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  • richardmitnick 9:44 am on June 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Clean Energy, , Human waste used as biosolids for fertilizer, Macdonald campus in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, , McGill gets $3 million to fund research into cutting greenhouse gases, Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions caused by water and fertilizer use in agriculture,   

    From McGill via Montreal Gazette: “McGill gets $3 million to fund research into cutting greenhouse gases” 

    McGill University

    McGill University

    1

    Montreal Gazette

    June 14, 2017
    John Meagher

    2
    McGill professor Grant Clark displays human waste used as biosolids for fertilizer, on test fields at Macdonald campus on Monday. The federal government is investing in the university to conduct research on greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture. Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette

    McGill University researchers at Macdonald campus in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue got some welcome news Monday when the federal government announced nearly $3 million in funding for research projects that will help farmers cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    Local Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia and Jean-Claude Poissant, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Agriculture, announced $2.9 million in funding at a press conference for two McGill projects aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions caused by water and fertilizer use in agriculture.

    Scarpaleggia said the funding will “enable our agricultural sector to be a world leader and to develop new clean technologies and practices to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of Canadian farms.”

    A project led by Prof. Chandra Madramootoo, of McGill’s Department of Bioresource Engineering, will receive more than $1.6 million to study the effects of different water management systems in Eastern Canada.

    The aim is to provide information on water-management practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing agricultural productivity.

    The second project, headed by McGill Prof. Grant Clark, also of the Department of Bioresource Engineering, will receive $1.3 million. The project will research best management practices for the use of municipal bio-solids, a by-product of wastewater treatment plants, as a crop fertilizer.

    “I’m a firm believer in science-based policy,” Clark said. “And we require the support of government to develop the knowledge to promote that policy.

    “I would also like to acknowledge the government’s support of real concrete action to (address) climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Clark said the research project will examine how to “reduce, reuse, recycle, reclaim” the use of nutrients and organics in agriculture

    “If were are going to develop a sustainable agricultural system, we must be conscious of how we conserve resources, reduce inputs as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build and preserve the health of our soils,” he said.

    “We are interested in linking the intensive food production required to support a growing global population with the recycling of organic wastes from our municipal centres,” Clark added.

    “The objective of the program is to use the residual solids from the treatment of municipal waste waters, or biosolids, as fertilizers for agricultural production. So this mirrors the natural cycling of nutrients or organic carbon that we see in nature. However, we can’t just go out and poop in the field. The cycle is a little more involved in order that we preserve public health and hygiene.”

    Scarpaleggia described the research work being done at the Macdonald campus in Ste-Anne as “world class.”

    “The federal government has always recognized the enormous value of Macdonald campus as a world-class research facility,” said the MP for Lac-St-Louis riding.

    “They’re doing groundbreaking work here in any areas of agriculture, including water management, which is a particular interest of mine. So it’s very important to channel some research funds to Macdonald campus.”

    Scarpaleggia said the McGill projects being funded by federal government will promote job growth in the green economy.

    “As we move ahead with climate change policies, we are, as a consequence, stimulating research, stimulating industrial innovation. We’re making that jump to the green economy with all its benefits in terms of employment and high value-added jobs.”

    The federal funding, which comes from the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), was made on behalf of Lawrence MacAuley, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

    “The Government of Canada continues to invest in research with partners like McGill University in order to provide our farmers with the best strategies for adapting to climate change and for producing more quality food for a growing population while keeping agriculture clean and sustainable,” said Poissant.

    The AGGP is $27-million initiative aimed at helping the agricultural sector adjust to climate change and improve soil and water conservation. McGill’s agronomists and scientists are involved in 20 new research projects being conducted across Canada, from British Columbia to the Maritimes.

    See the full article here .

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    All about McGill

    With some 300 buildings, more than 38,500 students and 250,000 living alumni, and a reputation for excellence that reaches around the globe, McGill has carved out a spot among the world’s greatest universities.
    Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill is a leading Canadian post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 11 professional schools, 300 programs of study and some 39,000 students, including more than 9,300 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 8,200 international students making up 21 per cent of the student body.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:31 am on May 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Clean Energy, , , Harnessing the energy generated when freshwater meets saltwater, ,   

    From Penn State via phys.org: “Harnessing the energy generated when freshwater meets saltwater” 

    Penn State Bloc

    Pennsylvania State University

    phys.org

    May 29, 2017
    Jennifer Matthews

    2
    Credit: Pennsylvania State University

    Penn State researchers have created a new hybrid technology that produces unprecedented amounts of electrical power where seawater and freshwater combine at the coast.

    “The goal of this technology is to generate electricity from where the rivers meet the ocean,” said Christopher Gorski, assistant professor in environmental engineering at Penn State. “It’s based on the difference in the salt concentrations between the two water sources.”

    That difference in salt concentration has the potential to generate enough energy to meet up to 40 percent of global electricity demands. Though methods currently exist to capture this energy, the two most successful methods, pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) and reverse electrodialysis (RED), have thus far fallen short.

    PRO, the most common system, selectively allows water to transport through a semi-permeable membrane, while rejecting salt. The osmotic pressure created from this process is then converted into energy by turning turbines.

    “PRO is so far the best technology in terms of how much energy you can get out,” Gorski said. “But the main problem with PRO is that the membranes that transport the water through foul, meaning that bacteria grows on them or particles get stuck on their surfaces, and they no longer transport water through them.”

    This occurs because the holes in the membranes are incredibly small, so they become blocked easily. In addition, PRO doesn’t have the ability to withstand the necessary pressures of super salty waters.

    The second technology, RED, uses an electrochemical gradient to develop voltages across ion-exchange membranes.

    “Ion exchange membranes only allow either positively charged ions to move through them or negatively charged ions,” Gorski explained. “So only the dissolved salt is going through, and not the water itself.”

    Here, the energy is created when chloride or sodium ions are kept from crossing ion-exchange membranes as a result of selective ion transport. Ion-exchange membranes don’t require water to flow through them, so they don’t foul as easily as the membranes used in PRO; however, the problem with RED is that it doesn’t have the ability to produce large amounts of power.

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    Photograph of the concentration flow cell. Two plates clamp the cell together, which contains two narrow channels fed with either synthetic freshwater or seawater through the plastic lines. Credit: Pennsylvania State University

    A third technology, capacitive mixing (CapMix), is a relatively new method also being explored. CapMix is an electrode-based technology that captures energy from the voltage that develops when two identical electrodes are sequentially exposed to two different kinds of water with varying salt concentrations, such as freshwater and seawater. Like RED, the problem with CapMix is that it’s not able to yield enough power to be viable.

    Gorski, along with Bruce Logan, Evan Pugh Professor and the Stan and Flora Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, and Taeyoung Kim, post-doctoral scholar in environmental engineering, may have found a solution to these problems. The researchers have combined both the RED and CapMix technologies in an electrochemical flow cell.

    “By combining the two methods, they end up giving you a lot more energy,” Gorski said.

    The team constructed a custom-built flow cell in which two channels were separated by an anion-exchange membrane. A copper hexacyanoferrate electrode was then placed in each channel, and graphite foil was used as a current collector. The cell was then sealed using two end plates with bolts and nuts. Once built, one channel was fed with synthetic seawater, while the other channel was fed with synthetic freshwater. Periodically switching the water’s flow paths allowed the cell to recharge and further produce power. From there, they examined how the cutoff voltage used for switching flow paths, external resistance and salt concentrations influenced peak and average power production.

    “There are two things going on here that make it work,” said Gorski. “The first is you have the salt going to the electrodes. The second is you have the chloride transferring across the membrane. Since both of these processes generate a voltage, you end up developing a combined voltage at the electrodes and across the membrane.”

    To determine the gained voltage of the flow cell depending on the type of membrane used and salinity difference, the team recorded open-circuit cell voltages while feeding two solutions at 15 milliliters per minute. Through this method, they identified that stacking multiple cells did influence electricity production. At 12.6 watts per square meter, this technology leads to peak power densities that are unprecedentedly high compared to previously reported RED (2.9 watts per square meter), and on par with the maximum calculated values for PRO (9.2 watts per square meter), but without the fouling problems.

    “What we’ve shown is that we can bring that power density up to what people have reported for pressure retarded osmosis and to a value much higher that what has been reported if you use these two processes alone,” Gorski said.

    Though the results are promising, the researchers want to do more research on the stability of the electrodes over time and want to know how other elements in seawater— like magnesium and sulfate— might affect the performance of the cell.

    “Pursuing renewable energy sources is important,” Gorski said. “If we can do carbon neutral energy, we should.”

    No science paper referenced.

    See the full article here .

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    Penn State Campus

    WHAT WE DO BEST

    We teach students that the real measure of success is what you do to improve the lives of others, and they learn to be hard-working leaders with a global perspective. We conduct research to improve lives. We add millions to the economy through projects in our state and beyond. We help communities by sharing our faculty expertise and research.

    Penn State lives close by no matter where you are. Our campuses are located from one side of Pennsylvania to the other. Through Penn State World Campus, students can take courses and work toward degrees online from anywhere on the globe that has Internet service.

    We support students in many ways, including advising and counseling services for school and life; diversity and inclusion services; social media sites; safety services; and emergency assistance.

    Our network of more than a half-million alumni is accessible to students when they want advice and to learn about job networking and mentor opportunities as well as what to expect in the future. Through our alumni, Penn State lives all over the world.

    The best part of Penn State is our people. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in communities near our campuses and across the globe are dedicated to education and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:27 pm on May 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, , , Tokamak Energy's ST40 fusion reactor   

    From Science Alert: “The UK Just Switched on an Ambitious Fusion Reactor – and It Works” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    1 MAY 2017
    FIONA MACDONALD

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    Tokamak Energy

    First plasma has been achieved.

    The UK’s newest fusion reactor, ST40, was switched on last week, and has already managed to achieve ‘first plasma’ – successfully generating a scorching blob of electrically-charged gas (or plasma) within its core.

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    Tokamak Energy

    The aim is for the tokamak reactor to heat plasma up to 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018 – seven times hotter than the centre of the Sun. That’s the ‘fusion’ threshold, at which hydrogen atoms can begin to fuse into helium, unleashing limitless, clean energy in the process.

    “Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world,” said David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, the company behind ST40.

    “We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.”

    Nuclear fusion is the process that fuels our Sun, and if we can figure out a way to achieve the same thing here on Earth, it would allow us to tap into an unlimited supply of clean energy that produces next to no carbon emissions.

    Unlike nuclear fission, which is achieved in today’s nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together, not splitting them apart, and it requires little more than salt and water, and primarily produces helium as a waste product.

    But as promising as nuclear fusion is, it’s something scientists have struggled to achieve.

    The process involves using high-powered magnets to control plasma at ridiculous temperatures for long enough to generate useful amounts of electricity, which, as you can imagine, is far from simple.

    Over the past year there have been some big wins. Scientists from MIT broke the record for plasma pressure back in October, and in December, South Korean researchers became the first to sustain ‘high performance’ plasma of up to 300 million degrees Celsius (540 million degrees Fahrenheit) for 70 seconds.

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    MIT Bob Mumgaard/Plasma Science and Fusion Centre

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    Michel Maccagnan/Wikimedia Commons

    In Germany, a new type of fusion reactor called the Wendelstein 7-X stellerator has been able to successfully control plasma.

    Wendelstein 7-AS built in built in Greifswald, Germany

    But we’re still a long way off being able to put all those pieces together – finding an affordable way to generate plasma at the temperatures required for fusion to occur, and then being able to harness it for long enough to generate energy.

    ST40 is what’s known as a tokamak reactor, which uses high-powered magnetic coils to control a core of scorching plasma in a toroidal shape.

    The next step is for a full set of those magnetic coils to be installed and tested within ST40, and later this year, Tokamak Energy will use them to aim to generate plasma at temperatures of 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit).

    In 2018, the team hopes to achieve the fusion threshold of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), and the ultimate goal is to provide clean fusion power to the UK grid by 2030.

    Whether or not they’ll be able to pull off the feat remains to be seen.

    But the company is now one step closer, and as they’re not the only ones with a tokamak reactor in development, it will hopefully only speed up the race to get a commercial fusion reactor online.

    Watch this space.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:19 am on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, , , ,   

    From NYT: “A Dream of Clean Energy at a Very High Price”, a Now Too Old Subject 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    MARCH 27, 2017
    HENRY FOUNTAIN

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    Source: ITER Organization Mika Gröndahl/The New York Times

    SAINT-PAUL-LEZ-DURANCE, France — At a dusty construction site here amid the limestone ridges of Provence, workers scurry around immense slabs of concrete arranged in a ring like a modern-day Stonehenge.

    It looks like the beginnings of a large commercial power plant, but it is not. The project, called ITER, is an enormous, and enormously complex and costly, physics experiment. But if it succeeds, it could determine the power plants of the future and make an invaluable contribution to reducing planet-warming emissions.

    ITER, short for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (and pronounced EAT-er), is being built to test a long-held dream: that nuclear fusion, the atomic reaction that takes place in the sun and in hydrogen bombs, can be controlled to generate power.

    First discussed in 1985 at a United States-Soviet Union summit, the multinational effort, in which the European Union has a 45 percent stake and the United States, Russia, China and three other partners 9 percent each, has long been cited as a crucial step toward a future of near-limitless electric power.

    ITER will produce heat, not electricity. But if it works — if it produces more energy than it consumes, which smaller fusion experiments so far have not been able to do — it could lead to plants that generate electricity without the climate-affecting carbon emissions of fossil-fuel plants or most of the hazards of existing nuclear reactors that split atoms rather than join them.

    Success, however, has always seemed just a few decades away for ITER. The project has progressed in fits and starts for years, plagued by design and management problems that have led to long delays and ballooning costs.

    ITER is moving ahead now, with a director-general, Bernard Bigot, who took over two years ago after an independent analysis that was highly critical of the project. Dr. Bigot, who previously ran France’s atomic energy agency, has earned high marks for resolving management problems and developing a realistic schedule based more on physics and engineering and less on politics.

    “I do believe we are moving at full speed and maybe accelerating,” Dr. Bigot said in an interview.

    The site here is now studded with tower cranes as crews work on the concrete structures that will support and surround the heart of the experiment, a doughnut-shaped chamber called a tokamak. This is where the fusion reactions will take place, within a plasma, a roiling cloud of ionized atoms so hot that it can be contained only by extremely strong magnetic fields.

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    By The New York Times

    Pieces of the tokamak and other components, including giant superconducting electromagnets and a structure that at approximately 100 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall will be the largest stainless-steel vacuum vessel ever made, are being fabricated in the participating countries. Assembly is set to begin next year in a giant hall erected next to the tokamak site.

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    At the ITER construction site, immense slabs of concrete lie in a ring like a modern-day Stonehenge. Credit ITER Organization

    There are major technical hurdles in a project where the manufacturing and construction are on the scale of shipbuilding but the parts need to fit with the precision of a fine watch.

    “It’s a challenge,” said Dr. Bigot, who devotes much of his time to issues related to integrating parts from various countries. “We need to be very sensitive about quality.”

    Even if the project proceeds smoothly, the goal of “first plasma,” using pure hydrogen that does not undergo fusion, would not be reached for another eight years. A so-called burning plasma, which contains a fraction of an ounce of fusible fuel in the form of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, and can be sustained for perhaps six or seven minutes and release large amounts of energy, would not be achieved until 2035 at the earliest.

    That is a half century after the subject of cooperating on a fusion project came up at a meeting in Geneva between President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. A functional commercial fusion power plant would be even further down the road.

    “Fusion is very hard,” said Riccardo Betti, a researcher at the University of Rochester who has followed the ITER project for years. “Plasma is not your friend. It tries to do everything it can to really displease you.”

    Fusion is also very expensive. ITER estimates the cost of design and construction at about 20 billion euros (currently about $22 billion). But the actual cost of components may be higher in some of the participating countries, like the United States, because of high labor costs. The eventual total United States contribution, which includes an enormous central electromagnet capable, it is said, of lifting an aircraft carrier, has been estimated at about $4 billion.

    Despite the recent progress there are still plenty of doubts about ITER, especially in the United States, which left the project for five years at the turn of the century and where funding through the Energy Department has long been a political football.

    The department confirmed its support for ITER in a report last year and Congress approved $115 million for it. It is unclear, though, how the project will fare in the Trump administration, which has proposed a cut of roughly 20 percent to the department’s Office of Science, which funds basic research including ITER. (The department also funds another long-troubled fusion project, which uses lasers, at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.)

    Dr. Bigot met with the new energy secretary, Rick Perry, last week in Washington, and said he found Mr. Perry “very open to listening” about ITER and its long-term goals. “But he has to make some short-term choices” with his budget, Dr. Bigot said.

    Energy Department press aides did not respond to requests for comment.

    Some in Congress, including Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, while lauding Dr. Bigot’s efforts, argue that the project already consumes too much of the Energy Department’s basic research budget of about $5 billion.

    “I remain concerned that continuing to support the ITER project would come at the expense of other Office of Science priorities that the Department of Energy has said are more important — and that I consider more important,” Mr. Alexander said in a statement.

    While it is not clear what would happen to the project if the United States withdrew, Dr. Bigot argues that it is in every participating country’s interest to see it through. “You have a chance to know if fusion works or not,” he said. “If you miss this chance, maybe it will never come again.”

    But even scientists who support ITER are concerned about the impact it has on other research.

    “People around the country who work on projects that are the scientific basis for fusion are worried that they’re in a no-win situation,” said William Dorland, a physicist at the University of Maryland who is chairman of the plasma science committee of the National Academy of Sciences. “If ITER goes forward, it might eat up all the money. If it doesn’t expand and the U.S. pulls out, it may pull down a lot of good science in the downdraft.”

    In the ITER tokamak, deuterium and tritium nuclei will fuse to form helium, losing a small amount of mass that is converted into a huge amount of energy. Most of the energy will be carried away by neutrons, which will escape the plasma and strike the walls of the tokamak, producing heat.

    In a fusion power plant, that heat would be used to make steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity, much as existing power plants do using other sources of heat, like burning coal. ITER’s heat will be dissipated through cooling towers.

    There is no risk of a runaway reaction and meltdown as with nuclear fission and, while radioactive waste is produced, it is not nearly as long-lived as the spent fuel rods and irradiated components of a fission reactor.

    To fuse, atomic nuclei must move very fast — they must be extremely hot — to overcome natural repulsive forces and collide. In the sun, the extreme gravitational field does much of the work. Nuclei need to be at a temperature of about 15 million degrees Celsius.

    In a tokamak, without such a strong gravitational pull, the atoms need to be about 10 times hotter. So enormous amounts of energy are required to heat the plasma, using pulsating magnetic fields and other sources like microwaves. Just a few feet away, on the other hand, the windings of the superconducting electromagnets need to be cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero. Needless to say, the material and technical challenges are extreme.

    Although all fusion reactors to date have produced less energy than they use, physicists are expecting that ITER will benefit from its larger size, and will produce about 10 times more power than it consumes. But they will face many challenges, chief among them developing the ability to prevent instabilities in the edges of the plasma that can damage the experiment.

    Even in its early stages of construction, the project seems overwhelmingly complex. Embedded in the concrete surfaces are thousands of steel plates. They seem to be scattered at random throughout the structure, but actually are precisely located. ITER is being built to French nuclear plant standards, which prohibit drilling into concrete. So the plates — eventually about 80,000 of them — are where other components of the structure will be attached as construction progresses.

    A mistake or two now could wreak havoc a few years down the road, but Dr. Bigot said that in this and other work on ITER, the key to avoiding errors was taking time.

    “People consider that it’s long,” he said, referring to critics of the project timetable. “But if you want full control of quality, you need time.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:42 am on March 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, , , , Scientists switch on 'artificial sun' in German lab   

    From DLR via phys.org: “Scientists switch on ‘artificial sun’ in German lab” 

    DLR Bloc

    German Aerospace Center

    phys.org

    March 23, 2017

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    In this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes. (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)

    Scientists in Germany are flipping the switch on what’s being described as “the world’s largest artificial sun,” hoping it will help shed light on new ways of making climate-friendly fuel.

    The “Synlight” experiment in Juelich, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Cologne, consists of 149 giant spotlights normally used for film projectors.

    Starting Thursday, scientists from the German Aerospace Center will start experimenting with this dazzling array to try to find ways of tapping the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.

    One area of research will focus on how to efficiently produce hydrogen, a first step toward making artificial fuel for airplanes.

    The experiment uses as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would in a year.

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    n this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes. (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)

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    DLR Center

    DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

    DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:47 pm on March 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Clean Energy, , New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future, photoanodes,   

    From Caltech: “New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future” 

    Caltech Logo

    Caltech

    03/06/2017

    Robert Perkins
    (626) 395-1862
    rperkins@caltech.edu

    1
    Scientists at JCAP create new materials by spraying combinations of elements onto thin plates. Credit: Caltech

    2
    John Gregoire tests the properties of newly created materials. Credit: Caltech

    Researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have—in just two years—nearly doubled the number of materials known to have potential for use in solar fuels.

    They did so by developing a process that promises to speed the discovery of commercially viable solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

    Solar fuels, a dream of clean-energy research, are created using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers are exploring a range of target fuels, from hydrogen gas to liquid hydrocarbons, and producing any of these fuels involves splitting water.

    Each water molecule is comprised of an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms are extracted, and then can be reunited to create highly flammable hydrogen gas or combined with CO2 to create hydrocarbon fuels, creating a plentiful and renewable energy source. The problem, however, is that water molecules do not simply break down when sunlight shines on them—if they did, the oceans would not cover most of the planet. They need a little help from a solar-powered catalyst.

    To create practical solar fuels, scientists have been trying to develop low-cost and efficient materials, known as photoanodes, that are capable of splitting water using visible light as an energy source. Over the past four decades, researchers identified only 16 of these photoanode materials. Now, using a new high-throughput method of identifying new materials, a team of researchers led by Caltech’s John Gregoire and Berkeley Lab’s Jeffrey Neaton and Qimin Yan have found 12 promising new photoanodes.

    A paper about the method and the new photoanodes appears the week of March 6 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new method was developed through a partnership between the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) at Caltech, and Berkeley Lab’s Materials Project, using resources at the Molecular Foundry and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC).



    LBL NERSC Cray XC30 Edison supercomputer

    NERSC CRAY Cori supercomputer

    “This integration of theory and experiment is a blueprint for conducting research in an increasingly interdisciplinary world,” says Gregoire, JCAP thrust coordinator for Photoelectrocatalysis and leader of the High Throughput Experimentation group. “It’s exciting to find 12 new potential photoanodes for making solar fuels, but even more so to have a new materials discovery pipeline going forward.”

    “What is particularly significant about this study, which combines experiment and theory, is that in addition to identifying several new compounds for solar fuel applications, we were also able to learn something new about the underlying electronic structure of the materials themselves,” says Neaton, the director of the Molecular Foundry.

    Previous materials discovery processes relied on cumbersome testing of individual compounds to assess their potential for use in specific applications. In the new process, Gregoire and his colleagues combined computational and experimental approaches by first mining a materials database for potentially useful compounds, screening it based on the properties of the materials, and then rapidly testing the most promising candidates using high-throughput experimentation.

    In the work described in the PNAS paper, they explored 174 metal vanadates—compounds containing the elements vanadium and oxygen along with one other element from the periodic table.

    The research, Gregoire says, reveals how different choices for this third element can produce materials with different properties, and reveals how to “tune” those properties to make a better photoanode.

    “The key advance made by the team was to combine the best capabilities enabled by theory and supercomputers with novel high throughput experiments to generate scientific knowledge at an unprecedented rate,” Gregoire says.

    The study is titled Solar fuels photoanode materials discovery by integrating high-throughput theory and experiment. Other authors from Caltech include JCAP research engineers Santosh Suram, Lan Zhou, Aniketa Shinde, and Paul Newhouse. This research was funded by the DOE. JCAP is a DOE Energy Innovation Hub focused on developing a cost-effective method of turning sunlight, water, and CO2 into fuel. It is led by Caltech with Berkeley Lab as a major partner. The Materials Project is a DOE program based at Berkeley Lab that aims to remove the guesswork from materials design in a variety of applications. The Molecular Foundry and NERSC are both DOE Office of Science User Facilities located at Berkeley Lab.

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”
    Caltech buildings

     
  • richardmitnick 6:15 pm on March 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, MSU solar array project, ,   

    From MSU: “Construction begins on MSU solar array project” 

    Michigan State Bloc

    Michigan State University

    March 6, 2017
    Katie Gervasi
    Infrastructure Planning and Facilities office
    (517) 432-3629
    kgervasi@ipf.msu.edu

    Sarina Gleason
    Media Communications office
    (517) 355-9742
    sarina.gleason@cabs.msu.edu

    1

    Construction on a new solar array project – a venture that could save the university $10 million over 25 years and help keep tuition in check – has started at Michigan State University.

    “The obvious advantage of this project for our students, faculty and staff is cleaner air due to the emissions-free generation of electricity,” said Wolfgang Bauer, a University Distinguished Professor in physics who is assisting with the project. “However, there are significant other benefits such as reducing the university’s utility costs over time. This, in the end, will have a direct effect on keeping tuition rates as low as possible.”

    Arrays are a collection of solar panels that are linked together and can act as an additional energy source.

    At MSU, solar array carports are being constructed at five different parking lots across campus. The structures will cover most of the parking spaces in each lot and provide partial protection from inclement weather for most cars including taller vehicles, such as RVs, for weekend tailgating. The same number of parking spots that existed before will be available after construction is completed.

    “In the summer, the solar carports will provide protection from direct sunlight and prevent parked cars from heating up too much,” Bauer said. “And in the winter, the parked cars will be protected from snowfall.”

    In all, the alternative energy structures will produce power to campus during the daytime hours when demand is typically at its highest and will generate more than 15,000 megawatt hours of power per year – about 5 percent of the electricity used on campus annually.

    Bauer added that the new arrays offer an opportunity to conduct research as well.

    “Student teams from the College of Engineering are already working in collaboration with our faculty and infrastructure employees on using the arrays to research topics such as new power inverter technology,” he said.

    This type of renewable energy technology looks at ways to change how electricity is delivered.

    Three lots located south of the railroad tracks on campus will be the first to undergo construction. Work on the remaining parking areas will follow, with all lots projected to be completed by the end of the year. During construction, portions of each lot will remain open for parking.

    The MSU Board of Trustees in September 2015 approved a power purchase agreement for the project, which is being developed and will be owned by Inovateus Solar, LLC, a solar-energy supplier in Indiana, and Alterra Power Corp., an independent power producer and renewable-energy developer in British Columbia, Canada. The plan supports the university’s Energy Transition Plan to improve the environment on campus, invest in sustainable energy research and contain energy costs.

    The partnership will allow MSU to purchase electricity produced from the solar arrays from Inovateus and Alterra at a fixed price for 25 years. MSU will also cover the cost of connecting the arrays to the university’s power grid for about $2.5 million. Project investors will pay all other construction and maintenance costs projected to be about $20 million.

    See the full article here .

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    Michigan State Campus

    Michigan State University (MSU) is a public research university located in East Lansing, Michigan, United States. MSU was founded in 1855 and became the nation’s first land-grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862, serving as a model for future land-grant universities.

    MSU pioneered the studies of packaging, hospitality business, plant biology, supply chain management, and telecommunication. U.S. News & World Report ranks several MSU graduate programs in the nation’s top 10, including industrial and organizational psychology, osteopathic medicine, and veterinary medicine, and identifies its graduate programs in elementary education, secondary education, and nuclear physics as the best in the country. MSU has been labeled one of the “Public Ivies,” a publicly funded university considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

    Following the introduction of the Morrill Act, the college became coeducational and expanded its curriculum beyond agriculture. Today, MSU is the seventh-largest university in the United States (in terms of enrollment), with over 49,000 students and 2,950 faculty members. There are approximately 532,000 living MSU alumni worldwide.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:20 pm on March 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Clean Energy, , New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive, , T2WELL, The Geysers the world’s largest geothermal field located in northern California, TOUGHREACT   

    From LBNL: “New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive” 

    Berkeley Logo

    Berkeley Lab

    March 1, 2017

    Julie Chao
    JHChao@lbl.gov
    (510) 486-6491

    California Energy Commission awards $2.7 million to Berkeley Lab for two geothermal projects.

    1
    Berkeley Lab scientists will work at The Geysers, the world’s largest geothermal field, located in northern California, on two projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective. (Credit: Kurt Nihei/Berkeley Lab)

    Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California’s total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

    “There is huge potential for geothermal energy in the U.S., and especially in California,” said Patrick Dobson, who leads Berkeley Lab’s Geothermal Systems program in the Energy Geosciences Division. “The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that conventional and unconventional geothermal resources in the western U.S. are equivalent to half of the current installed generation capacity of the U.S.; however, commercial development of these resources would require significant technological advances to lower the cost of geothermal deployment.”

    The first project will test deployment of a dense array of seismic sensors to improve the ability to image where and how fluids are moving underground. The second project will develop and apply modeling tools to enable geothermal plants to safely run in flexible (or variable) production mode, allowing for better integration with other renewable energy sources. The California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program has awarded Berkeley Lab a total of $2.7 million for the two projects.

    2
    California renewable energy generation by resource type (Credit: California Energy Commission)

    California is looking to geothermal energy to help in reaching its goal of getting half of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030. Geothermal plants are possible only in locations with particular geological characteristics, either near active volcanic centers or in places with a very high temperature gradient, such as parts of the western United States. Thanks to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” California has a vast amount of geothermal electricity generation capacity.

    Seeing fluid flow with seismic sensors

    While geothermal technology has been around for some time, one of the main barriers to wider adoption is the high up-front investment. “A large geothermal operator might drill three wells a year at a cost of approximately $7 million dollars per well. If one of the wells could provide twice the steam production, a savings of $7 million dollars could be realized. That’s where we come in,” said Lawrence Hutchings, a Berkeley Lab microearthquake imaging specialist who has worked in geothermal fields around the world.

    In a project led by Berkeley Lab scientist Kurt Nihei, a dense network of portable seismic recorders (about 100 recorders over a 5 square kilometer area) will be installed to demonstrate the ability to perform high-resolution tomographic imaging. “The goal is to image where steam and fluids are going using geophysics,” Nihei said. “We will improve the spatial resolution of the imaging using a dense array and demonstrate that this can be done cost-effectively in an operating geothermal field.”

    The demonstration will take place at The Geysers, the world’s largest geothermal field, located north of San Francisco in Sonoma and Lake Counties. Wells there—some deeper than two miles—bring steam to the surface. The steam is converted to electricity while water is injected into the underground rock to replenish the steam.

    3
    Berkeley Lab scientists at The Geysers (Credit: Pat Dobson/Berkeley Lab)

    Berkeley Lab scientists currently run a network of 32 seismic recorders at The Geysers to monitor microearthquakes. With the dense network of 100 inexpensive seismic recorders, they will be able to improve the resolution of seismic imaging sufficient to track fluid movement as it moves through the network of fractures that intersect the injection wells.

    “Similar to what is done in medical ultrasound tomography with sound waves, we will record seismic waves—both compressional waves and shear waves—from which we can extract information about rock properties, fluid properties, and changes in the subsurface stresses,” Nihei said. “We think these images will allow us to get a clearer picture of where fluids are going and how stresses in the rock are changing in time and space between the injection wells and production wells.”

    Having a better understanding of fluid flow in fractured geothermal reservoirs would be a big benefit for well placement as well as cost-effective operation. “If they can increase the likelihood getting a productive well every time they drill, it would be huge,” said Hutchings. “More than 10 percent of California’s total renewable energy capacity comes from geothermal, so the potential impact of this technology is exciting.”

    Lowering the cost of renewables

    In the second project, led by Berkeley Lab scientist Jonny Rutqvist, the goal is to enable the conversion of geothermal production from baseload or steady production to flexible or variable mode. Flexible-mode geothermal production could then be used as a supplement to intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are not available around the clock, thus significantly reducing the costs of storing that energy.

    The technical challenges are considerable since grid demands may require rapid changes, such as reducing production by half within tens of minutes and then restoring full production after a few hours. Such changes could lead to mechanical fatigue, damage to well components, corrosion, and mineral deposition in the wells.

    “A better understanding of the impacts of flexible-mode production on the reservoir-wellbore system is needed to assure safe and sustainable production,” said Rutqvist.

    Berkeley Lab will adapt a suite of their modeling tools for wellbore and geothermal reservoir integrity, including T2WELL, which models fluid flow and heat transfer in wells; and TOUGHREACT, which simulates scaling and corrosion. These tools will be integrated with geomechanical tools into an improved thermal-hydrological-mechanical-chemical (THMC) model to address the specific problems.

    “This will provide the necessary tools for investigating all the challenges related to flexible-mode production and predict short- and long-term impacts,” Rutqvist said. “The advantages to California are many, including greater grid reliability, increased safety, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

    In both projects, the Berkeley Lab researchers will be working with Calpine Corporation, which has the largest commercial operation at The Geysers. Calpine will contribute data as well as access to their sites and models. The projects build on a wide variety of prior research at Berkeley Lab funded by the DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office.

    See the full article here .

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    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

    University of California Seal

    DOE Seal

     
  • richardmitnick 9:18 am on January 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, Electron holes, How solar cells turn sunlight into electricity, Negative and positive silicon or n- and p-type silicon,   

    From COSMOS: “How solar cells turn sunlight into electricity” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS

    25 January 2017
    Andrew Stapleton

    1
    Some solar power plants contain more than a million panels. But how do they convert the sun’s energy to electricity? Rolfo Brenner / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Renewables have overtaken coal as the world’s largest source of electricity generation capacity. And about 30% of that capacity is due to silicon solar cells. But how do silicon cells work?

    A silicon cell is like a four-part sandwich. The bread on either side consists of thin strips of metallic electrodes. They extract the power generated within the solar cell and conduct it to an external circuit.

    Just like a sandwich, it’s the filling which is the most interesting part – this is where photons from the sun are converted into usable electricity. The filling of a solar cell consists of two different layers of silicon: negative and positive silicon, or n- and p-type silicon.

    2
    Credit: COSMOS MAGAZINE

    Creating positive or negative types of silicon is relatively easy. The silicon is impregnated with elements known as dopants. Dopants replace some of the silicon atoms in the crystal structure, allowing the number of electrons present in each layer to be manipulated.

    For instance, phosphorus is used to create n-type silicon while boron is used to create p-type silicon. Phosphorus has one more electron than silicon. When substituted into the silicon structure, the electron is so weakly bound to the phosphorus that it can move freely within the crystal, creating a negative charge.

    On the other hand, boron has fewer electrons than silicon and sucks up silicon’s electrons. This creates “electron holes” – regions of mobile positive charge in the crystal structure.

    At the interface of the p- and n- type silicon, the positive electron holes and the electrons combine. It’s not a simple electrostatic interaction, but the upshot is that you get a slightly positive charge in the n-type silicon and a slightly negative charge in the p-type silicon at the interface of the n- and p- type silicon – the opposite of what you might expect.

    Photons from the sun pass between the strips of the top electrode and strike silicon atoms in the crystal structure. Like the strike of a cue ball, the colliding photon gives some of the silicon electrons enough energy to escape from their parent silicon atom.

    The “free” electrons move to and accumulate within the n-type silicon.

    Once free electrons have accumulated in the n-type silicon, it’s time to put all the free electrons to work. In order to use their energy, the electrodes must be connected via an external circuit. Electrons flow through the electrodes and the external electric circuit from the n-type to the p-type. The p-type silicon acts as an electron sink. Without it, the electron flow would clog up.

    It is this flow of electrons that creates the electrical current we can use to power appliances or charge batteries for when the sun isn’t shining.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:58 am on December 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Spins to Life, , Clean Energy,   

    From NYT: “America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Spins to Life” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    DEC. 14, 2016
    TATIANA SCHLOSSBERG

    1
    The Block Island Wind Farm’s turbines off the coast of Rhode Island in August. They began spinning on Monday and will deliver electricity to Block Island, a community nearby. Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

    Until this week, all of the wind power generated in the United States was landlocked.

    But in a first for America, the ocean breeze is now generating clean, renewable power offshore — electricity that will supply a small island community off the coast of Rhode Island. Renewable energy, including from offshore wind, is crucial to the effort to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, according to environmentalists and some elected officials.

    On Monday, the country’s first offshore wind farm, developed by a company called Deepwater Wind and helped along by the state’s political leadership, started spinning its turbines to bring electricity to Block Island, a vacation destination with few year-round residents that had previously relied on diesel-fueled generators for power.

    “This is a historic milestone for reducing our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s happening here in the Ocean State,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and co-founder of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, said in a statement from Deepwater Wind.

    Though the Block Island Wind Farm is small — made up of five turbines, which were built by a division of General Electric, and capable of powering about 17,000 homes — it is the first successful offshore wind development in the United States, and it sets up the possibility for offshore wind projects elsewhere along the coast.

    According to a spokeswoman for Deepwater Wind, about 90 percent of the island’s needs will be met by the wind-generated power, and more will go back to the grid. Current estimates are that the wind farm will supply 1 percent of the state’s electricity, the spokeswoman said.

    Despite its modest size, the wind farm, which cost about $300 million to build, still represents a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions — about 40,000 tons per year.

    Deepwater Wind will receive a federal tax credit for the project, and first-year rates for Rhode Island customers of National Grid, the utility company laying one of the cables to the wind farm, may be higher than what customers currently pay.

    Environmentalists, members of the Obama administration and government officials in several states see significant potential for offshore wind energy, given that winds over the ocean usually blow stronger and more steadily than those on land.

    Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced a lease for a wind farm off the coast of Long Island, and the Department of Energy has said that if wind farms were built in all of the suitable areas, including in the Great Lakes, they could provide up to twice as much electricity as the country now uses.

    In the past, offshore wind farms have faced significant opposition in the United States for a few reasons: high costs, complicated rules about who gets to build on the seafloor and what they build, and complaints from people who do not want their ocean view obstructed.

    In Europe, however, thousands of wind turbines have sprouted up along the coast, and an additional 3,000 megawatts of wind power were added last year (about 100 times the amount of power provided by the Block Island Wind Farm).

    There has been some opposition to offshore wind projects in Europe, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, who unsuccessfully fought to block construction of a wind farm off the coast of Scotland near one of his golf courses.

    Mr. Trump has expressed skepticism of wind power, saying in an interview with The New York Times that “the wind is a very deceiving thing.” And an email written by Thomas J. Pyle, who is running the Department of Energy transition for the president-elect, said that the Trump administration might be looking to get rid of all energy subsidies.

    Mr. Trump has also been accused of exaggerating the harmful effects of wind turbines on bird populations, which Mr. Pyle also addressed in the email, writing, “Unlike before, wind energy will rightfully face increasing scrutiny from the federal government.”

    See the full article here .

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