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Energy

290: Million-Mile Battery

Problem:

Most electric car batteries today already last 100,000 to 200,000 miles before needing replacement, though, while most gas-engine cars today only last 150,000 miles before getting junked. A large proportion of these batteries include cobalt, an expensive and precious material that is often mined by workers who are subject to poor pay and brutal conditions.

Solution:

Three companies have developed a battery that can claim 1 million miles (1.6 million km) in total lifespan, last at least two decades in grid energy storage and give an electric vehicle an autonomy of 600 miles (1000 km).


Adam S. Kwiatkowski and a team at General Motors’ Global Electric Propulsion Systems have developed the Ultium large-format pouch cell battery which follow a NCMA (nickel cobalt manganese aluminium) chemistry that was developed within GM and require fewer connectors and other parts to function.

Compared to existing NCM cells, the Ultium is lower in cobalt content but with aluminum added to the cathode structure for longer life. Zero-cobalt and zero-nickel cells are also being tested, as well as with electrolyte additives and zeolite additives.

GM is working on such advances as zero-cobalt electrodes, solid state electrolytes and ultra-fast charging. GM is aiming to ramp up to a million electric vehicles per year by 2025, to be split between the U.S. and China. The new joint venture will supply U.S. vehicle production and could build up to 30 gigawatt-hours annually.

The second company is Tesla who will soon introduce a lower-cost, longer-lasting “million mile” battery for its electric vehicles in China. The battery, also a pouch-cell design, is being co-developed with Chinese battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL) working with battery experts recruited by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, including Jeff Dahn at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The battery is expected to lower the cost per kilowatt hour (the unit of energy most commonly used to measure the capacity of the battery packs in modern electric vehicles) to under $100. By a coincidence, Tesla’s Chinese battery cell provider CATL is also working with GMs local partner SAIC (formerly known as Shanghai General Motors Company Ltd).

In Baoding in the Hebei Province of China, Svolt Energy Technology (the former battery business unit of Great Wall Motor Company) has produced a 24 GWh cobalt-free lithium-ion battery. By using single-crystal Co-free materials and stacking technology for cell design, plus the array-PACK design and the automotive-grade intelligent manufacturing process, Svolt has created a battery with a warranty of 15 years or 750,000 mi (1.2 million km) and an EV range of almost 500 mi (800 km)

Discover Solution 291: Single-walled and mass-produced nanotubes

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Energy

288: SeaTwirl

Problem:

Installing offshore wind turbines takes time and money.

Solution:

Sea Twirl


SeaTwirl is a floating vertical axis wind turbine (VAWTT) with a tower placed on an underwater structure which consists of a buoyancy component and a keel at its lowest point.

In 2007 Daniel Ehrnberg of Göteborg, a physicist interested in sustainable energy devices, successfully invented and patented the first prototype offshore energy storage device he called SeaTwirl.

The S2 version of his solution included a turbine that is divisible above and below the house that holds the generator and bearing, meaning that their entire housing can be replaced just above the water surface by boat.

Discover Solution 289: 3D house printer

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Carbon Capture Energy Materials

286: Pavements for carbon capture

Problem:

As pedestrians walk on a walkway, instead of wasting good energy, the pressure could be used to transfer electromagnetic induction creating kinetic energy which can then be used to power devices.

Solution:

Jose Luis Moracho Amigot and Angel Moracho Jimenez direct PVT (Pavimentos de Tudela) in Navarra, Spain, a company with more than 30 years of experience specializing in the manufacture of non-slip outdoor Granicem pavements.

In 2009, they adapted the system developed by Italcementi of Italy, to manufacture paving stones whose photosynthetic, concrete-titanium dioxide composition would enable them to absorb particulate matter, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), and render them harmless.

Their patented product, ecoGranic, bio-mimics the performance of chlorophyll in plants. A top layer comprises oxide additives titanium incorporating a catalyst that is activated by sunlight, which then converts pollution that go with the rain nitrates and carbonates and the wind until it reaches where vegetation is removed. The lower layet consists of recycled materials.

ISO rule trials made at prestigious laboratory of the Dutch Twente University, and field studies carried out at different sites, showed ecoGranic’s decontaminating efficiency at up to 56% of nitrous oxide degradation.

A sidewalk the size of a soccer field with ecoGranic would eliminate pollution from approximately 4,000 vehicles. Following the success of three streets repaved with ecoGranic in Spain’s capital, Madrid, Plaza de la Cruz, an entire 10,800 ft² (1,000 m²) square in La Rioja, was repaved with ecoGranic, following by another square in Santander.

The technology soon spread to dozens of cities across Spain. The Navarra company currently has two plants, one located in Tudela and another in Cabanillas with a production capacity of more than 54,000 ft² (5,000 m2) per day. While PVT has signed with China to supply their ecoGranic decontaminating pavement, its co-inventor José Luis Moracho is working on a domestic version.

Meanhile Aira has produced a bicycle and a scooter which, by carrying the PVT ecoGranic tile vertically below its front handlebars can absorb CO₂ as it moves along. (pvt.es)

Discover Solution 287: Enzyme-based recyclable plastic

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Energy

285: Offshore floating wind farm

Problem:

Towards the end of 2019 there were 5,000 offshore wind turbines in 110 parks with a total power output of 22.1 Gigawatts. Fixed to the seabed, these turbines are limited to shallow waters. Yet close to 80% of the world’s offshore wind resource potential is in waters deeper than 60 metres, too deep for the foundations, but where winds are stronger and more consistent.

Solution:

Floating offshore wind turbines.


Norway
In June 2009, Norway’s Statoil (now Equinor) launched Hywind, the world’s first operational deep-water floating large-capacity wind turbine. The 120 metres (390 ft) tall tower with a 2.3 MWh turbine was towed 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) offshore into the Amoy Fjord in 220 metres (720 ft) deep water off Stavanger, Norway for a two-year test run.

In October 2020, Norway-based OIM Wind, together with its financial partners, has signed an EPC contract with the CIMC Yantai Raffles Offshore shipyard in China and its Swedish subsidiary Basstech for the construction of an installation vessel capable of installing giant next-generation XXL offshore wind turbines, including full height towers that reach more than 130 metres.

The vessel, currently referred to as BT-220IU Wind Installation Unit, will enter into service by the end of 2022 and will be operated by Norwegian company OSM Maritime. It is LNG-powered, battery-backed up, and made for 15+ MW wind turbines. It will feature a Huisman heavy lift crane with a lifting capacity of 2,600 tonnes. The crane will have a main hook height of 165 metres above deck and 195 metres above sea level, even at the vessel’s maximum operational water depth of 67 metres.

Scotland
Following proof that the suction anchor system worked, Equinor and Masdar launched the world’s first floating wind turbine farm, at a depth of 100 metres and situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) off Peterhead, Scotland. The farm has five 6 MW Hywind floating turbines with a total capacity of 30 MW.

Work is now underway for the 88MW Hywind Tampen floating wind farm will comprise 11 Siemens Gamesa 8MW wind turbines supported by the Hywind technology developed by Equinor and expected to come online in late 2022.Once commissioned, the wind farm is projected to cover a third of the total energy needs of two oil and gas platforms, Gullfaks and Snorre, with wind power instead of gas.

France
Floatgen is the only floating wind turbine in France today. It is situated off the Mediterranean coast of Le Croisic, one of the largest wind resources in Europe, The venture is a joint venture of Ideol, Bouygues Travaux Publics, Centrale Nantes engineering school, RSK Group, Zabala, the University of Stuttgart, and Fraunhofer IWES. The anchorage system, developed by Ideol is a ring-shaped floating foundation based on a central opening system and called a Damping PooAbove this a Vestas V80 turbine is mounted. After two years of trial,  in February 2020, Floatgen produced 9 GWh of electricity

Italy
Milan-based Ichnusa Wind Power has applied with the Port Authority of Cagliari for a 30-year concession to build and operate an export cable connection for Sardegna Sud Occidentale a floating wind farm off the west coast of Sardinia. Some 35 kilometres off the coast of the San Pietro island, it will comprise 42 wind turbines measuring 265 meters each, on a sea surface of 49 thousand square meters.

Instead of the conventional three-bladed turbines, the Ichnusa solution uses a single-bladed angled, scalable rotor, able to adjust its angle to the wind currents of up to 70 m/s. The planned capacity is 12 MW each for a total of 504 MW.

Portugal
In October 2011, Principle Power installed their 2 MW WindFloat turbine 5 kilometers off the Portuguese Atlantic coast where, during the next five years, it encountered 17-metre wave heights and 111km/h winds, but generated 17GWh of electricity.

Based on this, in January 2020, Principle Power is preparing a the world’s first semi-submersible floating wind farm for operation 20km off the coast of Viana do Castelo, Portugal. The wind farm is being developed by the Windplus consortium that includes EDP Renewables (54.4%), Repsol (19.4%), Engie (25%) and Principle Power (1.2%).

Japan
The Fukushima floating offshore wind farm demonstration project (Fukushima FORWARD) serves as a symbol of Fukushima’s recovery from the nuclear disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The phased development of the project includes the installation of three floating wind turbines and a substation at approximately 23km off the Fukushima coast.

The project is sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).The Fukushima Offshore Wind Consortium comprises ten companies, namely Marubeni, the project integrator, University of Tokyo, Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, Hitachi, Furukawa Electric, Shimizu, and Mizuho Information & Research.

The first phase of the project consisted of a 2MW compact semi-sub floating wind turbine, the world’s first 66kV floating power sub-station and undersea cables. The turbine has a rotor diameter of 80m and a hub height of 65m above sea level (asl) and is placed on a floater called Fukushima MIRAI. A downwind-type blade, located leeward, was used for the project in order to make the most of the upward wind blowing from the surface of the sea.

Discover Solution 286: Pavements for carbon capture

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Energy Materials Uncategorized

282: Hydrogen-powered steel

Problem:

Worldwide steel production currently totals about 1.5 billion tons (1.36 billion tonnes) per year, and each ton produced generates almost two tons of carbon dioxide, This accounts for about 5 % of the world’s GHG emissions.

Solution:

In 2016, Swedish-Finnish steelmaker SSAB, iron pellet supplier LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag), and electricity generator Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT – an initiative to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, in the direct reduction of iron (DRI) ore, using hydrogen.


During 2018, work started on the construction of a pilot plant for fossil-free steel production in Luleå, Sweden. Trials are set to run from 2021–2024, then scaling up to a demonstration capacity of 500,000 t/y in 2025 with completion set for 2035. the goal being to have a solution for fossil-free steel by 2035.

Hybrit is a significant part of the road towards SSAB’s goal of being fossil-free by 2045 If successful, HYBRIT means a reduction of Sweden’s CO₂ emissions by 25%. and Finland’s by 7%. (hybritdevelopment.com)

In 2019 steel and mining company ArcelorMittal with an annual production volume of 8 million tonnes crude steel, launched a project in Hamburg, Germany using hydrogen on an industrial scale to directly reduce iron ore for steel production.

The company aims to enable low-CO₂ steel production. In ArcelorMittal’s process, 95% pure hydrogen will be separated from the top gas of an existing plant by pressure swing adsorption. To allow economical operation, the process will initially use grey hydrogen produced at gas separation.

Grey hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced as a waste or industrial by-product. ‘Green’ hydrogen – produced using renewable energy – will be used in the future, when sufficient quantities are available. ArcelorMittal, working with academia, will test the procedure in the coming years at a site in Hamburg. Reduction will initially be carried out at demonstration scale – 100,000 t/y.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, steelmaker Thyssenkrupp also plans to phase out CO₂-intensive coke-based steel production and replace it with a hydrogen-based process by 2050. It has partnered with Air Liquide and the non-profit research institute BFI to convert a blast furnace to hydrogen operation.

On November 11, 2019, in an initial test phase, hydrogen was blown into one of the 28 Cu cooler tuyeres on Blast Furnace 9 in Duisburg. The NRW state government is funding this initial project phase under its IN4climate initiative. Following analysis of the test phase, hydrogen is then to be used at all 28 tuyeres of the blast furnace in 2023.

On the same day, what is currently the world’s largest pilot plant for the CO₂-neutral production of hydrogen successfully commenced operation at voestalpine AG in Linz, Austria. As part of the EU-funded H2FUTURE project, partners voestalpine, VERBUND, Siemens, Austrian Power Grid, K1-MET and TNO are researching the industrial production of green hydrogen as a means of replacing fossil fuels in steel production over the long term. (voestalpine.com)

Since November 2020 a 1.2 Mt DRI production plant powered by hydrogen enriched gas is being set up in China by the HBIS Group including a 600,000 ktpy Energiron DRI plant jointly developed by Tenova and Danieli in Italy. The HBIS DRI plant will use make-up gas with approximately a 70% hydrogen concentration, with a final net emission of just about 125kg of CO2 per ton. This is a historic step forward for the decarbonisation of the Chinese steel industry, which represents more than half of global steel production and related carbon dioxide emissions. It is scheduled to begin production by the end of 2021.

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Energy Uncategorized

280: Radiative passive cooling system

Problem:

With the melting of Arctic ice and mountain glaciers which had previously reflected back solar heat and maintained global cooling, alternatives must be found, particularly for the air conditioning of buildings which traditionally use chemicals and electricity.

Solution:

Qiaoqiang Gan, Electrical Engineering Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, working with staff from King Abdullah’s Saudi Arabian University have has developed an air conditioning system using a unique plastic on a roof that allows heat to pass back into the sky.


The ideal material for radiant cooling is such as a mirror or white paint. They will scatter or reflect most of the solar light. Therefore, the solar light will not heat the object. Then it’s easier to cool it down. Gan’s Newtact system, going beyond simple white paint, consists of an inexpensive polymer/aluminium film that is installed inside a box at the bottom of a specially designed solar “shelter.”

Taken together, the shelter-and-box system the engineers designed measures about 18 in. tall (45.72 cm), 10 in. (25. cm) wide and 10 in. long (25.4 cm). As a commercially viable alternative, the researchers fabricated their thermal emitter from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and either silver or aluminium.

The PDMS film absorbs heat from the environment and then transmits the heat to cool down its surroundings. The metal reflects the solar light to prevent the transmission of sunlight to materials under the emitter, such as a roof.

The film helps keep its surroundings cool by absorbing heat from the air inside the box and transmitting that energy into outer space. The shelter serves a dual purpose, helping to block incoming sunlight, while also beaming thermal radiation emitted from the film into the sky.

Outdoor experiments performed in Buffalo, NY, to test the device provided cooling of up to 9 °C. To cool a building, numerous units of the system would need to be installed to cover its roof.

America
Working in Stanford University, Shanhui Fan, Eli A; Goldstein, and Aaswath Pattabhi Raman have also developed a flat rectangular metal panel covered in a sheet of the material: a high-tech film which reflects the light and heat of the sun so effectively that the temperature beneath the film can drop 5 to 10° C (9 to 18° F) lower than the air around it.

A system of pipes behind the RC panel is exposed to that colder temperature, cooling the fluid inside before it is sent out to current-day refrigeration systems. More efficient than any vapour-compression based cooling system, the panel can also prevent the emissions of CO2 and other harmful greenhouse gases. It can be roof-mounted as a simple add-on to new and existing cooling systems

To commercialise their innovation, Fan, Goldstein and Raman started up a company, SkyCool Systems in Davis, California. As a pilot study, they installed an array of RC panels on the roof a supermarket as a subcooler and were pleased to observe a 10% to 15% efficiency improvement target, although subcooling could be as much as 20°F (11°C) below the outlet of the condenser. Other studies have followed.

Discover Solution 281: Sea grass

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Energy Planet Care

277: Nuclear fusion power station -Tokamak reactors

Problem:

The world’s 440 nuclear fission plants generate only 10% of the world’s electrity while presenting the lethal menace of dealing with waste by transporting it to deep earth burial sites.

Solution:

Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two lighter nuclei, typically isotopes of hydrogen, combine together under conditions of extreme pressure and temperature to form a heavier nucleus, releasing energy in the process. Fusion has been powering the sun and stars since their formation.


Unlike fission, fusion will have a low burden of radioactive waste. The energy released during fusion in the sun makes all life on earth possible. The simplest way to replicate the primordial source of power on earth is via the fusion of deuterium and tritium.

Deuterium is found aplenty in ocean water, enough to last for billions of years. Naturally occurring tritium is extremely rare, but it can be produced inside a reactor by neutron activation of lithium, found in brines, minerals and clays. Moreover, to run a 1,000 MW power plant with a fusion reactor, it is estimated that about 150kg of deuterium and three tonnes of lithium would be required per year, while the current fission reactors consume 25 to 30 tonnes of enriched uranium.

Fusion’s by-product is helium, which is an inert, non-toxic, non-radioactive gas used to inflate balloons. In addition, a fusion power plant would not require transporting hazardous radioactive materials.

The 35-nation International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) including states from theEuropean Union, the USA, India, Japan, South Korea and Russia began construction at Cadarache in France. It is the world’s largest fusion reactor, taking up equivalent to 60 football pitches.

Launched in 2006, ITER was beset with technical delays, labyrinthine decision-making and costs that have soared from an initial estimate of five billion euros to around 20 billion euros.

In the chaos of the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union, or Brexit, there is now at least one certainty: As the UK’s quest to produce clean energy from nuclear fusion by 2040, The Culham Centre for Fusion Energy Oxfordshire, UK but supported by the European Union will keep operating until the end of 2020, thanks to a €100 million infusion of EU funds.

The deal, agreed in April 2019, will enable the Joint European Torus (JET) to embark on a daring fusion campaign with a rare, tricky fuel that will help pave the way for its successor: the giant ITER fusion reactor under construction in France.

The agreement comes as a relief to fusion researchers, who had feared JET would be shut down after Brexit. Now, they can go ahead with plans to gradually switch to a fuel mix of deuterium and tritium, both hydrogen isotopes. The latter is rare and hard to handle, but the change will provide the most ITER-like dress rehearsal before the main event in 2025. The same “D-T” reactions will ultimately power ITER and the commercial reactors that follow it.

Nuclear fusion is usually done in hollow, donut-shaped reactors called tokamaks, which are filled with rings of plasma as hot as the Sun. Soviet scientists coined the term as a shortening of the Russian for “toroidal magnetic confinement.”

The name is perfectly descriptive. A tokamak is a torus—the math term for a donut. But this takes tremendous effort to maintain the intense pressures and temperatures required for an “artificial star” here on Earth. Eruptions called edge-localized modes (ELMs) have been damaging the walls of reactors, making them less secure and requiring the replacement of parts far too regularly.

The problem was that the plasma used is inherently unstable, and large eruptions can damage the reactors containing it. Recently, physicists from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found that creating a series of small ELMs could prevent larger, more damaging ones from occurring.

These smaller eruptions could be triggered by injecting granules of beryllium, measuring about 1.5 mm thick into the boiling plasma at regular intervals. Following computer simulations, the team ran physical experiments in the DIII-D, a tokamak reactor housed in the National Fusion Facility in San Diego prior to testing the technique out on other tokamaks, such as the Joint European Torus (JET).

The next breakthrough came when scientists developed a new superconducting material, essentially a steel tape coated with yttrium-barium-copper oxide (YBCO) enabling smaller and more powerful magnets. This in turn lowers the energy required to get the fusion reacton off the ground. With 18 nobium-in superconducting magnets (aka torroidal-field coils) installed, 150 million degrees celius was finally in sight

November 2019 saw the completion of the seven-storey Tokamak Building, after six million work hours, performed by approximately 850 workers since 2010. Some 105,000 tonnes of concrete, reinforced by approximately 20,000 tonnes of steel rebar, had gone into the building’s construction.

Transport of component parts was been a major undertaking. The PF6 (the second-smallest of the six coils that circle the vacuum vessel) weighing 396 tonnes and measuring 40 ft. (12 m.) long, 36 ft. (11 m.) wide and a little more than 13 ft. (4 m.) high, was made in China under an agreement signed between the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) and the procuring party, the European Domestic Agency.

Transported by ship, having arrived at Fosses-sur-Mer, the port of Marseilles, for this “highly exceptional load” (HEL) to reach the ITER site, approximately 2,220 cubic yards (1,700 cubic m.) of roadside rock and trees had to be removed. This is just one of approximately 100 large components for the magnet feeder system, adding up to 1,600 tonnes of equipment in all and measuring from 100 to 160 ft. (30 to 50 m.) in length.

Among other components to be delivered was the 18 m., or 60 ft. (18 m.), tall 1000-tonne “Central Solenoid,” the superconducting electromagnet that stands along the central axis of the tokamak, sometimes referred to as “the beating heart of ITER,” under manufacture by General Atomics in Poway, California, near San Diego.

This 1,000-metric-ton solenoid will have 5.5 gigajoules of stored energy to enable 100-million-degree-Celsius plasmas within carefully defined magnetic fields. In some locations, there will be only 10 mm of space—the width of a thick pencil—between the massive central solenoid and a 45 foot (13 m.) tall “D”-shaped toroidal field magnet.

Despite the delay caused by the COVID-19 lockdown, the project began its five-year assembly phase in July 2020, launched by the French president, Emmanuel Macron alongside senior figures from ITER members, the EU, UK, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US. In February 2021, after enduring a battery of rigorous tests, the first of seven 45,000 amp superconducting magnet modules was given the green light. Built at General Dynamics of San Diego, it is now en route for ITER’s central solenoid.
Trials were due to begin in 2021 and if successful, regular power supply will be in 2025. (iter.org)

Meanwhile, by November 2019, following delivery of the coil system, the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) under the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) completed the construction of HL-2M, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) at a research centre in Chengdu, the capital city of southwest China’s Sichuan province.
人造太阳 (Rénzào tàiyáng = artificial sun), expected to generate plasmas hotter than 200 million°C should also be operational in 2020. (cnnc.com.cn)

On November 24th 2020, The Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), a superconducting fusion device also known as the Korean artificial sun, set the new world record as it succeeded in maintaining the high temperature plasma for 20 seconds with an ion temperature over 100 million degrees Celsius (retention time: about 1.5 seconds) the same temperature as the core of the Sun—its hottest part. In a continuing research program with the Seoul National University (SNU) and Columbia University of the United States, KSTAR aims to continuously operate high-temperature plasma over the 100-million-degree for 300 seconds by 2025.

Discover Solution 278: Orange juice bar – circular economy

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Energy Planet Care

270: Nature Urbaine

Problem:

Fruit and veg on average travel by refrigerated air and land transport between 2,400 and 4,800 kilometres from farm to market. The global transportation force is the largest of humanity’s carbon-emitting activities, and reducing the number of flights and truckloads of produce is a great place to start cutting the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

Solution:

In 2016, Pascal Hardy, an engineer in agro-development had the intuition that growing towers could be used to set large farms on the rooftops of cities and created Agripolis Organics in Paris.

He started with the roof of Hall 6 at the six-storey Paris Exhibition Centre in the in the 15th arrondissement of the capital, designing the largest urban rooftop farm in the world, covering 3.4 acres, about the size of two soccer pitches. aeroponic or vertical growing techniques would be used to create fruits and vegetables without the use of pesticides, refrigerated trucks, chemical fertilizer, or even soil.


By 2019, “Nature Urbaine” (French for Urban Nature) was supplying produce to local residents, including nearby hotels, catering halls, and more. For a price of 15 euro, residents can order a basket of produce online containing a large bouquet of mint or sage, a head of lettuce, various young sprouts, two bunches of radishes and one of chard, as well as a jar of jam or puree. Also available are 150 baskets of strawberries, as well as aubergines, tomatoes, and more.

Accompanying the urban farm will be a new rooftop restaurant run by area group “Le Perchoir”.

When the Nature Urbaine is finished, twenty gardeners will tend 30 different kinds of plants and harvest up to 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of perhaps 35 different kinds of fruits and vegetables every day.

Pascal Hardy is now planning similar projects in the suburbs of Paris and abroad.

Discover Solution 271: OEOO (One Earth – One Ocean)

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Materials Energy

267: Zinc Battery

Problem:

Rechargeable batteries have been used to power various electric devices and store energy from renewables, but their toxic components (namely, electrode materials, electrolyte, and separator) generally cause serious environment issues when disused. Such toxicity characteristic makes them difficult to power future wearable electronic devices.

Solution:

Zinc battery.


Zinc-chloride cells (usually marketed as “heavy duty” batteries) use a paste primarily composed of zinc chloride, which gives a longer life and steadier voltage output compared with ammonium chloride electrolyte

An environmentally friendly and highly safe rechargeable battery, based on a pyrene‐4,5,9,10‐tetraone (PTO) cathode and zinc anode in mild aqueous electrolyte has been developed by a team of researchers at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

Their PTO//Zn full cell exhibits a high energy density (186.7 Wh kg−1), supercapacitor‐like power behaviour and long‐term lifespan (over 1000 cycles). Moreover, a belt‐shaped PTO//Zn battery with robust mechanical durability and remarkable flexibility is first fabricated to clarify its potential application in wearable electronic devices.

In a collaboration between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, USA and the MEET Battery Research Center of University of Münster and Helmholtz Institute Münster, Germany, 12 scientists have developed a new type of dual-ion battery.

The cell chemistry graphite zinc metal with an aqueous electrolyte is safer, cheaper and more sustainable than proven energy storage systems and showed a promising electrochemical performance.

The cathode of the energy storage device can consist of graphitic carbons, which can be produced from renewable raw materials. In addition, water and biological binders, such as those found in yoghurt, can be used in electrode production. Further, the zinc metal-based anode offers a better material availability

For the charging and discharging mechanism: instead of only one type of ion – lithium ions – the electrolyte anions are also involved in energy storage in the dual-ion battery. The electrolyte thus functions as an active material, which offers researchers further optimisation approaches. It also comes with an inherently lower risk of fire.

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Energy

265: Reverse fuel cell

Solution:

A University of Toronto engineering team, headed by Professor Ted Sargent, announced the development of an electrolyzer that can make valuable chemicals from captured CO₂ and clean electricity at 10 times the speed of existing electrolyzers.

The device is similar to a fuel cell except running in reverse. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen combine on the surface of a catalyst, releasing electrons. In the electrolyzer, the electricity drives the reaction, transforming the hydrogen ions in water and CO₂ into another carbon-based molecule like ethylene.

The U of T research team’ electrolyzer design speeds up the process by pairing a copper-based catalyst composed of small particles embedded in a layer of Nafion, an ion-conducing polymer commonly used in fuel cells.

In their experiments, they proposed that a certain arrangement of Nafion can facilitate the transport of gases such as CO₂. The next step will be to boost the catalyst’s durability so it lasts for thousands of hours rather than its current 10 hour lifespan. In addition, team members will also work on optimizing the system to product other carbon-based products like ethanol.

Discover Solution 266: SCoPEx

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Energy

263: Oceanic thermal energy collectors (OTECS)

Problem:

The oceans cover a little more than 70 % of the Earth’s surface: this makes them the world’s largest solar energy collector and energy storage system. On an average day, 23 million mi.² (60 million km²) of tropical seas absorb an amount of solar radiation equal in heat content to about 250 billion barrels of oil.

If less than one-tenth of one % of this stored solar energy could be converted into electric power, it would supply more than 20 times the total amount of electricity consumed in the United States on any given day.

Solution:

OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) is a form of Solar Thermal Energy technology that essentially uses the ocean as a solar collector. OTEC takes advantage of the small temperature differential that exists between the warm surface of the sea and the cooler water at the bottom.


In deep waters in excess of 3280 ft (1000 m) this difference is as much as 20°C. In 1881, Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval, a French physicist, proposed tapping the thermal energy of the ocean.

D’Arsonval’s student, Georges Claude, built the first OTEC plant, in Matanzas, Cuba in 1930. The system generated 22 kW of electricity with a low-pressure turbine. The plant was later destroyed in a storm.

His idea called for a closed-cycle system.Thanks too recent technological advances in heat exchangers, D’Arsonval’s concept was demonstrated in 1979, when a small plant mounted on a barge off Hawaii (Mini-OTEC) produced 50 kW of gross power, with a net output of 18 kW. Subsequently, a 100 kW gross power, land-based plant was operated in the island nation of Nauru by a consortium of Japanese companies.

The economics of energy production today have delayed the financing of a permanent, continuously operating OTEC plant. However, OTEC is very promising as an alternative energy resource for tropical island communities that rely heavily on imported fuel.

OTEC plants in these markets could provide islanders with much-needed power, as well as desalinated water and a variety of mariculture products. One of the disadvantages of land-based OTEC plants is the need for a 1.86 mi (3 km.) long cold water pipe to transport the large volumes of deep seawater required from a depth of about 3,280 ft. (1,000 m).

Currently the world’s only operating OTEC plant is in Japan, overseen by Saga University. Japan is a major contributor to the development of OTEC technology. Beginning in 1970 the Tokyo Electric Power Company successfully built and deployed a 100 kW closed-cycle OTEC plant on the island of Nauru.

The plant became operational on October 14, 1981, producing about 120 kW of electricity; 90 kW was used to power the plant and the remaining electricity was used to power a school and other places. This set a world record for power output from an OTEC system where the power was sent to a real (as opposed to an experimental) power grid. (ioes.saga-u.ac.jp)

1981 also saw a major development in OTEC technology when Russian engineer, Dr. Alexander Kalina, used a mixture of ammonia and water to produce electricity. This new ammonia-water mixture greatly improved the efficiency of the power cycle.

In 1994 Saga University designed and constructed a 4.5 kW plant for the purpose of testing a newly invented Uehara cycle, also named after its inventor Haruo Uehara. This cycle included absorption and extraction processes that allow this system to outperform the Kalina cycle by 1-2 %.

Currently, the Institute of Ocean Energy, Saga University, is the leader in OTEC power plant research and also focuses on many of the technology’s secondary benefits. The laboratory located at lmari bay area, some 50km to the north from the administrative office in Saga City, functions as our study center of fundamental and practical aspects of OTEC technology.

The Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation with offices in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Hawaii, The Bahamas, and Cayman Islands been preparing clean hydrothermal energy plants worldwide using the proven technologies of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) and Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC).

Since 1988, OTE has established a noteworthy pipeline of projects with a signed energy services agreement (ESA), four signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) and proposals to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and United States Department of Defense (USDoD).

In 2017, new Rankine power cycle utilising a combination of ocean thermal energy and geothermal waste energy, called a GeOTEC (Geo-Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) power cycle/plant. The potential geothermal waste heat, which exists in the form of raw hot natural gas would be continuously pumped from a shallow water Malaysia-Thailand Joint Authority (MTJA) gas production platform, and the supply data is estimated based on the output of the platform.

A thermodynamic model derived from an energy balance calculation is used to simulate the proposed GeOTEC cycle with Matlab. With higher superheated ammonia temperature, GeOTEC power plant efficiency increases, while the net power output decreases. A maximum net power produced by the proposed GeOTEC is 32.593 MW.

Discover Solution 264: Palm Oil synthetic

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Energy

260: Saltwater lamp

Problem:

The Philippines ranked third as the most disaster prone country in the whole world. And in disaster situations such as super typhoons, earthquakes, a steady supply of food, drinking water and a sustainable light source is very essential.

Solution:

After living with the natives of the Butbut tribe for days relying only on dangerous kerosene lamps and moonlight to do evening chores, Aisa Mijeno, both a faculty member of Engineering at De La Salle University in Lipa and a member of Greenpeace Philippines, together with her brother Raphael, invented the Sustainable Alterative Lighting (SALt) lamp.


The SALt LED lamp which can be powered by saltwater through metal-air technology is an alternative environment-friendly light source suitable for off-grid in areas near the sea. It uses the science behind the galvanic cell, the basis for battery-making, changing the electrolytes to a non-toxic, saline solution, making the entire process safe and harmless.

The consumables of this lamp only need to be replaced every 6 months. The SALt lamp operates 8 hours a day every day, with proper maintenance, with an anode lifespan of 6 months. For emergencies, the user can charge their smartphone using this lamp, simply by plugging in the USB cable.

In 2017, the SALt lamp went into production It won the Good Design Award 2018 presented by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion, a Japanese comprehensive design evaluation and commendation system. The Mijenos found two partners; one of them is a semi-conductor company located at Laguna Technopark; the other one is San Miguel Yamamura Packaging Corporation.

They are the ones helping SALt with all of their packaging needs: the box it comes in, the plastic, and even the design of the package. Their short-term goal is deploying the first 45,000 units to and beyond the Philippines.

An alternative, the Aria Natural Himalayan Crystal Salt Lamp from Levoite was displayed during the 2017 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

What you can do: Seek out and acquire a crystal salt lamp such as SALt

Discover Solution 261: Wave Killer

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Materials Energy

258: Plaxx plastic-recycled oil

Problem:

Incineration of plastic waste is not energy efficient.

Solution:

Since 2011, Adrian Griffiths of Recycling Technologies, Swindon, United Kingdom has been perfecting a machine to break down MPW (mixed plastic waste), a variety of plastic products including cling wrap and electronics, and turn them into Plaxx™, a valuable hydrocarbon product usable materials or energy-producing oil.


The RT7000, a thermal cracker, heats up the waste to 500° C, melting the debris into a vapor. It is then cooled to create one of three different materials: a fuel that can be sold to petrochemical companies, a wax-such as substance that is similar to what ship engines burn or a brown wax that can be used for shoe polish or cosmetics.

Using Plaxx® as feedstock for new polymers allows plastics circularity. In 2019 Tesco, the UK’s leading retailer began to trial RT7000 units in ten of its stores. Modular, they can be moved around.

From 2020, international energy company Total, Recycling Technologies, and global brands Nestlé and Mars joined forces to develop an “innovative” industrial chemical recycling industry in France. Recycling Technologies, with a production capacity of 200 unts per year, plans to install 1,700 units and reach 7 million tpy capacity by 2027.

In January 2020, Nestlé announced that it would cut costs in other parts of its business to buy 2 million tonnes of recycled plastic between now and 2025. This should enable the food giant to meet its goal of reducing its use of virgin plastics by a third.

Discover Solution 259: Zero emission racing yacht

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Energy

256: Natrium Reactor

Solution:

In August 2020, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates presented his detailed take on how to “address climate change”. One solution is a small yet advanced nuclear power station that will have the ability to store electricity to supplement grids increasingly supplied by the intermittent sources like solar and wind energy.

Gates’s company TerraPower of Bellevue, Washington , is collaborating with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy in Wilmington, North Carolina, to build the Natrium, a 345MWe cost-competitive sodium fast reactor (SFR) combined with a molten salt energy storage system. Sodium’s chemical element symbol is Na (from Latin “natrium”).

Building on the technology used in solar thermal generation, Natrium energy storage and flexible power production will offer abundant clean energy in time to help meet climate goals. SFRs have the potential to become an attractive energy source for countries interested in managing their nuclear supply and nuclear waste.

The Natrium technology’s novel architecture simplifies previous reactor types. Non-nuclear mechanical, electrical and other equipment will be housed in separate structures, reducing complexity and cost. The design is intended to permit significant cost savings by allowing major portions of the plant to be built to industrial standards. Improvements use fewer equipment interfaces and reduce the amount of nuclear-grade concrete by 80% compared to large reactors.

Natrium reactors are designed to provide firm, flexible power that seamlessly integrates into power grids with high penetrations of renewables. For instance, its innovative thermal storage has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalize on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.

According to TerraPower, Natrium technology will be available in the late 2020s, making it one of the first commercial advanced nuclear technologies.”

The development of the Natrium system demonstrates the benefits of modern virtual design and construction tools and has attracted the attention of numerous utilities through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Energy Northwest and Duke Energy have expressed their support for the commercialization effort, which will provide energy and energy storage to the electrical grid.

Discover Solution 257: Oceanix floating cities at sea.

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Energy

250: Offshore computer server

Problem:

Cooling is one of the biggest costs of running a data center and keeping computers from overheating, particularly on a large scale.

Solution:

Microsoft’s Project Natick involves lowering a hyperscale data center down to the cold depths of the sea and pumping cold seawater through to keep it cool.


From 2015, Phase 1 of Microsoft’s project saw a 10 ft (3 m) long prototype submerged off the coast of California for 105 days, which proved the feasibility of the concept. Phase 2 was designed to test if the idea was practical in a logistical, environmental and economic sense.

Microsoft partnered with a French marine manufacturing company called Naval Group, which designed the watertight cylindrical shell and adapted a commonly-used submarine cooling system to work with the data center. Positioned offshore from Orkney the new facility, known as the Northern Isles data center sits 117 ft (36 m) below the waves, and measures 40 ft (12 m) long. It houses 12 racks with 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes (27,600 terabytes) of storage, enough to store at least 5 million copies of Finding Nemo.

To cool them, seawater is piped through the radiators on the backs of the server racks, before being released back out into the ocean. The center is connected to the world through a fiber optic cable and gets most of its power from the nearby Orkney Islands. Interestingly, 100 % of the region’s energy already comes from renewable sources, thanks to wind turbines, solar panels and more experimental sources such as tidal turbines and wave energy converters.

The eventual goal of Project Natick is to have these underwater data centers be completely self-sustained, powered entirely through offshore wind, wave or tidal generators. In doing so, they could essentially be submerged near any coastal city where they are needed, and supply faster internet and cloud services.

This phase of Project Natick will see the team monitoring the Northern Isles data center for the next 12 months, keeping watch over its performance, power consumption, sound, humidity and temperature.

This version is designed to work continuously down there for up to five years without needing maintenance. Project Natick has been criticized because, using the ocean as a heat exchange to reduce energy used to cool data centres, could be construed as conflicting with environmental objectives,particularly as the global energy consumption of data centres is due to expand from its current 3% to about 14% by 2050.

Other companies have also built facilities in cold locations such as the Arctic Circle or beneath the fjords of Norway.

Discover Solution 251: “Proton”, single-cell protein from CO2

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Energy

242: Roadside wind turbine

Problem:

More than 2.5 billion cars, most of which while using motorways generate unharnessed wind turbulence.

Solution:

Roadside wind turbine


Pakistani engineer Sanwal Muneer was standing on the side of a Malaysian racetrack four years ago was inspired as to how the breeze from the racecars might generate energy.

The roadside wind turbine Muneer created stood 8ft (2m50) tall and was made of recyclable carbon fibre. The turbine weighed just 20lb. (9 kg), which makes it easy to transport and install. The fully-charged battery can hold a kilowatt of electricity, which is enough power to run two lamps and a fan for around 40 hours. The idea is that this turbine could supply electricity for rural communities in developing countries, or could be used to power traffic lights or road signs in urban areas.

Winning the UN Clean Energy Award in 2014, then funding from the 2015 Shell LiveWIRE programme, Muneer teamed up with Asad Liaquat, a friend since university days in Islamabad, Pakistan, when they were both studying electrical engineering, to found Capture Mobility to trial and commercialise his solution. Dundee, on the east coast of Scotland was the first local authority to allow Muneer’s company, to test the turbine beside its roads. Captive Mobility exhibited at at Ecoville during the 2018 Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Even more innovative is the Alpha 311 roadside wind turbine, developed by John Sanderson and Barry Thompson of Whitstable, Kent, England. Instead of its own pole, this can be retrofitted onto any lighting column or pole lining the central reservation of motorways.

While the first prototypes were made from drinks bottles in a shed in Whitstable, Tom the 2m tall Alpha 311 Mk.X was by from carbon fibre and recycled PET Trials showed it able to generate the same amount of energy as 21m² of solar panels.

The business plan: The turbines are not sold, but leased – but pay their way from the electrical energy gained by the local council – the electrical energy used can light the motorways making huge financial savings. Alpha 311 has already received requests for projects in India and New York.

Discover Solution 243: Silverlining

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Energy

238: Thermosyphoning

Problem:

Is it possible to heat without using electricity from the grid?

Solution:

Thermosyphoning is a high efficiency/low maintenance method of passive heat exchange, based on natural convection, which circulates a fluid without the necessity of a mechanical pump.


It is used for circulation of liquids and volatile gases in heating and cooling applications such as heat pumps, water heaters, boilers and furnaces. Thermosyphoning also occurs across air temperature gradients such as those utilized in a wood fire chimney or solar chimney.

In thermoelectric refrigerators, the cooling systems that work on the Peltier effect, creating heat flux between the junctions of two types of materials, have a much smaller coefficient of performance as compared to the conventional compressor-style refrigerators, especially when the cooling capacity is large.

Nevertheless, owing to the small size of cooling units, their silent nature, the absence of any moving parts in them or any gases or liquids, and their long life, thermoelectric refrigerators are used in a vast set of applications.

In 1983 Robert Draper of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation obtained a patent for “Thermosyphon coil arrangement for heat pump outdoor unit”. In 2012, Richard Boyle and a team at Naked Energy in Guildford, England used thermosyphoning to develop a hybrid solar panel they called Virtu, capable of generating both electricity and hot water simultaneously.

Reviewing Virtu, the Imperial College London found that the panels they tested can produce up to 46 % more energy than the typical PV panel when the cells are heated to 65ºC. In 2015, Naked Energy teamed up with Jabil in the US to scale up production of Virtu.

Thermosyphon installation accounted for over 55% of global solar water heater market share in 2018. The product finds wide application in residential and small commercial buildings on account of ease of installation, simple design and cost effectiveness features.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 239: Capturing carbon with volcanic ash

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Energy

232: Lift powered by wastewater

Problem:

St Gervais les Bains is in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. At the foot of Mont Blanc, the mid-mountain village is best known for tourism, and has been a popular holiday destination since the early 1900s.

To reach the thermal baths below and its activity center, including the high school, the many thousands of tourists have to take a steeply sloping road for 4 km.

Solution:

In order to reduce individual motor transport and the carbon footprint, Mayor Jean Marc Peillex wants to build a lift which will use water pressure to move the cabin up and down. Ballasts that will fill and empty will run the lift.

It will be the town’s wastewater that will be used and not spring water. The water lift is much less advanced than its big brother since it is only in the preliminary phase.

Discover Solution 233: biodegradeable rope

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Energy

230: Power over Ethernet lighting

Problem:

The more efficient the light bulb, the less energy it will need.

Solution:

Energy-efficiency has driven the evolution of the light bulb, but the next iteration of the light bulb will launch it into the Era of the Internet of Things (IoT).


As LED lights slowly replace compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s) due to greater energy-efficiency, businesses have been exploring the profitability of replacing LED lights’ electrical power source with an alternate but common power source found in the networking world — Power over Ethernet (PoE). Following pioneering work by Cisco Systems of San Jose, California, there are several common techniques for transmitting power over Ethernet cabling. Three of them have been standardized by IEEE 802.3 since 2003.

A Light over Ethernet (LoE) LED system is powered by Ethernet and 100% IP based. This makes the system (i.e. each luminaire individually) computer controllable, so that changes can be implemented quickly and easily without opening suspended ceilings. The luminaires are furthermore equipped with Philips’ ‘coded-light’ system allowing for a highly precise localisation via smartphone down to 8 in (20 cm) accuracy, much more precise than known WiFi or beacon systems.

One of the digital buildings using the PoE is The Edge, a 430,000 ft² (40,000m²) office building in the Zuidas business district in Amsterdam. It was designed for the global financial firm and main tenant, Deloitte. The project aimed to consolidate Deloitte’s employees from multiple buildings throughout the city into a single environment, and to create a ‘smart building’ to act as a catalyst for Deloitte’s transition into the digital age.

Around 6,000 of these luminaires were placed in The Edge with every second luminaire being equipped with an additional multi-sensor to detect movement, light, infrared and temperature. The Philips LoE LED system was used in all office spaces to reduce the energy requirement by around 50% compared to conventional TL-5 Lighting. Via the LoE system daily building use can be monitored.

The Edge’s orientation is based on the path of the sun. The atrium bathes the building in northern daylight while the solar panels on the southern facade shield the workspaces from the sun. The roof and the south-facing facade incorporate the largest array of PV panels of any European office building, and an aquifer thermal energy storage system provides all of the energy required for heating and cooling. A heat-pump was applied to this storage system significantly increases efficiency.

The Edge uses about 70% less energy than most buildings but is not glass-fronted on all sides – the southern, eastern and western sides have smaller window openings to reduce heat gain, and openable windows.

Discover Solution 231: a sanctuary for traumatized former circus elephants

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Energy Materials

226: Li-ion battery recycling

Problem:

Since 2005, the commercialised li-ion battery has surged, starting with electronics and expanding into many applications, including the growing electric and hybrid vehicle industry. As the popularity of electric vehicles starts to grow explosively, so does the pile of spent li-ion batteries that once powered those cars. Industry analysts predict that by 2020, China alone will generate some 550,000 tons (500,000 tonnes) of used Li-ion batteries and that by 2030, the worldwide number will hit 2.2 million tons (2 million tonnes) per year.

But the technologies to optimize recycling of these batteries have not kept pace. If current trends for handling these spent batteries hold, most of those batteries may end up in landfills even though Li-ion batteries can be recycled.

Solution:

In 2009, far-sightedly, the US Department of Energy DOE granted US$9.5 million to W. Novis Smith and Scott Swoffer at Toxco in California to build America’s first recycling facility for li-ion vehicle batteries.

Toxco used the funds to expand an existing facility in Lancaster, Ohio, that already recycled the lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrid-electric vehicles. The new facility opened in 2015 and is currently in operation. It recycles a multitude of li-ion batteries, including those that have substituted cobalt for other minerals, including iron phosphate, manganese spinal, and nickel manganese. (toxcommc.com)

In 2018 China recycled around 67,000 tons (61,000 tonnes) of li-ion batteries 2018, or 69 % of all the stock available for recycling worldwide. The People’s Republic has benefited from around a decade of mobile phone manufacturing, which has enabled it to perfect li-ion battery recycling as part of a growing handset refurbishing industry.

Hunan Brunp Recycling Technology, a subsidiary of li-ion battery leader CATL, recycled about 30,000 tons (27,000 tonnes) of batteries. Meanwhile, Quzhou Huayou Cobalt New Material has roughly 60,000 tons (40,000 tonnes) of li-ion battery recycling capacity a year and recycled around 10,000 tons (9.100 tonnes) in 2018. Recycling is also being carried out by Ganzhou Highpower Technology and Guangdong Guanghua Sci-Tech.

In 2018, researchers in the UK formed a large consortium dedicated to improving Li-ion battery recycling, specifically from electric vehicles. Led by the University of Birmingham, the Reuse and Recycling of Li-ion Batteries (ReLiB) project brings together some 50 scientists and engineers at eight academic institutions, and it includes 14 industry partners. (relib.org.uk)

In February 2019, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) opened the ReCell Center a battery recycling research and development center at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.

The goal of the R&D facility is to reclaim and recycle materials such as cobalt and lithium from spent li-ion batteries. Launched with a US$15 million investment and headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory, ReCell includes some 50 researchers from Argonne; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and several universities, including Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, the University of California at San Diego and Michigan Technological University.

Recycled materials from li-ion batteries can be reused in new batteries, reducing production costs by 10% to 30 %. This could help lower the overall cost of electric vehicle (EV) batteries closer to the DOE’s goal of US$80 per kilowatt hour, says the agency. The ReCell Center is supported by the DOE with US$15 million in funding over three years, and its work will include development of test beds and a process scale-up facility at Argonne. (recellcenter.org)

The DOE also announced its US$5.5 million Li-ion Battery Recycling Prize. The prize encourages entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions to collecting, storing and transporting discarded li-ion batteries for eventual recycling. It will award cash prizes totaling US$5.5 million to contestants in three phases designed to accelerate the development of solutions from concept to prototype.

The ReCell collaborators also will use existing modeling and analysis tools to help industry determine how to optimize value. EverBatt, Argonne’s closed-loop battery life-cycle model evaluates the techno-economic and environmental impacts of each stage of a battery’s life, including recycling.  NREL’s supply chain analysis tool provides a birds-eye view of the interconnections between raw material availability, primary manufacture, recycling, and demand.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is researching the effects of impurities on the cathode materials used to make li-ion batteries. After 7 years’ research, Yan Wang, a WPI William Smith Dean’s Professor of Mechanical Engineering who developed a process for recycling li-ion batteries that can recover and reuse cathode materials regardless of their chemistry is leading the project. Yan Wang founded Battery Resourcers in Worcester to demonstrate that the process can be scaled up to near-commercial capacity. (wpi.edu)

In Germany, Volkswagen started battery recycling in 2020 at Volkswagen Group’s component plant in Salzgitter, with an initial capacity to recycle roughly 1,200 tons (1089 tonnes) of EV batteries per year, equal to the batteries from about 3,000 vehicles. The recycling rate of raw materials in Salzgitter is around 72%, which is already a lot higher than the industry average.

Using a special shredder, the individual battery parts can be ground up, the liquid electrolyte can be cleaned off, and the components separated into “black powder.” This contains the valuable raw materials cobalt, lithium, manganese, and nickel, which, while requiring further physical separation, are then ready for re-use in new batteries.

In the long term, Volkswagen wants to recycle about 97 % of all raw materials in the battery packs. In France, Renault and Euro Dieuxe Industrie, a Veolia subsidiary, are employing a unique hydrometallurgical process that allows the recovery of precious metals such as cobalt and nickel contained in the batteries of electric vehicles, in order to promote their re-use in various industrial applications or in chemistry for the manufacture of battery cells.

CSIRO’s Australian Battery Recycling Initiative is preparing to tackle Australia’s annual 3,600 tons (3300 tonnes) of li-ion battery waste. In September 2019 following Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s meeting with President Donald Trump, the CSIRO is joining ReCell Center’s industrial advisory council to deepen collaboration on li-ion recycling.

DiscoverSolution 227: NASA’s X-planes

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Materials Energy

224: Ultra fast charge batteries

Problem:

Existing battery electrodes have low electrical, thermal and ionic conductivity, along with poor mechanical behaviour when discharged and recharged, and can also suffer from early delamination and degradation leading to safety and lifecycle issues.

Solution:

The Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode


A team at the CEA (Atomic and Renewable Energy Commissariat) led by French mathematician Pascal Boulanger has developed and patented an electrode using vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNT) a derivative of graphene, making it possible to manufacture super capacitors 1,000 times faster than a lithium-ion battery.

The electrode combines the highest ionic conductivity – thanks to a 3D fully accessible nanostructure – with the highest electrical and thermal conductivity, provided by its arrangement of 100 billion nanotubes per sq. cm, all vertically aligned.

Put simply, a battery using this VACNT technology can give an electric car 800 to 1,000 km of range with only 5 minutes of recharging.

In 2014, Boulanger collaborated with Ludovic Eveillard to create a start-up called NaWaTechnologies based in Rousset, near Aix-en-Provence and the first carbon nanotube mats were made two years later.(nawa in Japanese = short string, but na(no) + wa(arming)
NaWaCap Power super capacitors offer power densities between 10 and 100 times higher than existing super capacitors.

Their Equivalent Series Resistance = ESR is more than 10 times lower. The temperature (low and high) and frequency behavior is also greatly improved and NaWaCap Power super capacitors thus make it possible to preserve more than 5 times more energy at high or low temperature or at high frequency compared to current products.

NaWa set up a subsidiary NaWa America in Dayton, Ohio, created by the acquisition of the assets of the US leader in VACNT for composite applications, N12 Technologies. Working with Dr. Paul Kladitis’ Multifunctional Structures and Materials at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), with Laboratory, NaWa America has developed NaWaStitch, a thin film made of hundreds of billions of carbon nanotubes all aligned vertically which serves as an interface between the folds of composite materials and like a “nano-velcro” mechanically reinforces this interface.

NaWa America has also signed an exclusive license agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the work of the research laboratory of Professor Brian Wardle (NECSTLAB), well known in the fields of composites and nanotubes.

In February 2020 NaWaTechnologies in France raised €13 million to build next-generation production line equipment at Rousset by 2021, allowing NaWa to steadily build up to over 100,000 ultracapacitor cells per month when at full capacity. The integration of this technology for future urban mobility, including electric buses, trams or autonomous vehicles is estimated at around 2024/2025.

At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, as proof of concept, NaWaTechnologies revealed its 150 kg NAWA Racer concept e-bike which debuted their NaWaCap innovation.

The bike’s 9kWh lithium-ion battery can capture 80% more energy by regenerative braking. The smaller battery is mounted low in the chassis and will weigh around 10kg, much less than current electric sportbike batteries.

This gives the NAWA Racer a 300km (186 miles) range for inner-city riding, while recharging in just 2 minutes or an 80% entire battery charge in one hour.

NaWa Technologies is also developing a concept called NaWaShell, an integrated structural hybrid battery that incorporates VACNT to give two complimentary characteristics: enhanced mechanical strength and electrical energy storage within the core of the composite structure.

NaWa’s dry electrode technology also brings significant environmental advantages, being easily recyclable and eco-disposable at the end of its long lifecycle. As a result, NAWA estimates that by using an Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode in lithium battery cell, the CO2 footprint could be reduced by as much as 60%, simply because less active material is required.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 225: Race for Water

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Energy

218: A battery that can be charged 23,000 times

Problem:

The lithium-ion battery is limited in the number of times it can be recharged – 500 times.

Solution:

In his nineties, John Goodenough, whilst one of the pioneers of the li-ion and the lithium iron phosphate battery, has been investigating another solution in the lithium-sodium glass battery.

Together with Maria Helena Braga, a Portuguese physicist at the Cockrell School of Engineering, at the University of Texas, they have developed a battery that can be charged/discharged up to 23,000 times, in minutes instead of hours.


The solid-state lithium battery  uses a glass doped with alkali metals making it non flammable. Their prototype offers three times’ the energy density of li-ion and performs well in both hot and cold weather.

In March 2020 the Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec announced that its research lab, comprising 120 people, would be preparing the battery for commercialisation, in collaboration with Braga and the 97-year-old Goodenough who in 2019 was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for chemistry. The utility announced that the battery would be ready in two years’ time, before Goodenough’s hundredth birthday.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 219: cell-grown meat

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Energy

214: Lithium from geothermal heating plants

Problem:

Five times more lithium than is mined currently is going to be necessary to meet global climate targets by 2050, according to the World Bank.

Solution:

Lithium extracted from geothermal waters.


In 1864, huge quantities of lithium were discovered in a hot spring is discovered nearly 450m (1,485ft) below ground in the Wheal Clifford, a copper mine in Cornwall. But 19th-Century England had little need for the element, and this 122C (252F) lithium-rich water continued boiling away in the dark for more than 150 years.

Instead, Cornwall became world famous for its tin and copper mines.

In 2016 Cornish Lithium was founded by mining engineer and businessman Jeremy Wrathall and a team of 10 full-time geoscientists led by Lucy Crane to use modern extraction methods at the United Downs Geothermal Power site, the UK’s first deep geothermal electricity plant.

The site, confirmed as having some of the world’s highest grades of lithium in geothermal waters (260 milligrams per litre) would have a tiny environmental footprint in comparison with conventional surface lithium mining, including very low carbon emissions.

The directors of Cornish Lithium have secured agreements with various holders of mineral rights in Cornwall to explore for, and to commercially develop, lithium bearing hot spring brines throughout areas considered to be highly prospective.

In August 2020, the project won £4m ($5.3m) backing from the UK government, allowing a pilot lithium extraction plant to be built in the next couple of years and move Cornish mining into the 21st century.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 215: Recycling plastic to make oil – on a desk top!

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Energy Mobility

213: Molten Salt Reactor Ship

Problem:

Over the coming decades, as many as 60,000 ships must transition from combustion of fossil fuels to zero-emission propulsion and reduce emissions by 50% of the 2008 total, before 2050. T

Solution:

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Chairman of TerraPower nuclear tech company in Washington has linked up with Mikal Bøe’s London-based Core Power, French nuclear materials handling specialist Orano and American utilities firm Southern Company to develop Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) atomic technology in the USA with the potential for use in commercial shipping.


The team including Rob Corbin of TerraPower and Giulio Gennaro of Core Power has submitted its application to the US Department of Energy to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, in order to build a prototype MSR as a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade reactor.

Their solution will be using a fluid fuel in the form of very hot fluoride or chloride salt typically composed of beryllium-fluoride (BeF2) and lithium-fluoride (LiF), infused with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), a ‘hot’ fissile material instead of solid fuel rods which are used in conventional pressurized water reactors (PWRs).

They have no moving parts, operate at very high temperatures under only ambient pressure, and can be made small enough to provide ‘micro-grid-scale’ electric power for energy-hungry assets, like large ships.

For this reason, they can be mass-manufactured to bring the cost of energy in line with existing fuels.
MSRs are walk-away safe. The fuel salts for MSRs work at normal atmospheric pressure, so a breach of the reactor containment vessel would simply leak out the liquid fuel which would then solidify as it cooled.

Bjørn Højgaard, the CEO of Hong Kong ship manager Anglo-Eastern (www.angloeastern.com) has commented “I think that in 50 years nuclear molten-salt-reactors will be par for the course in the shipping industry, and we will look back at the current time and wonder why we dabbled in alternative pathways for greenhouse gas-free propulsion.”

Ports will also be able to use energy from ships installed with m-MSR to power equipment and machinery while the ship is at berth, through reverse cold ironing. Power generated by m-MSR will be cost competitive when compared to terrestrial energy sources available to the port.

Discover Solution 214: lithium from thermal waters

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Energy

205: Stinkfruit supercapacitors

Problem:

Graphene supercapacitors are expensive to make. About half the materials cost comes from the use of activated carbon to coat the electrodes. Supercapacitor-grade activated carbon can cost $15 per kilogram.

Solution:

Using inexpensive biochar to coat electrodes and a new method to create the porous surface needed to capture electricity may reduce the cost of supercapacitors. Activating the biochar using plasma processing takes only five minutes with no external heating or chemicals needed.


Vincent Gomes, a chemical engineer at the University of Sydney, and his team, including Labna Shabnam have found a solution to convert the inedible parts of the world’s largest and smelliest fruits, Durian and Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) into carbon aerogels – porous super-light solids – with “exceptional” natural energy storage properties.

These fruits were used to produce carbon aerogel electrodes incorporating stable scaffolding of base material and natural nitrogen doping. They heated, freeze-dried and then baked the inedible spongey core of each fruit in an oven at temperatures of more than 1,500°C (2732°F).

The black, highly porous, ultralight structures they were left with could then be fashioned into electrodes of a low-cost supercapacitor.

Until now, 70% of jackfruit or durian has been thrown away – but can now be recycled.

Discover Solution 206: Kayaks from recycled plastics.

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Materials Energy

203: Iron Fuel

Problem:

With the exponential use of electric power, replacing that of fossil fuels, as many reliable solutions as possible must be found to produce it.

Solution:

Iron powder and rust


Ground very fine, cheap iron powder burns readily at high temperatures, releasing tremendous energy as it oxidizes in a process that emits no carbon and produces easily collectable rust, or iron oxide, as its only emission.

The energy released can be applied in various applications such as chemical processes, generation of electricity, or even used as a means of propulsion.

That rust can be regenerated straight back into iron powder with the application of electricity, and if you do this using solar, wind or other zero-carbon power generation systems, you end up with a totally carbon-free cycle.

The iron acts as a kind of clean battery for combustion processes, charging up via one of a number of means including electrolysis, and discharging in flames and heat.

The generated iron fuel in the reduction process can be stored and transported in a cheap and safe manner with hardly any energy losses. As a result, iron fuel enables energy provision, wherever and whenever.

In 2015, J.M. Bergthorson & colleagues of McGill University in Canada published an article in the Journal of Applied Energy about the potential of metal fuels and iron fuel in particular.

The following year, led by Philip de Goey, a multidisciplinary team of 30, students many already with bachelor’s and master’s programs, was set up at the Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands. Called SOLID, it has been dedicated to the advancement of metal fuels and combustion technology.

As proof of concept, the 340-year-old Royal Swinkels Family Brewers (formerly Bavaria NV), from Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands formerly using coal-fired power plants, has been using metal powder as a sustainable fuel to produce steam for their brewing process using an installation built by SOLID and the Brabant-based Metalot Power Consortium.

The system, capable of providing all the heat necessary for some 15 million glasses of beer a year, has been funded by the province of Noord- Brabant, and cooperation with the Metalot.

SOLID is now developing an improved 1 Mw iron fuel system, followed by a 10-MW system that should be ready in 2024. Our ambition is to convert the first into sustainable iron fuel plants by 2030

In addition, since May 2019, SOLID’s Maritime Innovation Impuls project (MIIP) is researching how to use iron fuel for various types of ship propulsion, with trials of the first iron-fuel ship by 2021.

Discover Solution 204: Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition

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Energy

198: Hydrogen home batteries

Problem:

How to store the electricity generated by solar farms so it can be available to sell on the electricity market during peak demand when the sun does not shine.

Solution:

Store the energy in hydrogen batteries


A research team led by Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou at the Material Energy Research Laboratory in nanoscale (MERLin), part of the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales  has spent twelve years developing metal alloys (particularly titanium with other common materials) capable of storing surplus electricity in the form of hydrogen much more cheaply than lithium batteries.

The system uses solar power to create hydrogen, 3 mass % of which can be stored over 10 years until needed for electricity production via a fuel cell.

The solid-state mix can operate in a range of temperatures, from -10° to +50° – depending on the climate the storage is intended for.

Since 2016, Aguey-Zinsou has secured over $3 million in grant funding and established the EnergyH Project, a hydrogen research laboratory unique to the Australia scene.

In 2020, with UNSW’s Hydrogen Energy Research Centre backed by $10 million from Providence Asset Group, this solid state hydrogen technology will be trialed at the community solar farm at Manilla, near Tamworth to store hydrogen in 20 ft (6 m) containers with an energy density of 17MWh becoming the first of this kind in the world in terms of scale.

The startup, H2Store plans to produce the world’s first hydrogen batteries, brand-named LAVO, for households as soon as early 2021, eventually freeing Australia of its dependence on coal.

What you can do: Preorder a LAVO hydrogen battery now

Discover Solution 199: Artificial ice

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Energy

196: Hydrogen from salt and polluted water

Problem:

One of the main methods of producing hydrogen is to decompose water by exposure to sunlight. There is a lot of water on our planet, but only a few methods suitable for salt or polluted water.

Solution:

Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University’s Research School of Chemistry & Applied Biomedical Sciences, jointly with teams from the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague and Jan Evangelista Purkyne University in Ústí nad Labem, have developed a new 2-D material to produce hydrogen.

The material efficiently generates hydrogen molecules from fresh, salt, and polluted water by exposure to sunlight. In addition it is one of the few systems which can use the infrared spectrum, which is 43% of all sunlight.

The developed material is a three-layer structure with a 1-micrometer thickness. The lower layer is a thin film of gold, the second one is made of 10-nanometer platinum, and the top layer is a film of metal-organic frameworks of chromium compounds and organic molecules.

Experiments have demonstrated that 100 square centimeters of the material can generate 0.5 liters of hydrogen in an hour. It is one of the highest rates recorded for 2-D materials.

Discover Solution 197: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

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Energy

194: Small scale nuclear reactors

Problem:

95% of the hydrogen produced in the world today comes directly from fossil fuels, with the biggest supply coming from steam methane reforming, where a mixture of steam and methane gas is put under high pressure while in contact with a nickel catalyst, to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide and a small amount of carbon dioxide.

Solution:

Modular nuclear reactors.


Working at the Idaho National Laboratory, a team led by Dr José Reyes, an internationally recognized expert on passive safety system design, testing and operations for nuclear power plants, has developed a passively-cooled small nuclear reactor to produce hydrogen.

Water is heated to a temperature of 300 °C (572 °F) by the reactor and then the temperature of the steam is increased to 860 °C (1,580 °F) using two percent (around 1.8 MW) of the reactor’s electrical output.

This is then put through a high-temperature steam electrolysis system that works like a fuel cell in reverse. By pumping thermal energy into the system, the water breaks up into hydrogen and oxygen rather than combining the gases into water to get out energy.

Encouraged that a single small Nuclear Power Module (NPM) could economically produce almost 50 tonnes of hydrogen fuel per day, Reyes and Paul G. Lorenzini founded NuScale Power in Tigard, Oregon to take the solution from laboratory to working plant.

Each NuScale reactor vessel would measure 9 feet (2.7 m) in diameter and 65 feet (20 m) tall, weighing 650 short tons (590 metric tons). The modules would be pre-fabricated, delivered by railcar, barge or special trucks and assembled on-site.

The units were designed to produce 60 megawatts of electricity each and require refueling with standard 4.95 percent enriched uranium-235 fuel every two years.

In addition, a single NPM would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 168,000 tonnes per year.

NuScale says that its nuclear modules are designed to scale up by adding as many of the factory-built nuclear reactors as needed at a site. One, five, a dozen, or more such reactors could be installed on a site smaller than a conventional power station and located almost anywhere.

In August 2020, the NRC issued a final safety evaluation report for NuScale’s small modular reactor design, certifying the design as having met the NRC’s safety requirements. NuScale plans to apply for a standard design approval of a 60-megawatt-per-module version of the design in 2022, which if accepted will allow the company to pursue its first reactor deployment in the mid-2020s.

Discover Solution 195: Towing icebergs

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Energy

193: Taking hydro dams underground

Problem:

Hydro-electric dams can disrupt the natural ecology of rivers, damage forests and biodiversity, release large amounts of greenhouse gases, as well as displace thousands of people while disrupting food systems, water quality and agriculture.

Solution:

Put the rivers and dams underground.


The Romanches Gavet dam, in Isère is the largest underground dam in France also the last major EDF hydropower project. After ten years’ work, the installation, with a gallery 10 km long underneath the Belle Donne mountain, was officially inaugurated on 9th October 2020.

With a capacity of 97 megawatts, the 92-ton turbine, Romanche-Gavet hydroelectric plant, operated and maintained by a team of approximately twenty EDF Hydro Alpes technicians and engineers, can increase power output by 40% along the same stretch of river (La Romanche).

Its output will equate to the amount of power consumed every year by the cities of Grenoble and Chambéry (230 000 inhabitants), using a decarbonised and renewable energy source.

In addition, it replaces 6 old plants and 5 old dams. Nature has been restored along the banks of the dam by replanting species that were gathered within a radius of 25 kilometres in order to prevent the proliferation of invasive plants.

Discover Solution 194: small scale nuclear reactors

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