Thanks for visiting my blog.
I have now officially transitioned my site to http://www.globalenergymatters.com/
I hope to “see” you all there!
Today marks 1 year since I started Global Energy Matters. I would like to say “Thank You” to all of you who read my posts and those who take the time to comment on the stories that I present, and pass them along to colleagues and friends. Thanks also for the tweets and e-mails with your thoughts on these subjects.
Over the past year, I have published 163 posts (0.45 posts per day) about energy and the environment in our lives. The three most popular of my posts over the past year (listed in order of most hits) included:
1. Smart Refrigerators (8/6/2010)
2. Energy Storage – via Fulvalene Diruthenium (say what??) (10/26/2010)*
3. How Green is ACL – really? (10/6/2010)
4. South Texas – A Wealth of Natural Gas in Eagle Ford (1/4/2011)
5. 10 calories in – 1 calorie out (12/11/2010)
Apparently I write my best pieces in the winter.
Today, on the 1 year anniversary of the day that I started this blog, I would like to ask you for a few minutes of your time – I would ask you to take a minute to tell me a little bit about yourself and why you read my posts each day, or week, or month. If you would be willing to leave a comment here, that’s great. If you’d prefer to e-mail me (melissalott at gmail dot com), I would enjoy hearing from you.
As year 2 of Global Energy Matters begins, many changes and big movement are on the horizon in the energy and environment spheres. I look forward to discussing them with you all via this blog, twitter and e-mail.
Thanks again to you all for being part of the dialogue.
*The second highest number of hits last year actually went to my “info” page – but, as this page isn’t really a post, I excluded it from the list.
On March 9, KLRU studios will host Dr. Michael E. Webber for his presentation on “Energy at the Movies.” This 90-minute lecture and panel discussion will explore energy in movies over the past 70 years and how the portrayal of energy on the big screen has influenced energy policy and the energy industry.
From the gushing geysers of Giant, to the plutonium-powered time machine of Back to the Future, Hollywood has entertained us with unforgettable, often iconic images of energy. Whether intentional or not, films frequently serve as a snapshot of society, capturing sentiments of each time period. Many films have themes or scenes that memorialize collective optimism, fears, and observations about energy. Using film clips as a historical road map, is an entertaining lecture that will enlighten audiences about the ways films influence how we think about energy, and in turn, how we influence energy policy.
Panel members will include:
- Sheril Kirshenbaum: co-author of Unscientific America
- Turk Pipkin: producer of Nobelity Project & One Peace at a Time
- Matthew Chapman: great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, screenwriter and director of such films as Runaway Jury and 2011′s The Ledge
- Charles Ramirez-Berg: film historian and distinguished UT Professor
Tickets are available for up to 250 participants and are expected to sell out quickly. The event will also be webcast live.
“I love science, and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science also means you cannot choose compassion, or the arts, or be awed by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it.”
~Robert Sapolsky, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” xi
This week, the Pecan Street Project (PSP) released its draft Request for Information (RFI). They are asking for comments from interested parties until December 3rd. Over the following week, the folks at the PSP will review all of the comments they receive and will update the draft RFI to its final state, which will be released on or about December 10th.
Before the comment deadline, PSP will hold a conference call at 3pm on November 29th (see the draft RFI for more details).
The Daily Wogan is making its official public debut today. This new blog focuses on sustainability, energy and policy – primarily in the context of local (Austin) issues. The blog’s author, David Wogan, is a member of my research group at The University of Texas at Austin. Check it out here!
Eight minutes on intelligent energy use with the smart grid by the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers).
“Smart grid is…a journey, not a single destination. It wont happen all at once, it’s more of an evolution – which is why we sometimes refer to it as the smarter grid…. the main thing is that it will realize tangible and real benefits.”
The intermittency of many renewable energy fuel resources greatly inhibits the ability of these technologies to economically compete with non-renewable technologies like coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. In some ways, this is the opposite of the problem experienced by fossil fuel plants, which ramp their output up and down to meet demand that could jump up or drop down at any moment.
When the sun slips behind a cloud or dips below the horizon for the night, the solar panels you installed become interesting roofing tiles, instead of a valuable generation resource, sending you back to the fossil fuel-based grid for your energy. Because of our inability to economically store the energy that you captured with your panels during the day, their usefulness is limited to the periods of the day when the sun is shining.
The renewable energy panacea = economic, large-scale energy storage.
Researches throughout the world, including several here at the University of Texas, are working to figure out a way to store large amounts of energy for small amounts of money. One area of focus – material science, or more specifically the study of different materials to figure out how they can be used to economically store energy.
A recent discovery by MIT researchers, in partnership with colleagues at LLNL and UC Berkeley, might be the one we look back on and say “that was the moment that changed everything”… or maybe not… but either way, MIT’s determination of how a molecule called fulvalene diruthenium stores and releases heat on demand is pretty awesome.
According to a paper published on Oct. 20 in the journal Angewandte Chemie, fulvalene diruthenium actually undergoes a structural transformation when it absorbs sunlight, putting it into a higher-energy state where it can remain stable indefinitely. By adding a small amount of heat or a catalyst, the molecule “snaps” back to its original shape, releasing heat. Well… sorta…. According to Dr. Jeffrey Grossman, professor of power engineering in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering:
“It turns out there’s an intermediate step that plays a major role…that was unexpected.”
What is the importance of this unexpected step?
According to Grossman, this step results in the stability and reversibility that makes it possible to produce a “rechargeable heat battery” with this material. In this battery, we can store and release heat energy, bringing me back to solar energy.
Fulvalene diruthenium has the ability (in theory) to store heat up to 200 degrees C, which could be used directly to heat your home – kind of the opposite of the Ice Bear concept. So, what if we could store excess solar power during the day in portable, rechargeable batteries that we could run our cars with, power our lights, or even combine together until we have a big enough system to generate electricity for our street or town? This might be possible with MIT’s discovery.
But, before folks get too excited, I should note that these ruthenium is very expensive (and rare) and so is not itself a good candidate for cheap, abundant energy storage. But, understanding its behavior could lead to finding less rare materials that exhibit the same behavior. According to Grossman,
“[Ruthenium] is the wrong material, but it shows it can be done…It’s my firm belief that as we understand what makes this material tick, we’ll find that there will be other materials [that work the same way]“
To check out the journal article referenced in this post, check out the following reference:
Yosuke Kanai, Varadharajan Srinivasan, Steven K. Meier, K. Peter C. Vollhardt, Jeffrey C. Grossman. Mechanism of Thermal Reversal of the (Fulvalene)tetracarbonyldiruthenium Photoisomerization: Toward Molecular Solar-Thermal Energy Storage. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2010; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201002994
Thanks to Science Daily for bringing this paper to my attention. Very cool.
Check out David Wogan’s post (copied below) about the military going “lean, clean, and green” to save the lives of our troops.
First and foremost, energy reform is about the lives of our troops. For every 24 fuel convoys that go into Afghanistan, we lose one American, killed or wounded. That is too high a price to pay for energy.
We normally don’t think of the military as being lean, clean, and green, but seeing as it is the largest consumer of energy in the United States, and there are very real logistical concerns with relying on a dizzying array of fossil fuels, the military is in a perfect position to lead energy reform.
This quote caught my eye because my friend Sheril is off to talk with some military folks about science (and possibly climate change). I think if anyone needs to know about science and climate change, it’s our military.