Scientists from Rice University engineer E. coli that may help in production of biofuel

Researchers from Rice University develops a process as part of a $6.6-million project supported by the USDA that aims to produce renewable biodiesel, animal, feed, biopower, and bio-lubricants from lignocellulosic biomass.

The bioengineers from the university made use of a special E. coli to produce fatty acids from some hyrdrolysates. The team is already able to get roughly 80% to 90% fatty acid yield from the model sugars and hopefully even improve this in the coming years. Adding a few more percent to the yield may not sound much but it is very significant when you are talking about millions of tons a year.

The projected conducted at Rice University is just one of the USDA-supported scientific projects.THese projects are focused on coming up with infrastructure-compatible fuels for the transportation industry. Aside from coming up with diesel-like blends from sugars, all you can really look into are fatty acids.

The scientists are looking into how they can make the E. coli be more efficient in the production of fatty acids and at the same time work into building strains that can help in higher yield production of biofuels.

The team looked into different strains of E. coli and combined their best qualities for the best possibile yield.

Since the kick off of the research, the bioengineers were able to up their production from 0.4g for every liter to about 14g/liter.

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Cobalt-based material to replace platinum in hydrogen production?

cobaltA recent study reveals the work of scientists in developing a cobalt-based material that has a good potential of replacing platinum in the production of hydrogen via electrolysis.

One of the new material has a neutral pH and can be used in aqueous solutions. The other catalytic material is considered commutable that does not contain noble metals and is good for water electrolysis.

Energy from the wind, sun, and other renewable sources are only available intermittently and are distributed irregularly. Because of these, it is critical to have ways of storing the energy effectively. Production of hydrogen via electrolysis of water is a promising method but requires the use of catalysts with noble metals like platinum. These metals are very rare and therefore very expensive, making the development of the technology very impractical.

The research by teams from Joseph Fourier University, CNRS, and CEA focuses on the use of chemical processes using bio-inspired materials like enzymes systems on certain organisms. Through the years, experts have been trying to develop catalysts from such enzymes based on more abundant and cheaper materials like manganese, nickel, iron, and cobalt.

In order to use the synthetic catalysts, they need to be fixed, in large quantities, on electrodes just like how platinum is used. Back in 2009, the team from the same institutes was able to immobilized nickel-based bio-inspired catalysts on nanotubes of carbon. The material was only active on acidic reactions and not ideal for hydrogen production which needs to occur on basic pH or on neutral conditions.

The most recent research, they used a catalyst based on cobalt and have found out that this material can work on reactions in a neutral aqueous environment. They also found out that the setup is pretty stable even on the long-term with the catalyst forming a good bond with the nanotube.

They also came up with second material also based on cobalt. These are nanoparticles that can be used in the production of hydrogen and oxygen in a pH neutral environment. This is the first non-noble metal catalyst developed.

These new materials can be developed to make the affordable production of hydrogen possible.

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Renewable fuels: Lanza Tech develops CO2 fermentation system

Lanza Tech earlier announced its collaboration with Petronas of Malaysia to extend the company’s CO fermentation process to also include gases including Co2 such as natural gases and refinery off-gases. This will lead to their production of acetic acid, a chemical that is essential for applications in the markets of plastics and polymers.
lanza-tech-CO2-fermentation
During a conference in Germany earlier this month, Lanza Tech described the progress of the company on the CO2 pathway it is trying to develop. Back in 2011, the company revealed that I was able to do continuous fermentation of carbon dioxide to acetic acid using the microorganisms that they modified.

During the fermentation of CO, the CO serves as the energy source and the carbon. The CO2 only serves as the source of carbon. In this scenario, the hydrogen will be the source of energy.

The development of the fermentation system for the CO2 leverages the existing reactor and fermentation knowledge of Lanza Tech. Petronas commits to help the company with the technologies. If the pilot works come out as a success, the company will put up a demo factory in Malaysia.

At the moment, the main challenge for Lanza Tech is to locate a good amount of hydrogen to make large scale use of carbon dioxide in waste gases. Another challenge will be the amount of acetic acid and its possible use, in case large scale production is a success.

The acetic acid can be a valuable chemical but its market can be easily saturated. Lanza Tech is looking into the conversion of the acetic acid into lipids. In turn, the lipids may lead to the production of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Lanza Tech is looking into using the technologies of its partner to produce the lipids from the acetic acid.

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Hyundai promises 1,000 units of production version hydrogen cars

Korean carmaker Hyundai promises to deliver around 1,000 units of hydrogen fuel cell cars before the end of 2012 to keep their promise of rolling out the production versions by next year.

A number of major car brands, like Honda, General Motors, and Toyota, promises a limited number of production version of fuel cell vehicles by 2015. Hyundai wants to get ahead of the race and announced last year that they will have production hydrogen cars by 2013.

The first batch of HFCV or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will debut later on this year and be officially rolled out by next year. These vehicles will not be driven on the roads of Korea or of North America but will hit the asphalts of Europe where hydrogen powered vehicles has a wider acceptance.

Hyundai taps the Tucson ix which is derived from the crossover of the same name. The tag price of the fuel cell vehicle is expected to be $88,550 before deducting any government incentives. The car manufacturer aims to sell their vehicles below the $50K line by 2015 which makes them well ahead of the competitions who also announced possible release of their fuel cell vehicles. Hyundai foresees selling around 10,000 units of this green car annually by 2015.

Hyundai was recently praised and tapped by the government of Denmark for their FCEV initiative. The country acquired 10 Hyundai Tucson ix units to do a road test. Countries like Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands among other countries in Europe are trying to form a “hydrogen highway” complete with the necessary infrastructure. Car brands like Hyunda, Honda, BMW, Toyota, and Mazda are working with the said governments to do a test run of this green highway.

The hydrogen revolution in Europe goes well beyond cars and will include heavy vehicles as well as public utility buses.

Not everyone is a fan of hydrogen cars but you the naysayers should wonder why almost every brand of vehicle in the world is pouring in big funds and talents to produce hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

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Air Resources Board of California announces $1 million grant for demo of hybrid set up for school buses

Hybrid Schoolbus

The Air Resources Board of California is looking for applications for a grant that will award $1 million for the demonstration of hybrid technologies for school buses. The board requires an applicant match of at least 50% of the projected cost of implementation. Ten percent of the match should be available in cash.

The solicitation seeks demonstration and administration of advanced hybrid systems that can be applied to school buses. The ARB believes that the exposure of the school districts to the new technology will help them decide which direction to take for their school buses in the future.

School buses that will be part of the demonstration should be equipped with an advanced hybrid powertrain. The hybrid setup was defined to have a dual source of power to propel the school bus.

The main source of the propulsion can be the battery pack, engine, or other sources which will have the bus move . The secondary source of power can be a battery or any other power storage device which will not depend on the primary energy source directly. The secondary power sourced from the power grid, regenerative braking, or other sources must supply stored energy which will contribute to the propulsion of the school bus.

The school buses which will be funded by the grant for purposes of demonstration should provide transportation for school children in California and should pass safety inspections according to the regulations of the state.

The application for the grant is due n December 14, 2011. This is open to public agencies based in California such as local government entities, state agencies, or other state or local public agency with capabilities of implementing a demo program and with a good background on operation of school buses.

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US DOE to award up to $7m to independent cost studies for fuel cell and hydrogen storage system’s R&D

In the span of five years, a total of $7 million will be awarded by the US Department of Energy for autonomous cost studies that will support fuel cells and hydrogen storage system’ research and development.

These fuel cells and hydrogen storage systems will be used mainly for transportation purposes. The autonomous projects will focus largely on applications, manufacturing volumes, and system sizes not only for transportation purposes but also for handling equipments and backup power mechanisms. These projects will help the US Department of Energy in terms of fuel efficiency.

The autonomous cost analyses will go through the National Laboratories’ system models, literature and patent research, development presentations, and peer review. Here’s a rundown of the four autonomous projects that have been selected for an award:

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, whose home base is located in Berkeley, CA, has been awarded with $1.9 million. They are to develop cost models for high and low temperature immobile fuel cell systems at 250 kilowatts.

Direct Technologies, Inc., whose home base is located in Arlington, VA, has been awarded with almost $3 million for their two projects. The first project will focus on transportation fuel cell systems while the second one will focus on hydrogen storage systems.

Battelle Memorial Institute, whose home base is located at Columbus OH, has been awarded with $2 million for them to produce cost assessments for immobile fuel cell applications that includes backup power units, a combination of power and heat systems, primary power, and forklifts.

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Cars2go Electric Car Sharing Program Launched in San Diego

Cars2go is a car company that offers a personal twist to public transportation. If you hate commuting back and forth to work every day but can’t afford a brand new car, Cars2go is your solution. The idea was first introduced in 2009 in Austin, Texas. The initial idea of Car2go is about car sharing but the service is more personal that you may thing and definitely more flexible. Cars2go gives you the experience of driving (and even owning) your own car without the big expense.

Cars2go is an auxiliary of the Daimler North America Corporation. During a recently held press conference, Cars2go made an announcement that San Diego, California will be the first city in North America to experience the full benefits of their program, which is the use of pure-electric vehicles through a car “sharing” program.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has expressed his excitement about the Cars2go program. He added that this move supports their goal to make the city America’s capital for EVs. The Cars2go program in San Diego will kick off with 300 Smart ForTwo EVs and will commence before 2011 ends.

According to the President and COO of Cars2go, Nicholas Cole, the San Diego launch is monumental as it signifies the start of a new era in car-sharing in the North America region. The company’s goal is to aid in meeting the transportation needs of the city as well as giving them the option of using emission-free vehicles to conserve fuel and save the environment.

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INEOS Bio gets $10.8 million funding for Waste-to-Ethanol UK Plant

INEOS Bio, considered as the 3rd biggest chemicals firm in the word, will be getting a grant of around $10.8 million to form part of the $76.7 million cost of construction of a commercial plant in Europe that will make use of their BioEnergy Process Technology that will convert waste to ethanol.

The funding comes after a feasibility study conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change or UK DECC which granted release of funds worth $6.6 million. Other investments will come from Regional Development Agency One North East amounting to $4.1 million.

The plant will be built in Tees Valley in the United Kingdom where the INEOS Seal Sands is. The factory is expected to come up with 30 million liters of carbon-neutral fuel and produce electricity that will be for expert amounting to 3 MW from about 100,000 tons of commercial and household biodegradable wastes. This amount of fuel production can cover for the electricity demand of about 6,000 households and 250,000 vehicles running on E10 fuel.

The advanced factory is scheduled to for completion by 2012 pending certain final agreements. The project will also create 350 construction jobs and 40 permanent positions when the factory is operational. There are also plans to integrate a biorefinery plant and high technology waste treatment come 2015.

The technology used by INEOS combines biochemical and thermochemical processes to complete the process of biofuel production using industrial and household waste materials.

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Which Vans are least polluting?

Renault TraficA lot of people who are in the market for a van may wonder which van is the least polluting? This is not an easy question to answer because vans are by and large the worst polluters on the road. A lot of effort has gone into creating fuel efficient vehicles in recent years but somehow very little of that effort has gone into vans. The result is that there are few if any environmentally friendly vans available, and companies like The Van Warehouse are trying to change that.

The sad fact is that vans are some of the worst polluters on the road and the manufacturers have made very little effort to change this situation. The primary reason that vans are bad for the environment is that there are currently no hybrids available. It is well established that hybrid technology is the best way that we currently have to improve fuel mileage. Better fuel mileage means less pollution. Unfortunately the manufacturers haven’t seen fit to put hybrid technology into the worst polluters, the vans.

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Silicon Nanotubules ups 10x Lithium Ion battery capacity, Graphene may help produce cheaper battery packs for EVs

The Graphene Carbon LatticeScientists from the Stanford University and Hanyang University in South Korea discovered that using silicon nanotubules in place of the graphite electrodes used by current lithium ion batteries can help increase their capacity as much as ten times.

The researchers are collaborating with LG Chem in developing a silicon anode that can absorb more lithium during charging which in effect will increase its storage capacity. The batteries using these nanotubules are expected to hit the market in three years time.

The knowledge about silicon anodes having this property has been known for quite a while but they are improving on the technology to avoid faulty developments before which led to cracks on the lithium ion batteries when charged. The new design provides better spacing for the ions to interact resulting to less mechanical strain.

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