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Aviation fuel from renewable sources PDF Print E-mail
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The aviation industry is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2011, aviation contributed around 3% of Australia's emissions. Despite improvements in efficiency, global aviation emissions are expected to grow 70% by 2020 from 2005. While the industry is seeking new renewable fuel sources, growing biofuels takes up valuable land and water that could be otherwise used to grow food.

But what if you could grow biofuels on land nobody wants, using just seawater and sunlight, and produce food at the same time?
That's just what a new project in Abu Dhabi is seeking to do. The Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System, or ISEAS, will grow sustainable food and aviation fuel in the desert, using seawater and sunshine, in a way that is eminently transferable to similar arid regions around the world.
The project was announced in January 2015 and is now under construction.
So, how does the project solve the biggest environmental problems?

A triple dilemma

Energy, water and food problems frequently compound each other, each making the others more difficult to resolve.
Examples abound. Think of wasteful irrigation coming up against water limits and threatening reductions in food production. But there are some projects that turn the issue around and bring water, energy and food issues into positive relations, each strengthening the others.
The Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System in Abu Dhabi, the UAE.
One example of this is the Sundrop Farms project in South Australia, where abundant sunshine and seawater are used to produce electric power and fresh water to cultivate greenhouse crops like tomatoes.
The Sundrop Farms project is moving ahead, and has won substantial financial support from the global venture capital firm KKR in addition to its earlier support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, as well as a contract to supply fresh produce to supermarket chain Coles over the next ten years.
The Abu Dhabi project is even more ambitious and is called "seawater farming". It involves the use of salt-tolerant plants like mangroves and the oil-rich Salicornia as well as aquaculture of seafood such as shrimps and fish.
Sea tolerant plants like mangroves will feature in the Abu Dhabi project.
The project was developed through the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium in Abu Dhabi. It involves as partners the airline Etihad Airways, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (from the UAE), as well as corporate giants Boeing, General Electric and UOP Honeywell. These corporations provide the funding and a potentially (vast) market.
The idea is to rapidly scale up various options for securing the biomass and complementing it with associated activities to generate a closed loop operation.
 
Making homes from plastic bottles PDF Print E-mail
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A group of women drink tea under the shade of a tent and cast an eye over the construction of an odd, circular house. The half-built dwelling is the brainchild of Tateh Lehbib Braica, 27, an engineer who wanders among the workers.

On the ground lie hundreds of sand-filled, 1.5 litre plastic bottles that serve as bricks. With them, Tateh has found a way to fight back against the harshness of the Algerian desert that is home to 90,000 long-term refugees from western Sahara. It’s not yet that hot, but in summer, when the temperature rises above 50C, it will be impossible to venture out of doors.

“I was born in a sun-dried brick house,” he says. “The roof was made of sheets of zinc – one of the best heat conductors. Me and my family had to endure high temperatures, rain and sandstorms that would sometimes take the roof off.

The houses possess several qualities that equip them for the brutal ecosystem of the Algerian hamada, the so-called desert of all deserts. The walls are made of sand-filled plastic bottles, cement and a mixture of earth and straw that acts as thermal insulation. Compared with the traditional sun-dried bricks, which fall apart in the rains that batter the region from time to time, they are very tough.


Their circular shape serves a dual purpose: not only does it stop dunes forming during sandstorms as happens with square houses, it also – along with the white-painted exterior – reduces the impact of solar rays by up to 90%.

A double roof with a ventilation space and two windows set at different heights to encourage air flow mean that temperatures are 5C lower than in the other houses in the camps.

The floods of 2015 and 2016 destroyed 9,000 homes and 60% of the camps’ already scant infrastructure, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Tateh’s idea reached the UNHCR’s Geneva HQ and it was selected as a pilot project. The agency’s grant of about €55,000 (£43,000) has seen 25 more houses built in the five Sahrawi refugee camps in the Algerian province of Tindouf.

Tateh’s circular homes have sprung from the ground in the camps of El Aaiún, Auserd, Smara, Bojador and Dajla, all of which are named after the western Saharan cities from which thousands of people fled in 1975 after the so-called Green March and Moroccan occupation.

Much of the scheme’s success lies in its low-cost and ecological benefits. Each house needs about 6,000 bottles and takes a team of four people a week to build.

“We don’t have modern recycling like they do in other countries, but we can make use of all the tonnes of plastic,” says Tateh, who studied renewable energy at Algiers University followed by a masters in energy efficiency at the University of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria thanks to an Erasmus Mundus grant from the EU.

“The idea came to me in 2016 after the big flood,” he says. “I was using plastic bottles to make a mock-up of some roofs and it just hit me.”

According to Hamdi Bukhari, the UNHCR’s representative in Algeria, “the project is really innovative and beneficial, not just for the people who live in the houses but also when it comes to providing work and for the environment.”

 

 

 
Could this be the Nuclear Eureka moment ? PDF Print E-mail
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A COLD fusion machine aimed at creating limitless supplies of energy from a few litres of seawater has been fired-up and is working exactly as the designers hoped.

 The mind-bogglingly complex “star-chamber” called the Wendelstein 7-X creates clean, radiation-free nuclear energy by mimicking what happens in stars like our own sun.

Cold fusion – based on safe nuclear fusion rather than the dangerous nuclear fusion of the world’s current reactors has been the dream of physicists since the 1950s.

But the technique is so fiendishly complex and the conditions so difficult to recreate that many wrote it off as a pipe dream.

But the experimental Wendelstein 7-X – one of the most complex machines ever designed – is working perfefctly according to a new study.

The Wendelstein 7-X uses a machine with the fabulously science fiction name – a stellarator.

It confines super-heated helium – in plasma form – to spark reactions in twisted three dimensional magnetic fields.

Sam Lazerson, a physicist at the US Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in New Jersey, said: “This is a significant step forward in stellarator research since it shows that the complicated and delicate magnetic topology can be created and verified with the required accuracy.”

The findings, the researchers added in a press release, could be “a key step toward verifying the feasibility of stellarators as models for future fusion reactors.”

The Wendelstein 7-X which is five meters across and in a laboratory in Germany was originally designed as a proof-of-concept.

It has now been shown conclusively to work. And the developers can now focus on creating new designs that improve the efficiency of the device.

 

 

 

 

 
China advancing with Nuclear Power PDF Print E-mail
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Chinese engineers have managed to create hydrogen gas that is three times hotter than the sun.

The team were able to maintain 50 million°C for 102 seconds – a breakthrough that could someday make fusion power a reality.

It follows news that Germany used 2 megawatts of microwave radiation to heat hydrogen gas to 80 million°C for a quarter of a second.

Fusion works by using two kinds of hydrogen atoms — deuterium and tritium — and injecting that gas into a containment vessel.

Scientist then add energy that removes the electrons from their host atoms, forming what is described as an ion plasma, which releases huge amounts of energy.

If the technique is perfected, it would provide an inexhaustible source of power and potentially solve the world's energy crisis.

The Chinese experiment was conducted last week on a magnetic fusion reactor at the Institute of Physical Science in Hefei, capital of Jiangsu


 
Hydrogen from waste PDF Print E-mail
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Getting rid of household waste water from sinks, toilets, baths and the like is a growing problem around the world. In modern cities, such water finds its way into municipal sewage treatment plants, where processing yields huge amounts of sewage sludge. But instead of disposing of this sludge as waste, people are realizing that it can be a valuable source of renewable energy.     

     So rather than simply dumping the sludge or using it for cement filler and other applications, there is a growing movement to utilize the material as biomass, to produce hydrogen gas for fuel cell vehicles, as a source of heat to generate electricity, and to make fertilizer and fuel pellets.

Hydrogen power

Fukuoka is the largest city in the Kyushu region in southern Japan, with a population of 1.5 million. It is also home to the world's first serious effort to commercialize hydrogen derived from sewage sludge.

 

     Mitsubishi Kakoki and Kyushu University are collaborating with the city as part of the Fukuoka Hydrogen Town project to establish a means of generating hydrogen from sewage sludge and supply it for fuel cell vehicles.

     To process sewage sludge, waste water from homes and the like travels through sewer pipes to reach a sewage treatment plant, where it is collected and treated. This waste water contains human waste and other solid material, so the first step is to separate out the water component and decompose the organic materials using microorganisms. Sewage sludge consists of the original solid material plus the remains of the microorganisms used in the treatment process.

     Currently, most of this sewage sludge is incinerated or otherwise disposed of at great expense.     

     But Fukuoka is interested in the beneficial uses of this sludge. It uses a process to heat and break down the sludge to generate biogas containing large amounts of methane. It then processes this biogas using a special facility that extracts only methane, and reacts this with steam at high temperature to make 99.999% pure hydrogen, exceeding international quality standards.

     The water treatment facility in Fukuoka where this is taking place is also equipped with a hydrogen station for fuel cell vehicles. It's estimated that up to 2 million fuel cell vehicles could be plying the roads in 2025 in Japan, and based on that prediction, the city calculates it can turn a profit on such fueling stations in a decade.

     Fukuoka has a history of reusing resources. It lacks a so-called Class A river system, which is the designation for systems deemed important for the national economy and people's lives, so in 1978, a dry year, it was forced to impose restrictions on water use for 287 consecutive days. The city was the first in Japan to reuse processed waste water for toilets, and to this day it has more facilities for supplying this kind of recycled water than any other city in Japan. The citywide ethos for the reuse of resources helps explain why it is now tackling the conversion of sewage sludge into hydrogen.

 
The Museum of shit PDF Print E-mail
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  Like most people, Gianantonio Locatelli—farmer, art collector, visionary—is not naturally drawn to shit. Castelbosco, his farm in the lush pastures south-west of Piacenza, northern Italy, produces dairy almost exclusively for Grana Padano cheese. Every day, enough milk flows from his 2,500 cows to make more than 130 rich, nutty wheels of the stuff.

The cows also excrete a vast amount of shit—at least 30 kilos per day. Taken together, their daily dung deposit would fill a school classroom from floor to ceiling, and weigh so much that if it was loaded onto a Boeing 737, the plane would never get off the runway.

Locally, disposing of industrial levels of farm waste can be a major problem. Globally, it is an existential threat. In 2008, Locatelli did what smart farmers do, and installed a biogas generator to turn methane from the excrement into electricity, but this still left him with huge quantities of de-methanated crap.

In a pioneering application of new technology, he began extracting urea from the waste to make plastic (otherwise made from crude oil), and using leftover slurry to make 90-percent-dung, construction-grade bricks, playfully dubbed “merdacotta,” instead of terracotta. Even the water piped around his machinery to keep it cool is being recycled, diverted to heat an entire village nearby.

Rather than leave this new poop factory as an eyesore on the Italian landscape, Locatelli then commissioned major British artist David Tremlett in 2011 to turn the site into monumental art works. Not long after that, a chat with architect Luca Cipelletti marked the birth of Museo della Merda—The Shit Museum—a public display at the farm showcasing its ground-breaking system of sustainable agriculture.

“Anyone can come and see how shit is transformed into energy, urea, plastic, bricks,” Cipelletti tells Quartz. “The point is to transform every part of the material in order to arrive at zero—where there’s no waste.”

Spread across nine rooms, each chamber of Museo della Merda hosts sculpted, stylised, or otherwise reimagined shit in installations addressed, in a fairly free way, to waste and transformation. In keeping with this latter theme, the exhibits are all temporary, but at the museum’s opening on April 27, 2015, a striking installation by Alberto Pasetti gave a taste of things to come. In a darkened room, shelves of green jars glow against one wall, illuminated by genetically engineered bioluminescent bacteria, fed by methane gas: biological, artifical light.

Cipeletti says he wants Locatelli’s museum to be a place where “we push the subject”, but a poo is a many-splendored thing, and the Museo della Merda is taking on a vast topic.

Shit, though no one wants to think about it, is one of the biggest issues facing the world today. A child dies every 15 seconds due to a lack of adequate sanitation, diarrhoea caused by ingesting feces is a bigger killer than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and measels combined, and almost two-thirds of people alive today have no access to a toilet. Perhaps Locatelli’s “zero-waste” system could be applied to human shit to the same smart, ecological effect, but sewer systems are all designed to mix shit with other toxic chemical waste and blow it out to sea.

Perhaps the only place in the world where sustainable thinking about shit has been applied is in Rwandan prisons, where inmates cook and grow all their food using biogas and fertiliser made from their own excrement.

First things first. “We’re not so pretentious that we want to solve everything,” says Cipelletti. “The most important thing is to create consciousness about the subject – that this stuff is not waste. Then we can study how to reuse human shit.”

So when will the museum’s toilet connect to the biogas digester? Cipelletti laughs: “the toilet is super normal.” For the moment, at least. 

 
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