Alternative Fuel: Scientists Turn Algae into Usable Fuel in Less than an Hour

Algae has already been touted as a natural healing wonder. Not only does have its high chlorophyll content and special plant compounds been shown to defeat cancer and heart disease, it also shows promise as a replacement for butter and eggs in gluten free and vegan baked goods. Even giants like Unilever, which make unhealthy household items, have looked to algae as a replacement for palm oil in many of its products since palm oil production is destroying our bio-diverse rain forests. But perhaps the latest and most promising news about algae, though, is that it could replace petroleum fuels.

Aside from polluting the planet, petroleum-based products, used in cosmetics and a thousand other products including bicycle tires, fertilizer, paint, shag rugs, and ever shoes, are very detrimental. Cancer-causing chemicals like 4-dioxane and other poisonous compounds (up to 10,500 of them) are in everything from soap to bubble bath and toothpaste.

If your lips are chapped and you’ve used petroleum jelly, you’ve also exposed your body to carcinogenic compounds that may temporarily relieve your cracked lips, but can cause breast cancer, lymphoma, Parkinson’s, and a multitude of other diseases.

Alternatively, algae shows promise as a replacement for both petroleum and palm oil as a fuel source. Within algae lay dormant, vast stores of biofuel – estimates compare algae to oil and find that algae can produce from seven to 31 times the fuel than the next best crop that has been planted to power the planet – palm oil. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy pledged to invest up to $24 million in three research groups looking at ways to commercialize algae-based biofuels, and $16.5 million have already been invested in programs in Hawaii, New Mexico, and California.

The Smithsonian recently reported that scientists turned algae into usable fuel (crude oil) in less than an hour. Scaling up the use of algae would take land about the size of the state of Maryland. Conversely, palm oil is eating up our rainforests globally at a rate of at least 10 times as fast, eating up usable land.

“. . .palm oil is expected to be the world’s most produced and internationally traded edible oil. . .”

While deforestation is happening due to a number of causes, including commercial agriculture, subsistence farming, palm-oil plantations, and clear-cutting for paper and furniture, reducing the land we use for fuel would save our rainforests and also produce a healthy by-product which even oxygenates the air.

Though a Mercedes-Benz bio-diesel E320 was premiered a while back that might conceivably run on algae fuel, most cars haven’t been tested for emissions or gas-mileage. Also, algae has to be grown under very specific conditions, with controlled temperature, relatively high up-front capital expense, and the requirement of phosphorous to grow the plant – which is quickly becoming scarce. Oh, and of course genetic engineers looking at utilizing GMO algae that could through the planet into yet another ‘un’ natural catastrophe (not).

Still, weighing the pros and cons of algae-based bio-fuels, they look quite promising.

Credits: Christina Sarich of naturalsociety.comGuest contributor.

Featured image credits: ElectricTreehouse



 

Scientists create cheap, rechargeable battery that lasts 15 years

usc-battery-organic

Scientists at the University of Southern California have developed a new type of battery that lasts five times longer than traditional lithium-ion batteries and contains no heavy metals. One catch, though — it’s not for your smartphone. The battery created by professor Sri Narayan and his team is intended to revolutionize the power grid by making renewable energy more viable.

The new battery is a so-called organic redox-flow design. It’s similar to a fuel cell in that it has two tanks of electro-active materials dissolved in water. These fluids are pumped into a reaction chamber with a thin membrane separating them, which allows for the transfer of electrons, and thus power generation. The real innovation here is that the USC team managed to build a functional redox-flow battery without the metals or toxic liquids needed for older versions. Not only is it safer, it’s much cheaper than even lithium-ion cells — at least one-tenth the cost.

Power generation with more efficient solar cells and wind turbines get most of the attention when talking about the future of energy, but the ability to store that power is perhaps even more important. The problem is capacity and reliability — it’s the same issue that’s been holding back batteries in phones, but it’s even more troublesome in the electrical grid.

Even if we develop a super-efficient solar panel, we need somewhere to park all those electrons when the sun is shining so there are some left for nighttime. It’s the same story for wind power, which isn’t constant. Without a cheap, efficient battery to store the power during peak generation, the whole concept falls apart. This one could last 15 years, which is super-impressive.

The team hopes to refine the battery’s components (including one that’s currently made from hydrocarbons) to make it ready for real-world testing. As you can tell from the image above, it’s not quite finished.



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New Method Actually Cuts HIV Out Of Human DNA

Researchers from Temple University School of Medicine have developed a method to target and snip out HIV-1 DNA from infected cells which not only successfully eliminated the virus in the lab, but also immunized uninfected cells against infection. The researchers believe this may be a step towards a permanent cure for HIV and could even be translated into an effective mechanism for controlling other viral infections. The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



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HIV/AIDS is one of the most devastating pandemics recorded in human history and continues to be a global burden. Since the dawn of this pandemic, it is estimated that around 75 million people have been infected with HIV and around 36 million have died as a result of infection.

Despite advances in knowledge and treatment, there is no vaccine and drugs are not curative. There are several reasons that therapies fail to eliminate the virus from the body, but one particular hurdle is the fact that HIV permanently inserts its genome into our own, a process called integration. The virus is then able to hide away in certain cells, creating what is known as a latent reservoir, replicating at very low levels. As soon as a patient stops taking drugs, replication is kick started. Furthermore, long-term use of toxic anti-HIV drugs can have health consequences. Therefore, in order for treatments to be effective, these reservoirs need to be permanently eliminated, which current regimens cannot succeed in.

In an attempt to tackle this problem, Temple scientists developed a two-stage system to snip out HIV-1 DNA from the host genome. HIV-1 is one of two types of HIV, the other being HIV-2. While both are important, HIV-1 is responsible for the majority of infections worldwide.

The researchers first targeted specific HIV-1 sequences called long terminal repeats (LTRs). These are repetitive DNA sequences located at both ends of the viral genome that are used to insert the HIV DNA into the host genome and also control viral gene expression. They did this by generating highly specific sequences of RNA called guide RNAs (gRNAs). They then used a bacterial nuclease enzyme called Cas9 which snips out the DNA between the two target sequences. This resulted in the complete excision of the HIV-1 DNA from the host cells with no off-target effects on the host genome. Host repair machinery then took over and stuck the DNA strands back together.

They found this to be successful in several different cell lines, including those that are the primary target for HIV. Furthermore, when the researchers added this system to uninfected cells it successfully prevented infection with the virus, indicating it could be used as a preventative measure as well as a treatment.

While the team has a long way to go before this can be used in humans, they believe this could lead to a valid method to cure HIV and are currently working towards preclinical studies. Furthermore, the approach could easily be personalized to suit the unique viral sequences of different patients, and maybe even developed to target other viruses.

Solar Roads Could Power An Entire Country

photo credit: Solar Roadways

A small US-based company called Solar Roadways are developing a solar road surface that, if installed nationwide, has the potential to produce more renewable energy than the entire country uses. In fact, they’ve actually already developed a working prototype that’s been installed in a parking lot, and they’re now crowdsourcing funds in order to tweak the design and move towards production.

Solar Roadways, which was started by Scott and Julie Brusaw in 2006, designed and developed hexagonal glass solar panels studded with LED lights that could be installed on a variety of surfaces such as roads, pavements and playgrounds. These panels would more than pay for themselves and would benefit both businesses and homeowners as the energy generated from driveways and parking lots could be used to power buildings, and any excess can be sold back to the grid.

The panels also contain heating elements to melt ice and snow so are ideal in winter conditions, and LEDs to make road lines and signs which have been previously shown to reduce night time accidents. The surface could also be used to charge electric vehicles as oppose to fossil fuels, and future technology could even allow for charging whilst driving via mutual induction panels. Amazingly, the team also found that car headlights can produce energy in the panels, so cars driving around at night would be producing some electricity.

Snow test: the powered row of panels are free of snow/ice. Image credit: Solar Roadways.

A glass surface may sound fragile, but the prototypes have been extensively tested and were found to be able to withstand even the heaviest trucks. Recycled materials can also be used to produce the panels; the prototypes were constructed using 10% recycled glass.

All of the panels will be wired up, so faults can be easily detected and repaired. They team have also designed a place to stash power cables, called “Cable Corridors”, which would allow easy access by utility workers. Furthermore, they also believe that these corridors could be used to house fiber optic cables for high-speed internet.

The team have done some calculations; there’s approximately 31,000 square miles of usable surfaces in the US, and if all of these were covered the Solar Roadways system could produce over three times the electricity that is used by the entire country. That’s an incredible potential that could lead to a huge decrease in dependence on foreign oil. It would also cut CO2 emissions by a considerable amount.

Obviously, this project isn’t going to be cheap. Solar Roadways are hoping to raise $1 million on their indiegogo page so that they can hire engineers to make final modifications and move from prototype to production. They think that if they reach their target they should be able to begin installing projects at the end of the year, but a significantly larger amount of money would be required if they were to try to cover all the roads in the US!

Here’s a YouTube video from Solar Roadways if you’d like to find out more:

Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/technology/solar-roads-could-power-entire-country#mEc6AXOOY7VIBFIK.99

The World’s Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

https://i0.wp.com/themindunleashed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/holy-fuck.jpg?w=660

Take 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. Control them with computers to focus the Sun’s light to the top of 459-feet towers, where water is turned to steam to power turbines. Bingo: you have the world’s biggest solar power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.

Long-mired by regulatory issues and legal tangles, the enormous solar plant–jointly-owned by NRG EnergyBrightSource Energy and Google–, opened for business today.

From the official news release:

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is now operational and delivering solar electricity to California customers. At full capacity, the facility’s trio of 450-foot high towers produces a gross total of 392 megawatts (MW) of solar power, enough electricity to provide 140,000 California homes with clean energy and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles off the road.

Sprawling across a staggering 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, it looks damn beautiful. Just look at these amazing images:

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

 

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

 

Massive airship test may spur UFO reports

Massive airship test may spur UFO reports

A massive airship prototype is about to begin testing in California, and one of the engineers who designed it thinks it is going to look so shocking that it may spur UFO reports.

The craft is a massive silver blimp-like airship made out of aluminum and carbon fiber. It is 36,000 pounds, and as big as it is, the prototype is a smaller version of the final vehicles. It is designed to carry large amounts of cargo to areas that do not have landing strips.

Graphic demonstrating the aircraft's cargo capabilities. (Credit: Worldwide Aeros Corp.)

Graphic demonstrating the aircraft’s cargo capabilities. (Credit: Worldwide Aeros Corp.)

Engineer Tim Kenny told CBS Los Angeles, “We can offload the cargo and come home, completely independent of any infrastructure.”

 

 

 

The huge airship is being built by Worldwide Aeros Corp. based out of Montebello, California. It was commissioned by NASA and the Pentagon, and will be used for military and humanitarian operations. The first test flights will be in the next couple of months.

Kenny says, “I’m sure people are going to be like, ‘Oh, there’s a UFO flying around.’”

Worldwide Aeros Corp. employees pose with their massive aircraft. It took 4 years to build. (Credit: Worldwide Aeros Corp.)

Worldwide Aeros Corp. employees pose with their massive aircraft. It took 4 years to build. (Credit: Worldwide Aeros Corp.)

The Fastest Real-World Internet Is 1000x Quicker than Google Fiber

Fiber internet is great no matter who’s laying it down. Gigabit connection speeds? Hell yes. But if you thought that was fast, researchers in the UK have something better that will not only blow your hair back, but blow it right off: a 1.4 terabit connection, and all with commercial-grade hardware.

Developed by a joint research team from French telecoms company Alcatel-Lucent and BT, the magic of this incredible connection isn’t in fancy hardware. Instead, it’s in a new protocol named Flexigrid that lets you lay multiple signals over the top of each other in a a single cable, which lets data race from point A to point B in parallel. When layered all together, seven 200 Gbps channels form one, mega “Alien Super Channel” that offers the 1.4 Tbps speeds across a 255 miles stretch of fiber that already exists between the BT Tower in London and a BT research campus in Suffolk.

How fast is 1.4 Tbps? Fast enough to stream any one of the following in one second:

64 hours of HD Netflix
38 hours in 3D or 4K
36,409 songs from Spotify

Source: Gizmodo

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