Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reduce Energy Use? Don't Be Ridiculous!

Bringing in the promise of the future requires vastly increased energy production and use, not less! This new energy should be increasingly from clean and renewable sources, of course, and energy use efficiencies must constantly increase. But thinking in terms of cutting energy production and use is stone-aged thinking, not worthy of anyone who intends to walk into the future as a free person.
MIT engineering student Carl Dietrich is continuing to develop his flying car. Dietrich recently started the company Terrafugia to continue the development and marketing of the "roadable aircraft", as Dietrich likes to call it.

The Transition is designed for jumps of 100 to 500 miles. It will carry two people and luggage on a single tank of premium unleaded gas. It will also come with an electric calculator (to help fine-tune weight distribution), airbags, aerodynamic bumpers and, of course, a navigation unit with a global positioning system.

....Dietrich came up with the idea while a student at MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Earlier this year he won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, which recognizes invention and innovation. He also holds a patent for the centrifugal direct injection engine, a low-cost, high-performance rocket propulsion engine. Dietrich conducted his rocket engine research as an undergraduate at MIT.

The conventional wisdom on technological innovation is that it requires large teams of engineers working under the auspices of a large corporate research lab. That is of course rubbish. Take a recent significant improvement in the design of lead-acid batteries. Any half-way creative 8 year old given the proper education could have devised this patented improvement, daydreaming in the classroom.

# 4 times greater surface area for electroplates
# 60-68% efficiency (compared to 30-40% for conventional batteries)
# 30-50% smaller and lighter
# Environment friendly - Uses significantly less lead then typical lead-acid batteries
# Recharge quickly at any standard household outlet
# Utilizes same external case as conventional batteries
# Can instantly increase energy output and replace conventional battery with no retrofitting of vehicle
More details and links at source. A simple innovation that promises improvements on many fronts.

On the other hand, this revolutionary new engine required the effort of a distinguished professor of chemical engineering, and many graduate students.

* The StarRotor engine is projected to be very efficient (45-60%). By simply replacing conventional engines (15-20% efficiency) with a StarRotor engine, fuel economy will double or triple. For example, a conventional luxury car getting about 25 mpg on the highway would get about 75 mpg. A conventional economy car getting 40 mpg would get about 120 mpg.

* It should produce very low pollution. Advanced combustor technology reduces pollution, including unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides.

* It has multi-fuel capability. Any liquid or gaseous fuel can be burned, including gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel, alcohol, methane, hydrogen, and even vegetable oil.

* It should be inexpensive to mass produce. The parts count of the engine is about 10% of a conventional automobile engine, and the majority of parts do not require complex machining.

* There should be no vibrations. All moving components are in pure rotation; there are no oscillating components therefore it is in balance.

* It should be quiet. Because the gas is fully expanded, there is low exhaust noise.

* The engine is expected to have a long life and low maintenance. The compressor and expander of the StarRotor engine have a slight clearance between the rotors, resulting in no friction or wear. Also, it should require very infrequent oil changes, perhaps every 100,000 miles. Because it has very few moving parts, it is expected to be very reliable and require very little maintenance.

* The engine should be smaller than conventional internal combustion engines. The StarRotor engine volume and mass are about half that of a conventional internal combustion engine. A 130-hp engine will occupy approximately 2 cubic feet.

* It should have a high turn-down ratio. The engine is efficient over a wide range of speeds and torques.

* The StarRotor engine should be easily scalable. Designs from 50 W to 50 MW are possible.
I encourage those of you with mechanical minds to visit the source website and think about the concepts involved. Lectures explaining this innovative engine are available at this link.

Finally, adjusting to climate reality. Frances Cairncross, president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, says it is time to start learning to adjust to a warming world. The Kyoto Protocol is worthless, she suggests, and continuing to ignore the necessary adjustments that have to be made will only make conditions worse for humans and other living inhabitants of the globe.

On Monday Cairncross described the Kyoto protocol as "ineffectual" and called for the world to accept that "a hotter, drier world" is coming - even if everyone fulfils their obligations under Kyoto and pegs levels of carbon dioxide back below the 1990 baseline. "Adaptation policies have had far less attention than mitigation," she told the BA. “A hotter drier world is coming even if everyone fulfils their obligations under Kyoto.”

Now Cairncross is saying the UK should prepare for the inevitable by developing drought-resistant crops, constructing flood defences and perhaps even banning dwellings close to sea level. "We cannot relocate the Amazon or insulate coral reefs, so we need mitigation too, but the [UK] government could and should put in place an adaption strategy straight away," she said.

Mping at Fat Knowledge Blog presents a very thought provoking post dealing with levels of carbon dioxide in earth's past, and why CO2 may not be the boogeyman that so many evangelical proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming try to portray it.

The earth's climate system is temporarily warming, although there is a lack of scientific consensus in explaining the cause of the warming. Climate models project a wide range of scenarios, in spite of the rampant "fudging" and "tweaking" involved.

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