Water

Solar hot water with a jolt

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 4. 2011   View Article

With the aid of nanotech materials, scientists have engineered a new way to convert the sun’s heat into electricity that is roughly eight times more efficient than previously reported solar thermoelectric devices.

What’s more, the device could be added to existing solar water heaters, giving people a jolt of electricity to power their gadgets along with warm bath water, noted Gang Chen, an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“We just changed the existing system a little bit,” he told me today. “Then we generate electricity and supply hot water.”

Fill’er up – with hydrogen?

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

Scientists have found and tested an abundant and inexpensive catalyst needed to make hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water, a necessary step on the road to the elusive clean, green hydrogen economy.

The new catalyst — molybdenum sulfide— is an alternative to platinum, an expensive and rare catalyst used to convert single ions of hydrogen split off from water into hydrogen gas.

“That’s the very neat thing here, it is quite inexpensive and abundant,” Jens Norskov, a chemical engineer with the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, told me Monday.

The dream of a hydrogen economy stems from the fact that hydrogen is an energy dense and clean fuel — upon combustion, it releases water. The problem is that most hydrogen is produced from natural gas in a process that releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Fill’er up – with hydrogen?

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

Scientists have found and tested an abundant and inexpensive catalyst needed to make hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water, a necessary step on the road to the elusive clean, green hydrogen economy.

The new catalyst — molybdenum sulfide— is an alternative to platinum, an expensive and rare catalyst used to convert single ions of hydrogen split off from water into hydrogen gas.

Is algae biofuel too thirsty?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 14, 2011   View Article

Biofuel produced from algae, essentially pond scum, has long titillated green energy boosters as a potential big time player in the U.S. renewable fuels portfolio. Now, a-first-of-its-kind look at industrial-scale freshwater farming of algae suggests it could indeed make a sizeable dent in U.S. oil imports, but drain water resources.

Specifically, the U.S. could produce enough of the algae-derived fuel to eliminate 48 percent of the fuel it currently imports for transportation needs, according to researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. But doing so would require 5.5 percent of the land area in the lower 48 states and consume about three times the water currently used to irrigate crops.

“The water use is significant,” Mark Wigmosta, a hydrologist at the lab who led the study, told me today.

Water harvested from diesel exhaust

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 6, 2011   View Article

A new technology to harvest drinkable water from diesel exhaust could help the U.S. military become more nimble and mobile as it engages in conflicts around the world.

Warfare is hot, dirty, and exhausting work that requires a steady stream of water to slake thirst, prepare meals and maintain healthy hygiene — up to nearly 7 gallons a day per person.

Supplying that water to soldiers increases vulnerability to military personnel and limits the tactical use of field troops, according to researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory who are developing the new technology.

Their solution is to use the fuel that the military burns to run its tanks, Humvees, generators and other machines that power field operations. When fuel is combusted, it gets oxidized and produces carbon dioxide and water.

Microbe makes hydrogen out of air

Publication: Cosmic Log on MSNBC.com   Date: December 15, 2010   View Article

An ocean microbe may open a new frontier in the search for clean, renewable energy: In a sense, it makes hydrogen — a clean-burning fuel — out of the air.

The bug, a cyanobacterium called Cyanothece 51142, performs photosynthesis during the day and fixes nitrogen at night. Hydrogen is a byproduct of the nitrogen fixation process. And when you burn hydrogen, the main byproduct is water.

First Truly Habitable Planet Discovered, Experts Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 29, 2010   View Article

Astronomers studying a nearby star say they’ve found the first potentially habitable planet—likely a rocky place with an atmosphere, temperate regions, and crucially, liquid water, considered vital for life as we know it.

Other extrasolar planets have been called Earthlike, but, astronomer Paul Butler assured, “this is really the first Goldilocks planet”—not too hot, not too cold.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach