With its annual output of over 330 million tons a year feeding animals, running cars, and decorating South Dakota tourist attractions, maize is clearly Americas most important crop. That's why the newly published complete corn genome could drastically change the food, automotive and plastic industries.
Algae get a lot of airtime as a possible future source of biofuels to wean us from dirty fossil fuels, but even biofuels don't go so far as to eliminate hydrocarbons (and their constituent carbon emissions) from our energy diet. But a different use for algae could prove a better solution to the future of fuel.
A new process that produces clean, sustainable hydrogen from photosynthesis in algae could change all that. The means of manufacturing clean, usable hydrogen has heretofore required a high-energy process that drastically dilutes the upside.
Algae have come a long way in our post-fossil-fuels energy situation: Now the same green scum that covers water and other surfaces could soon be enlisted to make biodegradable green plastics for your picnic cutlery.
A kite flown in a strong breeze will quickly unspool string as it climbs higher. KiteGen Research in Italy aims to turn that action into electricity. The company developed a prototype that flies 200-square-foot kites to altitudes of 2,600 feet, where wind streams are four times as strong as they are near ground-based wind turbines.
As the kite's tether unspools, it spins an alternator that generates up to 40 kilowatts. Once the kite reaches its peak altitude, it collapses, and motors quickly reel it back in to restart the cycle. This spring, KiteGen started building a machine to fly a 1,500-square-foot kite, which it plans to finish by 2011, that could generate up to three megawatts—enough to power 9,000 homes.
Geoengineering is a popular idea, for Bill Gates and just about everyone else these days. Now the Institute of Mechanical Engineers proposes that the UK adopt technologies such as carbon-capturing artificial trees, biofuel algae tanks on rooftops, and coating surfaces in reflective materials to cut down on heating from the sun's rays.
It’s been a few years since the race to make biofuel from algae really heated up. Today more than 50 companies are trying to find a way to affordably squeeze oil from slime, and it seems like the golden age for these tiny autotrophs.
Scientists have repeatedly touted the possibility of turning algae into biofuels. Now a Florida-based company called Algenol is working with Dow Labs in Texas to convert carbon dioxide produced by algae farms into ethanol, which will then be used to make plastics. Even better, the oxygen byproduct left over from the conversion can be used to produce cleaner, more efficient coal power.
By Catherine PricePosted 06.11.2009 at 12:30 am 0 Comments
The technology is still experimental, but late last year researchers at Penn State University discovered how to make methane — a main ingredient in natural gas — from the very thing driving climate change: carbon dioxide. The key is microorganisms called methanogens. Engineer Bruce Logan discovered that the organisms produced methane with nothing but water and carbon dioxide when zapped with an electric current. Build a fuel cell around the microbes, and as long as the electricity that feeds into the device comes from a renewable source like wind or solar, the process can provide a carbon-neutral source of combustible fuel.
The Big Picture: Ethanol is the most widely used biofuel today, but it's hardly a panacea to our energy woes. Researchers are scrambling to transform more- efficient organic materials — switchgrass, sugarcane, algae, sewage and even medical waste — into low-emission fuel for both transportation and electricity generation.
Biofuel is one of today's ecoconscious buzzwords. Recently, however, the most popular biofuels, like corn-based ethanol, are starting to cause their own set of problems. For example, more and more crop land is being devoted to growing corn for fuel instead of food. This has led to a spike in food prices that is being felt around the world. Palm oil, another popular biodiesel fuel, is extracted from palm trees that grow well in places like Brazil.