Future Energy eNews    IntegrityResearchInstitute.org        Oct. 9, 2006       


1) No Hydrogen Needed - MIT tells us that existing technology can completely replace oil

2) Decarbonization - Comprehensive roadmap for the future of energy in the United States

3) Hyperspace Engine - May be dreamed up by physicists but let's keep an open mind

4) Tritium Batteries - BetaBatt, Inc. seems to be the answer to the need for a 12 year battery

5) Solar Cells for Cheap - Konarka thin electric plastic cells are flexible and now in production  

6) COFE2 Amazed Audience - Conference on Future Energy gets rave reviews online everywhere


NOTE: At the Regional Space Development Conference www.utahspace.org a few days ago, I received a first hand electrokinetic report of an aerospace company engineer levitating an assymetrical capacitor with only pulsed radio waves.  - TV

1) No Hydrogen Economy Needed: Existing Tech Could Replace Fossil Fuels

Kevin Bullis, Technology Review, http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/posts.aspx?id=17381



A new road map to decarbonization says we already have all the technology we need, we just need to spend more money to implement it. 


In our recent special report issue on energy and global warming ("It's Not Too Late </read_article.aspx?id=17055&ch=biztech>," July/August 2006), we argued that existing technologies have the potential to dramatically reduce our production of greenhouse gases--we need not wait for the advanced technologies of a "hydrogen economy" or exotic new types of alternative energy.


Now researchers at City College of New York are proposing very much the same thing in a policy discussion published in the journal Science <http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/313/5791/1243>. In the September 1 issue, they say the combined use of alternative energies for which we already have reliable technology "could replace all fossil fuel power plants." These sources include concentrated solar thermal energy (in which heat from the sun creates steam to run generators), nuclear energy, geothermal and hydroelectric plants, wind energy, photovoltaic cells, and biomass.


They also claim that plug-in hybrid vehicles could replace 80 percent of the gasoline used in the United States. And they say the use of hydrogen for fuel is a bad idea in most cases--that using electricity directly in vehicles (stored in batteries) rather than to generate hydrogen is three times cheaper.


The catch? A huge price tag. Reducing total fossil-fuel use by 70 percent would cost $200 billion per year for 30 years, outlays the City College researchers hope could be collected through a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions of $50 per ton.

For example, that cost would come to more than a $300 tax per year on a Toyota Camry, based on figures from fueleconomy.gov http://fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm.


2) ENERGY Enhanced: A Road Map to U.S. Decarbonization

Reuel Shinnar1* and Francesco Citro1 Science 1 September 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5791, pp. 1243 - 1244

See HyperNotes at end of article for Web links and additional resources.
Also see the archival list of Science's Enhanced Perspectives and Policy Forums.


Today, 85% of the United States' energy mix comes from carbon-rich fossil fuels: oil, natural gas, and coal (1). With demand increasing worldwide, existing oil reserves could peak within 20 years (2), followed by natural gas and coal. Growing fuel use is increasing CO2 and CH4 emissions and the risk of global warming. The United States has responded by sponsoring research into alternative energy (3). However, because research success is not predictable, an effective plan must be based on proven technologies. We propose to switch our economy slowly (over 30 to 50 or more years) to nonfossil energy sources by using proven technologies and available, expandable distribution systems.

Available Methods
Because all available energy technologies have limitations (see table, below), a comprehensive plan should include several options:

Potential for fossil fuel replacement and CO2 reduction

Fossil fuel use

Fossil fuel replaced (%)

CO2 emissions reduction (%)

Replaced by electricity from alternative sources

All coal for electricity



All natural gas and petroleum for electricity



All fossil fuels for residential and commercial



65% of petroleum for transportation



70% of natural gas used in industry



Replaced by syngas processes from biomass

All petroleum 30% of natural gas used in industry



35% of petroleum for transportation






[Source (4)]

1. Concentrated solar thermal (CST) energy with storage, a proven technology for electricity generation (4), can provide variable energy, to compensate for fluctuations in demand, for a large fraction of U.S. energy needs.

2. Nuclear energy. New and safer designs, not yet built on a commercial scale, merit construction. The implementation of a large nuclear capacity [1000 gigawatts (GW)] requires study regarding the long-range availability of nuclear fuel and the disposal of accumulated waste. Present nuclear plants are used for base power, only 40% of our electricity needs.

3. Geothermal and hydroelectric plants. However, their total output is limited.

4. Wind. The amount of uncontrollable electricity the grid can accept from this highly variable source is limited.

5. Solar cells. Sunlight is available for only part of the day. Like wind power generators, solar cells lack storage capacity. However, unlike CST, solar cells can be widely distributed.

6. Biomass. The only renewable source of industrial petrochemical feedstocks and fuels for trucks and aviation that cannot be provided by electricity is biomass, but only a limited amount can be grown. Proven technologies for generating syngas by combining carbon oxides (from partial oxidation of biomass) with H2 (from electrolysis) can currently generate three to four times the product yield obtainable by fermentation (5).

A discussion of decarbonization should also include CO2 sequestration, a technology available only for new coal power plants (6). This technology depletes valuable fossil fuel resources and is more expensive than CST and nuclear (4). It is doubtful that it will play a major role in the near to midterm future.

Alternative Energy Sources
The magnitude of our energy problem is illustrated in the figure (below); our plan is outlined in the table below. Electricity from alternative sources could replace all fossil fuel power plants and all residential and commercial uses with available technology and distribution systems, as well as 70% of the natural gas used for industrial furnaces, steam generation, and H2 production (1, 7).


U.S. energy sources and CO2 consumption in 2003. U.S. energy consumption (total, 98.5 quadrillion Btu)  and CO2 consumption (total 5772 million metric tons) . [Source (1)]


Of the gasoline used for private cars and light trucks, 80% can be replaced by hybrid cars with plug-in batteries (8), the cheapest way to reduce oil consumption. Railroads driven by electricity could probably assume 50 to 60% of long-distance hauling. Therefore, 72% of the current use of fossil fuels can be replaced by electricity from alternative sources and 26% by combined biomass and H2, whereas 2% cannot be replaced at all.

Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy
CST technology utilizes solar collectors that concentrate solar rays on a heat-transfer fluid able to sustain high temperatures (>800°F) (4) and raise steam for driving turbines. This technology has been demonstrated in a 354-MW modular plant running in the Mojave Desert for the past 20 years (4). On rainy days, the steam power plant consumes fossil fuel, but it could use fuels made from biomass and H2.

For CST, the collectors and storage (90% of the investment) are comparable to the fuel plant for a conventional steam power plant (10% of the investment). By doubling the capacity of the steam power plant, a solar plant designed for 1-kW capacity or 24 kW hours (kWh)/day continuous production (base load) can supply 2 kWh for 12 hours with only a 10% incremental investment or 4 kWh for 6 hours with a 30% incremental investment, by quadrupling the capacity of the steam plant. For coal or nuclear plants, the increase in investment is 100 and 300%, respectively. Investment and electricity costs for CST are given in the table (below) and compared with costs for nuclear and various versions of coal power (6, 9, 10). CST is not competitive yet with nuclear or coal for continuous production (base load). However, it is more flexible in adjusting to changing needs, potentially switching off in periods of low demand, such as at night (intermediate load). Power can be produced according to demand almost instantaneously (load following), which makes it cheaper than other sources of power. CST is cheaper than new coal power plants with CO2 sequestration, even for base power.

Electricity costs for solar thermal compared with conventional energy sources



Cost (cents/kWh)


Investment ($/kW installed)



Load following

Solar thermal: near term (10)





Solar thermal: future (10)





Conventional coal power plant (with scrubbers) (6)





Clean coal (6)




Cannot supply it

Clean coal (6) (with CO2 sequestration)




Cannot supply it

Nuclear (9)




Cannot supply it

[Source (4)] *Explanation of estimate (4). Operated 4900 hours/year. A power plant designed to supply, for each kW installed, 12 kWh/day of variable electricity at instantaneous maximum rate of 4 kWh. Operated 6500 hours/year. Designed for the same load-following capability as in .

CST load-following capabilities enable it to be the anchor of an alternative energy grid that can compensate for the variable output of wind and solar cells. An area of the desert Southwest of 15,000 square miles is sufficient to supply 50% of our total present energy requirements (2). The transmission lines of the national grid would have to be 100% larger at a cost of about $250 billion to $300 billion (11). The cost of the local distribution lines, independent of the location of the power plants, would add another $850 billion to $1000 billion (11). The nationwide power losses in transmission and distribution, with present technology, are less than 7% (1).

Role of Biomass and H2
Of the fossil fuels we currently use, 28% cannot be replaced by electricity but can be replaced by hydrocarbons produced from biomass in combination with H2. Efforts now focus on ethanol, but we prefer biomass from less-energy-intensive agriculture such as fast-growing trees, grass, and agricultural waste. Biomass is used to generate syngas to produce methanol or liquid hydrocarbons (12, 13). Available technologies can produce any fuel or petrochemical from these two ingredients. The syngas for these two processes can be made from H2 and CO or CO2. H2 can be generated on location by electrolysis using alternative electricity (14), and the O2 coproduced can be used to partially oxidize the biomass. This method produces three to four times as many hydrocarbons as by fermentation to ethanol (5), which is an advantage as there are limits to the amount of biomass that can be grown. In our plan, biomass is converted on location in small plants, and the methanol produced is transported to a biorefinery or to existing petrochemical plants. Further investigation is needed to determine how much biomass can be produced and the optimal technologies for its utilization.

H2 is not available in nature; energy is required to generate it. Were we to generate sufficient H2 from natural gas to fuel our cars, we would double our natural gas consumption. To produce H2 from alternative sources (by electrolysis) is an expensive process. As the direct use of electricity is cheaper by a factor of 3, our plan minimizes the use of H2 to uses for which electricity cannot be substituted. We eliminate the problems of safety and transportation (14) by generating H2 on location and converting it on site in a controlled industrial environment to conventional hydrocarbons.

Except for H2, all the technologies we consider could become competitive with crude oil at $70 per barrel. Our main objective, however, should be to implement the best technology for eliminating dependency on fossil fuels rather than to compete with coal or cheap oil. Investment in demonstration plants and in large-scale implementations will be required.

Approximate cost estimates (4, 7) to replace 70% of our fossil fuel use (including most coal) are about $170 to $200 billion per year over 30 years. At current levels of CO2 emission, a tax of $45 to $50 per ton of CO2 would pay for the whole investment and provide incentives for implementing renewable technologies (5).

We must start now, as our country does not have the resources to complete this switch within a few years. The United States must create long-range incentives (such as a CO2 tax or tax credits) large enough to induce companies and utilities to implement proven technologies and to provide the required infrastructure. A successful U.S. program can set an example for the rest of the world, as many of the key technologies are well suited to developing countries. Once the technologies are established on a large scale and are mass-produced, these costs should go down by a factor of 2, making them competitive and reducing the need for subsidies. The required increase in the electric distribution system poses problems, such as obtaining rights of way for new distribution lines, that only the federal government can handle. There are political hurdles, but we believe they can be overcome.

References and Notes

  1. Energy Information Administration (www.eia.doe.gov).
  2. National Research Council (NRC), Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop, Washington, DC, 20 and 21 October 2005 (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2006). [Full text]
  3. G. W. Bush, State of the Union address, 20 January 2003. [Full text]
  4. R. Shinnar, F. Citro, "Solar thermal energy: The forgotten energy source," presented at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, annual meeting, Cincinnati, OH, 30 October to 4 November 2005 (IEEE Technol. Soc., in press) (www1.ccny.cuny.edu/ci/cleanfuels/publications.cfm).
  5. Supplemental calculations are available as supporting material on Science Online.
  6. N. Holt, Gasification Process Selection--Trade-offs and Ironies [Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, CA, 2004] (www.gasification.org/Docs/2004_Papers/30HOLT_Paper.pdf).
  7. R. Shinnar, F. Citro, "Decarbonization of the U.S. energy mix," presented at the AAAS Annual Meeting, St. Louis, MO, 16 to 20 February 2006 (www.nrel.gov/ncpv/thin_film/docs/decarbonization-02-24-06.doc); updated at (www1.ccny.cuny.edu/ci/cleanfuels/publications.cfm).
  8. S. C. Davis, S. W. Diegel, Transportation Energy Data Book (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC, ed. 25, 2006) (http://cta.ornl.gov/data/index.shtml).
  9. Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: Update for 1998 (Nuclear Energy Agency, International Energy Agency, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, 1998) (www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/1990/projected1998.pdf).
  10. Assessment of Parabolic Trough and Power Tower Solar Technology Cost and Performance Forecasts (Sargent & Lundy Consulting Group, Chicago, for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO, 2003) (www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/34440.pdf).
  11. Power Delivery System of the Future: A Preliminary Estimate of Costs and Benefits (EPRI, Palo Alto, CA, 2004). [Full text]
  12. R. B. Anderson, The Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis (Academic Press, Orlando, FL, 1984).
  13. C. D. Chang, Hydrocarbons from Methanol (Marcel Dekker, New York, 1983).
  14. NRC and National Academy of Engineering, The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Need (National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2004) (www.nap.edu/books/0309091632/html).
  15. The authors thank M. Green Shinnar for editing.

Supporting Online Material


1The authors are with the Clean Fuels Institute, City College of New York, New York, NY 11031, USA.

*Author for correspondence. E-mail: shinnar@ccny.cuny.edu


Related Resources on the World Wide Web

U.S. Energy Situation

Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
Official energy statistics from the U.S. government. U.S. energy
background analysis, annual reviews, outlook, and other resources, including a glossary and Internet links.

Energy Policy in Focus
Information from the
White House.

Energy 101
Background information about energy from the
Clean Energy Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Energy Issues
A resource page from the
Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Alternative Energy Resources

Renewable Energy
Article in

Renewable Energy Links
From the
Climate Ark environmental portal.

Renewable & Alternative Fuels
Resources from the
Energy Information Administration.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
A resource from DOE. The
EERE Technology Portal offers information on topics related to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Learning about Renewable Energy
A presentation of the DOE's
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy

Concentrating Solar Thermal Systems
An excerpt from an encyclopedia article by K. Lovegrove and A. Luzzi, made available by the Solar Thermal Group, Australian National University.

Concentrating Solar Power
Introduction from DOE's

Concentrating Solar Power Research
A resource page from DOE's
NREL. The July 2002 report "Fuel from the sky: Solar power's potential for Western energy supply" is made available.

Concentrating Solar Power and Sun-Lab
A partnership between DOE's Sandia National Laboratory and NREL. An
overview of CSP technologies is provided.

CSP Technology
A presentation by the International Energy Agency's

Kramer Junction Solar Power Plants
Information from
Solel, Inc.

Syngas from Biomass

Syngas and Fischer-Tropsch Process
Entries in

Synthesis Gas
An introduction provided by the
School of Engineering, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK.

Educational Web Site on Biomass and Bioenergy
Presented by the
Bioenergy Web site of the International Energy Agency.

Biomass Program
Information from the DOE's
EERE with links to Internet resources. The EERE Information Center offers presentations on biomass topics.

Biomass Research
Information from

Biomass Energy Home Page
Provided by the
Renewable Energy Resources Web site of the Oregon Department of Energy.

Lecture Notes on Biomass
For a
course on renewable energy taught by R. Kammen, Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley.

Further Reading

U.S. Energy Scenarios for the 21st Century
July 2003 report by I. Mintzer, J. A. Leonard, and P. Schwartz, prepared for the
Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

ìSolar Thermal Energy: The Forgotten Energy Sourceî (4)
October 2005 article by R. Shinnar and F. Citro, made available by the
Clean Fuels Institute.

1st European Summer School on Renewable Motor Fuels
Papers from a 2005 conference, made available by

Clean Energy Solutions
A collection of articles published July 2006 in
eJournalUSA, an online publication of the U.S. Department of State.

"A Responsible Energy Plan for America"
An April 2005 issue paper from the
Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet"
Review by
M. I. Hoffert et al. in the 1 November 2002 issue of Science.

"Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies"
Review by S. Pacala and
R. Socolow in the 13 August 2004 of Science, a special issue on the hydrogen economy.

"The Path Forward for Biofuels and Biomaterials"
Review by A. J. Ragauskas et al. in the 27 January 2006 issue of Science.

The Authors

Reuel Shinnar and Francesco Citro are at the Clean Fuels Institute, City College of New York.

3) Hyperspace Engine


IAN JOHNSTON, SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT, New Scientist, www.newscientist.com  

AN EXTRAORDINARY "hyperspace" engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the United States government.

The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today's New Scientist magazine.

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

The US air force has expressed an interest in the idea and scientists working for the American Department of Energy - which has a device known as the Z Machine that could generate the kind of magnetic fields required to drive the engine - say they may carry out a test if the theory withstands further scrutiny.

Professor Jochem Hauser, one of the scientists who put forward the idea, told The Scotsman that if everything went well a working engine could be tested in about five years.

However, Prof Hauser, a physicist at the Applied Sciences University in Salzgitter, Germany, and a former chief of aerodynamics at the European Space Agency, cautioned it was based on a highly controversial theory that would require a significant change in the current understanding of the laws of physics.

"It would be amazing. I have been working on propulsion systems for quite a while and it would be the most amazing thing. The benefits would be almost unlimited," he said.

"But this thing is not around the corner; we first have to prove the basic science is correct and there are quite a few physicists who have a different opinion.

"It's our job to prove we are right and we are working on that."

He said the engine would enable spaceships to travel to different solar systems. "If the theory is correct then this is not science fiction, it is science fact," Prof Hauser said.

"NASA have contacted me and next week I'm going to see someone from the [US] air force to talk about it further, but it is at a very early stage. I think the best-case scenario would be within the next five years [to build a test device] if the technology works."

The US authorities' attention was attracted after Prof Hauser and an Austrian colleague, Walter Droscher, wrote a paper called "Guidelines for a space propulsion device based on Heim's quantum theory".

4) Ultra-Long-Life Battery

Sebastian Rupley, PC Magazine http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1988193,00.asp

After years of advances in battery technology, many of our mobile gadgets still peter out before sunset on any given day. Several high-profile efforts are under way to fix this pesky problem, but one of the least pursued and yet most profound developments in energy technology is the battery that virtually never needs a recharge. Known as the BetaBattery, this little powerhouse could provide continuous power for years.

For now, the technology is just for offbeat applications such as sensor networks for monitoring traffic and for communication satellites, not for consumer electronics. "The initial applications will be for remote or inaccessible sensors and devices where the availability of long-life power is critical," says Larry Gadeken, a researcher at Houston-based BetaBatt, a company that's pioneering the technology with funding from the National Science Foundation and assistance from several universities.

The BetaBattery is not based on chemical reaction. Instead, it relies on the decay of the hydrogen isotope tritium. This continuous emission of electrons is the key to the ever-present charge in BetaBatteries. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, so after 12.3 years, its output is half its original charge. At 40 years, it has one-tenth its original charge. That kind of longevity is much longer than conventional batteries can muster.

BetaBatt is also designing battery casings that are extremely resistant to heat and cold, so that the batteries can power sensors and electrical equipment in the most hostile environments—even in space. Now all we need are batteries that can power our laptops and cell phones for years.

One of the problems with spreading environmental sensors far and wide is the need to power them. While most of these sensors are designed to use as little power as possible, few can be run solely on photovoltaics; batteries, therefore, are a necessary component. So what can provide the best power over an extended period?

It may be tritium. Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen and, yes, it's radioactive. But before you click the comment button, read on.

Tritium batteries work by absorbing beta-decay electrons in a silicon panel similar to traditional photovoltaics. The concept isn't new, but earlier designs were unable to capture a sufficient number of electrons to provide a significant amount of power. The new design, figured out by researchers from the University of Rochester, the University of Toronto, Rochester Institute of Technology and BetaBatt, Inc. of Houston, Texas, uses a 3D porous silicon matrix which gives it vastly increased surface area. Tritium batteries can last for at least 12 years (the half-life of tritium) of continuous use up to over a century, depending upon battery design -- a significant improvement over traditional chemical batteries.

But what about the safety?

There were a number of practical reasons for selecting tritium as the source of energy, says co-author Larry Gadeken of BetaBatt - particularly safety and containment.

"Tritium emits only low energy beta particles (electrons) that can be shielded by very thin materials, such as a sheet of paper," says Gadeken. "The hermetically-sealed, metallic BetaBattery cases will encapsulate the entire radioactive energy source, just like a normal battery contains its chemical source so it cannot escape."

Even if the hermetic case were to be breached, adds Gadeken, the source material the team is developing will be a hard plastic that incorporates tritium into its chemical structure. Unlike a chemical paste, the plastic cannot not leak out or leach into the surrounding environment.

(The beta-decay electrons from tritium are incredibly weak; a layer of dead skin is sufficient to block their entry from external sources. Swallowing tritium poses marginally more risk, but even so, tritium is typically flushed from the system within a couple of days or weeks, and even large doses amount to at most a couple of years worth of natural background radiation -- or one round-trip transatlantic flight.)

There are undoubtedly some readers who will oppose this, no matter how limited the actual danger; that's understandable. But in this case, the potential risk -- even in the worst-case scenario, consumption of material from a breached container -- is so slight, and the potential rewards -- long-life sensor and monitoring equipment -- so significant, it seems a highly worthwhile research path. I anticipate an interesting discussion in the comments.

For more information

Unlocking the Code – Science, Systems and Technological Breakthroughs | Jamais Cascio http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002725.html

See Image of Beta Battery:  http://www.pcmag.com/images/pcm_enlarge.gif

5 ) Solar Cells for Cheap


Interview by Kevin Bullis, Technology Review, www.technologyreview.com


Not everyone gets a solar cell named after them: but Michael Gratzel did. He says his novel technology, which promises electricity-generating windows and low manufacturing costs, is ready for the market.


Michael Grätzel, chemistry professor at the Ecoles Polytechniques Fédérales de Lausanne in Switzerland, is most famous for inventing a new type of solar cell that could cost much less than conventional photovoltaics. Now, 15 years after the first prototypes, what he calls the dye-sensitized cell (and everyone else calls the Grätzel cell) is in limited production by Konarka, a company based in Lowell, MA, http://www.konarka.com/ and will soon be more widely available.

Grätzel is now working on taking advantage of the ability of nanocrystals to dramatically increase the efficiency of solar cells.

Technology Review asked him about the challenges to making cheap solar cells, and why new technologies like his, which take much less energy to manufacture than conventional solar cells, are so important.

Technology Review: Why has it been so difficult to make efficient, yet inexpensive solar cells that could compete with fossil fuels as sources of electricity?

Michael Grätzel: It's perhaps just the way things evolved. Silicon cells were first made for [outer] space, and there was a lot of money available so the technology that was first developed was an expensive technology. The cell we have been developing on the other hand is closer to photosynthesis.

TR: What is its similarity to photosynthesis?

MG: That has to do with the absorption of light. Light generates electrons and positive carriers and they have to be transported. In a semiconductor silicon cell, silicon material absorbs light, but it also conducts the negative and positive charge carriers. An electric field has to be there to separate those charges. All of this has to be done by one material--silicon has to perform at least three functions. To do that, you need very pure materials, and that brings the price up.

On the other hand, the dye cell uses a molecule to absorb light. It's like chlorophyll in photosynthesis, a molecule that absorbs light. But the chlorophyll's not involved in charge transport. It just absorbs light and generates a charge, and then those charges are conducted by some well-established mechanisms. That's exactly what our system does.

The real breakthrough came with the nanoscopic particles. You have hundreds of particles stacked on top of each other in our light harvesting system.

TR: So we have a stack of nanosized particles...

MG: ...covered with dye.

TR: The dye absorbs the light, and the electron is transferred to the nanoparticles?

MG: Yes.

TR: The image of solar cells is changing. They used to be ugly boxes added to roofs as an afterthought. But now we are starting to see more attractive packaging, and even solar shingles (see "Beyond the Solar Panel"). Will dye-sensitized cells contribute to this evolution?

MG: Actually, that's one of our main advantages. It's a commonly accepted fact that the photovoltaic community thinks that the "building integrated" photovoltaics, that's where we have to go. Putting, as you say, those "ugly" scaffolds on the roof--this is not going to be appealing, and it's also expensive. That support structure costs a lot of money in addition to the cells, and so it's absolutely essential to make cells that are an integral part.

[With our cells] the normal configuration has glass on both sides, and can be made to look like a colored glass. This could be used as a power-producing window or skylights or building facades. The wall or window itself is photovoltaicly active.

TR: The cells can also be made on a flexible foil. Could we see them on tents, or built into clothing to charge iPods?

MG: Absolutely. Konarka has a program with the military to have cells built into uniforms. You can imagine why. The soldier has so much electrical gear and so they want to boost their batteries. Batteries are a huge problem--the weight--and batteries cost a huge amount of money.

Konarka has just announced a 20-megawatt facility for a foil-backed, dye-sensitized solar cell. This would still be for roofs. But there is a military application for tents, and Konarka is participating in that program.

TR: When are we going to be able to buy your cells?

MG: I expect in the next couple of years. The production equipment is already there. Konarka has a production line that can make up to one megawatt [of photovoltaic capacity per year].

TR: How does the efficiency of these production cells compare with conventional silicon?

MG: With regard to the dye-cells, silicon has a much higher efficiency; it's about twice [as much]. But when it comes to real pickup of solar power, our cell has two advantages: it picks up [light] earlier in the morning and later in the evening. And also the temperature effect isn't there--our cell is as efficient at 65 degrees [Celsius] as it is at 25 degrees, and silicon loses about 20 percent, at least.

If you put all of this together, silicon still has an advantage, but maybe a 20 or 30 percent advantage, not a factor of two.

TR: The main advantage of your cells is cost?

MG: A factor of 4 or 5 [lower cost than silicon] is realistic. If it's building integrated, you get additional advantages because, say you have glass, and replace it [with our cells], you would have had the glass cost anyway.

TR: How close is that to being competitive with electricity from fossil fuels?

MG: People say you should be down to 50 cents per peak watt. Our cost could be a little bit less than one dollar manufactured in China. But it depends on where you put your solar cells. If you put them in regions where you have a lot of sunshine, then the equation becomes different: you get faster payback.

TR: Silicon cells have a head-start ramping up production levels. This continues to raise the bar for new technologies, which don't yet have economies of scale. Can a brand-new type of cell catch up to silicon?

MG: A very reputable journal [Photon Consulting] just published predictions for module prices for silicon for the next 10 years, and they go up the first few years. In 10 years, they still will be above three dollars, and that's not competitive.

Yes, people are trying to make silicon in a different way, but there's another issue: energy payback. It takes a lot of energy to make silicon out of sand, because sand is very stable. If you want to sustain growth at 40-50 percent, and it takes four or five years to pay all of the energy back [from the solar cells], then all of the energy the silicon cells produce, and more, will be used to fuel the growth.

And mankind doesn't gain anything. Actually, there's a negative balance. If the technology needs a long payback, then it will deplete the world of energy resources. Unless you can bring that payback time down to where it is with dye-cells and thin-film cells, then you cannot sustain that big growth. And if you cannot sustain that growth, then the whole technology cannot make a contribution.

TR: Why does producing your technology require less energy?

MG: The silicon people need to make silicon out of silicon oxide. We use an oxide that is already existing: titanium oxide. We don't need to make titanium out of titanium oxide.

TR: An exciting area of basic research now is using nanocrystals, also called quantum dots, to help get past theoretical limits to solar-cell efficiency. Can dye-sensitized cells play a role in the development of this approach?

MG: When you go to quantum dots, you get a chance to actually harvest several electrons with one photon. So how do you collect those? The quantum dots could be used instead of a [dye] sensitizer in solar cells. When you put those on the titanium dioxide support, the quantum dot transfers an electron very rapidly. And we have shown that to happen.

TR: You are campaigning for increased solar-cell research funding, and not just for Grätzel cells.

MG: There's room for everybody.

I am excited that the United States is taking a genuine interest in solar right now, after the complete neglect for 20 years. The Carter administration supported solar, but then during the Reagan administration, it all dropped down by a factor of 10. And labs like NREL [National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO] had a hard time surviving. But I think there is going to be more funding.

For More Information

Konarka Photovoltaic Products http://www.konarka.com/products/


America's cutting edge http://www.washingtontimes.com/business/20060412-114946-8970r.htm
- The Washington Times

The Neatest Nanotech of 2005 http://www.technologyreview.com/NanoTech/wtr_16096,303,p1.html?trk=nl
- Technology Review

Konarka Raises $20M in Funds http://www.redherring.com/Article.aspx?a=15727&hed=Konarka+Raises+%2420M+in+Funds&sector=Industries&subsector=Energy
- Red Herring

6) Conference on Future Energy Amazes Audiences


Thomas Valone, Integrity Research Institute, October 9, 2006


Meeting Chelsea Sexton, the courageous woman who stars in the movie, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" was a great kickoff for the Second International Conference on Future Energy. After the movie screening, which attracted 230 people who almost overfilled the theater, she amazed the audience by answering every electric car question that they could throw at her, with unparalleled  technical detail. She also is very attractive and has a warm, friendly personality. Chelsea was featured in the local Gazette, the next day, along with the two electric vehicles that were on display in front of the Loews AMC movie theater. Her Q & A session was recorded as well: http://www.electrifyingtimes.com/COFE/COFE_chelseasexton.wmv

The next two days were amazing to most of the attendees, since the progressive presentations were so diverse and unusual for any energy conference held in this country or elsewhere. For example, we featured an opener from a Chief Scientist at NASA Langley, Dennis Bushnell, who covered a wide range of energy options but also information about Sea Water AgricultureHe has done some interesting thinking about how to utilize deserts to produce energy, food and other beneficial byproducts by tapping the world’s essentially unlimited source of seawater.  You can review his PowerPoint presentation at this link: http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org/library/related_writings_05.asp (Other COFE2 speakers' slide presentations will also be posted shortly at the Arlington Institute library site as well.)

Professor George Miley from the Fusion Research Lab at the University of Illinois http://fsl.ne.uiuc.edu  taught us how the advantageous process of dense plasma fusion is designed and used for propulsion and electricity, along with the hurdles yet to be overcome. Glen Gordon, MD reviewed some medical information about how electromagnetic fields interact with biological cells and then ended with his story of curing himself of congestive heart failure with a magnetic pulser he designed himself. His story, and his subsequent bicycle ride across country, has been written up in a number of places. The www.EM-Probe.com he developed is the most inexpensive electrotherapy device on the market today, according to Dr. Gordon, with the "fastest risetime in the business." 

Jim Dunn from the Center for Technology Commercialization in Massachusetts was gracious enough to give two lectures, one on the hydrogen challenge and the other on the solar photovoltaic industry. Dr. Thorsten Ludwig reviewed the research that is ongoing in the zero point energy Casimir Effect laboratories he has worked with.

Martin Burger from www.bluenergy.com amazed audiences with his business in Canada that uses tidal waves for electricity generation on a megawatt scale. However, we all saw a major, short-term solution to global warming with Russ George's presentation on the www.planktos.com approach to creating plankton blooms by seeding that absorb tons of carbon dioxide. His review of the progress of cold fusion was also very informative, especially when he disclosed a list of over a dozen government laboratories which have open their doors to collaboration with his research.

I gave a short and somewhat humorous presentation on Future Energy Technologies at the end of the first day, with a videotape of www.theaircar.com also leaving just enough time for the hotel staff to set up for the banquet. Dr. Tania Slawecki, from the University of Pennsylvania, was another speaker who amazed the audience with her laboratory tests of electric therapy equipment, substances, and healers who have proven anomalous abilities. The DVD of her dynamic presentation is worth reviewing more than once.

Dr. Fabrizio Pinto gave a very unusual animated presentation with state-of-the-art computer graphics to educate the group on the details surrounding Van der Waals forces (which he says journals prefer rather than "Casimir" effect). It was surprising to learn of his analysis of a 1921 journal article by Enrico Fermi that gave the metric for an electric charge in a gravitational field. Dr. Pinto's graphics showed that the solution has "drooping fieldlines" that seemed to imply electrogravity. Pal Asija, JD informed us of the correct attitudes necessary to succeed in life and in applying for a patent

The presentation by Dr. Ted Loder on his cooperative research with IRI on the Spiral Wankel Motor was very thorough, historical and educational. The concluding comprehensive slide show by John Thomas Jr. on the Searl Effect Generator history was remarkable to say the least and was the only presentation to go into overtime, even though the computer projector failed just as he began. We are editing the DVD so it will contain all of his numerous slides and the narration.

For More Information


COFE - Held September 2006 - Review with pictures and videos (wmv):



COFE Conference photo and Overview on the News Page of our website, photo and write-up. www.arcoscielos.com

COFE2 interesting discussion captured on video:


Just Returned from COFE Conference:


* Provided as a public service from www.IntegrityResearchInstitute.org where a Proceedings of the Second Conference on Future Energy will be released in November, 2006 as well as DVDs of ALL of the COFE2 speakers!