According to a
recent study published by the American Chemical Society electric
plug-in vehicles use-up 300% more water resources than do their
petroleum-burning counterparts. The report takes into account the
water evaporated during as the electricity these cars rely on is
“In displacing gasoline miles with electric miles, approximately
3 times more water is consumed (0.32 versus 0.07–0.14 gallons/mile)
and over 17 times more water is withdrawn (10.6 versus 0.6
gallons/mile) primarily due to increased water cooling of
thermoelectric power plants to accommodate increased electricity
generation,” assert study authors Carey King and Michael Webber of
the University of
Texas at Austin.
This could have a big impact on the adoption and use of electric
cars in water-scarce areas like the American South-West, China,
Africa and the Middle East. In alignment with this possibility, the
study, titled The Water Intensity of the Plugged-In Automotive
Economy notes that “the impact on water resources from a
widespread shift to grid-based transportation would be substantial
enough to warrant consideration for relevant public policy
As both water and petroleum are consumed at an increasingly fast
rate, this will certainly come into play as nations determine their
plug-in policies and may delay the adoption of such vehicles. At
the same time, more efficient batteries are likely to gradually
offset the water cost.
One thing that is certain is the idea that we must carefully
analyze the holistic effects of any new transportation technology,
holding it up to the same critical standards that we’ve just
recently developed for oil. Unfortunately, in our exuberance, it’s
possible that we could do more harm than good.
We should be paying closer attention to California-based QuantumSphere and its approach to the future of energy.
QuantumSphere understands the disruptive potential in performance of materials when you design catalysts at the nanoscale.
The company is designing systems that change how we look at energy storage (e.g. batteries/fuel cells) and energy intensive processes like desalination.
Next Step - Water Desalination QuantumSphere has made headlines for its nano-structured catalysts used in lithium ion batteries, and also for its low cost hydrogen electrolysis process.
Now QuantumSphere has announced a filed patent for a more energy efficient method of desalination that uses organic solutions to separate water from salt water or polluted water. The 'forward osmosis' process is less energy intensive than current commercial methods.
Information about new forms of renewable energy seems to come
out in waves. A few months ago, solar was everywhere. Now, I’m
seeing a lot about energy derived from water. In particular, two
projects caught my eye, one in Ireland and the other in South
Korea. Both operate on the premise of harnessing the power of
fast-moving tidal streams to generate electricity.
In Northern Ireland, Marine Current
Turbines is planning to have the world’s first tidal stream
device up and running this Monday. The SeaGen turbine is being
installed in the mouth of Strangford Lough – one of the fastest
tidal flows – giving it the capacity to provide sustainable
electricity to about 1,000 homes. The company believes it can
improve the technology significantly, so that one turbine could
power over 400,000 homes by 2015.
Water molecules are central to most energy systems on this planet. Yet when we direct them through tiny nanotubes (a billionth of a meter in diameter) strange things happen to their behavior that might someday have implications for designing new energy systems.
One area deals with the energy intensity of water purification and desalination. Forward looking scientists are turning towards nanoscale engineering to change the cost and energy equation of future water systems.
Last month Indian researchers developed models that applied carbon nanotubes in filtering ‘viruses, bacteria, toxic metal ions, and large noxious organic molecules’. While there is some healthy skepticism over the real world application of nanotubes in water filtration, there is still much that we still do not know about the wide ranging implications of water molecules passing through nanotubes.
Now researchers at the University of North Carolina believe they have found new behavior of water molecules confined to passing through hallow carbon nanotubes made from rolled up graphene or single layer sheets of carbon molecules. One of the key factors of behavior is temperature.
“Normally, graphene is hydrophobic, or ‘water hating’ – it repels water in the same way that drops of dew will roll off a lotus leaf,” said Yue Wu, Ph.D. “But we found that in the extremely limited space inside these tubes, the structure of water changes, and that it’s possible to change the relationship between the graphene and the liquid to hydrophilic or ‘water-liking’.”
This new research area of nano-confined water science could have implications for lower cost water purification and desalination techniques using carbon nanotubes. It might also lead to a better understanding of water molecule behavior inside naturally occurring biological building blocks like proteins which perform key energy conversions.
The Yue Wu Team’s findings were published in the Oct. 3, 2008, issue of the journal Science
Well, it looks like you might get your personal jetpack pretty soon after all. The advantages of the water-powered variety vs. the rocket fuel type are that it is way less likely to explode or burn you to a crisp and gets much higher gas mileage (not to mention probably takes regular). The downside is that you'll be restricted to traveling over bodies of water.
Seems like this might have some use in water patrol. Gives you that birdseye view and would be a lot less expensive and more practical than a helicopter over smaller spaces. Either way, it's pretty cool.
Wonder when we'll see the first English Channel crossing with one of these?
Decades ago IBM earned the nickname 'Big Blue' for the color of its corporate logo and mainframes (*), but maybe it was really a sneak peak at its role in digitizing Planet Earth?
There is tremendous growth ahead around 'instrumenting' ecosystems and built environments with sensors, and creating the software systems to make sense of what's actually happening on the planet.
How long before the mainstream world catches onto the idea of a 'Digital Gaia'? How long before companies like IBM, Cisco, Johnson Controls and Honeywell can fully instrument the world and create massive computer simulations that give birth to a mirror world Digital Earth image that suddenly seems alive because we humans can measure it and visualize the changes? I imagine we'll see changes within a decade or two.
This week IBM unveiled its new Strategic Water Management Solutions to help governments, water utilities, and companies monitor and manage water more effectively. IBM also released its Global Innovations Outlook devoted to Water [PDF]. Below is a video clip higlighting Big Blue's SmartBay sensor system, which monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels in and around Galway Bay, Ireland
Announcement #2 Novel Water Desalination Membrane [Including Video]
The video you see above is from a high-speed camera shoot where water is bouncing off a superhydrophobic surface. Posted at the GE Global Research Blog (nicknamed “Edison’s Desk”), they have three videos which show surfaces repelling water to different degrees, even managing to have water bead up right on top of it without getting wet. Some of you may recognize it from the concept phone Nokia dreamed up in this video (go to 2:55 minute mark).
Superhydrophobic surfaces could help us out in more ways than just being able to keep your car clean year-round. Applying them to wind turbines, airplanes and ships could help reduce corrosion, a huge problem with water. Being able to coat a dock, boat or car with this could ensure your property will only die of old age, not rot.
Bump into a jellyfish in the Ocean? Sure it was a real one?
A German company called Festo threw these guys together using some pretty amazing technology that they hope will be useful for future production sites.
“Each is coated with conductive metal paint that draws the robot to a nearby charging station. It also has LED illumination, integrated pressure, light and radio sensors, and 11 infrared light-emitting diodes used for jelly-to-jelly communication.” – PopSci.com
The key is getting the jellyfish (there’s one that floats in the air too) to work together to accomplish tasks. Already they can swarm together and avoid collision through communication, but the real hope is that they can eventually work together.
Building objects with robots requires an assembly line which, if the swarming technology gets refined, will soon be outdated and inefficient. In getting multiple robots to work together to build a single product or structure, you not only save production time but also space. You could build a thousand cars in a warehouse that today only has a hundred car capacity.
If anything, at least you could put them in your fish tank and enjoy the show (Dr. Evil might attach laser beams to them).
Late last week, it was announced that NASA had, pardon the pun, pissed away $154 million by creating a urinal/water fountain system that didn’t work. To witness how a more simple technology can have huge implications down here on this planet, watch this amazing video (Note: it is a little graphic, but it helps to remember that these are the real life conditions under which billions of people must actually get their water):
When imagining how much energy we'll need in the future we usually calculate the demand for homes, offices, and factories. But most forecasts ignore a highly probable, energy intensive process that will be in high demand during the 21st century - Desalination.
In the next century we will likely desalinate and transport massive amounts of water away from oceans to reach megacities and irrigate farms that will have to support 3 billion more people added to our planet in the next 40 years.
The Nanoscale Side of H20 How do we do this? Develop 'nanostructured' materials that lower the cost of desalination by facilitating reactions that use less energy to separate molecules leaving clean H20.
Earlier we covered a 'forward osmosis' patent claim by QuantumSphere that reportedly drops the cost of desalination by 70%. But other companies such as CDT and Proingesa are involved in advancing materials used in equally disruptive novel methods for desalination.
Now, Europe's research reporting service AlphaGalileo believes that advances in electrochemical capacitors could enable a new way of cleaning water. Capacitive deionization applies an electrical charge to water that makes 'the ions dissolved in the water migrate towards the electrode of an opposite charge, where they are adsorbed. In the regeneration cycle, the electrical load of the electrodes is switched off, therefore adsorbed ions are released.' The electrode materials used in this process are advancing around nanoscale designs that increase the reactive surface area. The result is less energy need to force the reaction.