Friday, August 24, 2012

Energy Briefs

One-step closer: Biofuel from Biomass
New research from scientists at the University of Georgia who are members of Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) provides a genetic method for manipulating a group of organisms, called Caldicellulosiruptor, that have the ability to use biomass directly at temperatures over 160 Fahrenheit. The ability to modify the microbes to make the needed fuel products is a required first step for modern industrial fermentations. This allows researchers to combine the natural ability to consume renewable plant materials with an altered improved ability to make what is needed. _PO
Tough industrial-strength microbes that can be programmed to produce the fuels or chemicals desired, should take biofuels and bio-chemicals production to a higher level.

Unlimited high-value chemicals from engineered microbes: Freeing up petroleum can provide a 25% boost to global petro-production!
Although the major products of crude oil refineries are fuels such as gasoline and jet fuel, approximately 20 percent of crude oil is refined, in several complicated, energy-intensive steps, into petrochemicals. These chemicals permeate our daily lives in products ranging from candles and perfume to disposable diapers, toys, tires and plastic packaging, among many others.

As an alternative to crude oil, researchers around the world are studying ways to produce fuels and chemicals from renewable sources, including plant biomass and algae. Current production processes are energy-intensive and generate sugars or oils, which are "intermediate" products. "Then you would take those intermediates and do traditional processing, whether it's biological or chemical," says Pfleger. _PO
So, if we take that 20% of crude oil production that is used for chemicals, and put it back into global oil markets, we achieve what is in essence a 20% boost 25% boost in oil production, in terms of fuels etc...

Sure, it is more complicated than that, since some fractions of petroleum are more suitable for one use than for others, but you can get a vague idea as to why substitution of unlimited renewable chemicals and feedstocks can have a powerful effect on global oil markets.

Why Iowa finds itself at the center of the ongoing revolution in next generation biofuels

New nano-composite material for fuel cells achieves a 5X increase in electric current per milligram of platinum
IBN's new nanocomposite material can produce at least 0.571 amperes of electric current per milligram of platinum, compared to 0.109 amperes per milligram of platinum for commercial platinum catalysts. This is also the first time that a catalyst has been shown to enhance both the stability and activity for the fuel cell reaction with a significantly reduced platinum content. _PO
This is a low level, nuts and bolts type advance in fuel cell mechanics and economics. But with the coming global bonanza of tight gas, we are likely to see increasing use of methane fuel cells for both primary production in residences and small business, and as critical power backup for commercial, municipal, and industrial enterprises.

None of these stories are particularly earth-shaking in themselves, but over time such innovations tend to accumulate, combine, rearrange, and evolve into significant advances.

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