Friday, March 28, 2014

Nanotechnology Helps To Triple Aircraft Engine Service Life & Reduce Fuel Consumption

Researchers at University West, Sweden, used nanoparticles to coat the metal components of the aircraft engine to form a layer of heat shield. This enabled the engine to withstand higher combustion temperature, thereby increasing efficiency and decreasing fuel consumption. This shield also helped to improve engine service life by 300%.

All the surface layers on aircraft engine and gas turbines have to be coated with a thermal barrier coating, using a method called thermal spray application. In this experiment a ceramic powder is sprayed onto a surface at a very high temperature - 7,000 to 8,000 degrees C, using a plasma stream. The ceramic particles melt and strike the surface, where they form a protective layer that is approximately half a millimeter thick. This very thin layer of coating helps to slow down the engine deterioration due to extreme temperature, thereby increasing service life.

The discovery holds the potential of greatly reducing the amount of expensive and time-consuming services, and fuel consumption for aircraft industry. The technology is also significantly cheaper than the conventional technology. All these translate to lower selling, operation and maintenance costs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NTU Scientists Discover Material That Can Be Solar Cell By Day, Light Panel By Night

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, have developed a new generation of solar cell material that is also capable of emitting light. The newly discovered material is made of Perovskite, a calcium titanium oxide based mineral.

The discovery, came in surprise, when NTU physicist Prof. Sum Tze Chien, asked his postdoctoral researcher to shine a laser on the new hybrid Perovskite solar cell material they are developing. The new cell glowed brightly when the laser beam was shone on it.
This is a significant finding as most solar cell materials are good at absorbing light but are generally not expected to generate light. In fact, this highly luminescent new Perovskite material is also very suitable for the making of lasers.

According to Prof. Sum, the new material is high quality and durable under light exposure, it can capture light particles and convert them to electricity, or vice versa. By tuning the composition of the material, it can emit a wide range of colours, which is suitable for making light emitting device, such as flat screen displays.

The new material holds promise in light decorations or displays for the facades of shopping malls and offices. Such a versatile yet low-cost (5 times cheaper than current Silicon-based solar cells) material would be a boon for green buildings. More significantly, the ability of this material to lase, has implications for on-chip electronic devices that source, detect and control light.

Monday, March 24, 2014

SEDA Malaysia Announced New Degression & Bonus Rates For Biomass, Biogas & Solar PV

On 18th March 2014, CEO of SEDA Malaysia Datin Badriyah Abdul Malek announced the newly gazetted FiT and degression rates for biomass, biogas and solar PV, as depicted below:

The degression rates for both biomass and biogas have been reduced to 0%, from 0.5%, to solve the low take-up of these 2 RE. Also, incentive of RM0.05 per kWh, up from RM0.01 per kWh, is given for using locally manufactured or assembled products and technologies.
The degression rate for solar PV has been adjusted to 10% per year. Also, incentives of RM0.05 per kWh are given for using locally assembled module and inverter. Previously were RM0.03 per kWh for module and RM0.01 per kWh for inverter.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Malaysia Feed-in-Tariff Quota Release Announcement Delayed

According to The Malaysian Reserve Malaysia government has postponed its announcement of the 2014 Renewable Energy Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) quota to April, at the earliest. This is because Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) Malaysia is amending the Renewable Energy (RE) Act 2011. RE Act has been revised almost annually since it was introduced to accommodate changing needs of the industry. Current amendments include:

(1) Large commercial non-individual PV projects size to be brought down from 72kW to 12kW.
(2) Sections that involved the terms and operational requirements.
(3) FiT approval & FiT rates.
(4) Recovery of money.
(5) Regulating solar PV service provider
(6) Inclusion of geothermal sources as new RE source.

The delay may mean that the rollout of the FiT programme for 2014 may be spread into 2015.

On whether there will be a substantial increase in the quantum of the quota for 2014, SEDA Malaysia CEO Datin Badriyah Malek said: “I think the quota for biogas, biomass and hydro will be quite substantial, but the quota for solar, because it has the highest technology cost, we have to look at the numbers very, very carefully.”

Declining to disclose any figures, she described the numbers as “decent”, compared to last year’s 20MW which she described as “tiny”.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bacteria In Your Gut Makes Dark Chocholate Healthful

For centuries, people have known the health benefits of eating dark chocolate without knowing why, until recently. Researchers from Louisiana State University have just found the scientific reason.

The team reported that certain bacteria in the gut will "eat" the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds. When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.

Cocoa powder, an ingredient in chocolate, contains several antioxidants, called polyphenols, which are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable bacteria works to break them down into smaller molecules, which are more easily to be absorbed and exhibit anti-inflammatory behavior.

The bacteria also help to break down the fiber in cocoa powder into short fatty chain acids, which get absorbed and can have an effect on satiety, meaning help us feel full.

So far, the experiment was down on man-made digestive tract and the team yet to verify the results in real human digestive tract.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Use Lemon As Ingredient Of Your DIY Beauty Products

Lemon has a number of properties that make it a great ingredient in many organic beauty recipes.

(1) Organic face scrub to fight acne:
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup rolled oats (which serves as an exfoliant)
1/2 tablespoon honey (to soften skin)
Mix it all up in a small bowl. Massage onto face for 30 seconds. Rinse with warm water.

(2) Lemon cucumber toner:
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Half cup of cucumber slices
3 cups cold water
Apply with a cotton ball or pad. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

(3) Lemon body scrub:
Zest (the skin) from 1 lemon
1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup almond oil
Combine the ingredients in a clean jar with a tightly fitting lid. Shake and it's ready to use. It keeps for about 6 months at room temperature.

(4) Natural highlights:
If you want a cheaper and more organic approach to summery highlights, try the old lemon juice solution. Unfortunately, this works best on people who already have fairly light hair. For full instructions, check out this excellent Instrucables post.

(5) Hair rinse:
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cup of warm water
Mix them together and pour slowly over your hair. Allow it to sit for at least a minute before rinsing out. It helps to reduce dullness created by hard water, leaving your hair shinning.

6.Hair removal wax
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Cook at low to middle heat until the mixer turns golden color (about 5 minutes). Then cool for 15 minutes and you are ready to use it as regular wax.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bionic Plants - Nanotubes Increase Photosynthesis And Turn Plants Into Sensor

Researchers at MIT have embedded carbon nanotubes in living plants to increase photosynthesis of the plants or turn them into sensors.

By embedding carbon nanotubes in the chloroplast of living plants, researchers have been able to boost energy production in plants by 30%.

When switched to other type of carbon nanotube, they were able to turn plants into sensor for pollutants and toxins.

The idea of nanobionic plants grew out of a project in the lab to build self-repairing solar cells. As a next step, the researchers wanted to try enhancing the photosynthetic function of chloroplasts isolated from plants, for possible use in solar cells.

Researchers also hope using these nanotechnology, they can develop plants that could be used to monitor environmental pollution, pesticides, fungal infections, or exposure to bacterial toxin.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Clock Runs On Tap Water

Bedol has developed water-powered clock! 

The clock helps user to saves money and reduces their carbon footprint. Bedol Water Clock uses 2 proprietary metal plates specifically designed inside their clocks. Once the plates encounter water, positive and negative charges will be generated to power the clock. With single filling the clock is able to keep perfect time for 6 months. Once the water inside the clock has been "used up", all need to be done is pouring out the water and refill it again.

Now, the wall-mounted water-powered clock is priced at US$89 or ~ RM293, and desktop alarm clock starts at US$29.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Solar Power Is Now Malaysian Ringgit 16.5¢ Per kWh

SunEdison has just signed a 25-year power purchase agreement to sell solar power to Austin Energy at US 5¢ per kWh (about Malaysian Ringgit 16.5¢ per kWh), which is the cheapest solar power, for the moment, in U.S.A., or even in the world.

This beats natural gas, coal, and nuclear on price. If remove the ITC (a U.S.A. federal tax credit for solar), the cost would probably be about US 8¢/kWh, comparing to estimated about US 7¢/kWh for natural gas, US 10¢/kWh for coal and 13¢/kWh for nuclear in U.S.A.

Of course, this is not from a small solar farm. It’s from two solar power plants totaling 150MW.

Another important thing is that this is PEAK POWER! Solar power produces electricity at peak demand. That is very high-value electricity. SESB's peak power production cost is close to RM1 per kWh.

We can see that solar power is coming down in price very fast. Even without any subsidy and tax credit, solar power production cost has reached US 8¢/kWh (about Malaysian Ringgit 26¢/kWh). It is cheaper than what we pay in Malaysia for electricity.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Environmental Friendly Plastic Made From Shrimp Shell

Plastic has been something we all love and hate. It is so convenience that it helps us to hold our groceries, to "ta pao" (Malaysian word of "take away") foods and drinks, etc. But once it is done and discarded then it becomes an environmental hazard contributing to water contamination and ocean pollution, as well as harming wildlife.

Then the so-called bio-degradable plastics (bio-plastics) came to the market as an alternative. Most of these products require the production or harvesting of virgin biomass, such as trees or biomass crops, both of which have an environmental impact that isn't sustainable at our current rate of plastic consumption.

A new type of bio-plastic is in the work using chitosan. Chitosan is made by treating shrimp and other crustacean shells with the alkali sodium hydroxide. It can be broken down into benign, even helpful, components in the soil in about two weeks.

According to researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute there is an urgent need in many industries for sustainable materials that can be mass produced. Their scalable manufacturing method shows that chitosan, which is readily available and inexpensive, can serve as a viable bio-plastic.

The chitosan polymer developed initially had a shrinkage problem that kept it from maintaining its shape after the molding process, but the team found that by adding wood 'flour' (a wood processing waste product) to the mix, the new bio-plastic could be molded into a 3D form with "impressive precision."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Low-Cost Production Of Methanol From CO2

Scientists from Stanford University, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Technical University of Denmark have created a new nickel-gallium catalyst that could potentially used to convert hydrogen and carbon dioxide emissions into methanol at low pressure.

In a typical methanol plant, natural gas and water are converted to synthesis gas (syngas), which consists of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The syngas is then converted into methanol in a high-pressure process using a catalyst made of copper-zinc-aluminum. Each year, 65 million tons of methanol are produced for use in the manufacture of paints, polymers, glues and biofuels.

The team has identified a new nickel-gallium catalyst to replace conventional copper-zinc-aluminum in the process. The new catalyst can produce methanol at low-pressure, with fewer side-products. Nickel is relatively abundant, and gallium, although more expensive, is widely used in the electronics industry. The new catalyst could eventually be scaled up for industrial use.

The team is now fine-tuning the process to make methanol synthesis a truly carbon-neutral process. This will still require to overcome many additional hurdles.

Monday, March 3, 2014

2 Thin-Film Solar Technologies Broke Efficiency Records Again

On 25th February 2014, First Solar, one of the world’s largest thin-film PV companies, announced that it has set a world record for its cadmium-telluride (CdTe) PV cells. The cell has achieved 20.4% of conversion efficiency. It bests the previous record of 19.6% efficiency set by GE Global Research in 2013.

2 days later, on 27th February, Stion announced that it has achieved a 23.2% of efficiency copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film cell.

Of course, the efficiencies quoted above are for the cells. When add multiple cells together to form solar panel/module, the efficiency will drop few percent. But, it is still a big breakthrough for thin-film technology which closing the gap between silicon-based solar technology.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Study Indicates That BPA Isn't So bad After All

On 25th Feb. 2014, I talked about the exposure to BPA during baby time may increase the chance of prostate cancer, and most of the time we heard about BPA is about the "evil effects" it has on our health.

New study carried out by U.S.A. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows that BPA is safe as currently use.

BPA has received a lot of attention because the chemical leaches out of many products. FDA has been working with National Institutes of Health to see if there are any effects from the low-level exposure.

In their most recent study, the researchers exposed rats to BPA starting a few days after conception and continuing through sexual maturity. Doses ranged from about 70 times the amount that Americans typically get through their diet to millions of times.

Even when rats got more than 70,000 times what a typical American ingests, there was no change in body weight, reproductive organs or hormone levels. It was only when exposures were millions of times higher then scientists saw changes like those caused by the body's own sex hormones.

To double-check the results, the scientists also looked at how BPA was interacting with estrogen receptors — the part of a cell that usually responds to estrogen. And once again it was only the highest doses that produced interactions.

The results bolster previous studies by government researchers showing that people's exposure to BPA is lower than previously estimated and that the human body is really good at inactivating and eliminating BPA.

My 2-cent opinion: Anything in excessive amount is bad. I guess if one can reduce the exposure to BPA then no harm to do so. But no need to try till the extend of living in an astringent life.