Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to use our TARP Money - Cents for Solar

Forget dollars for dishwashers or Funds for Furnaces! How about Cents for Solar?

A company called GreenRaySolar has developed solar panels that are plug and play into your home AC electrical grid. So you don't need to pay to have an installers put in complicated breakers, load balancers and invertors. It should be 2x easier than installing your own satelite dish on your roof. Each panel has all of the components built in and you just click the wiring together. Ease of installation will reduce costs and barriers associated with current residential solar applications.

In theory, we could use our TARP money and buy one for each roof for each house in the U.S. plug it in and save. Here's my estimates (give or take a few million) using 2007 Census data:

111,162,259 households in the U.S. x $800 solar panel = $88 billion dollars
We would produce 64,918,759,256 kilowatts per year.
The national average price of eletricity is 0.12 p/kilowatt. With the solar panel it costs 0.091 p/kilowatt. Each household would save $70.08 a year in electricity. We should pay $53.33 back to the government over 15 years to pay off the $800 panel. Each house would then make $16.75 a year from the electric company. Over 15 years each house will save $251.25. This might not sound like much, but try multiplying this over 111 million households.

Not only would we pay back the $88 billion to the government, each house would be cash positive, we could all properly start the going green movement, perhaps add a few more panels to the system if we want, and more importantly relieve some stress on our failing power infrastructure. Add a few energy saving lightbulbs to the mix and let's see how that compares with throwing away dollars for dishwashers?

Converting CO2 directly to Diesel without biomass extraction

Exciting developments lately with engineered microbes that with sunlight convert CO2 directly to diesel fuel. This greatly simplifies and reduces the actual energy needed to convert algae biomass into biodiesel. Here's a recap of the article from: Gas 2.0

Inside specially designed reactors, Joule’s engineered microbes thrive off of sunlight and CO2. In return, depending on the type of organism, they can produce straight ethanol, diesel or a number of other types of hydrocarbons.

Although the process sounds similar to algae-produced biofuels, the Joule process is incredibly (and beneficially) different for several reasons:

Doesn’t produce biomass
No agricultural feedstock needed
Can be conducted on non-arable land
Doesn’t need fresh water
Produces fuel directly without the need for extraction or refinement
Apparently Joule has discovered some unique genes inside these microbes that produce the enzymes responsible for directly making the molecules found in diesel. From there, engineering organisms to make other fuels was a simple step. At this point, production of the fuels has only been done in the lab, but Joule has plans to open a pilot plant in early 2011.

More info at

Monday, December 14, 2009

Biogas - This shit might be worth something

In trying to figure out an effective closed system wastewater treatment solution for a single residence, I kept encountering issues with current septic tank designs and treatment of raw sludge. The current accepted practice is to settle the raw sewage and use leach fields to remove the excess water. Then perhaps every year the sludge is pumped out. Our level of technology with waste removal has really not changed much since Roman times where they sat on privies and the waste was taken away by running water underneath.

This seems to be a major waste of a potential renewable fuel source. In a closed residential ecosystem stored food and sustainable food production will be consumed and thus turned into human waste. This daily waste will continually input caloric energy into the sewage processing system. Somewhere in this sewage treatment process these joules should be reclaimed and turned back into usable energy to sustain the ecosystem.

A complete solution would be to design a specialized waste treatment process. In a house, all waste water collection points should be segregated in order to pre-sort various human waste in order to ease the processing.

Urine (high in urea nitrogen) should be collected using urinals and bidets and should go to a separate tank for processing. Urea can be concentrated and the high level of nitrogen is a valuable fertilizer for plants.

Grey water such as water from showers, sinks and clothes washing should be collected separately and can be used directly on plants for watering or (with a pre-UV treatment) be collected into tanks that can support floating aquaculture to remove impurities. Then this refined grey water can be further filtered and purified through reverse osmosis or distillation to provide pure drinking water.

Sludge is collected in low-flush toilets. Waste toilet paper should not be flushed but be collected and placed in a trash bin. Most 3rd world countries employ this method due to inadequate or constricted sewage pipes. When I lived in Pakistan, next to each toilet is a water pitcher which is used to wash your bum (with your left hand). This type of washing actually cleans better than using even a wet wipe. Anyway, pre-sorting paper waste would eliminate the need for maceration pumps that would be needed to break up the paper pulp for the bio reactor. Also with any design that uses any type of pump, reliability and maintenance will become an issue down the road. So with designs, passive systems should be the first on the list of requirements. Back to the bio reactor; for anaerobic reactions to occur properly, a higher temperature will increase the rate that the sludge will break down. Reasonable operating temperatures should be between 60-125 degrees. Excess water is also an issue with proper bio reaction since dilution of the sludge reduces the rate of decomposition. With a segregated waste collection system, grey water is not introduced which partially solves this problem. Low flush toilets should also help control water dilution. Surprisingly there are very few turn-key residential bio reactors on the market. One such system is produced by Sintex a plastics manufacturing company.

Here are the specs on their bio reactor which has been used in India: Sintex Bioreactor

This goal is to take the sewage and convert it to usable methane gas. Gas from the bioreactor can be collected into tanks. Methane gas is what is commonly known as natural gas. This gas can also be used with current 1kw methane fuel cell generators to produce electricity. This is a preferable method (than just burning the gas) since the C02 waste gas can be easily collected and pumped into a bioalgae or tanks filled with bacterial bioorganisms called methanogens which when exposed to sunlight can produce lipids or additional methane. This would enable a second cycle of methane production by the use of solar. Methane gas can be compressed or liquefied for long term storage into storage tanks. Since methane is stable, it results in a viable long term fuel better than bio-diesel which can become unstable over time.

In essence, we could provide ourselves with renewable source of energy with every flush. And I know we will be flushing down shit for many more years to come.

Monday, October 26, 2009

GMC RV Dream Coming True?

Strange, when I was 10 I had a vivid dream that I was driving a GMC truck and 5th wheel through the desert. It was entirely modern and was white with moulded sides. The windows were blue and had solar panels built into them. I made a sketch of it and it was nothing like I have ever seen. Then guess what... today I see this... looks like my dream is not too far off...

How to make a monolithic concrete dome

The Monolithic Dome

Cutaway David Collins
Schematic cutaway of the layers of the final Monolithic Dome.



Polyurethane Foam

Steel rebar


Monday, April 6, 2009

Europeans do it better!

Quick post: Electric motorcycle and Electric cars in Europe

Take a look at this homebuilt electric motorcycle. Looks like a cool project:

Now look at this cute care from Pininfarina. No wonder GM is going out of business. They should be selling cars like this right now. Of course the rest of the world is light years ahead.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Glycerin CHP

Or here's another idea on what to do with the excess glycerin...just burn it! This seems a much better option frankly.

One-tenth of every gallon of biodiesel that is produced is crude glycerin. The biodiesel byproduct is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that has traditionally been used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of products in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. The supply of crude glycerin entering the U.S. marketplace remained relatively stable until 2003, when biodiesel production began to increase. Since then, the supply of crude glycerin has nearly doubled, while demand for the product has remained largely unchanged. This excess supply and limited demand has caused glycerin prices to remain depressed.

Possible experimental applications for glycerin at the moment:

Zhiyou Wen, an assistant professor of biological systems engineering with Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is developing a technology that will use glycerin to aid in the production of algae that produce omega-3 fatty acids.

A newly developed technology in the U.K. allows glycerin to be burned in off-the-shelf diesel generators that are used in combined-heat-and-power applications.

Transform glycerin into alcohol using e coli.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

We need Pandora! Free or only $36 for love u long time!

Ok, shameless plug for Pandora. Ever since I downloaded this app to my iPhone I have listened to them non-stop. I also play it at work. I've tried many online radio stations. RadioParadise is good, 89.5worldwide so is KPPC but this brings it all together to give me what I want when I really want it. It is the internet porn to internet/mobile radio.

It has introduced me to dozens of new songs and bands within my genre's. If none of this makes sense to you then go listen for free. You setup stations based upon song or artist or genre. All brought to you by the genius idea of the Music Genome Project. I cancelled my XM radio in my car to stop paying $11 a month.

Now Pandora has been hit with additional music fees as imposed by recent government regulation. I'm willing to pay $36 dollars a year to support them. You can of course go free and hear a 15 sec commercial every two hours. Still better than crappy XM or old school FM. I paid them $36 to keep them going another year.

Trust me, I'd rather pay for this than public radio (I've since switched to free BBC podcasts). I haven't been this excited about an app since the roll out of Firefox.

Try it out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Have plants tell you when to water via Twitter

This is strangely cool to have plants twitter you and let you know when they are thirsty. Very geeky but I'm tempted to buy a kit and solder it together!

There’s a school of thought that says that plants, like higher animals, have thoughts and feelings. They have an inner voice, and can tell you their life-stories, if only you could speak "plant." It’s not a difficult language to learn, actually - there are only a few words to contend with, since all they seem to care about is how much water they’re getting. There are no masculine or feminine nouns. Plus, there are no verb tenses, because plants have no concept of linear time.
The original breakthrough was made just a few months ago when the chief scientist at CERN, attempting to converse with a patch of catnip translated through their Milliard Gargantubrain computer, was able to discern "I CAN HAZ TWITTER?" The scientist didn’t quite understand that gibberish, but his granddaughter did, and the Plant Twitter Kit was born.
Once the kit is assembled, connect it to the Internet through the built-in ethernet jack, jam the leads into the plant’s soil, and subscribe to the plant’s twitter feed. It will tell you when it needs watering, or scold you if you’ve overwatered it, and report its status in between. The DIY Plant Twitter Kit comes unassembled, so you’ll have to break out the soldering iron and get to work. Don’t worry, it’s not that difficult to put together, and the satisfaction you get from building your own translation circuit is huge.
Do-It-Yourself Kit includes everything you need to understand what your plant is saying
Connects to Twitter over the Internet to report its watering status
Some soldering skill is recommended but not required
You’ll also need a soldering iron, solder, needle-nose pliers, small snips, masking tape and a flat-head screwdriver

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Biodiesel is a ripoff?

Just came across this article. First article I've read that questions the hype. Something to really consider and figure out. Basically, I would need something like 12,000 gallons of algae growing to produce 1 gallon of algae oil a day. And that would be under optimal conditions with lighting, C02 and PH balance. Food for thought.

In the comments:

AS much as I would like to believe that those numbers are realI live in the world of physics and factsFirst of all with a diameter of 50 cm which is 157 circumferenceyou must subtract the inefficient portion of the volume that has little or no photosynthesis or about 42-45cm diameter which is unproductive no matter how you mix or agitateconsidering a ring of about 1cm depth for maximum photon excitement 1cm more for medium 1cm for poor say 20% (probably less) and beyond that just unproductive volumethat leaves about 70% of the volume unproductive.Which is the fundamental problem with large diameter tubesI want one of those reactors that produces 30-40gm/LI want these things but they are in dreamland not here in realityOn the farm the reality is throw away your initial investment and never consider it againthe actual harvest is about .15gm oil/L/dayand even the wildest “practical reality” on the farm COULD be1gm Biodiesel/day/liter that means you Need a photobioreactor that you can harvest 454liters for 1lb of oil or3087 liters for 1gal now you cant harvest all the water every day you have to leave about 75% so 3087=25%X you need a12000 gallon Photobioreactor to produce 1 gallon of biodiesel/day and with actual farm yield you would need a 75,000 gal PBR for that 1Gal/day 1 gallon

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reading and Regulations on how to get started with Biodiesel

Learn all you can about biodiesel production:
Read the guide to Getting Started with Biodiesel Production
Biodiesel Handling and Use Guidelines (U.S. Department of Energy)
U.S. Department of Energy
Renewable Fuels Association
National Biodiesel Board
National Biodiesel Accreditation Program

Processing of waste Glycerol for biodiesel using e coli

If conventional methods are used to create biodiesel then for every 10 gallons of methanol used as a acid in the process to esterfy the oil, 10 gallons of glycol will be produced. To convert this into something more useful (than say lots of soap) it can be converted into ethanol (alcohol) by using e coli.

This is a site to watch in the next 6 months in terms of progess:

The latest research is available online in the journal Metabolic Engineering. The new paper and others published earlier this year describe a new fermentation process that allows E. coli and other enteric bacteria to convert glycerin -- the major waste byproduct of biodiesel production -- into formate, succinate and other valuable organic acids.
"Biodiesel producers used to sell their leftover glycerin, but the rapid increase in biodiesel production has left them paying to get rid of it," said lead researcher Ramon Gonzalez, Rice's William W. Akers Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "The new metabolic pathways we have uncovered paved the way for the development of new technologies for converting this waste product into high-value chemicals."
About one pound of glycerin, also known as glycerol, is created for every 10 pounds of biodiesel produced. According to the National Biodiesel Board, U.S. companies produced about 450 million gallons of biodiesel in 2007, and about 60 new plants with a production capacity of 1.2 billion gallons are slated to open by 2010.
Gonzalez's team last year announced a new method of glycerol fermentation that used E. coli to produce ethanol, another biofuel. Even though the process was very efficient, with operational costs estimated to be about 40 percent less that those of producing ethanol from corn, Gonzalez said new fermentation technologies that produce high-value chemicals like succinate and formate hold even more promise for biodiesel refiners because those chemicals are more profitable than ethanol.
"With fundamental research, we have identified the pathways and mechanisms that mediate glycerol fermentation in E. coli," Gonzalez said. "This knowledge base is enabling our efforts to develop new technologies for converting glycerol into high-value chemicals."
Gonzalez said scientists previously believed that the only organisms that could ferment glycerol were those capable of producing a chemical called 1,3-propanediol, also known as 1,3-PDO. Unfortunately, neither the bacterium E. coli nor the yeast Saccharomyces -- the two workhorse organisms of biotechnology -- were able to produce 1,3-PDO.
Gonzalez's research revealed a previously unknown metabolic pathway for glycerol fermentation, a pathway that uses 1,2-PDO, a chemical similar to 1,3-PDO, that E. coli can produce.
"The reason this probably hadn't been discovered before is that E. coli requires a particular set of fermentation conditions for this pathway to be activated," Gonzalez said. "It wasn't easy to zero in on these conditions, so it wasn't the sort of process that someone would stumble upon by accident."
Once the new metabolic pathways were identified, Gonzalez's team began using metabolic engineering to design new versions of E. coli that could produce a range of high-value products. For example, while run-of-the-mill E. coli ferments glycerol to produce very little succinate, Gonzalez's team has created a new version of the bacterium that produces up to 100 times more. Succinate is a high-demand chemical feedstock that's used to make everything from noncorrosive airport deicers and nontoxic solvents to plastics, drugs and food additives. Most succinate today comes from nonrenewable fossil fuels.
Gonzalez said he's had similar success with organisms designed to produce other high-value chemicals, including formate and lactate.
"Our goal goes beyond using this for a single process," he said. "We want to use the technology as a platform for the 'green' production of a whole range of high-value products."
Technologies based on Gonzalez's work have been licensed to Glycos Biotechnologies Inc., a Houston-based startup company that plans to open its first demonstration facility within the next 12 months.
The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, Rice University and Glycos Biotechnologies.

Oil Extraction from Algae

One of the main issues is efficient extraction of the oil from the Algae. While this can be done by drying then pressing the algae powder, an in process soluable method is easier. Hielscher has a device for about 13K that uses ultrasound technology to breakdown the cellular walls and extract the oil. This model uses about 1000watts.

The UIP1000hd (20kHz, 1000W) is a powerful and adaptable ultrasonic device for lab testing and industrial processing of liquids. It is used for applications, such as emulsifying, dispersing & particle fine milling, lysis & extraction or homogenizing.
The UIP1000hd is the powerful link between laboratory testing and the industrial processing of liquids. It combines the flexibility and easy handling required in the research and development with an outstanding performance in heavy-duty operation. For this reason, this single device is used for lab scale feasibility testing, process optimization, and process demonstration for ultrasonic liquid processes.
Adaptable System to Fulfill R&D Needs

Since the UIP1000hd is very flexible and adaptable, it is being used in many R&D facilities and universities, today. The flexibility of the UIP1000hd results from an extensive list of manifold accessories, such as sonotrodes, boosters and flow cells. In combination with a sonotrode and the stand, you can sonicate sample beakers (click to enlarge picture) to test various liquid formulations for their response to sonication.
For the processing of batches larger than 5 liters, we generally recommend to sonicate using a flow cell reactor (flow mode) in order to obtain a better processing quality. When used with a flow cell (right picture) you can run larger samples in recirculation to establish the correlation between parameters, such as amplitude, pressure and liquid composition, and the process results and efficiency. When used for the sonication of liquids in flow mode, the UIP1000hd can typically process between 0.5 and 4.0L/min (The actual rate will depend on your process). As the UIP1000hd is full industrial grade, it can be operated 24 hours per day (24h/7d). A UIP1000hd can typically process approx. 1 to 5m³ per day. For higher production throughput, we recommend using either multiple units or one the larger ultrasonic devices:
Algae Bioreactor Design by Origin Oil

Los Angeles, CA - December 16, 2008 - OriginOil, Inc. (OTCBB: OOIL), the developer of a breakthrough technology to transform algae, the most promising source of renewable oil, into a true competitor to petroleum, announced the successful automation of its Helix BioReactor™ system. This breakthrough technology optimizes algae growth, making large-scale commercial algae production scalable.
The design of the Helix BioReactor™ utilizes low-energy lights arranged in a helix pattern and a rotating vertical shaft design, which allows algae culture to replicate exponentially within a smaller installation footprint. Automation of this system is a key step towards continuous algae production, allowing greater control of the growth environment and efficient, low-cost industrial algae production.“Algae is such a fantastic biofuel source because it grows quickly, is inexpensive to harvest and provides abundant amounts of oil relative to its size. The successful automation of our Helix BioReactor™ is an enormous leap for us, as it brings us one step closer to ending the world’s reliance on petroleum,” said OriginOil founder and chief executive officer, Riggs Eckelberry. The automation will provide real-time control over all stages of monitoring, nutrient injection and CO2 delivery at the micron or Quantum Fracturing™ level. Nutrient and CO2 delivery are timed precisely to a proprietary algorithm to provide an optimum micron-mixed fluid in the bioreactor. Through programming of certain key metrics, such as pH, oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) and temperature, the system is capable of not only monitoring but also controlling flow and timing of events in the algae growth cycle, which is crucial to controlling batch health in continuous algae production.

Greenline Industries develops esterification process

On the lookout for a biodiesel esterification process that does not need to use methanol and produce a glycerin byproduct. The glycerin can be turned into ethanol, but if this can be avoided entirely it would be less energy and effort.

Greenline Industries, a biodiesel process technology provider, is developing a new process to esterify free fatty acids without using acid catalysts, according to the company’s Senior Process Engineer Gaurav Shah. He couldn’t give details on exactly what approach Greenline Industries’ new esterification process will use, but said in a couple of months, once patent protection is in place, the company will provide more details. Some biodiesel feedstocks, such as yellow grease and brown grease, contain high amounts of FFAs. If a biodiesel refinery’s business plan includes conversion of those FFAs to biodiesel, the conventional approach is to esterify the FFAs into biodiesel using an acid catalyst, such as sulfuric or hydrochloric acid and methanol, then turning the rest of the feedstock – the triglycerides – to methyl esters through conventional base transesterification. “Greenline has always had the philosophy of being a chemical and acid-free facility – besides sodium methylate and methanol,” Shah told Biodiesel Magazine. “The reason for maintaining this philosophy of being green without using unnecessary chemicals or acids is twofold. First, permitting acids is not an easy task in the U.S., especially when environmental laws are getting tougher. Secondly, acids and their toxic disposals counter our green approach.”