About Emil Morhardt

Roberts Professor of Envioronmental Biology at the W. M. Keck Science Department of Clalaremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges (Members of the Claremont Colleges near Los Angeles, California)

“Free Energy Life” Offered in Sustainable, Luxury Tower

by Mary-Catherine Riley

Would you like to live in the lap of luxury in a flat northwest of London that provides excellent amenities and still feel like you are living sustainably? Excellent, so would I! For a starting price of £200,000, you too can live in the Beacon, “the world’s most sustainable luxury tower.”

The vision of the Beacon is to reinvent the modern lifestyle while incorporating the most technologically advanced sustainability practices. The Beacon integrates a multitude of renewable energy sources to offer a “free energy life” (http://www.edie.net/news/6/Hemel-Hempstead-set-to-welcome–world-s-most-sustainable-residential-tower-/). The Beacon incorporates underfloor heating, heat recovery ventilation and geothermal heating to regulate the temperature of the building as well as smart thermostats to use that energy efficiently. The windows are three glazed and provide the best noise and heat insulation. The Beacon lowers the energy bill by using the power created by their 0.8 MW solar array. Furthermore, they have adapted motion sensitive LED light to provide the most efficient lighting. Continue reading

Fabric that Can Harness Wind and Solar Energy

by Yerika Reyes

We have had the ability to produce fabrics that produce electricity from physical movement for a few years, but now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are developing a fabric that can gather solar energy and motion energy concurrently. The combination of these two generators of electricity into a textile will allow for developing clothes that can provide their own source of energy to power smartphones and global positioning systems (GPS). This fabric will alleviate the issue of charging devices while conducting research in the field because it can harness energy from the wind and sun.

This development was spearheaded by Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. This new material would be 320 micrometers thick woven together with strands of wool, and could be integrated into tents, curtains or wearable garments. To construct the fabric, Wang’s team used a commercial textile machines to interlace together solar cells constructed from lightweight polymer fibers with fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators. Triboelectric nanogenerators use a combination of the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction to generate small amount of electrical power from mechanical motion such as rotation, sliding or vibration. Fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators capture the energy created when certain materials become electrically charged after they come into moving contact with a different material. For the sunlight-harvesting part of the fabric, Wang’s team used photoanodes made in a wire-shaped fashion that could be woven together with other fibers. Continue reading

Electrical Energy from Stretching Yarn

by Emil Morhardt

Well, yarn, sort of. This yarn is made by twisting carbon nanotubes until they become so twisted that the coil up into a helical spring-like configuration. You can do the same thing with cotton yarn or string. When the South Korean researchers (Kim et al., 2017) put the coil into an electrolyte then stretched it what they got was electrical current. Not a lot, but these are small laboratory-scale experiments and what the researchers had in mind was generating small amounts of energy to power sensors, for example, sewn into a shirt or gloves that are stretched and released under normal activities, but that wouldn’t work very well if the subject had to be immersed in an electrolyte. Or would it? They tried immersing the device, which they call a twistron, into the Gyeonpo Sea off South Korea where the temperature was 13ºC (a chilly 55ºF) and the sodium chloride content was 0.31 M, a nice electrolyte solution. But instead of sewing the yarn into a diver’s wetsuit, they attached it between a floating balloon and a sinker on the seabed to see if they could harvest ocean wave energy. Yes! They got it to light up a green LED whenever a wave came by. Continue reading

Two Companies Innovate Electric Buses in the United States

by Nadja Redmond

Transit vehicles are mostly powered by unrenewable power sources, such as gasoline, compressed natural gas (CNG), or diesel, with batteries only encompassing 1% of the market. Bus manufacturer Proterra claims that its Electric transit buses are cheaper than the alternative diesel and CNG options. It’s CEO, Ryan Popple, is making predictions that, in the next 10 years, electric transit buses powered by renewable energy will dominate the market. Specifically, he predicts that the majority of bus sales will be electric by 2025, and all new bus sales to transit agencies will be electric by 2030. [https://electrek.co/2017/02/13/electric-buses-proterra-ceo/]. King Country Metro Transit signed a deal for 73 buses with the company for use in and around the Seattle area. These buses can travel 23 miles between charges, with charges taking 10 minutes or less.  Continue reading

Proper Assessment of Shale Oil

by Catherine Parsekian

According to the results of a study done in China by Li et. al (2016), there is no method for measuring oil potential in shale reservoirs that includes both residual oil contents in the rocks as well as hydrocarbon expulsion and migration conditions. Li and his colleagues developed soon an index for determining oil potential. If the index is greater than zero, then some of the oil has migrated to external reservoirs which means that it has poor shale oil potential. Li et. al. argue that because current methods include absorbed, as well as free hydrocarbons, they are overvaluing the shale oil and not looking at oil that can readily be used. The method developed in this paper has multiple parameters and is a more comprehensive measurement since it takes into account oil saturation, free oil content, and shale oil expulsion. Continue reading

Two Companies Innovate Electric Buses in the United States

by Nadja Redmond

Transit vehicles are mostly powered by unrenewable power sources, such as gasoline, compressed natural gas (CNG), or diesel, with batteries only encompassing 1% of the market. Bus manufacturer Proterra claims that its Electric transit buses are cheaper than the alternative diesel and CNG options. It’s CEO, Ryan Popple, is making predictions that, in the next 10 years, electric transit buses powered by renewable energy will dominate the market. Specifically, he predicts that the majority of bus sales will be electric by 2025, and all new bus sales to transit agencies will be electric by 2030. [https://electrek.co/2017/02/13/electric-buses-proterra-ceo/]. King Country Metro Transit signed a deal for 73 buses with the company for use in and around the Seattle area. These buses can travel 23 miles between charges, with charges taking 10 minutes or less. Continue reading

Comparison of Carbon Footprints of Electric and Gasoline Vehicles

by Bradley Newton

Authors Yuksel, Tamayao, Hendrickson, Azevedo, and Michalek (2016) have conducted a study concerning the carbon footprints of electric and gasoline vehicles. They cite several past studies looking at a similar topic, but point out that none of those studies accounted for grid emissions (pollution created by generated electricity), people’s driving patterns, and how diverse temperatures are in different regions. It is also pointed out that past studies used vehicles of differing battery life spans, which can make comparisons harder. The factors that the authors of the study look at for their comparisons are: availability of electricity for Plug-in electric vehicles, temperatures of studied regions, vehicle miles traveled, and driving conditions (meaning whether it is city or highway driving). The vehicles they used were a mix of conventional, hybrid electric, plug-in electric, and battery-electric vehicles. They were driven to the end of their life-cycle (complete depletion of gas tank or battery) and had their respective CO2 emissions measured. Continue reading

How Puerto Rico’s Energy Sector Can Revitalize the Island’s Struggling Economy.

by Byron R. Núñez

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has more than $70 billion of debt, most of which can be attributed to the United States’ decision to cut corporate tax breaks. The current financial crisis has created a mass exodus by U.S. companies and people from the Island. To ameliorate the situation, President Barack Obama signed the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), which led to the creation of a committee design to manage the island’s finances. This economic instability has forced Puerto Rico’s energy sector to reinvent itself and become more cost-effective and efficient. Currently, Puerto Ricans pay two to three times more for electricity than average Americans. The strongest factor for the island’s high energy costs is that 80% of the energy used on the island comes from imported petroleum as the island itself does not produce nor refine crude oil. Sustainable energy is key to Puerto Rico’s future as the island hopes to comply with a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) that hopes to supply 20% of electricity with green energy by 2035. One company that is hoping to revitalize the island’s struggling economy though the energy sector is Green Kinetic Power (GKP), LLC. Continue reading

Scotland, London Propose New Low Emission Zones

by Kieran McVeigh

Scotland may become the latest country in Europe to institute low emission zones in their major urban centers. In January of 2017 the Scottish ministers proposed piloting a “low emissions zone” in the most polluted areas of Scottish cities to reduce pollution and help meet Scotland’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. These goals are among the most aggressive in the world with an end goal of an 80% reduction in green house gases by 2050. The proposed low emission zone would prevent vehicles that create higher then average amounts of pollution like trucks or “lorries” as they’re referred across the pond, from driving in the low emission parts of the city. Continue reading

Off-grid and Mini-grid Energy Production in Rural Tanzanian Communities Receives Grant from African Development Bank

by Genevieve Kules

Tanzania is challenged by poor energy access in rural parts of the country. Access to energy in these rural communities will require off-grid and mini-grid projects. The Tanzanian government has set a goal of establishing 1.3 million electrical connections by 2022, especially in rural areas. This would raise their connected population to about 35% from 20% in urban areas and 7% in rural ones. Tanzania’s energy goals come around the same time as the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) are setting goals for the continent and the world. The UN stated their goal of Sustainable Energy for All by 2030 and the AU began the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative in 2015. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has been supportive in achieving these goals. In January they approved a grant of $870,000 to support off-grid energy systems in Tanzania. Continue reading