Energy Inventions News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on new energy inventions
Fireworks blossomed on giant video screens, the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme reached its brassy peak, and the world’s most affordable car—the $2500 Tata Nano—rolled out onto the stage. Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, parked and got out as hundreds of camera flashes speckled the darkened convention hall. Here at the 2008 AutoExpo in India, the Nano’s debut was about much more than a car. The Nano, many tradeshow attendees seemed to believe, would transform the country and then, maybe, the world. The Nano looked underwhelming, [like] a golf cart crossed with a jelly bean. Its journey onto the stage and into history was powered by a 2-cylinder, 33-hp engine, and the spec sheet is best given as what the car has not: no air conditioning, no radio, no power steering, no sun visors. But it carries four people, gets 50 mpg, and costs less than a trendy motor scooter. The Nano is no solution to the traffic problem in big [Indian] cities; a prominent Indian environmentalist called the prospect of these ultra-affordable vehicles flooding the roads a “nightmare.” But the Nano represents both national pride about India’s ingenuity and the promise that the benefits of middle-class life will reach more people. “What can you get for $2500 in the U.S.?” a young man ... asked. “You can’t carry your family for $2500 in a [new] car. But in India we have done this.” His friend, Rajesh Relia, agreed. He makes 6000 rupees a month, about $150. He doesn’t own a car, and carries his family of four, dangerously and cumbersomely, on a motor scooter. The Nano is a car he can actually afford, and he said he will buy one as soon as it becomes available in late 2008. “This is my dream,” he said, beaming toward the stage. “I am very happy today.”
It sounds too good to be true - not to mention the fact that it violates almost every known law of physics. But British scientists claim they have invented a revolutionary device that seems to 'create' energy from virtually nothing. Their so-called thermal energy cell could soon be fitted into ordinary homes, halving domestic heating bills and making a major contribution towards cutting carbon emissions. Even the makers of the device are at a loss to explain exactly how it works - but sceptical independent scientists carried out their own tests and discovered that the 12in x 2in tube really does produce far more heat energy than the electrical energy put in. The device seems to break the fundamental physical law that energy cannot be created from nothing - but researchers believe it taps into a previously unrecognised source of energy, stored at a sub-atomic level within the hydrogen atoms in water. The system - developed by scientists at a firm called Ecowatts [a holding of Gardner Watts] - involves passing an electrical current through a mixture of water, potassium carbonate [potash] and a secret liquid catalyst, based on chrome. This creates a reaction that releases an incredible amount of energy compared to that put in. If the reaction takes place in a unit surrounded by water, the liquid heats up, which could form the basis for a household heating system. If the technology can be developed on a domestic scale, it means consumers will need much less energy for heating and hot water - creating smaller bills and fewer greenhouse gases. The device has taken ten years of painstaking work by a small team at Ecowatts' ... laboratory, and bosses predict a household version of their device will be ready to go on sale within the next 18 months.
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Three pinstriped London investors stand outside an electric car factory in the green fields of the Norwegian countryside, waiting their turns to test-drive a stylish two-seater called the Think City. But first, Think CEO Jan-Olaf Willums takes the wheel. [He] turns the ignition, and the stub-nosed coupe silently rolls toward an open stretch of pavement. Suddenly he punches the pedal, and the car takes off like a shot, the AC motor instantaneously transferring power to the wheels. The only sound is the squealing of tires as Willums throws the little car into a tight turn and barrels back toward his startled guests. Did someone kill the electric car? You wouldn't know it on this bright May morning in Scandinavia, where the idea of a mass-produced battery-powered vehicle is being resurrected and actual cars are scheduled to begin rolling off the production line by year's end. Shuttling between Oslo and California, Willums has raised $78 million from Silicon Valley and European investors captivated by [his] vision of a carbon-neutral urban car. Willums's pitch is this: He's not just selling an electric car; he's upending a century-old automotive paradigm, aiming to change the way cars are made, sold, owned, and driven. Taking a cue from Dell, the company will sell cars online, built to order. It will forgo showrooms and seed the market through car-sharing services like Zipcar. Every car will be Internet-and Wi-Fi-enabled, becoming, according to Willums, a rolling computer that can communicate wirelessly with its driver, other Think owners, and the power grid. "The timing is right. We are on a path now toward electric cars, and there is no going back." says Ed Kjaer, an electric vehicle veteran who runs the EV program for Southern California Edison.
Note: To read about the mysterious disappearing Toyota Eco Spirit, a proven car design capable of achieving 100 mpg, click here.
Richard Branson is always reaching for something, whether it's setting records in stratospheric balloon flights or racing across the Atlantic — pursuits that have nearly killed him, more than once. But Branson has never done things the conventional way. He is usually striving for something just beyond his grasp — and, win or lose, he always comes up smiling. But his latest venture may be his most audacious. On July 18 — his and Nelson Mandela's shared birthday — they announced the formation of a Council of Elders, a group of seasoned world leaders who literally will try to solve the world's problems. "You only live once," he said. "You might as well throw yourself into life and enjoy it." These days, at age 57, Branson's preoccupations seem to have more to do with saving the world than conquering it. Being in the airline and train business, Branson says he has helped contribute to environmental degradation. But now he hopes to help repair the world. "For a while, I hoped the skeptics were right. But I read a lot, and met a lot of scientists, and realized the world had a real problem," Branson said. He is offering a $25 million prize for anyone who comes up with an invention that can rid the atmosphere of carbon gases, and he has pledged to spend all the profits from his airlines — that's $3 billion or so — to develop earth-friendly alternative fuels. "What we're hoping to do is actually come up with an alternative fuel that will shake the very foundations of the oil companies and shake the foundations of the coal companies — because if we don’t shake their foundations, the world could potentially be doomed. I certainly don't feel chosen, but I feel extremely grateful," he said. "I feel I'm in a position where I can make a difference, and I'm not going to waste that position I find myself in."
Power cables and even batteries might become a thing of the past using a new technique that can transmit power wirelessly. Scientists lit a 60-watt light bulb from a power source 7 feet (2 meters) away with their new technique, with no physical connection between the source and the appliance. The researchers have dubbed their concept "WiTricity," as in "wireless electricity." MIT physicist Marin Soljacic began thinking years ago about how to transmit power wirelessly so his cell phone could recharge without ever being plugged in. Scientists have pursued wireless power transmission for years — notably, eccentric genius Nikola Tesla, who devoted much energy toward it roughly a century ago. Soljacic and his colleagues devised WiTricity based off the notion of resonance. One well-known example of resonance can be seen when an opera singer hits the right note to cause a champagne glass to resonate and shatter. Two objects resonating at the same frequency tend to exchange energy efficiently, while interacting weakly with objects not resonating at the same frequency. Instead of sound, the MIT physicists focused on magnetic fields. Most common materials interact only very weakly with magnetic fields, so little power would get wasted on unintended targets. In their latest work, the scientists designed two copper coils roughly 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter that were specially designed to resonate together. One was attached to the power source, the other to a light bulb. The practical demonstration of their earlier theoretical work managed to power the light bulb even when obstacles blocked direct line of sight between the source and device.
India’s largest automaker is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nčgre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008. Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, the Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car’s carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours. Of course, the Air Car will likely never hit American shores, especially considering its all-glue construction. But that doesn’t mean the major automakers can write it off as a bizarre Indian experiment — MDI has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa.
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Israel is using nanotechnology to try to create a robot no bigger than a hornet that would be able to chase, photograph and kill its targets, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday. The flying robot, nicknamed the "bionic hornet," would be able to navigate its way down narrow alleyways to target otherwise unreachable enemies such as rocket launchers. It is one of several weapons being developed by scientists to combat militants. Others include super gloves that would give the user the strength of a "bionic man" and miniature sensors to detect suicide bombers. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres [said] "The war in Lebanon proved that we need smaller weaponry. It's illogical to send a plane worth $100 million against a suicidal terrorist. So we are building futuristic weapons." Prototypes for the new weapons are expected within three years, he said.
The idea that measuring the properties of one particle could instantaneously change the properties of another one (or a whole bunch) far away is strange to say the least. The team that pulled off the beryllium feat...hailed it as another step toward computers that would use quantum magic to perform calculations. But it also served as another demonstration of how weird the world really is according to the rules, known as quantum mechanics. Nary a week goes by that does not bring news of another feat of quantum trickery once only dreamed of in thought experiments: particles (or at least all their properties) being teleported across the room in a microscopic version of Star Trek beaming; electrical "cat" currents that circle a loop in opposite directions at the same time; more and more particles farther and farther apart bound together in Einstein's spooky embrace now known as "entanglement." At the University of California, Santa Barbara, researchers are planning an experiment in which a small mirror will be in two places at once. Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna said that he thought, "The world is not as real as we think.
Note: Consider also that top secret projects are generally at least 10 years in advance of anything reported in the news or scientific magazines. We can only imagine what these projects might be doing.
Chuck Larue may be the man who drastically cuts your electricity bill. For fourteen years, Chuck and his partner have quietly been inventing a little micro controller called the "Plug Power Saver." He claims it works on all electric motors from your air conditioner to refrigerators, washing machines to whole house fans. He rigged a one-third horsepower motor to show us the savings. Without the controller, “It's drawing 171 to 180 watts." Plug in the Power Saver and, “It's trying to find the most optimum levels of power consumption. It actually has a microprocessor in here." After a few seconds, the motor is running strong but using half the electricity. And if you know anything about electricity, you know this motor running normally should be warm to the touch, it isn’t. That seems to show no extra electricity is being lost as heat. John Lander: This looks already to sell. Chuck Larue: Yeah it is, it's ready to go. John Lander: How much? Chuck Larue: $49.95. So you'd pay for the Power Saver in under a year. Chuck says he has 10,000 of these devices headed here from a manufacturing plant in Korea. Now all he has to do is find a retailer willing to sell it. Chuck says he has tried to interest the Governor and the utilities commission to sponsor his invention, but no one has called him back.
In a bid to harness what backers say could be a nearly limitless source of clean electric power, an international consortium chose France yesterday as the site for an experimental fusion reactor that will aim to replicate how the sun creates energy. The planned $13 billion project is one of the most prestigious and expensive international scientific efforts ever launched. French President Jacques Chirac said in a statement. "[This] unprecedented scientific and technological challenge ... opens great hopes for providing humanity with an energy that has no impact on the environment and is practically inexhaustible." The reactor's main fuel, deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen, can be obtained from water. The project's website states that Lake Geneva alone contains enough deuterium to meet global energy needs for several thousand years. Existing nuclear reactors use fission, or the splitting of large atoms, to produce power, a process that leaves waste that remains highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Fusion reactors, by contrast, would produce minimal waste that would be radioactive for a much shorter period. If the project is successful, long-term plans call for a demonstration fusion power plant to be built in the 2030s and the first commercial fusion plant to be built in midcentury.
These dynamic and personable businessmen from Dublin insist that they have found a way of producing free, clean and limitless energy out of thin air. So, as they prepare to demonstrate this wonder of science to me...I feel all the excitement of Christmas Day. There is a test rig with wheels and cogs and four magnets meticulously aligned so as to create the maximum tension between their fields and one other magnet fixed to a point opposite. A motor rotates the wheel bearing the magnets and a computer takes 28,000 measurements a second. And when it is all over, the computer tells us that almost three times the amount of energy has come out of the system as went in. In fact, this piece of equipment is 285% efficient. "We couldn't believe it at first, either," says McCarthy, chief executive of the company. "We wanted to improve the performance of the wind generators...so we experimented with certain generator configurations and then one day one of our guys...came in and said: 'We have a problem. We appear to be getting out more than we're putting in.'" That was three years ago. Since then, McCarthy says, the company has spent Ł2.7m developing the technology. Until their claims have been assessed by the jury, McCarthy says they won't be accepting any investor offers. So if this is a hoax, it would appear not to be a money-making scheme. The Economist ad alone cost Ł75,000. "We expected stick, and we're getting it already. We've had a lot of abusive emails and telephone calls -people telling us to watch our backs"
Note: To understand how this is possible, see http://www.WantToKnow.info/newenergysources
A man who claims to have developed a free energy technology which could power everything from mobile phones to cars has received more than 400 applications from scientists to test it. Sean McCarthy says that no one was more sceptical than he when Steorn, his small hi-tech firm in Dublin, hit upon a way of generating clean, free and constant energy from the interaction of magnetic fields. 'It wasn't so much a Eureka moment as a get-back-in-there-and-check-your-instruments moment, although in far more colourful language,' said McCarthy. But when he attempted to share his findings, he says, scientists either put the phone down on him or refused to endorse him publicly in case they damaged their academic reputations. So last week he took out a full-page advert in the Economist magazine, challenging the scientific community to examine his technology. McCarthy claims it provides five times the amount of energy a mobile phone battery generates for the same size, and does not have to be recharged. Within 36 hours of his advert appearing he had been contacted by 420 scientists in Europe, America and Australia, and a further 4,606 people had registered to receive the results.
Steorn has now posted a slick, five-minute video that features interviews with company CEO Sean McCarthy as well as the company's marketing director. For more background, see our earlier discussion. The video's slick, and not too heavy on scientific detail. But it's worth checking out. It does begin to explain the company's motivations for choosing to issue a challenge in the Economist. McCarthy: "The first roadblock is science. With the academic community, it might take five to seven years before being able to get to a consensus position. As a business, that makes absolutely no sense." The video explains that a "quiet" campaign was plan A. The direct marketing approach currently being taken is Plan B. McCarthy: "The claim does rail against so much thinking from ordinary people. We have to fight public opinion, we have to fight the scientific community and we have to fight the energy industry. We couldn't pick a worse battleground."
Note: For lots more on the many who have developed similar discoveries and how they have been either bought out or shut down, click here.
Several small, independent automakers are juicing up electric cars. Among the companies trying to lead the charge: Tesla. Tesla Motors...is taking orders for a $100,000 electric high-performance sports car...billed as capable of a Ferrari-like zero to 60 mph in four seconds. The car was designed in California but will be built by Lotus in Great Britain. Its sophisticated lithium-ion battery will allow a range of 250 miles on a single charge and a top speed of 130 mph. Wrightspeed...hopes to produce its own, $100,000 high-performance car within two years. It will have about a 200-mile range. Ian Wright, who heads Wrightspeed...says the new breed of electric cars could have three times the energy efficiency of gas-electric hybrids. "You can build something that's seriously fast and a lot of fun to drive." Zap. At the other end of the performance spectrum...Zap last month started selling a three-wheel electric "city car" imported from China that it says is capable of a top speed of 40 mph. Priced at $9,000, the Xebra has a range of about 40 miles. Tomberlin Group...plans to sell three versions of electric cars. Prices will range from $5,000 for E-Merge E-2 to $8,000 for the four-seat Anvil. The electric revival comes as...Who Killed the Electric Car? has started playing in theaters. The movie alleges that big automakers, oil companies and the government sank promising electric-car technology. The film singles out General Motors for...having created a futuristic electric car that became a Hollywood enviro-darling. When leases ran out, GM collected its Saturn EV1s and sent them to the crusher.
Note: I've heard that Who Killed the Electric Car? is an excellent, revealing film. For lots more on why car mileage has not significantly increased since the days of the Model T (which got 25 miles to the gallon), see http://www.WantToKnow.info/050711carmileageaveragempg
Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University. Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. "One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses," said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. "Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel." Pee power is based on hydrogen, the most common element in the universe but one that has resisted efforts to produce, store, transport and use economically. Storing pure hydrogen gas requires high pressure and low temperature. Chemically binding hydrogen to other elements, like oxygen to create water, makes it easier to store and transport, but releasing the hydrogen when it's needed usually requires financially prohibitive amounts of electricity. By attaching hydrogen to another element, nitrogen, Botte and her colleagues realized that they can store hydrogen without the exotic environmental conditions, and then release it with less electricity, 0.037 Volts instead of the 1.23 Volts needed for water. Stick a special nickel electrode into a pool of urine, apply an electrical current, and hydrogen gas is released. A fuel cell, urine-powered vehicle could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon. A refrigerator-sized unit could produce one kilowatt of energy for about $5,000, although this price is a rough estimate, says Botte. "The waste products from say a chicken farm could be used to produce the energy needed to run the farm," said John Stickney, a chemist and professor at the University of Georgia.
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MIT researchers say they have discovered a way to use solar energy cheaply even after the sun goes down, which could make it a mainstream source of power within the next decade. Solar energy has been expensive and inefficient to use after dark, said Daniel Nocera, 51, the Henry Dreyfus professor of energy and professor of chemistry at MIT. But in an article published in the July 31 issue of the journal Science, Nocera and other Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say they have found a simple, inexpensive process for storing solar energy. "How the heck are you going to build an economy or a business only if the sun is shining?" said Nocera, the senior author. "What you really need to do is when the sun is shining, figure out how to store some of that energy so you can unleash it when the sun isn't shining." Nocera and the other researchers based their work on a compound made from cobalt and phosphate, both readily available. When the sun is out, electricity from solar panels can be fed to the compound in water, causing the water to split into hydrogen and oxygen. The elements create a chemical fuel that can be recombined to create energy later, when the sun is not shining. The discovery breaks "the connection between energy and fossil fuels because my energy is coming from water," said Nocera, "unleashing the solar energy, not in real time, but when you want to." The researchers said the findings open the door for large-scale use of solar energy around the clock - not right away but within 10 years.
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Since Robert Goddard launched a 10-foot rocket from a New England farm more than 80 years ago, the basic principles of space travel haven't changed much. Still required: a violent combustion of fuel and oxygen to propel the vehicle. Unless, maybe, you have a laser and a couple of mirrors. Young K. Bae, a maverick one-man rocket research institution in Tustin, believes he has hit on a propulsion technology that could revolutionize space travel, finally overcoming the limits of chemical rockets, which are slow and dangerous and need vast amounts of fuel. The 51-year-old physicist calls it the photonic laser thruster. "This overcomes the physical barriers of current rocket technology," he says, pointing to a tiny laser encased in glass. Hurling ships into space with light beams has been the stuff of science fiction novels for decades, but Bae says he has proved that it really is just science. He says a laser beam bouncing off two mirrors facing each other was able to exert force on one of the mirrors, albeit ever so slight. The discovery came in December, but Bae waited months to reveal the experiment to verify that the measuring devices were accurate and that the results could be repeated. Franklin B. Mead, a rocket propulsion expert at the Air Force Research Laboratory, calls it "pretty incredible." The photonic laser thruster can in theory be made much more powerful -- strong enough to propel a spacecraft to near light speed. "If it proves out it would be revolutionary," says Carl Ehrlich, a retired aerospace engineer who has worked on the space shuttle and other rocket programs. Within a year or two, [Bae] will attempt to have the laser device lift an object the size and weight of a compact disc. Ehrlich will be watching. "We're still using the same technology developed by Goddard. We need a breakthrough," he says.
At their factory in southern France, father-and-son team Guy and Cyril Negre insist air power is no joke. Plain old air compressed in the tank, they say, cheap and non-polluting. Sound too good to be true? Says Cyril, “It's a real car. The other thing is it's a very zero emission car. You won't pollute, there won't be emission. You have a very economical car.” A car, says the Negres, that will cost just $2 for every 120 miles. The Negres have a long love affair with cars. Guy designed a Formula One race car engine. Cyril worked at Bugati. The technology for their car, they say, is relatively simple and safe. “When you compress the air...inside of the tank, this is like compressing a spring, and then the tank gives you back the energy of the air when it expands,” says Cyril. Compressed air in a carbon-fiber tank, something like scuba divers use, drives the pistons and turns the crankshaft. There is no combustion and no gasoline. That's why there's no pollution. You fill it up at an air compressor. It may sound far-fetched, but at his labs on the campus of UCLA, professor Su-Chin Chow is also exploring the power of air. The Negres say after years of delays...they have solved their technical problems. Another year, they say, and they'll be ready for large scale production, with a top speed of 55 miles-an-hour.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a tabletop accelerator that produces nuclear fusion at room temperature, providing confirmation of an earlier experiment conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The device, which uses two opposing crystals to generate a powerful electric field, could potentially lead to a portable, battery-operated neutron generator for a variety of applications, from non-destructive testing to detecting explosives and scanning luggage at airports. The device is essentially a tabletop particle accelerator. At its heart are two opposing “pyroelectric” crystals that create a strong electric field when heated or cooled. The device is filled with deuterium gas — a more massive cousin of hydrogen with an extra neutron in its nucleus. The electric field rips electrons from the gas, creating deuterium ions and accelerating them into a deuterium target on one of the crystals. When the particles smash into the target, neutrons are emitted, which is the telltale sign that nuclear fusion has occurred. The new study also verified the fundamental physics behind the original experiment. This suggests that pyroelectric crystals are in fact a viable means of producing nuclear fusion, and that commercial applications may be closer than originally thought.
Note: Why was this fascinating news not reported in the major media? For more, see our New Energy Information Center at http://www.WantToKnow.info/newenergyinformation
Hydrogen, tested in buses from Amsterdam to Vancouver ... is a clean power that promises to break dependence on oil and gas -- at least in Iceland. With almost unlimited geothermal energy sizzling beneath its surface, Iceland has an official goal of making the country oil-free by shifting cars, buses, trucks and ships over to hydrogen by about 2050. About 70 percent of Iceland's energy needs ... are already met by geothermal or hydro-electric power. Only the transport sector is still hooked on polluting oil and gas. The world's first hydrogen filling station, run by Shell, opened in Reykjavik in April 2003. Hydrogen bus projects have also been launched in cities including Barcelona, Chicago, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Stockholm, Beijing and Perth, Australia. The efficiency of the hydrogen fuel cells will decide if the ventures take off into the wider car market. "The idea is that the buses should be twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine," said Jon Bjorn Skulason, general manager of Icelandic New Energy Ltd. Greater engine efficiency would compensate for the inefficiency of producing hydrogen. Iceland's buses, made by DaimlerChrysler, cost about 1.25 million euros ($1.67 million) each, or three to four times more than a diesel-powered bus, Skulason said. It takes about 6-10 minutes to refill a hydrogen bus, giving a range of 240 miles. [A] Reykjavik bus driver said diesel and hydrogen buses were similar to drive. "But the hydrogen bus is less noisy."
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