Future Energy eNews IntegrityResearchInstitute.org Mar. 10, 2007
1) Patently Curious - MAKE magazine #09 features Valone
2) Superconductivity and Magnetism in Harmony – First time ever
3) Cheap Nano Solar Cells – Nanotubes use indoor light for electricity
4) New Look for Solar Cells – Nanotechweb’s view of #3 story
5) Flexible Solar Panels – Gets the USDOE Secretary’s attention
6) Expanding Nuclear Recycling - Public critical of more nukes
7) Hot Advances in Thermoelectrics - Organics can generate electricity
Physicist Tom Valone looks at technologies most scientists consider junk.
by Charles Platt </pub/au/Charles_Platt>
· PhACT on magnetic machinery <http://phact.org/e/z/freewire.htm>
· Oceans of Free Energy <http://cheniere.org/misc/oulist.htm>
· Howard R. Johnson on magnetic motors <http://freeenergynews.com/Directory/Howard_Johnson_Motor/1979Paper/>
· Wikipedia: Thomas Townsend Brown <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Townsend_Brown>
· Official Townsend Brown website <http://www.qualight.com/portal.htm>
· Wikipedia: Air Car <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_car>
· Engineair <http://engineair.com/>
· The Air Car <http://theaircar.com/>
· LEDs and Bioelectromagnetics <http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2003/03-199.html>
· Exploiting Zero-Point Energy <http://padrak.com/ine/ZPESCIAM.html>
· Wikipedia: Steorn, Ltd. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steorn>
· Wikipedia: SMOT <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMOT>
· The Basement Mechanic's Guide to Building Perpetual Motion Machines <http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/museum/models/build-pm.htm>
· Tom Valone's Integrity Research Institute <http://users.erols.com/iri/>
· JLN Labs http://jnaudin.free.fr/html/s102jlnp.htm
Magnetism and superconductivity are often thought to be incompatible. However, physicists in the US and France have created a nanoscale structure that contains both magnetic and superconducting properties at the same time. The results show a hitherto undocumented interplay between ferromagnetism and superconductivity and the researchers will be studying the phenomenon at the Swiss Light Source, at the Paul Scherrer Institute, over the next two years.
According to the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory of superconductivity, electrons with opposite spins form pairs that can move through a material without resistance. A magnetic field can destroy superconductivity in two ways: by breaking up the electron pair, or by trying to make both of the electron spins point in the same direction. These effects also limit how much current can flow through the superconductor because of the disruptive effect of the magnetic field produced by the current itself.
Last year, Jacques Chakhalian and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute, Germany, and the University of Grenoble, France, published a paper in Nature Physics, documenting novel properties at the interface between a superconductor made from yttrium, barium copper and oxygen and a ferromagnet made from lanthanum calcium manganese oxide (LCMO). The researchers developed a technique that allowed them to combine the two materials in one thin-film superlattice, which showed both superconducting and magnetic properties.
Chakhalian and colleagues now plan to look more closely at the interface between the two materials using synchrotron light (electromagnetic radiation of varying wavelengths that can be tuned to a specific wavelength for a particular experiment). To help them do this, the researchers have been awarded research time and financial support over the next two years, at the Swiss Light Source – the most advanced synchrotron light source in the world.
The spectrum at the Swiss Light Source varies from infrared light to soft and hard X-rays. However, unlike conventional X-rays, which diffuse through space, the light beams from the synchrotron are sharply focused. The main technical challenge for Chakhalian and his team will now be to focus the beam of low-energy photons into a spot the size of a few hundred microns.
3) Cheap Nano Solar Cells
Kevin Bullis, March 5, 2007, http://www.technologyreview.com/Nanotech/18259/
Carbon nanotubes could help make nanoparticle-based solar cells more efficient and practical.
Researchers at University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, have demonstrated a way to significantly improve the efficiency of solar cells made using low-cost, readily available materials, including a chemical commonly used in paints. The researchers added single-walled carbon nanotubes to a film made of titanium-dioxide nanoparticles, doubling the efficiency of converting ultraviolet light into electrons when compared with the performance of the nanoparticles alone. The solar cells could be used to make hydrogen for fuel cells directly from water or for producing electricity. Titanium oxide is a main ingredient in white paint.
The approach, developed by Notre Dame professor of chemistry and biochemistry Prashant Kamat http://www.nd.edu/~pkamat/ and his colleagues, addresses one of the most significant limitations of solar cells based on nanoparticles. (See "Silicon and Sun http://www.technologyreview.com/Nanotech/17726/") Such cells are appealing because nanoparticles have a great potential for absorbing light and generating electrons. But so far, the efficiency of actual devices made of such nanoparticles has been considerably lower than that of conventional silicon solar cells. That's largely because it has proved difficult to harness the electrons that are generated to create a current.
Indeed, without the carbon nanotubes, electrons generated when light is absorbed by titanium-oxide particles have to jump from particle to particle to reach an electrode. Many never make it out to generate an electrical current. The carbon nanotubes "collect" the electrons and provide a more direct route to the electrode, improving the efficiency of the solar cells. As they wrote online in the journal Nano Letters, the Notre Dame researchers form a mat of carbon nanotubes on an electrode. The nanotubes serve as a scaffold on which the titanium-oxide particles are deposited. "This is a very simple approach for bringing order into a disordered structure," Kamat says.
The new carbon-nanotube and nanoparticle system is not yet a practical solar cell. That's because titanium oxide only absorbs ultraviolet light; most of the visible spectrum of light is reflected rather than absorbed. But researchers have already demonstrated ways to modify the nanoparticles to absorb the visible spectrum. In one strategy, a one-molecule-thick layer of light-absorbing dye is applied to the titanium-dioxide nanoparticles. Another approach, which has been demonstrated experimentally by Kamat, is to coat the nanoparticles with quantum dots--tiny semiconductor crystals. Unlike conventional materials in which one photon generates just one electron, quantum dots have the potential to convert high-energy photons into multiple electrons.
4) New Look for Solar Cells
March 7, 2007, Nanotechweb News, http://nanotechweb.org/articles/news/6/3/7/1#070307
Researchers in the US have shown that carbon nanotubes can significantly improve the efficiency of solar cells made of titanium dioxide, a readily available and cheap chemical routinely used in paint and sunscreen. Prashant Kamat and colleagues at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, anchored titanium dioxide nanoparticles on single-walled carbon nanotubes and found that the efficiency of converting ultraviolet light into current was doubled compared to that using the nanoparticles alone.
Researchers are interested in using the photocatalytic activity of nanostructured semiconductor films to design solar cells. Of particular importance is the dye-sensitized solar cell, which uses nanostructured titanium dioxide (TiO2) films modified with sensitizing dyes. Such cells are appealing because nanoparticles have a great potential for absorbing light and generating electrons. However, despite the initial success of achieving 10% solar conversion efficiency, efforts to further improve their performance have been difficult and the performance of devices made of such cells lies well below that of conventional silicon solar cells. This is because it is difficult to harness all the electrons generated in the nanostructured TiO2 cells to create a current.
Now, Kamat and colleagues have used carbon nanotubes to direct the flow of photogenerated charge carriers so that they can reach an electrode more easily, where they can then generate an electrical current. The nanotubes effectively "collect" the electrons and provide a more direct route to the electrode, therefore improving the efficiency of the solar cells.
The Notre Dame researchers achieved their result by forming a mat of carbon nanotubes on carbon fibre and glass electrodes. The nanotubes serve as a scaffold on which TiO2 particles are then deposited. Kamat says that this is a very simple solution for bringing order into a disordered structure.
The new carbon nanotube-nanoparticle system has not yet been made into a practical solar cell because the TiO2 only absorbs ultraviolet light – most of the visible spectrum of light is reflected. However, the researchers say they have already shown ways to absorb light in the visible region too, by coating the nanoparticles with quantum dots (tiny semiconductor crystals). Here, the dots can convert high-energy photons into multiple electrons, unlike in conventional materials in which one photon generates just one electron.
The researchers reported their work in Nano Lett..
5) Wireless, Flexible Solar Technology Gets White House Backing
Associated Press, March 08, 2007, http://www.technologyreview.com/Wire/18298/
A company trying to harness energy from sunlight and interior light to wirelessly power everything from cell phones to signboards now has financial backing from the White House. President George W. Bush's program to help solar energy compete with conventional electricity sources will help fund Konarka Technologies' development of flexible plastic solar cell strips -- material that could be embedded into the casings of laptop computers and even woven into power-producing clothing to energize digital media players or other electronics (www.Konarka.com ).
The technology, which received its first Pentagon funding three years ago, offers a lightweight, flexible alternative to conventional rigid photovoltaic cells on glass panels.
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is scheduled Thursday afternoon to tour Konarka's headquarters in a former textile mill in Lowell, where he's expected to announce funding from Bush's Solar America Initiative.
The award amount and other details were to be announced in a news conference at Konarka, a six-year-old private company that has attracted nearly $60 million (euro46 million) in venture capital funding. Konarka's nearly $10 million (euro7.6 million) in grant money to date from U.S. and European governments includes funding from the Pentagon to supply lightweight portable battery chargers and material for tents to draw power from sunlight. Chief Executive Howard Berke said the new White House support is a milestone for Konarka.
The first commercial product using Konarka's technology is not expected to hit the market until next year, and the company is not saying what that product might be. Konarka expects to provide prototypes in the second half of this year to commercial partners that would bring the technology to market. Konarka's approach ''is potentially a great breakthrough technology, but like all breakthroughs, they don't happen instantaneously,'' Berke said in a phone interview.
Observers say Konarka has a good chance of becoming a leader in solar power, an industry enjoying a recent surge in initial public stock offerings by startup companies as well as growing investments from traditional energy companies -- for example, one of Konarka's financial backers is Chevron Corp. Konarka's development of plastic solar cell strips that can be manufactured like rolls of photographic film ''has the promise of becoming a low-cost manufacturing technique,'' said Jeffrey Bencik, a Jefferies & Co. analyst who follows the solar industry. ''Some of their laboratory production has worked as advertised. But can they mass-produce it and get the same result? That's the biggest question.''
Among developers of solar technology for small-scale uses, Konarka is ''definitely doing the best job at developing what ultimately will have to be a mass-manufactured material,'' said Dan Nocera, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemistry professor.
However, Nocera said it remains to be seen whether Konarka's so-called ''Power Plastic'' is sufficiently chemically stable to convert energy efficiently both when light is dim and when it's bright.
Konarka, which takes its name from an ancient temple in India dedicated to the sun god Surya, was founded by Berke and Alan Heeger, who shared the 2000 Nobel Chemistry prize for showing that certain plastics can be made to conduct electricity. The discovery about polymers -- long considered to be useful only as electrical insulators -- led to the development of new types of plastics to create flexible and lightweight alternatives to traditional solar cells on heavy glass panels.
Konarka developed low-cost plastics that could be used as the top and bottom surfaces of the photovoltaic cell. The 50-employee company says it has more than 280 patents and patent applications for materials, manufacturing and other processes and devices.
The company says its solar cells are efficient across a much broader spectrum of light than traditional cells, allowing them to draw energy from both the sun and indoor lighting. Konarka says its material is lightweight and flexible so that it can be colored, patterned and cut to fit almost any device. The firm envisions embedding its material in cell phones, laptops and toys to provide power on the go. Clothing could be woven with the material to supply power for handheld electronics, and signboards, traffic lights and rooftops could be fitted with solar strips.
Berke foresees wide use of such technology in the developing world and areas off the electrical grid. To that end, Berke said Konarka has held confidential discussions with the manufacturer of an inexpensive portable computer developed for the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child project, which seeks to provide computers to young students in the developing world. The project's current design features a hand crank for charging batteries. ''In the developing world, great demand exists for off-the-grid support of electronic devices,'' Berke said.
|6) Nuclear Recycling Plan Hit|
Dardick, Tribune staff reporter, Chicago Tribune, Feb 23, 2007 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0702230119feb23,1,7037348.story
The prospect of adding another nuclear facility to a swath of Illinois that some activists call "The Nuke Belt" brought dozens of opponents to a federal hearing Thursday night in Joliet.
"I don't want it in my back yard," said April Gerstung, a former nuclear plant worker who was referring to a potential facility near Morris, her hometown. "I'm surrounded by three nuclear plants within a 25-mile radius. "I'm tired of being a guinea pig. I'm tired of my environment being polluted. I'm tired of the unexplained illnesses. ... Please take it somewhere else."
Scott Coren, assistant city administrator in Darien, said his city has been urging nearby Argonne National Laboratory for years to dispose of transuranic waste, which he said was a remnant of a nuclear process undertaken at Argonne in the 1970s.
"We don't want [a new nuclear facility] onsite and putting Darien residents at further risk," he said.
The comments came at a "public scoping meeting" held by the U.S. Department of Energy regarding the potential placement of a radioactive-waste reprocessing facility near Morris in Grundy County and a related research and development facility at Argonne, near Lemont.
Both sites would be part of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, an initiative to expand the use of nuclear reactors to generate electricity across the globe, announced by President Bush in January 2006.
Supporters say the program would offset rising oil and natural gas prices and lower harmful emissions. Detractors say the need to transport and store radioactive materials would increase the chances of a nuclear mishap and make it easier for terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons materials.
Part of the initiative includes building a spent nuclear-fuel reprocessing facility and an advanced recycling reactor to use components of recycled fuel to generate electricity. A research and development facility also would be needed.
Thirteen sites, including Argonne and one owned by General Electric Co. near Morris, have applied. The GE site would have a reprocessing facility and an advanced recycling reactor.
The site already has a never-used nuclear reprocessing center and an operational nuclear-waste storage pool.
The Morris area falls within "the Nuke Belt," as described by David Kraft, director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, an anti-nuclear group based in Chicago.
The Nuke Belt extends from Braidwood to LaSalle in northern Illinois, Kraft said. Exelon Nuclear operates three reactors in that region, and more than 770 tons of spent fuel are stored at the GE site.
Illinois has more commercial nuclear reactors and more spent nuclear fuel than any other state in the nation.
Kraft said that if the government ends up approving the site near Morris, Illinois could become "a de facto permanent high-level radioactive waste storage depot and reprocessing center for the region and possibly the nation."
Because of the large amount of fuel already stored at the GE site that could be reprocessed, it won't be necessary to bring any spent fuel to the site, if it is chosen, for 15 to 20 years, said Tom Rumsey, a spokesman for the nuclear division of GE Energy.
Spent nuclear fuel now is stored in water pools or concrete casks at the nation's 103 nuclear plants. Some of that waste could be recycled at the potential new facility.
Transporting material to the site could result in "mobile Chernobyls," Kraft said, and make it easier for terrorists to obtain material that could be used to build a nuclear bomb.
Energy Department officials have labeled as a "red herring" the concern about terrorists. They note that China, France, Britain, Japan and Russia, all of which would take part in the initiative, already recycle spent nuclear fuel.
When Bush announced the plan, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said it would "extract more energy from nuclear fuel, reduce the amount of waste that requires permanent disposal and greatly reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation."
Federal officials plan to choose the research and development site by 2008 and start construction in 2011. Siting of the reprocessing facility and advanced recycling reactor would come by summer 2008, they said.
For further information
Cheap organic molecules could more efficiently convert waste heat into electricity.
Inside fossil-fuel and nuclear-power plants, as well as in cars and trucks, the lion's share of energy in fuel is wasted as heat rather than converted into electricity or mechanical power. But the search for a practical material that can convert at least some of this waste heat into electricity has been long and frustrating.
Researchers have long known that some inorganic semiconductors can do this.
Indeed, deep-space probes have been powered by using such materials. But these
inorganic materials are costly and difficult to make, and have low efficiencies.
Now, new research shows that certain organic molecules produce voltage when
exposed to heat. Ultimately, they could be much cheaper and thus more practical
"This is the first demonstration that you can use organic molecules in this kind of energy generation," says Rachel Segalman, professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, who with her colleagues reported new measurements last week in Science Express. "That's really significant because they are so inexpensive and abundant," she says.
Experts had previously theorized that some organic molecules could have the qualities necessary to generate electricity from heat. But until now, they lacked experimental proof, which the Berkeley researchers were able to provide by isolating and measuring the properties of just a few molecules of organic substances called benzene dithiols at a time.
These were "very difficult experiments," says Brian Sales, a senior research scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who was not involved with the work. The researchers trapped a few molecules between a sheet of gold and the ultrafine gold tip of a scanning tunneling microscope, which is so sharp it can end in a single atom. They heated up the gold surface and measured, via the microscope tip, the voltage that was created. "These are the type of difficult experiments that get nanotechnology past the 'picture' stage [and] into the realm of real science," Sales says.
The experiments showed that the organic molecules have the three qualities that make for good thermoelectric materials. The first is the ability to create a voltage. But this works best when the materials have two other qualities: they do not conduct heat, but they do conduct electrons. That way, applying heat, rather than just raising the temperature of the material, actually drives electrons, creating a current.
The results confirmed that the organic molecules could indeed be used to generate electricity from heat. Before they can be put to use, however, it will be important, Sales says, to design the molecules so that they arrange themselves between metal layers to make large-scale thermoelectric materials. What's more, so far the efficiency is very low, the researchers say. To improve this, they are creating and testing new versions of the molecules.
"These are very simple molecules that the group is looking at," says J. Fraser Stoddart, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. He's interested in the researchers' plans to alter the molecules to improve their thermoelectric properties. "That's where my heart starts to beat," he says. "I hope they follow this research up."
The research is only the first step, the researchers say, and, because much work remains, applications will be many years away.
If all goes well, though, so-called thermoelectric devices based on the molecules could prove to be an important source of power--and a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by making far more efficient use of fossil fuel. "Ninety percent of the world's electricity is generated by thermal-mechanical means," says Arun Majumdar, professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley and another researcher on the project. "And a lot of the heat is wasted. One and a half times the power that is generated is actually wasted."
For example, a typical way to generate electricity is by heating up steam to drive a turbine. After the steam passes through the turbine, it still contains energy in the form of heat, although not enough to drive a turbine, Segalman says. That heat typically escapes into the atmosphere and is wasted. By wrapping thermoelectric materials around exhaust pipes, that heat could be put to work. In cars, thermoelectrics could replace the alternator and save hundreds of millions of gallons of gas a year, according to an estimate from a General Motors researcher. (See "Free Power for Cars.")
Organic materials are appealing because they cost much less than thermoelectric inorganic materials: even if they are inefficient, they might still be economical. "These molecules are dirt cheap," Majumdar says. "If the efficiency is low, that's fine. You're throwing that heat away anyway."
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