Updated: 11/24/2005; 11:21:34 PM.

Future energy
Renewables, fuel cells, hydrogen, and efficiency


daily link  Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Nanotechnology improves superconductors: "University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a researcher from the University of Cambridge have demonstrated a simple and industrially scaleable method for improving the current densities of superconducting coated conductors in magnetic field environments. The discovery has the potential to increase the already impressive carrying capacity of superconducting wires and tapes by as much as 200 to 500 percent in certain uses, like motors and generators ..

Superconducting wires and tapes carry hundreds of times more electrical current than conventional copper wires with little or no electrical resistance. Superconducting technology is poised to bring substantial energy efficiencies to electrical power transmission systems in the United States. Much of the excitement caused by this discovery is due to the fact that the process can be easily and economically incorporated into commercial processing of the superconductors. ..

Dean Peterson, leader of the STC, said, "This is a significant technical advancement because it means we are now beginning to understand how to control defects in these superconducting materials and use them to our advantage. This was the first time we have been able to control the structural defects and in doing so, better engineer the material's structure to optimize performance." .. Scientists discovered that small, nanoscale defects are required to maintain high current densities in superconductors, particularly in the presence of high magnetic fields. "

  12:38:57 AM  permalink  

Self-sustaining robot powered by flies in a fuel cell: "To survive without human help, a robot needs to be able to generate its own energy. So Chris Melhuish and his team of robotics experts at the University of the West of England in Bristol are developing a robot that catches flies and digests them in a special reactor cell that generates electricity. Called EcoBot II, the robot is part of a drive to make "release and forget" robots that can be sent into dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry out remote industrial or military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations. Sensors on the robot feed a data logger that periodically radios the results back to a base station.

The robot's energy source is the sugar in the polysaccharide called chitin that makes up a fly's exoskeleton. EcoBot II digests the flies in an array of eight microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which use bacteria from sewage to break down the sugars, releasing electrons that drive an electric current.  In its present form, EcoBot II still has to be manually fed fistfuls of dead bluebottles, but the ultimate aim of the UWE robotics team is to make the droid predatory, using sewage as a bait to catch the flies.

.. With a top speed of 10 centimetres per hour, EcoBot II's roving prowess is still modest to say the least. "Every 12 minutes it gets enough energy to take a step forwards two centimetres and send a transmission back," says Melhuish.  But it does not need to catch too many flies to do so, says team member Ioannis Ieropoulos. In tests, EcoBot II travelled for five days on just eight fat flies - one in each MFC.

So how do flies get turned into electricity? Each MFC comprises an anaerobic chamber filled with raw sewage slurry - donated by UWE's local utility, Wessex Water. The flies become food for the bacteria that thrive in the slurry.  Enzymes produced by the bacteria break down the chitin to release sugar molecules. These are then absorbed and metabolised by the bacteria. In the process, the bacteria release electrons that are harnessed to create an electric current."

  12:20:22 AM  permalink  

 
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Copyright 2005 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 11/24/2005; 11:21:34 PM.