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.
A legendary sports-car builder engineers a featherweight, ethanol-powered supercar on skis to lead an expedition across Antarctica
By Michael DumiakPosted 02.04.2009 at 9:05 am 12 Comments
When you're driving a 4.7-ton truck filled with scientific equipment across a crevasse-strewn Antarctic wasteland, choosing the right path is critical. Deep cracks in the ice, invisible from a distance, can swallow a truck whole. An Antarctic expedition needs an ultra-light scout vehicle to run ahead and find a safe route before the heavy machinery rolls through. That's exactly what the Concept Ice Vehicle (CIV) is built to do.
Common sense says that burning a plant you regrow every year is better for the atmosphere than spewing out carbon dioxide that’s been buried underground for eons. But the truth behind biofuels and petroleum often seems to defy common sense. Neither ethanol nor gasoline bubbles out of the ground ready to put in your tank. So to figure out which one does less environmental harm, you have to calculate all the energy that goes into making it.
A grass called Miscanthus could yield more ethanol than switchgrass or corn. Lots more.
By Dawn StoverPosted 08.15.2008 at 10:38 am 14 Comments
Move over, switchgrass. There's a new miracle crop on the horizon. Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates that a perennial grass named Miscanthus x giganteus can produce about two and a half times more ethanol per acre than either corn or switchgrass.
A miniature ethanol distiller lets you make your own fuel—but can it possibly be a money saver?
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.15.2008 at 6:47 am 2 Comments
For those looking to get themselves off the grid—or at least move toward that ideal—a number of options are currently available. You can tack solar panels onto the roof of your house. You can erect a small wind turbine in your yard. You can now even distill ethanol in your garage. The EFuel 100 MicroFueler is a device the size of two very large refrigerators which will convert 490 pounds of feedstock (sugar and yeast) into 35 gallons of ethanol over the course of a week. Plug it in to any standard outlet and it will consume 150 watts for each batch. But while the concept of manufacturing your own fuel sounds appealing on its face, I'm not entirely sure the numbers add up to make it worth it.
See how scientists are learning from the most common form of life on Earth to fight cancer, produce ethanol and maybe even grow crops on the moon
By Dan SmithPosted 04.17.2008 at 4:08 pm 3 Comments
Germophobes and OCDers may want to stop reading now, or at least seriously consider only continuing with a bottle of Purell on hand—for today, were talking about bacteria, those squirmy no-see-‘ems that densely cover just about every surface imaginable here on Earth, including your own skin. However much hypochondriacal hatred the mention of them can bring about, as with other quasi-oxymorons like good cholesterol, wed be in a lot of trouble if it werent for bacteria.
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").
Can a genetically engineered microbe make butanol the biofuel of the future?
By Kalee ThompsonPosted 01.24.2008 at 1:07 pm 2 Comments
By this spring, drivers in the U.K. will encounter an unfamiliar, and unprecedented, option at the pump: gasoline blended with a corn-based alcohol called butanol. It's part of a pilot project run by energy company BP, which aims to gauge public reaction to the new fuel. Butanol is easier to store and transport than existing biofuels and has an energy content more comparable to that of gasoline. Now, with more efficient ways to make it on the horizon, an increasing number of experts think butanol is poised to overtake ethanol as the best-selling alternative fuel on the market.