Charlie Rose recently hosted a conversation [35 min.] with United States Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. The conversation covered a wide spectrum of ideas being explored from the 'low hanging fruit' with energy efficiency and new building design tools, to evolution of Smart Grid and anticipatory management of energy flows, new tranmission lines for renewables, emerging carbon pricing markets, cleaner coal systems, regulatory framework for nuclear, and next generation liquid fuels.
And ended with Rose stating 'that the convergence/merger of our scientific know-howand energy' will determine our future. On that note, I wish Chu would have uttered something about 'nanoscale' engineering, and bioenergy (algae/bacteria, and synthetic biology) just to seed these emerging concepts with Rose's audience. But baby steps, I guess!
Energy Revolution Rises from Materials Science and Bio-science, not Geo-Engineering Chu arrived at the right time! The first half of this Industrial Age was based on us being smart geo-engineers, not necessarily smart energy materials scientists. And that is our future- growing and storing our own energy supplies! I am just very thankful that we have a DOE Secretary who recognizes that the 'green revolution' will arise from science, not shopping!Oh, the places we'll go!
Next generation energy storage solutions (e.g. batteries, fuel cells, capacitors) continue to gain attention from investors and energy forecasters who see significant growth ahead beyond typical production side investments.
The report updates Lux Research's analyses of eight thin battery manufacturers and draws on nine additional interviews with application developers downstream to assemble a comprehensive perspective on thin battery technologies, companies, and markets.
Thin batteries appear to be following a classic 'low end disruption' growth strategy of avoiding direct head to head competition with current 'coin cell' batteries in favor of growing around new applications. Lux describes potential growth across a range of sectors including healthcare (e.g. drug delivery patches), media (e.g. video displays), and information systems (e.g. RFIDs/Sensors)
Lux expects opportunities for investors able to find opportunities in later stage funding rounds but stress the inevitability of shake out in emerging markets. "By 2014, there simply won't be enough space in this market for ten thin battery companies to sustain a healthy business," said Jacob Grose, an Analyst at Lux Research and the report's lead author "Anyone interested in getting a seat at the table will need to identify the winners, and identify them early."
Environmental and Energy advocacy group Bellona has released an interactive tool for understanding geo-engineering based CO2 capture and storage (CCS) technology designed to reduce power plant based emissions. The tool describes the engineering solutions for carbon capture, as well as point source carbon emissions based around the world.
All over the web, new 'green-themed' eco blogs are sprouting up like mushrooms with low impact solutions for affluent consumers.
So many new sites and products, yet there is no way to 'buy' ourselves into a 'green economy'.
Organic yoga mats, reusable water bottles, 'green weddings', telecommuting, hybrids and EVs, carbon neutral rock concerts, (et al) are all perfectly legitimate steps forward. But they do little to solve long-term problems, and they fall helplessly short of really educating people about the tremendous challenges ahead with energy.
Our strategy should not be to make consumers more 'green', but to make sure people know that we cannot 'buy' our way into sustainability.
The message that should really be pushed on the web, is that the energy systems that could actually change the world do not currently exist today. And that they will only emerge from advances in basic energy sciences that destroy all our current notions of what is technically possible today with regards to how we produce, store, transmit and deliver energy.
So please, no more new 'eco' blogs! Let's focus on people's minds, not wallets.
We need to learn, not buy,our way into a sustainable economy. And the learning starts with asking questions that are beyond our current energy knowledge base. Let's empower scientists, not marketing agencies to ask the right questions about 'going green'.
The good news is that researchers now know, what we don't know!
Basic Energy Science Reports The Office of US Basic Energy Science has spent the past five years engaging scientist around the world in a conversation about 'what we do not know about energy systems'. What new knowledge about molecules and electrons could enable new solutions?
Rather than seek quick fixes that fail, the program attempted to outline the Grand Challenges of energy systems that are beyond our current notions of what is technically possible.
Their conclusion? What we currently 'have' and 'know' about energy is not enough. [PDF]
"The magnitude of the challenge is so immense that existing energy approaches—even with improvements from advanced engineering and improved technology based on known concepts—will not be enough to secure our energy future. Instead, meeting the challenge will require new technologies for producing, storing and using energy with performance levels far beyond what is now possible."
The Summary findings and Full reports can be found here.
While it's unlikely that the four seat compact car will move global markets anytime soon, it is India's 3rd and 4th Generation EV platforms that integrate batteries, fuel cells and capacitors that matter most to giants like GM and Toyota. Without a legacy of combustion engine supply chains and factories, Chinese and Indian companies might be able to deliver low cost, high quality EV vehicles to global markets
Planet 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.
Titanium 'Nanostructures' - Electrons & Hydrogen Boston College researchers have demonstrated a novel titanium nanostructure with expanded surface area for greater efficiency in the transport of electrons that could be tapped to split water to store solar energy in the form of hydrogen.
The team led by Professor Dunwei Wang will continue to improve overall efficiencies, but there is no doubt that they have advanced the 'relatively new science of water splitting' using semiconductor catalysts to separate and store hydrogen and oxygen.
The 'nanostructure' combined titanium disilicide (TiSi2) to absorb a wider spectrum of solar light, with a coating of titanium dioxide which is known to split water using ultraviolet light.
"The current challenge in splitting water involves how best to capture photons within the semiconductor material and then grab and transport them to produce hydrogen," Wang says. "For practical water splitting, you want to generate oxygen and hydrogen separately. For this, good electrical conductivity is of great importance because it allows you to collect electrons in the oxygen-generation region and transport them to the hydrogen-generation chamber for hydrogen production."
Why Nanoscale Matters: Remembering this is a Transition, not a Crisis I think it is important to recognize that we have not run out of options in creating and storing clean forms of energy. It's just that the old set of solutions cannot get us to to where we need to go!
We don't need to go to the mall. Trying to appeal to consumers to 'buy green' will not get us there. It is a superficial strategy that falls flat against global realities of expanding demand for energy.
We don't need to go to oil and coal fields. Continuing to extract energy from the Earth won't get us there. We are seeing limits to growth with conventional oil production, leaving only carbon heavy alternatives.
Where we need to go is down to the molecular ('nano') level of energy interactions, and then reimagine new ways to capture and store energy based on a new understanding of what is really happening!
The agreement is an early indicator of a new category for the energy sector based on a simple, but disruptive alternative to 'plugging in' - Refillable Packets sold over retail shelves that offer a real cost and performance alternative to the grid.
The Disruptive Power of High Density Storage Electron Economy via 'Streams vs Packets' In the years ahead, we could see the emergence of a new form of 'packet' based energy distribution that could undercut the grid's last mile, and the notion of 'plugging in' objects to a wall socket connected to a 'stream' of electricity.
The future of electricity depends on chemical storage. Batteries require us to 'plug in' and recharge. Fuel cells keep the 'fuel' (e.g. hydrogen/methanol) and oxidant separate offering a 'refill' platform. One is a storage device dependent on the wall socket, the other is its own 'power plant' that requires businesses to supply 'fuel' rather than direct access to the grid.
Instead of massive market populations around the world waiting for the electrical grid to arrive via a wall socket, why not sell them power packs next to bars of soap at the retail level. Imagine disposable batteries on steroids.
It is a simple but disruptive idea to the notion of end point grid access. What if Walmart could sell you a 20-pack of energy cartridges to fuel all of your home appliances and gadgets? Or electric vehicles (via solid hydrogen bricks)?
Why push for energy Packets? Learn from 'Streams' of Water vs 'Packets' of Bottled Water
[Ok, this is a snarky post, but I'm leaving it up. It seems reasonable to assume that CNN would have a Producer, Writer or Intern make a stronger connection between 'hydrocarbons' like coal and oil that originated from biomass (plants and diatoms). Instead CNN frames algae like a space alien recipe.]
The CNN correspondents are clueless to the biological origins of oil and the basics of energy science- namely that everytime we drive our car we are breaking apart hydrogen-carbon bonds formed by ancient algae. So tapping the power of algae to bind molecules for energy feedstocks is not 'science fiction', it is Mother Nature.
[Peaking in snarky tone right there...] The clip shows how disconnected we are from understanding even the basics of energy systems and where energy comes from. (It's scary how many people I meet that still think 'fossil fuels' are ancient dinosaurs.) And it is not a surprise that shallow 'consuming green' strategies dominate public conversations, despite falling flat in terms of offering global solutions.
Could we get science back into the conversaton? How about teaching our children and news reporters the most basic '101' energy science. Oil is not pixie dust, it comes from somewhere.
CNN should educate its reporter on what they fill up in their gas tank. Because it's ancient algae.