Posts Tagged ‘biofuels’

For the second time in a month, it’s very popular among my friends and co-workers that they know a BYU Cougar (the first, of course, after the football game against Oklahoma, exciting my Longhorn-lovin friends and officemates, but I digress…)

From the Edmunds Green Car blog:

Brigham Young University Scientist: Sugar + Weed Killer = Direct Carbohydrate Fuel Cell

BYU-Professor-Gerald-Watt.jpgResearchers at Brigham Young University claim to have developed a fuel cell that harvests electricity from glucose and other sugars known as carbohydrates using a common weed killer as a catalyst.

Lead researcher and BYU chemistry professor Gerald Watt (pictured) said in an article published in the August issue of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society that carbohydrates are very energy rich and that he and his colleagues sought a catalyst that would extract the electrons from the carbs and transfer them to an electrode.

Watt said he and his colleagues discovered a solution in the form of a cheap and abundant weed killer. He described the effectiveness of the herbicide as a boon to carbohydrate-based fuel cells.

By contrast, hydrogen-based fuel cells such as those developed by General Motors require costly platinum as a catalyst.

The study conducted experiments that yielded a 29 percent conversion rate, or the transfer of 7 of the 24 available electrons per glucose molecule, Watt reported.

“We showed you can get a lot more out of glucose than other people have done before,” said Dean Wheeler, who was part of the research team. “Now we’re trying to get the power density higher so the technology will be more commercially attractive.”

This isn’t the first time that a glucose-based fuel cell has been reported. In 2007, Japanese scientists announced they had invented a device that used sunlight to convert glucose into hydrogen to power a fuel cell.

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The Energy Collective, an online blogging group, hosted a webinar Wednesday about developing a roadmap for large-scale installation of renewable energy sources.  The online seminar’s expert participants described Texas as a world leader in wind energy, yet at the same time focused on the U.S. as lagging behind many countries in wide scale renewable installation.

“The audience is primarily American and you may not want to hear this, but you guys are lagging behind,” said Tom Raftery, a sustainable industry analyst for Redmonk and Energy Collective blogger who is Irish, but recently moved to Spain.

“All the markets are very different . . .Ireland is at about 7 percent (of renewable power sources), Spain is at 10 percent.  The U.S. is at about 1 percent.  The U.S. needs to (increase renewables), and do it fast,” Raftery said.

One attendee asked webinar participant Scott Sklar, who is president of the Stella Group and a chair of the Sustainable Energy Coalition’s steering committee, whether Sklar supported selection of an American “Energy Czar”.

“Yes,” replied Sklar.  “Because most of what the Department (of Energy) does are wonderful things but in the end have nothing to do with our energy policy.  Renewables don’t get due attention outside of photo opportunities because they are such a small part of the agency’s agenda.  It needs to be a cabinet post.”

Sklar said that converging interests demand fast development in the energy sector. He said that presidential candidate John McCain cited renewable development as a necessity for improving national security; Barack Obama cited it as a source of job creation, and environmentalists cite the need for the planet’s health.

“The U.S., by not having resolved our energy policy and letting our policy be driven by energy price has really harmed our own standing within these technologies,” Sklar said.

He added that the U.S. is now importing wind and solar (more…)

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