Starbons produced from waste biomass outperform conventional solid-state carbon capture materials

1. Sustainability Problem

Energy and climate: in order to mitigate the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels, power plants capture carbon dioxide from flue gases for permanent storage or alternative uses. Amine-based and other liquid absorption methods are complex and have a high parasitic energy load (considerable energy is required to regenerate the material), so there is a need for highly efficient solid absorption materials.

2. Technology Article Summary

Article:
York chemists lead breakthrough in carbon capture

Published 7/04/2016 on University of York News at http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2016/research/starbons-carbon-capture/

  • Scientists at the University of York have developed a method for producing mesoporous carbon materials from waste biomass.
  • The process involves the carbonization of polysaccharides by heating to high temperatures – creating materials which selectively bind CO2 from a gas stream, and are easily regenerated under vacuum.
  • The properties of the “starbons” produced differ depending on the temperature and time applied to the biomass.
  • Some starbons capture as much as 65% more carbon dioxide than conventional activated carbon.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

Starbons have already been commercialized for other applications, such as catalysis and chromatographic separations, but are not yet available for carbon capture. Stakeholders in this process will include:

  • Researchers
  • Starbon Technologies
  • Owners and managers of power plants

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • UoY researchers and Starbon Technologies: characterize the optimal material, and commercially produce a starbon for carbon capture
  • Power plants with solid-state carbon capture: phase in starbon to replace activated carbon
  • Power plants with liquid-state carbon capture: investigate opportunities to redesign carbon capture systems to incorporate solid capture materials

See also:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201602226/full for the recent research paper.

http://www.starbon-technologies.com/ for information on the company and other applications of starbons.

 

CO2 technology could cut cost of biofuel production by more than 50 percent

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1. Sustainability Problem

Fuel and energy: ethanol produced from biomass continues to be used to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. However, the conventional pretreatment of biomass to break down cellulose is expensive and involves the use of toxic ionic liquids.

2. Technology Article Summary

Article:
Scientists harness CO2 to consolidate biofuel production process

by Sarah Yang
Published 7/21/2016 on Tech Xplore at https://techxplore.com/news/2016-07-scientists-harness-co2-biofuel-production.html

  • Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed improved technology for the pretreatment of plant material in biofuel production.
  • The new process involves applying carbon dioxide at up to 145 psi to optimize the pH of the ionic liquid used in pretreatment – allowing the process to produce 83% of the theoretical ethanol yield.
  • The addition of carbon dioxide is reversible, so that the ionic solvent can be easily reused without the need for the separation and regeneration steps that are currently typical. This means that pretreatment can be carried out in a single vessel, rather than the usual three.
  • The “silver shotgun” technology is projected to lower the overall costs of biofuel production by 50-65 % from conventional ionic liquid pretreatment methods.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

This technology is still in research and development, but could eventually impact the following stakeholders:

  • Biofuel producers
  • Owners of gasoline-powered vehicles
  • Department of Energy

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • JBEI researchers: adapt the technology to the production of “drop-in” advanced biofuels
  • Biofuel producers: integrate the technology into existing production plants
  • Biofuel producers: phase out expensive ionic liquid pretreatment technologies

See also:

http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2016/ee/c6ee00913a#!divAbstract for the research manuscript.

 

Open-source robot to optimize backyard gardening

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1. Sustainability Problem

Food and agriculture: There is growing demand in cities for local produce, but small-scale gardening tends to be both labor-intensive and resource inefficient.

2. Technology Article Summary

Article:
The FarmBot Genesis Brings Precision Agriculture To Your Own Backyard

by Andrew Hayward
Published 6/27/2016 on modern farmer at http://modernfarmer.com/2016/06/farmbot-genesis/

  • A three-person team from California has developed a data-enabled machine to sow and water seeds in small gardens.
  • The FarmBot Genesis is pre-programmed to optimize spacing and watering for thirty three common plant varieties – but the open source coding means that it can be adapted by the user for specific applications.
  • The bot can be controlled from a smartphone or computer, and users can customize plantings using in a simple interface that looks like a computer game.
  • The current system can manage a plot up to 2.9 meters × 1.4 meters, with a maximum plant height of 0.5 meters – but there is potential to develop and customize the technology for a variety of applications.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

This technology is now available for pre-order, and the immediate stakeholders will be:

  • Backyard farmers
  • Urban agriculture organizations and cooperatives

Because the technology is open source and has potential for development, future stakeholders could include:

  • Operators of commercial-scale greenhouse operations
  • Plant researchers working in controlled environments

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • Creators: disseminate the Genesis model
  • Early adopters: identify value-add applications
  • Creators: scale up manufacturing to bring cost below $1000/unit

See also:

 

Planned energy storage facility will replace natural-gas power plant

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1. Sustainability Problem

Energy: energy demand in cities fluctuates over the course of the day. In west LA, this means that during non-peak hours renewable solar and wind electricity goes unused, while during peak hours the electricity supply is supplemented with extra non-renewable natural gas generation.

2. Technology Article Summary

Article:
Will the world’s largest storage battery be America’s energy cure?

by John Fialka
Published 7/7/2016 on E&E Publishing LLC at http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060039876

  • California’s Public Utilities Commission has set ambitious targets to cut GHG emissions by 80% by 2050, and requires utilities to build storage capacity to help meet this goal.
  • The utility for west Los Angeles, Southern California Edison Co. opened bids to replace their “peaker” – the gas-fired power plant that they use to meet peak demand, and selected an offer from battery designer AES Corp., over 1 800 other offers.
  • AES Corp. aim to install a 100 MW power storage facility at Long Beach to store excess electricity generated during off-peak hours and release it back to the grid during peak times. The facility is planned for a 2021 completion and will contain 18 000 battery modules.
  • While this could solve the energy peak problem in the long term, significant energy shortages are still expected over the next five years before the project is finished.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

The planned facility will serve west LA. Stakeholders will include:

  • The utility, Southern California Edison Co.
  • End users of electricity
  • Homeowners with solar panels currently selling electricity to the grid (prices likely to be affected)

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • AES: develop the 100 MW facility by 2021
  • Southern California Edison Co.: connect the storage facility to the distribution grid, and decommission the gas-powered peaker
  • Other utilities in California: identify opportunities for similar systems to replace non-renewable power plants and help meet Public Utilities Commission requirements

See also:

http://energystorage.org/energy-storage/case-studies/frequency-regulation-services-and-firm-wind-product-aes-energy-storage for an overview of AES Corp’s successful installation of an energy storage solution for a wind farm in Laurel Mountain, West Virginia

 

New technique improves solar absorption efficiency

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1. Sustainability Problem

Energy: Solar absorbers are used to transform solar radiation into thermal energy for a variety of applications – but many of these absorbers are inefficient. The inefficiency of the technology is a barrier to its large-scale replacement of non-renewable sources of thermal energy.

2. Technology Article Summary

Article:
Novel Solar Absorber to Improve Efficiency of Concentrating Solar Power Technology
by Erica Solomon
Published 6/8/2016 on Masdar Institute News at https://news.masdar.ac.ae/explore-news/stories-by-type/transformation/item/9191-novel-solar-absorber-to-improve-efficiency-of-concentrating-solar-power-technology.html

  • Researchers at the Masdar Institute and MIT have developed a new technique that can raise the efficiency of a solar absorber to almost ninety percent.
  • The technique involves piercing a solar-absorbing film with a pattern of very fine holes (less than 400 nm diamater).
  • The nano-porous absorber can absorb a broader range of wavelengths than traditional absorbers, and also uses less material – it has only two layers (a metallic layer over a semiconductor) with a total thickness of 170 nm.
  • The ultrathin film also exhibits low radiative losses.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

This technology is still in the research phase, but has potential to affect the following stakeholders:

  • Manufacturers of solar absorbers/collectors
  • Utilities using solar collectors to generate electricity
  • Building owners who could use thermal energy collected by solar absorbers for space and water heating

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • Researchers: optimize metallic coating to reduce costs of manufacture
  • Manufacturers: manufacture modular units using the ultrathin film technology
  • Building owners and developers: phase in solar thermal panels to replace heating-oil technologies

 

Bladeless wind turbines trialed

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1. Sustainability Problem

Energy: Global energy demand continues to grow, and renewable energy technologies are often less acceptable than fossil-fuel technologies because of the cost to manufacture and concerns about unintended impacts. Wind turbines, in particular, are often opposed because of noise pollution, shadow flicker and bird strike.

2. Technology Article Summary

Article:
Can bladeless wind turbines mute opposition?

by Dominic Bates
Published 6/1/2015 on theguardian at http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jun/01/can-bladeless-wind-turbines-mute-opposition

  • Spanish company Vortex Bladeless has developed a wind turbine that captures close to 40 % of wind energy  without the use of blades.
  • The turbine uses the principle of aeroelastic coupling: wind currents form whirlwinds or vortices in contact with the structure, a single mast mounted on a frictionless magnetic bearing.
  • Vortices cause the mast to oscillate, a movement that increases exponentially as the frequency of the vortex approaches the resonance frequency of the structure. This mechanical energy is easily converted to electricity.
  • The structure is cheaper to produce than a conventional bladed turbine, has no wearing parts, is much quieter and is not expected to harm birds, so is poised to overcome the most significant arguments against wind turbine installation in the UK.
  • The turbine has not yet been produced to scale, but Vortex Bladeless hope to release a 100 W, 3 metre model and a 4 kW, 13 metre model in the next 18 months.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

This technology is initially intended for distributed generation. In this phase it might affect the following stakeholders:

  • Communities living off-grid in Africa and India
  • Homeowners in the UK interested in domestic generation
  • Policymakers considering restrictions on height of domestic turbines
  • Environmental and community groups including RSPB and CPRE

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • Vortex Bladeless: develop 100 W and 4 kW models for market
  • Policymakers: reconsider the current 11.1 m height restriction on turbines in residential areas
  • Policymakers: exempt bladeless turbines from subsidy withdrawals designed to discourage bladed turbine installations

See also: http://www.greenrhinoenergy.com/renewable/wind/wind_environment.php for a discussion of unintended impacts of bladed wind turbines

 

Wave-powered electricity generation in Australia

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1. Sustainability Problem

Energy: Growing cities can struggle to keep up with energy demand, and increasing demand is often met with unsustainable technologies such as electric generation from coal. Renewable means of generating electricity are needed.

2. Technology Article Summary

Article:
Australian wave energy project sets a new world record with 14, 000 operating hours

by Josh Marks
Published 6/9/2016 on inhabitat at http://inhabitat.com/australian-wave-energy-project-sets-world-record-with-14000-operating-hours/

  • The first array of wave power generators connected to an electricity grid was installed a year ago off Bondi Beach. This is the CETO 5 project operated by Carnegie Wave Energy.
  • The field provides renewable electricity and potable water to a naval base on Garden Island.
  • Carnegie are currently developing CETO 6, a unit with a target of four times the output of CETO 5 at 1MW. This model is intended to be used in commercial CETO projects.
  • The author identifies potential for this kind of zero-emission electricity generation to be expanded throughout the country, since 80% of the Australian population live along the coast.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

This technology, when commercialized, will be available to coastal areas around the world. Stakeholders will include:

  • Private energy companies/utilities operating in coastal areas
  • End users of energy
  • End users of desalinized water
  • Current users of coastal waters (for fishing, recreation, etc.)

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • Carnegie: demonstrate performance of CETO-6 unit (project commissioning planned for 2017)
  • Energy companies: identify potential sites for installation and carry out geotechnical investigation
  • Energy companies: install pilot-scale CETO-6 arrays and connect into existing grid.

See also:

http://carnegiewave.com/projects/ceto-6/ for a technical description of the CETO-6 unit

http://carnegiewave.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/CP115-0020-0_PRS-CETO-6-Community-Information-Sheet_Web.pdf for information on the planned CETO-6 installation at Garden Island