Posts belonging to Category Economy

Nano-based Material Is 60 Times More Efficient To Produce Hydrogen

Global climate change and the energy crisis mean that alternatives to fossil fuels are urgently needed. Among the cleanest low-carbon fuels is hydrogen, which can react with oxygen to release energy, emitting nothing more harmful than water (H2O) as the product. However, most hydrogen on earth is already locked into H2O (or other molecules), and cannot be used for power.

Hydrogen can be generated by splitting H2O, but this uses more energy than the produced hydrogen can give back. Water splitting is often driven by solar power, so-called “solar-to-hydrogenconversion. Materials like titanium oxide, known as semiconductors with the wide band-gap, are traditionally used to convert sunlight to chemical energy for the photocatalytic reaction. However, these materials are inefficient because only the ultraviolet (UV) part of light is absorbed—the rest spectrum of sunlight is wasted.

Now, a team in Osaka University has developed a material to harvest a broader spectrum of sunlight. The three-part composites of this material maximize both absorbing light and its efficiency for water splitting. The core is a traditional semiconductor, lanthanum titanium oxide (LTO). The LTO surface is partly coated with tiny specks of gold, known as nanoparticles. Finally, the gold-covered LTO is mixed with ultrathin sheets of the element black phosphorus (BP), which acts as a light absorber.

BP is a wonderful material for solar applications, because we can tune the frequency of light just by varying its thickness, from ultrathin to bulk,” the team leader Tetsuro Majima says. “This allows our new material to absorb visible and even near infrared light, which we could never achieve with LTO alone.”

By absorbing this broad sweep of energy, BP is stimulated to release electrons, which are then conducted to the gold nanoparticles coating the LTO. Gold nanoparticles also absorb visible light, causing some of its own electrons to be jolted out. The free electrons in both BP and gold nanoparticles are then transferred into the LTO semiconductor, where they act as an electric current for water splitting.

Hydrogen production using this material is enhanced not only by the broader spectrum of light absorption, but by the more efficient electron conduction, caused by the unique interface between two dimensional materials of BP and LTO. As a result, the material is 60 times more active than pure LTO.


Scalable Catalyst Produces Cheap Pure Hydrogen

The “clean-energy economy” always seems a few steps away but never quite here. Fossil fuels still power transportation, heating and cooling, and manufacturing, but a team of scientists from Penn State and Florida State University have come one step closer to inexpensive, clean hydrogen fuel with a lower cost and industrially scalable catalyst that produces pure hydrogen through a low-energy water-splitting process.

Hydrogen fuel cells can boost a clean-energy economy not only in the transportation sector, where fast fueling and vehicle range outpace battery-powered vehicles, but also to store electrical energy produced by solar and wind. This research is another step forward to reaching that goal.
Energy is the most important issue of our time, and for energy, fuel cells are crucially important, and then for fuel cells, hydrogen is most important,” said Yu Lei, Penn State doctoral student and first author of an ACS Nano paper describing the water-splitting catalyst she and her colleagues theoretically predicted and then synthesized in the lab. “People have been searching for a good catalyst that can efficiently split water into hydrogen and oxygen. During this process, there will be no side products that are not environmentally friendly.”

The current industrial method of producing hydrogen — steam reforming of methane — results in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other methods use waste heat, from sources such as advanced nuclear power plants or concentrated solar power, both of which face technical challenges for commercial feasibility. Another industrial process uses platinum as the catalyst to drive the water-splitting process. Although platinum is a near-perfect catalyst, it is also expensive. A cheaper catalyst could make hydrogen a reasonable alternative to fossil fuels in transportation, and power fuel cells for energy storage applications.

Molybdenum disulfide has been predicted as a possible replacement for platinum, because the Gibbs free energy for hydrogen absorption is close to zero,” said Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, materials science and engineering, and chemistry, Penn State. The lower the Gibbs free energy, the less external energy has to be applied to produce a chemical reaction.


College Student 3D Prints His Own Braces

Amos Dudley wears his skills in his smile. The digital design major has been straightening his top teeth for the past 16 weeks using clear braces he made himself.


 “I’m still wearing the last one,” said Dudley . “The last one” refers to the twelfth and final straightening tray in his self-designed treatment. Dudley said he had braces when he was in junior high, but he didn’t wear his retainer as much as he should have, and his teeth shifted. Over time, Dudley discovered that he wasn’t smiling as much because he wasn’t happy with the way his teeth looked.

Name brand options for clear braces can cost up to $8,000, according to companies like Invisalign, Damon, and ClearCorrect. But the 24-year-old wanted to save money, so he found a way to manufacture his own for less than $60. The total cost is so low because he only had to pay for materials used to make the models of his teeth and the retainers. Even though he built his own 3D printer at home, he opted to use a high-end and more precise 3D printer at his school, New Jersey Institute of Technology.

He used NJIT’s equipment to scan and print models of his teeth, and mold non-toxic plastic around them to form the set of 12 clear braces. Dudley determined out how far he needed to move his teeth to correct the misalignment problems. Then divided it by the maximum recommended distance a tooth should travel to determine the design for each alignment tray. Orthodontists use a similar process. Researching the materials he needed and figuring out how teeth move was the most difficult part of Dudley’s orthodontic adventure. The most exciting was when he finally put the first aligner in his mouth. “It was very obvious which tooth [the tray] was putting pressure on,” he said. “I was sort of worried about accumulated error, but that wasn’t the case so that was a pretty glorious moment.


Nuclear Energy: Fusion Power A Step Closer

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

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

Nuclear fusion is the process that fuels our Sun, and if we can figure out a way to achieve the same thing here on Earth, it would allow us to tap into an unlimited supply of clean energy that produces next to no carbon emissions.Unlike nuclear fission, which is achieved in today’s nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together, not splitting them apart, and it requires little more than salt and water, and primarily produces helium as a waste product.


Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world,” said David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, the company behind ST40. “We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.

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

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


Liquid Storage Of The Sun’s Power

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have demonstrated efficient solar energy storage in a chemical liquid. The stored energy can be transported and then released as heat whenever needed. ​Many consider the sun the energy source of the future. But one challenge is that it is difficult to store solar energy and deliver the energy ‘on demand’.

The research team from Chalmers University has shown that it is possible to convert the solar energy directly into energy stored in the bonds of a chemical fluid – a so-called molecular solar thermal system. The liquid chemical makes it possible to store and transport the solar energy and release it on demand, with full recovery of the storage medium. The process is based on the organic compound norbornadiene that upon exposure to light converts into quadricyclane.

The technique means that we can store the solar energy in chemical bonds and release the energy as heat whenever we need it,’ says Professor Kasper Moth-Poulsen, who is leading the research team. ‘Combining the chemical energy storage with water heating solar panels enables a conversion of more than 80 percent of the incoming sunlight.’

The research project was initiated at Chalmers more than six years ago and the research team contributed in 2013 to a first conceptual demonstration. At the time, the solar energy conversion efficiency was 0.01 percent and the expensive element ruthenium played a major role in the compound. Now, four years later, the system stores 1.1 percent of the incoming sunlight as latent chemical energy – an improvement of a factor of 100. Also, ruthenium has been replaced by much cheaper carbon-based elements.

We saw an opportunity to develop molecules that make the process much more efficient,’ says Moth-Poulsen. ‘At the same time, we are demonstrating a robust system that can sustain more than 140 energy storage and release cycles with negligible degradation.’

The research is presented on the cover of the scientific journal Energy & Environmental Science.


Your browsing history may be up for sale soon

A US House committee is set to vote on whether to kill privacy rules that would prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users’ web browsing histories and app usage histories to advertisers. Planned protections, proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would have forced ISPs to get people’s consent before hawking their data – are now at risk. Here’s why it matters.

Your web browsing patterns contain a treasure trove of data, including your health concerns, shopping habits and visits to porn sites. ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit. The fact that you’re looking at a website at all can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.

spy your dataIf you ask the ISPs, it’s about showing the user more relevant advertising. They argue that web browsing history and app usage should not count as “sensitiveinformation.
Not all ISPs want to abolish the privacy protections. A list of several smaller providers – including, Cruzio Internet and Credo Mobile – have written to representatives to oppose the decision. “One of the cornerstones of our businesses is respecting the privacy of our customers,” they said.
How does this differ from the way Google and Facebook use our data?
It’s much harder to prevent ISPs from tracking your data. You can choose not to use Facebook or Google’s search engine, and there are lots of tools you can use to block their tracking on other parts of the web, for example EFF’s Privacy Badger.

Consumers are generally much more limited for choice of ISP, in some cases only having one option in a given geographical area. This means they can’t choose one of the ISPs pledging to protect user data.


How To Build A 3D Printed House in One Day For $10,000

San Francisco-based Apis Cor reported on its blog that on a cold day last December it (and a number of its partners) built an entire 400 square foot house with its custom printer and it only cost $10,000. Oh, and it took just 24 hours to complete.


Others have claimed to build houses with 3D printers. But what makes Apis Cor’s house unique is that it wasn’t constructed from pre-printed panels that required assembly by construction workers. The “printer” used is a giant, mobile piece of crane-like equipment that layers on cement in one continuous process, building both the internal and external structure all at once instead of in multiple parts. It’s a one-story structure but it can be constructed in just about any shape and the company showed how it could be built in even the coldest of conditions in this YouTube video.

Contractors worrying about their jobs shouldn’t panic…yet. Once all the walls are put together, those workers are then needed to do everything else – like installing windows and the roof, plus painting, insulating and putting in appliances, according to this report in Quartz. A finished test house that the company built with a partner in Russia is “cozy and comfortable” and includes “a hall, a bathroom, a living room and a compact functional kitchen with the most modern appliances from Samsung company,” Apis Cor’s blog boasts.

3D printed house

As you can see with the advent of new technology,” the company says in its blog post. “Construction 3D printing is changing the view and approach to the construction of low-rise buildings and provides new opportunities to implement custom architectural solutions.

The possibilities of this advancement in 3D printing are many. Houses could be quickly constructed for refugee camps, people displaced by natural disaster or for those who do not have available housing, such as the homeless. Governments could build entire communities of affordable housing at just a fraction of what’s paid today.


Wooden SkyScrapers

High-rise wooden buildings, such as 14-storey apartment building “The Tree” in Norway, are altering city skylines in what the timber industry is heralding as a new era that will dent the supremacy of concrete and steel.

wooden skyscraper


Situated on the Bergen waterfront, The Tree is the tallest wooden building in the world. The 52.8 metre high structure is one of a growing number of so-called Plyscrapers altering city skylines. The timber industry say it’s an environmental solution, as countries seek to reduce emissions.

It will never totally displace concrete and steel, but it’s definitely a part in our solution towards our struggle towards a CO2 neutral society,”  says Ole Herman Kleppe, Chief Project Manager.

The architects insist that fears of fire in such timber homes are groundless.  “These columns and these CLT panels they don’t burn. They’re so thick that they don’t burn. In addition, they are painted with fire resistant paint and the house is sprinkled so we have all possible ways to prevent a fire in the house. So actually, this is the safest house in Bergen regarding fire.” explains Kleppe.

The 14-storey structure is made of sustainable wood. But concrete makers dispute the idea that timber is greener, insisting that deforestation causes more CO2 emissions. The Tree’s structure isn’t entirely wooden.

It’s concrete on this roof because it adds weight and it was necessary to add weight to this wooden building because it kind of dampens the swinging,” adds Per Reigstad, architect at Artec.

Later this year a wooden building that’s two inches taller will open in Vancouver. Even taller structures are being planned in Vienna and London.


SpaceX Hyperloop A Step Closer To Reality

The Hyperloop high-speed transportation system has moved a step closer to reality. Teams competed to design subscale versions of the transport pods that could one day whisk passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under half an hour. The competition was hosted by SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk. Although Musk is not directly involved in the construction of the Hyperloop, the billionaire entrepreneur originally envisioned the concept, having created an open-source plan that encouraged others to build it. The idea is that passengers would travel through low-pressure steel tubes at up to 800 mph (1,288 kph), propelled by a magnetic accelerator. The fastest pod in the competition reached 58mph (93 kph). That was designed and built by a 35-person team from the Technical University of Munich, Germany.


What made our team stand out is actually a compressor which we bought out of an old aircraft. It’s there to reduce drag and give us some additional speed.” A team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands achieved the highest overall score in the competition for their pod with a levitation, stabilization and braking system based on permanent magnets“, said Josef Fleischmann, member of the WARR team from Technical University of Munich.

Hyperloop, the technology is pretty much there already, we just have to implement it. One of the things this competition is for is to show the world that we can do this and convince them that we should build it somewhere and get the ball rolling,” explains Mars Geuze, technical of Delft Hyperloop.
SpaceX has said it will hold a second competition, open to both new and existing student teams, in Summer 2017, this time focused only on maximum speed.


£25,000 To Fabricate A New Beer According To Your DNA

Can’t quite find the perfect pint? A London brewer claims to have the answer – a beer designed around your DNA profile. The Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich says designing a product to suit a particular person’s palate is a world first.


What we looked at doing was trying to create a beer where we could produce a beer specifically to that person, so looking at their DNA to understand the taste profile of the individual to then say OK, you particularly identify bitter flavours, sweet flavours what have you and then produce a beer which has that characteristic so you would ultimately like that beer and it would be a great beer to taste and it would suit your taste buds perfectly.” explains Ciaran Giblin, Brewmaster at Meantime Brewing Company.

Launching in February, Meantime Bespoke customers will have their DNA analysed They’re looking for variations in the gene that allows us to taste bitter compounds like those found in cabbage, coffee and certain dark beers. Then it’s back to the brewery and tried and tested variations of barley, hops, yeast and water.

It’s about interpreting all these different facets to bring it together to produce one beer that someone is going to like. So it’s a complex process. It’s not a simple case of just putting it all in together and off it goes. There’s lots of elements that we’ve got to draw in together to focus on in order to deliver the beer that is perfect for someone to drink,” comments Ciaran Giblin.

Customers will pay 25,000 pounds for the privilege – and for a little extra can impact the whole process of creating a new beer .

You have influence on what the label looks like, on what the taste of the beer looks like. You can even get a glass perfectly formed to your hand so you can enjoy it in the perfect way. A glass can influence the flavour of the beer as well. So it really ticks off every box that you go through and then you get to share it with friends or if you’re a business or wherever you go,” says Richard Myers, Marketing Director of the company. Customers will get 12 hectolitres of their unique brew in bottles – more than 2,000 pints It can also be delivered in kegs to your favourite pub – where you’ll have even more friends than you realised.


The Rise Of The Hydrogen Electric Car

Right now, if you want an alternative-fuel vehicle, you have to pick from offerings that either require gasoline or an electrical outlet. The gas-electric hybrid and the battery-powered car — your Toyota Priuses, Chevy Volts, and Teslas — are staples in this space. There are drawbacks for drivers of both types. You still have to buy gas for your hybrid and you have to plug in your Tesla — sometimes under less than favorable conditions — lest you be stranded someplace far away from a suitable plug. Beyond that, automakers have been out to find the next viable energy source. Plug-in vehicles are more or less proven to be the answer, but Toyota and a handful of other carmakers are investigating hydrogen.


That’s where the Toyota Mirai comes in. The Mirai‘s interior center stack has all the technology you would expect from a car that retails for $57,500, including navigation, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. It’s all accessible by touch screens and robust digital displays.
A fill-up on hydrogen costs just about as much as regular gasoline in San Francisco. The Mirai gets an estimated 67 MPGe (67 Miles per gallon gasoline equivalent = 28,5 kilometers per liter)), according to Toyota.
It’s an ambitious project for Toyota because the fueling infrastructure for this car is minimal. There are only 33 public hydrogen-filling stations in the US, according to the US Department of Energy. Twenty-six of those stations are in California, and there’s one each in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.

If you include public and private hydrogen stations, then the total climbs to 58 — nationwide. Compare that to the more than 15,100 public electric-charging stations and the 168,000 retail gas stations in the US, and you can see the obvious drawback of hydrogen-powered cars. Despite this, the Mirai is an interesting project, and you must keep in mind that Japan at the Government level seems to bet on a massively hydrogen powered economy in the near future (fuel, heating, replacement of nuclear energy, trains, electric vehicles, etc…).


Hyperloop Competition

Elon Musk’s futuristic Hyperloop concept was unveiled in 2013… …a transport system allowing people to travel at almost the speed of sound inside reduced-pressure tubes. To bring the idea closer to reality Musk launched the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod contest. 30 teams, like this one from Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), will test their pods on a mile-long track in California next month. The Delft Hyperloop uses passive magnetic bearing to allow contact-free levitation.


What’s so nice about it is that these magnets they’re not electro-magnets that require current, but they’re passive, permanent magnets, so the ones you can put on your fridge, for example – and that makes the entire system very energy efficient. You don’t need to put in any power to start levitating. You just gain speed and then the vehicle wants to go up and levitate by itself,” explains Sascha Lamme, chief engineer for Delft Hyperloop.

The half-size pod prototype weighs just 149 kilograms. It’s designed to reach Musk’s 750 mile per hour target… …though the small test track will limit competitors to around half that. The Delft team insists its pod has proved safe in tests.
It starts levitating at a height of almost two centimetres. But also our braking system really controls the vehicle very smoothly, to get to a controlled stop, so that all the passengers still feel comfortable….Even when the power is lost in the entire vehicle, the vehicle will come to a quick standstill, so everyone is safe,” adds Sascha Lamme.  January’s competition winners will hope victory brings them closer to making Elon Musk’s high-speed dream a reality.