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 FUTURE ENERGY eNEWS
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              JULY 2011

 

Dear Subscriber,

 

This month we are glad to present another breakthrough. This time it is in the realm of theoretical physics but directly affects how Casimir forces will be viewed from now on. The derivation of  "Spherical Casimir Pistons" (story #2) is best understood by the original work of Dr. Jordan Maclay who provides the historical, oscillating cantilever illustration for this article (www.quantumfields.com/bortman.htm) with his vision that it may be the basis for creating the smallest, self-powered motor in the world. In 2000, Prof. Maclay proposed to NASA that micron-sized surfaces might be custom designed to create either a push or a pull based on geometry, for "energy unlimited" (see COFE3 DVD). NASA awarded him the first zero-point energy grant in the US for the study. Now, a decade later, we find JS Dowker from the UK proving pistons can exist on a micron scale. To be honest, the "piston" oscillator is a popular area of study in the Casimir domain. In 2009, 108 scientists from more than 25 nations gathered to present papers on the Casimir forces, some of which were presented in a separate workshop on Casimir force pistons:(www.casimirnetwork.net/IMG/pdf/FinalReport2511.pdf ). Another source of info is from MIT, which just released a comprehensive study on Applications of Casimir pistons in 2010 :(http://www.dspace.mit.edu/openaccess-disseminate/1721.1/56726 ).
 
To move onto more mundane future energy, it is gratifying to see story #1 review the latest IPCC finding that there is hope for 80% of the world's energy to come from renewables. Story #3 is also very hopeful since flywheels have been known to be a better energy storage medium than batteries (at least 20% better) and a better boost of power (at least 100% better). Also, with magnetic bearings and operating in a vacuum, the flywheel can outlast the application, such as a car. Now automakers like Volvo and Jaguar are finally getting the message. Along similar lines, we give KLM and Lufthansa a hearty congratulations for going green in the air (story #4), where pollution counts the most and has impact even the weather. Of course, it is great to keep tabs on wind power, which is now reaching for the 10 MW turbines with the help of the US DOE (story #5). A development of the direct-drive or gearless turbine looks like it will be the next breakthrough in that industry, which will allow higher speeds and power output.


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Thomas Valone, PhD, PE
 
Editor
 
www.IntegrityResearchInstitute.org 
 

IN THIS ISSUE
1) HONEST ENERGY ASSESMENT
2) SPHERICAL CASIMIR PISTONS
3) FLYWHEELS NOW USED BY AUTOMAKERS
4)BIOFUELS TAKE OFF IN AIRLINES
5) BIGGER, BETTER WIND TURBINES

 

 

 

 

QUICK LINKS

1) Honest Assesments of Our Energy Future

Guest post by Daniel Kammen, World Bank - Spark, the RMI eNewsletter,  July 6, 2011


At long last, scientists, governments, and significant elements of the business community are in agreement twe can build a low-carbon, sustainable, global energy economy. 

That was the finding of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stating that 80 percent of global energy needs could come from renewable energy by 2050.

 
The constraint in making this a reality is not technology, land area, or resources, but willpower. The IPCC found that what is required is the leadership to coordinate the needed policy measures.
 

 

Unfortunately, misinformation is being propagated by interests favoring the status quo. The June 7, 2011, op-ed, The Gas is Greener by Robert Bryce in The New York Times is a sad example. Using rhetorical arguments and faulty calculations, Bryce argues that renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar are somehow more environmentally destructive than natural gas and nuclear energy.  This opinion is at odds with the analytic findings of the several hundred analysts who developed the IPCC report and the community of nations who reviewed and then endorse the report.

 

Can we build this new energy economy?  Consider the example of California, where detailed and extensively reviewed assessments have shown that with integration and coordination we can readily meet the mandate that one-third of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. In projecting the impact of this mandate, Bryce makes several errors, each substantially increasing his estimate of its difficulty. He first ignores the 18 percent of California electricity that already comes from renewable sources, and then inexplicably bases his calculations on peak historic demand rather than the total annual consumption that is subject to this mandate. This selective lens allows Bryce, like many nay-sayers, to overestimate new infrastructure requirements by over 400%. Moreover, both wind and solar are compatible with many other land uses and neither can be said to spoil the land they sit on in any way analogous to fossil fuel extraction or nuclear waste storage.  

 

The wind and solar industries face enormous market incentives to minimize their environmental impacts and both have impressive track records of ongoing innovation in this area.

Meeting a 33 percent renewable electricity mandate nationwide would require on the order of 800 square miles of total area-much of which could be on the tops of buildings or in the case of wind, integrated into existing farmland (as is already the case in many windfarms). This is less than twice the size of Edwards Air force base, and less than one third of the area of forest estimated by EPA to have already been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining.

 

Critics of the green energy economy often omit key information from consideration in making arguments about the material requirements of energy technologies as well. Bryce, for example compares the steel used for construction of wind and natural gas turbines, neglecting to mention that a gas turbine is only a very small part of a natural gas facility. More importantly, natural gas has substantial fuel production and waste stream infrastructure and impacts. Studies from the EPA have demonstrated that 'fugitive' emissions associated with natural gas extraction can put its total global warming potential on par with coal, the dirtiest fuel in widespread use. In contrast, an operating wind turbine or solar panel requires no fuel inputs and creates no waste stream.

 

Those of us who have done the math and thus are convinced that a cleaner, safer, and more durable energy infrastructure is worth pursuing, and can be achieved, know that it will be built on a diverse platform of energy technologies. In all likelihood, this will include the natural gas and nuclear power that Bryce advocates, as well as solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources that he unconvincingly criticizes. What we need most of all is an honest discussion with clear life-cycle, or 'cradle to grave' criteria to evaluate the benefits, drawbacks, and roles of each technology and the policy best suited to achieving our societal goals. The most basic lesson from our national innovation and industrial capacity is that we will achieve that which we plan.  Clean energy exists as an option, if we choose to invest in it and to implement systems solutions.

 

Daniel Kammen is the Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the World Bank, and is on leave from the University of California, Berkeley where he is the Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy.

Sam Borgeson studies low carbon energy infrastructure and Kevin Fingerman serves as vice-chair of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels.  Both are doctoral students in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.    

 

Editor's note: To read more about this topic, see "Renewable Energy's 'Footprint' Myth" by Amory Lovins in the upcoming summer 2011 issue of Electricity Journal.

  

 

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2) Spherical  Casimir Pistons

 J S Dowker2011 Class. Quantum Grav. 28 155018 (8pp)

Abstract: http://iopscience.iop.org/0264-9381/28/15/155018 

Full paper: http://iopscience.iop.org/0264-9381/28/15/155018/pdf/0264-9381_28_15_155018.pdf

 

    A piston is introduced into a spherical lune Casimir cavity turning it into two adjacent lunes separated by the (hemispherical)  piston. On the basis of zeta-function regularization, the vacuum energy of the arrangement is finite for conformal propagation in spacetime.

quantum casimir

 

 For even spheres this energy is independent of the angle of the lune. For odd dimensions it is shown that for all Neumann, or all Dirichlet, boundary conditions the piston is repelled or  attracted by the nearest wall if d = 3, 7, ... or if d = 1, 5, ... ,respectively.

 

For hybrid N-D conditions these requirements are switched. If a mass is added, divergences arise which render the  model suspect. The analysis, however, is relatively straightforward  and involves the Barnes zeta function. The extension to finite  temperatures is made and it is shown that for the 3, 7, ... series  of odd spheres, the repulsion by the walls continues but that, above a certain temperature, the free energy acquires two minimal symmetrically placed about the midpoint.

 

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3) Automakers Give Flywheels a Spin 

Kevin Bulls, Technology Review, July 2011
http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/38029/?nlid=nlenrg&nld=2011-07-18 

  

Computer model of Flywheel
Courtesy of Volvo. 

The automakers Volvo and Jaguar  are testing the possibility of using flywheels instead of batteries in hybrid electric vehicles to aid acceleration and help engines operate more efficiently. The devices could reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent and would cost a third as much as batteries. Volvo will begin road-testing a car with the technology this fall.

  

In a flywheel system, energy from the wheels is used to spin a flywheel at high speeds. The flywheel continues spinning, storing energy until that motion can be transferred back to the wheels via a transmission. The idea isn't new, but it's hard to make flywheels efficient-a lot of energy can be lost to friction. In 1982, for example, GM engineered a flywheel system that was intended for its 1985 vehicles, but they canceled the project after discovering that the fuel efficiency improvements were less than half of what they'd expected. Advances in the technology now have automakers taking a second look. "Industry has gone from being skeptical to thinking it can be done, but there are enormous challenges," says Derek Crabb, vice president of powertrain engineering for Volvo.

  

Engineers who design Formula 1 race cars have tried to overcome the challenges of a flywheel system by using composite materials to save weight. To reduce friction, they've sealed the flywheels inside a vacuum chamber. In translating that system to passenger cars, automakers face the problem of how to maintain the vacuum, since the seals that connect the flywheel to a transmission aren't perfect.

This is fine in racing, where the system only has to last a couple of hours at a time, and can be overhauled by team mechanics. 

  

Consumer cars using a similar design would need a system to maintain the vacuum with pumps and valves-and that adds complexity and cost. In another approach, from the U.K. engineering firm Ricardo, the mechanical connection between the flywheel and the transmission is severed. Instead, energy from the flywheel is transferred to a transmission via magnets arranged around the circumference of the flywheel and in a ring outside the flywheel housing. By varying the ratio of the magnets in the flywheel to those arranged around it, it's possible to make the flywheel spin six times faster than the ring around it, which simplifies the transmission of energy.

  

One advantage of flywheel systems over batteries is their compact size. "Most hybrids with batteries provide a 15- to 25-kilowatt boost of power. The flywheel can deliver 60 kilowatts in a way smaller package," says Andrew Atkins, chief engineer of technology at Ricardo. The trade-off is that flywheels can't supply energy for very long.    

  

Crabb says Volvo hasn't decided if it will use a system such as Ricardo's or something else to maintain the vacuum. Many challenges remain in bringing a flywheel hybrid to market. For instance, automakers will have to ensure that the systems can be durable, and can be manufactured on a large scale, he says.  Flywheels will also have to compete with batteries and other electrical storage devices such as ultracapacitors, which are getting more powerful and less expensive. 

   

4) Biofuels Take Off with Airlines  

Peter Farley. Technology Review, July 2011.
http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/37897/?nlid=nlenrg&nld=2011-07-04

 

KLM and Lufthansa say they'll burn bio-based jet fuel on regular routes.  

  

   

Last week, for the first time, a jumbo jet used a blend of biofuel and kerosene on a transatlantic flight. Also last week, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced a biofuel supply agreement to commence regular flights on a biofuel-petroleum blend on 200 Amsterdam-to-Paris runs starting in September. Lufthansa could beat it by a month under previously announced plans to launch a six-month test on Frankfurt-Hamburg flights.

  

Such regularly scheduled operations mark a big jump from the one-off biofuels flights that airlines have conducted since 2009. Aviation and biofuels sources say this indicates that biofuel-based jet fuels are ready to be scaled up. Amy Bann, director of environmental policy for Boeing's commercial airplanes division, says the KLM and Lufthansa announcements "signal to governments, fuel processors, and the financial community that the demand and market for these fuels exist."

  

Pressure to cap and ultimately reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is driving the developments. The European Commission is making flights within, into, and out of Europe subject to its carbon-trading scheme starting in 2012-a move that will cost the aviation industry an estimated 1.4 billion ($2 billion) next year and about 7 billion by 2020,  according to a March 2011 report by Oslo-based consultancy Thomson Reuters Point Carbon.

  

Environmental groups say biofuels make sense for aviation, since they are the sector's only alternative to petroleum. "You're not going to have electric airplanes," says Kate McMahon, biofuels campaign coordinator for Washington-based Friends of the Earth.

  

What has enabled aviation biofuels to shift to limited commercial service is the certification earlier this month of biofuels derived from animal and vegetable oils by standards body ASTM International. The provisional approval, to be finalized by August, covers aviation biofuels produced from oils via hydroprocessing-a catalytic process used in petroleum refining.

  

Hydroprocessed oil from camelina, a biofuels crop, powered Boeing's historic transatlantic flight last week (the flight was also the first in which all four engines of a commercial aircraft were flown on a biofuel blend). Camelina can be grown on wheat fields during periods when the fields would otherwise be left fallow, and thus shouldn't drive up food prices. And because the crop can be grown on existing fields, it can also avoid undesirable land use changes, such as the deforestation associated with palm oil cultivation in Southeast Asia.

  

KLM and Lufthansa also plan to use hydroprocessed oils as their biofuel source. KLM's will be produced from waste cooking oil by Dynamic Fuels, the Geismar, Louisiana-based joint venture of Tyson Foods and process developer Syntroleum. Finnish refiner Neste Oil will supply Lufthansa's biofuel blend by hydroprocessing oils from an as-yet-undisclosed feedstock that Lufthansa says will be "sustainable."

 

  

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5) Bigger, Better Wind Turbines  
Tyler Hamilton,  Technology Review, July 2011.
http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/37983/page2/


  

Wind power is one of the fastest-growing forms of power generation in the United States, with more capacity added onshore than coal and nuclear generation combined over the past four years. But to sustain that high growth rate into the next decade, the industry will have to start tapping offshore wind resources, creating a need for wind turbines that are larger, lower-maintenance, and deliver more power with less weight.  

    

To support research in this area, the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $7.5 million to six projects, each aiming to develop advanced drivetrains for wind turbines up to 10 megawatts in size. Five of the projects use direct-drive, or gearless, drivetrain technology to increase reliability, and at least two use superconductivity technologies for increased efficiencies and lower weight.     

 

Current designs can't be scaled up economically. Most of the more than 25,000 wind turbines deployed across the United States have a power rating of three megawatts or less and contain complex gearbox systems. The gearboxes match the slow speed of the turbine rotor (between 15 to 20 rotations per minute) to the 2,000 rotations per minute required by their generators. Higher speeds allow for more compact and less expensive generators, but conventional gearboxes-a complex interaction of wheels and bearings-need regular maintenance and are prone to failure, especially at higher speeds.  

 

On land, where turbines are more accessible, gearbox maintenance issues can be tolerated. In rugged offshore environments, the cost of renting a barge and sending crews out to fix or maintain a wind-ravaged machine can be prohibitive. "A gearbox that isn't there is the most reliable gearbox," says Fort Felker, direct of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's wind technology center.

 

To increase reliability and reduce maintenance costs, a number of companies-among them Enercon and Siemens of Germany, France's Alstom and China's Goldwind Global-have developed direct-drive or "gearless" drivetrains. In such a setup, the rotor shaft is attached directly to the generator, and they both turn at the same speed. But this introduces a new challenge: increased weight.   

 

To achieve the power output of a comparable gearbox-based system, a direct-drive system must have a larger internal diameter that increases the radius-and therefore the speed-at which its magnets rotate around coils to generate current. This also means greater reliance on increasingly costly rare-earth metals used to make permanent magnets.   

 

Kiruba Haran, manager of the electric machines lab at GE Global Research, one recipient of the DOE funding, says direct-drive systems get disproportionately heavier as their power rating increases. A four-megawatt generator might weight 85 tons, but at eight megawatts, it would approach 200 tons.

 

GE believes it can develop an eight-megawatt generator that weights only 50 tons by adapting the superconducting electromagnets used in magnetic resonance imaging. Unlike a permanent magnet, an electromagnet creates a magnetic field when an electric current is applied to it. When made from coils of superconducting wire, it has no electrical resistance, making it more efficient, with the caveat that it must be cooled to minus 250 C. The approach would eliminate the need for rare-earth materials, assuming GE can lower the cost enough to make it commercially viable.

 

Florida-based Advanced Magnet Lab, which also received DOE funding, believes it can build a 10-megawatt generator that weighs just 70 tons. As with GE's technology, the core of the company's innovation is a superconducting direct-drive generator. The company has developed a compact coil design based on double-helix windings that can carry high currents and handle the immense magnetic forces produced in the system.

 

Advanced Magnet Lab president Mark Senti says the high cost of superconducting materials and of cryogenically cooling makes no sense for today's three-megawatt wind turbines. But beyond six megawatts, he argues, the systems become competitive with conventional generator designs. At 10 megawatts, "it gives you the highest power-per-weight ratio."    

 

There's also significant room for advancement. Senti says most superconducting wiring costs $400 per meter today, but new materials made out of inexpensive magnesium and boron powders promise to lower costs substantially. With improvements in manufacturing and less expensive cooling techniques, Senti figures superconducting technology could eventually become economical for wind turbines as small as two megawatts, making it ideal for both onshore and offshore markets.


 Superconductivity isn't in everyone's plans. One of the other funding recipients, Boulder Wind Power, is focused on designing a better stator-stationary coil-for direct drive systems. Instead of copper wiring wound around a heavy iron core, the company's stator is made of printed circuit boards. These lightweight components can be manufactured in high volume and assembled in modules, making them easier to repair in remote offshore locations. "With this design, you just send a couple of guys out there to remove a stator segment and literally plug in a new one," says Derek Pletch, vice president of turbine development at Boulder Wind.

 

NREL, meanwhile, is taking a hybrid approach by designing a medium-speed drivetrain that uses a simpler single-stage gearbox and a medium-sized generator. Felker says the approach can be easily adapted to existing designs and be picked up in the marketplace faster. Clipper Windpower and Dehlsen Associates also received funding. After six months, the DOE is expected to shortlist the designs and contribute an additional $2 million to each project for performance testing.

 

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