Future energy
Renewables, fuel cells, hydrogen, and efficiency

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Craig Venter update: Nice summary of Venter's latest work by Steve Jurvetson.  "Craig Venter set sail around the world to shotgun sequence the millions of viruses and bacteria in every spoonful of sea water. From the first five ocean samples, this team grew the number of known genes on the planet by 10x and the number of genes involved in solar energy conversion by 100x. The ocean microorganisms have evolved over a longer period of time and have pathways that are more efficient than photosynthesis.

Another discovery: every 200 miles across the open ocean, the microbial genes are up to 85% different. The oceans are not homogenous masses. They consist of myriad uncharted regions of ecological diversity… and the world’s largest digital database.

From the collection of digital genomes, we are learning to decode and reprogram the information systems of biology. Like computer hackers, we can leverage a prior library of evolved code, assemblers and subsystems. Many of the radical applications lie outside of medicine.

At the Venter Institute, Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith are leading the Minimal Genome Project. They take the Mycoplasma genitalium from the human urogenital tract, and strip out 200 unnecessary genes, thereby creating the simplest synthetic organism that can self-replicate (at about 300 genes). They plan to layer new functionality on to this artificial genome – to make a solar cell or to generate hydrogen from water using the sun’s energy for photonic hydrolysis – by splicing cassettes of novel genes discovered in the oceans for energy conversion from sunlight. ..

The limiting factor is our understanding of these complex systems, but our pace of learning has been compounding exponentially. We will learn more about genetics and the origins of disease in the next 10 years than we have in all of human history. "  Also see Venter's latest company, Synthetic Genomics.  7:47:25 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, October 24, 2005


PV production doubling every 2 years:  A chart of global PV production by country 1988-2003.  The 2004 figure, of 1195 MW, has been released by the same group in RE-focus magazine.  From very low levels up to 1996, production grew in successive 2 years periods by 74% to 1998, 85% to 2000, 95% to 2002, and 112% to 2004.  Half of all production in 2004 went to grid-tied residential and commercial sites in Germany (250 MW) and Japan (240 MW).  Japan produced about half of all PVs.  Numerous plants are opening in 2005-2006 to continue growth.  3:40:03 PM  permalink  

HSBC is carbon-free: "The Carbon Management Plan implemented by HSBC commits to buy renewable electricity where possible, and the bank implemented a system of measuring and reporting direct emissions from its consumption of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and business travel. ..

Carbon emissions for the last three months of this year will be 170,000 tonnes and the bank will purchase that level of offsets through a competitive tender process from 100 projects from dozens of countries. It will spend US$750,000 to buy the offsets from a windfarm in New Zealand, an organic waste composting facility in Australia, an agricultural methane capture scheme in Germany, and a biomass co-generation plant in India.  The value of the offset works out to US$4.43 per tonne of CO2."

  3:27:48 PM  permalink  

Nanocrystal Solar Cells: October 2005 news from the lab of Paul Alivisatos at UCB.  "In this paper, the researchers describe a technique whereby rod-shaped nanometer-sized crystals of two semiconductors, cadmium-selenide (CdSe) and cadmium-telluride (CdTe), were synthesized separately and then dissolved in solution and spin-cast onto a conductive glass substrate. The resulting films, which were about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, displayed efficiencies for converting sunlight to electricity of about 3 percent. This is comparable to the conversion efficiencies of the best organic solar cells, but still substantially lower than conventional silicon solar cell thin films. .. [They] offer the added advantage of being stable in air because they contain no organic materials"  3:17:32 PM  permalink  

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Last update: 11/24/2005; 11:23:41 PM.
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