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Eco Tech: Hydrogen Fuel From Urine To Power Cars Tomorrow

Eco Factor: Urine broken down into hydrogen using electrolysis.

With the dearth of low-emission fuels and the high cost of renewable energy generating system such as photovoltaic cells have tempted automobile manufacturers to look towards sources which are present in abundance. Being the most abundant in the universe, hydrogen has always fantasized car manufacturers as a green fuel which doesn’t bring any performance issues along as well. However, conventional process used to generate hydrogen from water and finally transporting it, aren’t as ecofriendly as the fuel itself is.

(more…)

July 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

Climate friendly car windows? Calif. to require

Carmakers, cell phone firms complained about sun-reflecting glass
The Associated Press
updated 10:04 a.m. ET, Fri., June 26, 2009

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SACRAMENTO – California air regulators voted unanimously Thursday for a mandate requiring auto manufacturers to include sun-reflecting glass on all vehicles sold within the state by 2014.

The move by the California Air Resources Board was intended to keep cars, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles cooler during hot weather, reducing the use of air conditioning.

That was expected to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The end result of it is the customer gets a car that’s more comfortable to ride in, air conditioners don’t have to work as hard, and the atmosphere will be happier because we won’t be emitting as much carbon dioxide,” said board chairwoman Mary Nichols.

The auto industry complained about the expense but won an extra year to comply with the first phase of the regulation. Automakers also will be allowed to find other ways to cool down cars to avoid a tougher window standard to be phased in after 2014.

The board gave automakers more time to meet the standards after representatives for Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. lined up to ask the board to extend the deadline.

“We don’t have a lot of spare resources right now,” said Steven Douglas, senior director of environmental affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

California has been a leader for decades in setting auto standards. Its mandates have often brought changes throughout the industry as automakers move to capture the state’s huge market.

California was the first state to require the use of catalytic converters in 1975 as a way to reduce smog. A 2002 state law intended to force cleaner auto emissions was the reason the Obama administration implemented greater fuel-efficiency standards earlier this year.

Beginning with the 2012 model year, a quarter of passenger vehicles sold in California must have specially coated windshields that block 50 percent of the sun’s heat from a parked car. All vehicles must have those windshields within two more years.

In 2016, windshields must block 60 percent of the sun’s heat unless car makers can demonstrate other ways to keep cars cool.

The regulation is projected to prevent 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere in 2020, the equivalent of taking 140,000 vehicles off the road for a year. There were nearly 22 million passenger vehicles registered last year in California.

The new windows would cool a sedan’s interior by an estimated 14 degrees Fahrenheit or 12 degrees for a pickup or SUV.

Cell phone industry cites blocked signals
The board dismissed concerns from trade groups representing domestic and foreign car companies that sun-reflecting glass would interfere with cell phones signals, GPS navigation, electronic passes for toll roads and tire pressure monitoring systems.

The regulation allows glass manufacturers to leave a small area of the windshield free of the metallic coating to boost wireless signals. However, representatives for navigation and cell phone companies questioned whether it would be effective.

Susan Lipper, senior manager of regulatory affairs at T-Mobile USA, said drivers and passengers might be prevented from making emergency calls from their cars.

“If you need to make a 911 call and material in the windshield blocks it, that’s an issue,” Lipper said.

Drivers who replace windows in older cars also would have to meet the new standards.

The window mandate is among dozens of strategies pursued by the board in its effort to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, the goal set by the state’s 2006 global warming law.

‘Cool paint’ proposal dropped
A proposal to require so-called “cool paints” was removed from the regulation after the auto industry complained it might have to stop selling black cars in California.

The technology used by glass manufacturers to make more reflective car windows has been around for nearly 20 years, said Mukesh Rustagi, director of strategic product management at Pittsburgh Glass Works, the largest automotive glass supplier in North America..

Climate friendly car windows? Calif. to require – Climate Change

July 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm Leave a comment

calvin klein usb sunglasses

Want to look chic while keeping your personal data safe and sound? These new sunglasses from Calvin Klein have a USB drive hidden in the arm, letting you store info and protect your eyes from UV rays at the same time.

calvin_klein_usb_sunglasses

These new shades from the house of Calvin Klein sport a 4GB USB flash drive, neatly concealed inside the right arm. Unfortunately, this design means you can’t wear the sunglasses while accessing your data, but how often do you really need to do that. And I’ve got to ask, why couldn’t they double the storage by putting another drive on the left side too?

Calvin Klein’s USB sunglasses should hit stores this October for $199 (USD).

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calvin klein usb sunglasses: data for your eyes only on [technabob]

July 11, 2009 at 10:11 am Leave a comment

Best Buy to Sell Green Vehicles – WSJ.com

Best Buy Co., best known as a vendor of giant televisions, is veering in a new direction: selling green vehicles.

America’s largest consumer-electronics retailer by sales has quietly begun offering electric-powered scooters, bicycles and Segway Inc. transporters in 19 locations in California, Oregon and Washington.

It is throttling up the venture this summer with the introduction of the Brammo Enertia, a futuristic electric motorcycle that can travel 45 miles at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour and plugs into a standard wall outlet. Best Buy wouldn’t disclose when it will begin

Best Buy to Sell Green Vehicles – WSJ.com

July 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

From the Sewage Plant, The Promise of Biofuel

Researchers throughout the world are working to produce biofuel from algae. But a few are trying a decidedly novel approach: Using an abundant and freely available source — human waste — to make the fuel of the future while also treating sewage.

by greg breining

In his quest for a fuel of the future, Roger Ruan has found a valuable resource in something nobody else wants — the wastewater from Minneapolis’ largest sewage treatment plant.

The University of Minnesota professor is tapping into this rather unlikely source to grow single-celled algae and produce a diesel-like biofuel. He is one of many researchers around the world working to make biofuel from algae at a price that is competitive with gasoline and diesel fuel. But Ruan’s project — along with several other sewage-to-fuel experiments — has a distinct advantage over competing algae-to-fuel efforts: His nutrient-rich feedstock is free and available at a nearly constant rate all year long.

And perhaps most importantly, Ruan’s algae can not only be used to produce fuel, but can also clean up the wastewater, potentially saving millions of dollars.

“That’s what we’re after,” says Jason Willet, finance director for Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, which operates the wastewater plant and has helped fund Ruan’s research.

A single acre of algae, even in an inefficient open pond, can produce 5,000 gallons of biodiesel per year, says Ruan—100 times as much as soybeans.

Microalgae
Paul Chen/University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota researchers hope their research yields a demonstration algae-to-fuel plant within a year.

And unlike many other algal biofuel experiments, Ruan’s work does not rely on food-based crops, such as sugar cane, as a feedstock to produce the algae.

“This (sewage-based biofuel) potentially is a very, very good energy crop,” says Ruan, a professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering. “Potentially its yield can be much, much higher than starch from corn or oil from soybeans. The main reason is that it can grow at a much, much faster rate.”

Growing fuel-producing algae in waste is not Ruan’s idea alone. The concept drew international attention in 2006 when a startup in New Zealand called Aquaflow successfully harvested biofuel from open-air ponds at wastewater treatment plants. The company expects to be able to produce the biofuel on a large scale, and recently attracted the attention of major players in the airline industry by announcing it had distilled a special blend that meets the technical specifications for jet fuel.

Aquaflow’s advances, combined with the Pentagon’s interest in biofuels as an alternative to conventional jetfuels, has sparked a flurry of academic and industrial research in the United States. A team at the University of Virginia has been working to maximize the efficiency of the algae-growing process, and the chemistry department at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., has built a small-scale bioreactor at a local wastewater treatment plant that may eventually be able to produce $600,000 worth of fuel per year.

Even NASA has thrown its hat in the ring, with researchers working on the development of floating greenhouses for algae cultivation. The bags are

The university was looking for a way to produce a renewable fuel that wouldn’t compete with food crops.

stocked with human waste and sown with species of freshwater algae, and then deployed into the ocean. The semi-porous plastic membrane allows the exchange of CO2 and oxygen to continue uninhibited, but prevents the salty seawater from disturbing the fecund growing conditions inside. Soaking up the sun and feasting on the nutrients in the sewage, the algae produce fat-laden cells that can be harvested and refined into fuels.

U.S. entrepreneurs have also entered the market. In June, Indianapolis-based Algaewheel contracted with the city of Reynolds, Ind., to construct a module at a wastewater treatment facility that uses a wheel-like rotating contraption to filter incoming sewage through a series of algae cultures. The fuel generated from the process will be used to power the facility.

In Minneapolis, Ruan and the Metro Council are conducting research with the intention of designing a demonstration algae-to-fuel plant within about a year.

The Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant sits beside the Mississippi River, just downstream from St. Paul. The 10th-largest plant of its kind in the country, it treats sewage from three-fourths of the Twin Cities metro area — more than 200 million gallons a day. Some of its low brick buildings, adorned by graceful Art Deco lettering, date to the plant’s origin in 1938. From a rooftop, the 170-acre grounds is a warren of basins, tanks, stacks, and pipes.

Incoming sewage is screened for trash and chunks, then runs into settling ponds to remove solids. In aeration ponds, carefully managed populations of microbes break down organics. After more settling to remove dead microbes, wastewater is sterilized with liquid chlorine before being discharged into the river. The effluent is often cleaner and clearer than the river itself. Amazingly, there is barely a whiff of odor.

As clean as the effluent is, Minnesota is considering new standards that will most likely require further reduction of phosphorous and nitrogen. Excess phosphorus is a real concern in the Land of 10,000 Lakes because it causes unsightly algae blooms and fish kills. Nitrogen sluicing off farmland throughout the Midwest is blamed for the hypoxic dead zone at the Mississippi River’s mouth. But meeting the new standards through conventional treatment could easily cost “hundreds of million of dollars” a year, says Willet. “We need to find some options.”

So the University of Minnesota and the Met Council began research in 2007. Through its Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, the university was looking for a way to produce a renewable fuel that wouldn’t compete with food crops or tie up agricultural land. The Met Council wanted cleaner wastewater.

Early on, Ruan decided against growing algae on the raw wastewater streaming into the plant: The task of managing more than 200 million gallons a day seemed daunting. Instead, research focused on the “centrate,” the millions of gallons squeezed from settling-pond solids by powerful centrifuges. The foul juice is so high in nitrogen and phosphorus that it kills most organisms.

Ruan’s initial task was to screen thousands of species of algae to find one, or several, that would flourish in the harsh conditions of the centrate. He

The algae yielded 30 percent of their mass as oil and grew so fast they could be harvested daily.

dispatched his assistants to scoop green, soupy water from ponds and rivers. Most perished in the concentrated nutrients, but Ruan eventually found several species — greenish, spherical, single-celled plankton only 5 microns across — that survived. By acclimating these survivors, Ruan was able to produce strains that thrived in the wastewater, while reducing the levels of phosphorus by 50 to 80 percent. They yielded 30 percent of their mass as oil and grew so fast they could be harvested daily.

So far Ruan and the Met Council have shunned genetically engineered algae, though they almost certainly could boost growth and oil content. “We are not interested because eventually on a massive operation like this, some of it is going to get loose in the river,” says Willet. “And I have enough regulations.”

Ruan also decided against open ponds to grow his algae. Ponds are inefficient, because algae blooms block light. Commercial-scale ponds would also require large acreage, and conditions are tough to control, especially in winter. “If you’re talking about an open pond system, it’s almost impossible in a northern climate,” says Ruan. Finally, “if the algae is dilute, it’s very, very expensive to harvest it.”

Instead, Ruan began building dozens of different “photo-bioreactors”— various configurations of tubes or plates that allow good exposure to natural and artificial light, as well as easy access for harvesting and cleaning. The current generation of reactors is operating in a shed in the plant’s “solids building,” not only to contain the stench of the centrate, but also to keep the equipment secret until the university secures patents.

Like soybeans, algae oil can be used to make biodiesel. Or it can be “cracked” through heat and catalysts (as in an oil refinery) to produce “green diesel,” identical to petroleum-derived diesel. Either biodiesel or green diesel could power the Metro Council’s public bus fleet, which already uses biodiesel in blends of up to 20 percent. “We are a guaranteed market,” says Willet. Remnant algae mash — the nitrogen-rich pulp — can be sold as fertilizer, animal feed, or raw material for ethanol.

But there’s one big problem, Ruan says, and it’s common to any attempt to convert algae to fuel. “We have done a lot of work to get the oil out, but we know it is expensive,” says Ruan, who is lead scientist on several other promising algae biofuel projects that do not use wastewater as a feedstock.

Two methods are in common use: Drying and crushing the algae, or removing oil with a solvent. Both, says Ruan, are expensive. Researchers are exploring various ways to break down algae cell walls — through osmotic shock or ultrasound, for example — to make oil recovery easier.

It pays to keep trying, because with available processes, Ruan says, algae-diesel might cost $20 a gallon. But, says Willet, “that doesn’t take into account the avoided costs that I will realize.”

During the next year, Ruan and the Met Council hope to develop a design for a demonstration-scale plant to utilize perhaps 20,000 gallons of centrate a day. That amount is only 2 percent of the centrate the Metro plant generates, and would produce only about 160 kilograms of dry algae and 8 gallons of oil a day. But, says Ruan, an algae plant of that size could eventually be scaled up to treat the entire stream of centrate and produce near 400 gallons of oil a day. Or it could be used as is to treat the wastewater of a city of 50,000 people.

And that is the key — wastewater treatment with the added benefit of renewable fuel. Or renewable fuel with the benefit of cleaner water. Either way, says Ruan, “we feel that this is probably a perfect combination.”

Yale Environment 360: From the Sewage Plant,
The Promise of Biofuel

July 5, 2009 at 6:29 pm Leave a comment

Don’t Use a Sponge

Submitted by Jack Reichert
Instead of using synthetic sponges for your shower and dishes use a luffa! Sponges tend to collect bacteria and for heath reasons should be thrown out 1-2 times a week. But if they are not biodegradable, that is a LOT of waste filling up landfills. Additionally, the “antibactirial” sponges have a chemical called Triclosan which is officially a pesticide. Do you really want to be using that on your dishes? The best part about Luffas, are that they can be grown in your own backyard!

Don’t Use a Sponge | Green Prophet

July 5, 2009 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Cheaper Electric Car?

04/26/2009

A JOLT TO THE ELECTRIC VEHICLE MARKET: ZMC OFFERS THE ZENN FOR UNDER $10,000!

ZENN Motor Company, a leading developer of zero

emission transportation solutions, is pleased to announce it will offer the 2009 All-Electric

ZENN LSV (low-speed vehicle) for an unprecedented price of $9,995 under its Ambassador

Program through a combination of an innovative product Ambassador rebate program and a

one time federal tax credit. This offer is available through June 30th, 2009.

The ZENN creates excitement wherever it goes. In exchange for their efforts to promote the

ZENN in their communities and sharing their experiences with the Company, Ambassadors

are provided with a $4,750 rebate that can be immediately applied at point-of-purchase.

Ambassadors who sign up for this limited-time program at point of purchase will receive a

tool kit that includes a ZENN hat, ZENN t-shirt, and promotional literature. They will also

participate in online surveys and feedback questionnaires during the first three months of

ownership.

Zenn

The program’s pricing structure is as follows:

ZENN MSRP: $15,995

Ambassador Rebate: -$ 4,750

Total Purchase Price* $11,245

Less 10%Federal Tax Credit** -$1,250

Total Cost to Customer***: $9,995

 

 

*Please note the total purchase price does not include optional accessories, delivery fees or sales

taxes. **Actual Federal Tax credit may vary depending on individual tax situation. Federal Tax

Credit is based on 10% of total purchase price plus $1,250 in standard delivery fees.

***Total Cost to Customer includes both the Ambassador point of sale rebate and an estimated

amount for the federal tax credit incentive that the customer may be eligible for when filing their

income taxes. Cost to customer is net of taxes, delivery fees, and optional accessories.

Foreign Affairs :

June 30, 2009 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

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