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 Provençal falsar, "to falsify, to create a fault in, to bore through," from fallere). Entry and Pronunciation for fallible