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Concepts for a low carbon future

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  • Pat N self only
    Another article below on attempting to lowerng carbon into to the atmosphere using technology, but failing to emphasize the importane of conseration now!
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2005
      Another article below on attempting to lowerng carbon into to the atmosphere using technology, but failing to emphasize the importane of conseration now! People must be made to understand and change their lifestyles immediately by cutting back on travel and other excessive fossil fuel burning choices. Even the PBS documentary got a failing grade because of it's absence of insight and discussion on the real need now to cut back and conserve fuel now, by allowing only vital uses of fuel producting greenhouse gas emissions. The world is at stake! We need Conserve Now!


      Very good introduction by Dan, new CAD member. Welcome Dan.

      Pat N

      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
      Concepts for a low carbon future
      By Richard Black
      Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

      Over the next 30 years we'll see the biggest energy transformation
      in a century Sir David King

      On one side of London, the UK's environment secretary Margaret
      Beckett was outlining the threat of climate change to energy and
      environment ministers from a further 19 nations.
      "There is more evidence that the oceans are warming, that a long-term
      reduction in Arctic ice cover is accelerating, and that the strength
      of hurricanes has increased in the last 30 years," she said.

      Technology, she declared, would be essential in making the transition
      to a low carbon economy - which might ameliorate, if not eliminate,
      these ills.

      But which technologies? This year, a welter of initiatives on climate
      change - the G20, the G8, the Asia-Pacific Pact - have all talked up
      the tech route to tackling greenhouse gas emissions, without
      specifying, quantifying or pricing the technologies which their
      architects had in mind.

      Some are of course already with us and maturing nicely - wind
      turbines, geological carbon disposal - but others, like solar cells,
      need a substantial technical push, while still more are merely
      lightbulbs in a researcher's intuition.

      Even as Mrs Beckett was urging her fellow ministers to political
      action, British scientists and engineers were gathering just a quick
      bicycle ride away to showcase and debate some of these technologies,
      and assess what they might contribute to a low carbon future.

      "Energy is the world's biggest industry," the UK government's chief
      scientist Sir David King told delegates, "and over the next 30 years
      we'll see the biggest transformation in a century."

      Referring to the European Emissions Trading Scheme which opened at
      the beginning of the year, Sir David said: "We have market mechanisms
      in place which will determine the energy mix of the future; but we,
      as innovators, need to bring ideas into that marketplace."

      Pounds win prizes

      The UK government announced recently that it was increasing funding
      to its research councils for low carbon energy projects.

      The money available goes up from �40m per year currently to �70m per
      year in 2007/8, and will be disbursed through a number of agencies co-
      ordinated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
      In case you thought that a "low carbon future" simply means renewable
      power with a bit of energy efficiency thrown in, a look around the
      display at the meeting would have put you right.

      Innovations in solar cells, biomass burning and wave power nestled
      alongside ideas for distributing power in a system where generation
      is less centralised, for assessing the total carbon footprint of
      industrial goods, and for storing electrical power.

      The concept is that all of these things would be necessary to build
      the reliable, cost-effective infrastructure which could realistically
      break the fossil fuel habit - which is why the EPSRC's Supergen
      project is funding them all.

      Cells for all

      "What we're trying to do is find ways to make cheaper solar cells,"
      said Ken Durose from Durham University, principal investigator for a
      project called Photovoltaics for the 21st Century, or PV21.

      "We're not talking about just refining the engineering, but changing
      the physics and chemistry of solar cells, looking at new materials
      and new processes within those materials."

      One of the materials PV21 is working with is cadmium telluride
      (CdTe); the maximum efficiency obtained for CdTe solar cells so far
      is around 16%.

      Professor Durose believes that could almost be doubled, though the
      science involved is, he says, "ambitious," involving changing the
      electrical properties of the boundaries between CdTe crystals.

      PV21 researchers are also trying to improve on the industry standard,
      the silicon solar cell.

      One particularly neat concept involves trying to increase the amount
      of radiation which each cell absorbs by trapping light inside the
      cell, which could radically increase its efficiency.

      With fancy materials and unrealistic set-ups, solar cells can already
      achieve high efficiencies - in June the American company Spectrolab
      set a world record of 39%.

      Cost, though, is another thing entirely; Ken Durose believes the
      technologies which he is working with could come in at around one
      euro per Watt capacity, which would make them cheaper than existing

      Excited states

      Laurie Peter from Bath University is working on something which could
      eventually be cheaper still - the excitonic solar cell.
      "Excitonic cells are different because they draw on processes found
      in plants," he told me.

      "Light is absorbed by molecules similar to chlorophyll; and then a
      second step is used to produce electricity."

      The excitonic cell consists of two materials which weave in and out
      of each other - rather like, in Professor Peter's words, "black and
      white spaghetti."

      The chlorophyll-like molecule, put into an excited state by absorbing
      sunlight, deposits an electron in the black spaghetti and extracts an
      electron from the white stuff - creating a voltage between the two.

      "The main attraction is that we can tailor components in a way which
      can't be done with silicon," said Laurie Peter.

      "So you can have something that's good at absorbing light, then
      something that's good at conducting electricity; and you can do it
      all at room temperature with technologies currently used for making
      plastics, so it should be dirt cheap."

      Pedal to the metal

      If the excitonic cell sounds more like something James Bond might be
      shown just before evading death at villainous hands than a cuddly
      planet-saving piece of plastic, the mythical Q would surely find
      something to appreciate in Strathclyde University's electric car - a
      modified AC Cobra kit replica.

      Basically it is battery powered; well, that has been done before, and
      not proven hugely popular - so what's new?

      "You want a car to go for hundreds of miles, and that's what a
      battery is good for," said Peter Hall.

      A super-capacitor gives you a burst of super-acceleration
      Professor Peter Hall

      "What it's not good for is acceleration, because as you ask it for
      more current, the power output goes down.
      "So we are combining the battery with a super-capacitor which
      discharges quickly and gives you a burst of super-acceleration."

      A super-capacitor is a large-scale version of the tiny charge-storing
      devices which peppered the electronic circuit boards of devices from
      the transistor age and which are found in their microscopic thousands
      in silicon chips.

      Professor Hall's project is called the Energy Storage Consortium, and
      aims to find ways of improving batteries as well as capacitors; the
      scope goes way beyond cars to the national electricity network.

      "If your energy mix goes above 15% renewables, you have to have
      storage," he told me, "just as with water, you have to have a

      "My vision is that in 40 or 50 years' time, every wind turbine will
      have a storage unit attached; no moving parts, reliable, and

      Cornering the market

      Many of the Supergen-supported programmes are at an early stage, and
      are not yet attractive to industry; some may fail completely, while
      others could go on to global success.

      The successes could assist developing countries as well as the west
      to achieve economic growth without soaring emissions - the very
      concept which Margaret Beckett was pushing down the road at Lancaster

      Do not, though, believe that the UK government's support for Supergen
      is entirely altruistic.

      "Despite initial interest, other countries have run away with the
      market for wind turbines," said energy minister Malcolm Wicks in his
      speech to delegates.

      It is clear that the government does not intend to let the same thing
      happen with newer technologies - it wants Britain to reap a financial
      reward from these seed investments.

      But with some other countries spending far more than the UK, the low
      carbon future will not be an easy place to dominate.

      Story from BBC NEWS:

      Published: 2005/11/01 20:54:24 GMT


      j2997 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fuelcell-energy/
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