Monthly Archives: March 2012

Liquid Metal Batteries – the missing renewable link?

Donald R. Sadoway, an MIT Professor, spent 6 years looking into how to radically change the cost equation for batteries, knowing that without wide-scale battery deployment sustainable power sources such as solar and wind will not reach their potential. Instead of trying to improve current battery technology, he changed the equation by looking for batteries that can literally be made from dirt.

He and a small team at MIT created a “liquid metal” battery, made from Magnesium and Antimony, that can be deployed at scale and is cost competitive with carbon fuels. They have since formed a company Liquid Metal Battery Corporation.

For more, see the LMBC website. Or listen to Dr Sadoway’s talk at the TED conference. It’s quite impressive

Pythagoras Solar turns windows into solar electricty generators

It seems so logical – install photo voltaic cells in windows that are bombarded by light in order to both reduce the amount of heat that passes through and generate solar energy. Pythagoras Solar has done just this with their new Photovolatic Glass Unit (PVGU).  The double pane glass incorporate optical units, PV collectors and proprietary software to make insulated windows into power generators.  Per the company’s data sheet:

Structured as a standard insulated glass unit (IGU) Pythagoras Solar’s photovoltaic glass unit (PVGU) is the only glazing product that combines high density solar power generation with the energy efficiency benefits of an IGU, while providing quality daylighting and preventing direct solar radiation from entering the building. This delivers a new level of design flexibility to the architecture, construction and engineering industries, enabling the creation
of cost-efficient, aesthetically pleasing, self-powered buildings. Pythagoras Solar’s customers are able to realize the benefits of energy efficiency, generation and daylighting in a single, innovative product that meets today’s energy demands.

For the techies among you, here’s how it works (taken from their data sheet):

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The windows can generate 120 Wp/m2, per their data sheet.

The one thing you do lose is a clear view out the window. which is why we believe that these are ideally designed for skylights.

See the Pythagoras Website for more information.

New York State Judge Upholds Ban on Fracking – a town actually can prevent carcinogens from being injected into their water!

Reuters reports that a New York state judge on Friday upheld an upstate New York ban on fracking, citing that towns have authority to regulate use of their land.  We believe this is good news, and find it unimaginable that a town could not be granted the right to ban oil companies from injecting known carcinogens into their water supply!

The blog is against fracking. We’ve read much of the literature on the subject, and understand the reasons why the practice has so much support (money, reduction of dependence on foreign oil, money, and money).  The more we tolerate and invest in fracking, the more we push back the timetable for renewables.

Speaking of money, there are billions to be made by those who solve our energy problems with renewables such as wind and solar!

Increasing battery efficiency through nanoparticle suspensions

Solar and Wind power, and electric cars, require major advances in storage technology.  A Cambridge, MA based company named 24M, is working on concentrated nanoparticle suspensions of common lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cathode materials to create an energy-dense liquid that can slowly flow over a membrane like the separators used in conventional Li-ion batteries. A similar suspension of an anode material like graphite or lithium titanate (LTO) flows over the membrane on the other side.

This process will significantly increase the storage capacity of batteries and, in a paper released recently by company founder Yet-Ming Chiang, may approach the cost storage parameter required for the next level Electric Cars and Smart Grids.

“The authors project that the suspensions will contribute some $40/kWh to $80/kWh to the cost of the battery, potentially meaning that system-level costs could hit the widely cited targets of $250/kWh for electric vehicle batteries or $100/kWh for stationary (grid storage) batteries”  From Smart Grid News

The company is shrouded in secrecy, so there’s  not much additional information available, but we will keep an eye on announcements as they are made!

New generation wind turbines can be installed at a house or business

Wind turbines don’t necessarily have to be in huge windfarms any more.  WindTronics, a division of Honeywell, is selling the The Blade Tip Power System™ which addresses past constraints such as size, noise, vibration and output, utilizing a ring around the blades that shrouds the system and is more distinguishable to wildlife. The system is small and quiet, so that it can be installed in homes and businesses.

The generator utilizes a system of magnets and stators surrounding its outer ring to capture power at the blade tips where speed is greatest, practically eliminating mechanical resistance and drag.

Specifications as per the company’s website:

Our wind turbine is a gearless wind turbine that measures just 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter, weighs 241 lbs (110 kgs) and produces up to 1500 kWh’s per year depending on height and location. Our Wind Turbine’s BTPS perimeter power system and unique design of multi-stage blades allows the system to react quickly to changes in wind speed. This ensures that the maximum wind energy is captured without the typical noise and vibration associated with traditional wind turbines. Our wind turbine has an increased operating span over traditional turbines with a start-up speed as low as 0.5 mph (0.2 m/s), cut in at 3 mph (1.34 m/s), with an auto shut off at 38 mph (17.0 m/s), traditional gearbox turbines require minimum wind speeds of 7.5 mph (3.5 m/s) to cut in and start generating power. Our wind turbine is designed to be installed by a licensed electrician wherever energy is consumed, turning homes and businesses from points of total consumption to distributed energy sources, in a cost effective and efficient manner.

You can read more about it at ownyourwind.com.

Smart Pipes that detect leaks could save billions of gallons of water

A research group led by the Illinois State Water Survey, in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University, has been developing a “Smart Pipe” technology that could help reduce the huge waste of clean drinking water – estimated at six billion gallons per year due to faulty and leaky pipes.  They are working on pipes with arrays of sensors to monitor water flow and quality using nanotechnology. These pipes will be able to detect water pressure, flow velocity and temperature and will be equipped with a wireless processor and antenna to transmit the data to monitoring stations.

More on this technology.