Gas

Technique turns ash into hydrogen gas

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 11, 2013   View Article

Piles of ash leftover from incinerated trash may be a viable source of hydrogen gas that can be used to generate electricity and power cars, suggests a process pioneered in a research lab.

The trick? Just add water, which reacts with residual metallic aluminum in the ash, explained Aamir Ilyas, a water resource engineer at Lund University in Sweden, who developed the technique.

Disk drive tech may aid farming

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 26, 2011   View Article

Plowshares coated with the same diamond-like carbon material used to protect computer hard disks could allow farmers to save on fuel costs and improve the quality of their soils, according to German researchers.

The slippery material “reduces the friction between soil and the plow,” Martin Hoerner, a physicist at the Fraunhofer Institute of the Mechanics of Materials in Freiberg who is working on the project, told me Tuesday via email.

Science explodes at African lake

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 28, 2011   View Article

The depths of Africa’s Lake Kivu harbor untold quantities of carbon dioxide and methane gases that could provide abundant electricity to millions of Rwandans and Congolese settling along its shores. But those gases could suddenly release, killing everything in and around the lake.

“Understanding whether you can find scenarios that would lead to something like that, a catastrophic release of gas, is of course important,” Anthony Vodacek, a remote sensing scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, told me on Monday.

How Earth’s infernos affect climate

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 10, 2011   View Article

At a glance, images of the forest fire raging in Arizona and the volcano erupting in Chile seem to suggest they are filling the atmosphere with gases and debris that will mess with the global climate, but experts say this week’s events, in isolation, aren’t much to worry about.

The Willow fire in Arizona has charred at least 336,000 acres so far, filling the atmosphere with smoke, soot, and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. It joins a string of fires that have raged elsewhere in the U.S., including Texas and Florida.

Race for better biofuels heats up

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 7, 2011   View Article

Scientists who engineer microbes to efficiently produce biofuels from plants and algae are busy reporting breakthroughs that could wean us from fossil fuels — offering a glimmer of hope to consumers eyeing gas prices skyrocket.

In one breakthrough, a microbe has been genetically engineered to produce isobutanol, a gasoline-like fuel, directly from cellulose.

Bacteria turned into biofuel factories

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 2, 2011   View Article

Researchers have genetically engineered the bacteria E. coli to produce a gasoline-like biofuel called n-butanol at a rate that is about 10 times better than competing systems.

N-butanol (normal butanol) is naturally made by various species of the bacteria Clostridium. Since the 1920s, researchers and industry have genetically tweaked these bacteria to boost their butanol-producing abilities, said Michelle Chang, a chemist at the University of California at Berkeley.

7 ways microbes may solve our energy woes

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: December 2, 2009   View Article

Microscopic organisms — archaea, bacteria and fungi — have the potential to reshape the world’s power supply. Microbes could provide a vast energy resource that is as efficient and portable as coal, oil and natural gas, said Bruce Rittmann, director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.

Some microbial processes, such as using yeast to turn plant sugars into ethanol, already account for a few percent of the energy mix, noted Arnold Demain, a microbial biologist at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Other processes, such as using bacteria to derive electricity from fuel cells, are still in the research and development stage but show potential for deployment a few years down the road.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach