Grant money will help Central scientists see below Antarctica's ice
ELLENSBURG — The thousands of feet of ice that cover most of the Antarctic continent present a challenge for geologists hoping to study what lies beneath, but two Central Washington University scientists have built their careers on doing just that.
Husband-wife Central Washington University scientists study Antarctica and how …
While lithium-ion batteries are current champs of the electric vehicle market, fuel cells are beginning to come on strong. If that trend continues it raises some intriguing future scenarios, namely, fuel cells could eventually squeeze out Li-ion batteries altogether, or both technologies could co-exist to some degree, engaging in a continuous battle for market share. There is also a third possibility, which is that the EV of the future will be an ultra long-range, super quick-charging model using a fuel cell in combination with a battery, and that’s where a new fuel cell from the company Redox Power could come in.
The New Redox Power Fuel Cell
Fuel cells use a variety of fuels to generate electricity through a chemical reaction, rather than by combustion. The result is lower emissions, greater fuel efficiency, and lower operating noise than a typical internal combustion engine.
Just two little problems have prevented fuel cells from breaking into the mainstream: high cost, and high operating temperature.
Redox Power, a company spun out of long term research at the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, has been tackling both issues head on and last week it announced the impending launch of its first market-ready product, the PowerSERG2-80, aka the Cube, in 2014.
First let’s note for the record that the technology is not an EV product, at least not yet. The Cube is a modestly scaled, 25 kilowatt fuel cell about the size of a dish washing machine, designed to handle the energy load for a typical small business such as a gas station or a convenience-sized grocery store.
As for the innards, the Cube consists of stacks of solid oxide fuel cells, each about ten centimeters square. Solid oxide fuel cells use high tech ceramics as the electrolyte, which enhances efficiency and stability but presents a challenge in terms of temperature.
According to the Energy Research Center, typically a solid oxide fuel cell can reach operating temperatures up to 950 degrees Celsius. Redox Power has lowered that high mark to about 650 degrees, enabling the use of a relatively inexpensive steel platform compared to the special alloys required by higher temperatures (specs for the Cube list an operating temperature of 550 degrees). Operating performance also improves at lower temperatures, and Redox Power anticipates that with further tweaks it can get all the way down to 300 degrees.
The company’s future plans include offering the Cube at scalable configurations ranging from 5 kW for a typical home, and up to 80 kW and more for other sites. Redox Power has also hinted that a fuel cell EV is in the future, too.
Redox Power has hinted that a fuel cell for EVs is in its future, and that’s what brings to mind the idea of combining an EV with a fuel cell, which would act as a range extender. In terms of commercial viability that’s only going to happen when the cost of fuel cells and batteries drops, but here’s hoping.
About That Natural Gas Thing…
Despite their advantages we’ve been giving fuel cells the sustainability stinkeye for now, because conventional fuel cells rely on fossil fuels either directly in the form of natural gas or indirectly in the form of hydrogen, which requires an energy intensive manufacturing process.
For all its high tech bells and whistles, the bottom line in terms of fuel is that the Cube falls into the primitive fossil fuel category. Redox Power is banking on the low price of domestic natural gas to entice potential buyers off the electricity grid and into installing the Cube on their premises, using the existing gas transportation infrastructure.
That could prove problematic down the line, as the natural gas fracking industry is facing some serious financial issues as well as mounting evidence of significant environmental and public health threats including water contamination, earthquakes and the release of greenhouse gases from drilling sites.
With an industry shakeout, tighter drilling regulations and an easing of export restrictions threatening to exert upward pressure on natural gas prices, buyers might not be so eager to switch out of their current fuel situation.
On the other hand, for customers concerned about disruptions in the electricity grid, on site solutions like the Cube will still be attractive (let’s note that gas lines can also leak or break, but they are not nearly as vulnerable as overhead power lines).
There is also a green light at the end of the fuel cell tunnel. Renewable biogas and liquid biofuel are becoming viable options, and research is progressing apace on the use of renewable energy to power hydrogen manufacturing systems.
One especially intriguing example is a small scale, ultra low cost “artificial leaf” concept, which uses a palm-sized photoelectrochemical cell to release hydrogen from water. The device is being developed specifically to provide households in undeveloped regions with a safer, more sustainable alternative to kerosene and biomass.
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New Redox Power Fuel Cell Gives Li-ion Batteries A Run For The Money was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our RSS feed, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our homepage .
When I recently interviewed Canadian artist Franke James, whose outspoken appeals to her government for climate action landed her on Ottawa’s shit list, I was taken aback to hear her casually refer to her country as a “petrostate.” I knew Canada’s been spending gobs of federal money to promote its tar-sands agenda, but I didn’t realize our mild-mannered northern neighbor was approaching the ranks of Saudi Arabia and Nigeria in its single-minded embrace of oil as the nation’s lifeblood.
An unforgiving article in the latest Foreign Policy magazine lays out how conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been aggressively pursuing development of the Alberta oil sands and remaking the country in the political image of the George W. Bush-era United States:
Over the last decade, as oil prices increased fivefold, oil companies invested approximately $ 160 billion to develop bitumen in Alberta, and it has finally turned profitable. Canada is now cranking out 1.7 million barrels a day of the stuff, and scheduled production stands to fill provincial and federal government coffers with about $ 120 billion in rent and royalties by 2020. More than 40 percent of that haul goes directly to the federal government largely in the form of corporate taxes. And the government wants even more; it’s pushing for production to hit 5 million barrels a day by 2030. …
Unsurprisingly, Ottawa has become a master at the cynical art of greenwashing. When Harper’s ministers aren’t attacking former NASA scientist and climate change canary James Hansen in the pages of the New York Times or lobbying against Europe’s Fuel Quality Directive (which regards bitumen as much dirtier than conventional oil), his government has spent $ 100 million since 2009 on ads to convince Canadians that exporting this oil is “responsible resource development.” Meanwhile, Canada has bent over backward to entice Beijing. Three state-owned Chinese oil companies (all with dismal records of corporate transparency and environmental sensitivity) have already spent more than $ 20 billion purchasing rights to oil sands in Alberta.
Harper, elected in 2006, is risking his country’s political and ecological security by exploiting what Foreign Policy calls “the world’s most volatile resource.” Mining operations in Alberta have already generated 6 billion barrels of toxic sludge, enough to flood Washington, D.C., and an area of forest six times the size of New York City could be excavated if approved projects proceed. Meanwhile, a secret document leaked to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last fall reveals a sinister foreign-policy strategy: “To succeed [in becoming an energy superpower] we will need to pursue political relationships in tandem with economic interests even where political interests or values may not align.”
For all of this to pay off, Canada is counting on a global market for its oil. Exports to the U.S., its biggest customer, have declined, and fighting over the Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t help. So, per that leaked memo, Canada is setting aside human-rights concerns in favor of trade deals with China. (Most bizarre detail in the article: “And, perhaps to warm Canadians’ hearts to the Chinese, the government recently lobbied to rent two traveling pandas at a cost of $ 10 million over the next 10 years.”)
This reckless pursuit of oil wealth requires a heavy dose of climate denial. The Harper government has eliminated or drastically reduced funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the national park system, the CBC, and the Health Council of Canada; it disbanded Environment Canada’s Adaptation to Climate Change Research Group, eliminated the position of chief science advisor, and gutted the Fisheries Act. Reporters must have questions approved before they can speak with any federal scientists. Oh, and Harper called the Kyoto Protocol a “socialist scheme” — before pulling his country out of the accord altogether.
So if Keystone XL is approved and built and ends up leaking dirty oil into the Ogallala aquifer, if the climate becomes fucked even faster thanks to all that tar-sands oil being burned, we can blame Canada.
Filed under: Climate & Energy, Politics
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Sheep and goats grazing on a hillside in Vermont: It’s a pastoral image. Now, it’s how one New England town is keeping the grass trimmed in its centuries-old cemeteries. And the greener lawn maintenance method is paying off.
Obama creates working group on gas drilling
Natural gas production has soared in recent years as drillers use techniques such as hydraulic fracturing to gain access to wells that were hard to reach in the past. Hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, involves blasting mixtures of water, …
Obama issues executive order on natural gas
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Obama Forms Group to Coordinate Gas-Drilling Policy
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As his government faces criticism over the black money issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says there is a need to create an environment at home where Indians who have stashed illegal money abroad have an ”incentive” to bring back the funds. Singh made …