GM & Segway Unveil Personal Urban Mobility Vehicle, Demonstrate Disruptive Power of Software & Mobility as Service

April 07 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Transportation   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

GM PUMA BrooklynGeneral Motors and Segway unveiled a new type of small electric motor vehicle with advanced software that could shift how we look at mobility as a service.

In an effort to appeal to digitally connected urban audiences, GM describes Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) as a low-cost mobility platform that 'enables design creativity, fashion, fun and social networking.' This protoype model travels up to 35 miles per hour (56 kph), with a range up to 35 miles (56 km) between recharges (though it's not clear how urban residents will access wall sockets!)

'Smart' is the Real Revolution
The greatest opportunities to transform the human mobility experience in the next century are likely to emerge from ‘smarter software’, not cleaner energy systems.  It seems clear that the combustion engine will eventually struggle to keep cost and design competitive against the lowering 'manufacturing footprint' of electric motors powered by the integration of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.  The real question is: Can human drivers keep up with changes ahead in software of 'smart cars'.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication systems that relay alerts and information to drivers to reduce congestion and prevent collisions are already being integrated into luxury vehicles. But within a decade or two we can expect low cost vehicles embedded with sensors and ‘situation awareness’ detection systems that make cars 'smarter' than drivers.

Access and Ownership (and Potential Chaos)
A compelling vision of Personal Urban Vehicles is the emergence of personal 'mobility as service' companies that connect outer hubs with urban destination points (offices, retail, recreation, et al).  In addition to owning personal vehicles, we can imagine paying for 'access' to fleets of vehicles that we don't have to park.  (Of course, adding fleets of small vehicles could mean chaos in urban areas for pedestrians! Not to mention pushback from the Cabbies in New York!)

More Images and Related Posts on The Future of Auto Industry

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UK Researchers Advance Room Temperature Superconductivity Using Carbon 'Buckyballs'

April 05 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 3 Hot

quantum wire carbon nanotubeScientists at the University of Liverpool and Durham University have developed a new carbon nanotube material that might evolve as a room temperature superconductor used to transmit electricity with no resistance or energy loss.

The use of football-shaped 'Carbon 60' fullerene molecules, or 'Bucky Balls', could change how we look at the quantum flow of electricity over long distance transmission lines as well as within medical equipment and 'molecular electronics'.

The idea of carbon-based electron transmission was widely promoted by carbon fullerene co-founder Rick Smalley (d. 2005) more than a decade ago as the 'quantum armchair wire'.  The UK-based research suggests nanostructured carbon materials could evolve as room temperature superconductors.

Shape Matters: Carbon Buckyballs 'Squeezing' Electrons 
Liverpool Professor Matt Rosseinsky explains: "Superconductivity is a phenomenon we are still trying to understand and particularly how it functions at high temperatures. Superconductors have a very complex atomic structure and are full of disorder. We made a material in powder form that was a non-conductor at room temperature and had a much simpler atomic structure, to allow us to control how freely electrons moved and test how we could manipulate the material to super-conduct."

Professor Kosmas Prassides, from Durham University, said: "At room pressure the electrons in the material were too far apart to super-conduct and so we 'squeezed' them together using equipment that increases the pressure inside the structure. We found that the change in the material was instantaneous – altering from a non-conductor to a superconductor. This allowed us to see the exact atomic structure at the point at which superconductivity occurred."

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Vehicle to Grid Electricity (V2G) – Will Cars Become 100 kW Power Plants?

March 24 2009 / by MarkGoldes / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2010   Rating: 2 Hot

Revolutionary breakthroughs will make possible the elimination of the need for batteries of every variety. These generators are expected to replace the need to plug-in a plug-in hybrid. Two kW is all the power that can be taken from a typical wall socket. A 2 kW generator is on the horizon. It will eventually demonstrate a compact, inexpensive, capability to end the need to plug-in.

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Vehicle to Grid Electricity (V2G) – Will Cars Become 100 kW Power Plants?

March 24 2009 / by MarkGoldes / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2010   Rating: 4 Hot

V2G.jpgRevolutionary breakthroughs will make possible the elimination of the need for batteries of every variety. These generators are expected to replace the need to plug-in a plug-in hybrid. Two kW is all the power that can be taken from a typical wall socket. A 2 kW generator is on the horizon. It will eventually demonstrate a compact, inexpensive, capability to end the need to plug-in.

If the development of these generators is put on a 24/7 footing, it may be possible to provide 100 kW systems that will fit in the space of an engine and gas tank, on a prototype basis within two years. If that occurs, since no fuel or battery recharge is required, automobile manufacturers may conclude that engines are likely to become obsolete. Consumer purchasing patterns could begin to reflect a new reality, with the market deciding most future cars must be totally electric, since they will never need any variety of fuel.

The economics are likely to prove compelling. Until now, car ownership has been an expense. V2G has been explored in a modest way for hybrids. Plug-in hybrids, equipped with a two way plug, can feed power to the local utility while parked. This is 95% of the time for the average vehicle. Professor Willet Kempton, at the University of Delaware, has stated the car’s owner could earn up to $4,000 every year.

MagGen™ powered cars are expected to be capable of generating at least 75 kW and perhaps 100 kW in the volume of a typical fuel tank. In the case of luxury cars, trucks and buses, it seems 150 kW will prove practical. Technology already exists that can wirelessly couple up to 150 kW to the grid from parked vehicles. No plug connection will be required.

Today a large plug installed in a hybrid car can allow 240 volts to be accommodated. A 240 volt connection cord can probably provide a maximum of 19 kW to the utility. If that 19 kW can annually pay the vehicle owner $4,000, imagine what the income might be with a wirelessly coupled 75 kW or larger MagGen. If the price per kW is the same as that used in the University of Delaware analysis, we could be anticipating payments totaling $15,000, or more, per year.

When a substantial number of vehicles powered by magnetic generators fill a parking garage, it will have become a multi-megawatt power plant.

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Brown University Researchers Design Nanoparticle Palladium Catalysts For Fuel Cells

March 23 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

Palladium Brown UniversityMetals, like platinum, palladium and nickel, play a key role as catatysts that change the quality of reactions of gases like carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Designing catalysts at the nanoscale (billionth of a meter) will help to improve interactions within fuel cells that convert chemical energy into electricity.  But achieving precise control over nano-sized particles has been difficult.

Now Brown University researchers have designed fuel cell catalysts using palladium  nanoparticles that have about 40 percent greater active surface area, and ‘remain intact four times longer’.

The innovations? 
A New Binding Agent & Surface Area

The researchers have learned how to bind the 4.5 nanometer sized metal pieces to a carbon support platform using weak binding amino ligands that keep the nanoparticles separate.  After they are set, the ligand links are ‘washed away’ without negatively changing the catalysts.

“This approach is very novel. It works,” said Vismadeb Mazumder, a graduate researcher who joined chemistry professor Shouheng Sun “It’s two times as active, meaning you need half the energy to catalyze. And it’s four times as stable.  It just works better.”

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[Video] Digital Gaia or 'Big Blue'? IBM Unveils 'Smart' Water Systems, and Breakthrough Membrane

March 18 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Information   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

Decades ago IBM earned the nickname 'Big Blue' for the color of its corporate logo and mainframes (*), but maybe it was really a sneak peak at its role in digitizing Planet Earth? 

There is tremendous growth ahead around 'instrumenting' ecosystems and built environments with sensors, and creating the software systems to make sense of what's actually happening on the planet.

How long before the mainstream world catches onto the idea of a 'Digital Gaia'?  How long before  companies like IBM, Cisco, Johnson Controls and Honeywell can fully instrument the world and create massive computer simulations that give birth to a mirror world Digital Earth image that suddenly seems alive because we humans can measure it and visualize the changes? I imagine we'll see changes within a decade or two.

IBM Helps to Elevate the Issue of Water
IBM
continues to evolve its commercial applications for its widely promoted ' Smart Planet' portfolio of services that includes Smart Electrical Grids, Smart Health Records, Smart Transportation, and other Intelligent Infrastructure.

This week IBM unveiled its new Strategic Water Management Solutions to help governments, water utilities, and companies monitor and manage water more effectively.  IBM also released its Global Innovations Outlook devoted to Water [PDF].  Below is a video clip higlighting Big Blue's SmartBay sensor system, which monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels in and around Galway Bay, Ireland

Announcement #2 Novel Water Desalination Membrane [Including Video]

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Cisco Partners with NASA on Planetary Skin Project, Previews Massive Web Collaboration Platform

March 05 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Metaverse   Year: General   Rating: 10 Hot

MemeboxDigitalPlanet Earth is about to get its own version of the Web!

Cisco Systems is partnering with NASA to create a massive online collaborative global monitoring platform called the "Planetary Skin" to capture, collect, analyze and report data on environmental conditions around the world, while also providing researchers social web services for collaboration. 

This type of platform is essential for Climate and Ecosystem researchers, but it also might be a sneak peak at the future of the Internet.

'Smart Planet': Age of Sensors & Structured Data
If life in the past few decades has been forever altered by complex microprocessor chips, the next century could see the same social disruption via simple, low cost networked sensors and 'embedded objects' that mirror a digital signal of our analog world. But making this disconnected data relevant is a challenge.

The 'Planetary Skin' platform [video] will stitch together 'petabytes' of unstructured data collected by sensors (land, sea, air, space) reporting on changing environmental conditions.  The platform will also allow for 'streamlining of decision making' and 'collaborative swarming' on analysis of relevant data.  The project's first layer, “Rainforest Skin,” will be prototyped during 2009.

Good for NASA, Great for Cisco, and Wonderful for 'Mirror World' Metaverse Enthusiasts

The benefits to NASA and Planetary system researchers is clear.  Forget about Facebook, these scientists are looking for a functional digital research simulation 'Mirror World' (as envisioned by David Gelertner).

Meanwhile, Cisco is working diligently to make itself the most relevant web company in the next era of Internet architecture where collaboration, video, 3D simulations and structured data change the nature of our interactions.  'Planetary Skin' might be Cisco Systems under the radar, but out in the open effort of essentially building its own Internet of Tomorrow.

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Dow & Global Solar Continue Push For Distributed Power Generation Around Roof Shingle Solar Cells

February 23 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2011   Rating: 6 Hot

Global SolarThe future where buildings integrate energy generation systems like 'thin film' solar rooftops might be closer than you think.   

Instead of designing expensive, bulky and ugly glass based solar panels, solar start ups are pushing down costs of plastic-substrate based 'thin film' solar cells that resemble today's roof shingles.  The field also includes 'Big Chemistry' players like Dow and DuPont who hope to drop the costs of advanced solar materials.

PV Tech is reporting on the continued push by Dow Chemical to expand mainstream construction use power-generating roof shingles by 2011.  Dow has already committed more than $3 billion towards polysilicon production that will help lower the global costs of solar cells.

One of Dow's key partnerships is with CIGS solar producer Global Solar (Image).  The two companies agreed in 2008 to join the US Department of Energy Solar America Initiative (SAI) project to develop building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) that makes solar energy cost competitive with 'grid' electricity by 2015.

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England, the Birthplace of Coal Power, Will Build Europe's First Gasification Plant

February 21 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2013   Rating: 3 Hot

Hatfield Mine

England, the Birthplace of Coal Power and the Industrial Revolution, will now build Europe's first advanced coal power generation plant based on a gasification process that should provide 90 percent overall carbon capture.

Honeywell's UOP has been awarded a contract by UK-based Powerfuel Power Ltd. to construct a 900 MW plant that transforms coal into a much cleaner syngas which is used to generate electricity.

The UOP Selexol(TM) process technology allows the operator to capture carbon (sulfur, et al) during the process of creating the hydrogen-rich syngas.

The Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant will be built adjacent to the Hatfield coal mining operation (picture) and should start operation in 2013.

Finding a way to talk about Coal
Coal is not the future of energy, but it has a future.  In recent years it has been the world's fastest growing source of energy, and is likely to gain market share in the years ahead even as renewables grow faster.  We cannot just wish it away and there are no easy, short term solutions that satisfy either side of the coal conversation.

If 'Clean Coal' is not possible, then 'Cleaner' coal might be the middle ground.  Some engineers are betting on shoving carbon into the ground, and construction of future gasification plants.  Other biologists are betting that we can retrofit existing plants with bioreactors of algae/bacteria that 'eat' carbon and produce a usuable hydrocarbon fuel that can be used onsite to generate electricity, or sold as a liquid fuel of biomaterial feedstock.

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Northwestern Researchers Develop Novel Membrane for Hydrogen CO2 Separation

February 21 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

hydrogen gas separationResearchers from Northwestern University have developed a new class of ‘honeycomb’ gas separation materials to purify hydrogen rich mixtures like methane (natural gas) for generating electricity via fuel cells.

Traditional methods of gas separation use selective membranes that grab molecules by size. But Northwestern's Professor Mercouri G. Kanatzidis and Gerasimos S. Armatas are using a method of polarization.  As the gas mixture of (carbon dioxide and hydrogen) travels through the inner walls of the ‘mesopourous’ membrane, the carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules are slowed down and pulled towards the wall as the hydrogen molecules pass through the holes.

One type of membrane consisting of heavy elements germanium, lead and tellurium showed to be approximately four times more selective at separating hydrogen than traditional methods using lighter elements such as silicon, oxygen and carbon.  The process is reported to work at “convenient temperature range” -- between zero degrees Celsius and room temperature.

“We are taking advantage of what we call ‘soft’ atoms, which form the membrane’s walls,” said Kanatzidis. “These soft-wall atoms like to interact with other soft molecules passing by, slowing them down as they pass through the membrane. Hydrogen, the smallest element, is a ‘hard’ molecule. It zips right through while softer molecules, like carbon dioxide and methane take more time.”

 

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Growing Recognition of Peak Oil Production Could Accelerate Death of Combustion Engine

February 22 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

peakoil

[Note: Sadly, this is a Production chart focused on alternative 'decline rates', and does not include Global Demand forecasts.  Only know that there is a gap in any scenario!]

The upside of 'Peak Oil Production' is that it might be a more effective message than Climate Change in spurring dramatic changes to our transportation sector.  The worst case 'peak production' scenario is that it might remain marginalized among mainstream audiences and political leaders just long enough to really matter. What if confusion reigns?

People might confuse the idea of 'running out of oil' (not true) with the reality that global production is not keeping up with increasing demand.  People might place misguided hope into potential 'solutions' like solar or nuclear that have nothing to do with liquid fuel markets.  You cannot put electricity into a gas tank!

Why Data Has Replaced 'Assumptions' & Why 'Peak and Plateau' Matters

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China Expanding Global Energy & Raw Resource Deals- Preparing for 2010 Recovery? or Next Century?

February 20 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Economics   Year: General   Rating: 3 Hot

FlckrDragonHead

While the world stumbles through this economic recession, China is not sleeping, it is spending.

Its future success depends on very old world thinking about power and economic growth.

The world economy does not grow only because of digital bytes. Molecules, metals and minerals still matter!

China understands this reality and is taking full advantage of the economic downturn by paying low prices for access and control to much of the world's raw resources.

In the past month, China has made major moves on the global stage including:

- Potential $10 billion funding of Brazil's deepwater reserves via Petrobras
- Adding pressure to negotiate favorable iron ore prices (for steel production) with Rio Tinto, and potential $2 billion investment in Australia's Fortescue Metals Group
- $25 billion deal with Russia's Rosneft for crude oil access via a East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline by 2011
- Talks with General Electric on carbon gas reduction technologies to address its growth in coal emissions
- A signed a memorandum  between Ukraine's Chernomornaftogaz and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to build a gas pipeline toward the Odessa gas deposit off the Black Sea
- Negotiating Chinese vehicles to be built inside Mexico
- China is also addressing domestic water issues with an effort to decouple water use and GDP as it faces shortages in the years ahead.
- Working with Ecuador to provide funding on a new  hydroelectric plant as a diplomatic effort to gain access to other resources in the region.

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