Energy

‘Living’ building signals new era of sleek sustainability

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 22, 2013   View Article

In cloudy, drizzly Seattle, Denis Hayes, the environmental activist who organized the first Earth Day in 1970, is pulling the wraps off a six-story office building that generates all of its electricity via an oversized rooftop array of solar panels.

A sun-powered building in Seattle is “formidable,” Hayes told NBC News, but the Bullitt Center project aims to show it is possible in a visible, tangible manner that, in turn, makes an impact on the often invisible, slow-motion challenge of global climate change.

“When this whole [Earth Day] thing got launched in 1970, we had people walking around with gas masks and smokestacks were pouring out enormous impenetrable clouds of black smoke,” said Hayes, who is now president of the Bullitt Foundation, which supports environmental causes.

Methane gobbling material found, scientists say

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 17, 2013   View Article

Scientists have discovered a new material that can capture and concentrate methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

While carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas, can be captured using a variety of techniques, methane capture has proved elusive primarily because it interacts weakly with other materials, according Amitesh Maiti, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

He and colleagues discovered that various forms of zeolites, which are commonly used in water purification and other industrial processes, appear well-suited for the task. That’s because the material’s crystalline structure can be fine-tuned for various gas separation or storage applications, he explained.

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.

Whey cool: Dairy waste turned into electricity

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 15, 2013   View Article

Get a whiff of this: Milky rinse water flowing from Wisconsin cheese factories will soon be used to generate enough electricity for 3,000 homes, thanks to an innovative solution to a growing wastewater problem.

For years, the milky rinse water was spread on farmland as a low-grade fertilizer, but the practice was curtailed in the face of more stringent environmental regulations to limit runoff pollution, especially in the winter months when spraying on frozen ground was outlawed.

Whiz kid grows algae under her bed, wins Intel science fair

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 13, 2013   View Article

Sara Volz, 17, from Colorado Springs, Colo., joined the quest for practical alternatives to petroleum-based fuels in the seventh grade. Now a high school senior, she may have found an answer in the oily pond scum growing under her bed.

“I was trying to use guided evolution, so artificial selection, to isolate populations of algae cells with abnormally high oil content,” she told NBC News.

The result is a population of algae that produces so much oil, so efficiently, that it bagged the grand prize Tuesday night in the Intel Science Talent Search, an elite science fair. The prize comes with a $100,000 scholarship.

Stretchable batteries are here! Power to the bendy electronics

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 26, 2013   View Article

The next frontier in electronics are the flexible, stretchable kind. Yes, that means a rubber, bouncy smartphone (eventually), but it also means heart monitors threaded into cardiac tissue. For devices like that to work, they require flexible, stretchable batteries. And such batteries are here, according to researchers who just published their work.

Sunlight forecasts to benefit electric utilities and … NASCAR

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 21, 2013   View Article

Race car drivers are likely to benefit from a newly-launched $4.1 million U.S. government-funded program to improve 36-hour forecasts of incoming energy from the sun.

Cloud cover impacts racetrack temperature, which in turn affects how well tires grip the pavement, researchers working on the program explained.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach