Sunday, November 08, 2009

Algae-based batteries could revolutionize energy storage industry

Unwanted blooms of Cladophora algae throughout the Baltic and in other parts of the world are not entirely without a positive side. A group of researchers at the Ångström Laboratory at Uppsala University have discovered that the distinctive cellulose nanostructure of these algae can serve as an effective coating substrate for use in environmentally friendly batteries. The findings have been published in an article in Nano Letters.

"These algae has a special cellulose structure characterised by a very large surface area," says Gustav Nyström, a doctoral student in nanotechnology and the first author of the article. "By coating this structure with a thin layer of conducting polymer, we have succeeded in producing a battery that weighs almost nothing and that has set new charge-time and capacity records for polymer-cellulose-based batteries."

Despite extensive efforts in recent years to develop new cellulose-based coating substrates for battery applications, satisfactory charging performance proved difficult to obtain. However, nobody had tried using algal cellulose. Researcher Albert Mihranyan and Professor Maria Strømme at the Nanotechnology and Functional Materials Department of Engineering Sciences at the Ångström Laboratory had been investigating pharmaceutical applications of the cellulose from Cladophora algae for a number of years. This type of cellulose has a unique nanostructure, entirely different from that of terrestrial plants, that has been shown to function well as a thickening agent for pharmaceutical preparations and as a binder in foodstuffs. The possibility of energy-storage applications was raised in view of its large surface area.

"We have long hoped to find some sort of constructive use for the material from algae blooms and have now been shown this to be possible," says Maria Strømme, Professor in Nanotechnology and leader of the research group. "The battery research has a genuinely interdisciplinary character and was initiated in collaboration with chemist professor Leif Nyholm. Cellulose pharmaceutics experts, battery chemists and nanotechnologists have all played essential roles in developing the new material."

The article in Nano Letters, in effect, introduces an entirely new electrode material for energy storage applications, consisting of a nanostructure of algal cellulose coated with a 50 nm layer of polypyrrole. Batteries based on this material can store up to 600 mA per cm3, with only 6 per cent loss through 100 charging cycles.

"This creates new possibilities for large-scale production of environmentally friendly, cost-effective, lightweight energy storage systems," says Maria Strømme.

"Our success in obtaining a much higher charge capacity than was previously possible with batteries based on advanced polymers is primarily due to the extreme thinness of the polymer layer," says Gustav Nyström.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

AW-Energy First Wave Energy Company To Sign $4.4M Contract With The New EU Project

AW-Energy, a Finnish cleantech company developing a unique and patented wave energy technology brand named WaveRoller, has signed a $4.4M (3 million euros) contract with the European Union to demonstrate its technology. Ocean energy technology represents the largest untapped business potential within the renewables sector.

The contract between AW-Energy and the EU is the first one under the "CALL FP7 - Demonstration of the innovative full size systems." Several leading wave energy companies participated to the CALL. The contract includes a 3 million euro grant agreement, providing significant support to the demonstration project.

The goal of the project is to manufacture and deploy the first grid-connected WaveRoller unit in the Portuguese waters. The exact installation site is located near the town of Peniche, which is famous of its wave resources and also known as "Capital of the waves." The nominal capacity of the WaveRoller unit is 300 kW and the project includes a one-year testing period.

The consortium led by AW-Energy includes companies from Finland, Portugal, Germany and Belgium. Industrial heavy weights like Bosch-Rexroth and ABB, together with renewable energy operator Eneolica and wave energy specialist Wave Energy Center, are delivering their best know-how to ensure successful implementation of the project.

"The experience of our dream team consortium is a significant asset to the project, and we are thrilled about this real pan-European co-operation. AW-Energy has been working hard the last three years with two sea installed prototypes, tank testing and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations. Now we have the site, grid connection permission, installation license and the technology ready for the demonstration phase," says John Liljelund, CEO at AW-Energy.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hywind Power Line in Place

The world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine – StatoilHydro’s Hywind pilot – is being officially inaugurated in the North Sea today, 8 September.

“Today, we’re inaugurating the pilot facility which could help floating wind turbines to make an important contribution in the longer term to meeting the world’s big demand for energy,” says Margareth Øvrum, executive vice president for Technology & New Energy (TNE) in StatoilHydro.

Hywind is a good example of the way StatoilHydro’s long experience from the offshore oil and gas business can be applied to tomorrow’s market for renewable energy. The floating wind turbine has been delivered within budget and on schedule.

“We’ve drawn on experience acquired during 30 years on the Norwegian continental shelf to realise this groundbreaking project,” says Gunnar Myrebøe, executive vice president for Projects & Procurement in StatoilHydro.

“In that respect, our close collaboration with the supplies industry has played a key role in the success of the Hywind development.”

StatoilHydro is investing about NOK 340 million in the project, with Enova providing NOK 59 million. The latter is a state-owned company which promotes environment-friendly changes to energy production and use in Norway.

Hywind comprises a 2.3-megawatt wind turbine installed on a traditional floater of the kind previously used for such applications as production platforms and offshore loading.

The turbine has been manufactured by the Siemens Wind Power company in Denmark, while France’s Technip built the floater and Nexans produced and laid the power cable to land.

Following assembly in the Åmøy Fjord near Stavanger, the Hywind pilot was towed in June to a location 10 kilometres south-west of Karmøy island for a two-year test period.

“Floating wind power remains an immature technology, and the road to commercialisation and full-scale construction of wind farms will be long,” says Øvrum.

“Our goal with the Hywind pilot to test how wind and waves affect the structure, learn how the operating concept can be optimised and identify technology gaps.”

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Europeans overwhelmingly consider the environmental impact of products they buy

Four out of five Europeans say that they consider the environmental impact of the products they buy reveals a Eurobarometer survey published today. Environmental consideration was highest in Greece where more than 9 in 10 of those surveyed said the impact of a product on the environment plays an important aspect in their purchasing decisions. In the same survey Europeans were evenly divided about claims by producers on the environmental performance of their products while nearly half thought that a combination of increased taxes on environmentally-damaging products and decreased taxes on environmentally-friendly products would best promote eco-friendly products. There was also strong support for retailers to play a role in promoting environmentally-friendly products and for mandatory carbon labelling.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The battle against climate change must be fought on all fronts and everyone must contribute. It is not only the remit of companies and governments; consumers also have their part to play. By purchasing environmentally and climate-friendly products individual customers send the right signal to producers who respond in turn by producing more eco-friendly products."

Impact of products on the environment important

In the Eurobarometer survey published today on Europeans' attitude towards sustainable consumption and production, an overwhelming majority of Europeans (83%) said the impact of a product on the environment plays an important aspect in their purchasing decisions. With 92% in favour Greeks were more likely to consider the environmental impact of the products they buy while the Czechs were the least likely (62%).

Mixed views on claims by companies on the environmental performance of their products

Europeans surveyed were evenly divided about claims by producers about the environmental performance of their products with 49% trusting the claims and 48% not trusting such claims. The Dutch were more likely to trust these claims (78%) while Bulgarians were the least likely (26%).

Higher taxes on environmentally-damaging products and lower taxes on environmentally-friendly products

Some 46% of EU citizens also thought that the best way to promote environmentally-friendly products would be to increase taxes on environmentally-damaging products and decrease taxes on environmentally-friendly products. Britons were most in favour of such a double taxation system while the Maltese much less so (28%) preferring instead reducing taxes on environmentally-friendly products only.

The important role of retailers in promoting environmentally-friendly products

Those surveyed were strongly in favour of retailers promoting environmentally-friendly products. Approximately half of EU citizens (49%) thought that they should increase the visibility of such products on their shelves or have a dedicated green corner in their store. A third (31%) of Europeans said that the best way for retailers to promote green products is for them to provide better information to consumers.
Strong support for carbon footprint labels

Despite just under half of Europeans saying that ecolabels play an important role in their purchasing decisions and only 1 in 10 saying the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by a product should feature on environmental labels, some 72% of EU citizens thought that a label indicating a product's carbon footprint should be mandatory in the future. Attitudes on the subject varied widely between Member States with the Czechs the least in favour of such labelling (47%) and Greeks wholeheartedly behind the idea with 90% in favour.

A carbon footprint label would show the total amount of greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide – emitted during its lifetime, from production to disposal. At present no such scheme exists Europe-wide, but at the December 2008 Environment Council ministers invited the Commission to study the introduction of carbon footprint labelling.

More information Sustainable consumption and production web pages:

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Xeros washing machine that uses just one cup of water

Researchers at the University of Leeds have developed a new way of cleaning clothes using less than 2% of the water and energy of a conventional washing machine. The revolutionary technology will provide alternatives to both domestic washing and dry cleaning, heralding the world’s first “virtually waterless” washing system.

Xeros, a University of Leeds spin-out, is commercialising the technology with some of the biggest names in the washing and dry-cleaning industries.

The process is based on the use of plastic granules (or chips) which are tumbled with the clothes to remove stains. A range of tests, carried out according to worldwide industry protocols to prove the technology performs to the high standards expected in the cleaning industry, show the process can remove virtually all types of everyday stains as effectively as existing processes whilst leaving clothes as fresh as normal washing. In addition, the clothes emerge from the process almost dry, reducing the need for tumble-dryers.

Xeros' technology uses as little as a cup of water in each wash cycle and could also bring benefits to other industrial processes such as wastewater treatment and metal degreasing.

According to Waterwise, a UK NGO focused on decreasing water wastage in the UK, washing machine use has risen by 23% in the past 15 years, up from 3 times a week in 1990 to an average of 4 times a week per household today. The average UK household uses almost 21 litres of water each day on clothes washing - 13% of daily household water consumption. This accounts for approximately 455 million litres of water daily, enough water to fill 145 Olympic size swimming pools.

Tests are currently underway in the dry-cleaning market with a view to replacing certain solvents that are currently used in dry-cleaning. Some of these solvents are potentially harmful, having been linked with certain types of cancer and some are now facing a ban in various states in the USA. The company believes that its new proprietary technology would eradicate the need for these solvents from dry-cleaning providing safety and monetary incentives for the dry cleaning industry.

The new technology could be on the UK market as early as 2009. Xeros has recently received funding of £500,000 from the University’s commercialisation partner, IP Group, subject to certain milestones being met.

Xeros was established in February 2007 to exploit a new patented washing method invented and developed in the School of Design at the University of Leeds. Company founder, Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, is an internationally-recognised expert in the science of textiles and dyeing.

Professor Burkinshaw, Professor of Textile Chemistry and director of Xeros, said: “The performance of the Xeros process in cleaning clothes has been quite astonishing. We’ve shown that it can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick whilst using a tiny fraction of the water used by conventional washing machines. The investment from IP Group will help us to accelerate the commercialisation of the technology and I look forward to seeing new washing and dry-cleaning machines that use the Xeros technology.”

A typical washing machine uses about 35kg of water for every kg of clothes that are washed - as well as large amounts of energy to heat the water and to dry the clothes afterwards. With environmental concerns becoming increasingly urgent and water becoming an increasingly scarce resource, there is an urgent need to reduce the amount of water and energy used for washing clothes.

Dr Rob Rule, Managing Director of Techtran Ltd, IP Group’s Leeds business, and a director of Xeros, said: “This is one of the most surprising and remarkable technologies I've encountered in recent years. Xeros has the ability to save billions of litres of water per year and, we believe, the potential to revolutionise the global laundry market. ”

The potential revenues for machines based on the Xeros technology are considerable. There are more than two million washing machines sold in the UK annually, valuing the UK market alone at around £1bn.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

New solar-powered water heater is on the way

A research team composed of teachers and students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Kun Shan University in Tainan County have developed a solar-powered water heater that gets its energy by tracking the sun. The device not only boosts the efficiency of water heaters but is also able to heat the water to 50 degrees Celsius. The commercial viability of the water heater is currently being tested.

The project was led by Chen Chang-jen, an instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Students taking part included Yen Tze-che, Pan Chun-hao, Tsai Cheng-tsung and Wang Chen-pu. They came up with the sun-tracking device with repeated tests and experiments. Previous solar-powered water heater could only absorb the power based on the path that the sun takes throughout the day. The new sun-tracking system takes advantage of the sun at various angles in the sky and adjusts its reflective panels to the most ideal angles to catch the light.
Chen says that most solar panels are traditional flat panels that are fixed in a certain position. As such, the sun's light is hard to catch at certain angles, even on bright days. The new sun-tracking system, however, enables the efficiency to be three times greater than that of the traditional solar panels. As a result, it is not only more efficient in collecting energy, but also in using energy, Chen says.

Yen Tze-che, one of the students involved in the project, says that a number of precision instruments have been installed on the top floor of the Department of Mechanical Engineering to collect data on the efficiency of the water heater. Preliminary findings are quite positive, but the water heater is still in the testing phase, said Yen, adding that the key principle behind the water heater will have applications in other appliances such as solar-powered cooking devices and other products aimed at saving on energy. He said students and teachers in the department are currently working on the technology for these items and testing their efficiency.

Word has gotten out about the preliminary success of the product, and some manufacturers have already contacted the department to discuss related R&D details. Industrialists are now looking into the possible commercialization of the solar-powered water heater, which if successful could ultimately become a common household item. The development of this and other related products not only help to save energy, but are also effective in promoting a greener environment.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Philips Light Blossom: Solar and Wind Powered Streetlight

One solution to the urban lighting problem is a new concept called "Light Blossom," designed by Philips Electronics. Light Blossom is an intelligent LED lighting system that can provide bright light when it senses people walking nearby, and decrease its luminosity when people aren't around. The technology is also energy-efficient and operates off the grid, gathering solar and wind energy during the day to use for light at night.

During the day, Light Blossom works similar to a flower, opening its "petals" to collect solar energy. As the sun moves across the sky, the petals gradually reorient themselves so they're facing the sun head-on to operate at maximum efficiency, similar to a sunflower.

On cloudy days when the wind is strong, the Light Blossom automatically converts its petals into an upward, open position that allows them to catch the wind. As the petals rotate, they transfer the motion to a built-in rotor that converts the motion to energy.

The Light Blossom continuously switches between solar and wind modes depending on weather conditions. It also displays its energy-collecting flow on its "trunk," or pole, with a decorative light for passers-by to see.

When the sun sets, the Light Blossom's LEDs automatically turn on, illuminating the ground below it. Philips claims that the downward-facing lamp design minimizes light pollution enough to enable people to see the stars in some areas. When people pass by the light, proximity sensors detect their movement and the LEDs switch from dim stand-by mode to a higher-intensity light.
Philips says that the Light Blossom's energy-efficient LEDs use just half of the energy of a traditional street light to produce the same light output. Because the device doesn´t require power infrastructure, rural communities without electricity could install Light Blossoms without investing in grid infrastructure. In urban communities, the devices could even supply power back to the grid when they generate an excess of energy, making the Light Blossom a light pole that generates rather than consumes power.

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