• Monday, March 04th, 2013
Scientists who have been looking into an enzyme that naturally helps in the production of alkanes, a carbon molecules that may replace hyrdrocarbons that makeup gasoline, found a reason why natural reactions stop after a few cycles and also found out a way to keep it going.
Experts from the Brookhaven National Laboratory of the Department of Energy developed the method and renews the interest to use the enzyme in plants, algae, or bacteria used to produce biofuels.
According to the biochemist that works on the project, alkanes are very similar to the long chains of carbon that we find in gasoline. The alkanes produced, thru the biological process, can be used as fuel directly unlike plant biomass that are processed to convert them to ethanol.
The discovery of ADO or aldehyde-deformylating oxygenase, an enzyme that helps in drawing out alkanes from some bacteria, triggered the interest to harness its potential in producing liquid biofuels.
The test tube experiment at Brookhaven revealed that the enzyme stopped reacting after 3 to 5 cycles.
The scientists tried to understand how ADO works and how it helps in triggering interesting reactions. The major discovery came unexpectedly. The system that leads to the production of alkane leads to a by-product in the form of hydrogen peroxide, that somehow kills the enzyme. That is the key to solve the reaction or turnover problem.
In order to solve the problem, the experts worked on the production of an enzyme that is bi-functional. The by-product is converted to something useful that helps in keeping the reaction going. So far the results have been encouraging since the enzyme now decreases the production of the inhibitor and ups the concentration of oxygen that is needed for the production of biofuels.
The scientists are now trying to use the combo enzyme so it can work with green plants or algae.
• Monday, December 10th, 2012
Industry analysts say that a lot of vehicle manufacturers believes in the potential of fuel-cell vehicles because of their better performance. The trend also shows how carmakers pour in money and talents to develop vehicles running on hydrogen fuel ell.
Hyundai, for example, plans to release a fuel-cell variant of the ix35 or what is known as Tucson in the United States to be rented out before the end of 2013. In terms of production, the Korean firm plans to build 1,000 units of fuel-cell vehicles through 2015 and to as much as 10,000 units moving forward. The company has its eyes on both fuel cell vehicles and battery-powered rides.
Japanese car brands Honda and Toyota are planning to release a fuel-cell vehicle by 2015. Honda has been leasing out the FCX Clarity in California. Luxury car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz fields its F-Cell to test the waters.
Infrastructure is critical to the success of H2 vehicles. This is why big names like Honda, Nisasn, Hyudai, and Toyota joined hands to improve the hydrogen refueling stations across the Nordic region. The governments of Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have also joined the agreement to help in developing the necessary structure between 2014 and 2017.
You might be wondering why the car manufacturers are so engrossed with H2 vehicles, well its because these vehicles can travel farther compared to the EVs. Refueling a fuel-cell will only take around five minutes. The whole setup is also adaptable to bigger vehicles like SUVs and trucks.
We are still a long way to go before we can embrace fuel-cell technology and vehicles. The price is also sky high. The FCX Clarity requires a monthly fee of $600 for a three-year lease. The F-Cell goes for $849 a month without taxes.
• Friday, October 19th, 2012
The world is in search for a more cost-effective and accessible energy. Research teams everywhere are exerting all efforts to find a cleaner and cheaper fuel option. Fuel cells using oxygen and hydrogen are among the top options as it can convert the chemical energy in an eco-friendly manner to electrical energy. In order for this to happen, the electrodes of the fuel cells contain catalysts.
At the moment, most catalysts for fuel cells are crafted from alloys like ruthenium, platinum, and other metals. These metals are really expensive, difficult to extract, and very rare. Experts are really against the wall to find a good alternative to make the technology more affordable and feasible for practical purposes.
Scientists are researching for a few years now about an all-organic catalyst that is based on carbon nanotubes doped with nitrogen that can catalyze the oxygen as efficiently as platinum. The studies and experiments on this field has been quite intensive but there are still a lot of questions to be answered where defects on the nanotube occur.
The defects though are engineered so centers on the nanotubes can be created to have higher densities of electron. This higher density translates to the desired properties of a good catalyst. The most recent research shows that the some nitrogen defects have better catalytic properties than other kinds of defects. The proponents also found out that the ineffective defects can be treated with heat to improve their catalytic properties.
The group is also looking into other materials that can be used as catalysts for other processes. The researchers belongs to a team from the Department of Physics at the Umea University located in Sweden.
• Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Electric cars will be performing better if we can only keep their batteries cool enough. Electric vehicle manufacturers like Nissan do not use coolant fluid for the battery of the Leaf in order to keep down cost. Other carmakers like Tesla make use of thermal management and cooling technologies to make sure that the batteries remain on optimum temperature during operation. Batteries on their optimal temperature perform better and offer better range.
A new coolant that is being developed in Germany makes use of water and paraffin to help the battery cool down. The scientists claim that the new coolant is far more effective than just water or air alone. Effective ways to cool batteries will be very important especially when longer range packs are developed.
An article published on Chemistry World revealed that the paraffin droplets used for the mix help with the cooling following the principle of latent heat. In a language we can all understand, this simply means that the solid paraffin particles try to absorb the heat as the temperature of the battery pack increases. It melts when the battery reaches a certain temperature so the pack will not get too hot.
When the driver parks the car and the engine cools down, the paraffin also cools down and returns to its solid state. The cycle of warming and cooling of the mix prevents the battery pack from heating up too fast, which may cause damage or shorten its life.
The solution works perfectly in the laboratory but it has not yet been tested on actual battery packs. This will be the next stage of the project and proponents hope that the application will help optimize the cooling cycle of the battery and eventually contribute to electric vehicle technology.
The team of scientists aims to release the coolant for public use before the end of this year.
• Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
A team of researchers at Ford Motor Company suggests to use ethanol blends with higher volume to tap the high octane rating of the alcohol in the production of ethanol and gasoline blends which might have societal benefits.
At present, ethanol is used with gasoline to produce a formulated blend which has the same octane rating unchanged from its historical levels. Experts point out though that the high octane rating of the alcohol can be used to produce a mid-level gasoline-ethanol blend and come up with a better octane rating for regular gasoline.
There are performance issues when it comes to the used of ethanol or methanol in produce gasoline blends. Some of these issues include poorer energy density, potential lower or higher vapor pressures, changed distillation properties, and phase separation induced by water. Ethanol or methanol though has a high RON or research octane number and MON or motor octane number when compared to regular gasoline.
The octane number gives consumers an idea which fuel has the better ability to resist what is known as knock due to premature ignition. This knock may lead to engine damage when severe enough.
A higher RON means it has better thermal efficiency for future engines thru better R or compression ratio and better result of downsizing and turbocharging. The current engines may benefit with better spark timing in different driving conditions. If the blendstock RON will go up to 92 from 88, the E10 RON will jump to 95.6 from 92.5 and will give better RON with additional content of ethanol like a RON of 97.1 for the E15 blend and 100.6 for the E30 blend.
• Friday, January 27th, 2012
A group of researchers in Berkeley, California produced an E. Coli strain that can break down and ferment alginate to produce ethanol. The Enschericia coli which was specifically designed to help in synthesizing ethanol directly from the macroalgae thru CBP or consolidated process and achieving roughly 80% of the possible maximum yield.
Seaweed as macroalgae is more commonly known has a number of properties which make it a suitable feedstock for chemicals and renewable fuels. It has a good amount of sugar in it, no need for fertilizer, fresh water or farmland. There will also be no issue about food versus fuel issue when you use the seaweed to make fuel.
The researchers also note that the seaweed does not contain lignin which allows simple operations like crushing or milling to release the sugars in them. About 60% of the biomass of seaweed is sugar with roughly 50% of that as alginate.
The scientists were able to come up with a process to metabolize the component alginate of the seaweed. Among the most significant discovery was the fragment of DNA from Vibrio splendidus, a bacterium, which has enzymes that help with alginate metabolism and transport. The proponents of the research capitalized on this property and use it to build a platform to degrade and eventually metabolize alginate.
The microbial platform is broken into shorter fragments using a lyase from the cells of the bacterirum. These fragments are then carried to the E.Coli using the properties of the fragment that came from mthe splendidus.. Other properties of the genes from splendidus help metabolize the alginate and help convert them to building blocks, this is the stage where Zymomonas mobilis step up to produce ethanol.
The research body from California was a receipient of a grant from the Department of Energy of the United States.
• Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
Experts involved with the Sustainable Energy or SusEn research program of the Academy of Finland are considering the possibilities of processing biogas and biobutanol to become alternative transport fuels.
The primary source of biobutanol will be the by-products of the paper industry, pulp, and food industry. Biogas on the other hand can be a good source of methane which has a great potential to be a fuel substitute.
Ulla Lassi who works as a professor in the University of Oulu is looking at the production process using microbiological techniques so raw materials can be turned into sugars first then fermented to become butanol. The project of Lassi also involves using chemical syntheis using catalyst materials to promote the conversion of methanol, ethanol, or glycerol into pentanol, butanol, and other alcohol mixes. The outcome of the microbiological and chemical processes are good as substitutes to liquid fuels. For example, glycerol, when used, is very cost effective since it is a biodiesel by-product.
There are several hindrances in the process of making butanol thru microbiological means. One big challenge is the raw material digestion to make it a fermentable form of sugars. The fermentation process is another issue since it is a very complicated process. Experts are already looking into solutions to address these challenges.
The biogas project is also looking into it as a good alternative transport fuel. With experts from Finland and Chile working together, they are looking into the process f making gas from landfill as fuel.
Methane from biogas is one alternative fuel option which has a good chain for sustainability. It also meets the standards set by the European Union as a sustainable biofuel.
• Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Fiat’s newly designed 85 horsepower TwinAir two-cylinder engine makes it way under the hood of the Fiat 500 for its debut. The 2-cylinder engine was previewed during the Geneva motor show.
The 900 cc turbo 2-cylinder 85 horsepower gasoline-fueled engine makes use of small turbines which decreases transient response time while keeping the output excellent when combined with strategies for the management of the dedicated valves. The TwinAir powerplant also features a Start&Stop system.
Side by side a 1.2L 8V engine, the new Fiat engine is way ahead with 23% advantage on power and around 30% ahead in terms of performance index. The consumption of fuel is also more efficient by as much as 30%.
• Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
BMW has two electric cars in its garage. The Mini E is on a test phase with about 600 units roaming around the streets of the U.S., U.K., and Europe. They also have the ActiveE Concept that took spotlight during the auto show in Detroit last month.
According to BMW top execs, the two cars are just the tip of the iceberg. The carmaker is looking forward to launch their all electric vehicle that is expected to go on full production by the first half of this decade. This new electric vehicle will solely depend on the power stored in a battery pack.
BMW codenamed the development as Project Megacity which was driven by the research that kicked off with their Project i back in 2008.
The Project Megacity will be an EV that uses designs that will be specific for use in congested city streets. According to insiders, the production of the 2014 model might begin by the second half of 2013. The car is set to be assembled in the BMW plant in Leipzig, Germany.
• Monday, January 25th, 2010
The 2010 Geneva Motor Show this coming March will be the venue for BMW’s third hybrid car. The new model will be a mid-hybrid version of the recently unveiled 2011 BMW 5-Series set to hit the stores this June.
The ActiveHybrid 5 is expected to be inspired by the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 which is its full size sports sedan on the hybrid luxury class. The 7-Series uses a 3-phase electric motor which is linked to the crankshaft of the car’s V-8 gasoline engine paired with new 8-speed automatic transmission.
The 5-Series will be a mild hybrid. This means that the car will not run relying on the electric engine alone like the 2010 BMW X6 ActiveHybrid. What it will do is utilize the electric motor to restart the gasoline engine after it turns off during stops. The electric motor will also add more torque to help the gasoline engine.