• Top Energy Science Breakthroughs in 2008 for Materials Science

    December 27 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    silicon lithium battery

    How do you build an 'sustainable' economy for 9 billion people? 

    Reinvent how we make, recycle and re-use metals, wood, glass, plastic and biomaterials that go into everyday products.

    Who can enable the 'new energy economy'?  Our bet is on the Scientist, not the Consumer.

    While some get excited over 'green products' like solar powered backpacks, better lightbulbs and organic cotton yoga mats, most notions of 'eco-friendly' products fall drastically short of what will be needed to meet the demands of adding another 3 billion people to the planet by 2050.

    We need to reinvent the whole concept of 'Industrialism' to create new methods for producing materials using less energy and 'resources' in fundamentally new ways.

    List of 2008 Stories in Energy Materials Science


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  • Top Energy Stories of 2008: #7 Geeks Go Green

    December 16 2008 / by joelg
    Category: Energy

    By Joel Greenberg

    Geeks look at the Big Grid and it reminds them of the old main frame computer days.  They look at the auto industry and and see rust.  So, they'll change it themselves.  Through their RE<C program, Google is funding renewable energy companies with the goal of generating 1 gigawatt of energy at a price less than coal.  Applied Materials has joined Google as high tech leaders that are covering their rooftops and parking garages with solar panels.  Former Intel CEO Andy Grove challenges his old company to get into batteries for electric vehicles.  Silicon Valley VC legends Vinod Khosla and John Doer fund cleantech companies.

    Can these hi-tech leaders find success that scales in a business where there's no Moore's Law?

    Geeks Go Green: Google fires up it's rechargeIT and RE<C programs

    Photo courtesy Google.

    Top Energy Stories of 2008:

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  • Toshiba opens lithium ion battery plant, Asia holding advantage in energy storage systems

    December 26 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Toshiba li ion

    While US and European leaders debate investments in clean tech energy platforms, Asia continues to advance its first mover advantage in energy storage. 

    Toshiba Corporation has announced plans to construct a new production facility for its safe, long-life rapid charge SCiB battery to meet expected demand for industrial and automotive applications from 2010 on. The company also announced plans to expand production of high efficiency motors at a Vietnam based factory.

    Energy storage is going to be a major growth area within the 'new energy economy'.  Batteries are expected to be the dominate platform in the years ahead, but fuel cells and capacitors could soon emerge from the bottom of the 'Hype Cycle' with actual commercial products.

    Toshiba estimates that the market for lithium-ion batteries for industrial and automotive applications to reach sales of 1.7 trillion yen (approximately US$19 billion) worldwide in fiscal year 2015.

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  • Penn State researchers advance cellulosic biofuels

    December 26 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Biotechnology

    Penn State biofuelsPenn State University understands that the future of cleantech and the 'new energy economy' comes down to advancing the fundmantals of chemistry, biology and materials science. 

    The University has become a powerhouse for cleantech research and its scientists are pushing the limits of performance around next generation solar cells, fuel cells and cleaner hydrocarbons. 

    Now researchers have made a breakthrough related to the breadown of ligin that can be used to lower the cost of cellulosic based biofuels, and change the feedstock industry.

    Rethinking the breakdown of Ligin
    Lignin is a key piece of cellular walls in woody plant material. Breaking it down to access the energy of chemical bonds in the plant material is one of the great barriers to cost effective cellulosic biofuels. 

    "There is lots of energy-rich cellulose locked away in wood," said John Carlson, professor of molecular genetics, Penn State. "But separating this energy from the wood to make ethanol is a costly process requiring high amounts of heat and caustic chemicals. Moreover, fungal enzymes that attack lignin are not yet widely available, still in the development stage, and not very efficient in breaking up lignin."

    Bean gene + Poplar Tree + Enzyme
    Researchers inserted a gene from beans into a poplar tree that inserts a protein between two lignin molecules when the lignin polymer is created.

    "Now we have a lignin polymer with a protein stuck in between," explained Carlson "When that occurs, it creates a type of lignin that is not much different in terms of strength than normal lignin, but we can break open the lignin polymer by using enzymes that attack proteins rather than enzymes that attack lignin."

    These enzymes that attack proteins are already used widely in the laundry detergent industry and are commercially readily available, added Carlson.  The genetic modification does not appear to weaken the plants or the crop production.

    The easy to breakdown ligin variation may also have major implications for agriculture and livestock industries:

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  • Top Energy Science Breakthroughs in 2008: Batteries, Fuel Cells and Capacitors

    December 24 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    A123 Battery


    Let's think beyond simply trying to find new ways to produce more energy, and focus on ways of storing energy.  Why?  Because this expands ways for us to produce more energy!  Confused? 

    Solar and wind alone are a hard sell to utility providers because of intermittent production when the sun isn't shining or wind doesn't blow.  Add utility scale storage to solar and wind farms, and you have a more valuable proposition.

    Battery powered cars sound great, but not if we have to plug in our vehicles every 50 or 100 miles. Or what about a new iPhone with a battery that cannot last the entire day. 

    We have written dozens of posts on energy storage and believe it deserves much more attention from the media and policy leaders.   2009 could be a turning point for awareness around the importance of enabling next generation batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.

    List of 20+ Energy Breakthroughs in Batteries, Fuel cells, and Capacitors


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  • Top Energy Stories of 2008: #5 The Dying Gasp of Corn Ethanol

    December 16 2008 / by joelg
    Category: Energy

    By Joel Greenbeg

    As the debate raged on whether the high price of corn affected the high price of food worldwide, the tide has turned against the Corn Lobby that advocates using a monoculture of corn to fuel our vehicles.  The interest in celullosic ethanol rises as corn-based company Verasun fails.

    How will the corn lobby fight back as the tide turns away from corn?


    Photo courtesy stevelyon

    Top Ten Energy Stories 2008 (Continue)

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  • Space Program Reinvigorated with Expansive Space-based Solar Energy Policy

    December 24 2008 / by Adam Cutsinger
    Category: Technology


    Many people will say that pursuing a space-based solar power energy campaign is too ambitious, that there are more immediate solutions to get us through our economic/energy crisis until a time when spaced-aged, science fiction-inspired future tech can be safely explored further.  They might say that we already have a head start with nuclear, oil and coal, as well as other greener alternatives like wind, water and Earthbound solar.  They would be dead wrong.  The truth is...

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  • EEStor receives patent for revolutionary electric energy storage device

    December 23 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy


    Could a box full of electrons change the energy industry?

    Texas-based stealth energy storage company EEStor is making news again on the blogosphere now that it has received a patent for its ground breaking capacitor that might find use in electric vehicles, utility grids or high performance portable devices. 

    Why is this important for the auto industry?
    The key to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles is to advance energy storage devices. Batteries and fuel cells hold electricity using chemical storage, while capacitors store energy as a charge between two plates.

    Designing a low cost, high performance capacitor has been a challenge for energy innovators. But EEStor believes its material platform of barium-titanate ceramic powder (94%) mixed with PET plastic could be the right combination.

    The EEStor patent reveals a 281 pound storage device with more than 30,000 plates that can hold 52 kWh of electrical energy.

    The company has an agreement with electric vehicle maker Zenn and Lockheed for military applications, but has intentionally kept a low profile.  Its effort to remain under the radar of media attention, has in turn created a lot of energy blogger hype.

    Batteries, fuel cells and capacitors - Not one device rules them all!

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  • List of 50 Hottest Biofuel companies from 2008

    December 22 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    Biofuels Digest has released its list of of 'Hottest' Biofuel companies based on research or production achievements in 2008.  The analyst panel votes were weighted by industry and region 'to ensure a fair and broad representation of companies and technologies.'

    "Innovation in renewable energy is gaining speed," said Jim Lane, editor and publisher of Biofuels Digest. "A slew of advanced bioenergy systems are coming to market from some of the brightest biologists, chemists, agronomists and engineers in the world. These companies are the hottest of the hot."

    Top Ten includes:

    1. Coskata
    2. Sapphire Energy
    3. Virent Energy Systems
    4. POET
    5. Range Fuels
    6. Solazyme
    7. Amyris Biotechnologies
    8. Mascoma
    9. DuPont Danisco
    10. UOP

    Other notables include: Novozymes (#14), Qteros (#15), Synthetic Genomics (#19), LS9 (#25),

    Related posts on the future of bioenergy on The Energy Roadmap.com

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  • Top Science Breakthroughs in 2008: Solar Energy

    December 22 2008 / by Garry Golden
    Category: Energy

    The Sun

    To reach a point where our global economy can rely on solar driven energy production, we need to continue making major breakthroughs in fundamantal science.

    We still know relatively little about the fundamentals of photosynthesis and how we might replicate the process in materials used to turn energy from the sun into 'clean electrons and molecules'.

    Sunlight can be used to capture photons for heat (solar thermal), electricity (photovoltaics) or direct hydrogen production.  We are looking at ways of capturing solar energy in silicon and carbon based materials, and also using molecular machines inside of algae and bacteria.  We must also find a way to store solar energy efficiently and at a low cost.

    List of 11 Solar Energy Breakthroughs in 2008

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