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 …

Bacterium + Nitrogen = Ethanol

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

78 percent of all the air we breathe is nitrogen, the most abundant gas in the Earth’s atmosphere.  This readily available substance may do more than just give us something for inspiration (there’s a pun there), it may power our vehicles and heat our homes.  The catch is that it has to be combined with the bacterium Zymomonas mobilis, which gives off ethanol when exposed to the gas. James B. McKinlay and a team of biologists at Indiana University at Bloomington work with a cluster of unlikely materials to produce, among other things, biofuels.  His laboratory posts the following description of the team’s work: “Nearly all of our society’s energy and chemical needs are met by fossil fuels. Microbes have evolved …

Flexibly Keeping Batteries from Blowing their Cool

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Meltdown – not a term one wants to hear when confronting an obstinate boss or while levitating in his or her new Tom Swift Electric Octo-copter.  But it is a real specter confronting electric vehicle users, and one amplified to positive levels of terror in flight. Two groups of researchers have come up with novel ways of quelling that terror and getting rid of the normally flammable electrolyte that helps make lithium battery fires truly memorable. If researchers at Chapel Hill and Washington State University are successful in their research, that acid electrolyte can be replaced with something safer and as a bonus in both cases, batteries using these new substances will perform better and longer. Researchers at the University …

Engineered E. coli Mass Produce Key Precursors to Potent Biofuels

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Hearing of E. coli outbreaks usually makes us reconsider our fast-food dining choices.  Other possible, friendlier uses for the pesky bacteria, though, could show the way to clean energy production, making a “gasoline-like biofuel,” according to Harvard Medical School and Wyss Institute researchers. According to Harvard’s news release, “New lines of engineered bacteria can tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that could one day replace gasoline, scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School report in the June 24 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “’The big contribution is that we were able to program cells to make specific fuel precursors,’ said Pamela …