Thursday, February 28, 2008


Green Thermo Thursday TGIT – Thank Germanium It’s Thursday

Today I hard time choosing which G word we would thank. It was a toss up between Gallium and Germanium. These two elements represent the two rivalries on the European Continent – Germany and France. Both were equally deserving of today’s top billing so I simply had to ask my carpool which to highlight and given the Teutonic nature of the carpool the French were once again defeated. What do European powers have to do with green energy and thermo? Actually news from Belgium will shine the light on this. IMEC a Belgium based research organization has developed a photovoltaic PV cell that is 24.7% efficient in converting solar radiation into electricity. The cell is based on Gallium Arsinide circuitry on a Germanium substrate.;jsessionid=I2ELSSWHW0RQCQSNDLSCKHA?articleID=206801636

The founders of the European Union are very happy as this proves that Germany and France can for once get along and have some positive synergy. Wikipedia give some interesting information on Germanium The folks from Gaul should note that germanium can spontaneously extend whiskers that migrate into neighboring areas, kind of like the wehrmacht . It is kind of interesting that the Latin root for Gallium and France has something to do with roosters of course it was not until American English developed some 2,000 years later that the French were once again associated with poultry.

The problem with germanium and gallium is that these are not abundant elements like silicon. While they may make more efficient PV cells it will be hard to compete on price with silicon based PV cells that can be fabricated from this much more abundant element. Silicon PV cells are typically 15% efficient so they too are much better at converting sunlight into energy than photosynthesis that is 0.1% efficient.

Last week I opined on liposuction. Well youtube has a video of a very fat cat from Australia There are many ways to skin a cat but could this cat be the answer to the global energy problem?

Talking about fat cats Sir Richard Branson has entered the renewable fuel effort by having his test pilots fly a 747 jumbo jet from London to Amsterdam partial on bio-fuel made from coconut oil. This was a publicity stunt and will actually do more to the world than good. Wiki tells us that a 747 jumbo jet weighs 395,000 pounds empty and it uses about 20,000 pounds of fuel an hour. The approximately 250 mile flight from London to Amsterdam takes about 45 minutes and some 15,000 pounds of fuel were gobbled up for this publicity stunt. Sir Richard would have done a lot better if gave the coconuts to a local zoo so that the apes could have had some fun trying to crack their shells.

There is some good thermodynamic news on using a biomass for something useful. Beet juice can be used to help roads from freezing in the winter.,2933,331739,00.html We all learned about solutes causing freezing point depression of water. This is great news for motorists and the department of transport as beet juice will not corrode metals like salt. I would have called this product beetheat but it was named geomelt instead.

The word of the day is fallible meaning prone to make mistakes. Sir Richard had proved he is also fallible as his Extra Virgin Coconut Oil relies on fallible experimentation.

Word of the Day
Thursday February 28, 2008

fallible \FAL-uh-bul\, adjective:
1. Liable to make a mistake.
2. Liable to be inaccurate or erroneous.

But human beings are fallible. We know we all make mistakes.
-- Robert S. McNamara, "et al.",
Argument Without End

Jack Kerouac was neither a demon nor a saint but a fallible, notably gentle, deeply conflicted and finally self-destructive person whose dream from childhood was to be a writer.
-- Morris Dickstein, "Beyond Beat",
New York Times, August 9, 1998

On the other hand, mathematics does not rely on evidence from fallible experimentation, but it is built on infallible logic.
-- Simon Singh,
Fermat's Enigma

Fallible derives from Medieval Latin fallibilis, from Latin fallere, "to deceive." It is related to fail, false (from falsum, the past participle of fallere), fallacy ("a false notion"), fault (from Old French falte, from fallere), and faucet (from Old Proven├žal falsar, "to falsify, to create a fault in, to bore through," from fallere). Entry and Pronunciation for fallible

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Liposuction of fat and the energy crisis

Green Thursday TGIT – Thank Gasoline It’s Thursday

Today I will answer Mark’s question whether liposuction of fat could help the energy crisis. Mark is a fairly new TT reader so he did not get the blog from about a year ago that if we had 10 pounds of fat lipoed from our body we would be able to manufacture about 1.5 gallons of bio-diesel from the 10 pounds of fat. We of course would need about 1 pound of methanol to react with the fat to produce the bio-diesel and that methanol would likely come from natural gas so the operation so to speak would need to rely on some fossil fuel.

Oil prices have again reached $100 per barrel and gasoline will be more expensive when the heavy driving season starts in April. The heavy driving season is actually year round known so it should be renamed the extra heavy driving season. So how much gasoline is wasted carrying around us over weight Americans. I came upon an Australian web site that discusses improved fuel efficiency of vehicles by reducing the mass of the vehicle. The boys downunder tell us that reducing a vehicle’s mass by 100 kg improves the fuel efficiency by 1 liter per 100 km. For us yanks reducing the vehicle mass by 220 pounds will lower the fuel consumption by 0.2638 gallons per 62.5 miles. We should have converted to the metric system but we got to the moon on the old imperial system. So going back to the average yank that is 10 pounds overweight we would save 2.3 gallons per year of gasoline in vehicle (driving 12,000 miles per year) if we shed the 10 pounds of fat. Therefore we use more fuel in a year to move the added mass than we could yield in bio-fuel from the fat we carry. Loosing weight would be a win win situation both for our bodies and our vehicles. It would also be good for our health to loose weight. CNN reported yeaterday that being overweight increases the incidence of strokes in women I am pretty sure the same can be said about men. The scary thing from this article is that in California your chances of surviving the stroke are better if you have it on a weekday versus a weekend. Yes I am sure I can control when I will have stroke???? Maybe they should tell the neurologists to leave the golf course on a Sunday and make their way to the ER?

The US government has pulled out of FutureGen the demonstration plant to gasify coal and produce electricity. It took the department of entropy five years to make the decision that this was an expensive boondoggle. When I was told about the idea back in 2003 when I was the Manager of Sustainable Development at Bechtel, it took me about 5 seconds to come to this conclusion. If you are going to gasify coal you should use the synthesis gas you produce to synthesize valuable chemicals and not run this gas that has only one quarter the BTUs per cubic foot through a turbine. Turbines prefer high BTU gas. Anyway I am glad that the DOE did not take as long as Rip Van Winkel to wake up, and thankfully the Ambien CR wore off after five years Not to be outdone for stupidity by the Feds, the lone stars of Texas now want their own coal fired power plant with CO2 sequestration Yes this branch of the dividians knows what WACO stands for (We Ain’t Coming Out) and that is what they will do with the CO2 when they sequester it, they can say it Ain’t Never Coming Out.

The word of the day is to relegate which can mean to send into exile or banish and that is what them Texans are going to do with CO2

relegate \REL-uh-gayt\, transitive verb:1. To assign to an inferior position, place, or condition.2. To assign to an appropriate category or class.3. To assign or refer (a matter or task, for example) to another for appropriate action.4. To send into exile; to banish.
Employment discrimination locked them out of better paying jobs and relegated them to menial occupations.-- Dennis C. Dickerson,
Militant Mediator: Whitney M. Young Jr.
Worse, the party that had come to mean power itself had been relegated to a minority in the Congress as well, and lost a key governorship.-- Geoffrey Mohan, "Mexico Power Shift", Newsday, July 4, 2000
The EPA, meanwhile, has been developing new rules that essentially would relegate agricultural runoff to the same category as pollution from concentrated sources such as factories and sewage plants.-- John Lancaster, "For Big Hog Farms, Big Subsidies",
Washington Post, August 17, 2001
Their daily care was relegated to Donato, the dozen servants, and a succession of governesses.-- Tag Gallagher,
The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini
The history of ideas can't be done without actually applying ideas; and unless we agree to relegate the writing of our history to Martians, we have to admit that a history of points of view -- which may well be religions -- can't be done without favoring at least one point of view.-- William R. Everdell, "Joyful Noises", New York Times, December 26, 1999
When, in the minority of Carlos II., the regent mother, Maria Anna of Austria, made her German Jesuit confessor Nithard inquisitor-general, it required a popular uprising to get rid of him and relegate him to Rome, for he was speedily becoming the real ruler of Spain.-- Henry Charles Lea, "The Decadence of Spain",
Atlantic Monthly, July 1898
Relegate is from the past participle of Latin relegare, "to send away, to remove, to put aside, to reject," from re- + legare, "to send with a commission or charge." Entry and Pronunciation for relegate

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What happened in Vegas

The big news from the great state of California is that we the people used 100 million less gallons of gasoline in 2007 than we did in 2006. Great news on the surface but given our “official population” of some 36 million men woman and children we only saved about 3 gallons per person. Wes still used some 15.8 billion gallons of gasoline in the golden state This equals 438 gallons per person per year. Each gallon of gasoline has 115,000 BTU lower heating value and there are 3.96 BTU in a kilocalorie (a food Calorie) so if we multiply the energy content of the gasoline and convert this to a Calories per person we get very close to 40,000 Calories per day of gasoline used per person in California. This is the ultimate Mega-Meal diet of some 20 times the recommended food intake. This simple analysis shows why the ethanol lobby has lied to us that we can use this wonderful spirit for automotive fuel. The stock analysts have finally come round to what I have said for year that Ethanol as a fuel is a myth This stock analyst is very bearish on two stocks Pacific Ethanol PEIX which is well of its highs (it now has a hangover after the buzz) and Biofuel Energy BIOF a recent IPO that is now sleeping in the gutter in a drunken stupor. I have opined frequently that ethanol should be enjoyed in moderation as a drink. Talking of the lack of fluids on the planet, Lake Mead could dry up by 2021,2933,330591,00.html This is not good news for Vegas as they have the motto “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” I guess they never heard of evaporation?

I did promise to opine on Lithium the lightest of metals and perhaps the greatest hope for hybrid vehicles. A down and out stock called Valence Technologies VLNC that has been trying for more than 15 years to compete in lithium ion batteries for phones and PDAs has finally realized their technology using phosphate based cores for lithium ion batteries may have some hope in the auto arena. The big problem with standard lithium ion batteries is that the batteries can catch alight and the problem arises from the cobalt oxide core If Valence has indeed solved the safety problem as they claim, they could get a lift in their stock price. The value of lithium ion batteries to transportation is enormous as it is the only battery technology with a 99% efficient charge discharge efficiency. Most other battery systems such as lead acid, or nickel metal hydride have a charge discharge efficiency of less than 75%. Some researches are looking into making lithium ion batteries with cores of silicon nanowires and this too is a possible method to overcome the fire hazard of lithium batteries.;jsessionid=C58C405D0F0C274FEBE27CC09617CA96

Burning Play Stations are in the news again,2933,329530,00.html a schoolboy in Detroit way hurt when his Play Station overheated in his pocket. No doubt this was a lithium battery problem.

The word of the day is amative or being disposed to love. Today is Valentines Day and best wishes to all readers of TT for a day in which you like those lithium batteries need to be fully charged but be careful not to get burned.

Word of the DayThursday February 14, 2008
Today's Word
Yesterday's Word Previous Words Subscribe for Free Help
amative \AM-uh-tiv\, adjective:Pertaining to or disposed to love, especially sexual love; full of love; amorous.
Theoretically, any given left-kisser should meet more right-kissers and, over an amative lifetime, or even good year in junior high, be subtly pressured to shift to the right in order to land a wet one -- or just avoid a broken nose. No?-- Donald G. McNeil Jr., "Pucker Up, Sweetie, and Tilt Right",
New York Times, February 13, 2003
In the spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of another nap even more often than it does to amative imaginings, Tennyson to the contrary notwithstanding.-- "Touch of Spring Fever Makes Whole World Kin",
Science News, May 23, 1931
Well, poetry has been erotic, or amative, or something of that sort -- at least a vast deal of it has -- ever since it stopped being epic.-- Helen Deutsch, "Death, desire and translation: on the poetry of Propertius",
TriQuarterly, March 22, 1993
Amative comes from Medieval Latin amativus, "capable of love," from the past participle of Latin amare, "to love." Entry and Pronunciation for

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Green energy

Thermo Thursday Green Energy TGIT – Thank Guernsey It’s Thursday

Holy Cow what does Guernsey have to do with thermodynamics? Yes there is a connection and it comes to us from Sweden. Fox News as part of their Unfair and certainly Unbalanced section reports of a dairy in Southwestern Sweden deciding to route warm cows milk through the heating system an 18th Century Castle to help heat the castle and help chill the milk.,2933,327906,00.html

The diary has 1,100 cows and processes 7,900 gallons of milk a day. Remembering my previous Thermo Thursday about the 140 degree latte, I just had to calculate just how much energy can be recovered from 7,900 gallons a day of cows milk. First I had to establish the body temperature of a cow. It is 101.5 degrees F or about 3 degrees warmer than a human

Second I had to establish the specific gravity of cows milk and it is a smidgen more dense than water and has a specific gravity of 1.023

Third I had to establish the heat capacity of milk and it is a little lower than water at 0.9 btu/lb degree F

Knowing that a gallon of water has a mass of 8.34 pounds and assuming the cows milk will cool to a temperature of 65 degrees F in that castle, I calculated that the 7,900 gallons per day of milk can exchange some 2,214,135 BTUs per day into the air inside the castle. This equates to some 92,255 BTUs per hour. I did locate a web site that shows one how to determine the size of a furnace that is needed to heat a building. This web site shows that in order to heat an uninsulated building that is 100 feet long, 30 feet wide and 14 feet tall with an outside temperature of 10 degrees F, a furnace with a capacity of 183,750 BTUs per hour is needed

By all of these calculations the warm cow milk could heat a building that is 50 feet long by 30 feet wide by 14 feet tall. So it is quite likely that the Swedish Dairy Farmer will be able to heat his gym. There is no way on God’s Green Earth that he will heat the gym, the work shop and the 50 room accommodation center. To heat all of that he would have to capture the methane emissions form his herd of cows.

Not to be outdone by the engineering skills of the Swedes, the Dutch have introduced a robot to pump gasoline. This brilliant engineer from the low country upon seeing a robot that milks cows came up with the bright idea that he could develop a robot to pump gasoline.,2933,328907,00.html Well it turns out the robot will cost $100,000 and take a million years to payout compared with self serve. I guess we Americans are smart in having convinced the motorists that pumping your own gasoline is a simple as one two three. Someone should tell the Dutch how this is done.

Well the English who believe the Dutch and the Swedes are inferior have also wasted their time on a nonsensical invention. A bloke for Sussex has come up with a levitating chair that can support the mass of a 250 pound person suspended in a magnetic field. Folks with pacemakers need not apply and remember to remove your wallet as all your credit cards will be rendered inactive,2933,328168,00.html

I am truly sorry that this week I have dealt with three village idiots from Europe who each in their own way are trying to be green and innovative. Next week I will do a Finance Friday about lithium a wonder chemical that treats mental disease as well as holds some promise for plug in vehicle batteries.

The word of the day is lubricous or having a smooth quality. This should not be mixed up with ludicrous which is how I would rate the three ideas from Europe that I discussed.

lubricious \loo-BRISH-us\, adjective:1. Lustful; lewd.2. Stimulating or appealing to sexual desire or imagination.3. Having a slippery or smooth quality.
The heroine, through some form of ESP, can hear, and be offended by, the lubricious speculations going on inside the heads of the men she meets.-- Philip French, "More about What Women Want",
The Observer, February 4, 2001
And even if the public ate up every lubricious detail about their leaders, that same public grew offended that the news media would actually pander to their baser impulses.-- Jeff Greenfield, "Film at 11",
New York Times, November 7, 1999
. . .urged women to give up their vanities, their cosmetics, and their high-heeled shoes, and to pile them on . . .bonfires next to lubricious works of art.-- Anthony Grafton, "The Varieties of Millennial Experience",
The New Republic, November 1999
Here was a place where a kind of benign . . . anarchy seemed to rule, a lubricious, frictionless chaos into which one could simply disappear.-- Eugene Robinson, "On the Beach at Ipanema",
Washington Post, August 1, 1999
Lubricious derives from Latin lubricus, "slippery, smooth." Entry and Pronunciation for lubricious

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hydrogen economy

Finance Friday TGIF Thank Gullibility It’s Friday

Today I will opine on the reason why hydrogen and fuel cell stocks are dogs. I had said they would be dogs back in the days when the Governator proposed his Hydrogen Highway. You can listen to my interview on the radio station at UC Berkeley back in 2004

Lindsay Leveen of SLS partners discussed the Hydrogen economy. (Listen MP3)
INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION: With the growing scarcity of fossil fuels, alternative energy sources are actively being investigated. Currently, hydrogen based fuel systems have been heralded in the press as being the solution. But beyond the hype, the hydrogen economy faces critical challenges.

The laws of thermo would have told a savvy investor that these hydrogen stocks were based on HYPE. The biggest hypochondriac is Ballard Power BLDP It now trades at $4.66 and has a market cap of $534 million. It is trading for half of the price when I did the interview and for 3% of its peak price in the dot com days. Ballard has cumulative losses approaching one billion dollars and yet it continues to hype its PEM fuel cell technology. Old Carnot knew that to gain efficiency a system has to operate at higher temperatures. This PEM nonsense of low temperature fuel cells just does not jive with Carnot. An even worse performer is Distributed Energy Systems DESC. They are the continuation of Proton Energy Systems and a hyper of PEM. DESC is trading at $0.57 and has a paltry market cap of $22 million. These jokers have lost a quarter billion dollars cumulatively over their decade of existence. Another PEM HYPE story is Plug Power PLUG. These guys are also plugged up. They trade at $2.85 and have a market cap of $250 million. They once traded at $150 a share. Their chief technology officer resigned a few weeks back. It is a misnomer to refer to the person as a CTO when the company simply has HYPE technology.

I suggest you listen to the radio interview and you will hear why the laws of thermodynamics always prevail in the long term. I wish I had a HOPE stock to give you all in the hydrogen space. I believe hydrogen does have a very useful purpose as a chemical feedstock to produce petroleum products and other petrochemicals. Air Products APD and Praxair PX are large industrial gas companies each with market caps approaching $20 billion. Long term these well run global companies will have larger hydrogen businesses that augment their oxygen and nitrogen sectors. They have been good performers in the past and I will therefore rate them as HOPE stocks in the hydrogen sector.