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Electricity from the marshes

Electricity from the marshes
An unexpected source of new, clean energy has been found: the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell that can generate electricity from the natural interaction between living plant roots and soil bacteria. The technique already works on a small scale and will soon be applied in larger marshland areas throughout the world. On 23 November, researcher Marjolein Helder will defend her PhD research on generating electricity via plants at Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR. She has also founded a spin-off company called Plant-e with her colleague David Strik. The Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell draws electricity from the soil while the plants continue to grow. The Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell can currently generate 0.4 Watt per square metre of plant growth. Marshlands Plant-Microbial Fuel Cells can be used on various scales. Marjolein Helder's PhD research did not only focus on the technical aspects of the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell, but also on how the technology could be integrated into society. Related:  Energy Sources & Generation

Superior fuel cell material developed Using a mixture of gold, copper and platinum nanoparticles, IBN researchers have developed a more powerful and longer lasting fuel cell material. This breakthrough was published recently in the journal, Energy and Environmental Science. Fuel cells are a promising technology for use as a source of electricity to power electronic devices, vehicles, military aircraft and equipment. A fuel cell converts the chemical energy from hydrogen (fuel) into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen. A fuel cell can produce electricity continuously as long as there is a fuel supply. Current commercially available fuel cells use platinum nanoparticles as the catalyst to speed up the chemical reaction because platinum is the only metal that can resist the highly acidic conditions inside such a cell. To overcome this limitation, a team of researchers led by IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y.

Super-efficient solar-energy technology: ‘Solar steam’ so effective it can make steam from icy cold water Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water. The technology's inventors said they expect it will first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world. Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water. Details of the solar steam method were published online November 19 in ACS Nano. "This is about a lot more than electricity," said LANP Director Naomi Halas, the lead scientist on the project. The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat.

Flowers in Ultra-Violet The compilation of species will continue to be updated at irregular intervals. All species listed here have been documented, and links are added whenever I can find spare time for updating. These images are made for illustrative purposes, not as artistic statements per se. However, there are lots of food for thought in the convoluted ways Nature expresses itself, so for once the artist can step backand let the subjects speak for themselves. If you are unfamiliar with the botany, just select any species indicated as having a "strong" response to learn how this looks. However, not all species have the typical bull's-eye UV pattern, which may be confined to symmetrical flowers. The UV range of the spectrum has no predefined colours, so we are free to assign any colour we like. UV fluorescence may be a common trait to most flowers, but might be of temporary occurrence for parts of the flower. In case you are curious as to why the species might have these patterns, read this to learn more.

Plastic can convert heat into electricity A new study has found that certain types of plastic can be semi-metals. (Photo: Ida L. Flanagan) Plastic does not normally conduct electricity. This is why regular electrical wires are covered with plastic, so that we don’t get a shock when we touch them. However, it turns out that special forms of plastic polymers can actually conduct electricity in the same way that metals can. Some polymers share certain properties with metals, but they behave differently. Scientists from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Australia have now taken a closer look at these semi-metallic polymers. There is typically a heat loss of 50 percent from traditional energy sources. Jens Wenzel Andreasen Semi-metallic polymers can be thermoelectric, which means that their electrical conductivity varies with temperature. Waste heat turns into electricity These special materials can be used to recover heat that would otherwise go to waste. “There is typically a heat loss of 50 percent from traditional energy sources.

Bringing down the cost of microbial fuel cells Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) have identified a catalyst that provides the same level of efficiency in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) as the currently used platinum catalyst, but at 5% of the cost. Since more than 60% of the investment in making microbial fuel cells is the cost of platinum, the discovery may lead to much more affordable energy conversion and storage devices. The material -- nitrogen-enriched iron-carbon nanorods -- also has the potential to replace the platinum catalyst used in hydrogen-producing microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), which use organic matter to generate a possible alternative to fossil fuels. "Fuel cells are capable of directly converting fuel into electricity," says UWM Professor Junhong Chen, who created the nanorods and is testing them with Assistant Professor Zhen (Jason) He. "With fuel cells, electrical power from renewable energy sources can be delivered where and when required, cleanly, efficiently and sustainably."

Tapping the Motion of the Ocean: Could the Tides Power Our World? | Environment on GOOD The city of Eastport, Maine is made up of a small group of islands just to the east of the eastern-most point of our eastern-most state. It houses about 1,300 residents, known for their dry humor, for their humbling heartiness, and for watching the sun rise hours before the rest of us get out of bed. The city boasts its annual pirate festival, its vague tie to a Mickey Rooney movie about a dragon, and the rip-roaring ocean tides that sweep its shores. To the east of Eastport lies Passamaquoddy Bay—an inlet of the Bay of Fundy through which 70 billion cubic feet of tidal water flow every six hours. The power of the ocean tides has never been lost on Mainers. It was as electrical power swept across the U.S., and the power grid was expanded, that folks in Eastport began eyeing the powerful tidal currents as one method of generation. The four TideGen turbines are a pilot program. Coastal towns and cities around the globe are watching this experiment with great interest.

Plants and fungi play the 'underground market' Science 12 Aug 11 Micrograph of fungi colonising roots of plant host, Medicago truncatula. Image: Jan Jansa Plants and fungi co-operate and trade with each other on a biological ‘underground market’, changing their trading partners if they don’t get a fair deal. The finding was made by an international team, including Oxford University scientists, examining how plants trade energy-rich carbohydrate they make using photosynthesis for phosphorus fungi collect from the soil. A report of the research is published in this week’s Science. ‘This is one of the first recorded examples of a ‘biological market’ operating in which both partners reward fair trading rather than one partner having the advantage and exploiting the other,’ said Professor Stuart West of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, an author of the paper.

A 'Green' Gold Rush? Calif. Firm Turns Trash To Gas hide captionEnergy Of The Future? California company Sierra Energy is testing out a reactor that turns garbage — like these wood chips, metal fragments and plastics — into synthetic gas that can then be turned into a low-carbon diesel fuel. Christopher Joyce/NPR Second of a two-part series. Read Part 1 California starts the ball rolling Wednesday on a controversial scheme to keep the planet from overheating. Some permits will be auctioned today; the rest are free. It's a gamble. Dan Kammen, an energy expert at the University of California, Berkeley, helped write the climate law. "The way we say it," Kammen explains, "we've squeezed the lemon a little bit. Many of those low-energy products are made abroad. That includes people like Mike Hart. Hart has set up shop in a big warehouse at a mothballed Air Force base near Sacramento. hide captionSierra Energy is testing a reactor that makes fuel in a warehouse at an old Air Force base near Sacramento, Calif. "It's an exciting time," he says.

How Plant-microbial Fuel Cells Work" Soil, as it turns out, is full of untapped (electrical) potential. As green plants go about the business of photosynthesis -- converting energy from sunlight to chemical energy, then storing it in sugars like glucose -- they exude waste products through their roots into a soil layer known as the rhizosphere. There, bacteria chow down on plants' sloughed-off cells, along with proteins and sugars released by their roots [source: Ingham]. In PMFC terms, this means that, as long as the plant lives, the bacteria have a meal ticket and the fuel cell generates power. The first law of thermodynamics, which some translate as "there's no such thing as a free lunch," still applies because the system receives energy from an external source, namely the sun. But how on Earth, or under it, do microbes generate electricity simply by consuming and metabolizing food? But within individual cells -- or single-celled organisms like bacteria -- this broad statement glosses over a series of intermediate steps.

Award-winning device harvests energy from railway track vibrations Much of the abundant mechanical energy around us is irregular and oscillatory and can be somewhat difficult to efficiently tap into. Typical energy harvesting systems tend to be built for low power applications in the milliwatts range but researchers from New York's Stony Brook University have developed a new patent-pending electromagnetic energy harvester capable of harnessing the vibrations of a locomotive thundering down a stretch of track to power signal lights, structural monitoring systems or even track switches. As a train rolls down the track, the load it exerts on the track causes vertical deflection. "The U.S. has the longest rail tracks in the world, approximately 140,700 miles; that are often in remote areas," said Professor Zuo. Impact forces from repeated loading/unloading are also said to be reduced thanks to the incorporation of a flywheel to stabilize the generator. Source: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stony Brook University