Future Energy eNews IntegrityResearchInstitute.org Mar. 8, 2006
1) Dean Kamen's Newest Slingshot - power and clean water in rural villages.
2) Powerful New Solar Electricity Generator - photo-responsive metal alloy even works in winter
3) Proving E=mc2 - using gamma rays to an accuracy of 1 in 50,000
4) Diamond is a Semiconductor's Best Friend - much higher frequency and faster speed
5) Vanadium is Better than Batteries - lowest ecological impact, indefinite storage, fast response
6) Rooftop Power Revolution - Microgeneration can bring several advantages - homestead use
Note: Editor Valone appears on Discovery Channel, Thursday, Mar. 9 at 9 PM, "Strangest Stories"
1) Dean Kamen's Newest Slingshot
Posted by Erick Schonfeld on Feb 16, 2006 in Innovation
& Startups, Politics
Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, is puzzling over a new
kind of equation these days. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world
don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't
The numbers may be daunting, but Kamen thinks he can help solve these twin
Goliath problems. "I thought the moral of the David and Goliath story was
this little guy won because he had a really neat piece of technology," says
Kamen. In other words, it wasn't David who brought down Goliath. It was
Kamen's slingshots are a pair of machines he's invented-each about the size
of a washing machine -that can provide power and clean water in rural
"If you could take all the diseases you could name, 80 percent would be
wiped out if you just gave people clean water," says Kamen. "This [water
purifier] makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day, and we don't care what
goes into it. And that [power generator] makes a kilowatt off of anything
Kamen is not alone in his quest. He's been joined by Iqbal Quadir, the
founder of Grameen Phone, the largest cell phone company in Bangladesh. Last
year, Quadir took prototypes of Kamen's power machines to two villages in
his home country for a six-month field trial. The trial, which ended last
September, sold Quadir on the technology. "This is a reliable machine," he
In fact, Quadir thinks it is reliable enough that he is negotiating to
license the technology from Kamen through a startup called Emergence Energy
in Cambridge, Mass., and is trying to raise $30 million to start producing
the power machines.
The electric generator in the power machine is based on a Stirling engine, a
clean-burning combustion engine which has long fascinated Kamen. Best of
all, it can be powered by an easily-obtained local fuel: cow dung. Each
machine produces a kilowatt of electricity. That may not sound like much,
but it is enough for 70 energy-efficient light bulbs. As Kamen puts it, "If
you judiciously use a kilowatt, each villager can have a nighttime."
Take a look at a satellite picture of the earth at night, and you will see
whole swaths of darkness across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and ! Africa.
For the people living there, a simple light bulb would mean an extension of
both productive and leisure hours. In fact, some of the villagers in the
trial in Bangladesh used the electricity to power TVs that they were
previously juicing off car batteries.
The real invention here, though, may be the economic model that Kamen and
Quadir hope to use to distribute the machines. It is fashioned after
Grameen Phone's business, where village entrepreneurs (mostly women) are
given micro-loans to purchase a cell phone and service. The women, in turn,
charge other villagers to make calls.
"We have 200,000 rural entrepreneurs who are selling telephone services in
their communities," notes Quadir: "The vision is to replicate that in
During the trial in Bangladesh, Kamen's Stirling machines created three
entrepreneurs in each village: one to run the machine and sell the
electricity, one to collect dung from local farmers and sell it to the first
entrepreneur, and a third to lease out light bulbs (and presumably, in the
future, other appliances) to the villagers.
"I don't like the charitable model," says Quadir. "Poor countries are
supposedly poor because they have a scarcity of capital. So if there is a
scarcity of capital," he reasons, "you should find an efficient way to spend
it." The most efficient way he can think of is through capitalism.
Kamen thinks the same approach can work with his water-cleaning machine,
which he calls-there's David and Goliath again-the Slingshot. While the
Slingshot wasn't part of Quadir's trial in Bangladesh, Kamen thinks it can
be distributed the same way. "In the 21st century, water will be delivered
at the point of use by an entrepreneur," predict Kamen.
The Slingshot works by taking in contaminated water, even raw sewage, and
separating out the clean water by vaporizing it. It then shoots the
remaining sludge back out a plastic tube. Kamen thinks it could be paired
with the power machine and run off its waste heat.
Cold Reception in Washington
Before Kamen met Quadir, he took his inventions to places like the United
Nations and the World Bank, part of whose stated goals are to improve access
to power and water in the world's poorest nations. He says he met nothing
but skepticism among the experts who told him there were much cheaper and
better ways to make power and clean water. He describes these encounters as
"the most chilling meetings I ever had in Washington."
During one such encounter, Kamen lost his cool and blurted out: "Okay, you've
had 60 years and spent $1 trillion on these two issues. Can you point to
the places where you are proud of the success you've had?" The meeting didn't
get much farther than that.
Says Kamen, "If you are going to wait for governments or NGOs
[non-governmental organizations] to change the world, it is going to take
another 60 years."
Jamal Saghir, the World Bank's director of energy and water, says he is
unaware of any meetings that might have taken place with Kamen. "We get a
lot of requests from inventors to endorse their products," says Saghir. "The
World Bank does not support proprietary technology. We support developing
country governments and empower them to make choices."
What Kamen is really railing against, though, is the conventional wisdom
that governments need to build huge, centralized power plants or water
sanitation facilities to economically address the problems at hand. That
centralized approach might result in a lower cost per kilowatt or per clean
liter of water, but it also requires a lot of capital, a lot of expertise,
and a lot of pipes and wires.
His approach, by contrast, has the virtue of simplicity. He even created an
instruction sheet to go ! with each Slingshot. It contains one step: Just add
water, any water. Step two might be: add an entrepreneur.
"Not required are engineers, pipelines, epidemiologists, or
microbiologists," says Kamen. "You don't need any -ologists. You don't
need any building permits, bribery, or bureaucracies."
The Price of Freedom
Still, even if some of the technical challenges have been solved ("I know
the technology works and I'd fall on my sword to prove it," insists Kamen),
the economic challenges still loom.
Kamen's goal is to produce machines that cost $1,000 to $2,000 each. That's
a far cry from the $100,000 that each hand-machined prototype cost. Quadir
cautions that a lot more trials and work is necessary: "The price of the
machines will dictate at what cost we can sell electricity." But nobody-not
him, not Kamen- really knows yet what it will cost to mass-produce the
Quadir would like to find out by setting up a factory in
Bangladesh. If the
economics work out, not only does he think that the decentralized approach
will be good business. He also thinks it will be good public policy.
Instead of putting in a 500-megawatt power plant in a developing country, he
argues, it would be much better to place 500,000 one-kilowatt power plants
in villages all over the place because then you would create 500,000
"Isn't that better for democracy?" Quadir asks. "We see a shortage of
democracy in the world, and we are surprised. If you strengthen the
economic hands of people, you will foster real democracy."
Lights, water, freedom-that would be some slingshot
I met Iqbal Quadir several times now and I am fascinated by his perspective
of the world. He is an amazing entrepreneur and has revolutionized telephony
in Bangladesh through his start-up Grameen Phone.
His strength is connecting the disconnected in order to create change. Again
he is attempting to connect local entrepreneurship with the basic need of
energy! I wrote about Iqbal (though not Dean) on my blog:
I am totally convinced that this project will have a much bigger impact than
most of the projects the World Bank has come up with for the simple reason
that they don't totally embrace local ownership of responses to development
I love the way Mr. Kamen thinks and the significant world problems he would
like to fix such as the water and electricity .I ran filtration
companies,started my own filter company,created machines to remove arsenic
from water,developed and patented filter making machine so I know
if Kamen stays with it he will suceed in coming up with a disruptive
technology to give anybody clean safe drinking water.
For more information: http://business2.blogs.com/business2blog/2006/02/dean_kamens_lat.html#more
2) SA Solar Research Eclipses Rest of the World
Willem Steenkamp, February 11 2006, Saturday Weekend Argus, http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=143&art_id=vn20060211110132138C184427#
Power to the people: Professor Vivian Alberts and his team have achieved a solar scientific breakthrough after 10 years of research.
In a scientific breakthrough that has stunned the world, a team of South African scientists has developed a revolutionary new, highly efficient solar power technology that will enable homes to obtain all their electricity from the sun.
This means high electricity bills and frequent power failures could soon be
a thing of the past.
The unique South African-developed solar panels will make it possible for houses to become completely self-sufficient for energy supplies.
The panels are able to generate enough energy to run stoves, geysers, lights, TVs, fridges, computers - in short all the mod-cons of the modern house.
Nothing else comes close to the effectiveness of the SA invention
The new technology should be available in South Africa within a year
and through a special converter, energy can be fed directly into the wiring of
existing houses. New powerful
storage units will allow energy storage to meet demands even in winter. The panels are so efficient
they can operate through a Cape Town winter. while direct sunlight is ideal for
high-energy generation, other daytime light also generates energy via the
A team of scientists led by University of Johannesburg (formerly Rand Afrikaans University) scientist Professor Vivian Alberts achieved the breakthrough after 10 years of research. The South African technology has now been patented across the world.
One of the world leaders in solar energy, German company IFE Solar Systems, has invested more than R500-million in the South African invention and is set to manufacture 500 000 of the panels before the end of the year at a new plant in Germany.
Production will start next month and the factory will run 24 hours a day, producing more than 1 000 panels a day to meet expected demand.
Another large German solar company is negotiating with the South African inventors for rights to the technology, while a South African consortium of businesses are keen to build local factories.
The new, highly efficient and cheap alloy solar panel is much more efficient than the costly old silicone solar panels.
International experts have admitted that nothing else comes close to the effectiveness of the South African invention.
The South African solar panels consist of a thin layer of a unique metal alloy that converts light into energy. The photo-responsive alloy can operate on virtually all flexible surfaces, which means it could in future find a host of other applications.
Alberts said the new panels are approximately five microns thick (a human hair is 20 microns thick) while the older silicon panels are 350 microns thick. the cost of the South African technology is a fraction of the less effective silicone solar panels.
Alberts said in Switzerland it was already compulsory for all new houses to include solar technology to lessen energy demands on national grids.
"And that was the older, less effective technology. With our hours of sunlight, we will on average generate twice as much energy than, for instance, European countries."
While South African scientists developed and patented the new, super-effective alloy solar panels, other companies have developed new, super-efficient storage batteries and special converters to change the energy into the power source of a particular country (220 volts in South Africa).
Eskom spokesperson Carin de
Villiers said any new power supply that lessened the load on Eskom was to be
She said Eskom was also doing its own research on solar energy.
"In fact, we are currently investigating building what will probably be the largest solar power plant, in the Northern Cape - a 100-megawatt facility."
She added that Eskom was also researching wind and fuel-cell technology as alternative energy sources.
3)Proving that E equals mc2
Kim Krieger, New Scientist Print Edition, 04 March 2006 www.newscientist.com
The penning trap
IT'S the one equation that everybody knows, but it's still just part of a theory. How do you go about proving E really does equal mc2?
The short answer is, with a great deal of care. A multinational team has just published the most accurate ever test of Einstein's equation. It involved measuring how the mass of an ion changes when it gives off a photon, and as you can probably imagine, that's not a huge change: detecting the difference is equivalent to detecting a hair's breadth change in the distance from New York to Los Angeles. Weighing an ion to that accuracy requires more than your standard set of kitchen scales. In fact, it requires quantum scales.
David Pritchard started building his quantum scales at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985. Back then he wasn't interested in verifying Einstein's equation; the plan was to weigh subatomic particles called neutrinos and discover whether they could account for the unseen mass that the universe appears to hold. Astronomers had noticed that many galaxies spin faster than their internal gravity should permit - centrifugal forces should tear them apart. The only explanation was that extra gravity from invisible "dark matter" was holding the galaxies together. Pritchard's group aimed to find out exactly what neutrinos - the leading candidate for dark matter - weighed.
"It was such a great story. Working in a little lab with just two or three people, we could discover the missing mass of the universe," says Eric Cornell. "That was what sucked me into the project." Cornell is now a Nobel prize-winning physicist based at the University of Colorado. But in 1985 he was a young graduate student sniffing around MIT for a PhD project. He signed up with Pritchard, who was building what is called a Penning trap. Cornell didn't know what he was letting himself in for.
Invented in 1936, the Penning trap is the definitive gadget for precision mass measurement. It is a cage of strong magnetic and weak electric fields that work together to keep a charged particle trapped inside (see Diagram). The combination of fields keeps the ion moving in a complex spiral: if the particle left a visible trace it would look like a wiggling Slinky spring toy looped within the trap. Measure the frequency of that wiggle and you can deduce the mass of the particle.
Once you have the trap working properly, that is. Penning traps are notoriously temperamental, and the one in Pritchard's lab was more so than most. Any disturbance - street traffic, a train passing by half a kilometre away, the janitor riding the freight elevator - could perturb the lone ion's tiny dance and disrupt the femtoamp (10-15 amp) signal from its oscillations.
Even when Pritchard's group had a trap up and running, they spent most of their time battling electrical interference. "In 1995 and 1996 we were banging our heads against the wall from noise problems," says Michael Bradley, a physicist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada who joined Pritchard's group as a graduate student in 1992. Disaster could strike from anywhere: something as innocuous as a new air conditioner could doom their data to uninterpretable fuzz. Random thermal jostling of electrons in the detector was another source of frustration; the jiggle of a few electrons could swamp the faint signal.
The trap took its toll. Bradley's PhD, a quest to improve the caesium mass measurement, spanned seven years. Nor was he the only one sorely tested by the trap's capricious behaviour. "I'm a pretty cheerful person," Cornell says. "But it strained my cheerfulness."
However, in 1999, working with an undergrad named Debbie Fygenson, Cornell made a significant leap forward. The pair altered the way they used the Penning trap so that it confined two different ions at the same time. In this configuration, the ions move in a kind of waltz, keeping a fixed distance apart and circling in step. This created the equivalent of a double-pan kitchen balance: by considering the ratio of the two ions' wiggle frequencies, rather than their absolute values, you can weigh the ions against each other and cancel out the effects of external disturbances.
This revolution wasn't put to use immediately. Most of the group's work carried on using refinements of the single-ion Penning trap, until in 2003 they reached a point where instabilities in the trap's magnetic field were compromising results. Moving to two ions eliminated the magnetic field fluctuations (Science, vol 303, p 334).
After nearly 20 years of work, Pritchard and his colleagues had reached the point where they could operate Penning traps with a sensitivity that could measure mass to 5 parts in a trillion. "We've made one-third of all the progress that's ever been made in mass measurement," Pritchard says.
Meanwhile, researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and the Institute Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, had been working on the other side of the equation - measuring the energy of a gamma-ray photon. They had honed the accuracy of their measurements down to just below 1 part in a million. With these developments in place, the teams were in a position to beat the most accurate tests of Einstein's famous equation, which had compared the masses of an electron and a positron with the energy released when they annihilate. This test, which was carried out by a team including some of the NIST researchers, had verified E = mc2 to an accuracy of 1 in 50,000.
The MIT and NIST groups carried out their experiments without sharing results. They each studied radioactive sulphur and silicon ions that emit gamma rays; the MIT group used the Penning trap to measure the mass before and after emission, while the NIST team used their high-precision spectrometer to measure the wavelength of each emitted gamma ray, and thus determine their energy. When each group was completely confident in the accuracy of their results, they faxed them to each other: the MIT group received a value of E, and the NIST group got mc2.
It was a nerve-racking Friday afternoon waiting for that paper to come off the fax machine, Pritchard says. "You ask yourself: what if we have a discrepancy? Though it's likely to be something you've overlooked, you like to think you're going to bring down one of the pillars of 20th-century physics."
No pillars came crashing down, however: the match was near perfect. We now know that E does indeed equal mc2 to better than 5 parts in 10 million (Nature, vol 438, p 1096).
That's it for Pritchard now: he is not planning further tests of Einstein's equation. "If we pushed it, we might get another three times better, but that's not really worth it," he says. In fact, he has given away his Penning trap to another research group. Which seems rather disappointing when the missing mass of the universe is still missing.
4) Japanese government to launch
diamond chip project
By Kuriko Miyake, InfoWorld, December 27, 2002
THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT will start a joint research project with industry in
fiscal year 2003 to develop diamond-based semiconductors, an advanced chip
technology that could one day replace silicon as the base for super fast,
high voltage semiconductors, it said on Friday.
Driven by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization
(NEDO), part of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the
project has a budget of $6 million for the financial year starting in April
2003. The project is expected to last for several years.
Diamond chips can work at a temperature of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius,
while silicon chips stop working above 150 degrees Celsius, according to
Hideyo Okushi, principal research scientist at Japan's National Institute of
Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), which has been
researching diamond chips in several projects. This property means that
diamond chips can work at a much higher frequency or faster speed and be
placed in a high-temperature environment, such as a vehicle's engine.
Diamond can also resist voltages up to around 200 volts, compared to around
20 volts for a silicon chip. This means power electronics, such as an
inverter, can become much smaller in size. At present, a large number of
silicon chips are used together to handle high voltages which makes devices
large, Okushi said.
Flat panel display electrodes based on diamond can also release more
electrons, and the life span of devices using diamond electrodes can be
double or longer than the equivalent with silicon, he said.
However, diamond chips are not expected to completely replace silicon chips
for another 20 years because of two major bottlenecks, Okushi predicted.
Although artificial diamond for chips has been developed, it is still much
more expensive than silicon. A four-millimeter-square diamond substrate
costs several hundreds of dollars compared to virtually nothing for silicon,
he said. Another problem is that electricity cannot travel smoothly through
diamond. Thus, engineers are seeking impurities which can be added to aid
Some major Japanese electronics companies are already active in diamond chip
development and are expected to apply to join the project. Kobe Steel Ltd.
is investigating the basic material used for diamond chips while Sumitomo
Electric Industries Ltd. is working on artificial diamond production.
For its part, Okushi's project team hopes to be able to use diamond chips to
develop an ultra-violet laser with a 235-nanometer wavelength, which is even
shorter than the 405-nanometer blue laser being eyed for next generation
optical disc technologies and is expected to be used for higher capacity
optical storage systems.
Kuriko Miyake is a Tokyo correspondent for the IDG News Service, an
InfoWorld affiliate. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
5) Vanadium Redox Instead of Batteries
Thomas Valone, Integrity Research Institute, March 3, 2006, www.vrbpower.com
(Thanks to Jim Dunn of www.ctc.org for letting me in on this pet project)
•Now being successfully used with wind systems, an oxidation-reduction reactive liquid made from vanadium is far superior to battery storage of electricity, according to Mark T. Kuntz, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, at VRB Power Systems Inc.
Headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. Canada, VRB Power Systems Inc. is an energy storage technology developer, manufacturer and systems integrator utilizing the patented VRB Energy Storage System ("VRB-ESS") and has acquired the intellectual property rights and assets to the Regenesys Energy Storage System ("RGN-ESS"). The VRB-ESS and RGN-ESS can effectively store large amounts of electricity on demand and provide direct economic benefits to utilities and end users in terms of improved power quality, reliability and energy efficiency. The VRB-ESS and RGN-ESS are particularly well suited to load leveling (peak shaving), electrical power arbitrage, grid stability enhancements, capital deferment and Remote Area Power Supply (RAPS) applications. They are focused on stationary power sources such as utility substations, commercial buildings, production facilities, telecommunication operations, cellular radio sites, and renewable resource generation such as wind farms and solar applications - creating the ability to provide "firm" capacity.
As a "green" technology, the VRB-ESS is characterized by the lowest ecological impact of all energy storage technologies and is unlike most other conventional energy storage systems that rely on toxic substances such as lead or cadmium.
The VRB-ESS uses a Vanadium based electrolyte and is intended for applications from 2.5kW's to 10MW's with durations of 2 hours and greater. The RGN-ESS uses electrolytes of concentrated solutions of sodium bromide and sodium polysulphide. The RGN-ESS is intended for applications from 10MW's to 100 MW's with durations of 8 to 12 hours.
· An electrochemical energy storage system
· A flow battery, based on Vanadium
· •Based on the reduction and oxidation of different ionic forms of Vanadium
· •Energy (electricity) can be stored indefinitely in a liquid – very low self discharge
· ••Energy can be recovered instantaneously(< 1ms)
Other advantages are that Vanadium Redox Energy Storage Systems (ESS) have:
· High-energy efficiencies: 70% round trip.
· Storage capacity can be easily increased by adding electrolyte.
· Designed for unattended operation with very low maintenance costs ($0.001/kWh).
· Ambient/Low operating temperature.
· Can be discharged and charged >10,000 times without performance degradation.
· ••Intelligent, programmable PCS provides four-quadrant control and simultaneous real and reactive energy (VARs).