Thursday, January 30, 2014

More energy and the State of the Union

I'm not done with Energy and climate in the State of the Union.  It turns out that being Secretary of Energy singles one out for special treatment during the speech.  Time explains in This Man Will Be Your President If The Worst Happens.
If the unthinkable happens during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will assume the role of President of the United States.

Moniz, the 12th person in the line of succession for the Oval Office, will be protected by Secret Service agents at an undisclosed location as the so-called “designated survivor” while President Barack Obama delivers his address to Congress. Meanwhile, the vice president, members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and others will gather at the Capitol to listen to the president’s annual address.

...He’s better liked inside the administration than his predecessor—and last year’s designated survivor—Steven Chu, who was considered by some administration officials to be a political loose cannon.
It just so happens that I have articles about both men, beginning with Virginia Tech's Nobel laureate talks about innovation in modern research world before capacity Burruss audience.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 14, 2013 – Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and a former United States Secretary of Energy, talked about how to create a research and development environment modeled after the famously successful “Bell Labs” on Friday during the initial Hugh and Ethel Kelly Speaker Series presentation, hosted by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) and the College of Engineering.

Chu said researchers in today's research climate are forced to concentrate on their best ideas, work in small groups, and to collaborate with experts from different fields. In that respect, it reinforces the Bell Laboratories' philosophy to build small research groups containing usually just an investigator, a postdoctoral associate, and a lab technician, and to have active scientists fill the management roles.

"A small group makes you think hard about the most important things to work on, and being forced to share ideas may be a good thing," Chu said. "That's the lemonade from the lemons."
Next, Science Magazine updates its readers with the people around the new Energy Secretary in Obama Names Energy Science Team.
President Barack Obama has added two academic researchers to his new science team at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Obama yesterday announced his intention to nominate chemical engineer Franklin "Lynn" Orr, a professor and administrator at Stanford University in California, to fill the newly created position of undersecretary for science and energy. The same announcement tapped physicist Marc Kastner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge to lead DOE’s Office of Science, which manages a $4.6 billion research portfolio. Last week, the White House picked physicist Ellen Williams, chief scientist at energy giant BP and a former longtime professor at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, to run DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

If approved by the U.S. Senate, the trio will round out Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s leadership team for DOE’s civilian research programs, which include 10 national laboratories run by the Office of Science.
That's not all.  As I wrote in Unemployment insurance extension and the State of the Union about the speech:
It also reminded me that I have a long backlog of material from the past two months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos about healthcare and energy that I need to post here.
Follow over the jump for the energy news from the past three months that I've posted on Daily Kos since Renewable energy news from campuses on the campaign trail.

Most of the stories are about renewable energy.  Some, however, are distribution and conservation such as this one from UCSD: SDSC and Leidos to Help Develop New Cybersecurity Reference Architecture for Electrical Microgrids by Jan Zverina on January 20, 2014.
Project to use UC San Diego’s advanced microgrid for analysis

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, is collaborating with Leidos (formerly Science Applications International Corporation) to develop a reference system architecture aimed at increasing security levels of microgrid control and IT systems used to manage electrical microgrids worldwide.

Microgrids are small-scale versions of traditional larger power grids that draw energy from clean sources such as the wind and sun, as well as from conventional technology. They can be connected to a larger electric grid, but can also work independently. In addition, microgrids can more efficiently manage real-time demand, supply, and storage of energy at a lower cost and with less pollution than a conventional grid.

The use of microgrids has grown significantly during the past decade, with much of that growth occurring within the last few years. The growth has been driven by concerns about rising fuel costs for macrogrids, as well as macrogrid reliability, due to local community impacts such as loss of power to millions of people caused by natural disasters (e.g. Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012). With the advent of the smart grid, another concern comes from the awareness of cyber threats facing macrogrids.
Next, some biofuels, beginning with University of Texas's UT Austin Engineer Converts Yeast Cells into ‘Sweet Crude’ Biofuel on Jan. 21, 2014.
AUSTIN, Texas — Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a new source of renewable energy, a biofuel, from genetically engineered yeast cells and ordinary table sugar. This yeast produces oils and fats, known as lipids, that can be used in place of petroleum-derived products.

Assistant professor Hal Alper, in the Cockrell School’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, along with his team of students, created the new cell-based platform. Given that the yeast cells grow on sugars, Alper calls the biofuel produced by this process “a renewable version of sweet crude.”

The researchers’ platform produces the highest concentration of oils and fats reported through fermentation, the process of culturing cells to convert sugar into products such as alcohol, gases or acids. This work was published in Nature Communications on Jan. 20.
Virginia Tech: Environmentally friendly, energy-dense sugar battery developed to power the world's gadgets
BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 22, 2014 – A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of  biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

While other sugar batteries have been developed, Zhang said his has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled.

In as soon as three years, Zhang’s new battery could be running some of the cell phones, tablets, video games, and the myriad other electronic gadgets that require power in our energy-hungry world, Zhang said.
There's more as I work backwards from January to October.

Virginia Tech: Amanda Morris receives $450,000 grant to develop sustainable solar energy technology
BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 13, 2014 – In one hour, the sun can provide enough energy to power human civilization for an entire year, but the cost and storage of solar energy prevents its widespread use.

Amanda Morris, an assistant professor in inorganic and energy chemistry in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, is adapting plants’ strategies for using sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide to food – usually some form of sugar that is stored in plant tissue – to instead provide a chemical fuel, which can be utilized as a transportation or residential energy source.

Morris has received a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Department of Energy for her research. She develops catalysts that can oxidize water and use the electrons produced to reduce carbon dioxide to methane or higher order alcohols.
Harvard University via PhysOrg: Organic mega flow battery promises breakthrough for renewable energy
Jan 08, 2014
A team of Harvard scientists and engineers has demonstrated a new type of battery that could fundamentally transform the way electricity is stored on the grid, making power from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar far more economical and reliable.

he novel battery technology is reported in a paper published in Nature on January 9. Under the OPEN 2012 program, the Harvard team received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) to develop the innovative grid-scale battery and plans to work with ARPA-E to catalyze further technological and market breakthroughs over the next several years.

The paper reports a metal-free flow battery that relies on the electrochemistry of naturally abundant, inexpensive, small organic (carbon-based) molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals.
SDSU: Imperial Valley Campus Emerging as Green Energy Leader
In a sun-drenched county, SDSU promotes sustainability research and technology.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
A $15-million solar field under construction at SDSU’s Imperial Valley Campus is on target to be the largest university-based solar installation in California and one of the largest in the United States.

The project is one of dozens underway throughout Imperial County. Nearly 20,000 acres of mostly agricultural land is being developed with solar fields. Many are already operating.

The SDSU-IV facility will produce 6 megawatts of energy, enough to meet the daily needs of 6,000 homes. Its designation as a “community solar” field means the energy may be sold directly to local businesses at a slight premium, allowing them to “go green” without making a major up-front capital investment in solar technology.
University of Wisconsin: Wisconsin engineer honored for ongoing innovation
by Renee Meiller
Dec. 10, 2013
Corn may be a dietary staple for humans and animals around the world, but in Jim Dumesic's eyes, the plant "waste" left after the harvest holds even more potential as a renewable bio-based source of fuels and important chemicals.
In 2003, he and colleagues founded Virent Energy Systems to commercialize their environmentally friendly method for turning plant waste into biofuel. Today, the company's suite of bio-derived products includes gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and chemicals used in the plastics and fiber industries.
In 2003, he and colleagues founded Virent Energy Systems to commercialize their environmentally friendly method for turning plant waste into biofuel. Today, the company's suite of bio-derived products includes gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and chemicals used in the plastics and fiber industries.
University of Alabama: UA Research on Renewable Energy Systems Leads to Patent
Dec 2, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Renewable energy sources such as wind-powered generators can be more reliable and efficient by better controlling the process of getting electricity onto the power grid, according to a United States patent based on research by Dr. Shuhui Li, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Alabama.

Li, with assistance from Dr. Tim Haskew, professor and head of the electrical engineering department, found in their research that wind turbines often stop sending electricity to the grid because of competing processes in converting electricity into a form usable for power distribution. The patent, granted in November to UA, claims an algorithm that when programmed into the turbine’s power electronics better controls the electric conversion.

“There are two different control tasks that fight to control each other’s method,” Li said. “When you compete, it’s dangerous, and sometimes you compete wrong.”
University of Louisville: UofL’s first renewable energy prize goes to Swiss chemist
by Judy Hughes, communications and marketing
last modified Nov 20, 2013 03:42 PM
Swiss chemist Michael Graetzel, noted for his discovery of a new solar cell that’s easier and less costly to produce than silicon-based cells, has won the first $50,000 Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy from the University of Louisville.

Graetzel, professor and director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, is recognized for merging nanoscience with photoconversion by developing a dye-sensitized solar cell known as the Graetzel cell. These cells convert sunlight into electricity using earth-abundant materials at efficiencies exceeding thin-film silicon-based cells but with dramatically lower production costs. Mass production of the cells began in 2009.

Graetzel holds more than 50 patents and has written two books and more than 1,200 publications. His work makes him one of the most highly cited chemists worldwide, and his concepts have spawned hundreds of research groups and multiple conferences.
University of California, San Diego: Scripps Oceanography Researchers Engineer Breakthrough for Biofuel Production
Prospects for economic and sustainable fuel alternative enhanced with discovery
By Mario Aguilera
November 20, 2013
Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have developed a method for greatly enhancing biofuel production in tiny marine algae.

As reported in this week’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Scripps graduate student Emily Trentacoste led the development of a method to genetically engineer a key growth component in biofuel production.

In the quest to loosen humanity’s dependence on traditional fossil fuel consumption, and with it rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and their damaging impacts on the environment, finding economically viable fuels from biological sources has been elusive.

A significant roadblock in algal biofuel research surrounds the production of lipid oils, the fat molecules that store energy that can be produced for fuel. A catch-22 has stymied economically efficient biofuel production because algae mainly produce the desired lipid oils when they are starved for nutrients. Yet if they are limited in nutrients, they don’t grow well. With a robust diet algae grow well, but they produce carbohydrates instead of the desired lipids for fuel.

In a significant leap forward that clears the lipid production hurdle, Trentacoste and her colleagues used a data set of genetic expression (called “transcriptomics” in laboratories) to target a specific enzyme inside a group of microscopic algae known as diatoms (Thalassiosira pseudonana). By metabolically engineering a “knock-down” of fat-reducing enzymes called lipases, the researchers were able to increase lipids without compromising growth. The genetically altered strains they developed, the researchers say, could be produced broadly in other species.
Virginia Tech: Solar panel installation at Arlington research center is laboratory for graduate engineering students
NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, Nov. 8, 2013 – A solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington is serving a three-fold purpose: It contributes to the LEED credentials of the 144,000-square-foot, seven-story building; lowers energy costs; and benefits graduate education by serving as a laboratory for engineering students.

“We are able to collect data about solar radiation, wind speed, and ambient and solar panel temperatures that allows us to create mathematical models for solar panel performance under various weather conditions and seasons. From this we can determine how much power can be generated from a certain number of solar panels in similar climates,” said Saifur Rahman, the Joseph R. Loring Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute.
“This project is an excellent way for our students to learn about the benefits of solar and wind power and how they can apply this technology to real-world situations,” said Rahman.
University of Cincinnati: UC's SmartLight More Than a Bright Idea, It's a Revolution in Interior Lighting Ready to Shine
The innovative solar technology "would change the equation for energy," according to UC researchers.
By: Tom Robinette
Date: 11/6/2013 2:07:00 PM
A pair of University of Cincinnati researchers has seen the light – a bright, powerful light – and it just might change the future of how building interiors are brightened.

In fact, that light comes directly from the sun. And with the help of tiny, electrofluidic cells and a series of open-air "ducts," sunlight can naturally illuminate windowless work spaces deep inside office buildings and excess energy can be harnessed, stored and directed to other applications.

This new technology is called SmartLight, and it's the result of an interdisciplinary research collaboration between UC's Anton Harfmann and Jason Heikenfeld. Their research paper "Smart Light – Enhancing Fenestration to Improve Solar Distribution in Buildings" was recently presented at Italy's CasaClima international energy forum.
University of Virginia: U.Va., Clemson Researchers Convert Waste Heat into Electrical Energy
October 31, 2013
The University of Virginia and Clemson University will compete on the football field this weekend, but researchers from these two institutions are working together to convert waste heat into high-quality electricity.

The researchers say that the conversion of waste heat into electrical energy will play a role in today’s challenge to identify alternative energy technologies that reduce dependence on fossil fuels and lessen greenhouse gas emissions.

Joseph Poon, William Barton Rogers Professor of Physics and chair of U.Va.’s Department of Physics, and Terry Tritt, Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson’s physics and astronomy department, are developing thermoelectric materials that provide direct conversion of heat into electricity.

“In the last decade, there have been continuous improvements in the science and production of thermoelectric materials,” Poon said. “Thermoelectric materials can now be incorporated into power-generation devices that are designed to convert waste heat into useful electrical energy.”
Virginia Tech: Nuclear engineers to develop protective shield material
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 9, 2013 – Virginia Tech's nuclear engineering program has received two awards valued at more than $1 million from the Department of Energy's Nuclear Energy University Program.

One is an $800,000, three-year award to develop an outer shield material for use in packaging spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste for prolonged storage. Leigh Winfrey, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and her colleague Mohamed Bourham, professor of nuclear engineering of N.C. State, received this research contract.

The second award for $300,000 will allow the Virginia Tech nuclear program, housed in the mechanical engineering department, to purchase a neutron generator system to create a Neutron Irradiation Laboratory. Mark Pierson, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is the principal investigator on this grant, and Celine Hin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering, and Alireza Haghighat , director of the Virginia Tech Nuclear Science and Engineering Laboratory, part of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, are the co-investigators.
I had no idea I was sitting on so many energy stories.  Good thing President Obama's remarks reminded about them.

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