What would you use to keep next-generation nuclear reactors cool? If you said highly reactive molten sodium, take a bow
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.16.2008 at 3:14 pm 15 Comments
It's going to be at least another two decades before any commercial models are built, but researchers are at work designing the Generation IV nuclear reactors. Unlike the generation II and III models now in use that use water to cool and control the fission (preventing runaway reactions, subsequent meltdowns and the environmental apocalypse that would result), the leading contender for cooling material for the Gen IV reactors is molten sodium. Not sodium chloride (plain, unreactive table salt), but sodium metal.
A new report highlights the world's most acute needs
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 4:50 pm 4 Comments
A panel convened by the National Academy of Engineering announced today a list of the most important projects in the world—at least, what would be, were we to figure out how to build them. The 14 priorities range from economical solar power—we only need to harness 1/10,000th of the sunlight that hits Earth to satisfy the world's energy needs—to reverse-engineering the brain and universal access to clean water (see the full list after the break). They're also introducing a slick new website to solicit public opinion. What do you think is the most important engineering challenge for the century to come?
Forget corn; we'll get fuel from all the other stuff, says DOE
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 9:32 am 5 Comments
"Cellulosic ethanol technology is a lot closer to reality than a lot of articles would have you think," said Jacques Beaudry-Losique, manager of the Department of Energy's Biomass Program this morning at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. After some well-publicized studies stated that corn-based biofuels might exacerbate CO2 damage to the environment, focus has shifted to these so-called "second generation" biofuels that use non-food crops such as switchgrass, wood chips or crop residues (e.g. all the parts of the corn plant that are currently wasted after harvest--the stalk, leaves and "cob").
Looking for a clean fuel that grows anywhere, needs only sunlight and water, and could produce enough oil to free the U.S. from its petroleum addiction? Here´s one start-up's plan for converting oil from algae-yes, algae
By Elizabeth SvobodaPosted 07.01.2007 at 2:00 am 6 Comments
Take a peak inside the Solix labs to see their oil-from-algae operation up close in our photo gallery and video
"Here it is!" Jim Sears says with a tour guide's come-see enthusiasm. I stop, my feet stuck in six inches of fresh powder outside the Old Fort Collins power plant, but the contraption before us doesn't exactly inspire awe.
Joseph Longo's Plasma Converter turns our most vile and toxic trash into clean energyâ€”and promises to make a relic of the landfill
By Michael BeharPosted 03.01.2007 at 2:00 am 18 Comments
It sounds as if someone just dropped a tricycle into a meat grinder. I'm sitting inside a narrow conference room at a research facility in Bristol, Connecticut, chatting with Joseph Longo, the founder and CEO of Startech Environmental Corporation. As we munch on takeout Subway sandwiches, a plate-glass window is the only thing separating us from the adjacent lab, which contains a glowing caldera of "plasma" three times as hot as the surface of the sun.
A radical new power plant aims to convert our dirtiest fossil fuel into clean-burning hydrogen
By SeÃ¡n CaptainPosted 02.01.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Big lumps of sooty coal hardly seem like the future of energy, but that's exactly what the U.S. Department of Energy predicts. Consumption of the fossil fuel-the main source of greenhouse gas and a major contributor to acid rain, smog and mercury poisoning-will hit 10.6 billion tons a year by 2030, a near doubling of the 5.4 billion tons burned in 2003, according to the agency.
Over the past several decades, the promise of the "car of tomorrow" has remained unfulfilled, while the problems it was supposed to solve have only intensified. The average price of a gallon of gas is higher than at any time since the early 1980s. The Middle East seems more volatile than ever. And even climate skeptics are starting to admit that the carbon we´re pumping into the atmosphere might have disastrous consequences. To these circumstances, automakers have responded with a fleet of cars that averages 21 miles per gallon, about four miles per gallon worse than the Model T.