Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bacteria Delivers "Buck-A-Gallon" Biofuel Solution

As syngas fermentation leads to lower ethanol concentrations than corn fermentations, the energy and cost to separate the ethanol from water is proportionally higher. To reduce this differential, Coskata has exclusively licensed membrane separation technology to reduce the energy requirements by over 50%. The vapor permeation process is amenable to separating ethanol from biofermentation broth because of the very low solids content of the broth relative to other fermentation processes. Image Credit: Coskata

Bacteria Delivers "Buck-A-Gallon" Biofuel Solution (two approaches)

There was a time one could buy fuel for ones car or truck for a “Buck-A-Gallon" … and it is a past we can embrace right now … TODAY!

Well, at least General Motors seems to think so with its investment in Biofuel processing startup Coskata.

The key to the conversion approach Coskata has perfected uses bacteria to break down the broad array of organic waste (switch grasses, twigs, corn husks, leaves, landscape waste, and other non-food sources of organic material) and make Ethanol for a fuel mix or replacement.

After the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the feedstock are "cracked" using gasification and converted into syngas, bacterial fermentation (biofermentation) of the syngas into ethanol occurs using proprietary Coskata microorganisms. Image Credit: Coskata

The real kicker is that this process not only protects our current food paradigm built upon corn for feed and food, the process uses far less petroleum fuel (about 13% as opposed to 77% - or 17 times more efficient) and water while greatly increasing the productive output per bale of feedstock in order to create a gallon of this cleaner burning substance here on the Oblate Spheroid.

Design engineer Mike Sura adjusts settings on Coskata's 150L bioreactor to make ethanol. Image Credit: Tyler Mallory/General Motors

This excerpted from WIRED -

Startup Says It Can Make Ethanol for $1 a Gallon, and Without Corn
By Chuck Squatriglia - 01.24.08 1:00 PM

A biofuel startup in Illinois can make ethanol from just about anything organic for less than $1 per gallon, and it wouldn't interfere with food supplies, company officials said.

Coskata, which is backed by General Motors and other investors, uses bacteria to convert almost any organic material, from corn husks (but not the corn itself) to municipal trash, into ethanol.

"It's not five years away, it's not 10 years away. It's affordable, and it's now," said Wes Bolsen, the company's vice president of business development.

The discovery underscores the rapid innovation under way in the
race to make cellulosic ethanol cheaply. With the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requiring an almost five-fold increase in ethanol production to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022, scientists are working quickly to reach that breakthrough.
Besides cutting production costs to fire sale prices,
the process avoids some key drawbacks of making ethanol from corn, company officials said. It wouldn't impact the food supply, and its net energy balance is high because the technique works almost anywhere using almost anything with great efficiency. The end result will be E85 sold at the pump for about a dollar cheaper per gallon than gasoline, according to the company.

Coskata won't have a pilot plant running until this time next year, and it will produce just 40,000 gallons a year. Still, several experts said Coskata shows enough promise to leave them cautiously optimistic.
Coskata uses existing gasification technology to convert almost any organic material into synthesis gas, which is a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Rather than fermenting that gas or using thermo-chemical catalysts to produce ethanol, Coskata pumps it into a reactor containing bacteria that consume the gas and excrete ethanol. Richard Tobey, Coskata's vice president of engineering, says the process yields 99.7 percent pure ethanol.

Image Credit: Coskata

Gasification and bacterial conversion are common methods of producing ethanol, but biofuel experts said Coskata is the first to combine them. Doing so, they said, merges the feedstock flexibility of gasification with the relatively low cost of bacterial conversion.
Coskata's method generates more ethanol per ton of feedstock than corn-based ethanol and requires far less water, heat and pressure. Those cost savings allow it to turn, say, two bales of hay into five gallons of ethanol for less than $1 a gallon, the company said. Corn-based ethanol costs $1.40 a gallon to produce, according to the
Renewable Fuels Association.
May Wu, an environmental scientist at
Argonne National Laboratory, says Coskata's ethanol produces 84 percent less greenhouse gas than fossil fuel even after accounting for the energy needed to produce and transport the feedstock. It also generates 7.7 times more energy than is required to produce it. Corn ethanol typically generates 1.3 times more energy than is used producing it.
Making ethanol is one thing, but there's almost no infrastructure in place for distributing it. But the company's method solves that problem because ethanol could be made locally from whatever feedstock is available, Tobey said.

"You're not bound by location," he said. "If you're in Orange County, you can use municipal waste. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, you can use wood waste. Florida has sugar. The Midwest has corn. Each region has been blessed with the ability to grow its own biomass."
"Even if you produce it county by county, you still need an infrastructure," he said. "People aren't going to go to some remote location for fuel."

Reference Here>>

The Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University - Alternative Engergy
(click image to launch video)

The biofuel developed for ASU's "Tubes in the Desert" project avoids many of the downsides presented by biofuels such as corn, cellulose or other crops/plants. Because it uses a microscopic bacteria as the fuel source, it doesn't compete with food crops and could yield a much larger amount of fuel per acre. The bacteria are grown in transparent tubes, hence the name. /// ASU researchers are also exploring the possibilities of microbial fuel cells -- tiny microbes that generate energy by feeding on waste. /// Guest interviews include: Neal Woodbury, Ph.D., the Biodesign Institute; Wim Vermaas, Professor, ASU School of Life Sciences. /// Learn More: Visit
(ht: MAXINE)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Want To Go Green?, Go Fly A Kite!

MS Beluga SkySails with the innovative towing kite system. Image Credit: DHL

Want To Go Green?, Go Fly A Kite!

Kite Runner has a new definition. A movie by the same name recently was released in December 2007 and the term Kite Runner referred to the kite retrieving member of a kite flying team in Afghani culture that flew kites in competition.

The global package delivery company DHL has a different idea what the term Kite Runner should refer to here on the Oblate Spheroid.

Lanes - Windsurfing off of the coast of Maui. Image Credit: Christian Black

This week will mark the first time a modern container bulk transport ship will use wind to aid in its propulsion across the vast Atlantic Ocean. DHL will launch a kite sail in a method similar to the windsurfing sport pioneered in the late 1990’s off of the Hawaiian coast of Maui.

The kite sail that will be deployed from a launch mast at the front of the ship measures more than the width of three football fields, or just under 350 Yards.

This new Kite Runner wind aided transport method is expected to save between 10% and 35% making the savings per year on fuel alone potentially total over $400,000 per year.

This excerpted from a press release posted at The NewsMarket -

DHL Uses First Wind-Propelled Cargo Vessel to Make Delivery to South America DHL
Deutsche Post World Net - 21-Jan-2008

The MS Beluga SkySails, the world’s first cargo vessel with the SkySails towing kite system, is being used for commercial transport for the first time. It will carry cargo from Bremen to Venezuela on behalf of DHL Global Forwarding, the ocean and air freight carrier of the Deutsche Post World Net Group.

The vessel features a new wind propulsion system with a towing kite measuring up to 320 metres, that provides additional thrust for the ship at sea, a sustainable solution for reducing fuel consumption, costs and emissions.

Depending on wind conditions, fuel costs can be lowered between ten and 35 percent. A small, 87-metre-long freighter would thus save an average of 280,000 Euros in fuel costs per year.

Reference Here>>

Bremen (Bremenhaven) - Germany's biggest North Sea coastal town, Europe's most important fishing port, member of the exclusive club of the world's leading container ports, shipbuilding location with an international reputation and, as a rendezvous for the world's most beautiful luxury liners and passenger ships, Germany's number one amongst the cruise ship ports of the world. Image Credit: Senatskanzlei (Bremen Werbung).

And this -

Eco-friendly sea transport from Bremen to Venezuela
DHL - Bremen, Germany - 18 January 2008

DHL first company to use ocean-going cargo vessel with wind propulsion system
Shipping becomes safer, more profitable and more eco-friendly

The MS Beluga SkySails, the world's first cargo vessel with the innovative SkySails towing kite system, is being used for a commercial transport for the first time. It will carry the first parts of a complete particle board factory from Bemen to Venezuela on behalf of DHL Global Forwarding, the ocean and air freight carrier of the Deutsche Post World Net Group.
DHL will transport the particle board factory to South America for its client, Dieffenbacher, in a total of eight partial shipments. It is to be used for a government-sponsored housing project.
Claus Krüger, director at DHL Global Forwarding and responsible for the Project Group Germany, says: "Besides offering our customers first-rate quality in ocean and air freight transports, we are always mindful of the increased need for sustainable logistics solutions. The Beluga SkySails is a forward-looking example of how to implement low-emission ocean freight transports. The promising environmental aspects of the new SkySails System were a major factor in our decision for this charter."
On 15th December 2007, the MS Beluga SkySails was christened in Hamburg by Eva Luise Köhler, wife of Germany's Federal President. The so-called "multipurpose heavy-lift carrier" belongs to the fleet of Bremen shipping company Beluga Shipping GmbH.

The ship is based on the simple principle that wind is cheaper than oil and, at sea, the most inexpensive and cleanest source of energy. The wind propulsion system, which features a towing kite measuring up to 320 square metres, was developed by the Hamburg firm SkySails and can now be used on ocean-going vessels for the first time.
The MS Beluga SkySails tied up in Bremen's Neustädter Harbour at noon on Friday. DHL Global Forwarding immediately began loading the freighter with parts of the factory supplied by Dieffenbacher, which is based in Eppingen, Baden-Württemberg. Krüger: "In its first partial shipment, the vessel is transporting about 10,000 freight tons from Bremen to Guanta, Venezuela. The route across the Atlantic will take a good two weeks."

Reference Here>>

Friday, January 18, 2008

Heads Up! On An “Eyes Up” Contact Lens Display

Contact lenses with circuits and lights … a possible platform for superhuman vision- Science Central Video Link (click photo) - Image Credit: University of Washington

Heads Up! On An “Eyes Up” Contact Lens Display

Have you ever asked yourself, “How can I see the display of my cellphone without having to use my hands?”

Well, it looks as though the researchers at the University of Washington have asked themselves the same question and set about doing something to address this perceived need.

Eyes with a contact lens that contains circuits that will display images one can see while going about ones business.

Contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits were safely worn by rabbits in lab tests. The lenses were manufactured at the microscopic level by researchers at the UW. Image Credit: University of Washington

The prototype contact lens device contains an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display, though it does not yet light up. The lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects.

This excerpt from University Week (University of Washington) –

Bionic eyes: Contact lenses with circuits, lights a possible platform for superhuman vision
By Hannah Hickey - News and Information - Jan. 17, 2008

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes -- visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the UW have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

"Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside," said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. "This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it's extremely promising."

The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz's now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW's electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center's ophthalmology department.

There are many possible uses for virtual displays. Drivers or pilots could see a vehicle's speed projected onto the windshield. Video game companies could use the contact lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual world without restricting their range of motion. And for communications, people on the go could surf the Internet on a midair virtual display screen that only they would be able to see.
Ideally, installing or removing the bionic eye would be as easy as popping a contact lens in or out, and once installed the wearer would barely know the gadget was there, Parviz said.
Researchers built the circuits from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick, about one thousandth the width of a human hair, and constructed light-emitting diodes one third of a millimeter across. They then sprinkled the grayish powder of electrical components onto a sheet of flexible plastic. The shape of each tiny component dictates which piece it can attach to, a microfabrication technique known as self-assembly. Capillary forces -- the same type of forces that make water move up a plant's roots, and that cause the edge of a glass of water to curve upward -- pull the pieces into position.

The prototype contact lens does not correct the wearer's vision, but the technique could be used on a corrective lens, Parviz said. And all the gadgetry won't obstruct a person's view.
Future improvements will add wireless communication to and from the lens. The researchers hope to power the whole system using a combination of radio-frequency power and solar cells placed on the lens, Parviz said.

A full-fledged display won't be available for a while, but a version that has a basic display with just a few pixels could be operational "fairly quickly," according to Parviz.
Reference Here>>

Poll Answers

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Mammoth Capybara” Discovery In South America

Fossil hunters have uncovered the greatest rodent that ever lived -- a one-ton behemoth that bestrode the swamplands of South America some four million years ago. Graphic Credit: AFP/GUSTAVO LECUONA

"Mammoth Capybara” Discovery In South America

In a recent document released by Institute of Physics of Montevideo, Gustavo Lecuona helps to give life to the largest fossil rodent ever discovered here on the Oblate Spheroid.

The paleobiological reconstruction of this newly-identified species is the greatest-known member of the order Rodentia and by comparison makes the largest rodent living today, the 60-kilo (132-pound) capybara versus the 1,008-kilo (2,217-pound) Josephoartigasia monesi, look like a pygmy shrew.

The newly discovered skull is considerably larger than a modern-day rat - Image Credit: Blanco

The reconstruction was based upon skull fragments (above) found at an archeological dig along the coast of Uruguay.

This excerpted from AFP via YAHOO! -

King of the rats weighed one tonne

AFP, Paris - Tue Jan 15, 7:10 PM ET

Fossil hunters have uncovered the greatest rodent that ever lived -- a one-tonne behemoth that bestrode the swamplands of South America some four million years ago.
The skull of the extraordinary beast was found in a broken boulder on Kiyu Beach on the coast of Uruguay's River Plate region, palaeontologists reported in a study on Wednesday.

Measuring a whopping 53 centimetres (21 inches), the skull has massive incisors several centimetres long.

Despite this fearsome look, the creature was not carnivorous and looked more hippo-like than rat-like.

Its small grinding teeth suggest it had only weak masticatory muscles for chewing food, and probably tucked into soft vegetation, fruit and squidgy aquatic plants in deltas, the experts say.

Its food intake must have been vast, given its huge size.
The newly-found species has been dubbed Josephoartigasia monesi, in honour of Alvaro Mones, a Uruguayan palaeontologist who specialised in South American rodents.

Authors Andres Rinderknecht of the National Museum of Natural History and Anthropology and Ernesto Blanco of the Institute of Physics in Montevideo say there are several ways to estimate J. monesi's size.
The most reliable figure is an average of 1,008 kilos (1.008 tonnes, 2,217 pounds) which is derived from comparing the giant to its closest living relatives, called hystricognath rodents.

The previous rodent record-breaker, Phoberomys pattersoni, was found in Venezuela in 2003 and was estimated at 700 kilos (1,540 pounds) in its prime.
Reference Here>>

Additional Resources Here>>

Thursday, January 10, 2008

RIP - Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, Age 88

My Story - I Was The First To Conquer EVEREST - “RELIVE Edmund Hillary’s trek to the top of the world." Image Credit: Scholastic Inc.

RIP - Sir Edmund Percival Hillary -- July 20, 1919 - January 10, 2008

See Panorama View From The Top Of Mount Everest Here (interactive using cursor)

Sir Edmund Hillary was credited with being the first person to climb to the top of the tallest mountain on Earth. Many thought that this point was the place on Earth closest to the heavens but as we found out a little less than one year ago, that point is on the top of a volcano named Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador.

Sir Edmund Hillary (left), a beekeeper from New Zealand, and Tenzing Norgay (right), a Sherpa from a mountain village in Nepal, won the race to summit Everest in 1953. The climbers made a pact to not reveal who reached the summit first. Hillary wrote in a press statement that they reached the summit "almost together." Years later, Norgay revealed that Hillary reached the top first, by a mere six feet -- the length of the rope that held the two together. Image Credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

This point of definition will never take away the fact that Hillary lived his life in a very special and accomplished way. He not only is credited with being the first person to scale Mount Everest, in 1985 he accompanied United States astronaut Neil Armstrong in a small twin-engined airplane outfitted with skis over the Artic Ocean and landed on the North Pole. This made Hillary the first person to stand at both poles and on the summit of Mount Everest!

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary rest in peace, and may your spirit of adventure and discovery touch each and everyone of us for at least one moment in our lifetime here on Earth.

Mount Everest from afar. Image Credit: Bungatech

This excerpted from BBC News -

Sir Edmund Hillary dies aged 88

BBC News - Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 23:34 GMT

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark described the explorer as a heroic figure and said all New Zealanders would deeply mourn his passing.

Sir Edmund's health had reportedly been in decline since April, when he suffered a fall while visiting Nepal.

He was the first man to climb the 8,850m (29,035ft) peak with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on 29 May 1953.

Since his ascent, Sir Edmund has devoted his life to helping the Sherpas of Nepal's Khumbu region. He was made an honorary Nepalese citizen in 2003.

'Quintessential Kiwi'

Announcing Sir Edmund's death on Friday, New Zealand's prime minister described him as a "heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility and generosity".

"The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived," Ms Clark said.

"But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi."

"He was ours - from his craggy appearance to laconic style to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing."

Born 19 July 1919, in Auckland, New Zealand, Sir Edmund served as a pilot during World War II and earned renown as an ice climber.

In the 1980s he also served as New Zealand's ambassador to India.
Reference Here>>

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See Panorama View From The Top Of Mount Everest Here

The New “Times Ninety” Hubble Telescope

Spiral Galaxy M74 – Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

The New “Times Ninety” Hubble Telescope

The Hubble has proven to be a delicate but productive instrument. The information and confirmation of astronomical theories this instrument, placed in orbit, out in space, has produced have been invaluable.

Color Images of Quasar 1208+101Split by Gravitational Lenses – Image Credit: J. Bahcall/NASA

The Hubble needs to have another repair mission performed and NASA is planning to upgrade the platform with two new instruments that will make the instrument 90 times more powerful than ever. The repair mission is expected to take place this August, 2008.

Without the repair mission, Hubble would likely die by 2011, when its last functioning gyroscope is expected to fail. With new gyroscopes and batteries installed on the upcoming servicing mission, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) should last at least until 2013, and possibly into the 2020s.

This excerpted from the New Scientist -

Upgraded Hubble telescope to be 90 times as powerful
David Shiga, Austin / news service / 17:58 08 January 2008

Space shuttle astronauts will attempt an unprecedented in-orbit repair of key Hubble Space Telescope (HST) instruments during the servicing mission scheduled for August 2008. The repairs, along with the addition of two new instruments, will make Hubble 90 times as powerful as it was after its flawed optics were corrected in 1993.
Now, the space agency says it will try something never attempted in the three previous Hubble servicing missions – a finicky electronics repair job in space, where astronauts have the challenge of doing everything while wearing bulky spacesuit gloves.
Two powerful new instruments will be installed on the mission. The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) will allow Hubble to see fainter and more distant galaxies than anything it has seen before, shedding light on the early universe.

This could allow Hubble to see galaxies so far away that we see them as they were just 400 million years after the big bang, says Sandra Faber of the University of California in Santa Cruz, US, a member of the panel that recommended that NASA carry out the final servicing mission.

Jupiter’s red spot as seen from the HST. Image Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA/NASA) and Amy Simon (Cornell U.)

To date, the most distant galaxies seen by Hubble appear to be from about 800 million years after the big bang, which occurred 13.7 billion years ago. "The universe evolves extremely rapidly at these early times, so a [time] difference like this makes a huge difference in the structure and size of galaxies [that exist in those eras]," Faber said at a press conference on Tuesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, US.

Another new instrument, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), can obtain ultraviolet light spectra of very faint, distant objects such as quasars – huge black holes that are glowing as they gobble up surrounding gas. COS can measure much fainter objects than STIS, although STIS can get more detailed spectra of the objects it can see.

With its new instruments, Hubble will be 90 times as powerful as it was supposed to be when first launched – it will be like having 90 of the original Hubble Space Telescopes, astronomers say. The improvement comes from a combination of increased sensitivity and wider fields of view, allowing Hubble to see 900 galaxies where its original instruments would have revealed only 10. HST will be about 60% more powerful than it was right after the third servicing mission, before ACS and STIS failed.
Both repairs involve astronauts unfastening dozens of tiny screws to replace some circuit boards on each of the instruments – all while wearing bulky spacesuit gloves. Such a feat has never been attempted before in space.

The astronauts will also have to cut through metal layers to reach the circuit boards, creating sharp edges that could be hazardous to spacesuits. In the case of ACS, Grunsfeld may not even be able to see the screws he is working with because of the way the instrument is angled inside HST.
NASA science chief Alan Stern said although the mission is still scheduled for August 2008, it could slip because of the launch delays the space shuttle has been experiencing in its missions to assemble the International Space Station. "Our watchword in all of this is safety," he said, adding that if the servicing mission needed to wait until October or even later to make sure the shuttle is safe, then NASA would wait.
Reference Here>>