Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

This has been a pretty amazing week for advances in energy technology. Via Treehugger:

Prism Solar Technologies in New York has developed a proof-of-concept solar module that uses holograms to concentrate light, possibly cutting the cost of solar modules by as much as 75 percent, making them competitive with electricity generated from fossil fuels.
A Texas A&M chemical engineering professor has developed a process to convert biomass to a mixed alcohol fuel that contains more energy than fuel ethanol. He has also developed a compact Brayton-cycle engine (the same thermodynamic cycle employed by jet engines) capable of being powered by any type of fuel—including his MixAlco mixed alcohol fuel.

Prof. Mark Holtzapple projects that his StarRotor engine, which is being developed by a company of the same name, could deliver efficiencies of 49–55% applied in a passenger car—about 2.5 to 3 times more efficient than a conventioanl gasoline engine.
Oak Ridge National Lab announces another method of improving engine efficiency:
"Floating loop is geared toward future developments of hybrid and possibly fuel cell vehicles, which will have high power, high heat producing electronics and motors," says Marlino. "The floating loop will enhance their operation by being able to cool these electronics and motors more efficiently."
Corning has developed a new particulate filter for diesel passenger cars, which should be on sale next year:
Corning Incorporated will begin supplying a new, advanced cordierite (magnesium aluminum silicate—Mg2Al4Si5O18) diesel particulate filter to light-duty diesel vehicle manufacturers....Corning is targeting the DuraTrap AC filters to be the first cordierite filters used in large-scale for diesel passenger cars. They are optimized for use in light-duty diesel vehicles that have new and advanced regeneration systems.
Speaking of particulates, a new Website allows truckers to find truck stops that offer idle-reduction systems:
The TSE map allows the user to drill down on the graphical displays of TSE stations to find information such as location, direction, phone, TSE type, type of communication supported (e.g., wireless Internet), hours and payment types.

Estimates show idle-reduction technologies could reduce diesel fuel use by about 800 million gallons annually, with a potential savings to the trucking industry of $2 billion each year. In addition, idle reduction strategies can reduce NOx emissions by approximately 150,000 tonnes per year and particulate matter emissions by up to 3,000 tonnes per year.
In other news, despite absolutely rabid opposition from corporate lobbyists, Connecticut passed the nation's strongest ban on soda and other high-sugar drinks at public schools.
Only healthy drinks, such as water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice, will be sold in vending machines and school cafeterias starting July 1...."It says you can take on a $1 billion junk-food industry, and you can win," said Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, the bill's chief proponent. "We've taken a huge step forward. It sends a powerful message to other states."
And there's some interesting news from the frontiers of biomimesis:
MIT scientists have just learned another lesson from nature. After years of wondering how organisms managed to create self-medications, such as anti-fungal agents, chemists have discovered the simple secret....Chemists would love to have that enzyme's capability so they could efficiently reproduce, or slightly re-engineer, those products, which include antibiotics, anti-tumor agents, and fungicides....

To make halogenated natural products, enzymes catalyze the transformation of a totally unreactive part of a molecule, in this case a methyl group. They break specific chemical bonds and then replace a hydrogen atom with a halide, one of the elements from the column of the periodic table containing chlorine, bromine and iodine. In the lab, that's a very challenging task, but nature accomplishes it almost nonchalantly.
Last, a few online exhibitions for your amusement. Abram Games is one of my favorite graphic designers, so I was pleased to find this online gallery of his work.

Dream Anatomy has been up for a while, but is well worth an extended browse if you haven't already seen it (or even if you have). Be sure to look at the section on Fritz Kahn, entitled "Dreaming the Industrial Body."

For those who can't get enough anatomy, the University of Toronto's Anatomia 1582 - 1867 comprises about 4500 plates. I also enjoyed Place and Space: Cartography of the Physical and the Abstract. But if you're pressed for time, skip it and head directly to Marist College's exhibition of fore-edge paintings.


cabearie said...

Nudies are cool, but Friday Hope Blogging is the cat's pj's.

Anonymous said...

A word of caution on those energy "advances." Most of the announcements come from those who will profit in some way from them (fame for professors, funding for national labbies, and selling the stuff for others). None of those sorts of people have been reliable in the past, and I see no reason, this week of high gasoline prices, to believe that that has changed.

The rest of the hope notes look more reliable.


Phila said...


Yeah, you're right. I've sometimes thought I should issue a caveat here, as I've tried to do when addressing, say, pandemic vaccines.

Then again, I'm really just trying to compile a bunch of stories like these, on the off chance that one or two will be on the level, or lead to something worthwhile. From that standpoint, I guess the problem is my sloppy, unmodified use of the word "advances," which implied that these chickens had hatched. I'll be more nuanced in future.