Energy Inventions News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Energy Inventions News Articles in Media
Venture capitalists are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into [Silicon] Valley solar startups pursuing technological breakthroughs to make sun power as cheap as fossil fuel. Three of the largest tech IPOs of 2005 were for solar companies. The world's largest chip-equipment maker will begin producing machines to manufacture solar wafers, laying the groundwork for an industrial infrastructure that should lower the cost of producing solar cells. Solar energy has just the sort of oversize potential that the titans of tech saw in computing: a free and practically inexhaustible power source. California is also committing $3.2 billion to fund a drive to install solar panels on a million rooftops by 2018, and a November ballot initiative ... would tax Big Oil to provide $4 billion in funding for alternative-energy research, programs, and startups. Perhaps no startup has benefited more from the solar gold rush than Nanosolar. The Palo Alto company ... has racked up more than $100 million in funding so far. Nanosolar is pursuing a technology that produces solar cells on a film that's a 100th the thickness of conventional silicon wafers. Its ultimate goal: integrating thin-film cells directly into building materials. A skyscraper's glass windows, for instance, could be embedded with thin-film cells, giving them energy-producing capabilities. Nanosolar plans to build a manufacturing facility next year ... that will eventually produce 430 megawatts' worth of solar cells per year. That would nearly triple the nation's manufacturing capacity and make Nanosolar one of the world's largest solar producers. Thanks to aggressive government subsidies, Germany and Japan are currently the global leaders in solar production.
Note: With all of its talk about energy independence, why isn't the U.S. aggressively supporting research into solar power like Japan and Germany? For reliable, verifiable information which answers this question, click here.
From a plug-in hybrid car to the sexy electric Tesla Roadster, celebrities wanting to make a green statement on the way to the red carpet of the Oscars will have plenty of environment-friendly rides. Global Green USA has lined up 30 cars to shuttle the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Davis Guggenheim, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary on global warming "An Inconvenient Truth," to the star-studded ceremony in Hollywood. The environmental group began the green limousine campaign five years ago at the Oscars to raise awareness among the tens of millions of viewers worldwide about alternative fuel cars, energy independence and solutions to global warming. On a Hollywood parking lot ahead of Wednesday's Global Green USA celebrity party, Steve Schneider showed off his tiny $10,000 ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) cars made in California. One was a mini pick-up and the other a three-wheeler. "It is the first time that common people can be introduced to this type of technology," said Schneider. "We are trying to have mass appeal. This vehicle operates at a cost of a penny a mile." But it is the two-seat, scarlet-colored prototype of the Tesla Roadster, invented and financed in Silicon Valley, that will be the coveted car pulling up to the red carpet. Already 330 celebrities, including George Clooney, have signed up to buy the electric car that goes from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 100 kph) in four seconds. Production will begin later this year and the base price is $92,000, although the company also is working on a sedan that will cost between $50,000 and $65,000.
Thirty years after it was founded by President Jimmy Carter, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at the edge of the Rockies here still does not have a cafeteria. The hopes for this neglected lab brightened a bit just over a year ago when President George W. Bush made the first presidential call on the lab since Carter. But one year after the presidential visit, the money flowing into the primary national laboratory for developing renewable fuels is actually less than it was when the Bush Administration took office. "Our budget is nothing compared to the price of a B-2 bomber or an aircraft carrier," said Rob Farrington, manager of advanced vehicle systems at the lab. The problem is that, despite a lot of promises, no one so far has wanted to pay the extra costs to make wind and solar more than a trivial energy source. Most of the money and attention is still focused on the dirty, but cheaper energy standbys: offshore oil, oil sands and coal. Companies can still deduct purchases of sport utility vehicles and utility bills. Meanwhile, fuel efficiency standards for automobiles have changed only slightly over the decades. Renewable energy today supplies only 6 percent of America's energy needs. Under current policies [renewables] would supply 7 percent of U.S. energy supplies by 2030 while coal would increase over the same period from 23 percent to 26 percent. While top energy companies are ... beginning to invest significant amounts of money in wind, solar and biomass, those investments pale in comparison with the resources they are pouring into making synthetic fuels out of oil sands, which emit significantly more carbon than conventional oil.
Note: With all the talk about oil dependence and energy crisis, why wouldn't the government and industry want to put serious money into development of new energy sources? For a startlingly clear answer, click here.
A poignant new documentary asks who killed GM's promising electric car project? A new documentary released June 28 in New York and Los Angeles, appropriately titled Who Killed The Electric Car? tries in Clue-like fashion to figure out why GM pulled the plug on its EV1 electric vehicle program, which by most accounts was approaching success when the first prototype was introduced in the mid-1990s. "It was a revolutionary, modern car, requiring no gas, no oil changes, no mufflers, and rare brake maintenance," according to a synopsis of the film. In the 1990s a strict clean-air mandate introduced in California that called for zero-emission vehicles was what led GM to introduce the EV1. Eventually that California mandate got watered down from "zero" to "low" emissions, and the automakers decided to literally blow up their EV programs. GM, which leased out the EV1 cars it produced, called them all back after California changed its policy. The cars were crushed and shredded. Who were the people leasing these vehicles? Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson and Ted Danson, among others, many of whom appear in the movie and talk favourably about their electric cars. If the implications of an advance means loss of future business to a paradigm, the key players of that paradigm will lobby to kill it. The paradigm? Big oil. Similarly, the auto industry has an interest in perpetuating the manufacture of vehicles that require routine, costly maintenance.
Note: For more information and showing times on the highly revealing Who Killed The Electric Car, visit www.whokilledtheelectriccar.com. For even deeper information www.WantToKnow.info/newenergysources
The son of [a] rocket scientist thinks he is close to perfecting...a machine that might make cheap, clean electricity from the ocean. "I believe it'll change the world," said second-generation inventor Tom Woodbridge, a NASA engineer. In theory, the idea is simple. Spinning copper wires through a stable magnetic field makes electricity — lots of electrons jumping off the magnetic field and zooming through a conductive metal. And since the ocean waves are already moving, why not cobble together a machine to harness that energy? Think Pogo Stick inside a floating drum. The rocking motion of the waves pushes a long cylinder of magnets up and down a copper coil. His small model generates 10 watts of power in a 6-inch wave chop. A full-scale version could generate 160 kilowatts. That one buoy is enough to power 160 houses, following the rule of thumb that the average U.S. home uses about 1,000 kilowatts of electricity each month.
Note: The Houston Chronicle actually cut off part of the original article, including the last three sentences above. To read the entire article, click here. For lots more on new energy inventions, see click here.
and regulators are putting more pressure on the auto industry to enhance fuel
economy, which was stagnant at an average 20.8 miles per gallon among all
2004 models and below the 1988 high of 22.1 mpg." --
"The Prius is the first significant departure from the combustion engine to make any major inroads in the auto industry since Henry Ford invented the Model T in 1908." -- Newsweek, 9/20/04
"Ford's Model T, which went 25 miles on a gallon of gasoline, was more fuel efficient than the current Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle -- which manages just 16 miles per gallon."
-- Detroit News, 6/4/03
Genius inventors for the past 100 years have made remarkable discoveries of new, more efficient energy sources, only to find their inventions either suppressed or not given the attention and funding needed to break us free of our dependence on archaic oil-based technologies. Read this article for more reliable information on this vital topic.
To gather in the latent electricity in the clouds and with the globe itself as a medium of transmission to convey telegraphic messages, power for commercial purposes, or even the sound of the human voice to the utmost confines of the earth is the latest dream of Nikola Tesla. The transmitting station is an octagonal tower, pyramidal in shape, and some 187 feet in height. J. Pierpont Morgan [was] interested in his odd enterprise and furnished him with financial assistance. Tesla's transmitting tower as it stands in lonely grandeur and boldly silhouetted against the sky ... is a source or great satisfaction and of some mystification. No instruments have been installed as yet in the transmitter, nor has Mr. Tesla given any description of what they will be like. But in his article he announces that he will transmit from the tower an electric wave of a total maximum activity of ten million horse power. This, he says, will be possible with a plant of but 100 horse power, by the use of a magnifying transmitter of his own invention. What he expects to accomplish is summed up in the closing paragraph as follows: "When the great truth, accidentally revealed and experimentally confirmed, is fully recognized, that this planet ... is to electric currents virtually no more than a small metal ball and that by virtue of this fact many possibilities ... are rendered absolutely sure of accomplishment; when the first plant is inaugurated and it is shown that a telegraphic message ... can be transmitted to any terrestrial distance, ... the energy of a waterfall made available for supplying light, heat or motive power, anywhere ... humanity will be like an ant heap stirred up with a stick."
Note: If the above link fails, click here Claimed by some to be greater than Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla was a brilliant inventor whose name and inventions were long suppressed after J.P. Morgan and others realized Tesla's inventions could give the public free energy, thereby taking away a major source of income for the elite. For a PBS tribute to Tesla, click here. For lots more on this energy genius, click here. For more on the energy cover-up, click here.
Researchers at Japan's Tohoku University are making a bold claim: an entirely new state of matter. The team, led by Kosmas Prassides, says they've created what's called a Jahn-Teller metal by inserting rubidium, a strange alkali metal element, into buckyballs, a pure carbon structure which has a spherical shape from a series of interlocking polygons (think of the Epcot Center, but in microscopic size.) The researchers created a complex crystalline structure that seemed to conduct, insulate, and magnetize while acting as a metal. It goes far beyond what ordinary matter can do. So what's the big deal? Applying pressure to the compound when it's in the conductor/insulator phase turns it into the weird state of matter, and also makes it superconductive at (relatively) high temperatures. Most superconductors that we know of need to be barely above absolute zero. Understanding and then mastering high-temperature superconductors, which this weird state of matter could help researchers to do, could make all sorts of new things possible in computing, transportation, infrastructure ... sort of everything. Discoveries of superinsulators in 2008 sort of hinted that this state of matter was possible, but confirmation would be a game changer for materials science.
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Chemical engineers at UC Berkeley have created a new, cleaner fuel out of an old concoction that was once used to make explosives. The fuel, which uses a century-old fermentation process to transform plant material into a propellant, could eventually replace gasoline and drastically cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, according to the team of Berkeley scientists. The discovery, published in the journal Nature, means corn, sugar cane, grasses and other fast-growing plants or trees, like eucalyptus, could be used to make the propellant, replacing oil. The research into creating a diesel substitute is part of a 10-year development program by the Energy Biosciences Institute, a collaboration among UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The research, paid for using $50 million a year from the British oil company BP, has been going on for five years. [The researchers] extracted the acetone and butanol from the fermentation mixture [and] then created a catalyst that converted the brew into a mix of hydrocarbons similar to those in diesel fuel. The resulting substance burns as well as petroleum-based fuel and contains more energy per gallon than ethanol, according to the study. It can be produced using a variety of renewable starches and sugars that can be grown in crops. The expectation in California is that it will be used initially for niche markets, like the military, and eventually in trucks, trains and other vehicles that need more oomph than hybrid or battery power can provide.
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A small British company has produced the first "petrol from air" using a revolutionary technology that promises to solve the energy crisis as well as to help curb global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Air Fuel Synthesis in Stockton-on-Tees has produced five litres of petrol since August when it switched on a small refinery that manufactures gasoline from carbon dioxide and water vapour. The company hopes that within two years it will build a larger, commercial-scale plant capable of producing a ton of petrol a day. It also plans to produce green aviation fuel to make airline travel more carbon-neutral. "We've taken carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water and turned these elements into petrol," said Peter Harrison, the company's chief executive. "There's nobody else doing it in this country or indeed overseas as far as we know. It looks and smells like petrol but it's a much cleaner and clearer product than petrol derived from fossil oil," Mr Harrison told The Independent. Being able to capture carbon dioxide from the air, and effectively remove the principal industrial greenhouse gas resulting from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, has been the holy grail of the emerging green economy. Using the extracted carbon dioxide to make petrol that can be stored, transported and used as fuel for existing engines takes the idea one step further.
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Egyptian Aisha Mustafa, 19, has dazzled the physics world with a new invention that could launch spacecraft off the Earth's surface and soaring through space without any fuel. Space is filled with a billowing sea of quantum particles that jump in and out of existence, and Aisha Mustafa proposes using thin silicon panels, spaced closely together, to trap these particles and then move against them, creating a propelling force. This innovation would make space exploration lighter, safer and cheaper. Mustafa still has some design work to do, but unfortunately her research is currently limited by lack of state funding for space science departments at the university level, though her school's science club did help fund her application for a patent.
Note: For more on this intriguing innovation, click here.
The founder of an apparel company has given the University of Missouri $5.5 million to study new sources of clean energy. Sidney Kimmel, founder and chairman of The Jones Group — which includes brands such as Anne Klein, Nine West and Gloria Vanderbilt — donated the money through his charitable foundation. The money will be used to create the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance, SKINR, which will involve researchers from the MU Research Reactor and physics, engineering and chemistry departments. Mostly, MU scientists will be trying to figure out why excess heat has been observed when hydrogen or deuterium interacts with materials such as palladium, nickel or platinum under extreme conditions. Researchers don’t know how the heat is created, nor can they duplicate the results on a consistent basis. “It’s a chance to turn cold confusion to real understanding and opportunity,” said Rob Duncan, MU’s vice chancellor for research. Since researchers Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons declared they had observed tabletop energy, scientists have been scrambling to re-create the phenomenon. Once dubbed “cold fusion,” some now refer to the process as a low-energy nuclear reaction. Some companies have even been trying to find marketplace applications for the excess heat, even though it’s not consistent. Duncan has called on the scientific community to stop trying to label the phenomenon before figuring out what causes it. The gift, he said, will let MU’s research team focus on the pure science without being distracted by trying to find uses for it.
Note: The comment about scientists scrambling to reproduce the cold fusion research of Pons and Fleischmann is not quite the reality. The two scientists were slammed and ridiculed in a coordinated effort to suppress their amazing discoveries, which threatened the huge profits of the oil industry. For lots more reliable information on this, click here and here.
In the fight against maternal mortality in the developing world, a rugged, portable “Solar Suitcase” is providing reliable electricity to clinics in 17 countries where healthcare workers previously struggled to provide emergency obstetric care by the light of candles, flashlights and mobile phones. The Solar Suitcase powers medical LED lights, headlamps, mobile phones, computers and medical devices. Healthcare workers using the Solar Suitcase report greater facility and ease in conducting nighttime procedures. Improved lighting allows health workers to identify and treat complications such as obstetric lacerations and hemorrhage, nurses to locate and administer intravenous medication, and emergency Caesarean sections to be performed 24 hours a day. Solar-powered mobile phones allow on-call doctors to be alerted when obstetric emergencies require surgery. With augmentation, the solar suitcase powers blood bank refrigeration, permitting life-saving transfusions to occur without delay. An estimated 358,000 maternal deaths occur worldwide. Reducing childbirth deaths depends, in part, on providing adequate emergency obstetric care. However, a lack of health facility power translates to an inability to perform life-saving care.
Loyd Bryant used to pump manure from his 8,640 hogs into a fetid lagoon, where it raised an unholy stink and released methane and ammonia into the air. The tons of manure excreted daily couldn't be used as fertilizer because of high nitrogen content. The solution to Bryant's hog waste problem was right under his nose - in the manure itself. A new waste-processing system - essentially a small power plant - installed on his 154-acre farm uses bacteria to digest the waste and burns methane to produce electricity. It also converts toxic ammonia into forms of nitrogen that can be used as fertilizer for more profitable crops. Waste-to-energy systems have been around for at least 15 years. But Duke University, which helped develop and pay for Bryant's system, says this one is the cleanest in existence - and virtually the only one that tackles all of the environmental problems created by animal waste. The system was built with off-the-shelf parts and simple design plans that are free for the asking. It's poised to become the standard for a cleaner waste-to-energy model that brings together farmers, utilities and private companies in an environmentally friendly effort. Bryant saves money on electricity and gets a cleaner farm. Improved air quality in his hog barns also means his pigs will have lower mortality rates and convert feed more efficiently, fattening Bryant's profits.
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New Zealand engineer John Fleming is part of an effort to bypass the hydrogen era and go directly to the nitrogen-hydrogen economy. Texas-based Fleming, 65, is responsible for a string of inventions that produced more efficient, cleaner-burning heating appliances and holds a number of patents. He ... is helping researchers at Texas Tech University look at the potential to power vehicles using liquid ammonia, produced by combining hydrogen and nitrogen. Fleming's most tangible contribution has been a small, cheap processing plant that converts hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia using a compression and decompression system. It promises on-site production of hydrogen-carrying liquid fuel, solving the problem of storing and distributing (with considerable energy loss) a highly explosive gas from large and expensive centralised plants. "Ammonium can be liquefied, produces no carbon or solid deposits and can burn in internal combustion engines carrying a reasonable amount of hydrogen." Based on an electrolyser he devised for potential use in gas fireplaces, the processor offers huge cost savings in the production of hydrogen using electricity. The processor costs US$200 (compared with around $130,000 using large-scale conventional models) and is predicted to produce fuel for about US27c a litre [about $1.00/gallon] before taxes.
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Trees and algae have been turning CO2 into fuel since the dawn of time, unlocking the chemical energy within this molecule to power metabolic processes. With a little ingenuity, it is already possible to transform CO2 into anything from petrol to natural gas. Any conversion processes will take a lot of energy. The question is, can these processes be refined to ensure that less energy is used to create this fuel than is provided by it? The key challenge is to convert CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO), by removing one of its oxygen atoms. Once you have CO, the process of creating hydrocarbon fuels such as petrol is easy. It's achieved through a reaction known as the Fischer-Tropsch process – most commonly used to synthesise liquid fuel from coal. But getting from CO2 to CO requires ... a lot of energy. The US Government's Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have opted for ... a system that takes its energy source from concentrated solar power. As Green Futures goes to press, researchers from Bristol and Bath Universities in the UK have also announced plans for solar-powered CO2-to-fuel conversion.
Note: If plants are able to convert CO2 to energy and have been doing this for billions of years, why can't scientists figure out a way to do this for human use?
People are looking for ways to trim budgets and cut down on energy use. There's a product heating up in Utah that does just that. It even helps a good cause. Don't underestimate the power of cooking with the sun. LaRue Howells first bought a Global Sun Oven a year ago to be prepared for an emergency, but now she uses it a few times a week, all-year round and shares her knowledge with members of her church. Howells said, "I can grab the solar oven and some food and take off if I needed to, and it's wonderful to have." She baked bread for us. The temperature outside was in the low 40s. "We baked bread when it was 17 degrees outside," she said. "The temperature outside isn't the issue, it's the sun." To control the heat of the oven, you adjust the angle of the oven to the sun. If you want to reduce the heat, you angle it away from the sun. One-third of the Sun Ovens sold in the U.S. are sold in Utah. Joe Crane, with Kitchen Kneads, said, "Just being prepared, self-sufficient brings a lot of peace of mind to people." Crane started to sell them nearly a year ago. "Temperature makes no difference," he said. "I've cooked at 5 below to 90 degrees in the summer time." All you need is sun, and cook times aren't much longer than with a conventional oven. As useful as we might find them, Sun Ovens are life sustaining in developing countries looking for solutions to deforestation and energy deficiency. Domestic sales help pay for ovens in Afghanistan, Nepal and South Africa. They cost around $300. Sun Ovens [use] no electricity and [burn] no fuels, meaning no emissions.
Mater Dei High School finished first and third out of 33 high school and college student teams from North and South America, shattering the miles per gallon record set last year by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Mater Dei's "6th Gen" car won the traditional fuel combustion category in the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas with [a] run of 2,843.4 miles per gallon. Mater Dei's other car in competition, "5th Gen" finished third with a Friday run of 2,383.8 miles per gallon. Mater Dei wins $10,000 for first prize, along with an additional $2,400 for internal combustion engine awards. The Eco-Marathon Americas, which began in 2007, is a gathering of college and high school student teams trying to drive the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel. Collectively, it's an effort to change the way the world uses energy. Each team uses a hand-built, high-mileage prototype vehicle at the California Speedway from vehicle design to management to financing, the student teams managed their vehicles from start to finish. In addition to being eco-friendly, the competition is also about giving the students an opportunity to gain practical experience in science, math, business and design.
Note: Why wasn't this remarkable news covered by any major media other than this NBC affiliate? For another astonishing, yet little-known engine invention by high school students, click here. For more on the repression of new energy inventions, click here.
A powerful winter storm swept across northeastern Ohio in early January, knocking out power for nearly 60,000 customers. But in an isolated one-story building, tucked among the trees and fields of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the lights stayed on. So did the computers. The power source: two fuel cells, each about the size of a refrigerator. "It worked seamlessly," said Tom Toledo, maintenance operations supervisor at the park. "We didn't even realize there was a power outage." The performance of these fuel cells, a demonstration project for fuel cell maker Acumentrics Corp. of Westwood, is an example of a technology whose time may be approaching. Unlike traditional technologies, which burn fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas to make power, fuel cells rely on chemical reactions to produce electricity and heat. Fuel cells are most frequently imagined as an advanced engine for automobiles. But as Acumentrics' success in Ohio demonstrates, on-site generation represents another application, one that specialists say will make it to market long before fuel cells replace the internal combustion engine. Acumentrics, in fact, is moving toward commercial production of a compact fuel cell system to power and heat homes. Working with the Italian heating products company Merloni TermoSanitari, Acumentrics hopes to get these household units, small enough to hang on a wall, into European markets by 2010. Estimated price: $5,200. "This is a new way of making electricity," said Gary Simon, Acumentrics chief executive. "It's like going from vacuum tubes to microchips." Acumentrics is one of about 40 Massachusetts firms developing fuel cell technology that someday may power everything from military outposts to cellphones.
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An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century. John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies it would burn. The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel. Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, has held demonstrations at his State College lab to confirm his own observations. The radio frequencies act to weaken the bonds between the elements that make up salt water, releasing the hydrogen, Roy said. Once ignited, the hydrogen will burn as long as it is exposed to the frequencies, he said. The discovery is "the most remarkable in water science in 100 years," Roy said. "This is the most abundant element in the world. It is everywhere," Roy said. "Seeing it burn gives me the chills." Roy will meet this week with officials from the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to try to obtain research funding. The scientists want to find out whether the energy output from the burning hydrogen - which reached a heat of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit - would be enough to power a car or other heavy machinery. "We will get our ideas together and check this out and see where it leads," Roy said. "The potential is huge."
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