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Worlds smallest petrol engine PDF Print E-mail
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SCIENTISTS have built the smallest petrol engine, tiny enough to power a WATCH.

 The mini-motor, which runs for two years on a single squirt of lighter fuel, is set to revolutionise world technology. It produces 700 times more energy than a conventional battery despite being less than a centimetre long (Not even half an inch!).

It could be used to operate laptops and mobile phones for months doing away with the need for recharging. Experts believe it could be phasing out batteries in such items within just six years. The engine, minute enough to be balanced on a fingertip, has been produced by engineers at the University of Birmingham .

Dr Kyle Jiang, lead investigator from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: “We are looking at an industrial revolution happening in peoples’ pockets. The breakthrough is an enormous step forward. Devices which need re- charging or new batteries are a problem but in six years will be a thing of the past.”

Other applications for the engine could include medical and military uses, such as running heart pacemakers or mini reconnaissance robots. At present, charging an ordinary battery to deliver one unit of energy involves putting 2,000 units into it.

The little engine, because energy is produced locally, is far more effective. One of the main problems faced by engineers who have tried to produce micro motors in the past has been the levels of heat produced. The engines got so hot they burned themselves out and could not be re-used.

The Birmingham team overcame this by using heat-resistant materials such as ceramic and silicon carbide. Professor Graham Davies, head of the university’s engineering school, said: “we've brought together all the engineering disciplines, materials, chemical engineering, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering.

What better place to have the second industrial revolution in nano-technology than where the first took place, in the heart of the West Midlands.

New air powered car PDF Print E-mail
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Tata Motors is ready to introduce Air Car - Tata Motors is taking giant  strides and making history for  itself.  First the Land Rover/Jaguar deal,  then the world's  cheapest car, and now it  is also set to introduce the car  that runs  on compressed  air.

India's  largest  automaker, Tata Motors, is set to  start producing the world's  first  commercial air-powered vehicle.
 The  Air Car, developed  by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Negre for   Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as  opposed to the  gas-and-oxygen explosions  of internal-combustion models, to push  its  engine's pistons.  Some 600 zero-emissions  Air Cars  are scheduled to hit Indian  streets by  August  2011.
 The  Air Car, called the  "MiniCAT" could cost around Rs. 3,475,225   ($8,177.00) in India and would have a range of  around 300 km  between  refuels.

The  cost of a refill  would be about Rs. 85  ($2.00)

The  MiniCAT which is a  simple, light urban  car, with a tubular chassis that is glued,   not welded, and a body  of fiberglass powered by compressed   air.  Microcontrollers are used in every  device in the car,  so one tiny radio  transmitter sends instructions to the  lights,  indicators,  etc.

There  are no keys - just  an access card which  can be read by the car from your   pocket.  According to the designers, it  costs less than 50  rupees per 100 Km  (about a tenth that of a petrol  car).   Its mileage is about double  that of the most advanced electric  car  (200 to 300 km or 10 hours of driving), a factor  which makes  a perfect choice in cities  where 80% of motorists drive at less  than  60 Km.  The car has a top speed of  105  Kmph.

 Refilling  the car will,  once the market develops,  take place at adapted petrol stations  to  administer compressed air.  In two or three  minutes, and  at a cost of approximately  100 rupees, the car will be ready to  go  another 200-300  kilometers.

  As   a viable alternative, the car carries a small  compressor which  can be connected to the  mains (220V or 380V) and refill the tank   in 3-4 hours.  Due to the absence of  combustion and,  consequently, of residues,  changing the oil (1 liter of  vegetable  oil) is necessary only every 50,000   Km).
The   temperature of the clean air expelled by the  exhaust pipe is  between 0-15 degrees below  zero, which makes it suitable for use  by  the internal air conditioning system with no  need for gases  or loss of   power.
The cost of Japans earthquake PDF Print E-mail
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The escalating crisis at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan has prompted a  range of responses from industry experts and environmentalists with some predicting the disaster will herald an end to nuclear build programmes and others expressing confidence the sector can learn the lessons from the events in Japan.

The crisis at the plant is still on-going with reports that the third explosion that has resulted in dangerous levels of radiation and further stoked fears that the reactors' fuel rods could go into meltdown.

However, while the full scale of the threat has yet to be assessed, the dramatic pictures from the earthquake and tsunami-affected plant have been used to reopen the debate around the efficacy of nuclear power.

Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said the explosions demanded "an urgent rethink" of new-build nuclear, while Tom Clements, the NGO's South East area campaign co-ordinator in the US, said he also expected a reassessment of nuclear policy.

 Clements said he had already received calls from ratings agencies worried about the reputational and investment risks of new nuclear plants.

"The only positive thing to come out of this is that I believe it will cause a renewed interest both by industry and the public in renewable energy and energy efficiency," he said. "This is going to persuade the financial investors to move away from this risky technology."

Simon Powell, head of sustainable research at CLSA in Hong Kong, also forecast a major shift in national nuclear policies.

"I don't think nuclear is going to be done away with, but it is likely that people's nuclear programmes will be delayed as they question whether it is the right thing to do," he told news agency Reuters.

His comments came as a number of government's moved swiftly to review or suspend their plans for new nuclear plants.

British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has already instructed the UK's chief nuclear inspector, Dr Mike Weightman, to report on the implications of the situation in Japan. Meanwhile, the scheduled launch of an indepedent report that was expected to highlight the benefits of nuclear power and call for a new long-term strategic nuclear plan for the UK was yesterday postponed.

Across the Atlantic, influential independent Senator Joe Lieberman, chair of the homeland security panel, said over the weekend that the US should "put the brakes on" building new plants until the impact of the Fukushima incident is clear.

These events prompted global political risk analysts the Eurasia Group to issue a note warning new-build programmes could be put on the backburner in Britain and the US.

In Europe, the Swiss government has already announced it will put approvals for three nuclear plants on hold so safety standards can be revisited, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government would suspend an agreement that would have extended the life of the country's nuclear power plants.

India and South Korea have also announced reviews of their nuclear programme, while officials in Malaysia signalled that they too could delay their proposed nuclear programme.

However, John Kemp, Thomson Reuter's energy analyst, warned that too much could be read into what are essentially political decisions to delay permits.

"Delaying permits for a few months is neither here nor there – nobody wants to be approving permits on the day of an explosion,".

Kemp added it was impossible to tell what the long-term impact would be on the industry or on alternative sources of energy until the outcome of the explosion was known.

"If the reactors cool without leaking then it could be used to demonstrate that even 1970s technology is relatively safe," he said. "But if they leak, then that would make a nuclear revival less likely."

However, he was not convinced that additional funds would be ploughed into renewables as a result of the crisis and cautioned that moving away from nuclear would damage countries' attempt to meet energy security and emissions goals

"If we don't replace reactors with more nuclear, we have to burn more fossil fuels or undertake severe demand reduction strategies," he said. "Long term, it's very much up in the air and the question for regulators is if you don't do nuclear, what's the alternative?"

The price of carbon in the EU emissions trading scheme rose by more than five per cent yesterday driven by fears that any scaling back of nuclear capacity would lead to a short-term increase in demand for coal-fired power.

EDF and E.ON, the UK's two largest nuclear operators, both said that it was too early to make decisions on whether to re-evaluate their investments and that they would wait for the results of the government review.

"We welcome the fact the UK government has asked the safety regulator to report on the implications of the events in Japan," EDF said in a statement. "EDF Energy is happy to support this work in whatever way it can to ensure lessons are learned. The nuclear industry puts great weight on learning from any such events."

Industry body the Nuclear Industry Association was unable to comment before going to press.

The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) estimates that nuclear generation currently reduces national carbon emissions by between seven per cent and 14 per cent. The UK has also committed to build 16GW of new nuclear capacity to replace aging coal power stations and help balance increasing amounts of wind and solar power coming onto the grid.

Nuclear rethink PDF Print E-mail
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Until late last week - when the earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a nuclear emergency on a scale not seen since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 - it was taken for granted that nuclear power would become increasingly important across the world.Obviously, with renewed concerns about the safety of nuclear power causing many countries to reconsider their plans, the latest predictions about the industry's growth may no longer be accurate.

Yet an International Energy Agency (IEA) prediction of a 49% rise in global energy consumption between now and 2035 remains unchanged.Which poses the question: Can this anticipated surge in demand for energy be met without building more nuclear power stations?The nuclear industry and its proponents have long insisted that its services are a vital part of a broad overall energy mix, especially in fast-growing countries such as India and China whose economic development relies heavily on electricity supplies being expanded and improved.

We expect between 10 and 25 new countries to bring their first nuclear power plant online by 2030”Indeed, even now with a nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan, any talk of the demise of atomic energy might seem churlish."I do not think it is going to derail nuclear new build," observes Alex Barnett, analyst with investment bank Jefferies."But definitely in Europe and in the United States, there will be a slowing of nuclear plans, maybe cancellations."

According to the the IEA's World Energy Outlook 2010, nuclear power's share of the total energy market will grow even more rapidly than the market itself.Hence, by 2035 its share of global energy production should have risen to at least 8% from 6% in 2008 according to one of its estimates, with a prediction under another scenario suggesting nuclear power could soon deliver about a fifth of the world's energy requirement.Under none of the scenarios will nuclear power become a dominant source of energy.

Indeed, none of the increases may sound that great.But even the least dramatic prediction, from 6% to 8%, would suggest that nuclear capacity would expand by a third if the energy market was to remain stagnant. Given that the overall energy market is predicted to grow by about a half, the nuclear industry's generation capacity would need to almost double over the next quarter of a century for it to outgrow the market and thus reach its predicted market share.

A number of governments have responded to the currently heightened concerns among their electorates by suspending the approval processes for new nuclear power stations to revisit safety standards.In each case this will probably result in reports being written, reiterating assurances that modern nuclear power plants are perfectly safe - especially in countries that are not seismically active.

There may well be heated debates in many countries, But in the end, many - perhaps even most - of these new build projects might well go ahead as planned.Indeed, ambitious new build plans outlined by countries around the world make it clear that even if some of them were to pull back a bit, the industry's expansion will be considerable.Most established nuclear power nations are gearing up for new build programmes, and there are plenty of newcomers.

"We expect between 10 and 25 new countries to bring their first nuclear power plant online by 2030," predicts Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."Currently, there are probably 11 or 12 countries that are actively developing the infrastructure for a nuclear power programme."

But if the Japanese crisis might do little to stall the nuclear bandwagon that is already on a roll, it may well result in more withdrawals of agreed extensions to the lives of ageing power stations that had already been scheduled for closure - as was done in Germany this week.The designs we are offering today are reactors that will not release radioactivity in the air, even in the very unlikely event of a meltdown of the core”

Extensions to such power stations' lives were originally agreed in order to meet anticipated power shortages and to reduce the use of fossil fuels to help meet different countries' carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions commitments.Cancelling such extensions will thus both push up electricity prices and, as coal, gas and oil use increases, result in an overall rise in CO2 emissions - at least in the short-run.

Such decisions would nevertheless reflect a view shared by many, both from within the industry and among nuclear power opponents, namely that old nuclear power stations are considerably less safe - or more dangerous - than new ones.The explosions and the near-panic in Japan offer proof that "low-cost nuclear reactors are not the future", according to Anne Lauvergeon, chief executive of nuclear reactor maker Areva, who was interviewed by the television channel France 2.

The basic idea behind a nuclear reactor is pretty simple. Nuclear fission, generally fuelled by uranium or plutonium, heats up water which evaporates. The steam turns turbines, which in turn drive electric generators.There are a number of different reactors in use, most commonly water-cooled pressurised or boiling water reactors - though other reactor types are kept cool with the help of liquid metal, gas or molten salt.

There are no clear-cut definitions about which reactor type is the safest, however.Instead, reactors are deemed as having become safer over time thanks to the evolution of designs and safety technologies.The way the Chernobyl reactor did not have a concrete armoured containment shell, which the Japanese reactors do have, is one example of how reactor design has improved and become safer over time.People who work in the nuclear industry talk about Generation I, II and III reactors, with most Generation I reactors already being phased out.

Along with supposedly being the safest on the market, so-called Generation III reactors have longer lives than Generation II, they are therefore supposed to be more cost effective to build and run, and they are said to produce less nuclear waste.The safety improvements relate to simpler designs with some modern reactors having fewer pumps, valves and motors than old reactors - meaning fewer things can go wrong.

Modern reactors also tend to rely on passive safety features that use natural forces such as gravity, circulation or evaporation rather than relying on active systems such as pumps, motors and valves."The designs we are offering today are reactors that will not release radioactivity in the air, even in the very unlikely event of a meltdown of the core," according to Ms Lauvergeon.Such an assurance might well be accepted by nuclear proponents.But with the Japanese situation still out of control, it will do little to mollify the fast-growing herd of sceptics.

The Game changer in LPG PDF Print E-mail
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Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company, won approval from the Australian government to proceed with the development of the world’s first liquefied natural gas project using a floating plant. Prelude, located about 200 kilometers (120 miles) off the coast of Western Australia, was approved with “strict conditions,” Environment Minister Tony Burke said in a statement today.

The Hague-based Shell must comply with 13 requirements to protect the marine ecosystem and minimize the risk of oil spills. Shell plans to use what will be the world’s biggest ship to tap fields in the Browse basin off Australia’s northwest coast, where more than a third of the nation’s known offshore gas is located. Prelude is among A$200 billion ($198 billion) of proposed LNG developments in the country seeking to take advantage of increasing Asian demand for cleaner-burning fuels.

“It is going to be a game changer,” said Tony Regan, a consultant at Singapore-based Tri-Zen International, who previously worked for Shell’s LNG business. If Shell goes ahead with Prelude it’s “going to be a great seal of approval on the concept of floating LNG technology.” A development decision on Prelude is expected in 2011, Shell spokeswoman Claire Wilkinson said by phone from Perth today.

Chilling gas to liquid form on floating facilities has yet to be deployed commercially. Inpex Corp. of Japan and Australia’s Santos Ltd. are among companies investigating the technology. Development Design Shell is in the engineering and design phase for the Prelude project, Australia country chair Ann Pickard said in a separate statement.

Environmental approval is an important step, she said. “Floating LNG technology reduces the project’s cost and environmental footprint,” Pickard said. “It removes the need for offshore compression platforms, long pipelines to shore, near-shore works such as dredging and jetty construction, and onshore development.”

Shell has ordered 10 of the $5 billion floating production vessels, which are almost 50 percent larger than a U.S. aircraft carrier. The company expects to begin production in 2016 at Prelude. The ships will weigh about 600,000 metric tons and be around 480 meters long, 75 meters wide, and are designed to withstand a “one-in-10,000-year” tropical cyclone, Shell Executive Director for international exploration and production, Malcolm Brinded, said last year.

Oil Spill Plan “Shell must develop an oil spill contingency plan, to the government’s satisfaction, specifying how it will minimize the risks of” leaks, Environment Minister Burke said. “Should such an accident occur, the company will pay for any environmental rehabilitation needed.” The Australian government deferred a decision on Shell’s Prelude gas venture four times.

Floating LNG technology is aimed at developing gas deposits too small or too far from the coast to be profitably exploited through onshore plants. Prelude is expected to produce about 3.6 million metric tons of LNG annually and 1.3 million metric tons of condensate, a type of light oil, Shell spokeswoman Wilkinson said.

The company needs approvals for production licenses before a development decision can be made, she said. LNG is natural gas chilled to minus 161 degrees Celsius (minus 258 Fahrenheit) reducing it to liquid form one-six- hundredth of its original volume, so it can be transported by ship to destinations unconnected by pipeline. On arrival, it’s turned back into gas for distribution to power plants and households.


Massive investment in Green economy PDF Print E-mail
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Investing $1.3 trillion (£800bn) each year in green sectors would deliver long-term stability in the global economy, a UN report has suggested.

Spending about 2% of global GDP in 10 key areas would kick-start a "low carbon, resource efficient green economy", the authors observed.They also recommended following policies that decoupled economic growth from intensive consumption.

The findings have been published at a meeting attended by 100 ministers."Governments have a central role in changing laws and policies, and in investing public money in public wealth to make the transition possible," said Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Programme's (Unep) Green Economy Initiative.

"Misallocation of capital is at the centre of the world's current dilemmas and there are fast actions that can be taken, starting literally today," he added."From phasing down and phasing out the $600bn global fossil fuel subsidies, to re-directing more than $20bn subsidies perversely rewarding those in unsustainable fisheries.

"Unep defined a "green economy" as one that resulted in "improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities".When it came to investing 2% of GDP in greening the global economy, the authors recommended a number of investments, including:

  • $108bn greening agriculture, such as encouraging and supporting smallholder farms
  • $134bn on the building sector, including improving energy efficiency
  • $110bn improving fisheries, including reducing the capacity of the world's fishing fleet
  • $15bn on forestry, with "important knock-on benefits for combating climate change"
  • Almost of $110bn on both water and waste, including sanitation and recycling

The report, produced by experts from developed and developing nations, suggests that the green economy model would deliver higher annual growth rates within 5-10 years than a business-as-usual scenario. In order to unlock the level of investment required, it added that it was necessary to reform existing national and international policies.

"The green economy - as documented and illustrated in the report - offers a focused and pragmatic assessment of how countries, communities and corporations have begun to make a transition towards a more sustainable pattern of consumption and production," said Unep executive director Achim Steiner.

"With 2.5bn people living on less than $2-a-day and with more than two billion people being added to the global population by 2050, it is clear that we must continue to develop and grow our economies."But this development cannot come at the expense of the very life support systems on land, in the oceans or in the atmosphere that sustain our economies, and thus, the lives of each and everyone of us.

"The findings are being published at the 26th session of Unep's Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environmental Forum, which is being held in Nairobi, Kenya, until 24 February.

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