The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy recently announced that the city of Nagpur, Maharashtra will become the country's first solar city by the year 2012. Nagpur will receive ten percent of its energy consumption through renewable energy sources and will also create a foundation for a future Smart Electrical Grid.
Nagpur is the first of sixty solar cities to be developed over the course of five years.
The Ministry explains its reasons for wanting to create a solar city, "To meet the peak electricity demand of cities, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and expensive oil and gas for energy and to promote increased use of renewable energy, this scheme has been developed."
The ministry will fund half of the total costs, 190 million rupees ($3.7 million), with the state government paying the rest.
Creating a solar city will result in the major restructuring with the use of multiple solar applications. The street lights, traffic lights, and so on will be based on solar energy system. Solar water heaters will also be installed.
Sony made recent headlines when it offered the first real commercial OLED (organic light emitting diode) commercial display product. The 11" wide screen is a 3 mm thick, and it only represents the beginning. Now the company is going to a thinner, flexible platform.
CEO Howard Stringer recently demonstrated a foldable display screen that is 0.2 mm thick. Sony is not holding back on its vision of future content consumption on displays that will be flexible, transparent and able to be read in sunlight.
Meanwhile, researchers around the world continue to advance the field of carbon-based or 'organic' electronics beyond thin film solar, OLEDs, fuel cells and batteries. IBM believes we might see 'spray on' solar within five year!
Researchers at Clarkson University have discovered a way to protect teeth from tooth decay by polishing the surface with silica nanoparticles. The teeth are polished so smooth that harmful bacteria, the leading cause of tooth enamel decay, are unable to attach to the surface. "Roughness left on the tooth after the polishing is just a few nanometers, which is one-billionth of a meter or about 100,000 times smaller than a grain of sand." Even if bacteria manage to get a hold of the surface, a simple brushing will brush them off fairly quickly. The polishing method is taken from the method developed to polish semiconductors.
The Solar industry is growing up and going global. Now materials giant Dow Corning is investing $3 billion into basic materials for traditional photovoltaics and thin film solar.
The Chemistry side of Solar The full potential of solar energy depends on our ability to make big advances in materials science.
How quickly solar can grow depends on our ability to design nanoscale structures that maximize the conversion of photons into electricity, photons into heat, or photons into hydrogen. And how many utilities and consumers take the leap!
So when we see 'Big Chemistry' companies get involved in the solar industry materials market, that should be a signal of growth (and growth pains) ahead!
Dow goes Greenby Being Black Dow Corning Corporation has announced several billion dollars of investment to provide critical materials to the fast-growing solar technology industry for both glass based solar and carbon based thin film.
Dow Corning and its Hemlock Semiconductor joint venture will begin manufacturing high purity monosilane, a key specialty gas used to manufacture thin-film solar cells and liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Combined with the new $1.2 billion build up at a Clarksville, Tennesee facility and the $1 billion expanded monosilane plant in Hemlock, Michigan operations may add up to 34,000 metric tons of polysilicon capacity for the fast-growing solar industry. Construction of both the Michigan expansion and the new Tennessee site will begin immediately.
Top Gear recently test drove the Honda Clarity in Los Angeles and proclaimed with certainty that this car will be the most important one in 100 years. The reason? It runs on Hydrogen.
It looks like a normal car, drives like a normal car, fills up like a normal car, and its only by-product is water. They also go on to say how the car may never have to be serviced since the engine has only one moving part. It's crazy to think how much people are investing in hybrid or electric technologies (meaning plug-in cars) when a hydrogen-powered car will obliterate them all in the coming decade.
Now if we could just find an incredibly cheap way of making Hydrogen at home from air we'd be set.
You’ve heard about electronics that can bend and even stretch, but a team at Northwestern University has managed to make electronics that can withstand any configuration, including twisting.
This breakthrough could help in developing gadgets that are located on the human body which is itself highly flexible (except mine). “This emerging technology promises new flexible sensors, transmitters, new photovoltaic and microfluidic devices, and other applications for medical and athletic use.” Flexible electronics have the potential to change how we view visits to the doctors office, how we talk on the phone, even interacting with people.
Imagine being able to wrap an X-Ray machine around your leg at the emergency room to see exactly what the break looks like and where it’s located. Or having a 40-inch screen folded into the size of a pack of cigarettes. Why not incorporate your music into your winter beanie? The possibilities are already amazing and we haven’t even scratched the surface.
Their strategy: transform the US manufacturing base and build ourselves into a climate solutions economy.
“Until now, there was no tangible evidence of what the jobs are, how they are created and what it means for U.S. workers. We are providing that here,” said Gary Gereffi, a Duke professor of sociology and lead author of the report. “We don’t guess where the jobs are; we name them. Our report uses value chains to show that clean technology jobs are also real economy jobs.”
Duke researchers assessed five (near term) carbon-reducing technologies with potential for future green job creation: LED lighting, high-performance windows, auxiliary power units for long-haul trucks, concentrating (thermal) solar power, and Super Soil Systems (a new method for treating hog wastes).
Why is this important to the future of energy
While the Duke team has highlighted near term opportunities, we cannot help but take a longer view of ‘green collar’ industries around the emerging era of nanoscale materials science and engineering. There is likely greater growth opportunities around jobs that do not currently exist, and in industries (e.g. thin film solar) that are currently not a part of the US economy.
Nanoscale materials (nanotubes & nanoparticles) integrated into materials manufacturing processes can change the fundamental performance of old commodities like wood, glass, plastic, ceramics, metals and steel.
Applying ‘nanoscale’ science to traditional materials is a game changer for the manufacturing world, and the US is ideally situated to bring value added products related to biotech, health sciences, agriculture, carbon solutions, sensors and embedded objects, robotics, transportation, smart grids, energy storage and distributed power systems, bioenergy and electric vehicles.
So instead of relying solely on activists who urge us to ‘consume ourselves’ into a green economy, we might turn to scientists and engineers who can actually ‘build it’ by extracting value from the application of nanoscale engineering.
Dean Kamen has jolted the world yet again with his latest contraption — A Stirling engine hybrid car.
The Stirling engine, for those in the dark, is an engine which derives its power from an external heat source. The amazing thing about it is that the heat source can be just about anything, even your own body. Kamen’s car, dubbed “REVOLT,” can run on any conventional fuel, from biodiesel to natural gas.
Despite the practicality of such an engine, development of the Stirling engine in the world has been trying at best. Weird to think that an engine, which runs on heat and was invented in 1816, could fall to the side all these years. But we’re starting to see the Stirling engine pop up more and more these days, especially in large solar arrays.
Ericsson, one of the largest companies in Sweden, unveiled their plans for a revolutionary new cellphone capable of 20 Megapixel photos and true HD video recording capability.
At the press conference, Ericsson representative Jonas Lundstedt said they see the cellphone of the future as more of a “mobile terminal” than just a cellphone. With the capability to replace objects in our lives with just one great device, Ericsson is following the way of some of the other major players in the cellphone industry by combining services and devices into one simple object.
The day is coming where the cellphone could possibly no longer be called a cellphone, but a terminal like Lundstedt mentioned. When the cellphone can function as a phone, camera, video camera, map, credit card, etc, can we even call it a cellphone anymore? With AT&T recently approving the tethering of the iPhone to other devices such as televisions and other household appliances this forecast isn’t too far off. The all-in-one device may only be a few short years away. Maybe call it a Universal Remote?
Our elected officials should spend less time promising that they will “deliver” change and more time helping society prepare for the change that is coming because it is going to be massive.
After almost two years of campaigning, it is finally here: Election Day! Change is in the air, but not for the reasons one might expect.
Regardless of a person’s preference for Obama, McCain, Nader or one of the other candidates, I don’t actually believe they (or any politician for that matter) will be the primary instrument of change in the near future. That mantle will instead belong to technology.
Let me just provide a quick glimpse from the world of technology through the lens of a single day—today.
I began my morning by reading this article on a “solar power game changer.” The piece describes how a new antireflective coating now allows for the “near perfect” absorption of sunlight. In other words, society is one step closer to solar technology replacing a number of conventional energy sources. Politicians can clamor all they want about “clean coal” and “more drilling” but my hunch is that technological advances will render their opinions and policy suggestions moot.
Next, I stumbled across this article discussing a new “heart-patching” technology. Combined with yesterday’s announcement by a Medtronic official that the “medical device industry is done,” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that health care is quickly moving in the direction of preventative care.
The US Departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) have released its National Biofuels Action Plan [4.9MB] detailing Federal agency and private partnership efforts to accelerate the development of ‘a sustainable biofuels industry’. While first generation biofuels such as corn ethanol have been under tremendous scrutiny in recent months, the US agencies appear to be positioning themselves to offer measurably sustainable biofuel resources that will rely heavily on next generation resources (e.g. non-food, waste biomass) and biologically driven conversion processes. [Principles outlined in Biofuel Plan Factsheet]
The official word – We have Plan
“Federal leadership can provide the vision for research, industry and citizens to understand how the nation will become less dependent on foreign oil and create strong rural economies,” USDA Secretary Schafer said. “This National Biofuels Action Plan supports the drive for biofuels growth to supply energy that is clean and affordable, and always renewable.”
Translation: We are hedging our bets on the future of bioenergy!
Looking beyond the rhetoric of energy security, and clear tip of the hat to rural agricultural politics and the influence of mainstream agricultural players, target-based plans do secure federal funding streams for next generation bioenergy solutions. And there are significant funds headed towards innovative start up companies that could develop game-changing bio industrial applications. These start ups could ease our reliance on traditional petrochemicals for making fuels, fertilizers and raw materials processing.
But the key takeaway might be that the DOE is hedging R&D investments on traditional chemical biofuel refining processes (traditional catalysts) by also advancing potentially lower cost biological conversion processes (enzymes/algae).
To develop low cost cellulosic biofuels from non-food biomass feedstock, the agency announced $12.3 million contract with bioenergy startup Novoyzme. The company will be contracted to develop enzymes capable of breaking down strong cellular plant walls under its named project DECREASE (Development of a Commercial-Ready Enzyme Application System for Ethanol).
According to Novoyzme, the company has confirmed plans to launch the enzymes required for commercially viable production of ethanol from cellulose by 2010, midway through this contract, with plans to reach an enzyme cost target that is even further reduced by 2012. But there is still rural politics infused as the primary feedstock is expected to be leftover corn biomass waste.
With Comcast slowing Internet speeds and other companies slow to bring fiber optic cable to consumers, it’s starting to seem more likely that wireless internet will by-pass all of this. Why spend the cost of installing fiber-optic cable when wireless internet will do just as well?
It reminds me of the country of Niger. The country was so late to the technology game that new, cheaper technology have allowed them to skip decades of advancement and costly infrastructure. They went from land lines (circa 1940) directly to cheap cell phones (circa 2008).
In fact, this is how much of the world by-passed the US in internet speed with fiber-optics. While we spent a decade laying out cable, other countries spent only a few years laying down the latest technology (fiber-optics).
In an article about lagging internet speeds in the US, reporter David Gardner explores some of the amazing statistics out there involving US internet speeds. “The median download speed in the U.S. is 2.35 Mbps. Densely populated Japan has an eye-popping 63.60 Mbps, according to figures from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.” In other words, not only is the US behind most of the developed world, we’re really behind.