Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alternative vehicles get their day

By Gregory M. Lamb 09.29.08

The world of alternative-powered vehicles is booming. Gas prices north of $4 this summer have gotten the attention not only of consumers, but businesses as well. From hybrid diesel-electric delivery trucks to electric-assisted cargo tricycles, natural gas and hydrogen fuel-cell power plants to the minuscule Smart Car, new ways to get people and cargo where they need to go efficiently are springing up.The fourth annual AltWheels Fleet Day held Sept. 28 in Framingham, Mass., just west of Boston, put 45 alternative-powered vehicles on display, making it the largest alternative vehicle showcase on the East Coast. The 300 participants were triple the number of just a year ago, says event found Alison Sander. They included Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, Isuzu, and a host of aftermarket and specialized manufacturers. Listening to their pitches were corporate fleet managers, who are looking to save money on transportation costs as well as green-up their image.Staples, the office supply giant, hosted the event at its headquarters. Staples has two hybrid delivery trucks built by Isuzu and souped up with electric motors from Enova that its testing right now. Smith Electric Vehicles, based in Britain, showed off a large delivery truck that's all electric and boasts an estimated cost-per-mile of 11.5 cents. It powers up overnight (4 1/2 to 6 hours) off the electric grid. Made for use on urban streets, it has a range of 130-150 miles per charge and a top speed of 50 m.p.h. Smith plans to begin selling the lithium-ion battery-powered vehicles in the US beginning next year.John Viera, Ford's director of sustainable business strategies, laid out his company's future in a small meeting with members of the news media. Ford's looking at new technologies that will meet its criteria of being both affordable and capable of selling in high volume. The company is high on its new line of EcoBoost engines, which it expects will hike gas mileage by up to 20 percent and cut CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent. They draw on two proven technologies (direct fuel injection and turbo-charging) and will allow V8 engines to be replaced by V6s, and V6s replaced by V4s, without any lose of horsepower or torque. Ford aims to have EcoBoost engines available in 90 percent of its nameplates by 2013.Meanwhile, it's looking for ways to inch economy higher in a number of small ways, including slimming down vehicle weight, six-speed transmissions (4 to 6 percent better fuel fuel economy), and lighter-weight electric power-assisted steering (3 to 5 percent better fuel economy). It's also expanding its hybrids to the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan mid-size sedans, which will greatly increase the number of hybrid Fords on showroom floors. The company is eyeing plug-in hybrids but isn't diving in in a major way.Ford is also planning to import some of its popular small vehicles now being sold only in Europe. They include the Fiesta sedan and Transit Connect small van, six small vehicles in all by 2012.I got to drive a Ford Focus powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. I would have never known I was driving a fuel-cell-powered vehicle except for a slight whine from the rear of the car. Acceleration from stoplights was brisk. Meanwhile, GM is letting consumers test a fleet of 100 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles right now in a program called Project Driveway.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Periodic Table of Videos

Tables charting the chemical elements have been around since the 19th century - but this modern version has a short video about each one.

Since launching this site, the videos have been watched more than 2.5 million times.

The chemical elements videos developed by The University of Nottingham and it can be viewed from http://www.periodicvideos.com

Water-propelled cars may run on Indian roads, in about two decades

Manas Dasgupta

VADODARA: It may not be long before the cars will be running on the Indian roads literally on water! Sounds amazing, but the senior researcher of the central government’s Energy Resources Development Agency (ERDA), Vadodara, G. S. Grewal, believes that it could become a reality in a maximum of two decades or even earlier.

The ERDA has already developed techniques for using hydrogen gas, available in abundance from water, as fuel to run cars and other uses to meet the world’s energy crisis likely to arise from the diminishing fossil fuels. Based on the indigenous technology, the system developed by the ERDA for the generation of hydrogen gas would cost just about Rs. three per kilo watt per hour as against Rs. 9.3 required for the creation of same amount of energy from diesel.

Dr. Grewal was speaking at a seminar on “Impact and Benefits of the Petroleum Products and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006, on the Society,” organised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Power and Energy Society of India with the support of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Gas Authority of India Limited and the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation.

Dr. Grewal said the technology to use hydrogen as fuel for static installations had been fully developed and the ERDA was ready for commercial production, but the technology for using it in moving vehicles could still take some time in developing suitable containers to store gas. Pointing out that storing hydrogen in gaseous or liquid forms would be unviable, he said the ERDA had developed a magnesium-based alloy to use as hydrogen container in solid state, but was yet find an answer to the problem of explosion in the event of even a minor collision.

Source: The Hindu
Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Sunday, September 28, 2008

‘Research interest growing in India’

Microsoft Research India on the trends shaping the scene..

“The situation here is always improving. We at Microsoft Research India got about 60 to 70 submissions when we started. Now we get about 400 a year. The numbers have doubled in other institutions, too.”

Ravikanth Nandula

Compared to a thousand doctorates in computer science that come out of American universities every year, India produces 50. But the situation here is improving, P. Anandan, Managing Director of Microsoft Research India, says.

Excerpts from a chat with eWorld:

Could you tell me a little bit about the idea behind setting up a computer science research lab?
I was already interacting with the Indian research community for close to a decade before this lab was conceptualised.

As part of my job (leading a group researching into computer vision at Microsoft, Redmond) I would attend various technological events where research papers are presented by professors and IITians. And a lot of those papers were from third year and final year students.
At the time when I did my B.Tech (in 1977) from IIT Madras I could not tell what writing a paper even meant! That was one of the first things that made me realise that a change was on.
A second point is, back in 2003-2004, a certain area of research was becoming interesting — ICT (information and communication technologies).

It made sense that if you wanted to do research, the developing countries were the place to go to.

And India was the best place, with its opened economy, strong educational foundations and the resulting opportunities. It is still easily a leading destination.

But wasn’t the talent flying out of India at that time?

That is true of today. And that is definitely true of yesterday. But reverse migration is also happening. People who have gone abroad in the 1970s and 80s want to come back and contribute.

The economy had opened up and opportunities for people who wanted to come back were there.
In fact, setting up the labs was a recognition of these changing conditions.

How does the research environment in India fare, say, vis-a-vis, the US ?

We produce about 50 Ph.Ds a year in computer science. The US, about one thousand. Last year was especially good for them with 1,500 Ph.Ds. But don’t ignore the fact that about a quarter of them are from Indian students.

To do research, we need a critical mass of people. We need four or five faculty members who’re interested and a few students rally around them and then things get to happen.

Is this situation changing?

The situation here is always improving. We at Microsoft Research India got about 60 to 70 submissions when we started. Now we get about 400 a year. The numbers have doubled in other institutions, too.

Can you tell me how your research activities are structured?

We have about 60 people; 52 do research. Each research area has one or two top people, world-renowned, who attract other researchers.

At the middle, we have fresh Ph.Ds from around the world, not just India. The third one are an interesting group: fresh graduates from B.Tech and M.Tech who come and work with us.
These are assistant researchers who work with us and eventually go for a Ph.D. They are really good! Very bright!

You are a research facility that’s attached to a company. How different is it for a prospective researcher from working in an academic institution?

There are two things that stimulate a researcher: One is peer recognition and the other is the impact his research has on the larger society.

The best way a technological researcher can affect the society around him is to work through the company that makes the technological products. There is a satisfaction when a thousand peers cheer you in a seminar hall and then there is an altogether different satisfaction when a billion people use the products that your research made happen. We offer them both.
You also hold an annual research symposium. Tell us about it.

It’s called TechVista. It is part of our efforts to create awareness about what research is and the potential that research has to make a global impact. It is a one-day symposium that brings together some of the world’s leading researchers, scientists and academics.

A number of Turing award winners (the most prestigious award in computer science) have been speakers at previous editions of TechVista and this year will also feature a Turing award winner,

Prof. John Hopcroft, as a speaker.
We’re holding it in Chennai on October 1. It’s open to all.
Source: Hindu Business Line

Blog notes on OA in chemistry

Blog notes on OA in chemistry
Jan Kuras, Chemistry Central host OA session at EuCheMS Congress, Chemistry Central Blog, September 26, 2008.
Chemistry Central hosted an engaging open session - An Introduction to Open Access Publishing in Chemistry - at the recent EuCheMS Chemistry Congress in Torino, Italy [(September 16-20, 2008)].Jan Kuras, Associate Publisher at Chemistry Central, provided an overview of the strategy and business model of OA publishing and positioned it within the publishing landscape, highlighting the beneficiaries throughout the research community.Dr Livia Simon Sarkadi, from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, then examined the benefits (as well as some disadvantages) of OA publishing to the chemistry community and shared some initiatives that could be implemented to progress OA in chemistry. These included: soliciting articles from leading chemists in areas of high topicality to raise the profile of an OA journal; engaging with young chemists for whom OA publications will be part of their careers; and seeking support for OA publishing from national societies and divisions. ...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rice research center takes aim at corrosion

Rice University has established a National Corrosion Center where researchers will develop better technology for preventing corrosion, particularly as it affects the oil and gas industry.
Rice will collaborate with NACE International, an association of more than 20,000 scientists, engineers and technicians worldwide involved in virtually every industry and aspect of corrosion prevention and control.

“Anything made with steel corrodes, so our system of highways and bridges, our pipelines for transporting water, oil and gas, our buildings, our aviation and transportation industries are all at risk,” said Emil Peña, executive director of the new center and also of Rice’s Energy and Environmental Systems Institute.

“We will focus on corrosion prevention and mitigation technologies that not only have the potential to improve the reliability and safety of just about everything made of steel, but also can save billions of dollars in repairs and rebuilding. This research even has biomedical implications.”

A 2001 study by the Federal Highway Administration found that corrosion costs the oil and gas industry $13.4 billion a year, while the overall cost to U.S. industry is about $276 billion.
With Rice’s expertise in nanotechnology, Peña is optimistic about developing so-called nanocoatings that can keep water away from steel surfaces.

The center is seeking government and private corporate funding.

Source: Houston Business Journal

Scientists solve 100-year-old engineering problem

Sept. 26, 2008As a car accelerates up and down a hill then slows to follow a hairpin turn, the airflow around it cannot keep up and detaches from the vehicle. This aerodynamic separation creates additional drag that slows the car and forces the engine to work harder. The same phenomenon affects airplanes, boats, submarines, and even your golf ball.

Now, in work that could lead to ways of controlling the effect with potential impacts on fuel efficiency and more, MIT scientists and colleagues have reported new mathematical and experimental work for predicting where that aerodynamic separation will occur.

The research solves "a century-old problem in the field of fluid mechanics," or the study of how fluids—which for scientists include gases and liquids—move, says George Haller, a visiting professor in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering. Haller's group developed the new theory, while Thomas Peacock, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor in the same department, led the experimental effort.

Papers on the experiments and theory are being published in the Sept. 25 issue of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and in the September issue of Physics of Fluids, respectively.

Fluid flows affect everything in our world, from blood flow to geophysical convection. As a result, engineers constantly seek ways of controlling separation in those flows to reduce losses and increase efficiency. One recent accomplishment: the sleek, full-body swimsuits used at the Beijing Olympics.

Controlling fluid flows lies at the heart of a wide range of scientific problems, including improving the performance of vehicles, Peacock says.
Source: R&D Magazine

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rutgers University Breaks Ground on 1.4-MW Solar System

Officials from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, joined commissioners from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to break ground on the construction of a seven-acre solar energy facility, one of the largest systems on a single campus in the United States.

The 1.4-megawatt (MW) solar energy facility at Rutgers will consist of more than 7,000 solar panels and will generate approximately 10 percent of the electrical demand of the school's Livingston Campus. Rutgers will fund approximately half of the US $10 million cost of the project but the balance will be subsidized by a rebate through the BPU's Clean Energy Program. The program is aimed at public agencies and institutions to help them defer the cost of implementing solar projects.
Source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com
Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nanoparticles in the blood

Researchers at the University of Urbino have developed a way to encapsulate magnetic nanoparticles inside blood cells, resulting in a more effective contrast agent for medical imaging.

Contrast agents are compounds that are used to increase the visibility of internal organs, blood vessels or tissue in the images generated by medical scanners. By doing so, they can help radiologists determine the presence and extent of a given disease.

At the present time, magnetic nanoparticle contrast agents are quickly excreted from the blood via the patient’s liver, limiting their application.

But since the new magnetic nanoparticles developed at the University of Urbin are captured inside the patient’s own red blood cells, they remain protected from the body’s excretion mechanisms for as long as 120 days, the typical lifetime of healthy red blood cells.

A key feature of the University of Urbino’s technology is that it could allow the preparation of relatively large volumes of blood loaded with the contrasting agent.

Now, the university researchers have joined forces with Philips Research, whose scientists will take samples of the blood and test its effectiveness in Philips scanners.

The two and a half year collaboration between the two outfits is expected to result in a more effective treatment of cardiovascular disease.

One way of treating heart rhythm disorders, for example, is a minimally invasive procedure known as radio-frequency ablation. During this procedure, a catheter is inserted into the patient’s heart and the tissue responsible for propagating abnormal electrical signals through the heart muscle is destroyed by heat from the tip of the catheter.

Medical imaging techniques are presently used to direct the procedure, which can take hours to complete. The images provide the means by which a cardiologist can guide the instrument through the body.

The researchers believe that injecting encapsulated magnetic nanoparticles into a patient’s bloodstream during such procedures could be used to highlight the volume of blood in the different heart chambers, providing invaluable assistance for the cardiologist.

Source: The Engineer Online, 25 September, 2008

Nokia looks beyond fuel cells for energy

By Tarmo Virki

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The mobile industry needs to focus more on power usage to keep today's sophisticated devices playing video and music for longer, a Nokia executive told Reuters in an interview.

The way cellphones use energy has changed dramatically since the introduction of technologies like streaming video and high-resolution displays, which consume a lot more power.
Nokia says software developers need to focus more on making their programmes use less energy. At the same time, the world's biggest handset maker is looking into alternatives to the lithium-ion batteries that power cellphones today...

Source: Thomson Reuters

Nanotechnology applications could provide the required energy breakthroughs

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Nanotechnology applications could provide decisive technological breakthroughs in the energy sector and have a considerable impact on creating the sustainable energy supply that is required to make the transition from fossil fuels. Possibilities range from gradual short- and medium-term improvements for a more efficient use of conventional and renewable energy sources all the way to completely new long-term approaches for energy recovery and utilization. With enough political will – and funding – nanotechnology could make essential contributions to sustainable energy supply and global climate protection policies. The technological foundation is there, all it takes is political leadership to create the right research and investment conditions to make it happen.

Source: http://www.nanowerk.com/

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Editor of "Science" urges China to cultivate research, talent

BEIJING, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- A leading American scientist said China should encourage projects that "continually generate innovative ideas and technologies" in its scientific endeavors.

China has made very good scientific progress over the past 30 years, said Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of the American journal Science, noting China has become a leader in fields such as material science.

Alberts, who became editor of the magazine in March, was here to deliver two speeches and meet with prominent scientists. The magazine featured the latest Chinese research into genetically modified cotton as its cover story in the Sept. 19 issue.

China needs to support more small independent projects and more young scientists to generate innovation, he said, adding that achievement should be measured not by the quantity but the quality of scientists' papers.

Alberts said a nation's "scientific temper" was important to its sustainable development.

"We need good scientific education with an emphasis on active enquiry for all nations," he said in a speech on "Science and the World's Future" at Tsinghua University on Tuesday.

"For each of our nations to benefit from science, we must keep science healthy," Alberts said. "Good science must continually generate innovative ideas and technologies."

He was the president of the United States National Academy of Sciences from 1993 to 2005. During that time, he visited China almost every year.

Alberts, also a renowned molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said that scientists need to "have a much larger presence in world affairs".

He is one of the co-chairs of the Inter Academy Council, representing 15 academies of science and equivalent organizations in China, Brazil, India, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries.

"I found his talk quite useful and China's scientific policies could benefit from referring to his opinions," said Fan Chunliang, a researcher at the Institute of Policy and Management of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"I was quite inspired by the words 'science knows no country, knowledge belongs to humanity', which he quoted from Louis Pasteur," said Wu Wei, a doctoral candidate at Tsinghua University. "I think we should all make a strong effort to help science become 'the torch that illuminates the world'."

Science, with 1 million subscribers worldwide, is sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Alberts said that he hoped the magazine would become a powerful platform for setting scientific standards and bringing outstanding science all over the world into public view.

Alberts said that with the opening of the Asia-Pacific news bureau in Beijing last October, the magazine's coverage of China had increased. He hoped that the level of reporting about China could be sustained, while India, Brazil and other developing countries could also get more coverage.

Source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-09/24/content_10104723.htm

Solar power: Light work

Printing the active coating onto organic photovoltaic solar cells instead of using other methods, such as spreading it by centrifugal force, improves the efficiency of solar-cell manufacture, according to industry scientists.

Solar cells based on organic compounds can be cheaper, lighter and more versatile than silicon-based cells, but are much less efficient at converting sunlight into electrical power.
The printing technique developed by Claudia Hoth and her colleagues at the German arm of Konarka Technologies, a solar materials manufacturer based in Lowell, Massachusetts, allows organic solar cells to be produced more simply and quickly, which might make them commercially viable.

The efficiency of cells made by this method is 3.5%, still lagging behind the 5.21% efficiency of the best organic solar cells produced by more conventional methods.
Nano Lett. 8, 2806–2813 (2008)

Source: Nature 455, 435 (25 September 2008) doi:10.1038/455435d;
Published online 24 September 2008

Slicing Solar Power Costs

University of Utah engineers devised a new way to slice thin wafers of the chemical element germanium for use in the most efficient type of solar cells. They say the new method should lower the cost of such cells by reducing the waste and breakage of the brittle semiconductor.

The expensive solar cells now are used mainly on spacecraft, but with the improved wafer-slicing method, "the idea is to make germanium-based, high-efficiency solar cells for uses where cost now is a factor," particularly for solar power on Earth, says Eberhard "Ebbe" Bamberg, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. "You want to do it on your roof."

Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Suniva Produces Screen Printed Solar Cells with Record 20% Efficiency

Suniva Inc. announced that its R&D team has developed several silicon solar cells in its lab with more than 20% conversion efficiencies using its patented combination of cell designs and screen printing technologies.


Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Regional journals can boost science capacity

Regional journals are essential for building science capacity in the developing world, says Wieland Gevers.

Building significant and sustainable science capacity in developing countries is an agenda that enjoys wide support. But how best to achieve it is still open to debate.

Part of the answer lies in promoting 'regional journals' — scholarly journals published in, and containing many original papers of regional interest, but with editorial and peer review practices equivalent to high-impact journals in developed countries. These are indispensable components of truly globalised scholarship, and cost-effective catalysts for contributions from hard-pressed scientists and scholars in developing countries.

In the highly profitable Western system of commercial journal publishing (now fighting to contain the contagion of open access), hard-working authors are often described as offering their manuscripts for free, quality-assuring other scientists’ work without compensation, and then paying heavily to read published work through costly subscriptions, outrageous downloading fees and out-of-control library budgets.

But these criticisms do not recognise the benefits scientists and scholars derive from being editors, peer reviewers, and contributors. Researchers are constantly alerted to new ideas and findings, interesting citations, methodological insights, and improved conceptual thinking arising from close reading of others’ work.


Source: www.scidev.net

Monday, September 22, 2008

Solar PV industry in India: Strategy for success

Dr. Dev Gupta, CTO, APSTL
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, USA & BANGALORE, INDIA: Nearly four years since promoters first descended on India to hawk multi-billion dollar wafer fabs for semiconductor chips and for nearly as long since local booster associations (composed mostly of software/design types with rather thin credentials in expertise e,g. physics or materials science, critical to semiconductors) jumped on the bandwagon to advocate wafer fabs, not a single new fab has come up anywhere in India!

Even the Government Ministries responsible for facilitating the belated start of semiconductor manufacturing in India seem to have focused solely on the financial aspects (e.g., subsidies), and at the same time, underestimated the overwhelming importance of securing scarce technical knowhow that still dominates the viability of this most high tech of industries. The fact that nanoscale devices are already in production at the latest wafer fabs seems to have escaped them as well.


The Future of Hydrogen Is Now

by Jeffrey A Serfass, President, National Hydrogen Association

One of the questions people often ask the hydrogen industry is, "When will hydrogen be ready? How long before it's actually used?" The simple answer is: right now.
The real surprise for most is learning how many different ways hydrogen is being used already for everyday applications and how linked hydrogen technologies are with the deployment of traditional renewable technologies.

Most people think of hydrogen as an alternative fuel for passenger cars. That's true, but it's only part of the picture. Adding hydrogen to the variety of clean car technologies in development today is hugely important and something that is developing steadily. (In fact, hydrogen vehicles from nine car companies recently completed a cross-country tour.) At the same time, other products using hydrogen are being sold today for uses that most folks don't know about. Some well-known names, like FedEx, Wall-Mart, Sprint, Orlando and Vancouver International Airports and others are among those who have begun to introduce hydrogen technologies to their operations. You can read about many of these real-world applications by clicking here.
In the meantime, here's a quick overview of just some of the industries and technologies in which hydrogen is being put to use today, in ways other than passenger cars, and a reminder of how hydrogen technologies are an enabler for wider deployment of renewables.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Nanosciences, nanotechnologies" : A new DVD from CNRS

Paris, September 3, 2008

At the scale of a billionth of a meter, the nanoworld is taking shape. CNRS Images has just released "Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies", its second thematic DVD, to answer all our questions about the infinitesimally small. Aimed at both experts in the field and non-specialists, this bilingual DVD (English and French) is an open invitation to discover an awe-inspiring world. It introduces the pioneers in the field, while presenting current research and exploring the debate surrounding the use of these technologies. The DVD features such renowned scientists as Jean-Marie Lehn, Albert Fert and Alain Aspect.


The Alliance for Taxpayer Access

A diverse and growing alliance of organizations representing taxpayers, patients, physicians, researchers, and institutions that support open public access to taxpayer-funded research.

Statement of Principles:
  1. American taxpayers are entitled to open access on the Internet to the peer-reviewed scientific articles on research funded by the U.S. Government.
  2. Widespread access to the information contained in these articles is an essential, inseparable component of our nation's investment in science.
  3. This and other scientific information should be shared in cost-effective ways that take advantage of the Internet, stimulate further discovery and innovation, and advance the translation of this knowledge into public benefits.
  4. Enhanced access to and expanded sharing of information will lead to usage by millions of scientists, professionals, and individuals, and will deliver an accelerated return on the taxpayers' investment.


Collecting the history of fuel cells

Collecting the history of fuel cells : PROJECT OVERVIEW at Smithsonian Institution


World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development 5(3/4) 2008

World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development 5(3/4) 2008

  • Technology in engineering education – essential for sustainable approaches to global technical challenges
  • Computer facilitated mathematical techniques of differential equations governing engineering processes
  • Generating thermodynamics phase diagrams using symbolic packages
    Mathematical modelling of a single effect natural circulation evaporator. A practical lesson for undergraduate computer aided engineering courses
  • Analysis of generic e-learning framework
  • Web-based laboratories for internet remote experimentation
  • Online Thermodynamics courseware development
  • Engineering design and realisation of an automatic real time weather monitoring station using commercial CAD tools
  • Development of interactive learning activities in heat transfer
  • Student perceptions of cooperative learning in a blended engineering course
  • Virtual Reality as a training tool in engineering education
  • Incorporating the systems approach in future undergraduate chemical engineering education curriculum: illustration via computer-aided process simulation laboratory exercises

More Power for Tomorrow's Supercapacitors

As supercapacitors emerge to become an important feature in the world of battery devices, researchers at CIRIMAT1 in Toulouse and at Drexel University in Philadelphia have made a breakthrough discovery that invalidates years of preconceptions.

Supercapacitors, also known as ultracapacitors, are rechargeable high-power energy storage devices. They are currently used in personal electronics from mobile phones to cameras, as well as in hybrid electric and fuel-cell vehicles. They have the ability to store at least one million times more energy per unit mass than standard capacitors. They also have an indefinite lifespan as they can be charged and discharged an unlimited number of times. Until now, their usefulness was limited by their maximum capacitance–the measure of the amount of electric charge that can be stored.


Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Delivery of the First Greek Hydrogen Fuel Cell Scooter

Delivery of the First Greek Hydrogen Fuel Cell Scooter to C.R.E.S. Institute, Athens, Greece

With great success has been delivered the First Greek Hydrogen Fuel Cell Scooter to the Centre of Renewable Energy Sources (CRES), Athens, Greece. After this, Tropical S.A. is included into the few companies worldwide that have managed to offer such a scooter which is friendly to the environment with zero emissions.

The Hydrogen Fuel Cells Scooter uses an advanced and fully automated 500W/dc fuel cell system and 48V voltage that charges the batteries with the aid of a charger. Then, by using a 1Nm3 (1.000lt) low pressure metal hydride hydrogen storage tank, the scooter’s range has been increased to over 150km. It has to be noticed that the whole fuel cell system has been mounted on a special designed box at the rack of the scooter and it can be used as a portable fuel cell system providing power approx. 500Watt.


Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Bacteria from Compost Could Provide 10% of UK Transport Fuel Needs

Bacteria from Compost Could Provide 10% of UK Transport Fuel Needs
Dublin, Ireland [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]
September 16, 2008

Often found in compost heaps, the bacteria that converts waste plant fiber into ethanol could eventually provide up 10% of the UK's transport fuel needs, scientists heard last week at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn meeting being held at Trinity College, Dublin.

Researchers from Guildford, UK have successfully developed a new strain of bacteria that can break down straw and agricultural plant waste, domestic hedge clippings, garden trimmings and cardboard, wood chippings and other municipal rubbish in order to convert them into useful renewable fuels for the transport industry.

"The bioethanol produced in our process can be blended with existing gasoline to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions, help tackle global warming, reduce dependence upon foreign oil and help meet national and international targets for renewable energy," said Milner, Fermentation Development Manager of TMO Renewables Ltd, based in Surrey Research Park, Guildford.

The new strain of bacteria allows ethanol to be produced much more efficiently and cheaply than in traditional yeast-based fermentation, which forms the basis for most current commercial bioethanol production.


Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Functionalization of carbon nanotubes is key to electrochemical nanotechnology devices

carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are insoluble in many liquids such as water, polymer resins, and most solvents. This means they are difficult to evenly disperse in a liquid matrix such as epoxies and other polymers, complicating efforts to utilize CNTs' outstanding physical properties...

Read full text

Structural Genomics Knowledgebase

Structural Genomics Knowledgebase
The PSI-Nature SGKB is designed to turn the products of the Protein Structure Initiative into knowledge that is important for understanding living systems and disease. Use this site to explore the PSI's work and to stay informed about advances in structural biology and structural genomics.

New Electrode Structure From QuantumSphere Extends Li-Ion Battery Capacity Up To Five Times

(Nanowerk News) QuantumSphere, Inc., a leading developer of advanced catalyst materials, electrode devices, and related technologies and systems for portable power and clean-energy applications, today announced that it has filed a key patent for technology it has developed that extends the capacity of rechargeable lithium ion batteries up to five times. Next-generation batteries featuring this technology could dramatically improve the operating life of portable consumer electronics, hybrid-electric vehicle range, and a wide variety of energy storage applications.

This news follows a previous QuantumSphere battery announcement highlighting the development of a high-rate, paper-thin, nano-enabled electrode for disposable batteries. This earlier breakthrough patent pending air-electrode design increased power output by 320% in zinc-air cells, providing roughly 4x more power than equivalent sized alkaline batteries, and is expected to be commercialized in 2009.

“The electrodes our company is developing will expand battery capacity in a profound way, without a sacrifice in safety. Instead of four hours of operating time on a laptop computer, a single charge could last up to 12 hours and provide users with enough computing time for a complete round-trip flight between Los Angeles and New York,” said Kevin Maloney, president and CEO of QuantumSphere. “This important research is another example of QuantumSphere’s focused plan to bring next-generation, high-capacity lithium ion battery systems to market. We believe this is a commercially viable technology that will have a major impact in a variety of consumer, industrial, and transportation applications.”

Today’s patent filing covers a novel electrode structure enriched with nano lithium particles that increases the fuel source in a rechargeable lithium ion battery, thus increasing battery life. QuantumSphere intends to commercialize the technology to improve next-generation batteries for energy storage, consumer, and transportation applications.

“QuantumSphere has created electrodes with much higher lithium capacities than current state-of-the-art lithium ion batteries, as described in this patent application,” said Subra Iyer, principal technologist and co-inventor at QuantumSphere. “In the next phase of the QuantumSphere research efforts, we will further improve these anode and cathode electrodes and formulate electrolytes with wide electrochemical windows. All of this is part of a structured research approach to create new high-voltage battery chemistries, enabling both higher energy density and higher power density in next-generation rechargeable lithium ion batteries, taking advantage of the newly improved anode, cathode, and electrolyte molecular architectures.”
About QuantumSphere, Inc.

QuantumSphere, Inc. (QSI) is a leading manufacturer of advanced catalyst materials, high- performance electrode systems, and related technologies for portable power, clean energy, and electronics applications. Backed by a strong intellectual property portfolio, the Company’s system designs and products can lower costs and enable breakthrough performance in such multi-billion dollar growth markets as batteries, fuel cells, desalination, hydrogen generation, and emissions reduction.

Founded in 2002, QSI is driven by a mission to reduce dependence on non-renewable energy sources through continuous innovation and refinement of its highly engineered catalytic materials, electrode systems, and advanced technology platforms. QSI serves leading industry customers with its patented, automated, highly scalable, and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. For more information, please visit www.qsinano.com.

Source: QuantumSphere (press release)

Fuel cell plane in aviation first

Intelligent Energy and Boeing have announced that the first ever manned flight of a fuel cell powered light aircraft has been completed in tests in Spain.

Pictured above: The Boeing fuel cell powered aeroplane on its test flight

Boeing Research & Technology Europe (BR&TE) joined with partners across Europe and the US, including Intelligent Energy - which provided the fuel cell power system itself - to design, build and test the plane. The plane is based on a two-seat Dimona motor-glider frame with a 16.3 metre (53.5 feet) wingspan. It was modified by BR&TE to incorporate a hybrid low emission engine, containing Intelligent Energy’s power dense Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell power system and lithium-ion batteries, to power an electric motor coupled to a conventional propeller.

Three test flights took place in February and March at an airfield near Madrid. Each time, the pilot climbed to an altitude of 1,000 metres(3,300 feet) above sea level using a combination of battery power and power generated by the hydrogen fuel cells, and continued in a straight path at the cruising altitude for 20 minutes at a speed of 100 km per hour (62 miles per hour) on power solely generated by the fuel cells.

Henri Winand, chief executive of Intelligent Energy, said,“This is a new dawn for clean aviation, and the latest project to vindicate our view that hydrogen fuel cells can find applications in a wide variety of sectors. Boeing’s challenge to us was to provide a reliable and compact power system that could be integrated into such a light aircraft, and we delivered on our promise. We’re excited by the results and proud of the hard work of our CTO Philip Mitchell and his team, which helped make this a reality.”

Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen. They can be modified to provide power for many applications including aerospace and defence, as well as being ideal for zero-emissions commuter transport vehicles.

According to Boeing researchers, PEM fuel cell technology could potentially power small manned and unmanned aircrafts. Fuel cells could be applied to secondary power generating systems, such as auxiliary power units for large commercial airplanes. While Boeing does not envisage that fuel cells will provide primary power for large passenger airplanes, the company will continue to investigate their potential, as well as other sustainable alternative fuel and energy sources that improve environmental performance.

“Boeing is actively working to develop new technologies for environmentally progressive aerospace products,” said Francisco Escarti, BR&TE’s managing director. “We are proud of our pioneering work during the past five years on the Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane project. It is a tangible example of how we are exploring future leaps in environmental performance, as well as a credit to the talents and innovative spirit of our team.”

Source: http://www.intelligent-energy.com/index_article.asp?SecID=8&secondlevel=25&artid=4001%20

Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Monday, September 15, 2008

India-UK Science Networks

In 2002, the UK Office of Science and Innovation (OSI) signed a bilateral agreement with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), India making funding available to establish a networking scheme which aimed to initiate and develop enduring partnerships between the UK and Indian scientists. Under each agreement, both sides agreed upon the need to bring together their most excellent scientists in any field of science and technology.

Funding is now available from the Royal Society to continue to support the establishment of networking grants between the UK and India. The scheme falls under the umbrella of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI).

SOURCE: Royal Society

Nanotech meet calls for lab-industry links

As the definition of 'nanoscale' changes every day to accommodate ever shrinking sizes in this 'science of miniatures', Indian scientists are expressing concern over the lack of research facilities and industry resources in the country. Especially, when it is time to convert the country's nanoscience 'strengths in the lab to strengths in the marketplace', they say.

Published online 15 September 2008
Source: http://www.nature.com/nindia/2008/080915/full/nindia.2008.282.html

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Innovative Hydrogen-powered Car Created

Innovative Hydrogen-powered Car Created
Saturday, September 13, 2008

"As the price of gasoline fuel soars, and concerns grow about the impact of car culture on the environment, a team of scientists from the University of Sunderland have come up with a hydrogen-powered car, which they believe is a significant step forward in creating a mass-produced green machine." More

Source: ScienceDaily

A High-Capacity CO2 Trap

A porous material created by a team led by Gérard Férey at Institut Lavoisier in Versailles1 has an unparalleled ability to capture carbon dioxide, a major challenge in the ongoing fight against global warming.

This recent study2 co-authored by several laboratories associated with CNRS3 has shown that MIL101, a mesoporous4 Metal-Organic Framework (MOF), could store close to 400 m3 of CO2 at 25°C per m3 of solid, almost double the capacity of the best materials commercially available today.

Yet when Férey initially set out to create porous frameworks, he had no specific application in mind. His goal was to move beyond trial and error and devise a logical approach to create tailored porous solids. Using a personal computer simulation program, he found extraordinary virtual results. They eventually led to the creation of MIL101, the largest crystalline porous solid to date, with pores of 3.4 nm and a huge cubic cell volume.

The next issue was to figure out what to trap in such large cages and, given the increased focus on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 was a prime candidate. Férey also gives credit to his colleagues who demonstrated MIL101’s record CO2 adsorption properties. “We now know why and where the CO2 molecules attach,” he points out. “This is essential information if we want to find even better products.”

The study also shows that the method chosen to activate MIL101 is crucial in optimizing its CO2 adsorption capability, the most effective method being a combination of hot ethanol and ammonium fluoride treatments. CO2 storage is only one of many potential applications for a large-pore MOF and the possibilities are practically endless. “You can fill it with pretty much anything,” concludes Férey, “hydrogen, drugs, or even use the cages as a nanoreactor to produce materials directly inside them.”

Fabien Buliard

Notes :
1. CNRS / Université de Versailles.2. P. L. Llewellyn et al., “High Uptakes of CO2 and CH4 in Mesoporous Metal-Organic Frameworks MIL-100 and MIL-101,” Langmuir, 2008. DOI 10.1021/1a800227x.3. Institut Lavoisier (CNRS / Université de Versailles), Institut Charles Gerhardt (CNRS / Université de Montpellier-II / ENSCM), Laboratoire chimie Provence (CNRS / Universités Aix-Marseille-I, II and III), Laboratoire catalyse et spectrochimie (CNRS / Ensi Caen / Université de Caen).4. A material with pore diameters of 2 to 50 nm in size.

Contacts : Gérard Férey, Institut Lavoisier, Versailles.gferey@wanadoo.fr
Source: http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/1238.htm

Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

The World Patent Report – A Statistical Review 2008

WIPO recently released its annual statistics on patents 2008.

The World Patent Report – A Statistical Review is an annual publication and the 2008 edition is the third edition in the series. There is a continuing effort at WIPO to improve statistical information on patent activity covering as many countries as possible across the world and to develop and provide new indicators that are relevant to current policy issues.

All statistics included in this report and additional data (i.e. longer time series and more countries / patent offices) are available for download from WIPO’s statistics website: www.wipo.int/ipstats/en/statistics/.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Promising Lithium Batteries For Electric Cars

Why does lithium iron phosphate, a candidate for use in future lithium batteries, conduct electricity despite being an insulating material? Chemists at CNRS (1), working in collaboration with a team from CEA-Liten (2), have shed light on this paradox.

Their experimentally verified “domino-cascade model” shows that local stresses within the material allow electrical and ionic conduction to spread from one area to the next, making the battery function. These results open new horizons in the search for improved battery electrode materials and help explain how tomorrow's electric car batteries work.

Lithium-ion batteries, which store three to four times more energy per unit mass than traditional batteries, are now used extensively in portable electronic devices (computers, cell phones, MP3 players, etc.). The positive electrode materials in these batteries are highly effective but too expensive to be used in the large batteries needed for electric vehicles and second generation hybrid vehicles.

In the future, these applications may rely on lithium iron phosphate: it is environmentally friendly and has exceptional properties combined with low cost and good thermal stability (important for safety reasons). All these qualities make it the best candidate to be used in lithium batteries for future electric cars. However, this material does not have the ionic and electrical conduction properties needed to make the electrode work.

CNRS chemists from the Institut de chimie de la matière condensée de Bordeaux (ICMCB) and their partners from CEA-Liten became the first to explain this paradox. By studying lithium iron phosphate, they showed that the battery's charge-discharge cycles are made possible by a "domino cascade process." This phenomenon occurs as soon as stresses are present at the interface between the discharging material and the material in the discharged state. Electrical and ionic conduction is then extremely rapid in the interfacial zone, propagating from one spot to the next like dominos as the interface moves. The model has been verified by microscopic measurements.

This novel reaction process, resembling a wave sweeping through the crystal, explains how two insulating materials (one in the charged state and the other in the discharged state) can nonetheless make lithium-ion batteries function. These results are an important step forward in the quest for new low cost and safer electrode materials for future lithium batteries. The research has also made it possible to understand the processes taking place at the nanometer scale in lithium iron phosphate-based batteries, which may be used in tomorrow's hybrid and electric cars.
(1) Institut de chimie de la matière condensée de Bordeaux, ICMCB, (CNRS / Université de Bordeaux / ENSCPB).
(2) CEA-Liten : Laboratoire d'innovation pour les technologies des énergies nouvelles et les nanomatériaux.

Journal reference:

Delmas et al. Lithium deintercalation in LiFePO4 nanoparticles via a domino-cascade model. Nature Materials, 2008; 7 (8): 665 DOI: 10.1038/nmat2230
Adapted from materials provided by CNRS.

Source: ScienceDaily (Aug. 11, 2008) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080807073753.htm

Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chemists create 'powdered methane'

Gas can be stored in dry water
Philip Ball

Methane and natural gas are usually shipped around in pressurized pipelines and canisters. But chemists have now developed a new way to transport the gases: as a powder.

Andrew Cooper and his colleagues at the University of Liverpool, UK, have found that they can trap methane in a bizarre material dubbed 'dry water', a mixture of silica and water that looks and acts like a fine white powder1. The methane reacts with the water to produce a crystalline material called methane gas hydrate, in which individual methane molecules sit inside ice-like cages of water molecules.

Source: Nature News

Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Heat-Loving Bacteria for Hydrogen

A North Carolina State University engineer has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to learn more about the microbiology, genetics and genomics behind how and why heat-loving bacteria called thermotogales produce large amounts of hydrogen with unusually high efficiencies. These microorganisms are found all over the globe in areas which are naturally hot – including volcanic sediments, hot springs and brines from deep oil wells.

The findings could help propel the use of hydrogen for many energy applications, including a new era of automobile travel. Hydrogen-powered cars, which exist in limited and expensive supply, are considered by many to be the holy grail of future vehicle travel.

Thermotoga maritima (green/yellow rods) growing in co-culture with Methanococcus jannaschii (red spheres). T. maritima ferments sugars to hydrogen and M. jannaschii converts hydrogen to methane.

Figuring out the mechanisms behind thermotogale hydrogen production and exploiting these insights for applications in new hydrogen fuel cells could make hydrogen cars ubiquitous and provide one answer to the global energy crisis, says Dr. Robert Kelly, Alcoa Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State and the principal investigator for the grant.

Kelly will work with colleagues from the University of Connecticut and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to learn more about how the thermatogales consume sugars and produce hydrogen in such efficient ways.

"These organisms produce copious amounts of hydrogen as a waste product of their metabolism, even though hydrogen ultimately inhibits their growth," Kelly says. "We'd like to learn more about the connection between sugar consumption and hydrogen yields and how to take advantage of their unique bioenergetics at high temperatures."

Kelly has worked with a number of different heat-loving organisms over the past 25 years, and has learned a lot about them, including how to effectively grow them in his lab. Besides hydrogen-producing organisms, he is also interested in organisms that efficiently break down cellulose – the primary structural component of plants – to produce sugars that can be fermented into ethanol. One of the current areas of interest is how different microorganisms from high temperature environments coexist and at the same time produce enzymes or byproducts, such as hydrogen, for biofuels applications.

"Figuring out exactly how these organisms tick – and how different types of organisms work together or are at odds with one another in nature – could yield important insights that get us to alternative energy sources in the near future," Kelly says.

Source. http://news.ncsu.edu/news/2008/07/116mkkellyhydrogen.php

Dated: July 30, 2008

Courtesy: Dr S Vasudevan

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning

NPTEL is an acronym for National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning which is an initiative by all seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for creating course contents in engineering and science.

The site can be viewed at: http://nptel.iitm.ac.in/home.php

Indian patent bill: Let's not be too hasty

Shamnad Basheer
10 September 2008

A new law to increase university patenting in India needs more research and public debate before being enacted, says Shamnad Basheer.

The Indian government is considering introducing a law based on the US Bayh–Dole Act — a 1980s statute that sought to promote technology transfer by giving universities and research institutions ownership of patents resulting from federally funded research.

The Indian bill has been hastily drafted and peddled across various ministries without proper forethought or public debate. Although it is not yet public, an unofficial copy of the bill — 'Public Funded Research and Development (Protection, Utilisation and Regulation of Intellectual Property) Bill, 2007' — is available on SpicyIP.

The Indian government appears to have been swayed, in large part, by romanticised accounts of the US Bayh–Dole Act. Most notably, an article in The Economist praised the act as a law that unlocked "all the inventions and discoveries that had been made in laboratories throughout the US with the help of taxpayers' money" and one that helped "reverse America's precipitous slide into industrial irrelevance." [1]

But the government has overlooked a growing body of literature that casts doubt on the wonders commonly attributed to the act. [2] Not only does the government need to assess this literature, it should also commission studies on the specific nature of university research in India and the complex relationship between academia and industry. If the bill is not sufficiently 'Indianised' it may fail to deliver.

Promoting technology transfer

As with the Bayh–Dole Act, the Indian bill is premised on the assumption that university ownership of patent rights is likely to increase the number of academia–industry collaborations. And that without it, industry may be unwilling to develop academic research into useful products for society.

It is true that a sizeable amount of public investment in Indian research is currently made without any express contract stipulating ownership over resulting patents. The proposed bill addresses this concern by providing a default position — that universities and research institutions can choose to patent any inventions arising from government funded research. But, if they fail to do so within a reasonable period of time, the option to patent passes on to the government funding agency.

This would provide more legal certainty — and consequently less transaction costs — for universities and industries wishing to collaborate. It may even act as an incentive for industries to approach universities in the first place.

It is difficult to advance any principled objection to fostering such legal certainty. Unless of course, one is opposed to the very idea of patents, as some critics of the Bayh–Dole Act appear to be. Taking this idea to its logical conclusion, these critics would suggest that India pass legislation banning all patenting of government funded research. Such a suggestion is unlikely to gain force, given that technologically proficient developing countries like India face increasing demands for patents from domestic industries. And if domestic industry can file patents, why not universities and research institutes? Particularly when the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) — a wide network of government funded labs — is currently the top patent filer in India.

Still, the bill's key defect lies in not leaving enough space for non–exclusive licensing, particularly in the context of platform technologies. Had it not been for Stanford University's non–exclusive licensing in relation to its famed Cohen–Boyer patents covering rDNA technology, biotechnology may not have developed the way that it did. Not only did such widespread licensing contribute to the economic success of the patents, it also permitted a number of companies to do follow–on research, rapidly advancing the frontiers of technology.

Creating wealth

The bill aspires to make universities wealthy and self–sufficient. But the ability of such legislation to generate cash may be vastly exaggerated. Empirical data from the United States shows that most universities do not make significant sums of money by licensing their technology.

In fact, the cost of operating a technology transfer office (TTO) often exceeds the money made from technology licensing. CSIR bears out this point well. While it generated approximately US$1 million in licensing revenues in 2004–2005, it spent more than twice that amount on filing patents.

India's Bayh–Dole attempt will come to nothing if it ignores this important fact regarding CSIR and its rather impressive patent numbers. The government should come up with ways of reducing the operational costs of TTOs and patents, while simultaneously increasing revenues from licensing.

Inventor rights

Perhaps the most laudable aspect of the Indian bill is that, unlike its US counterpart, it ensures that individual 'inventors' are paid at least 30 per cent of any royalties stemming from licensing. But despite this guarantee of a share in the profits, individuals are left with little option of determining how their invention can be used. For example, even if researchers wish to place their invention in the public domain or license it non–exclusively, they cannot do so — rather, the bill puts this discretionary power in the university's TTO.

The idea of achieving legal clarity on the ownership of inventions funded by public monies and thereby promoting university–industry technology transfer is, at its core, a good one.
But the current version of the Indian Bill leaves much to be desired. For one, it should ensure that, where necessary, non–exclusive licensing is encouraged. It must also embrace ways of measuring and promoting wider knowledge spillovers between research institutions, industry and society at large.

Most importantly, given that India is the world's largest democracy, the government must immediately make the bill public and foster an open and transparent debate around it.
Shamnad Basheer is an associate at the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Center.

[1] Innovation's Golden Goose. The Economist 365 (2002).
[2] Mowery, D., Nelson, R., Sampat, B. et al. Ivory Tower and Industrial Innovation: University–Industry Technology Transfer before and after the Bayh–Dole Act. 264pp (2004)

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/science-and-innovation-policy/opinions/indian-patent-bill-let-s-not-be-too-hasty.html

Low Cost Graphite Alternative To Fabricating Nanotechnology Biosensors

Nanowerk (9/8/2008)

Researchers from Michigan State University in the U.S. have developed a biosensor made with nanometal decorated graphene instead of more expensive carbon nanotubes. Researcher Ilsoon Lee explained, "Several previous studies have reported the application of the combination of metal nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes in biosensor application. But graphene has unique properties such as the highest thermal oxidation resistance and the highest degree of graphitization compared to carbon nanotube and carbon black that are widely used. Graphene also provides excellent support for nanometal catalysts. We made use of these properties by decorating exfoliated graphite nanoplatelets with platinum and palladium nanoparticles as a transducer for a glucose biosensor." The researchers report that the incorporation of the graphene into the biosensor interface resulted in a more effective electrode surface area and provided an exceptional support for the palladium and platinum nanoparticles. The researchers also tested the storage stability of the new biosensors and report that they maintained 70 percent of their sensitivity after one month of dry storage at 4 degrees Celsius and 50 percent after 2 months. According to the article, the researchers, in a previous study, demonstrated that graphene can potentially be a lower cost alternative to carbon nanotubes for biosensor applications, at a price of about US$10 per kilogram. The article says that “[t]he combination of high performance and inexpensive nanomaterial components – much less expensive than carbon nanotubes – suggests that this approach may be very suitable for commercial applications.”

Full text of the article can be viewed online at the link below.
Source: Nanowerk

Lack of industry links 'keeping Indian nanotech small'

T. V. Padma
8 September 2008 EN

[NEW DELHI] India's expanding nanotechnology research is not translating into market products due to weak links between Indian scientific institutes and industry, experts have cautioned.

Carbon nanotubes (NASA)

The problems were discussed at a gathering of India's top scientists and representatives of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry working on nanotechnology in Delhi last week (5 September).

Other problems cited include an absence of information about groups working in the sector and the domestic industry's reluctance to manufacture large quantities of nanomaterials proven to have commercial application.

India has more than 30 industries and 50 institutes engaged in nanotech research and development, with most efforts focusing on chip design, nanomedicine and nanomaterials.
Nanotechnology has potential uses in drug delivery, diagnostic kits, improved water filters and sensors, and reducing pollution from vehicles.

Since the launch of a US$250 million five-year national nanotech mission in 2007, India has seen a rise in the number of scientists working in the field and research publications, said V. S. Ramamurthy, former secretary of India's Department of Science and Technology and currently on the board of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

The national mission aims to make India a global hub by setting up clusters of research groups in the sector (see India looks to nanotechnology to boost agriculture and Preparing for take-off: Indian nanotechnology).

But there has been no corresponding increase in nanotech products in the marketplace. India needs to work on turning its laboratory research findings into commercially viable products that are either globally competitive or locally relevant, said Ramamurthy.

"We need to evolve synergies and strategies so that the strengths in the labs are converted into strengths in the marketplace," he said.

C. N. R. Rao, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to India's Prime Minister, suggested Indian scientists and industry should work on 'hot' emerging technologies with tremendous potential, which are attracting the interest of researchers worldwide.

These include use of nano-scale particles of graphene, a one atom thick layer of carbon molecules that form the basic structure of graphites. The material is one of the strongest known and has uses in microelectronics and tremendous capacity to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Other technologies include 'nano' zinc oxide that can be used in lasers, transistors and photovoltaics, and gallium nitride, a chemical that has applications in making cheaper, longer-lasting bulbs and torches.

Rao also suggested India should work on 'nano' forms of currently known materials that can throw up exciting applications.

Delegates at the meeting also pointed out that India does not have a systematic information base on all scientists.

Ajay Sood, professor of physics at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore said, "An information map on interested industry and academics is very much needed; an information platform that is easily accessible and can be updated."

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/lack-of-industry-links-keeping-indian-nanotech-sma.html

Scopus Young Scientists Awards (India) 2008

Scopus Young Scientists Awards (India) 2008

Scopus invites nominations for Young Scientist Awards (India) 2008 in the following subject areas:

Agriculture, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Earth & Oceanographic Sciences, Engineering, Library & Information Sciences, Mathematics, Medicine, Pharmacology, Physics & Social Sciences.

Further details can be found at: http://asia.elsevier.com/
Application can be downloaded at: http://asia.elsevier.com/SYSA_India_2008.doc

CHINA: Racing ahead in patenting

CHINA: Racing ahead in patenting
Writer: Subbiah Arunachalam
Date: 07 September 2008

China today is the third most prolific patent-filing country in the world after the United States and Japan. The State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) received more than 694,000 patent applications in 2007 including more than 245,000 20-year patent applications and more than 181,000 10-year patent applications, says a report by Evalueserve, an international business research and analytics company. By contrast, the Indian Patent Office received about 35,000 20-year patent applications in the fiscal year 2007-08.

"Patent filing has been growing in both China and India at about 20% a year, compared with a 7% growth rate for the US. However, SIPO received approximately the same number of 20-year applications in 1997 as the IPO did in 2007-08. This implies that India is approximately 10 years behind China," said the Evalueserve report.

If patent filings in China continue to grow at the present rate, SIPO will overtake the US Patents Office by 2012 in innovation patents. SIPO grants three types of patents: invention patents which are valid for 20 years from the date of filing; utility model or 10-year patents; and design patents. The 10-year patents are easier and faster to file than 20-year patents as they do not require any substantive examination and cost less to file.

There are several reasons for the rapid proliferation of patenting in China, especially since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. In China, patents are issued faster than in India: the average time taken from filing to grant in 2007 was 26 months for invention patents, 6.8 months for utility model patents and 6.6 months for design patents. In India it takes three to five years for a patent to be granted.

The Chinese government also gives grants to research institutes and universities filing a large number of patent applications. The patent office has many initiatives to create intellectual property awareness among Chinese companies.

Patent filing also reflects the increase in R&D spending and the fast-growing economy has meant more money for research. Universities are flush with funds, said Ram Deshpande, a senior researcher with Evalueserve China.

China has developed its patent system in the past two decades and today has a good searchable online patent database, a robust appeal mechanism and a hierarchy of courts for handling intellectual property disputes. Thanks to these measures, patenting activity has picked up tremendous momentum. Four million patent applications were filed between 1985 and the end of 2007 - the first million took 15 years but the last million took about 18 months.

Manufacturing is the most active sector of patenting in China, with most patents in this class pertaining to systems or machines or composition of matter in the case of drugs. The highest number of 20-year patent applications in 2007 was filed in pharma, telecom and data processing systems.

Source: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20080904152839794

Courtesy: Subbiah Arunachalam

2008 World Patent Report Confirms Increasing Internationalization of Innovative Activity.

2008 World Patent Report Confirms Increasing Internationalization of Innovative Activity. Increased patent filings in North East Asian countries (mainly China and the Republic of Korea) and in the US drove growth in worldwide filing of patent applications, which topped 1.76 million in 2006, representing a 4.9% increase over 2005, according to the 2008 edition of the WIPO World Patent Report.

World Patent Report: A Statistical Review (2008)
Full report is available at: http://www.wipo.int/ipstats/en/statistics/patents/wipo_pub_931.html

Source: WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)

India builds solar: A BIPV first

September 9, 2008

by Jaideep Malaviya

India's first green housing project facilitated with building-integrated solar power has been developed in a new district of Kolkata. Both environmentally and economically attractive, this project acts as a trailblazer for the rapidly developing country. Jaideep Malaviya reports.

The burden of combating global warming is not restricted to developed countries and many developing countries have shown their commitment to moving towards a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.

A good example of this type of commitment comes from India's West Bengal region, where the country's first housing complex using roof-integrated photovoltaics has recently been completed.

The policy behind the Rabi Rashmi Abasan project, which in the local Bengali language means ‘solar ray-based dwelling', was the brainchild of S. P. Gon Choudhary, managing director of the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Limited (WBGEDCL), a state government-backed renewable energy undertaking.

During his tenure as director of West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) Gon Choudhary was inspired while watching a television documentary on eco-housing projects under way in developed countries in early 2001.

He subsequently approached the Ministry of Housing of the government of West Bengal and made a representation to them, outlining a new concept known as ‘New Century's Housing' based on energy efficiency using state-of-the-art technologies. The first fruits of this concept have appeared with the Rabi Rashmi Abasan housing development, a name which was proposed by the chief minister of West Bengal, Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.

This 58 kW eco-housing project was developed by Germany's Conergy in partnership with the WBREDA as an initiative in solar architecture and is a flagship project in India.

Selling solar

As with other developed and developing nations, India's buildings are one of its more energy intensive sectors and are thus responsible for more than 30% of the total energy consumption of the country. The focus on implementing energy efficient technologies in buildings in order to move towards long-term sustainability is therefore obvious. And, as India is a tropical country blessed with consistent, almost year-round sunlight, Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) is a logical choice, showing clear promise.

The authorities at the Ministry of Housing agreed to provide 1.76 acres (nearly three quarters of a hectare) of land in a district of Kolkata city, the capital of West Bengal state in eastern India.

With plans to become a major hub for business, trade, industries, IT, institutions and culture, the New Town area for the development's location is 10 km from Kolkata's Central Business District and about a kilometre from the International Airport.

The land was obtained from West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (WBHIDCO).

After obtaining land, environment and power evacuation clearances from concerned authorities, work on building Rabi Rashmi Abasan took shape by 2006, based on a solar passive architecture design. In the meantime, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) had passed an order allowing the development of captive power generating systems up to 250 kW by individual entities using net-metering. ‘This order was crucial to make Rabi Rashmi Abasan project a reality and contributes to the success of the project', explains Gon Choudhary. West Bengal is still one of the few states in India to allow captive generation by private entities.

Development in the detail

The Rabi Rashmi Abasan residential housing complex has 25 private houses and a community centre with a net connected load of 380 kW, of which 58 kW is supplied using roof-integrated solar PV.

The built area of each house is 155 m2 and, in addition, there are 14 m2 of terrace. Each cottage has 2 kW of roof-integrated solar PV tiles that use crystalline technology from SunTechnics India, a subsidiary of the Conergy Group, which developed the project in partnership with WBREDA.

The installation, valued at approximately €600,000 overall, consists of 26 photovoltaic systems comprising 464 units of Conergy's C125W solar modules, which were individually customized in various geometric shapes to fit the roof profiles of each building.

The installations are each expected to generate 2.4 MWh of power annually. The energy will be fed to the grid using net metering and will be purchased by WBSEDCL. Consumers will pay the cost of any net energy consumed through the local distribution grid. In the event of a grid failure, in addition to the system inverter, a backup battery of 160 Ah is provided.

Like many countries, India has a multi-stage tariff for residential electricity consumption. However, up to 100 kWh consumers are subsidized to varying degrees depending on the state utility. As consumption increases so does the tariff. A key advantage of the solar PV system is that it allows electricity usage in the cottages to stay within the subsidized tariff band, despite additional consumption.

Energy efficient technologies and design principles have also been incorporated into the design of the housing project. A small water pond surrounding each cottage aids with passive cooling. The south-facing solar passive architecture is designed such that during the summer months, hot air within the building rises due to convection and is expelled through ducts in a ‘turret' at the top of the building. The pond surrounding the dwelling allows a cool breeze to circulate and a simple fan is sufficient to keep the room comfortable to live in. Temperatures in Kolkata (Calcutta) city reach a summer maximum of up to 42°C. The temperature varies between 12°C and 14°C in winters and does not go below 10°C, while humidity in summers is usually around 85%.

In addition, each cottage also has a 100 litre per day solar thermal water heater and cavity wall insulation has also been installed in strategic locations to improve thermal efficiency.

As part of the housing complex the hydro-pneumatic water pump, responsible for supplying water in the houses, is of a variable frequency type. The pump only begins to operate when there is a reduction in pressure in the system, caused by demand from the houses, and then only up to the speed required to maintain full pressure, thus saving energy during operation.

Within the housing complex there is a community centre for recreational activities and public functions. It has an 8 kWp solar PV system including 2 kWp of BIPV on the windows.

Each of the eight windows incorporates 125 Wp transparent PV and there are 17 standalone street lights also operating on solar PV and obtained under a government subsidy programme.

There is also a 6 kWp grid-connected roof-top system which is again operated on a net metering basis. The electricity generated by this installation offsets the power drawn from the grid for applications such as pumping, garden lights and the internal lighting, fans and other night-time power demands.

Green housing, good economics

The cost of each roof-top PV system was about Rs0.7 million (US$16,000) and the solar systems are not subsidized, nor is there any premium feed-in tariff — although in the case of excess production the power utility offers a rebate of Rs 0.40/kWh up to a maximum limit of 200 units per month ($1.87). However, the approximate cost of each dwelling is Rs 4.8 million ($112,000) and since the solar component was a relatively small fraction of the total housing cost, incentives for its installation were not necessitated by investors. Indeed, purchasers willingly came forward to buy into the project and all the houses have been sold — a direct measure of the success of the initiative.

A joint venture enterprise between DC Properties Ltd, part of the Development Consultants Group, and West Bengal Housing Board, the development is currently managed by the Bengal DCL Housing Development Company Ltd.

The Kolkata New Town development of Rabi Rashmi Abasan is a landmark project in Indian infrastructure. Using solar passive architecture as part of a new housing concept, such projects are particularly conducive to the region's prevailing climatic conditions.

It has showcased the benefits of solar PV that will inspire other builders and those corporate players that have a commitment to using renewable energy technology and energy efficiency measures. Indeed, some of the country's leading building companies, such as DLF Builders, Siddha group and MRMGF, have shown considerable interest in setting up mega-scale projects using roof-integrated solar PV as an integral component. Rajesh Bhat, chief executive of SunTechnics India explains: ‘Using building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) elements, buildings can maximize their energy efficiency by saving 0.5 kg of carbon emissions for every kilowatt hour of solar power produced. Green buildings are thus highly advantageous for consumers and real estate developers in large capital cities. In addition to reaping the benefits of energy cost reductions, green buildings are also interesting architectural applications as they are highly distinctive and innovative.'

Jaideep Malaviya is a consultant and freelance journalist based in India.
e-mail: rew@pennwell.com

Source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/reworld/story?id=53527

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Green production arrives for gold nanorods

Sept. 8, 2008

Gold nanoparticles are under consideration for a number of biomedical applications, such as tumor treatment. A German-American research team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Hunter College in New York, and the RWTH Aachen has now developed a new method for the production of nanoscopic gold rods. In contrast to previous methods, they have achieved this without the use of cytotoxic additives. As they report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the synthesis is not carried out in water, but in an ionic liquid, a “liquid salt”.

M. Bockstaller and his team have synthesized gold nanorods using an ionic liquid as a solvent. Gold nanorods are interesting starting materials in cancer therapy. Wiley-VCH 2008

Cancer cells are relatively temperature-sensitive. This is exploited in treatments involving overheating of parts of the cancer patient’s body. One highly promising method is photoinduced hyperthermia, in which light energy is converted to heat. Gold nanoparticles absorb light very strongly in the near infrared, a spectral region that is barely absorbed by tissue. The absorbed light energy causes the gold particles to vibrate and is dissipated into the surrounding area as heat. The tiny gold particles can be functionalized so that the specifically bind to tumor cells. Thus, only cells that contain gold particles are killed off.

The problem? Ordinary spherical gold particles do not efficiently convert the light energy into heat; only rod-shaped particles will do. Unfortunately, the additives needed to crystallize the rod-shaped particles from aqueous solutions are cytotoxic.

The team headed by Michael R. Bockstaller is now pursuing a new strategy: instead of aqueous solution, they chose to use an ionic liquid as their medium of crystallization. Ionic liquids are “liquid salts”, organic compounds that exist as oppositely charged ions, but in the liquid state. In this way, the researchers have been able to produce gold nanorods without the use of any cytotoxic additives.

In the first step, seed crystals are produced in the form of tiny spherical gold particles. These crystals are added to a “secondary growth solution” containing monovalent gold ions, silver ions, and the weak reducing agent ascorbic acid. The solvent is an imidazolium-based ionic liquid. In this medium, the crystals don’t continue to grow into spheres; instead they form rods with the round crystallization nuclei as “heads”. The mechanism is presumed to involve the various, energetically inequivalent surfaces of the crystal lattice: the aromatic, nitrogen-containing five-membered rings of the ionic liquid prefer to accumulate at the highly energetic facets of gold surfaces. They thus stabilize crystal shapes that have fewer low-energy facets than the normal spherical equilibrium form. This results in long rods.

The study, “Imidazolium-Based Ionic Liquids as Efficient Shape-Regulating Solvents for the Synthesis of Gold Nanorods,” published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2008, is available here,



Courtesy: R&D Magazine http://www.rdmag.com/

Monday, September 8, 2008

Polymer Electric Storage, Flexible and Adaptable

August 21, 2008
The rapid emergence of hybrid electric automobiles in recent years underscores the need for more flexible and reliable methods of high-capacity electrical storage, say researchers. Now a team of Penn State materials scientists are developing ferroelectric polymer-based capacitors that can deliver power more rapidly and are much lighter than conventional batteries. Full story

Source: Penn State University.

Supercapacitors Could Be Key to a Green Energy Future

July 30, 2008
John Chmiola, a doctoral student at Drexel University, is doing groundbreaking work on supercapacitors

John Chmiola holds an electrochemical capacitor's electrode produced from titanium-derived carbon.

Everything is "green" these days. From buying green to living green, the term has become short-hand for environmentally friendly. Concern for the environment is one thing that's fueling interest in alternative sources of energy. The staggering increases in the cost of oil and everything that depends on oil are other factors.

John Chmiola may have found a way for us to power our devices and still live green. Chmiola is a doctoral student at Drexel University and his advisor is Yury Gogotsi, chair of the university's A.J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute. Chmiola's groundbreaking work is on high efficiency energy storage devices known as supercapacitors. "Now that gas costs $4.25, I'd like to think that my work is essential," Chmiola says.

These days, more people may be thinking about buying a hybrid car. If so, remember this word: supercapacitors. Some researchers believe that these energy storage devices will be the best alternative to gas-fueled automobiles. Possible uses extend beyond cars. Supercapacitors have attracted researchers' attention for use in "many applications where batteries are being misused," Chmiola notes.

What's this greener energy alternative all about?

Supercapacitors--most commonly used in backup power applications because of their infinite lifespan--are electronic devices that have an unusually high energy density when compared to common capacitors.

A common capacitor is an electrical device that can deliver energy in the electric field between a pair of conductors or plates. Capacitors can be compared to batteries in that they both deliver electrical energy, but batteries can produce and deliver energy. A capacitor only delivers it. Supercapacitors, well, can deliver more energy.

"Unlike batteries and fuel cells that harvest energy stored in chemical bonds, supercapacitors exploit the electrostatic separation between electrolyte ions (an atom or group of atoms with a net electric charge) and high surface area electrodes, typically carbon," Chmiola explains.
Electrochemical capacitors, ultracapacitors, electrical double layer capacitors "were immediately fascinating to me because of their apparent simplicity and properties complimentary to batteries," he notes.

When Chmiola first started research on supercapacitors, work was already ongoing on carbide-derived carbon (CDC), an alternative to the base activated carbons of most electrochemical capacitors. Prior research by Gogotsi and others on the CDC structure gave Chmiola the "confidence to precisely tailor the carbon properties, on a level not easily achievable, using traditional porous carbon synthesis techniques," Chmiola explains.

Historically, the design framework for supercapacitor carbon experiments was to produce carbon with the largest pore size possible. But, contrary to researchers' popular belief that large pores in supercapacitor carbons were superior in functionality, Chmiola "was surprised to find out that pores smaller than one nanometer seemed to have better performance than larger pores. Utilizing this approach produced lighter and more powerful supercapacitor devices," Chmiola says.

But, it wasn't just the size. It was also about the right size. The team of researchers found that the pore size needed to match the ion "precisely," Chmiola emphasizes. By further doing this, a 50-percent improvement in performance was achieved.

Chmiola, whose work on supercapacitors was funded through the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, started the research that led to his discovery in his senior year of undergraduate study. He also is a recipient of the Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP).

Nanotechnology is the art of manipulating matter at the atomic or molecular scale. It takes about 3-10 atoms to reach the length of a nanometer. In comparison, the diameter of a human hair is about 20,000 nanometers wide.

Chmiola's objective was to find the optimal pore size for supercapacitor performance, while minimizing the effects of constricting the ions to small pores. The combined knowledge of Gogotsi on carbide-derived carbon (CDC) structures and Chmiola's on electrochemistry led to the steps to develop the electrochemical capacitors experiment. This turned from a one-year undergraduate project into Chmiola's doctorate thesis project. An international collaboration with the group of professor Patrice Simon of the Université Paul Sabatier in France was the needed catalyst "to make the synergy complete," Chmiola says.

Chmiola's discovery was featured in the Aug. 18, 2006, edition of the journal Science. Furthermore, reports about his work have appeared in the journal Nature and other print and online international publications.

How important are supercapacitors to our everyday lives?

Supercapacitors are valued for their infinite energy lifespan. Traditional power sources and batteries, essential to our personal electronic devices and automobiles, don't store that much energy. Due to their high storage energy capacity, supercapacitors are finding increased usage in portable electronic devices like MP3 players, mobile phones and palm pilots. Other benefits, like short charging times and high performance in low temperatures, could lead to new applications.
Supercapacitors, as an energy efficient alternative, have limitations in both cost and performance. "Obviously all the pieces are not in place yet to put electrochemical capacitors (EC) in every future automobile," Chmiola asserts, "but helping to advance the understanding and develop the knowledge base necessary to make this revolution happen is what keeps me going."
His team has some out-of-the-box ideas to make supercapacitors better, and results are promising, "but it's a bit too early for publication," Chmiola adds.

Giselle Aviles-Maldonado, (703) 292-8063 gavilesm@nsf.gov
InvestigatorsYury GogotsiJohn Chmiola
Related Institutions/OrganizationsDrexel University

Related ProgramsIntegrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program

Related Awards#0221664 IGERT: Nanoscale Engineering and Science: One Campus, Two- University Approach

Related WebsitesNano Materials Group: http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/good-bye?http://nano.materials.drexel.edu/Science magazine: http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/good-bye?http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1132195Nature journal: http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/good-bye?http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7105/full/442850a.html

Source: National Science Foundation