Nissan’s SOFC Vehicle – Just in Time for the Olympics

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Two major types of fuel cells vie for vehicle designers’ attention: PEM, or proton exchange membrane types, and solid oxide fuels cells (SOFCs). PEMs (also known as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells) require an expensive catalyst such as platinum, and hydrogen as fuel. Hydrogen itself is costly to produce and runs up the operating cost for such a fuel cell. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. timed things to coincide with the 2016 Olympics opening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the introduction of their solid oxide fuel cell vehicle, a van that runs on bio-ethanol electric power.  Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn claims this to be a first, with benefits for potential users. “The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for …

Don’t Smoke ‘Em Even if You’ve Got ‘Em

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Biofuels would be wonderful if they didn’t starve people while feeding trucks, cars and airplanes.  Living with such a constraint, though, might prove to be productive, profitable, and environmentally sound. The Guardian describes efforts in America’s tobacco country to grow a crop that will be less destructive of human lungs and hearts if it is consumed in jet engines rather than in cigarettes. “’We’re experimenting with varieties that were discarded 50 years ago by traditional tobacco growers because the flavors were poor or the plants didn’t have enough nicotine,’ explains Tyton [BioEnergy Systems] co-founder Peter Majeranowski.” In a case that oddly enough is GMO free, “Researchers are pioneering selective breeding techniques and genetic engineering to increase tobacco’s sugar and seed …

Photosynthesis Directly Makes Fuel

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Hydrogen Fuel, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

That’s what photosynthesis does in leaves – creates fuel in the form of plant sugars that flow into the plant to which the leaf is attached.  One of the main quibbles about trying to convert solar energy to usable fuel is the usual multi-step process involved.  Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have made a major advance in creating a solar cell that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) and uses sunlight to make a synthetic gas that can be burned as fuel. Scientists rarely use hyperbolic terms such as “extraordinary” in their findings.  According to Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC, “What we needed was a new family of chemicals with extraordinary properties.”  They …

Daniel Nocera Returns to the Artificial Leaf

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Many scientists are turning to mimicking nature to probe its secrets, but Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, has gone far beyond his natural model.  Reported in 2012, Nocera came up with the idea of an “artificial leaf,” a silicon sheet with a layer of cobalt-based catalyst that releases oxygen on one side and a layer a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy on the other side that releases hydrogen.  Several researchers have followed this initial breakthrough, trying different materials and combinations of ingredients. For a while, it looked as though Nocera turned his attention to battery development, but recent news shows he’s back investigating artificial leaves – with great improvements over his initial efforts – and those of …

Roof Top Hydrogen-Generating Solar Cells for Vehicles

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Students at the University of Leuven, the Netherlands, have won the first Energy Award, sponsored by Febeliec – the association of industrial energy consumers, a Belgian trade association. Their miniature solar panel produces hydrogen gas when exposed to sunlight, not unlike “artificial leaves” of other researchers.  The bioscience engineers crafted a small square panel that can be mounted to rooftops, including those of cars, to convert water vapor in the air to H2 that could feed fuel cells in the building or vehicle.  This could also reduce CO2 “on a large scale to convert it into useful substances,” according to the team of young scientists. Generating electricity and producing hydrogen at the same time is a neat trick, but the …

A Flight to Counter Plastic Pollution

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Jeremy Rowsell, an Australian pilot and concerned environmentalist, has seen plastic littering beaches around the world, and knows of the micro-plastic particles ingested by fish and sea birds.  His hope four years ago was to fly a Cessna from Australia to London and back – powered by fuel made from that waste plastic. That event never came, and Rowsell is back with a still ambitious plan to fly an RV-9A from San Francisco, California (the world’s innovation hub, according to the project’s web site) to Anchorage, Alaska (the world’s climate change frontier), following a safer route than the originally planned oceanic journey. The Problem and One Solution Partnering with Plasticenergy, a Spanish company that uses “end-of-life” plastic to make commercially …

One step to Liquid Hydrocarbon Fuels from Thin Air

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

University of Texas at Arlington chemists and engineers have converted carbon dioxide and water directly into useable liquid hydrocarbon fuels – in one step.  The “simple and inexpensive new sustainable fuels technology” used concentrated sunlight, high pressure and heat to remove CO2 from the air and even revert oxygen back into the system. Researchers demonstrated that a one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water into liquid hydrocarbons and oxygen can be performed in a photothermochemical flow reactor operating at 180 to 200 degrees C and pressures up to six atmospheres. Brian Dennis, UTA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and co-principal investigator of the project, explains, “We are the first to use both light and heat to synthesize liquid hydrocarbons in a …

Tomas Brødreskift to Appear at SA Symposium

Dean Sigler Announcements, Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

With the upcoming Sustainable Aviation Symposium (May 6-7, 2016) already packed with stellar presenters, we are excited to have Tomas Brødreskift join the faculty.  An industrial designer whose skills in product and process design, project management, ergonomics, and visual and CAD design have led and enabled him to bring his amphibious Equator P2 Xcursion to life will share his expertise and experiences with attendees at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay. Tomas’ demonstrated skills in designing everything from Hardrocx mountain bikes to an array of consumer goods have helped prepare him to guide the Xcursion from concept to final product.  Since he has overseen every step of the design/build process, the airplane is a reflection of its unique specification and its …

Electric Jet Hybrids – Big and Small

Dean Sigler Batteries, Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

NASA’s Glenn Research Center reviews the prevalence of fossil fuels in keeping us flying for over a century. “Since the beginning, commercial planes have been powered by carbon-based fuels such as gasoline or kerosene. While these provide the energy to lift large commercial jets into the world’s airspace, electric power is now seen as a new frontier for providing thrust and power for flight.” Noting the use of hybrid and turboelectric power used to increase efficiency in cars, boats and trains, NASA has set a goal “to help the aircraft industry shift from relying solely on gas turbines to using hybrid electric and turboelectric propulsion in order to reduce energy consumption, emissions and noise.” This would require a large shift …

SeaTac, Boeing, Alaska Airlines Partner on Biofuel

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Aviation accounts for about two-to-three percent of the total CO2 emitted through burning fossil fuels, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That’s even with military jets flashing their afterburners and trailing un-enhanced high-altitude contrails. Whether these emissions add to global warming or global cooling seems to be still open to debate. Regardless, almost everyone in the industry feels it is worth eliminating the negative aspects of aircraft emissions. Sea-Tac’s Big Plan Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Alaska Airlines and Boeing are partnering to power all flights from Sea-Tac with “sustainable aviation biofuel.” The trio has crafted a long-term roadmap to devise an infrastructure “in a cost-effective, efficient manner.” There may be benefits to the local economy, as well as to …