones. There are already some consumer electronics devices available with fuel cells but these are rather bulky.

Some gadgets today can also work with fuel cells, for instance kettles, portable chargers, and a fuel cell sticker has even been developed.

Why are fuel cells so promising?

First of all, due to their technology their carbon emissions are very low. Fuel cells are also highly efficient, reliable, flexible, and scalable. They are also quite light and thus can be used in many applications for which current batteries may be too big or heavy.

This means that they can offer a lot of possibilities for future energy storage, while still being environmentally friendly.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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