Creating liquid fuel from air and sunshine?

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Like the ancient alchemists trying to achieve chrysopoeia; the Sandia Lab in Albuquerque New Mexico is building a device to pull liquid fuel right out of the air. The device, called the “Counter Rotating ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator, or CR5 for short is designed to convert Carbon Dioxide in the air to carbon Monoxide using solar power. The carbon monoxide is then use to make hydrogen or is used to make a synthetic liquid fuel like ethanol, gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.

The device works by breaking the carbon/oxygen bond in CO2 to create carbon monoxide and oxygen. The end product is called “Liquid Solar Fuel”; a combination of the carbon monoxide and water.

Originally the project was intended to extract hydrogen from water to use as fuel. But then Sandia alchemists researchers got the idea to break down CO2 using the same technology. A prototype is now near completion and the implications of this breakthrough are staggering.

Ellen B. Stechel, manager of the labs Fuels and Energy Transitions Department states

“Not only did we think it was possible, the team has developed a prototype that they fully anticipate will successfully break down carbon dioxide in a clever and viable two-step process.”

This invention, though probably a good 15 to 20 years away from being on the market, holds a real promise of being able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while preserving options to keep using fuels we know and love,” she says. “Recycling carbon dioxide into fuels provides an attractive alternative to burying it

The mystical machine will be able to take CO2 captured from a coal plant and turn it back into fuel. Then the liquid fuel would be transportable within our existing infrastructure. CO2 could be harvested from polluting sources and also be taken right out of the air effectively undoing some of the damage already done.

The prototype will be ready early 2010

An eco friendly death? Funerals are going green.


Photo courtesy of Hartaarn at Flickr.com.

One day, all of us are going to go to join the big compost pile. It’s generally not something we think about, but we’re all part of the circle of life.

So, how green is the funeral industry? With embalming, cement vaults, metal caskets, and marble headstones, death can leave a pretty big blemish on the environment. Luckily, that’s changing as funeral directors recognize the demand for green alternatives.

Many funeral homes now offer bio-degradable caskets, embalming free preparations, and even tree care services (to mark the burial site instead of a headstone). Since green burials use far fewer resources, these environmentally friendly alternatives cost far less than traditional funerals.

The $20 billion-a-year mortuary industry offers a service that remains the [average person’s] third-largest personal expense, after a house and car.

Going green means leaving a healthier planet and a bigger inheritance for your loved ones too!

Supporting recycling by buying products like 100 percent post consumer recycled paper

Recycling is one of the environmental success stories of the last couple of decades.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling and composting kept 82 million tons of material out of landfills and incinerators in 2006. That’s up from just 34 million tons in 1990.

In 2006, there were more than 8,000 curbside collection programs around the United States, which served about half of the US population. These curbside programs, along with drop-off and buy-back centers, kept about 32 percent of the nation’s solid waste in 2005 out of a landfill.

But there’s more to recycling! Besides just recycling your own waste, you should take it a step further and start buying things that are made from recycled materials to help close the loop.

Here’s one small example of buying a recycled product instead of something made from new materials.

At my workplace, Clean Air Gardening we’re using 100 percent post consumer recycled office paper. It is actually more expensive than regular paper, but we don’t mind the extra expense, because we think it’s important.

“Post consumer” means something that was used by consumers or businesses and would otherwise be discarded as waste. It isn’t just excess or damaged materials during the manufacturing process that have been reused.

You can also buy paper that has a lower percentage of recycled content like 20 or 30 percent, if you are looking for a less expensive option.

So, are you using recycled paper at your home or office?

If not, you should be! It’s small steps like this that really start to
add up and make a difference.

Next time you buy paper, ask for recycled!

Solar Silicon 4.0 reduces the amount of silicon needed for solar panels

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AOS solar, in this press release, announced that they are working towards developing “Solar Silicon 4.0” combining crystalline silicone with low cost thin film photovoltaic technology.

AOS Solar’s mission is to achieve c-Si efficiencies while reducing the amount of required silicon by 90%, the manufacturing energy budget required to achieve each Watt peak of output by 50%, and the capital equipment required by 50%.

The technology will be presented for the first time at the International Business Forum’s nanotechnology investment forum on Feb 6th.

CEO Anikara Rangappan explains, “If we had to invent solar panels today we would certainly use silicon because that is a very well known material with a proven field life of 20+ years in solar PV applications. But we would not pull ingots, saw 6” diameter wafers, and wire them together to manufacture a solar PV module. Current high efficiency silicon solar cells have a very high materials cost and the manufacturing cost for both cells and modules is too high.

AOS has developed manufacturing processes to produce their patented new technology that should result in a greatly reduced cost of manufacturing photovoltaic modules.

Safeway, Biodiesel, Recycling and Wind Power

A couple of years back a bunch of us stood in the street and watched the book store of the local university burn to the ground in the middle of the night. The next day the only things left were the once familiar walls of a former Safeway grocery store filled to the brim with charred rubble. Try as they might the distinctive look of the exterior walls that every Safeway in the area always had could not be hidden.

I grew up thinking that Safeway was a synonym for grocery store; I can’t honestly remember going to any other until Safeway pulled up stakes and left Texas. The familiar buildings still stand all across my home town. So I was glad to hear that the company I grew up with is one of the most environmentally conscious out there; even though they abandoned us.

Recently Safeway switched to using B20 Biodiesel for all of the 600+ trucks in its California and Arizona Fleet. The fuel is produced from domestically grown Virgin soybean oil. By switching in these two states alone almost 70 percent of their diesel consumption is biodiesel; Co2 output is reduced by 23 metric tons per year.

In addition, Safeway opened their first solar powered grocery store in September; the first of 23 such stores. The companies 295 fuel stations have been powered by wind energy since 2005; making Safeway the largest purchaser of green energy in California.

And if that wasn’t enough, Safeway stores recycle much of their waste diverting over 85 percent of their solid waste away from landfills. That’s over half a million tons of recyclables in 2006 alone. It would be interesting to see how other grocery stores stack up.