Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thanks Graphite

Green Thursday - TGIT Thank Graphite It's Thursday

We are always blaming the sixth element Carbon for all of the world's woes. Today I will thank this basis of life element for it's contributions. We all know diamonds are a girl's best friend and diamond is pure carbon. Gabe, one of the first subscribers to my blog, knows just how expensive that glistening form of carbon is, as he prepares to ask his beloved's hand in marriage While I could opine at length on diamonds is is the other forms of carbon that do have a great possibility for our great green world.

Carbon might give us the world fastest microelectronic devices. A single atomic layer of carbon or Graphene as they call it may provide the world with super fast chips that perform well independent of the temperature they operate at.;jsessionid=4L35OEZ4NNYU4QSNDLSCKHA?articleID=206905544

Graphite is also used as a lubricant and as part of a composite material made from carbon fibre that will be used on the very expensive and high performing Tesla electric car as a light weight super strong material. In these forms as graphite carbon actually saves energy by lowering friction as a lubricant or lowering the mass of the vehicle and therefore improving the energy efficiency of the vehicle.

Some good news from the National Renewable Energy lab. They have developed a photovoltaic cell on flexible substrates that is 19.9% efficient. Here is the press release from the NREL

NREL Thin-Film Solar Cell Achieves Record Efficiency
The prospect for alternatives to crystalline silicon solar cells brightened considerably on Monday, when DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced that it has created a thin-film solar cell with a record efficiency. NREL created the solar cell from thin films of semiconducting materials made from alloys of cadmium, indium, copper, and selenium, or CIGS. The cell achieved a record thin-film conversion efficiency of 19.9%, that is, the cell is able to convert 19.9% of the sunlight hitting it into electricity. Although solar cells have been built with much higher efficiencies using expensive processes a multiple layers of semiconductors, the more common crystalline silicon solar cells have achieved at most efficiencies of 20.3%, which is quite close to the NREL achievement with the thin-film CIGS solar cell. CIGS solar cells involve applying a thin film of semiconductor material to an inexpensive substrate such as glass, plastic, flexible foil, or stainless steel. See the NREL press release.

The news is always filled with doom and gloom and the British based El BBCera (the most anti US news organizations in the western world) has reported that in Britain they had this day called E Day or energy day in order to attempt electricity savings by the public at large. Sadly no electricity at all was saved despite the publicity. They claim the day was colder than normal and this might have caused an increase in electricity usage. Just goes to show 60 million Britons cannot change a light bulb.

The word of the day is acrid or bitter tasting or smelling. It's root is from the latin word acer for sharp. The feeble attempt in the UK on E Day proves that they are not the sharpest tools in the shed.

acrid \AK-rid\, adjective:1. Sharp and harsh, or bitter to the taste or smell; pungent.
2. Caustic in language or tone; bitter.
There was burning jet fuel everywhere. Acrid, black smoke billowed across the water.-- Simon Worrall, "The Night the Sea Burnt",
Independent, July 6, 1997
He rips off another match, lights it, and uses it to light another cigarette. He shakes out the match, takes a puff, letting the acrid, unfiltered taste burn the back of his throat.
Kris Rusch, Hitler's Angel
The goal of sequencing the human gene set has been the subject of acrid debate among biologists.

Philip J. Hilts, "Head of Gene Map Threatens to Quit", New York Times, April 9, 1992
Paz's outspoken criticism of Cuba's brand of socialism placed him increasingly at odds with his colleagues. It led to a prolonged, sometimes acrid feud between him and the more left-leaning Fuentes.--

"Octavio Paz Mexico's Literary Giant, Dead at 84", New York Times, April 21, 1998
Acrid comes from Latin acer, "sharp."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thank Gandhi

Green Thursday TGIT – Thank Gandhi It’s Thursday

This week’s blog is about a co-worker named Sudhir. Sudhir is originally from India and that is why I am thanking Gandhi for this week’s episode. Sudhir and I were talking at the water fountain about energy and the environment. Unlike me who only blogs about energy, Sudhir has taken action. He has put his money toward being green. He has installed a 4.2 kilowatt PV system on his roof of his home in Redwood City California. The 4.2 kilowatts is the gross capacity expressed in direct current (DC). The capacity expressed in alternating current (AC) is 3.8 kilowatts. The system became operational last August and ever since Sudhir has been a self generator of electricity. PG&E our local utility has installed a smart meter at Sudhir’s home that measure energy consumption or generation in both peak and off-peak periods. Peak period energy is much more valuable than off-peak energy so the utility credits Sudhir much more money when his system is generating power at 2 pm of a weekday when the grid is experiencing peak demand. At midnight on a Sunday, electricity has much less value.

As solar radiation is at it’s peak in the early afternoon Sudhir has actually generated more power during the peak periods than his home has consumed during the same peak period. Over the past six months Sudhir has spun his meter backward by some 480 kilowatt hours during peak electric demand periods. During off-peak periods over the past six months Sudhir has bought 4,275 kilowatt hours from the utility. Sudhir is a well off person with a rather large home for the bay area having some 3,000 square feet of living space in his house. His mother as well as his wife and kids live in this home. He instructed them all to run the dryer and dishwasher in off-peak periods so that his PV system is generating the maximum amount of energy to the grid during peak periods and he is therefore receiving the maximum credit from PG&E. The energy he buys during off-peak periods is much less expensive and so it makes economic sense to shift his power load to off-peak periods.

Sudhir is also a smart investor. He has calculated that his after tax rate of return for the system based on a 25 year life and modest inflation rate of 3% in PG&Es’s electric tariff, he should enjoy a 7.3% internal rate of return. This is better than 11% before tax and given the low risk of his investment he has invested wisely. It is quite likely the PG&E tariff will increase far faster than 3% per year and his rate of return will correspondingly increase with higher inflation rates.

Our friends from across the pond at BP have an interesting web link that helps folks determine the quantity of energy they can generate from photovoltaic systems. BP produces and sells such systems. All one has to do is set the size of the system and provide your ZIP Code and viola the BP calculator gives you the expected net generation of the system.

Yahoo had this article that a diesel BMW 5 series had better gas mileage than a Prius on a 545 mile trip from London to Geneva. Well any good thermodynamics student would have predicted this. First diesel has more energy content per gallon than gasoline. This is because diesel has a higher specific gravity than gasoline and there are more pounds of diesel in a gallon than there are of petrol (the English word in the article for gasoline). Diesel engines are also more efficient than gasoline engines and on the 545 mile highway trip from London to Geneva the Prius would hardly have used it hybrid battery system except to stop a few times for food, fuel and going to the restroom. Diesel has 130,000 BTU/gal (US) versus 115,000 BTU/gal (US) for petrol. This equals 155,880 BTU/gal (UK) for diesel an 137,890 BTU/gal (UK) for petrol. The BMW got 41.9 MPG and the Prius got 41 MPG on the 545 mile trip. Therefore the BMW consumed 13.01 gallons (UK) of diesel or some 2,027,556 BTUs while the Prius consumed 13.29 gallons (UK) of petrol or some 1,832,928 BTUs. The Prius is the winner on the basis of lower real energy consumption for the trip

The word of the day is acerbic or sharp in temper. I have become acerbic ever since I learned that the Wall Street Bonks gave their brokers over $30 billion in bonuses two months ago and now the Feds have to bail them out. acerbic \uh-SUR-bik\, adjective:Sharp, biting, or acid in temper, expression, or tone. But more than that, he is a social critic, and an efficient one, acerbic and devastating.-- Benoit Aubin, "Quebec's King of Comedy", Maclean's, August 27, 2001Since I started out as a writer many years ago, I have built a reputation as an acerbic, mean-spirited observer of the human condition.-- Joe Queenan, My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for SainthoodJoey gained a reputation as a smart aleck adept at delivering acerbic one-liners.-- "Joseph Heller, Author of 'Catch-22,' Dies at 76", New York Times, December 14, 1999Acerbic comes from Latin acerbus, "bitter, sour, severe, harsh." Entry and Pronunciation for acerbic

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thank Gadolinium

Green Thursday TGIT Thank Gadolinium It's ThursdayBet you folks think I made up the word Gadolinium. I did not! it is one of the elements in the periodic table. It's symbol is Gd and it has atomic number 64. Kind of like client number 9 it is a powerful element but going away. It is a rare earth and its big use was in phosphors for tube TVs. This use will go by the way of the buggy whip. this week I cannot chat for too long as my wife had a full knee replacement surgery. This is a revision to the first full knee replacement as the kind surgeon named Dr. Woolf botched the first one. He thought he was Gadolinium but he was nowhere close and my poor wife is paying the price for his mistakes.Enough about knees let's talk energy and about our friend the lightest metal in the periodic table. before you non chemical type shout aluminum, the lightest metal is Lithium. The Economist had a very useful and complete article on lithium batteries and there hope for improving vehicle efficiency by hybrid drive systems. article is well worth reading and provides additional information on the research being done to make Lithium Ion batteries nor ignite.Oil prices exceeded $110 a barrel this week and premium gasoline is almost $4 a gallon here in Northern California. The subprime crisis will have all the yuppies driving subcompacts and this is good for the country.Sam Bodman our Energy Secretary has to be the dumbest chemical engineering graduate as he is still on the celulosic ethanol band wagon. At least the Romans had fuel while Nero played his fiddle. the fiddle was only invented 1,000 years later than the fire in Rome so he was not playing his fiddle he was fiddling the books or something like that. The word of the day is rodomontade a synonym for pomposity and pomposity did not come from Pompeii the other Italian city that suffered a disaster. The governor of the great empire state was a master of rodomontade and the mover of mountains until he hit unlucky number nine.
rodomontade \rod-uh-muhn-TADE; roh-duh-; -TAHD\, noun:Vain boasting; empty bluster; pretentious, bragging speech; rant.
These are rejoinders born out of a need to deflate a balloon filled with what others view as pomposity or rodomontade.-- Corey Mesler, "Dispatch #1: Buying the Bookstore (The Early Days)",
ForeWord, August 2000
The very absurdity of some of his later claims (inventors of jazz, originators of swing) . . . has made him an easy target in a way far beyond anything generated by that other (and in some ways quite similar) master of rodomontade, Jelly Roll Morton.-- Richard M. Sudhalter,
Lost Chords
. . .the me-me-me rodomontade of macho rap.-- Nicholas Barber, "In the very bleak midwinter", Independent, January 7, 1996
But what he said -- that if any official came to his house to requisition his pistol, he'd better shoot straight -- was more rodomontade than a call to arms or hatred.-- William F. Buckley Jr., "What does Clinton have in mind?",
National Review, May 29, 1995
Rodomontade comes from Italian rodomontada, from Rodomonte, a great yet boastful warrior king in Italian epics of the late 15th - early 16th centuries. At root the name means "roller-away of mountains," from the Italian dialect rodare, "to roll away" (from Latin rota, "wheel") + Italian monte, "mountain" (from Latin mons).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Generating electricity

Green Thursday TGIT – Thank Generators It’s Thursday

Today we get to discuss the essence of electricity. We have several ways of generating electricity but all except photovoltaic rely on the movement of a coil through a magnetic field. We can thank a very smart Brit named Michael Faraday for the vast majority of the electricity in the world. It was he who came up with the notion of electromagnetism. The movement or propulsion of the coil through the magnetic field needs some engine that extracts work out of a fuel or potential energy source and converts this to electricity. There was news yesterday that the US Park Service purposely caused a man made flood in the Colorado River by releasing a vast quantity of water from Glen Canyon. The quantity of water released was at a rate of 41,000 cubic feet per second and will be for a duration of three days. This is equal to 307,254 gallons per second. The potential energy of 1,000 gallons of water at a height of 300 feet is approximately one kilowatt hour. The Glen Canyon Dam is 710 feet high So releasing 307,254 gallons per second for three days with a height of 710 feet equals 188,482,014 kilowatt hours of released potential energy. This amount of energy seems ginormous but in fact it is not. In the same three days the USA consumed 62 million barrels of oil with the chemical potential energy of some 101.7 billion kilowatt hours or some 540 times more energy than the energy released in the man made flood.

Back to old Mike Faraday and his electro motive force EMF. We can generate electricity by raising steam at a high pressure and then allowing the steam to expand through a turbine that spins a coil in a magnetic field. We can do this by burning coal or by having a Nucular heat source, Note I am misspelling nuclear on purpose to allow President Bush to follow this blog. Actually GW is not the only president to mispronounce nuclear the left wingers from Berkeley have compiled a list of famous people who could not pronounce this word correctly No doubt we will have to rely on more nucular generators in the future for our electricity.

I kind of like a generator that has been developed to extract electricity out of flowing rivers rather than building dams. This article from the Economist was sent to me by Alan from Australia. In the future we perhaps won’t have Glen Canyon Dams and three day floods and we will still be able to extract energy out hydroelectric sources. A fool in the US Department of Energy may ask that this device will not work in Australia as they are down under and the Coriolis effect is reversed.
Please tell our hard working civil servant that gravity is still one of the fundamental forces in the southern hemisphere and that is why blokes in the out back do not free fall to the Antartic.

Thanks to Faraday we have wind, hydroelectric, thermal solar, coal, natural gas, wood, oil, tidal and even nucular generators.
The word of the day is rara avis or Latin for a rare bird or a unique person or thing. No doubt Michael Faraday was a rara avis and this mispronunciation of nuclear is not.

rara avis \RAIR-uh-AY-vis\, noun;plural rara avises \RAIR-uh-AY-vuh-suhz\ or rarae aves \RAIR-ee-AY-veez\:A rare or unique person or thing.
He was, after all, that rara avis, a Jewish Catholic priest with a wife and children.-- Jeremy Sams, "Lorenzo the magnificent",
Independent, May 16, 2000
"First of all," Arthur said, "Jack is that rara avis among Ivy League radicals, a birthright member of the proletariat."-- Charles McCarry, Lucky Bastard
Rara avis. You'd have to go far and wide to find someone like that, especially in these times.-- Andrew Holleran, In September, the Light Changes
Rara avis is Latin for "rare bird." Entry and Pronunciation for rara avis