Monday, February 18, 2008

Energy Briefs

ZeaChem and Coskata are promising high volume bio-ethanol at US $1 a gallon, by 2012. New Canadian startup Syntec promises even cheaper bio-ethanol--40 cents a gallon.
The Syntec B2A technology, initially developed at the University of British Columbia, is focused on second-generation cellulosic ethanol production. The Syntec process parallels the low-pressure catalytic synthesis process used by methanol producers. Syntec's innovative technology uses any renewable waste biomass such as hard or soft wood, sawdust or bark, organic waste, agricultural waste (including sugar cane bagasse and corn stover), and switch-grass to produce syngas. This syngas, comprised of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is then scrubbed and passed through a fixed bed reactor containing the Syntec catalysts to produce ethanol, methanol and higher order alcohols. The Syntec technology can also produce alcohols from biogas (sourced from anaerobic digestion of manure and effluent), landfill gas or stranded methane.__NextEnergy
Better information regarding the efficiencies of biofuels indicates that recent articles published in Science that were extremely critical of biofuels efficiencies, were highly misleading. The category of "biofuels" is too wide, varied, and inclusive to be susceptible to simplistic analyses such as were presented in the articles referred to by the link above.

The waste heat from internal combustion engines used in passenger and freight vehicles could be put to better use than heating the atmosphere. Honda is looking to put heat-mining technology in its hybrid vehicles.
Honda is exploring the use of a Rankine cycle co-generation unit to improve the overall efficiency of a hybrid vehicle by recapturing waste exhaust heat from the internal combustion engine and converting it to electricity to recharge the battery pack. Honda engineer Kensaku Yamamoto presented an overview of the work in a paper at the 2008 SAE Hybrid Vehicle Technology Symposium in San Diego.

Test results showed that in 100 kph (62 miles/hour) constant-speed driving, the use of the Rankine cycle improved the thermal efficiency of the engine by 3.8%. In the US highway cycle, the Rankine cycle system regenerated three times as much energy as the vehicle’s regenerative braking system.___GCC __via_Ecogeek
Hopeful discoveries in gas storage technology may make gas-phase powered vehicles more feasible.
In the case of gas storage, MOFs offer the crucial advantage of soaking up some of the gas pressure exerted by the molecules. This makes hydrogen derived from non-fossil energy sources such as biomass, or even genetically engineered plants, potentially viable as a fuel for cars while the alternative of pressurised canisters is not, says Ferey. The key difference is that the amount of gas stored in a conventional cylinder at say 200 atmospheres pressure could be accommodated in an MOF vessel of the same size at just 30 atmospheres, which is much safer...The porous nature of MOFs enables them to be exploited in quite another way as catalysts to accelerate chemical reactions for a wide variety of materials production and pharmaceutical applications, although this field, as Ferey noted, is still in its infancy. ____Source
This technology will likely require another ten or more years to become available for production model vehicles. By then, it is likely that series hybrids powered by bio:fuel cells will be common, incorporating a number of different ways of capturing waste heat to re-charge auxiliary batteries and super-capacitors.

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