Energy Inventions News StoriesExcerpts of Key Energy Inventions News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of new energy inventions news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
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.
Texas may be best known for "Big Oil." But the oil that could some day make a dent in the country's use of fossil fuels is small. Microscopic, in fact: algae. Literally and figuratively, this is green fuel. "Algae is the ultimate in renewable energy," Glen Kertz, president and CEO of Valcent Products, told CNN while conducting a tour of his algae greenhouse on the outskirts of El Paso. "We are a giant solar collecting system. We get the bulk of our energy from the sunshine," said Kertz. Algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world, and about 50 percent of their weight is oil. That lipid oil can be used to make biodiesel for cars, trucks, and airplanes. Most people know algae as "pond scum." And until recently, most energy research and development projects used ponds to grow it. But instead of ponds, Valcent uses a closed, vertical system, growing the algae in long rows of moving plastic bags. The patented system is called Vertigro, a joint venture with Canadian alternative energy company Global Green Solutions. The companies have invested about $5 million in the Texas facility. "A pond has a limited amount of surface area for solar absorption," said Kertz. "By going vertical, you can get a lot more surface area to expose cells to the sunlight. It keeps the algae hanging in the sunlight just long enough to pick up the solar energy they need to produce, to go through photosynthesis," he said. Kertz said he can produce about 100,000 gallons of algae oil a year per acre, compared to about 30 gallons per acre from corn; 50 gallons from soybeans. Valcent research scientist Aga Pinowska said there are about 65,000 known algae species, with perhaps hundreds of thousands more still to be identified. A big part of the research at the west Texas facility involves determining what type of algae produces what type of fuel.
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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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The idea is deceptively simple. Forget about fancy batteries, regenerative braking, and alternative fuels. Instead, make a car that's elegant in its minimalism and efficiency. The Loremo's German designers revisited the basics — engine efficiency, low weight, and minimal drag — to create a car that offers fuel-efficiency in the neighborhood of 130 to 150 miles per gallon. The Loremo is likely to dazzle drivers not with its acceleration, but with its ability to drive from New York to L.A. with only three stops at the pump. Loremo stands for low resistance mobile, and its engineers have stuck obsessively to this idea. By building the car around a 2-cylinder turbodiesel engine, and cutting back on weight, drag, and other excess fat such as side-opening doors, the Loremo puffs out a mere 50 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. This is about 40 grams less per kilometer than the tiny diesel smart. According to its creators, this will make the Loremo the most efficient production car ever sold. If the Loremo showed up as a concept on an auto show pedestal, it would certainly garner some attention. But the Loremo is not a car for dreamers; not only will it enter mass production next year, it will sport a base price attainable by mortal motorists: 15,000 euros (about U.S. $22,000). After its 2009 release in Europe, the Loremo will be redesigned to reach the North American market the following year. A $30,000, 3-cylinder GT model will also become available, offering better acceleration (0-60 in roughly 10 seconds, vs. 16 for the base model). Both hybrid and fully electric versions are also in the works.
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Thane Heins is nervous and hopeful. In four days the Ottawa-area native will travel to Boston where he'll demonstrate an invention that appears ... to operate as a perpetual motion machine. The audience, esteemed Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Markus Zahn, could either deflate Heins' heretical claims or add momentum to a 20-year obsession. Zahn is a leading expert on electromagnetic and electronic systems. In a rare move for any reputable academic, he has agreed to give Heins' creation an open-minded look rather than greet it with outright dismissal. The invention ... could moderately improve the efficiency of induction motors, used in everything from electric cars to ceiling fans. At best it means a way of tapping the mysterious powers of electromagnetic fields to produce more work out of less effort, seemingly creating electricity from nothing. Heins has modified his test so the effects observed are difficult to deny. He holds a permanent magnet a few centimetres away from the driveshaft of an electric motor, and the magnetic field it creates causes the motor to accelerate. Contacted by phone a few hours after the test, Zahn is genuinely stumped – and surprised. He said the magnet shouldn't cause acceleration. "It's an unusual phenomenon I wouldn't have predicted in advance. But I saw it. It's real. To my mind this is unexpected and new," he [said]. "There are an infinite number of induction machines in people's homes and everywhere around the world. If you could make them more efficient, cumulatively, it could make a big difference."
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Three hundred miles per gallon and a Jetsons-style look are enough to get anyone excited. But ever since the word got out on it last month, Aptera’s innovative Typ-1 three-wheeler has been the target of relentless theorizing and conjecture across the Web. Is it real? Does it have what it takes to be a practical vehicle for daily transport? Is it stable enough to drive? Does it even actually drive? Well we wondered some of those things, too, so we scouted out if a drivable prototype really exists. It does. This week we visited Aptera’s headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., and became the very first outside of the company to hit the street in the Typ-1 e. And, as you can see from the video of our 20-mile test drive above, we’re impressed. Aptera has two innovative models that are almost production-ready at $30,000 and below: for next year, the all-electric, 120-mile-range Typ-1 e that we drove; and, by 2009, the range-extended series gasoline Typ-1 h, which Aptera says will hit 300 mpg. A more conventional third model, called “Project X” or perhaps Typ-2, is now in the design phase, with plans for a four-wheeled chassis and seating up for to five passengers. For now, though, the Typ-1 will certainly do. Check out a full gallery for the inside scoop on all the specs from the shop and the street.
Note: To watch the video of the test drive of this exciting new vehicle, click on the article link above. For many exciting reports on new energy technologies and innovative vehicle designs, click here.
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.”
Everything that goes into Frank Pringle’s recycling machine — a piece of tire, a rock, a plastic cup — turns to oil and natural gas seconds later. “I’ve been told the oil companies might try to assassinate me,” Pringle says without sarcasm. The machine is a microwave emitter that extracts the petroleum and gas hidden inside everyday objects. Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste — tires, plastic, vinyl — into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running). Pringle created the machine about 10 years ago after he drove by a massive tire fire and thought about the energy being released. He went home and threw bits of a tire in a microwave emitter he’d been working with for another project. It turned to what looked like ash, but a few hours later, he returned and found a black puddle on the floor of the unheated workshop. Somehow, he’d struck oil. Or rather, he had extracted it. Petroleum is composed of strings of hydrocarbon molecules. When microwaves hit the tire, they crack the molecular chains and break it into its component parts: carbon black (an ash-like raw material) and hydrocarbon gases, which can be burned or condensed into liquid fuel. If the process worked on tires, he thought, it should work on anything with hydrocarbons. The trick was in finding the optimum microwave frequency for each material. In 2004 he teamed up with engineer pal Hawk Hogan to take the machine commercial. Their first order is under construction in Rockford, Illinois. It’s a $5.1-million microwave machine the size of small bus called the Hawk, bound for an auto-recycler in Long Island, New York. Oil companies are looking to the machines to gasify petroleum trapped in shale.
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Last winter, inventor John Kanzius was already attempting one seemingly impossible feat -- building a machine to cure cancer with radio waves -- when his device inadvertently succeeded in another: He made saltwater catch fire. TV footage of his bizarre discovery has been burning up the blogosphere ever since, drawing crackpots and Ph.D.s alike into a raging debate. Can water burn? And if so, what good can come of it? Some people gush over the invention's potential for desalinization or cheap energy. Briny seawater, after all, sloshes over most of the planet's surface, and harnessing its heat energy could power all sorts of things. Skeptics say Kanzius's radio generator is sucking up far more energy than it's creating, making it a carnival trick at best. For now, Kanzius is tuning out the hubbub. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2002, he began building his radio-wave blaster the next year, soon after a relapse. If he could seed a person's cancerous cells with nanoscopic metal particles and blast them with radio waves, perhaps he could kill off the cancer while sparing healthy tissue. The saltwater phenomenon happened by accident when an assistant was bombarding a saline-filled test tube with radio waves and bumped the tube, causing a small flash. Curious, Kanzius struck a match. "The water lit like a propane flame," he recalls. "People said, 'It's a crock. Look for hidden electrodes in the water,' " says Penn State University materials scientist Rustum Roy, who visited [Kanzius] in his lab in August after seeing the feat on Google Video. A demo made Roy a believer. "This is discovery science in the best tradition," he says. Meanwhile, researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have made progress using Kanzius's technology to fight cancer in animals. They published their findings last month in the journal Cancer.
Note: For other compelling articles on this fascinating invention, see recent articles in the Los Angeles Times, ABC News, and especially Medical News Today. And for dozens of astounding major media articles showing clear suppression of potential cancer cures, click here.
Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity. From there, you can picture roof shingles with solar cells built inside and window coatings that seem to suck power from the air. Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal. That’s the promise of thin-film solar cells: solar power that’s ubiquitous because it’s cheap. The basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, Silicon Valley–based Nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality. The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. Nanosolar’s first commercial cells rolled off the presses this year. Cost has always been one of solar’s biggest problems. Traditional solar cells require silicon, and silicon is an expensive commodity. That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt. Nanosolar’s cells use no silicon, and the company’s manufacturing process allows it to create cells that are as efficient as most commercial cells for as little as 30 cents a watt. "It really is quite a big deal in terms of altering the way we think about solar and in inherently altering the economics of solar," says Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.
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It's a two-hour ferry ride to the Danish island of Samso. To visit Samso is to see the future. Samso is an area about 40 square miles long with a permanent population of about 4,000 — all of them living a green dream. Take farmer Erik Andersen. His tractor runs on oil from rape seed, which he grows. His hot water and power come from his solar panels or wind turbines. There's not a fossil fuel in sight. "It's a very good feeling because the island is a renewable energy island," Anderson says. Ten years ago, Andersen and the people of Samso accepted a challenge from Denmark's government: Could they run their farms; could they power their businesses; could they lead their lives in an entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon-neutral way? Now they have the answer. They can. "Because it's a good idea for the environment," Andersen explains. To harness the wind, of which they have plenty, they built wind turbines. To provide heat, they burn locally grown straw in central plants that produce super hot water and pump it through underground pipes into peoples' homes. It's not only more efficient than running individual furnaces, it's carbon neutral. The net greenhouse gas emissions from these plants? Zero. It's a system that just recycles itself, says Jens Peter Nielson with the Samso Energy Authority. Even after a freezing cold night, the days short and cloudy, the solar-heated hot water is still hot. The Samso scheme has become so successful that the island has installed a string of turbines offshore to make surplus power to sell to the mainland.
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As California utilities scramble to buy more renewable energy, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and a Palo Alto startup will announce plans today to build a solar power plant big enough to light more than 132,000 homes. Ausra Inc. will design and build the plant, which will be located on the Carrizo Plain of eastern San Luis Obispo County and could begin operating as soon as 2010. San Francisco's PG&E has agreed to buy the plant's power for 20 years. Like the rest of California's big utilities, PG&E faces a state-imposed deadline to derive 20 percent of its power from certain renewable sources by the end of 2010. So the company is turning to solar thermal power plants, which can generate large amounts of energy on a reliable basis. In July, the company agreed to buy power from a solar plant planned for the Southern California desert, which will generate 553 megawatts, enough for more than 414,000 homes. PG&E plans to buy 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal energy within the next five years. "Solar works best when it's really hot, and that's when we need a lot of power," said Peter Darbee, the utility's chief executive officer. "So solar is something we're exploring more." Solar thermal plants do not use the solar cells that more Californians are bolting to their rooftops. Instead, they use the sun's energy to heat liquids that turn turbines and generate power. Ausra's technology uses flat mirrors that focus sunlight on tubes carrying water, which then turns to steam. The plants can produce far more electricity than silicon solar cells provide and at a far lower price. Ralph Cavanagh, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he's pleased to see the recent attention on solar thermal plants. "They're a very good idea for California, and they're also a really good idea for the world," said Cavanagh, director of the environmental group's energy program. "This is one of the scalable solutions that can make a big difference."
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Algae seems a strange contender for the mantle of World’s Next Great Fuel, but the green goop has several qualities in its favor. Algae, made up of simple aquatic organisms that capture light energy through photosynthesis, produces vegetable oil. Vegetable oil, in turn, can be transformed into biodiesel, which can be used to power just about any diesel engine. Algae has some important advantages over other oil-producing crops, like canola and soybeans. It can be grown in almost any enclosed space, it multiplies like gangbusters, and it requires very few inputs to flourish—mainly just sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. “Because algae has a high surface-area-to-volume ratio, it can absorb nutrients very quickly,” [Jim] Sears says. “Its small size is what makes it mighty.” The proof is in the numbers. About 140 billion gallons of biodiesel would be needed every year to replace all petroleum-based transportation fuel in the U.S. It would take nearly three billion acres of fertile land to produce that amount with soybeans, and more than one billion acres to produce it with canola. Unfortunately, there are only 434 million acres of cropland in the entire country, and we probably want to reserve some of that to grow food. But because of its ability to propagate almost virally in a small space, algae could do the job in just 95 million acres of land. What’s more, it doesn’t need fertile soil to thrive. It grows in ponds, bags or tanks that can be just as easily set up in the desert—or next to a carbon-dioxide-spewing power plant—as in the country’s breadbasket. Sears claims that these efficiencies will allow Solix Biofuels, the company he founded, to create algae-based biodiesel that costs about the same as gasoline.
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A few small companies and maverick university laboratories, including ... one at U.C.L.A. run by Seth Putterman, a professor of physics, are pursuing quixotic solutions for future energy, trying to tap the power of the Sun — hot nuclear fusion — in devices that fit on a tabletop. Dr. Putterman’s approach is to use sound waves, called sonofusion or bubble fusion, to expand and collapse tiny bubbles, generating ultrahot temperatures. At temperatures hot enough, atoms can literally fuse and release even more energy than when they split in nuclear fission, now used in nuclear power plants and weapons. Furthermore, fusion is clean in that it does not produce long-lived nuclear waste. Dr. Putterman has not achieved fusion in his experiments. He and other scientists form a small but devoted cadre interested in turning small-scale desktop fusion into usable systems. Although success is far away, the principles seem sound. Achieving nuclear fusion, even in a desktop device, is not particularly difficult. But building a fusion reactor that generates more energy than it consumes is far more challenging. Impulse Devices, a small company in the small town of Grass Valley, Calif., is exploring the same sound-driven fusion as Dr. Putterman, pushing forward with venture capital financing. Its president, Ross Tessien, concedes that Impulse is a high-risk investment, but the potential payoffs would be many. “You solve the world’s pollution problems,” Mr. Tessien said. “You eliminate the need for wars. You eliminate scarcity of fuel. And it happens to be a very valuable market. So from a commercial point of view, there’s every incentive. From a moral point of view, there’s every incentive. And it’s fun and it’s exciting work.”
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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.
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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British researchers believe that they have made a groundbreaking scientific discovery after apparently managing to "create" energy from hydrogen atoms. In results independently verified at Bristol University, a team from Gardner Watts - an environmental technology company - show a "thermal energy cell" which appears to produce hundreds of times more energy than that put into it. If the findings are correct and can be reproduced on a commercial scale, the thermal energy cell could become a feature of every home, heating water for a fraction of the cost and cutting fuel bills by at least 90 per cent. The makers of the cell, which passes an electric current through a liquid between two electrodes, admit that they cannot explain precisely how the invention works. "What we are saying is that the device seems to tap into another, previously unrecognised source of energy." The cell is the product of research into the fundamental properties of hydrogen, the most common element in the universe. Hydrogen can exist in a so-called metastable state that harbours a potential source of extra energy. [Quantum] theory suggests that if electricity were passed into a mixture of water and a chemical catalyst, the extra energy would be released in the form of heat. After some experimentation, the team found that a small amount of electricity passed through a mixture of water and potassium carbonate - potash - released an astonishing amount of energy. "It generates a lot of heat in a very small volume," said Christopher Eccles, the chief scientist at Gardner Watts. The findings of the Gardner Watts team were tested by Dr Jason Riley of Bristol University, who found energy gains of between three and 26 times what had been put in.
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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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Gerald Rowley keeps his dreams in his garage. There ... he stores an aging Mazda 626 sedan [specially outfitted with a] one-gallon steel box in the trunk connected to fuel lines leading to a gasoline vaporizing device under the hood. The steel box holds one gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. The device beneath the hood is called the VFS, Vaporizing Fuel System. I came here to drive Rowley's VFS-equipped car. For years, I had spurned the invitations of homespun inventors worldwide to travel to distant points to witness first-hand machines that could deliver 100 miles per gallon or 200 miles per gallon. The claims sounded too incredible to believe -- ridiculous, in fact. If such devices really worked, really did what their inventors said they did, why would they still be sitting on shelves in anonymous workshops -- ignored by the driving public and all of the vehicle manufacturers who serve them? What automobile manufacturer in its right mind, especially with rising concerns about future oil availability and with gasoline prices escalating worldwide, would not jump at the opportunity to acquire a device that delivered 100 miles per gallon? Rowley's patented device is nothing new. It's just the latest iteration of an idea already developed by others -- the notion that you could get more miles per gallon out of a traditional gasoline engine if you pre-heated the fuel to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, thus turning it into a vapor before it enters the combustion chamber. Vaporized fuel, when properly mixed with air, burns more efficiently, saves fuel and emits fewer tailpipe pollutants than traditional fuel-air mixtures in which gasoline is sprayed into a combustion chamber in tiny droplets and then mixed with air before burning. All car companies know this.
On a recent run from Boston to Cape Cod, I test drove the 2008 Honda Accord, the latest version of this family favorite. The new Accord boasts an environmental first: a six-cylinder gasoline engine that's cleaner than many hybrid systems. There's only one catch: You can't actually buy this ultra-green Accord, or the four-cylinder version that also produces near-zero pollution. That is, unless you live in California, New York or six other northeast states that follow California's tougher pollution rules. Only there can you buy this Accord, or the roughly two dozen other models that meet so-called Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle standards, PZEV for short. Not only can't you buy one, but the government says it's currently illegal for automakers to sell these green cars outside of the special states. Under terms of the Clean Air Act — in the kind of delicious irony only our government can pull off — anyone (dealer, consumer, automaker) involved in an out-of-bounds PZEV sale could be subject to civil fines of up to $27,500. Volvo sent its dealers a memo alerting them to this fact, noting that its greenest S40 and V50 models were only for the special states. So, just how green is a PZEV machine? Well, if you just cut your lawn with a gas mower, congratulations, you just put out more pollution in one hour than these cars do in 2,000 miles of driving. Grill a single juicy burger, and you've cooked up the same hydrocarbon emissions as a three-hour drive in a Ford Focus PZEV. As the California Air Resources Board has noted, the tailpipe emissions of these cars can be cleaner than the outside air in smoggy cities. PZEV models are already available from Toyota, Ford, Honda, GM, Subaru, Volvo and VW. But chances are, you've never heard of them.
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