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  • richardmitnick 10:51 am on May 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "UT Austin Studies Mysterious Substance that Could Transform the Future of Energy", , , , Energy, Methane hydrate is relatively unstable., Methane hydrates could be a bridge-fuel to a carbon-free society., Scientists estimate that the Gulf of Mexico alone holds enough methane hydrate deposits to power the U.S. for hundreds of years into the future., The substance is made up of water molecules that form a crystal lattice which contains the densely trapped methane inside.,   

    From University of Texas at Austin (US) : “UT Austin Studies Mysterious Substance that Could Transform the Future of Energy” 

    From University of Texas at Austin (US)

    May 10, 2021
    Tracy Zhang

    In 2017, UT Austin geoscientists led the first U.S. university-based expedition to the Gulf of Mexico in search of methane hydrates. Today, they are at the forefront of research to understand this possible new energy source.


    “We’re jamming a tiny straw through over a mile of water through over a half a mile of rock in order to pull up 10 feet of ice,” said Peter Polito, an expedition research scientist representing The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences (JSG).

    Surrounded by scientific gear, he is standing on the bridge of the Helix Q4000, a semi-submersible deep-water drilling vessel. All around him are massive cranes and robust machinery, and just a bit further out, nothing but rolling waves are in sight.

    The Gulf of Mexico, photographed during the 2017 coring mission. Image Courtesy of Jackson School of Geosciences.
    Aerial view of the Helix Q4000 vessel. Image Courtesy of Jackson School of Geosciences.

    It all seems like quite an enterprise — except the “ice” they are attempting to extract could revolutionize the future of energy.

    This 2017 University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) expedition was looking for methane hydrates, or methane gas trapped in ice. The substance is made up of water molecules that form a crystal lattice which contains the densely trapped methane inside. Methane hydrates are abundant in nature, usually found beneath or inside permafrost and buried in sediments under the sea floor.

    What’s most significant is that they hold more than 100 times the energy per unit of volume as methane found in the atmospheric pressure at sea level. Essentially, one liter of methane hydrate from the sea floor is 160 liters of methane on the surface.

    UT Austin is actively conducting research on these mysterious cores and will be venturing to the Gulf of Mexico again in 2022 to retrieve more samples.

    Methane hydrate ice sample on fire. Image Courtesy of United States Geological Survey.

    “Methane hydrates could be a bridge fuel to a carbon-free society,” said Peter Flemings, a Jackson School professor and chief scientist of the coring mission.

    With its high energy density and large abundance in nature, scientists estimate that the Gulf of Mexico alone holds enough methane hydrate deposits to power the U.S. for hundreds of years into the future.

    As resources become more limited, governments are rushing to research alternative forms of energy, and UT is at the forefront of that research, being the first university in the U.S. to have led operations to gather samples of methane hydrates from sand deposits for study.

    Although they hold great potential as a viable energy source, extracting them is not an easy process. Methane hydrate is relatively unstable. If you drop the pressure or raise the temperature of the environment even slightly, the material can suddenly become undone and dissociate into its basic components of methane and water.

    This all means drilling for cores is an extremely difficult venture, and highly specialized equipment is needed to isolate and contain the substance within pressurized cores in order to properly extract and study them.

    Researchers investigate the properties of methane hydrates.

    In addition to being the first U.S. university to lead expeditions to methane hydrate deposits in sand reservoirs, UT also has the only university-based facility that can safely store and study extracted pressurized cores. At the UT Pressure Core Center, an integrated team of scientists and engineers will continue their research on cores retrieved from this mission.

    The stakes are high, but if better studied and understood, methane hydrates could be an enormous untapped reservoir of energy for future generations — especially as coastal countries with limited resources are striving for energy security.

    The research also has the potential to shed light on the role methane hydrate plays in the Earth’s carbon cycle. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and scientists studying the cores theorize that natural release of methane from large deposits could have had a hand in periods of past climate change.

    Interdisciplinary teams at UT have developed new technologies to better extract cores which were successfully put through their paces during land tests of the equipment last month. With UT at the hub of it all, it’s become a massive collaborative project involving various academic and governmental institutions.

    From March 2020 land tests of new coring technologies in Cameron, Texas.
    Close-up of hardware used for the 2021 land test in Oklahoma.

    Extracted cores, still in their pressurized state, have been sent to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the Japan National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. A number of schools are working on studying the depressurized cores, such as the University of New Hampshire, The Ohio State University, Oregon State University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Georgia Institute for Technology, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and the University of Washington, while scientists from the USGS, representatives from the DOE and researchers from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) act as advisers to the project.

    “It’s a colossal undertaking that has involved extraordinary efforts and participation at the highest levels of UT,” said Flemings. The land test alone is a $1 million project and is the last stage before UT’s next expedition in the spring of 2022.

    As one of many geoscientists, researchers and engineers who have put their hearts and souls into this project, Polito is looking forward to seeing results. “It’s an exciting time,” he said. “Soon, we’re going to know things that no one knew today.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Texas at Austin

    U Texas Austin campus

    The University of Texas at Austin is a public research university in Austin, Texas and the flagship institution of the University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, the University of Texas was inducted into the Association of American Universities (US) in 1929, becoming only the third university in the American South to be elected. The institution has the nation’s seventh-largest single-campus enrollment, with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and over 24,000 faculty and staff.

    A Public Ivy, it is a major center for academic research. The university houses seven museums and seventeen libraries, including the LBJ Presidential Library and the Blanton Museum of Art, and operates various auxiliary research facilities, such as the J. J. Pickle Research Campus and the McDonald Observatory. As of November 2020, 13 Nobel Prize winners, four Pulitzer Prize winners, two Turing Award winners, two Fields medalists, two Wolf Prize winners, and two Abel prize winners have been affiliated with the school as alumni, faculty members or researchers. The university has also been affiliated with three Primetime Emmy Award winners, and has produced a total of 143 Olympic medalists.

    Student-athletes compete as the Texas Longhorns and are members of the Big 12 Conference. Its Longhorn Network is the only sports network featuring the college sports of a single university. The Longhorns have won four NCAA Division I National Football Championships, six NCAA Division I National Baseball Championships, thirteen NCAA Division I National Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships, and has claimed more titles in men’s and women’s sports than any other school in the Big 12 since the league was founded in 1996.


    The first mention of a public university in Texas can be traced to the 1827 constitution for the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. Although Title 6, Article 217 of the Constitution promised to establish public education in the arts and sciences, no action was taken by the Mexican government. After Texas obtained its independence from Mexico in 1836, the Texas Congress adopted the Constitution of the Republic, which, under Section 5 of its General Provisions, stated “It shall be the duty of Congress, as soon as circumstances will permit, to provide, by law, a general system of education.”

    On April 18, 1838, “An Act to Establish the University of Texas” was referred to a special committee of the Texas Congress, but was not reported back for further action. On January 26, 1839, the Texas Congress agreed to set aside fifty leagues of land—approximately 288,000 acres (117,000 ha)—towards the establishment of a publicly funded university. In addition, 40 acres (16 ha) in the new capital of Austin were reserved and designated “College Hill”. (The term “Forty Acres” is colloquially used to refer to the University as a whole. The original 40 acres is the area from Guadalupe to Speedway and 21st Street to 24th Street.)

    In 1845, Texas was annexed into the United States. The state’s Constitution of 1845 failed to mention higher education. On February 11, 1858, the Seventh Texas Legislature approved O.B. 102, an act to establish the University of Texas, which set aside $100,000 in United States bonds toward construction of the state’s first publicly funded university (the $100,000 was an allocation from the $10 million the state received pursuant to the Compromise of 1850 and Texas’s relinquishing claims to lands outside its present boundaries). The legislature also designated land reserved for the encouragement of railroad construction toward the university’s endowment. On January 31, 1860, the state legislature, wanting to avoid raising taxes, passed an act authorizing the money set aside for the University of Texas to be used for frontier defense in west Texas to protect settlers from Indian attacks.

    Texas’s secession from the Union and the American Civil War delayed repayment of the borrowed monies. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, The University of Texas’s endowment was just over $16,000 in warrants and nothing substantive had been done to organize the university’s operations. This effort to establish a University was again mandated by Article 7, Section 10 of the Texas Constitution of 1876 which directed the legislature to “establish, organize and provide for the maintenance, support and direction of a university of the first class, to be located by a vote of the people of this State, and styled “The University of Texas”.

    Additionally, Article 7, Section 11 of the 1876 Constitution established the Permanent University Fund, a sovereign wealth fund managed by the Board of Regents of the University of Texas and dedicated to the maintenance of the university. Because some state legislators perceived an extravagance in the construction of academic buildings of other universities, Article 7, Section 14 of the Constitution expressly prohibited the legislature from using the state’s general revenue to fund construction of university buildings. Funds for constructing university buildings had to come from the university’s endowment or from private gifts to the university, but the university’s operating expenses could come from the state’s general revenues.

    The 1876 Constitution also revoked the endowment of the railroad lands of the Act of 1858, but dedicated 1,000,000 acres (400,000 ha) of land, along with other property appropriated for the university, to the Permanent University Fund. This was greatly to the detriment of the university as the lands the Constitution of 1876 granted the university represented less than 5% of the value of the lands granted to the university under the Act of 1858 (the lands close to the railroads were quite valuable, while the lands granted the university were in far west Texas, distant from sources of transportation and water). The more valuable lands reverted to the fund to support general education in the state (the Special School Fund).

    On April 10, 1883, the legislature supplemented the Permanent University Fund with another 1,000,000 acres (400,000 ha) of land in west Texas granted to the Texas and Pacific Railroad but returned to the state as seemingly too worthless to even survey. The legislature additionally appropriated $256,272.57 to repay the funds taken from the university in 1860 to pay for frontier defense and for transfers to the state’s General Fund in 1861 and 1862. The 1883 grant of land increased the land in the Permanent University Fund to almost 2.2 million acres. Under the Act of 1858, the university was entitled to just over 1,000 acres (400 ha) of land for every mile of railroad built in the state. Had the 1876 Constitution not revoked the original 1858 grant of land, by 1883, the university lands would have totaled 3.2 million acres, so the 1883 grant was to restore lands taken from the university by the 1876 Constitution, not an act of munificence.

    On March 30, 1881, the legislature set forth the university’s structure and organization and called for an election to establish its location. By popular election on September 6, 1881, Austin (with 30,913 votes) was chosen as the site. Galveston, having come in second in the election (with 20,741 votes), was designated the location of the medical department (Houston was third with 12,586 votes). On November 17, 1882, on the original “College Hill,” an official ceremony commemorated the laying of the cornerstone of the Old Main building. University President Ashbel Smith, presiding over the ceremony, prophetically proclaimed “Texas holds embedded in its earth rocks and minerals which now lie idle because unknown, resources of incalculable industrial utility, of wealth and power. Smite the earth, smite the rocks with the rod of knowledge and fountains of unstinted wealth will gush forth.” The University of Texas officially opened its doors on September 15, 1883.

    Expansion and growth

    In 1890, George Washington Brackenridge donated $18,000 for the construction of a three-story brick mess hall known as Brackenridge Hall (affectionately known as “B.Hall”), one of the university’s most storied buildings and one that played an important place in university life until its demolition in 1952.

    The old Victorian-Gothic Main Building served as the central point of the campus’s 40-acre (16 ha) site, and was used for nearly all purposes. But by the 1930s, discussions arose about the need for new library space, and the Main Building was razed in 1934 over the objections of many students and faculty. The modern-day tower and Main Building were constructed in its place.

    In 1910, George Washington Brackenridge again displayed his philanthropy, this time donating 500 acres (200 ha) on the Colorado River to the university. A vote by the regents to move the campus to the donated land was met with outrage, and the land has only been used for auxiliary purposes such as graduate student housing. Part of the tract was sold in the late-1990s for luxury housing, and there are controversial proposals to sell the remainder of the tract. The Brackenridge Field Laboratory was established on 82 acres (33 ha) of the land in 1967.

    In 1916, Gov. James E. Ferguson became involved in a serious quarrel with the University of Texas. The controversy grew out of the board of regents’ refusal to remove certain faculty members whom the governor found objectionable. When Ferguson found he could not have his way, he vetoed practically the entire appropriation for the university. Without sufficient funding, the university would have been forced to close its doors. In the middle of the controversy, Ferguson’s critics brought to light a number of irregularities on the part of the governor. Eventually, the Texas House of Representatives prepared 21 charges against Ferguson, and the Senate convicted him on 10 of them, including misapplication of public funds and receiving $156,000 from an unnamed source. The Texas Senate removed Ferguson as governor and declared him ineligible to hold office.

    In 1921, the legislature appropriated $1.35 million for the purchase of land next to the main campus. However, expansion was hampered by the restriction against using state revenues to fund construction of university buildings as set forth in Article 7, Section 14 of the Constitution. With the completion of Santa Rita No. 1 well and the discovery of oil on university-owned lands in 1923, the university added significantly to its Permanent University Fund. The additional income from Permanent University Fund investments allowed for bond issues in 1931 and 1947, which allowed the legislature to address funding for the university along with the Agricultural and Mechanical College (now known as Texas A&M University). With sufficient funds to finance construction on both campuses, on April 8, 1931, the Forty Second Legislature passed H.B. 368. which dedicated the Agricultural and Mechanical College a 1/3 interest in the Available University Fund, the annual income from Permanent University Fund investments.

    The University of Texas was inducted into the Association of American Universities in 1929. During World War II, the University of Texas was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.

    In 1950, following Sweatt v. Painter, the University of Texas was the first major university in the South to accept an African-American student. John S. Chase went on to become the first licensed African-American architect in Texas.

    In the fall of 1956, the first black students entered the university’s undergraduate class. Black students were permitted to live in campus dorms, but were barred from campus cafeterias. The University of Texas integrated its facilities and desegregated its dorms in 1965. UT, which had had an open admissions policy, adopted standardized testing for admissions in the mid-1950s at least in part as a conscious strategy to minimize the number of Black undergraduates, given that they were no longer able to simply bar their entry after the Brown decision.

    Following growth in enrollment after World War II, the university unveiled an ambitious master plan in 1960 designed for “10 years of growth” that was intended to “boost the University of Texas into the ranks of the top state universities in the nation.” In 1965, the Texas Legislature granted the university Board of Regents to use eminent domain to purchase additional properties surrounding the original 40 acres (160,000 m^2). The university began buying parcels of land to the north, south, and east of the existing campus, particularly in the Blackland neighborhood to the east and the Brackenridge tract to the southeast, in hopes of using the land to relocate the university’s intramural fields, baseball field, tennis courts, and parking lots.

    On March 6, 1967, the Sixtieth Texas Legislature changed the university’s official name from “The University of Texas” to “The University of Texas at Austin” to reflect the growth of the University of Texas System.

    Recent history

    The first presidential library on a university campus was dedicated on May 22, 1971, with former President Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson and then-President Richard Nixon in attendance. Constructed on the eastern side of the main campus, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum is one of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

    A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. was unveiled on campus in 1999 and subsequently vandalized. By 2004, John Butler, a professor at the McCombs School of Business suggested moving it to Morehouse College, a historically black college, “a place where he is loved”.

    The University of Texas at Austin has experienced a wave of new construction recently with several significant buildings. On April 30, 2006, the school opened the Blanton Museum of Art. In August 2008, the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center opened, with the hotel and conference center forming part of a new gateway to the university. Also in 2008, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium was expanded to a seating capacity of 100,119, making it the largest stadium (by capacity) in the state of Texas at the time.

    On January 19, 2011, the university announced the creation of a 24-hour television network in partnership with ESPN, dubbed the Longhorn Network. ESPN agreed to pay a $300 million guaranteed rights fee over 20 years to the university and to IMG College, the school’s multimedia rights partner. The network covers the university’s intercollegiate athletics, music, cultural arts, and academics programs. The channel first aired in September 2011.

  • richardmitnick 6:23 pm on February 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "$1 million funding for hydrogen vehicle refueller", A major barrier of hydrogen refuelling becoming a fuel source for cars and trucks is how to refuel and the lack of refuelling infrastructure., , As Australia considers energy alternatives we know hydrogen is clean and will be cost-competitive., , CSIRO is engaging with vehicle companies such as Toyota Australia to support the future adoption and supply of FCEVs in Australia., CSIRO will receive more than $1 million towards the development of a refuelling station to fuel and test hydrogen vehicles., CSIRO's national Hydrogen Industry Mission is estimated to create more than 8000 jobs, , Energy, Hydrogen refuelling will generate $11 billion a year in GDP and support a low emissions future., Swinburne's strong partnership with CSIRO means that we will be able to build on our focus of digitalisation and Industry 4.0., The refueller project will demonstrate a fleet trial for CSIRO hydrogen vehicles with the potential for expansion., The refuelling station at CSIRO's Clayton campus in Victoria is a key milestone in the development of CSIRO's national Hydrogen Industry Mission which aims to support Australia's clean hydrogen indust, VH2 is designed to bring researchers; industry partners; and businesses together to test; trial and demonstrate new and emerging hydrogen technologies.   

    From CSIRO-Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (AU): “$1 million funding for hydrogen vehicle refueller” 

    CSIRO bloc

    From CSIRO-Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (AU)

    07 Feb 2021

    Nick Kachel
    Communication Advisor

    CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has welcomed Victorian government funding that will enable it to partner with Swinburne University of Technology to establish the Victorian Hydrogen Hub (VH2).

    The proposed refuelling station at Clayton.

    Some of the features of the refuelling station.

    VH2 is designed to bring researchers, industry partners and businesses together to test, trial and demonstrate new and emerging hydrogen technologies.

    Under the partnership, CSIRO will receive more than $1 million towards the development of a refuelling station to fuel and test hydrogen vehicles.

    The refuelling station, to be located at CSIRO’s Clayton campus in Victoria, is a key milestone in the development of CSIRO’s national Hydrogen Industry Mission, which aims to support Australia’s clean hydrogen industry – estimated to create more than 8000 jobs, generate $11 billion a year in GDP and support a low emissions future.

    “As Australia considers energy alternatives, we know hydrogen is clean and will be cost-competitive – but a major barrier to it becoming a fuel source for cars and trucks is how to refuel, and the lack of refuelling infrastructure,” CSIRO Executive Director, Growth, Nigel Warren said.

    “The refueller is a significant step towards removing that barrier.”

    Construction will take place as part of the development of VH2 – a new hydrogen production and storage demonstration facility, where CSIRO, Swinburne and their partners will test ‘real world’ uses for hydrogen technology.

    “We thank the Victorian government for supporting VH2 which, combined with the refueller, will allow us to test emerging hydrogen technologies,” Mr Warren added.

    Swinburne University of Technology’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Pascale Quester said the University was excited by the development.

    “We are grateful for the Victorian Government for their support,” Professor Quester said.

    “The Victorian Hydrogen Hub will be another demonstration of how we can bring people and technology together to create a better world.

    “Swinburne’s strong partnership with CSIRO means that we will be able to build on our focus of digitalisation and Industry 4.0, and support industry to enhance its understanding of what hydrogen can deliver.”

    The refueller project will demonstrate a fleet trial for CSIRO hydrogen vehicles with the potential for expansion, providing refuelling opportunities to other zero emission Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) in the local area.

    “We are proud to be investing in this forward-looking initiative, the kind that will help build a smarter Victoria and help respond to climate change,” Victorian Minister for Higher Education, Gayle Tierney said.

    CSIRO is engaging with vehicle companies such as Toyota Australia to support the future adoption and supply of FCEVs in Australia.

    “Toyota Australia is delighted to support the development of this new hydrogen refuelling station in Victoria with next-generation Mirai FCEVs,” Toyota Australia’s Manager of Future Technologies, Matt MacLeod said.

    “This is a significant step towards having the necessary refuelling infrastructure to help grow hydrogen opportunities in Australia.

    “We look forward working closely with CSIRO and their partners on this exciting project.”

    About the emerging Hydrogen Industry Mission

    CSIRO announced a program of national missions in August 2020, aimed at solving some of Australia’s greatest challenges.

    Missions are currently being developed.

    The Hydrogen Industry Mission aims to help Australia work out how to scale up domestic hydrogen supply and demand for a low emissions future, and support our hydrogen energy export industry.

    The mission builds on CSIRO’s National Hydrogen Roadmap which shared the opportunities for Australia’s clean hydrogen industry.

    CSIRO is currently engaging with and inviting advisory, funding, R&D and translation partners to work collaboratively on initiatives.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (AU), is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 11:36 am on February 2, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New tool at Sandia brings some West Texas wind to the Duke City — virtually", A new custom-built wind turbine emulator has been installed at Sandia’s Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory., , , , Energy, Faster research through innovation., New wind turbine motor, Sandia’s Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory, Sandia’s Renewable Energy and Distributed Systems Integration program., The emulator consists of a scaled-down wind turbine motor and uses much of the same hardware and software that control actual turbines.   

    From DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories: “New tool at Sandia brings some West Texas wind to the Duke City — virtually” 

    From DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories

    February 2, 2021
    Dan Ware and Mollie Rappe

    Rachid Darbali-Zamora examines Sandia National Laboratories’ new wind turbine motor, which will allow the distributed energy team to study how wind farms will behave under a variety of conditions and in different locations. Credit: Bret Latter.

    Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have a new tool that allows them to study wind power and see whether it can be efficiently used to provide power to people living in remote and rural places or even off the grid, through distributed energy.

    A new, custom-built wind turbine emulator has been installed at Sandia’s Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory. The emulator, which mimics actual wind turbines at Sandia’s Scaled Wind Farm Technology Site near Lubbock Texas, will be used to study how wind farms behave under multiple weather conditions and load demands, and if they can be efficiently used as a source of distributed energy for consumers who live near the farms, according to Brian Naughton, a researcher with Sandia’s Wind Energy Technologies program.

    Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) facility, located at Texas Tech University’s National Wind Institute Research Center in Lubbock, Texas.

    Unlike traditional wind farms that feed energy to grid-connected transmission lines, wind turbines used for distributed energy are close to or even directly connected to the end user or customer, said Naughton. This is especially important for users who are in remote areas or who are off the main electrical grid.

    “Right now, most wind generated power is just sent out on transmission lines to customers hundreds of miles away and can be affected by a wide variety of disruptions,” said Naughton. “Being able to test how wind turbines react to different and varying wind and weather conditions, we can help determine the viability of having generation take place closer to homes, schools and businesses.”

    Determining the viability of using wind turbines as a source of distributed energy is important due to the potential impact it could have on providing electricity to remote, island communities that exist largely off the main electric grid, said Rachid Darbali-Zamora, a researcher with Sandia’s Renewable Energy and Distributed Systems Integration program.

    “We’re looking at finding solutions to challenges faced by parts of the country that cannot be consistently powered by a traditional electric grid, such as remote communities in Alaska or islands that have experienced crippling devastation due to hurricanes,” said Darbali-Zamora. “Adding wind as a distributed energy source, we are potentially solving some big challenges that are faced regarding the utilization of microgrid technology.”

    Faster research through innovation

    By using the resources available at the Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory, researchers will be able to exactly replicate wind, weather and load demand conditions at the Texas site, according to Naughton.

    The scaled down turbine motor is connected to software that will allow the Sandia National Laboratories team to emulate a variety of conditions and tackle the challenges of using wind power as part of a microgrid for remote communities. Credit: Bret Latter.

    “Because the Distributed Energy Technologies Lab is so configurable, we’re able to conduct tests and simulations that are not feasible or safe to do on the actual electric grid or that we might have to wait days or weeks for conditions to be right at the wind farm site,” said Naughton. “Just like the lab can simulate weather and load conditions for solar photovoltaics and battery testing, we can now do the same thing for wind generation.”

    The emulator consists of a scaled-down wind turbine motor and uses much of the same hardware and software that control actual turbines. The motor is connected to the lab’s emulator system, allowing researchers to operate the “virtual” turbine under different conditions, Naughton said.

    “Because we’ve created an emulator that is as close to the real thing as possible, we can rapidly and cost-effectively go from concept to a solution to the challenges communities and utilities face regarding distributed energy generation,” said Naughton. “We also believe that the research we’re going to be conducting will have an overall benefit to grid resilience and stability, which affects everyone.”

    Replicating West Texas wind in real-time simulations

    In the laboratory setting, a model mimicking the Texas wind farm site’s electrical distribution system is run in real-time, generating approximately 15 kilowatts of electricity. Power from the wind turbine emulator is introduced to the simulated wind farm, influencing its behavior. In turn, responses, such as voltage variations, affect the wind turbine emulator behavior. This also allows the emulator to interact with other physical devices inside the Distributed Energy Technologies Lab such as solar photovoltaic inverters and protection systems, said Sandia’s Jon Berg, with the Wind Energy Technology’s program.

    “Wind as strong as 25 meters per second interacting with the rotor blades is represented by a motor drive that we can program to duplicate how the rotor speed would respond,” said Berg. “The torque being created then causes the emulator to produce electricity, just like the actual turbine does, as the turbine control system commands the power converter and generator to resist the input torque.”

    Naughton, Darbali-Zamora and Berg all believe that the ability to apply different control schemes to the emulator and simulated environments in real time, will help identify obstacles that can arise during deployment in the field such as system communications latencies or other configuration challenges. Being able to address these in a real-time test environment will save time and money and increase efficiency of field deployment.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sandia Campus.

    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

  • richardmitnick 10:01 am on January 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Capturing and converting carbon dioxide from power plant emissions., Carbon dioxide sequestration, , Electrochemical reactions, Energy, In a series of lab experiments the rate of the carbon conversion reaction nearly doubled., , , The new system produced two new potentially useful carbon compounds: acetone and acetate   

    From MIT: “Boosting the efficiency of carbon capture and conversion systems” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    January 25, 2021
    David L. Chandler

    Dyes are used to reveal the concentration levels of carbon dioxide in the water. On the left side is a gas-attracting material, and the dye shows the carbon dioxide stays concentrated next to the catalyst. Credit: Varanasi Research Group.

    Systems for capturing and converting carbon dioxide from power plant emissions could be important tools for curbing climate change, but most are relatively inefficient and expensive. Now, researchers at MIT have developed a method that could significantly boost the performance of systems that use catalytic surfaces to enhance the rates of carbon-sequestering electrochemical reactions.

    Such catalytic systems are an attractive option for carbon capture because they can produce useful, valuable products, such as transportation fuels or chemical feedstocks. This output can help to subsidize the process, offsetting the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    In these systems, typically a stream of gas containing carbon dioxide passes through water to deliver carbon dioxide for the electrochemical reaction. The movement through water is sluggish, which slows the rate of conversion of the carbon dioxide. The new design ensures that the carbon dioxide stream stays concentrated in the water right next to the catalyst surface. This concentration, the researchers have shown, can nearly double the performance of the system.

    The results are described today in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science in a paper by MIT postdoc Sami Khan PhD ’19, who is now an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, along with MIT professors of mechanical engineering Kripa Varanasi and Yang Shao-Horn, and recent graduate Jonathan Hwang PhD ’19.

    “Carbon dioxide sequestration is the challenge of our times,” Varanasi says. There are a number of approaches, including geological sequestration, ocean storage, mineralization, and chemical conversion. When it comes to making useful, saleable products out of this greenhouse gas, electrochemical conversion is particularly promising, but it still needs improvements to become economically viable. “The goal of our work was to understand what’s the big bottleneck in this process, and to improve or mitigate that bottleneck,” he says.

    The bottleneck turned out to involve the delivery of the carbon dioxide to the catalytic surface that promotes the desired chemical transformations, the researchers found. In these electrochemical systems, the stream of carbon dioxide-containing gases is mixed with water, either under pressure or by bubbling it through a container outfitted with electrodes of a catalyst material such as copper. A voltage is then applied to promote chemical reactions producing carbon compounds that can be transformed into fuels or other products.

    There are two challenges in such systems: The reaction can proceed so fast that it uses up the supply of carbon dioxide reaching the catalyst more quickly than it can be replenished; and if that happens, a competing reaction — the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen — can take over and sap much of the energy being put into the reaction.

    Previous efforts to optimize these reactions by texturing the catalyst surfaces to increase the surface area for reactions had failed to deliver on their expectations, because the carbon dioxide supply to the surface couldn’t keep up with the increased reaction rate, thereby switching to hydrogen production over time.

    The researchers addressed these problems through the use of a gas-attracting surface placed in close proximity to the catalyst material. This material is a specially textured “gasphilic,” superhydrophobic material that repels water but allows a smooth layer of gas called a plastron to stay close along its surface. It keeps the incoming flow of carbon dioxide right up against the catalyst so that the desired carbon dioxide conversion reactions can be maximized.

    On the left, a bubble strikes a specially textured gas-attracting surface, and spreads out across the surface, while on the right a bubble strikes an untreated surface and just bounces away. The treated surface is used in the new work to keep the carbon dioxide close to a catalyst. Credit: Varanasi Research Group.

    By using dye-based pH indicators, the researchers were able to visualize carbon dioxide concentration gradients in the test cell and show that the enhanced concentration of carbon dioxide emanates from the plastron.

    Here, dyes are used to reveal the concentration levels of carbon dioxide in the water. Green shows areas where the carbon dioxide is more concentrated, and blue shows areas where it is depleted. The green region at left shows the carbon dioxide staying concentrated next to the catalyst, thanks to the gas-attracting material. Credit: Varanasi Research Group.

    In a series of lab experiments using this setup, the rate of the carbon conversion reaction nearly doubled. It was also sustained over time, whereas in previous experiments the reaction quickly faded out. The system produced high rates of ethylene, propanol, and ethanol — a potential automotive fuel. Meanwhile, the competing hydrogen evolution was sharply curtailed. Although the new work makes it possible to fine-tune the system to produce the desired mix of product, in some applications, optimizing for hydrogen production as a fuel might be the desired result, which can also be done.

    “The important metric is selectivity,” Khan says, referring to the ability to generate valuable compounds that will be produced by a given mix of materials, textures, and voltages, and to adjust the configuration according to the desired output.

    By concentrating the carbon dioxide next to the catalyst surface, the new system also produced two new potentially useful carbon compounds, acetone, and acetate, that had not previously been detected in any such electrochemical systems at appreciable rates.

    In this initial laboratory work, a single strip of the hydrophobic, gas-attracting material was placed next to a single copper electrode, but in future work a practical device might be made using a dense set of interleaved pairs of plates, Varanasi suggests.

    Compared to previous work on electrochemical carbon reduction with nanostructure catalysts, Varanasi says, “we significantly outperform them all, because even though it’s the same catalyst, it’s how we are delivering the carbon dioxide that changes the game.”

    “This is a completely innovative way of feeding carbon dioxide into an electrolyzer,” says Ifan Stephens, a professor of materials engineering at Imperial College London, who was not connected to this research. “The authors translate fluid mechanics concepts used in the oil and gas industry to electrolytic fuel production. I think this kind of cross-fertilization from different fields is very exciting.”

    Stephens adds, “Carbon dioxide reduction has a great potential as a way of making platform chemicals, such as ethylene, from waste electricity, water, and carbon dioxide. Ethylene is currently formed by cracking long chain hydrocarbons from fossil fuels; its production emits copious amounts of carbon dioxide​ to the atmosphere. This method could potentially lead to more efficient carbon dioxide​ reduction, which could eventually move our society away from our current reliance on fossil fuels.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:27 pm on December 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "An Ambitious Climate Modeling Project Hopes To Inform Energy Policy", , Energy, , Open Energy Outlook   

    From North Carolina State University: “An Ambitious Climate Modeling Project Hopes To Inform Energy Policy” 

    NC State bloc

    From North Carolina State University

    December 7, 2020
    Matt Shipman

    Credit: NASA.

    Climate change poses significant challenges for policymakers, whether their focus is on national defense or agriculture. But it raises particularly thorny questions related to energy policy. Where should we focus our efforts in order to limit the effects of climate change while still providing reliable energy to users? Where should we invest our infrastructure dollars?

    The answers to these policy questions will obviously affect the near-term future of the energy system in the United States, which encompasses everything from power generation to transportation, fuel supply and manufacturing. But these policy decisions will also shape the course of global climate change for generations. That makes it critical for policymakers to make informed decisions. What results might a given policy have? What would happen if they invest in Option A instead of Option B?

    Computational models can project the likely outcomes associated with various policy decisions. But these models – and the information that goes into them – have their own limitations. And it is important for these tools to be well-studied in order to give policymakers the best possible information about the likely impact of different policies.

    An international team of researchers from a range of disciplines has launched a project called the Open Energy Outlook that aims to address these challenges. To raise the visibility of their effort, the researchers recently published an open access article in the journal Joule. The paper describes the benefits of distributed and collaborative energy modeling teams, which is the approach Open Energy Outlook is taking. To learn more, we spoke with Joe DeCarolis, co-founder of Open Energy Outlook and a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State.

    The Abstract: Broadly speaking, what is the Open Energy Outlook project hoping to accomplish?

    Joe DeCarolis: The ultimate goal of the Open Energy Outlook is to inform U.S. energy and climate policy efforts aimed at reducing carbon emissions. To do so, we plan to utilize computer models to rigorously examine technology pathways that reduce or eliminate carbon emissions across the whole U.S. energy system. A novel feature of our effort is a focus on models, tools, and datasets that are all open source and thus freely available to the public. With this transparent approach to modeling, we hope to build a community of scholars around this effort.

    TA: Can you lay out what modeling means in this context? How it’s used, and how it might be used?

    DeCarolis: We don’t have a way to run real-world experiments on the global energy system, so we use computer models to project the deployment and utilization of energy technologies across the energy system under different future scenarios. By examining similarities and differences across many different scenarios, we can derive insights that can inform policy.

    Climate scientists tell us the increase in global average temperature change should be limited to a maximum of 1.5-2 degrees Celsius relative to the pre-industrial era. In order to meet that target, we need to achieve net neutral carbon emissions from the global energy system sometime around the middle of this century. How are we going to meet this massive challenge? We can extrapolate existing market trends into the near future without formal models. For example, we can expect to see higher deployments of wind, solar and battery storage, along with increasing electrification across the energy system, including battery electric vehicles. But there’s a big gap between these short-term expectations and the end-game of carbon neutral energy systems. That’s where the models come in handy – they help us explore detailed future pathways that get us to zero emissions.

    As an example, electricity systems with a high share of renewables will need to be able to store energy for a long time, since there’s a lot of variability in energy production from season to season. That is well beyond the short-term duration (i.e., 2-8 hours) provided by lithium-ion batteries.

    One option for addressing this challenge would be to electrolyze water to make hydrogen, which we can store in large amounts. But then we’d need to use hydrogen directly as fuel, or cost-effectively convert it back into electricity or into other fuels for use across the energy system.

    Another option might involve a high share of nuclear power generation in the electric sector, which doesn’t require storage. That would have to be coupled with a high degree of electrification across the transportation, building and industrial sectors. We can run energy system models under different assumptions to observe how these different options affect energy technology deployment, cost and carbon emissions.

    Credit: Jake Blucker.

    TA: And this type of modeling is your area of expertise, right?

    DeCarolis: Yes. My research focuses on the development and application of energy system models. At NC State, our team developed Tools for Energy Model Optimization and Analysis (Temoa), an open source energy system model. We developed Temoa for two reasons. First, we wanted to enable repeatable analysis. Anyone should be able to download our source code and data and replicate published results – it’s a fundamental tenet of science. Second, the model is designed to perform different types of sensitivity and uncertainty analysis. This aspect is crucially important, as future uncertainty in the energy space is very large, and we need to take it into account when thinking long-term about policy, technology deployment, emissions, and costs. Temoa is serving as the key model underpinning the Open Energy Outlook.

    [Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the Temoa model here: https://temoacloud.com/. Also, DeCarolis recently gave a talk on energy modeling, high performance computing and the Open Energy Outlook, which you can view online here: https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/events/energy-systems-modeling-high-performance-computing-resources.%5D

    TA: Why is modeling so important when it comes to discussions about climate and energy policy?

    DeCarolis: As I mentioned, we will need to fundamentally transform the global energy system over the next few decades to reach net zero carbon emissions. Achieving such an unprecedented goal requires an aggressive, coordinated effort across all sectors of the economy. Furthermore, energy infrastructure – including refineries, pipelines, power plants, transmission lines, buildings – is expensive and long-lived. Once such units are constructed, they often operate for decades. So investments being made right now affect our ability to achieve zero emissions in 2050 or 2060. Collectively, these investment decisions can also create path dependencies, whereby the infrastructure we develop today begets infrastructure of a similar type in the future. For example, a focus on utilizing cheap natural gas may make economic sense today, but the drilling platforms, pipelines, turbines and other infrastructure related to natural gas will be around for a long time, and may inhibit the transition to alternative forms of energy.

    Energy system models are useful because they allow analysts to let the system play out over the next several decades under different assumptions. They help us see more clearly how these short-term investment decisions affect our long-term goals, and how the properly designed policies can put us on the right path.

    TA: How does the Open Energy Outlook fit into this?

    DeCarolis: Within the United States, many of these modeling efforts are performed by government agencies and laboratories. For example, the Energy Information Administration uses the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS) to produce the Annual Energy Outlook, which is regarded as the official mid-term energy outlook of the U.S. government. However, NEMS was designed to look at perturbations to a baseline, not the fundamental structural changes required to dramatically reduce or eliminate carbon emissions from the U.S. energy system. There are several other U.S. modeling efforts, but in general they: do not model the transition to net zero carbon emissions; lack critical detail regarding energy system expansion and operation; or are not open source and thus cannot be carefully scrutinized. The Open Energy Outlook is designed to help fill this gap, with the resulting analysis used to inform future policy.

    But our ambitions extend beyond this outcome-focused goal. We also want to change the approach to energy system modeling.

    First, we want to maximize transparency in our effort. A prerequisite for transparency is open source code and data, but transparency demands more than that. It requires careful documentation of the model and input data, with a narrative that clearly outlines key assumptions and caveats.

    Second, we want to develop a community around the effort. The boundaries around the energy systems we are trying to model – in space, time and the complex dynamics underlying energy system development – are extremely broad. These models not only try to incorporate physical and economic principles, but also consider how humans make decisions about energy infrastructure. We need a community of scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds and domain expertise to weigh in on these important issues as they pertain to the modeling analysis.

    TA: So, the recent piece in the journal Joule is what? A call to arms? What are you hoping will come from it?

    DeCarolis: The Joule piece is focused on the model development process. Historically, the type of modeling work we’re doing for the Open Energy Outlook would take place within the walls of a single institution. There are a couple of limitations with such an approach: there might be limited expertise to address the myriad challenges in energy system modeling, and some of the most long-lived and well-established modeling efforts are conducted by government agencies or intergovernmental organizations that may have limited scope or are subject to political considerations.

    During our first Open Energy Outlook workshop this past January, we realized that our modeling team – approximately 35 experts with diverse expertise across two dozen institutions – represents a new kind of distributed effort aimed at performing model-based analysis. To be fair, there are already distributed modeling efforts in Europe, but they often involve large multi-institutional teams and are well-funded by the European Union.

    In our case, we’re trying to create a new distributed effort from the bottom-up with limited funding. All the elements now exist to do this. We are utilizing open source models and data, allowing us to work collaboratively without any concern over intellectual property. And we have all the tools we need to coordinate the analysis: distributed software revision control systems, communication platforms, video-conference capabilities, and social media to push our messaging and seek feedback from the broader community of modelers and analysts. We think our distributed effort can serve as blueprint for other efforts. In the long run, using the tools at our fingertips can lead to more inclusive modeling efforts by including folks who normally wouldn’t be involved in energy system modeling.

    TA: What is the Open Energy Outlook group working on at present?

    DeCarolis: We’re currently in the process of building the large input dataset that will be used to conduct analysis. When complete, the database will include a detailed representation of U.S. fuel supply, electricity, transport, buildings and industry. A preliminary version of the database is already available in our GitHub repository: https://github.com/TemoaProject/oeo. In addition to the eventual report we plan to produce, we hope the input database and associated documentation will serve as an important resource for other modelers and researchers. We plan to have a complete version of the input database and documentation ready in the next few months.

    TA: What’s next for the Open Energy Outlook team?

    DeCarolis: The full team will reconvene virtually early in the new year and start planning for the first edition of the Open Energy Outlook report, which will be released in early 2022. For folks who might be interested, they can join our public mailing list (https://oeo.groups.io/g/main) and check our website (https://openenergyoutlook.org/). We welcome feedback and contributions to this effort.

    See the full article here .


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    NC State students, faculty and staff take problems in hand and work with industry, government and nonprofit partners to solve them. Our 34,000-plus high-performing students apply what they learn in the real world by conducting research, working in internships and co-ops, and performing acts of world-changing service. That experiential education ensures they leave here ready to lead the workforce, confident in the knowledge that NC State consistently rates as one of the best values in higher education.

  • richardmitnick 9:08 am on October 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Yogesh Surendranath wants to decarbonize our energy systems", , , , Energy,   

    From MIT: “Yogesh Surendranath wants to decarbonize our energy systems” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    October 23, 2020
    Anne Trafton

    MIT chemistry professor Yogesh Surendranath joined the MIT faculty in 2013. “One of the most attractive features of the department is its balanced composition of early career and senior faculty. This has created a nurturing and vibrant atmosphere that is highly collaborative,” he says. “But more than anything else, it was the phenomenal students at MIT that drew me back. Their intensity and enthusiasm is what drives the science.” Credit: Gretchen Ertl.

    By developing novel electrochemical reactions, he hopes to find new ways to generate energy and reduce greenhouse gases.

    Electricity plays many roles in our lives, from lighting our homes to powering the technology and appliances we rely on every day. Electricity can also have a major impact at the molecular scale, by powering chemical reactions that generate useful products.

    Working at that molecular level, MIT chemistry professor Yogesh Surendranath harnesses electricity to rearrange chemical bonds. The electrochemical reactions he is developing hold potential for processes such as splitting water into hydrogen fuel, creating more efficient fuel cells, and converting waste products like carbon dioxide into useful fuels.

    “All of our research is about decarbonizing the energy ecosystem,” says Surendranath, who recently earned tenure in MIT’s Department of Chemistry and serves as the associate director of the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Center, one of the Low-Carbon Energy Centers run by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI).

    Although his work has many applications in improving energy efficiency, most of the research projects in Surendranath’s group have grown out of the lab’s fundamental interest in exploring, at a molecular level, the chemical reactions that occur between the surface of an electrode and a liquid.

    “Our goal is to uncover the key rate-limiting processes and the key steps in the reaction mechanism that give rise to one product over another, so that we can, in a rational way, control a material’s properties so that it can most selectively and efficiently carry out the overall reaction,” he says.

    Energy conversion

    Born in Bangalore, India, Surendranath moved to Kent, Ohio, with his parents when he was 3 years old. Bangalore and Kent happen to have the world’s leading centers for studying liquid crystal materials, the field that Surendranath’s father, an organic chemist, specialized in.

    “My dad would often take me to the laboratory, and although my parents encouraged me to pursue medicine, I think my interest in science and chemistry probably was sparked at an early age, by those experiences,” Surendranath recalls.

    Although he was interested in all of the sciences, he narrowed his focus after taking his first college chemistry class at the University of Virginia, with a professor named Dean Harman. He decided on a double major in chemistry and physics and ended up doing research in Harman’s inorganic chemistry lab.

    After graduating from UVA, Surendranath came to MIT for graduate school, where his thesis advisor was then-MIT professor Daniel Nocera. With Nocera, he explored using electricity to split water as a way of renewably generating hydrogen. Surendranath’s PhD research focused on developing methods to catalyze the half of the reaction that extracts oxygen gas from water.

    He got even more involved in catalyst development while doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley. There, he became interested in nanomaterials and the reactions that occur at the interfaces between solid catalysts and liquids.

    “That interface is where a lot of the key processes that are involved in energy conversion occur in electrochemical technologies like batteries, electrolyzers, and fuel cells,” he says.

    In 2013, Surendranath returned to MIT to join the faculty, at a time when many other junior faculty members were being hired.

    “One of the most attractive features of the department is its balanced composition of early career and senior faculty. This has created a nurturing and vibrant atmosphere that is highly collaborative,” he says. “But more than anything else, it was the phenomenal students at MIT that drew me back. Their intensity and enthusiasm is what drives the science.”

    Fuel decarbonization

    Among the many electrochemical reactions that Surendranath’s lab is trying to optimize is the conversion of carbon dioxide to simple chemical fuels such as carbon monoxide, ethylene, or other hydrocarbons. Another project focuses on converting methane that is burned off from oil wells into liquid fuels such as methanol.

    “For both of those areas, the idea is to convert carbon dioxide and low-carbon feedstocks into commodity chemicals and fuels. These technologies are essential for decarbonizing the chemistry and fuels sector,” Surendranath says.

    Other projects include improving the efficiency of catalysts used for water electrolysis and fuel cells, and for producing hydrogen peroxide (a versatile disinfectant). Many of those projects have grown out of his students’ eagerness to chase after difficult problems and follow up on unexpected findings, Surendranath says.

    “The true joy of my time here, in addition to the science, has been about seeing students that I’ve mentored grow and mature to become independent scientists and thought leaders, and then to go off and launch their own independent careers, whether it be in industry or in academia,” he says. “That role as a mentor to the next generation of scientists in my field has been extraordinarily rewarding.”

    Although they take their work seriously, Surendranath and his students like to keep the mood light in their lab. He often brings mangoes, coconuts, and other exotic fruits in to share, and enjoys flying stunt kites — a type of kite that has multiple lines, allowing them to perform acrobatic maneuvers such as figure eights. He can also occasionally be seen making balloon animals or blowing extremely large soap bubbles.

    “My group has really cultivated an extraordinarily positive, collaborative, uplifting environment where we go after really hard problems, and we have a lot of fun along the way,” Surendranath says. “I feel blessed to work with people who have invested so much in the research effort and have built a culture that is such a pleasure to work in every day.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:18 am on October 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Groundbreaking research into solar energy technology develops through new EU-project", , , , Energy,   

    From Chalmers University of Technology SE: “Groundbreaking research into solar energy technology develops through new EU-project” 

    From Chalmers University of Technology SE

    Oct 05, 2020

    Johanna Wilde
    Press officer
    +46-31-772 2029

    The specially designed molecule and energy system by the researchers from Chalmers has demonstrated unique abilities to catch and store solar energy. The image to the right shows a tube with the catalyst inside, in front of a vacuum set-up used to measure the rise of the temperature in the energy storage system. Credit: Yen Strandqvist/Johan Bodell/Chalmers University of Technology SE.

    Over the last few years, a specially designed molecule and an energy system with unique abilities for capturing and storing solar power have been developed by a group of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Now, an EU project led by Chalmers will develop prototypes of the new technology for larger scale applications, such as heating systems in residential houses. The project has been granted 4.3 million Euros from the EU.

    In order to make full use of solar energy, we need to be able to store and release it on demand. In several scientific articles over the last few years, a group of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated how their specially designed molecule and solar energy system, named MOST (Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System), can offer a solution to that challenge and become a vital tool in the conversion to fossil-free energy.

    The technology has generated great interest worldwide. With the , solar energy can be captured, stored for up to 18 years, transported without any major losses, and later released as heat when and where it is needed. The results achieved in the lab by the researchers are clear, but now more experience is needed to see how MOST can be used in real applications and at a larger scale.

    “The goal for this EU-project is to develop prototypes of MOST technology to verify potential for large-scale production, and to improve functionality of the system,” says Kasper Moth-Poulsen, coordinator of the project, and Professor and research leader at the Department for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers.

    Pushing towards products for real applications

    Within the project, the technology will be developed to become more efficient, less expensive and greener, thereby pushing towards products that can be used for real applications. Strong research teams from universities and institutes in Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany will connect and work together.

    “A very exciting aspect of the project is how we are combining excellent interdisciplinary research in molecule design along with knowledge in hybrid technology for energy capture, heat-release and low-energy building design,” says Kasper Moth-Poulsen.

    Using the molecule in blinds and windows

    Advances in the development of MOST technology have so far exceeded all expectations. The first, very simple – yet successful – demonstrations took place in Chalmers’ laboratories. Among other things, the researchers used the technology in a window film to even out the temperature on sunny and hot days and create a more pleasant indoor climate. Outside the EU project, application of the molecule in blinds and windows has begun, through the spin-off company Solartes AB.

    “With this funding, the development we can now do in the MOST project may lead to new solar driven and emissions-free solutions for heating in residential and industrial applications. This project is heading into a very important and exciting stage,” says Kasper Moth-Poulsen.

    More about: The EU project

    The EU project, which is also named Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage Systems, will extend over 3.5 years and has been allocated 4.3 million Euros. Partners in the project Include: Chalmers University of Technology, University of Copenhagen, University of Rioja, Fraunhofer Institute, ZAE Bayern and Johnson Matthey. At Chalmers, researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering will participate.

    See the full article here .


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    Chalmers University of Technology SE (Swedish: Chalmers tekniska högskola, often shortened to Chalmers) is a Swedish university located in Gothenburg that focuses on research and education in technology, natural science, architecture, maritime and other management areas

    The University was founded in 1829 following a donation by William Chalmers, a director of the Swedish East India Company. He donated part of his fortune for the establishment of an “industrial school”. Chalmers was run as a private institution until 1937, when the institute became a state-owned university. In 1994, the school was incorporated as an aktiebolag under the control of the Swedish Government, the faculty and the Student Union. Chalmers is one of only three universities in Sweden which are named after a person, the other two being Karolinska Institutet and Linnaeus University.

  • richardmitnick 1:51 pm on August 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Solar Panels Are Starting to Die Leaving Behind Toxic Trash", , , Energy,   

    From WIRED: “Solar Panels Are Starting to Die, Leaving Behind Toxic Trash” 

    From WIRED

    Maddie Stone

    Photovoltaic panels are a boon for clean energy but are tricky to recycle. As the oldest ones expire, get ready for a solar e-waste glut.

    Photograph: Richard Newstead/Getty Images.

    Solar panels are an increasingly important source of renewable power that will play an essential role in fighting climate change. They are also complex pieces of technology that become big, bulky sheets of electronic waste at the end of their lives—and right now, most of the world doesn’t have a plan for dealing with that.

    But we’ll need to develop one soon, because the solar e-waste glut is coming. By 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life, and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually. While the latter number is a small fraction of the total e-waste humanity produces each year, standard electronics recycling methods don’t cut it for solar panels. Recovering the most valuable materials from one, including silver and silicon, requires bespoke recycling solutions. And if we fail to develop those solutions along with policies that support their widespread adoption, we already know what will happen.

    “If we don’t mandate recycling, many of the modules will go to landfill,” said Arizona State University solar researcher Meng Tao, who recently authored a review paper [Progress in Voltaics] on recycling silicon solar panels, which comprise 95 percent of the solar market.

    Solar panels are composed of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight to electricity. When these panels enter landfills, valuable resources go to waste. And because solar panels contain toxic materials like lead that can leach out as they break down, landfilling also creates new environmental hazards.

    Most solar manufacturers claim their panels will last for about 25 years, and the world didn’t start deploying solar widely until the early 2000s. As a result, a fairly small number of panels are being decommissioned today. PV Cycle, a nonprofit dedicated to solar panel take-back and recycling, collects several thousand tons of solar e-waste across the European Union each year, according to director Jan Clyncke. That figure includes solar panels that have reached the end of their life but also those that were decommissioned early because they were damaged during a storm, had some sort of manufacturing defect, or got replaced with a newer, more efficient model.

    When solar panels reach their end of their life today, they face a few possible fates. Under EU law, producers are required to ensure their solar panels are recycled properly. In Japan, India, and Australia, recycling requirements are in the works. In the United States, it’s the Wild West: With the exception of a state law in Washington, the US has no solar recycling mandates whatsoever. Voluntary, industry-led recycling efforts are limited in scope. “Right now, we’re pretty confident the number is around 10 percent of solar panels recycled,” said Sam Vanderhoof, the CEO of Recycle PV Solar, one of the only US companies dedicated to PV recycling. The rest, he says, go to landfills or are exported overseas for reuse in developing countries with weak environmental protections.

    Even when recycling happens, there’s a lot of room for improvement. A solar panel is essentially an electronic sandwich. The filling is a thin layer of crystalline silicon cells, which are insulated and protected from the elements on both sides by sheets of polymers and glass. It’s all held together in an aluminum frame. On the back of the panel, a junction box contains copper wiring that channels electricity away as it’s being generated.

    At a typical e-waste facility, this high-tech sandwich will be treated crudely. Recyclers often take off the panel’s frame and its junction box to recover the aluminum and copper, then shred the rest of the module, including the glass, polymers, and silicon cells, which get coated in a silver electrode and soldered using tin and lead. (Because the vast majority of that mixture by weight is glass, the resultant product is considered an impure, crushed glass.) Tao and his colleagues estimate that a recycler taking apart a standard 60-cell silicon panel can get about $3 for the recovered aluminum, copper, and glass. Vanderhoof, meanwhile, says that the cost of recycling that panel in the US is between $12 and $25—after transportation costs, which “oftentimes equal the cost to recycle.” At the same time, in states that allow it, it typically costs less than a dollar to dump a solar panel in a solid-waste landfill.

    “We believe the big blind spot in the US for recycling is that the cost far exceeds the revenue,” Meng said. “It’s on the order of a 10-to-1 ratio.”

    If a solar panel’s more valuable components—namely, the silicon and silver—could be separated and purified efficiently, that could improve that cost-to-revenue ratio. A small number of dedicated solar PV recyclers are trying to do this. Veolia, which runs the world’s only commercial-scale silicon PV recycling plant in France, shreds and grinds up panels and then uses an optical technique to recover low-purity silicon. According to Vanderhoof, Recycle PV Solar initially used a “heat process and a ball mill process” that could recapture more than 90 percent of the materials present in a panel, including low-purity silver and silicon. But the company recently received some new equipment from its European partners that can do “95 plus percent recapture,” he said, while separating the recaptured materials much better.

    Some PV researchers want to do even better than that. In another recent review paper, a team led by National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientists calls for the development of new recycling processes in which all metals and minerals are recovered at high purity, with the goal of making recycling as economically viable and as environmentally beneficial as possible. As lead study author Garvin Heath explains, such processes might include using heat or chemical treatments to separate the glass from the silicon cells, followed by the application of other chemical or electrical techniques to separate and purify the silicon and various trace metals.

    “What we call for is what we name a high-value, integrated recycling system,” Heath told Grist. “High-value means we want to recover all the constituent materials that have value from these modules. Integrated refers to a recycling process that can go after all of these materials, and not have to cascade from one recycler to the next.”

    In addition to developing better recycling methods, the solar industry should be thinking about how to repurpose panels whenever possible, since used solar panels are likely to fetch a higher price than the metals and minerals inside them (and since reuse generally requires less energy than recycling). As is the case with recycling, the EU is out in front on this: Through its Circular Business Models for the Solar Power Industry program, the European Commission is funding a range of demonstration projects showing how solar panels from rooftops and solar farms can be repurposed, including for powering ebike charging stations in Berlin and housing complexes in Belgium.

    Recycle PV Solar also recertifies and resells good-condition panels it receives, which Vanderhoof says helps offset the cost of recycling. However, both he and Tao are concerned that various US recyclers are selling second-hand solar panels with low quality control overseas to developing countries. “And those countries typically don’t have regulations for electronics waste,” Tao said. “So eventually, you’re dumping your problem on a poor country.”

    For the solar recycling industry to grow sustainably, it will ultimately need supportive policies and regulations. The EU model of having producers finance the take-back and recycling of solar panels might be a good one for the U.S. to emulate. But before that’s going to happen, US lawmakers need to recognize that the problem exists and is only getting bigger, which is why Vanderhoof spends a great deal of time educating them.

    “We need to face the fact that solar panels do fail over time, and there’s a lot of them out there,” he said. “And what do we do when they start to fail? It’s not right throwing that responsibility on the consumer, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 11:53 am on August 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Storing energy in red bricks", A coating of the conducting polymer PEDOT which is comprised of nanofibers that penetrate the inner porous network of a brick., A polymer coating remains trapped in a brick and serves as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity., Advantageously a brick wall serving as a supercapacitor can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour., , , Energy, How to convert red bricks into a type of energy storage device called a supercapacitor., If you connect a couple of bricks microelectronics sensors would be easily powered., The red pigment in bricks — iron oxide- or rust — is essential for triggering the polymerisation reaction.,   

    From Washington University in St.Louis: “Storing energy in red bricks” 

    Wash U Bloc

    From Washington University in St.Louis

    August 11, 2020
    Talia Ogliore

    Red brick device developed by chemists at Washington University in St. Louis lights up a green light-emitting diode. The photo shows the core-shell architecture of a nanofibrillar PEDOT-coated brick electrode. Credit: D’Arcy laboratory, Department of Chemistry, Washington University in St. Louis.

    Imagine plugging in to your brick house.

    Red bricks — some of the world’s cheapest and most familiar building materials — can be converted into energy storage units that can be charged to hold electricity, like a battery, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

    Brick has been used in walls and buildings for thousands of years, but rarely has been found fit for any other use. Now, chemists in Arts & Sciences have developed a method to make or modify “smart bricks” that can store energy until required for powering devices. A proof-of-concept published Aug. 11 in Nature Communications (and pictured above) shows a brick directly powering a green LED light.

    “Our method works with regular brick or recycled bricks, and we can make our own bricks as well,” said Julio D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry. “As a matter of fact, the work that we have published in Nature Communications stems from bricks that we bought at Home Depot right here in Brentwood (Missouri); each brick was 65 cents.”

    Walls and buildings made of bricks already occupy large amounts of space, which could be better utilized if given an additional purpose for electrical storage. While some architects and designers have recognized the humble brick’s ability to absorb and store the sun’s heat, this is the first time anyone has tried using bricks as anything more than thermal mass for heating and cooling.

    D’Arcy and colleagues, including Washington University graduate student Hongmin Wang, first author of the new study, showed how to convert red bricks into a type of energy storage device called a supercapacitor.

    “In this work, we have developed a coating of the conducting polymer PEDOT, which is comprised of nanofibers that penetrate the inner porous network of a brick; a polymer coating remains trapped in a brick and serves as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity,” D’Arcy said.

    The red pigment in bricks — iron oxide, or rust — is essential for triggering the polymerisation reaction. The authors’ calculations suggest that walls made of these energy-storing bricks could store a substantial amount of energy.

    “PEDOT-coated bricks are ideal building blocks that can provide power to emergency lighting,” D’Arcy said. “We envision that this could be a reality when you connect our bricks with solar cells — this could take 50 bricks in close proximity to the load. These 50 bricks would enable powering emergency lighting for five hours.

    “Advantageously, a brick wall serving as a supercapacitor can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour. If you connect a couple of bricks, microelectronics sensors would be easily powered.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Wash U campus

    Washington University’s mission is to discover and disseminate knowledge, and protect the freedom of inquiry through research, teaching, and learning.

    Washington University creates an environment to encourage and support an ethos of wide-ranging exploration. Washington University’s faculty and staff strive to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of the greater St. Louis community, the country, and the world.

  • richardmitnick 1:58 pm on August 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Assessing the value of battery energy storage in future power grids", , , Energy, Implications for the low-carbon energy transition, , , Relevance to policymakers, Study’s key findings   

    From MIT News and Princeton University: “Assessing the value of battery energy storage in future power grids” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News


    Princeton University
    Princeton University

    August 12, 2020
    Kathryn Luu | MIT Energy Initiative

    MIT and Princeton University researchers find that the economic value of storage increases as variable renewable energy generation (from sources such as wind and solar) supplies an increasing share of electricity supply, but storage cost declines are needed to realize full potential.

    Storage value increases as variable renewable energy supplies an increasing share of electricity, but storage cost declines are needed to realize full potential.

    In the transition to a decarbonized electric power system, variable renewable energy (VRE) resources such as wind and solar photovoltaics play a vital role due to their availability, scalability, and affordability. However, the degree to which VRE resources can be successfully deployed to decarbonize the electric power system hinges on the future availability and cost of energy storage technologies.

    In a paper recently published in Applied Energy, researchers from MIT and Princeton University examine battery storage to determine the key drivers that impact its economic value, how that value might change with increasing deployment over time, and the implications for the long-term cost-effectiveness of storage.

    “Battery storage helps make better use of electricity system assets, including wind and solar farms, natural gas power plants, and transmission lines, and that can defer or eliminate unnecessary investment in these capital-intensive assets,” says Dharik Mallapragada, the paper’s lead author. “Our paper demonstrates that this ‘capacity deferral,’ or substitution of batteries for generation or transmission capacity, is the primary source of storage value.”

    Other sources of storage value include providing operating reserves to electricity system operators, avoiding fuel cost and wear and tear incurred by cycling on and off gas-fired power plants, and shifting energy from low price periods to high value periods — but the paper showed that these sources are secondary in importance to value from avoiding capacity investments.

    For their study, the researchers — Mallapragada, a research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative; Nestor Sepulveda SM’16, PhD ’20, a postdoc at MIT who was a MITEI researcher and nuclear science and engineering student at the time of the study; and fellow former MITEI researcher Jesse Jenkins SM ’14, PhD ’18, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University — use a capacity expansion model called GenX to find the least expensive ways of integrating battery storage in a hypothetical low-carbon power system. They studied the role for storage for two variants of the power system, populated with load and VRE availability profiles consistent with the U.S. Northeast (North) and Texas (South) regions. The paper found that in both regions, the value of battery energy storage generally declines with increasing storage penetration.

    “As more and more storage is deployed, the value of additional storage steadily falls,” explains Jenkins. “That creates a race between the declining cost of batteries and their declining value, and our paper demonstrates that the cost of batteries must continue to fall if storage is to play a major role in electricity systems.”

    The study’s key findings include:

    The economic value of storage rises as VRE generation provides an increasing share of the electricity supply.
    The economic value of storage declines as storage penetration increases, due to competition between storage resources for the same set of grid services.
    As storage penetration increases, most of its economic value is tied to its ability to displace the need for investing in both renewable and natural gas-based energy generation and transmission capacity.
    Without further cost reductions, a relatively small magnitude (4 percent of peak demand) of short-duration (energy capacity of two to four hours of operation at peak power) storage is cost-effective in grids with 50-60 percent of electricity supply that comes from VRE generation. “The picture is more favorable to storage adoption if future cost projections ($150 per kilowatt-hour for four-hour storage) are realized,” notes Mallapragada.

    Relevance to policymakers

    The results of the study highlight the importance of reforming electricity market structures or contracting practices to enable storage developers to monetize the value from substituting generation and transmission capacity — a central component of their economic viability.

    “In practice, there are few direct markets to monetize the capacity substitution value that is provided by storage,” says Mallapragada. “Depending on their administrative design and market rules, capacity markets may or may not adequately compensate storage for providing energy during peak load periods.”

    In addition, Mallapragada notes that developers and integrated utilities in regulated markets can implicitly capture capacity substitution value through integrated development of wind, solar, and energy storage projects. Recent project announcements support the observation that this may be a preferred method for capturing storage value.

    Implications for the low-carbon energy transition

    The economic value of energy storage is closely tied to other major trends impacting today’s power system, most notably the increasing penetration of wind and solar generation. However, in some cases, the continued decline of wind and solar costs could negatively impact storage value, which could create pressure to reduce storage costs in order to remain cost-effective.

    “It is a common perception that battery storage and wind and solar power are complementary,” says Sepulveda. “Our results show that is true, and that all else equal, more solar and wind means greater storage value. That said, as wind and solar get cheaper over time, that can reduce the value storage derives from lowering renewable energy curtailment and avoiding wind and solar capacity investments. Given the long-term cost declines projected for wind and solar, I think this is an important consideration for storage technology developers.”

    The relationship between wind and solar cost and storage value is even more complex, the study found.

    “Since storage derives much of its value from capacity deferral, going into this research, my expectation was that the cheaper wind and solar gets, the lower the value of energy storage will become, but our paper shows that is not always the case,” explains Mallapragada. “There are some scenarios where other factors that contribute to storage value, such as increases in transmission capacity deferral, outweigh the reduction in wind and solar deferral value, resulting in higher overall storage value.”

    Battery storage is increasingly competing with natural gas-fired power plants to provide reliable capacity for peak demand periods, but the researchers also find that adding 1 megawatt (MW) of storage power capacity displaces less than 1 MW of natural gas generation. The reason: To shut down 1 MW of gas capacity, storage must not only provide 1 MW of power output, but also be capable of sustaining production for as many hours in a row as the gas capacity operates. That means you need many hours of energy storage capacity (megawatt-hours) as well. The study also finds that this capacity substitution ratio declines as storage tries to displace more gas capacity.

    “The first gas plant knocked offline by storage may only run for a couple of hours, one or two times per year,” explains Jenkins. “But the 10th or 20th gas plant might run 12 or 16 hours at a stretch, and that requires deploying a large energy storage capacity for batteries to reliably replace gas capacity.”

    Given the importance of energy storage duration to gas capacity substitution, the study finds that longer storage durations (the amount of hours storage can operate at peak capacity) of eight hours generally have greater marginal gas displacement than storage with two hours of duration. However, the additional system value from longer durations does not outweigh the additional cost of the storage capacity, the study finds.

    “From the perspective of power system decarbonization, this suggests the need to develop cheaper energy storage technologies that can be cost-effectively deployed for much longer durations, in order to displace dispatchable fossil fuel generation,” says Mallapragada.

    To address this need, the team is preparing to publish a followup paper that provides the most extensive evaluation of the potential role and value of long-duration energy storage technologies to date.

    “We are developing novel insights that can guide the development of a variety of different long-duration energy storage technologies and help academics, private-sector companies and investors, and public policy stakeholders understand the role of these technologies in a low-carbon future,” says Sepulveda.

    This research was supported by General Electric through the MIT Energy Initiative’s Electric Power Systems Low-Carbon Energy Center.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About Princeton: Overview

    Princeton University is a vibrant community of scholarship and learning that stands in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

    As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

    Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students. The University’s generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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