Nano Solar and nanoimprint lithography molds

nanosolar20powersheet

Nanotechnology is great despite what you may have read in the Michael Crichton novel “Prey”.  I suppose the only problem is that our hands are too big.

There has been a new breakthrough in the manufacturing of nano particles and by breakthrough I mean research by college students.  Metallic glass can be used to create a mold that is very durable and suited to casting nano size particles.

The most immediate application for this technology (aside from a space elevator)  would be their use in making nano solar panels.  These nanosolar panels are already being mass produced worldwide but are obviously limited by the time is takes to create atom sized machines.

This is a good segue into why certain kinds of patents are bad.  The worst kind, I just have to mention, is the patenting of Genes and the reasons are endless and I would have thought obvious.  The more relevant kinds of bad patents are the ones that stifle the use of innovative new technologies.  Lets say that this nanoimprint technology discovered by Yale is licensed to an established solar power company.  This seems fine except they didn’t license the technology to use it, they just don’t want to compete with it.

Call it a pre-emptive strike on progress. The new technology will sit on the shelf so the old technology can continue turning a profit.

Oddly enough the same thing often happens in Hollywood.  A major studio will often buy scripts that are similar to something they are producing so as to avoid competition at the box office.

nanoparticles

References:

http://www.technologyreview.com/business/22167/?a=f

http://www.nanosolar.com/index.html

Tidal Power barrages and ebb generation

marine_tech_018

It’s such a simple concept I wonder why it’s not a “popular” idea for alternative energy.

Exploit the difference in potential energy between high tide and low tide.  Dig a ditch or basin into a beach or cliff and then make a dam with flood gates and put some turbines where they will be turned by releasing the trapped water.

The main advantages of this kind of tidal power vs the more popular idea of turbines trapping underwater currents are environmental. When we look at the design of these windmills under the sea, they are very similar to food processors in that any wildlife coming close will be chopped into slurry.  Not to mention the fact that they would only capture a small fraction of the tidal power compared to a tidal barrage.

It is important to distinguish between tidal barrages created on rivers or estuaries and totally man made barrages.  The former types of barrages have the same kind of environmental problems because they interfere with extablished marine ecosystems.  Creating a new inlet would allow for a screen-like divider that would exclude animals that could be harmed by the turbines or other mechanisms.

The potential is almost unlimited for countries like the united states due to our extremely large coastlines.  The construction of these barrages would also creates lots of jobs a la the Obama plan for saving the economy. 

In the coming years we will have to make important decisions about which technologies we chose to implement for a sustainable future.  If we choose without full disclosure as to the dangers and benefits of each technology, the results could be disastrous.  If we were to make huge investments into bio-fuels instead of more truly sustainable technologies, at some point we will have food and water supply problems.  I understand the appeal of bio-fuels because they use already existing technologies and thus can be immediately implemented.  I also understand the desire for a quick fix but long term thinking is the only way we will survive peacefully into the next century, after oil has run out.

Radiation from the sun, Gravitational pull from the moon (ocean Power), Geothermal from plate tectonics and volcanic activity, and wind power are the areas we should be putting massive investment into.  Other technologies may serve as a fine transition between fossil fuels and true sustainability but we must plan for the long term using inexhaustible sources of energy.

BIO-FUELS ARE BAD

 

…in the long term

They are really good only as a quick temporary fix, tape when what we really need is glue.  When you do the math, there is simply not enough land (even counting all the forests we have yet to clear) to make this a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

It is also unlikely that we will reach a break even point any time soon in regards to the costs of production vs. those of  global demand. This means that we can only produce bio-fuels using fossil fuels at the cost they are now.  When the prices of oil and coal go up as they inevitably must, it may become impossible for the bio-fuel industry to avoid operating at a loss.

There are many negative environmental factors as well but these are all mostly under debate so I will leave those for a later date.  Bio-fuels will be a useful tool for the transition from fossil fuels to something else but are not useful as they are not truly sustainable.

bio_fuel_conversion_chart

%d bloggers like this: