Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Record Of Solar PV Cell Efficiency

NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) USA has set a new record for PV cell efficiency. They have achieved a cell conversion efficiency of 44%, compared to currently commercial available silicon PV cell of 20%. This record has won them a coveted R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine for a world-record multijunction solar cell. The cell composes of 3 layers of semiconductor materials to form multiple junctions inside the PV cell to maximize the absorption of the sun energy. Low-cost lens was mounted on the surface of the cell to gather sunlight and direct to each cell. This lens serves as a "concentrator" to focus more sunlight to reach the surface of the cell.

The semiconductor materials used here are not the conventional silicon. They are called the III-V semiconductors, which are the group 3 and group 5 elements in the chemistry periodic table. Common III-V materials used in PV cell are GaAs, InAs, InP, AlAs, GaN and combination of them, like AlGaAs, GaInAs, etc. Different material and combination will respond to different wavelength of the sun spectrum. For example, GaAs has peak spectral response at ~ 850nm which is infrared, AlAs peaked at ~ 570nm which is in the green spectrum.

Using different III-V materials to form a multiple-junction PV cell will broaden the spectral response allowing more sunlight to be absorbed in a single cell, thereby improving the efficiency of the PV cell.

Also, another trick to improve the efficiency is to use a different growth technique, called molecular beam epitaxy. It is a material growth technique done in an ultra-high vacuum (10 to the minus 13 atmospheres), similar to the vacuum in outer space. This ultra clean environment helps to lower the impurities inside the PV cell. Below shows the picture of such a machine.

The cost of production for III-V semiconductor PV cell is still very high. Currently, they are mostly used in the high-end type of PV system, like CPV (concentrated photovoltaic) system which has parabolic-disc look and capable to generate few kilo-watts of power with only 1 disc.

To read more about this please go to

ZEV Launches Electric Scooters

ZEV (Z Electric Vehicle) launches a series of electric scooters, with the entry-model of ZEV 2400 & 2700. Thety priced at US$2,565 and US$2,745 for 2400 & 2700 model, respectively. The entry-level model was designed for commuters live in urban or small city environment who does not need high speed or long ranges to cruise around. But the scooter still allows rider to be able to carry big loads and use the scooter as a car substitute.

ZEV scooters are available in the UK, Poland, the Philippines, Bermuda, the Netherlands, the US, and Australia.

ZEV 2400 & 2700 features:
  • Dual Controllers
  • Dual stator motor (individually controllable stators)
  • Battery 20 Ah silicate/lead battery
  • Voltage 72 volt (2700) / 60 volt (2400)
  • Range: 65 km (2700) / 51 km (2400) @ 40 km/h
  • Max Speed: 54 km/h (2700) / 45 km/h (2400)
Of course, if you are more into speed and have more $$$ in your pocket, then you can always go for the higher-level ZEV 3600 scooter. It costs US$3,845 and now you can cruise up to 81 km/h.

If you have US$8,990 to spare, then you can really get the high-speed and long-range version of ZEV 7100. It has a max speed of 121 km/h and go for 160 km per charge.

You can visit to look at other models.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Music Record Made Out of Ice

Sweden-based indie rock band Shout Out Louds wants fans to listen to their new single “Blue Ice” literally. 10 sets of the ice record DIY kit will be given to 10 lucky fans for them to make the ice record themselves.

The band worked with the ad agency TBWA Stockholm to conceptualize and materialize the ice record idea. According to the art director Alex Fredlund, the idea had been rejected by professors from several universities as impractical. TBWA then turned its office into a chemistry lab to experiment different techniques and liquid to form the record. The biggest challenge faced by the team was actually the air bubbles formed in the ice which would made the surface uneven and caused the turntable's needle jump. Finally, they solved the problem by using distilled water.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Malayisa Renewable Energy Outlook

The energy demand of South-East Asia is estimated to growth at the rate of 6.5% per year over the next decade. Renewable energy (RE) resources play an important role in providing sufficient power supply, without any adverse impact to the environment. Five countries in the region – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam aim to install total of 32 GW of new RE capacity between 2011 and 2025.

Each country is focusing differently on the technologies and incentives in growing its RE portfolio. Below table shows the focus of RE technologies for each country.

RE Technology Focus
Geothermal & Small Hydro
Solar & Biomass
Geothermal & Wind
Biomass & Wind
Small Hydro & Wind

In 2009, Malaysia government passed the National Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan which set a roadmap for RE development. It created a Green Technology Financing Scheme to offer soft loans to the companies in RE & EE sectors. In December 2011, RE feed-in tariff (FiT) was launched to promote domestic, business and industrial sectors to venture into RE technologies, including biogas, biomass, solid waste, small hydro and solar PV. Although Malaysia has the shortest history in promoting RE in Southeast Asia, it has experienced the quickest development in the region.

The Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) Malaysia was officially set up in September 2011 to administer and manage the implementation of the FiT scheme. To date, 43 MW of RE FiT application has been approved, with another 348.57 MW expected in 2014.

Malaysia RE market is expected to grow to 1 GW by 2015, 2 GW by 2020, 4 GW by 2030 and eventually 21 GW by 2050. Initially, biomass would dominate the market. Subsequently solar PV would be the dominant source of RE by 2020 and would take up 30% of the total capacity by 2030.

The major obstacle for Malaysia RE development is the perception of risk reckoned by banks and financial institutions. This is due to lack of technical information about RE projects. However, RE could be worth RM19 billion (US$6.1 billion) of loan value by 2020. It is therefore important for the banks and financial institutions to support this fast growing power business.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Panasonic Malaysia Opens New Econation Center

Panasonic Malaysia will be opening its very first eco-showroom outside Japan in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Called Econation Center, it acts as a platform to showcase the idea of sustainable living and latest green technologies to the Malaysian.

This new 6,000 square-foot center was designed to interact with the natural elements of the earth likes sunlight (via the 40kWp solar modules fitted on a double roof structure), water (50 cubic meter rain water harvesting system), air (energy efficient and indoor air conditioning and quality purification) and earth (landscaping and reduction of heat reflections). It is estimated to generate a surplus of 24MWh of energy every year and reduce about 12 tons of greenhouse gases emission.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Update On Malaysia Feed-In-Tariff Scheme

Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) of Malaysia announced on November of some new rules of RE quota application and new solar FiT quota and degression rates.

SEDA plans to release 20 MW of solar quota for photovoltaic (PV) installation < 500 kW in Q1 2013. This release was previously scheduled for 17th December 2012 but been postponed. SEDA also mentioned that more solar quota will be announced for installation < 5 MW in Q1 2013 if sufficient fund becomes available.

Another significant change proposed by SEDA is a new "2-year moratorium period". This rule is to prevent any of the feed-in approval holder (FIAH) with revoked feed-in approval to immediate re-apply for RE quota. Under this new rule the moratorium would suspend quota applications by any company with a subsidiary, holding company or shareholder who is a revoked FIAH.

The new proposed rule will also set the quota cap limit of any company to 30 MW. To prevent certain parties for setting multiple companies and hogging the quota, SEDA proposed to limit each shareholder to only can apply up to 5 MW.

SEDA also proposed to adjust the solar FiT degression rate. Changes are shown on the table below.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Malaysia Green Labelling Project

Back in October, the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA) launched MyHijau label project. According to the Minister YB Datuk Sri Peter Chin, "In line with the National Green Technology Policy, the programme will push Malaysian manufacturers to produce more competitive goods and services by incorporating environmental attributes to meet local and global market demand." It is not just promoting environmental-friendly goods and services but also streamlining various environmental labeling practices by Malaysia companies. This project will allow consumers to identify and select products and services based on environmental factors.

Electrical appliances, food and beverage, construction materials, household products, stationery and office supplies, furniture and packaging, clothing, agricultural and timber products will all be part of the project that can be certified with MyHijau label. Businesses with products or services certified with the MyHijau label stand to benefit from improved eligibility for green procurement projects in the future.
Join force with Malaysian Green Technology Corporation, KeTTHA established a mechanism to ensure smooth and consistent coordination among various agencies, certification bodies, academic and research institutions and other existing scheme operators.

Any Good Of Mosquitoes?

Every year thousands of Malaysian die from mosquito related diseases, like malaria, dengue and yellow fever. They are annoying and will follow you wherever you go looking for opportunity to bite you. Then leave you an itchy bump for days. Besides being a threat to humankind, mosquitoes also carry diseases that endanger livestock and pets.

With all these negative things, it's hard to imagine that mosquitoes fulfill any useful purpose. After being living in this earth for more than 2 million years, mosquitoes actually play an important role in our ecosystem. So what good are mosquitoes?

Mosquito larvae play an important role in the aquatic food chain. Described by Dr. Gilbert Waldbauer in his book The Handy Bug Answer Book, "mosquito larvae are filter feeders that strain tiny organic particles such as unicellular algae from the water and convert them to the tissues of their own bodies, which are, in turn, eaten by fish." They serve as the nutrient-packed snacks for fish and other aquatic animals. When turned into mosquitoes their role shifted from water to land. They become the nutritious meals for birds, bats, and spiders.

Mosquitoes represent an important part of the bottom of the food chain. Their extinction would have an enormous adverse affect on the entire ecosystem.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

14-Year-Old Young Scientist Solving The Global Water Crisis

A 14-year-old New Hampshire, USA, student Deepika Kurup was named “America’s Top Young Scientist” for inventing a low-cost solar-powered water purification system.

Kurup’s invention has won her $25,000 in the The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a science competition for students in 5th to 8th grade (between 10 to 14 year-old).

Kurup and other participants of the Challenge spent 3 months working directly with a 3M scientist as they created their personal innovations as part of a summer mentorship program. The 3M Scientists provided guidance to the finalists as they developed their ideas from a theoretical concept into an actual prototype that would solve problem of everyday life.

Kurup used titanium oxide and zinc oxide in her invention. When exposed to sunlight, chemical reaction will start and generate hydroxyl radicals (HO) that could kill harmful bacteria in water. The advantages of her invention, over commonly used UV-treated and chemical-treated water purification system, are it requires no electricity to run as compared to UV system, and produce no strength smell and taste like water treated with chemical.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sabah Plans For More Stringent Standrad On Palm Oil Discharge

My state Sabah has exported RM16.75 billion (US$5.5 billion) worth of palm oil products in the first nine months of 2011 and the oil palm industry has contributed more than 30% of Malaysia’s 2011 exports. All the while the waste water discharged from the palm oil industries has been the highlight of the news as it contributes significantly to the local rivers and soil pollutions.

Sabah government has planned to adopt a more stringent standard to govern the discharged from palm oil industries. Back in 2006, it had instructed mills operating along the Kinabatangan to implement a multiple-level treatment on the palm oil mill effluent (POME) before final discharge into river. Even with this, the POME still contains significant amount of organic substances. Microbes in the water will consume oxygen while digesting the POME organic substances. This demand action of oxygen is called biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). When the presence of the substance-rich POME increases in the water, the microbes will then consume oxygen in the faster rate than the atmospheric oxygen can be dissolved in the water. Fish and other aquatic life will be endangered due to oxygen depletion.

Untreated POME often has BOD around 25,000 mg/l. Sabah government has limited the BOD of POME discharged into river to 100 mg/l since 1984. This limit was gradually lowered to 20 mg/l in 2006.

The industry, while conceding that proper effluent management is important, is asking for a more lenient limit of 50 mg/l, which most players in the state can meet on a regular basis. The limit of 20mg/l will be tough for most players to achieve. The barrier is not so much technical but financial. Complying with the 20 mg/l limit means having to invest in “effluent polishing plants”. Also, the skill and knowledge of the plant operators are important to ensure that the plant can meet the requirement consistently.

The Malaysian palm oil industry is always improving its practices to minimize the impact on ecology and the environment. With Sabah government continuing to encourage the industry to adopt ever higher standards, it is hoped that palm oil mills will no longer be accused as the source of pollution in the Kinabatangan river basin in the years to come.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Outdoor Air Pollution Causes 3 Million Deaths Every Year

Outdoor air pollution has been ranked among the top global health risks. It is a much more significant public health risk than previously known − contributing annually to over 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide and over 74 million years of healthy life lost.

The study, 2010 Global Burden of Disease, applied consistent methods to the largest global database ever assembled to estimate risks of premature mortality and contributions to global health burden from a wide variety of risks: smoking, diet, alcohol, HIV AIDS, household and outdoor air pollution, and many more. For the first time outdoor air pollution was placed among the top 10 health risks worldwide, top 5 risks in East Asia developing countries (China and North Korea), and top 6 risks in South Asia developing countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka).

Exposure to air pollution affects cardiovascular disease and other leading causes of disease and death worldwide, the health burden caused by it is substantial. All the while the impact from air pollution had been underestimated. With the data published hopefully effective action to reduce exposure will be put in place, especially in the developing countries.

For more info go to Health Effects Institute.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gravity Powered Lighting System For The Poors

Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves, London based designers, have spent 4 years developing GravityLight as an off-line project. GravityLight is a revolutionary new approach to storing energy and creating illumination. It takes only 3 seconds to lift the weight which powers GravityLight, creating 30 minutes of light on its descent.

Martin and Jim believe that this will be a better alternative than solar powered light in replacing kerosene lamps. Solar panels only produce electricity when the sun shines and the energy needs to be stored in a battery to be used at night. However batteries and panels are expensive. Plus batteries have limited lifespan. The high upfront investment and high replacement cost have hindered the spread of solar powered light in underdeveloped and developing countries. GravityLight will be a perfect solution for clean low-cost lighting.

Currently, they are raising fund through Indiegogo to manufacture 1,000 units of the light and will gift the products to villagers in both Africa and India to use regularly. This will tell them how well the lights met the people needs. The data collected will be used to refine the design. The goal is to make GravityLight costs less than $5 when mass produce.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Use Air And Water To Make Gasoline

It is no longer a fairy tale to make fuel just from air and water!

Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) uses renewable energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. They are using a process similar to photosynthesis in plants. These fuels provide an alternative to substitute fossil fuels for transportation, including renewable aviation fuel which is hard to obtain from other non-fossil sources.

Oil is basically made from carbon and hydrogen. Carbon is in the air in the form of carbon dioxide and hydrogen can be found in water. AFS integrates a range of technologies using components either off the shelf or from existing demonstration models. The fuels generated will be sustainable and clean, and contain no harmful elements like sulfur found in conventional fossil gasoline.

It will be a while before this new technology can be commercialized. Currently, AFS is now focusing to develop a five-liter-per-day demo system at Wilton, UK, and developing a business plan which will help the company implement its concept worldwide.

Using Garlic And Onions To Filter Out Heavy Metals

Researchers at University of Delhi are using garlic and onion to filter out heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, etc. The filter itself is made out of leftovers from processing garlic and onions at food canneries, and is reusable. When it absorbs as much contaminants as it can handle, and then nitric acid is applied to separate the metals into another vessel. The filter can then be reused all over again. Once the filter has outlived its usefulness, then it can be thrown into the food waste stream as feedstock for biofuel refineries. The process depends on achieving an efficient pH of 5, in a relatively low temperature of  50 degree Celsius only.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fighting Leukemia With Modified HIV Virus

HIV is a deadly virus that attacks human immune system allowing life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Now, researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) have found a new use of this deadly virus in fighting Childhood Leukemia.

Researchers have successfully induced cancer remissions by using a disabled form of HIV to reprogram patient's white blood cells. They extracted millions of white blood cells from the patient's body and used genetically altered HIV to turn the patient's cell into a specifically programmed cell.  The cells were then returned into the patient’s body to destroy leukemia cells.

According to Dr. Stephen Grupp, a pediatric oncologist of CHOP, “All of the things that make the HIV virus able to cause disease have been removed from this particular virus whose only purpose is to put a gene into a cell. There is no danger of infection and there is no longer the HIV virus.”

He said that the treatment is being tried experimentally at two hospitals and was intended for childhood leukemia that has returned and no longer responds to chemotherapy. He hoped that this treatment would eventually replace bone marrow transplants.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Supertrees Will Shine At Singapore's Gardens By The Bay

Beginning this weekend, 18 man-made Supertrees will light up the gardens by the Marina Bay, Singapore. The 101 hectares landscaping project is part of an initiative from Singapore’s National Parks Board called Gardens by the Bay to create a sustainable gardens in the city, generating a better environment for humans with a creative fusion of technology and nature.

The Gardens comprises three spaces - Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. Bay South consists the largest waterfront garden where the Supertrees are housed. These 16-storey-tall vertical gardens collect rainwater, generate solar power and act as venting ducts for the park’s conservatories. This suite of technologies could save 30% of the garden's energy consumption. Also a suspended 128-metre-long walkway between two Supertrees, called OCBC Skyway, is perfect for walks at any hour, offering a bird’s eye view of the Gardens and the Marina Bay urban area.