Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Hope Blogging

Tires are one of the most intractable forms of waste. You can't put them in landfills, for a number of reasons. And stockpiling them invites a host of woes, from toxic, long-burning fires to the proliferation of disease-ridden mosquitoes and rodents for whom a tire is a luxurious home. Despite these problems, there are about 2.5 billion tires currently stockpiled around the country, and more coming every day.

Treehugger describes a possible solution. An Australian firm called Molectra claims that it can recover and recycle most of the rubber from tires, and manufacture oil into the bargain:

On the oil side they suggest about 3.9 litres can be extracted. And, yes, before you ask, they can separate the metal rim bead, plus the sandwiched metal and textile belts, yielding another 2.4 kg of recovered materials. They claim there is no waste or pollution from the process. Considering there are an estimated 1.2 billion waste tyres entering the world market each year (many of which get incinerated), Molectra might just have discovered the alchemists holy grail of turning common materials into gold.
Speaking of things that sound too good to be true, Treehugger also describes a California-based firm called Pyron Solar, which says that it can produce electricity as cheaply as conventional power plants; if true, this would mean they'd achieved a staggering 40-percent decrease in the production cost of solar power.
The system, developed with Boeing-Spectrolab, is very compact, and uses short-focal-length lenses to concentrate direct sunlight to photovoltaic cells. The company says these cells produce 800 times more electricity than conventional non-concentrating cells of the same size. Their first prototype, which is 23 feet in diameter and 16 inches high, produces an astonishing 6.5 KW of electricity, enough to power six homes.
It's always enlightening to compare the efforts of companies like these to those of dead-enders like the Pacific Legal Foundation, whose flailings I detailed in my previous post.

Meanwhile, We Make Money Not Art discusses likely directions for airplane redesign:
The "flying wings" airliners will be based on designs produced by Sir Frederick Handley Page in 1961. His design was considered too expensive and risky in 1961. But his ideas have now been resurrected by companies such as Boeing and Airbus.

The fuselage would be turned into one wing to create less drag and engines would sit on top, with the wing shielding the noise from the ground. Passengers would sit in rows of up to 40 seats across. Wings would consume only a third of the fuel used by existing aircraft. They will be constructed of plastic, rather than aluminium, to reduce their weight. The outer surface would be covered in millions of tiny holes to reduce drag by sucking in air as it flows over the wing.

The impact on the world’s climate would be reduced even further by changes in the way that airlines operate. All airliners will alter their cruising altitude to avoid the conditions that form condensation trails. They could also reduce the amount of fuel they burn by flying in formation, as jet fighters do.
Last, but certainly not least, Triple Pundit has alerted me to a wonderful new site called Kiva, which allows you to make peer-to-peer microloans to start-up businesses in developing countries:
By choosing a business on our website and then lending money online to that enterprise, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive monthly email updates that let you know about the progress being made by the small business you've sponsored. These updates include reports on loan repayment progress, photos of new capital equipment, narratives on business growth and standard of living improvements, and more. As loans are repaid, you will get your original loan money back.
This is a really great idea. I discussed microfinancing in an earlier installment of FHB; the loan requests are often as little as 25 or 50 dollars...chickenfeed to most of us, but months of hard work and self-denial for many people around the world.

Obviously, there's always a chance that you won't get your money back. But personally, I'm more than willing to take the gamble.


Engineer-Poet said...

It should be noted that Changing World Tech states that thermal depolymerization can also process scrap tires.

Phila said...

Thanks, E-P! Interesting article, and I wasn't familiar with the site.

Engineer-Poet said...

You're welcome.  One of the most useful things I've found that bloggers do for one another is to bring up connected facts and the like.  It helps to fill in those blank spots in the puzzle and reveal pictures.

Pity that Molectra (your picture link is broken, BTW) is vague about the energy requirements of their process, the bulk, processing rate and other details.  They would be better investment prospects if their system was small enough to be mobile than if it is not.

Phila said...

One of the most useful things I've found that bloggers do for one another is to bring up connected facts and the like. It helps to fill in those blank spots in the puzzle and reveal pictures.

Absolutely! I completely agree, and I'm always flattered when anyone finds it worthwhile to help me out that way. And it's especially welcome from you, since you generally know way more about the feasibility and hidden costs of these projects than I do.

Engineer-Poet said...

Don't read too much into what I write; unless supported by cites it is just educated guesswork, not serious cost-analysis.