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Technology
HELE coal technology key to growth in South East Asia
High-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) coal-fired electricity generation technology will play a critical role in South-East Asia’s future economic prosperity and climate policies, according to a new report from ASEAN Centre for Energy and the World Coal Association (WCA). The new report confirms that HELE coal technology will provide affordable and reliable electricity to more than 600 million people in the region while dramatically reducing emissions. The report conducts a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of climate, energy and sustainable development policies in ASEAN nations, which are set to increase their electricity demand significantly in coming years. It finds that if ASEAN shifts its coal-fired power generation capacity to a modern, low emissions fleet by 2035, the region would reduce its cumulative emissions by 1.3 billion tonnes, equivalent to the annual emissions of the US, China and the European Union combined. The new report is consistent with other projections by leading energy analysts. A recent report from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies concluded that based on current national power plans, South East Asia’s coal capacity will reach 148 GW by 2025, a 139% increase on 2015. Coal will pass gas as South East Asia’s number one energy source before 2025, the OIES report concluded. ASEAN is one of the fastest growing regions in the world with economic growth forecast to increase by over 6% per year.  Growth has already lifted millions from poverty and seen the number of people in the region without access to electricity halved over the past 20 years. The International Energy Agency predicts ASEAN’s energy demand will increase by 80 per cent over the period to 2040. To meet this demand, secure reliable electricity is required and the report confirms that low emission coal will be the generation of choice.  With the IEA forecasting coal to provide 50% of electricity generation by 2040, ASEAN nations are looking to utilise low-emission coal technology to deliver growth while also reducing emissions. The report confirms that all forms of coal generation will be the lowest cost option for ASEAN nations in 2020 and 2035.  The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) figures show that even ultra-supercritical coal generation will cost less than all renewable options and gas-fired power generation options. The report notes that “HELE reconciles international commitments to reduce carbon with the economic priorities of generating affordable and reliable electricity.”
ABB launches world’s first digital distribution transformer
March 21, 2017 Tuesday 7:52 AM By News Desk, energynewsbd.com
ABB has recently announced the launch of the world’s first digital distribution transformer at its ABB customer world event in Houston, Texas. Integrated sensing and monitoring technology in ABB’s new TXpert™ transformer will provide intelligence to maximize reliability, optimize operating and maintenance costs and manage the asset more efficiently, according to a press release. This latest innovation builds on the ABB Ability™ digital offering that uses cloud computing and connected devices to generate actionable data for a broad range of customers. The performance data collected from the sensors is stored and analyzed within the transformer, offering insights on how it is operating. This will provide utilities, industries and installations like data centers with vital information to make key decisions on the operation and maintenance of their transformers and support the management of the asset throughout its lifecycle. This includes activities like scheduling of maintenance, optimizing system performance and planned asset replacement. Power grids are undergoing an unprecedented transformation both on the supply and demand side. Many new and distributed sources of energy including the influx of renewables and new demand loads like datacenters and electric vehicles, call for a more flexible grid, driving the need for greater digitalization and automation. Intelligent products that can communicate are an essential component in the convergence of information and operational technologies. “Distribution transformers are vital components in the electrical value chain. This latest innovation extends our digital portfolio and ABB Ability based offering, and reinforces our positon as the world’s leading transformer manufacturer” said Claudio Facchin, President of ABB’s Power Grids Division. ”It also reiterates our Next Level strategic focus on enabling a stronger, smarter and greener grid.” TXpert™ is part of ABB’s Transformer Intelligence™ portfolio that includes state-of-the-art sensors, monitoring platforms and software tools built upon ABB’s deep domain knowledge and expertise. It will be a catalyst for enhancing distribution transformer performance, improving predictability and increasing reliability.  
Category: Technology
ROSATOM enters wind power sector
February 4, 2017 Saturday 10:41 PM By News Desk, energynewsbd.com
Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM has approved partnership of its affiliated company “OTEK” with the Dutch company “Lagerwey systems b.v.” for wind power projects. “We are speaking about formation of the entirely new industry in Russia”, said Kirill Kamarov, First Deputy Director General of ROSATOM. “ROSATOM sees its goal not only in building of wind farms, but in development of regulatory system, personnel training system, production localization, certification, research and development system for the wind power. We have the second to none experience and knowledge in creation of new industries from the scratch, as we solve such tasks daily in our nuclear energy segment both in Russia and worldwide.” said a press release. “The future energy balance is based on low-carbon technologies like nuclear power and renewables combined together. The decision to diversify our marketing portfolio in low-carbon energy is a logical follow-up in our overall business development of strategy. Moreover, it corresponds to the government’s 2017-2025 strategy aimed at shifting to the sustainable “green” development model”, added Kamarov. After studying the feasibility of partnership with a number of wind turbines manufacturers “OTEK” proposed ROSATOM to approve a deal, based on a number of criteria like innovative design, experience, availability of logistics, parts and components in Russia, readiness of a foreign partner for localization and maximum technology transfer. The goal of the partnership is to develop the production of the wind turbines in Russia. In 2017 a joint venture will be formed to ensure maximum commitment of the both partners to the implementation of the projects in Russia. ROSATOM has already evaluated the potential growth of domestic wind power market. By 2024 wind power generation capacity will rise up to 3.6 GWh with annual turnover of approximately US $ 1.6 billion. The potential volume of market for wind power equipment, facilities, maintenance and after sales services is about US$ 6.3 billion. ROSATOM plans to build wind mills of 610MW capacity during 2018-2020 and localize the production of parts and components of wind turbines including blades for 250MW a year. The localization process will involve ROSATOM’s production facilities of “Atomenergomash” and UMATEX Group.  Power generation is a key contributor to growing CO2 emissions, and the future of humanity depends on a well-chosen source of power.  According to the International Energy Agency, nuclear technology generates 38% of `green` energy in the world. According to experts nuclear and renewables complement each other. Nuclear stations provide base load and work regardless of weather conditions, generating power 24/7. Renewables are strongly dependent on weather conditions.  
Category: Technology
‘Surge in electric cars may blindside big oil’
February 2, 2017 Thursday 9:54 PM By AFP
Oil companies underestimating the global market for electric vehicles could be caught unaware by weakened demand for petrol within a decade, analysts said Wednesday. Falling costs of electric cars and renewable technology may halt growth in oil demand from as early as 2020, they argued in a report. The current boom in electric vehicles is on track to displace two million barrels of oil per day by 2025, they calculated.  A similar drop in demand preceded the collapse of oil prices in 2014. By 2035, that figure could quintuple, with electric cars accounting for a third of the road transport market, said the report, jointly issued by financial think tank Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute, both in London. The power and road transport sectors account for about half of fossil fuel consumption, so growth in solar energy and electric vehicles can have a major impact on demand. "Electric vehicles and solar power are game-changers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates," said Luke Sussams, a senior analyst at Carbon Tracker. "Very few companies or institutions in the energy industry are really considering the upside if the technology explodes and grows exponentially," he told AFP. Oil and gas giant BP, for example, predicted last week that oil demand from cars would continue to rise well into the mid-2030s. In 2035, electric vehicles will only make up six percent of the global car fleet, it said in its 2017 Energy Outlook. Other fossil fuel companies have made similarly rosy forecasts for oil demand. Non-industry analysts are split on how quickly electric vehicles will displace those powered by internal combustion engines. The 29-nation International Energy Agency (IEA), formed after the 1973 oil crisis, sees relatively modest growth, resulting in an eight percent market share -- about 150 million vehicles -- by 2040, and only 1.3 million barrels of oil displaced per day. Exponential growth Even their prescriptive "450 ppm" forecast -- a blueprint for energy growth deemed consistent with capping global warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) -- only foresees 710 million electric vehicles by that date. Holding warming to 2C is the core goal of the 196-nation Paris climate treaty. But the IEA`s poor track record for forecasting solar and wind growth suggests estimates for electric cars may be too conservative as well. "The IEA and the oil companies are still playing catch up on renewables," said Sussams. "Every year they are upgrading their assumptions around renewable energy penetration." The IEA`s last revision was in October 2016. Private forecaster Bloomberg New Energy Finance`s estimates, by contrast, are much closer to the new figures: a 22 percent market share for electric vehicles by 2035. The disagreement on how quickly fossil fuel companies may face falling demand -- and possibly stranded assets -- is built into the assumptions behind the forecasts. "We assume the electric vehicles will be cheaper than oil-burning combustion engine vehicles from 2020 onward," explained Sussams. The Carbon Tracker model also presumes very rapid growth, and an absence of bottlenecks, such as a shortage of charging stations. China -- the largest market in the world for electric vehicles -- sold more than half-a-million in 2016. "That is close to exponential growth," Sussams said. The forecasts are also in line with those of major car makers, including Tesla, GM and major European manufacturers. The 60-page report -- entitled "The disruptive power of low-carbon technology -- notes that a 10 percent loss of the power market-share caused the collapse of the US coal mining industry. Similarly, Europe`s five major utilities lost more than 100 billion euros ($105 billion) in value from 2008 to 2013 "because they were unprepared for an eight percent growth in renewable power." 
Category: Technology
Panasonic to invest over $256 million in Tesla`s U.S. plant for solar cells
December 27, 2016 Tuesday 10:41 PM By Reuters
Panasonic Corp will invest more than 30 billion yen ($256 million) in a New York production facility of Elon Musk`s Tesla Motors (TSLA.O) to make photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules, deepening a partnership of the two companies. Tesla`s shares were up 3.5 percent at $220.75 in early trading on Tuesday. Japan`s Panasonic, which has been retreating from low-margin consumer electronics to focus more on automotive components and other businesses targeting corporate clients, will make the investment in Tesla`s factory in Buffalo, New York. The U.S. electric car maker is making a long-term purchase commitment from Panasonic as part of the deal, besides providing factory buildings and infrastructure. In a statement on Tuesday, the two companies said they plan to start production of PV modules in the summer of 2017 and increase to one gigawatt of module production by 2019. The plan is part of the solar partnership that the two companies first announced in October, but which did not disclose investment details. Tesla is working exclusively with longtime partner Panasonic to supply batteries for its upcoming Model 3, the company`s first mass-market car. Panasonic is also the exclusive supplier of batteries to Tesla`s Model S and Model X.
Category: Technology
World’s first solar highway opens in France
December 25, 2016 Sunday 1:40 PM By Independent.co.uk
France has recently unveiled the world`s first solar panel road in a small village in Normandy. The road, called Wattway, was inaugurated by ecology minister Ségolène Royal, who said earlier this year that she wanted to build 1000 km of solar panel roads in France. Colas, part of the telecoms giant Bougyes, developed the Wattway panels over five years. The route - financed by the state - is covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels and crosses the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche. The electricity generated should be able to power the street lighting in the village of 3,400 inhabitants. Expected to be used by an average of 2,000 motorists a day, the highway will now undergo a two-year testing phase. Despite the price of silicon - a primary component of photo voltaic cells - dropping dramatically over the last 10 years, the cost of such a project is still very high. Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), told Le Monde: “It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.” A number of countries are experimenting with solar panels on roads. The Netherlands have 70 metres of solar road in operation since 2014 in the form of a bike path. Piers Barnes, a Physics research associate at Imperial College London, told The Independent that cost and durability were the two main factors impeding the development of solar panel roads. “As cost of solar panels comes down, increasingly interesting and innovative applications will be created in places one would not otherwise consider,” he said. He did however, add that the UK was intrinsically more expensive when it came to solar panels due to its poor levels of sunshine.
Category: Technology
Saudi Aramco, GE to install first wind turbine in Saudi Arabia
June 12, 2016 Sunday 12:10 PM By Arabian Business
Saudi Aramco and GE have announced they are partnering to install Saudi Arabia`s first wind turbine at the Turaif Bulk Plant, located in the north-west of the Gulf kingdom. The initiative is in line with Saudi Vision 2030 that has set an initial target of generating 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. The project marks the first regional installation of GE`s 2.75-120 Wind Turbine, which has been specifically customised for climatic conditions in Saudi Arabia, a statement said. Abdulaziz Al-Judaimi, vice president of Power Systems, Saudi Aramco, said: "We are committed to efficiently meeting the kingdom`s energy demand through our fuel optimization program and by supporting renewable energy development. The demo installation of GE`s Wind Turbine will enable the Saudi Aramco and GE teams to build expertise in executing wind projects in the kingdom." Hisham Albahkali, GE`s president and CEO for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, added: "The installation of GE`s Wind Turbine by Saudi Aramco, our long-term partner, underlines our commitment to promoting renewable energy in the Kingdom. "This state-of-the-art wind turbine is designed for challenging conditions." Several studies have confirmed the potential for wind energy generation in the kingdom, particularly in the northern region. According to the Renewable Energy Atlas, higher wind speeds near 8.0 m/s and above occur in the northeast and central regions of Saudi Arabia, as well as near mountains in the western region. GE recently announced the launch of 10 initiatives with strategic partners including Saudi Aramco, that support the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, including economic diversification, localised manufacturing, human capital development as well as productivity and efficiency enhancement across the energy, aviation, healthcare and digital sectors.
Category: Technology
Solar-powered plane to soar again on round-the-world flight
May 2, 2016 Monday 11:46 AM By BSS/AFP
Solar Impulse 2, an experimental aircraft flying around the world to draw attention to clean energy technologies, is to take flight again on Monday, organisers said. Pilot Andre Borschberg will take off at 12:00 GMT (5:00AM PT) taking advantage of a "clear weather window" for him to fly from the Mojave Desert to Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Arizona -- an effort that should take about 16 hours, they said. The plane has been in California for a week since crossing the Pacific to land in Mountain View. Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard piloted the craft from Hawaii to California. Piccard, who has been alternating the long solo flights with teammate Borschberg, has handed over to his teammate who will pilot Solar Impulse across the United States and to New York. The mission aims to promote the use of renewable energy, with an aircraft powered by 17,000 solar cells. The plane`s wingspan is wider than that of a jumbo jet but its weight is roughly the same as a family car. Solar Impulse 2 was grounded in July last year when its batteries suffered problems halfway through its 21,700-mile (35,000-kilometer) circumnavigation. The crew took several months to repair the damage from high tropical temperatures during the first Pacific stage, a 4,000-mile flight between Japan and Hawaii. The aircraft was flown on that leg by Borschberg, whose 118-hour journey smashed the previous record of 76 hours and 45 minutes set by US adventurer Steve Fossett in 2006. Born in Zurich, Borschberg is no stranger to adventure -- 15 years ago he narrowly escaped an avalanche, and then in 2013 he was involved in a helicopter crash that left him with minor injuries. The 63-year-old took catnaps of only 20 minutes at a time to maintain control of the pioneering plane during his arduous flight from Japan, in what his team described as "difficult" conditions. The Pacific crossing was the most dangerous due to a lack of landing sites in the event of an emergency. The solar-powered plane, which stores energy in batteries for when the sun is not shining, will stop in New York before a transatlantic flight to Europe. From there the pilots plan to make their way back to the point of departure in Abu Dhabi.
Category: Technology
Hot rocks: Kenya taps geothermal heat to boost power
March 16, 2016 Wednesday 5:08 PM By BSS/AFP
Zebra and antelope look on as clouds of white steam twist into the air at Hell`s Gate, where Kenya`s dream of providing cheap, renewable electricity is becoming a reality. Just over a third of the 45 million people who live in Kenya have electricity, and power cuts are frequent across the network, even in the capital Nairobi. But Africa`s Great Rift Valley -- where the continent is gradually tearing apart and the earth`s crust thins -- runs through the heart of Kenya, and access to hot rocks below the surface has put a wealth of geothermal power at its fingertips. "Geothermal energy can be found probably anywhere in the world. But what makes it most accessible here is the fact that the Earth`s crust is very thin, so the steam comes out very easily and hence you can use it for electricity generation," says Boniface Kipkorir, an engineer working at the Olkaria plant in Hell`s Gate National Park. "Geothermal energy is clean, green, its carbon footprint on the environment is minimal," said Kipkorir, who works for KenGen (Kenya Electricity Generating Company), the country`s largest electricity producer. Since geothermal energy production began in Kenya in the 1980s, the technology has evolved to help make it a cleaner process. The region`s underground is a geothermal hotspot, harbouring hot water sources and steam at 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit) that is piped up to the surface from depths of up to 2,000 metres (6,500 feet). When the mix reaches the plant, the steam powers a generator turbine. Boosting electricity is a key priority for the Kenyan government, which is aiming to triple production capacity by 2020 to compensate for demand that is forecast to increase by 11 percent annually. A world leader? The potential is immense. There are more than a dozen possible sites scattered throughout the Rift Valley which have an estimated potential of 10,000 megawatts (MW) -- four times the country`s current production capacity. Development of those sites could make Kenya one of the world leaders in geothermal energy. Last year, with the installation two new production units at Olkaria, Kenya more than doubled its production of geothermal energy to 609 MW. That makes it the world`s eighth-largest geothermal producer, accounting for some five percent of global output. Olkaria, which lies 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of Nairobi, is the largest geothermal plant in Africa. Surrounded by wooded hills which are home to giraffe and antelope, the plant has a network of pipes that run deep underground. During its construction, the animals were scared off, but soon found elsewhere to roam inside the national park, which covers 68 square kilometres (26 square miles). Now buffalo, zebra and antelope come close to the station,apparently unconcerned by its presence. Steam rises into the air, but it is water vapour -- there is no pollution or stench like that of a coal-fired station. Geothermal outpacing hydropower For many years, Kenya has relied on its hydroelectric network, which last year produced 820 MW. But recurring droughts have rendered this source of energy much less reliable than before. "When we looked at the hydro, we realised it`s very good, because it`s a very cheap source of power -- but it is also affected by drought," says Albert Mugo, KenGen`s chief executive. "In the last two years, we`ve had very bad drought and the levels of the reservoirs became very low. When that happens, you have to reduce the amount of electricity that you can generate." "It is not the same with geothermal," Mugo says. "Once you have your wells and you start producing, the plants run on a 24 hours basis. It`s a very reliable source of supply." The growth of geothermal energy is expected to continue, while hydropower production levels out. "There is more geothermal that is being installed and very little of hydro," he says. "So looking at the strategy for Kenya for development... we see a lot of geothermal coming in," he says. According to its "Vision 2030" plan, under which this East African nation will become a middle-income country by 2030, the Kenyan government sees electricity production capacity reaching 17,500 MW, compared to 2,200 MW in 2015. The aim is for 5,000 MW of that figure to come from geothermal energy, which would make it the country`s primary energy source in a move that could help reduce costs to customers.
Category: Technology
New gas-fired power plant in Shanghai uses MAN turbine technology
February 23, 2016 Tuesday 9:48 PM By News Desk, energynewsbd.com
An opening ceremony on January 19, 2016, saw a new gas-fired combined heat and power plant being put into operation at SAIC VOLKSWAGEN AUTOMOTIVE COMPANY LIMITED - a joint venture between Chinese SAIC and German Volkswagen Group. The plant contains four sets of MGT 6200, the latest range of gas turbines by MAN Diesel & Turbo, said a press release. Attending the ceremony were Prof. Jochen Heizmann, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group China, and Dr. Uwe Lauber, CEO of MAN Diesel & Turbo. “The inauguration of this combined heat and power system is a landmark for our car production in China. The new plant not only provides steam and electricity for our Car Plant 3 here at SAIC Volkswagen, it also means we no longer use coal boilers so CO2 emissions will be reduced by 59,000 tons each year,” explained Prof. Heizmann during the ceremony. The plant also marks the premiere of MAN Diesel & Turbo’s latest gas turbine series in China, with the order dating back to December 2014. Each of the four turbine sets delivers electrical power by driving a generator. Additional use of the waste heat for producing process steam increases the plant’s overall efficiency to more than 80 percent. The steam is used at the production works of the Volkswagen Joint Venture in China. “We are elated to be involved in this project,” said Dr. Lauber after the ceremony. “Today, we have inaugurated a gas-fired power plant that covers almost 25 percent of the energy needs of one of the biggest car production sites in the country, which is low in greenhouse gas emissions and utilises more than 80 percent of the invested fuel energy. MAN and the Chinese industry look back at a decades-long tradition of partnership in many technological fields. Now that the Chinese government has set ambitious goals to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, our gas turbines and engine technology can help to reach these goals and reduce CO2 emissions.” With awareness of air pollution in China increasing, the government is pursuing an active program to lower emission levels and increase energy efficiency. The new CHP plant fulfills this objective by producing electricity to cover 100 percent of the annual demand in Car Plant 3 and the neighbouring gearbox plant in Anting, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 23 percent. According to the National Energy Administration, the gas supply in China is expected to reach 400 billion cubic metres in 2020, and natural gas will increase to represent 10 percent of primary energy consumption.  Natural gas as a clean, efficient energy source is receiving increasing attention from the government and will gradually become one of the backbones of China’s energy supply.
Category: Technology
Transparent, brighter LEDs may become a reality soon
November 28, 2015 Saturday 11:02 PM By The Times of India
University of California - Berkeley researchers have discovered a simple way of making monolayer semiconductors -- which are less than a nanometre thick -- more efficient and defect free. The finding opens the door to the practical application of monolayer materials, such as MoS2, in devices like LEDs and high-performance transistors. "One could develop high-performance LED displays that are transparent when powered off and flexible using the `perfect` optoelectronic monolayers produced in this study," the researchers said. Monolayer semiconductors have generated a great deal of buzz as they hold promise in the development of transparent LED displays, ultra-high efficiency solar cells, photo detectors and nanoscale transistors. But the films are notoriously riddled with defects, killing their performance. The UC-Berkeley team found a simple way to fix these defects through the use of an organic superacid. The chemical treatment led to a dramatic 100-fold increase in the material`s photoluminescence quantum yield, a ratio describing the amount of light generated by the material versus the amount of energy put in. The greater the emission of light, the higher the quantum yield and the better the material quality. The researchers enhanced the quantum yield for molybdenum disulfide, or MoS2, from less than one percent up to 100% by dipping the material into a superacid called bistriflimide, or TFSI. "Traditionally, the thinner the material, the more sensitive it is to defects," said principal investigator professor Ali Javey. "This study presents the first demonstration of an opto-electronically perfect monolayer, which previously had been unheard of in a material this thin," Javey added. This treatment also has revolutionary potential for transistors. As devices in computer chips get smaller and thinner, defects play a bigger role in limiting their performance. "The defect-free monolayers developed here could solve this problem in addition to allowing for new types of low-energy switches," Javey said.  
Category: Technology
Better batteries to beat global warming: A race against time
November 25, 2015 Wednesday 11:14 PM By AP/UNB
One of the key technologies that could help wean the globe off fossil fuel is probably at your fingertips or in your pocket right now: the battery. If batteries can get better, cheaper and store more power safely, then electric cars and solar- or wind- powered homes become more viable — even on cloudy days or when the wind isn`t blowing. These types of technological solutions will be one of the more hopeful aspects of United Nations climate talks that begin next week in Paris. "If you are serious about eliminating combustion of fossil fuels to power anything — a house, a city, a state — you can`t do it without (energy) storage," which usually means batteries, said Carnegie Mellon University battery expert and inventor Jay Whitacre. Former Vice President Al Gore, former U.S. Geological Survey chief (and current editor-in-chief of the journal Science) Marcia McNutt and others point to better batteries as one of the bright spots in the fight against climate change. While batteries have been around for more than 200 years, this year the technology has amped up. In October, an international team of scientists announced a breakthrough in overcoming major obstacles in next generation energy storage and creating a battery that has five to 10 times the energy density of the best batteries on the market now. In September, Whitacre won a $500,000 invention prize for his eco-friendly water-oriented battery. And in April, Elon Musk announced plans for his Tesla Motors to sell high-tech batteries for homes with solar panels to store electricity for night time and cloudy day use, weaning the homes off dirtier power from the burning of coal, oil and gas. "The pace of innovation does seem to be accelerating," said JB Straubel, chief technical officer and co-founder of Tesla with Musk. "We`re kind of right at the tipping point where the current performance and lifetime of batteries roughly equal that of fossil fuels. If you are able to double that, the prospects are huge." At its massive Nevada Gigafactory, Tesla has started producing powerwalls to store energy in homes. They can`t make them fast enough for customers worldwide. In November, a Texas utility announced it was giving wind-generated electricity free to customers at night because it couldn`t be stored. That`s where Tesla hopes to come in — not just in cars, but in homes. Within 10 years, Straubel figures it will be considerably cheaper (and cleaner) to get energy through wind and solar power and store it with batteries than to use coal, oil or gas. "What has changed is the Gigafactory," said Venkat Srinivasan, deputy director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. "Two years ago I didn`t think anyone would have thought you`d invest $5 billion in a big (battery) factory.” Tesla is using existing technology, just mass producing and marketing it. That`s one of two key changes in the field. The other is work to make the battery itself much more efficient. Start with that lithium ion battery in your pocket. It was invented by John Goodenough, a professor at the University of Texas. His next task is a safer battery that uses sodium, a more plentiful element that can produce a faster charge. "Now I hope to help free yourself from your dependence on fossil fuels," he said on the same October day he was awarded part of a $1 million innovation-in-alternative-fuels prize from Israel. "I believe in the next year there will be a breakthrough," he said. "I`m hopeful, but we`re not there yet." Glenn Amatucci, director of the energy storage research group at Rutgers University, called it "a race against time. Every day and every hour is critical in terms of getting an advance." But Goodenough is in a special hurry, working more than eight hours a day on his battery: He`s 93. There are many teams around the world working on breakthrough batteries of different types. One of the most promising materials is lithium oxygen, which theoretically could store five to 10 times the energy of a lithium ion battery, but there have been all sorts of roadblocks that made it very inefficient. Then, last month a team led by Clare Grey at the University of Cambridge announced in the journal Science that they had, on a small scale, overcome one obstacle so that its efficiency could compete with lithium ion batteries. The potential gains in this technology are high, but it is still at least seven to 10 years from commercial availability, Grey said. At Carnegie Mellon and Aquion Energy, Whitacre is honing a water-oriented battery with sodium and carbon. Others are looking at magnesium. Tesla`s Straubel sees all sorts of different battery possibilities. "It`s an ongoing revolution," Straubel said. "It`s a critical piece in the whole puzzle in how we stop burning fossil fuels completely."
Category: Technology
China dreams of electric sheep at robot conference
November 25, 2015 Wednesday 4:37 PM By BSS/AFP
In a martial artist`s white silk pyjamas, a man practised tai-chi in harmony with a motorised arm at a Beijing exhibition showcasing a vision of robots with Chinese characteristics. Vehicles with automated gun turrets sat alongside drink-serving karaoke machines at the World Robot Conference, as manufacturers sought new buyers for their "jiqiren" -- "machine people" in Chinese. The push has support at the highest levels of government. President Xi Jinping issued a letter of congratulations for the conference, and the industry is name-checked in the draft version of the country`s new five-year plan, the policy document that guides national economic development. The world`s second-largest economy is already the leading market for industrial robots, accounting for a quarter of global sales, according to the International Federation of Robotics. But executives at a conference roundtable said the real market opportunity was in service robots for the homes and offices of the world`s most populous country. "There are now less than 100,000 robots in Chinese families, not including vacuum cleaners," said Liu Xuenan, chief executive officer of Canbot. In the future, said Yu Kai, the head of Horizon Robotics, China`s automated helpers will do everything from building cars to driving them, predicting that "each person might have 10 robots" -- nearly 14 billion potential tin men at current population levels.  Planet of the Apps Robots have captured China`s imagination. From Transformers to Baymax, the star of Disney`s movie "Big Hero 6", Chinese consumers have embraced robot heroes, spending hundreds of millions on related movies and merchandise. In Chinese cities, businesses try to attract customers with robot waiters, cooks, and concierges. In the countryside, rural Da Vincis cobble together mechanical men from scrapyard junk. A panel at the conference struggled with the question of how China would deal with the rise of artificially intelligent machines. But the transition from the world of fantasy and novelty to a real robot economy could be tricky, with the country`s technology still lagging far behind neighbours Korea and Japan, the undisputed king of the robots.   China should have more realistic expectations for the near future, said Pinpin Zhu, president of China`s voice controlled service Xiao I Robot, which was involved in a patent dispute with American tech giant Apple linked to its personal digital assistant Siri. The country may descend from the peak of high expectations into a "trough of disillusionment", said Zhu, who believes a martphone-based "Planet of the Apps" is more likely than a world served by humanoid robots. Some companies, he said, were focusing on more realistic products, such as "trying to modify the microwave oven into a robot that can fry eggs... maybe it doesn`t look like a robot, but it has artificial intelligence."  `I won`t be alive` Skynet, the malicious computer that rains nuclear destruction on the Earth in the Terminator series of movies, remains a far distant prospect. A badminton-playing robot on display at the conference could barely defend against a small boy`s serve, much less trigger the apocalypse. And for China to lead the robot revolution, it will have to do more than design machines able to beat children at lawn sports -- it will also have to overcome what many experts see as a penchant for mechanistic copying. The Chinese vision of the future on display in the cavernous exhibition hall had a distinct whiff of the past. Robots with a more than passing resemblance to mechanical super heroes Iron Man and Optimus Prime danced to the Chinese mega pop hit "Little Apple", while booths pushed derivative Segways and Roombas. Most of the remaining displays were heavy industry mechanical arms, leavened with robotic butlers reminiscent of a 1980s movie. But manufacturers are making rapid progress, said Toshio Fukuda, an expert on robotics at Japan`s Nagoya University, adding that imitation was a way-station on the road to innovation. "In the beginning, you just make a copy. There`s no creativity," he said, noting that Japan too was once criticised for having a copycat culture. "It`s a process. They have to improve." Asked about the possibility of future robots turning against their masters and taking over the world, he laughed. "Maybe in 30 or 40 years," he said. "But I`m not worried. I won`t still be alive."
Category: Technology
Mars atmosphere `eroded by Sun activity`
November 6, 2015, Friday 1:45:30:PM By BBC News
Scientists think they are getting closer to explaining precisely how Mars lost much of its atmosphere. Researchers working on the US space agency`s Maven satellite have reported their first big set of results in a clutch of scholarly papers. These detail how Martian air today is being removed at high altitudes through its interactions with the Sun. They calculate the rates at which gases escape, and suggest why these rates may have been even higher in the past. "We`re well on the way to answering many of our questions; much further along actually than I thought we would be at this stage," said Bruce Jakosky, the principal investigator on Nasa`s Maven spacecraft. "What we`re reporting today is data from just the first 6-7 months from our primary mission. "We`re still analysing this data, and we have already been approved for a mission extension that will allow us to round out one full Martian year and to see the response of the system to all the seasons on Mars," he told BBC News. All the observations by previous satellites and landers at the Red Planet indicate that it was once shrouded in a thick blanket of gases, which supported the presence of liquid water at its surface. This is evident in the many landscape features that resemble the remains of river channels, deltas and lakes. But the air pressure on Mars today is less than 1% of what it is on Earth, meaning any free water would instantly boil away or freeze solid. Some of the air has probably reacted with, and been incorporated into, minerals at the surface. However, the most likely explanation for the atmosphere`s loss - and the one that Maven began testing last year - is that the Sun has simply stripped it away, turning Mars from a warm and wet world into a cold and dry one. The satellite has been making a series of deep dives into the atmosphere as it orbits the planet.   These dips take it to under 200km from the surface - enabling it to sample the gases that are present and to record how they are behaving when excited by our star. The Sun emits a constant stream of charged particles called the solar wind. This wind carries magnetic fields and when these hit the planet they generate electric fields that are then able to accelerate atmospheric ions, hurling them either directly off into space or slamming them into other atmospheric constituents so that they are removed. The loss rates may appear on the face of it to be quite small, but they are significant when applied over the 4.5 billion years of Mars` history. Maven scientist Jasper Halekas from the University of Iowa explained: "We find that there are roughly 100 grams of atmosphere escaping every second, a quarter of a pound escaping every second. "I can`t help but imagine hamburgers flying out of the Martian atmosphere - one per second. But fortunately it`s instead oxygen and carbon dioxide that are leaving the planet which are important both for water and for the climate of the planet overall." The Maven team also got to observe the impact of a coronal mass ejection at Mars in March this year. A CME is a huge bubble of excited gas that occasionally billows away from the Sun. A CME will move faster than the solar wind and carry even more energy. When this bubble struck the atmosphere, Maven saw escape rates spike 10 to 20 times higher, at least. "Solar storms were more common and more intense earlier in Solar System history, so long ago we expect escape to have been happening all the time and stripping away lots of atmosphere from the planet," said Dr Halekas. "This implies that not only is Mars` atmosphere escaping today and has been escaping over time, but much of that atmosphere may have been lost early on." Had Mars retained a global magnetic field, it might have been able to deflect and resist this persistent, abrasive assault from our star. Scientists think however that the internal dynamo generating such a field probably collapsed just a few hundred million years after the planet formed. Thankfully for Earth, its global magnetic field continues to operate and afford protection. Otherwise, our climate system could have been altered in a very similar way.
Category: Technology
International electrical and electronics conference at RUET
4, November, 2015, 4:01:45:PM By BSS
A three-day International Conference on Electrical and Electronic Engineering (ICEEE)-2015 began in Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (RUET) on Wednesday. Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of RUET organized the ICEEE in order to take the technological growth one step forward as engineering and technology play a pivotal role in the development of today`s world. The conference is expected to provide a highly interactive platform in which leading experts and researchers in the field of electrical and electronic engineering can discuss recent scientific advances and seek cooperation from all over the world. Professor Emeritus in Raucous University in Japan Prof Dr Yeosinori and RUET Vice Chancellor Prof Rafiqul Alam Beg jointly opened the conference as chief guests. Prof Dr Yeo Jeo from Huajong Science and Technology in China and Prof Dr Subir Kumar Sarker were present on the occasion as special guests. More than eight renowned professors from the USA, Australia, China, Malaysia and India are joining the conference. Besides, a large number of students and professionals from home and abroad are taking part. Prof Dr Abdur Razzaque, chairman of preparatory Committee of theconference, told journalists that more than 80 research papers are expected to be on the table in the conference. The ICEEE aims at focusing the rapid strides and technologicaladvancements in EEE in recent years. It aspires to open a forum for technical excellence and exchange of technology between technocrats, research scholars, and representatives from the academia and industry. "We aim to bring together more than 300 worldwide leading academicscientists, researchers and research scholars," he added. Widespread research and innovative practices are propelling the world to a new plateau of development. Various modern issues like microwave and radio frequency, electrical machine, optical fiber communication, instrumentation and measurement, electro-magnetic field, power plant and high voltage engineering, smart power grid, multimedia system and image processing are likely to be discussed elaborately in the three-day conference.
Category: Technology
China to start work on super, super-collider by 2020: report
2, November, 2015, 2:52:44:PM By BSS/AFP
China will begin work on the world`s largest super-collider in 2020, state-run media reported Thursday, in an attempt to increase understanding of the Higgs boson, or "god particle". The facility, designed to smash subatomic particles together at enormous speed, will reportedly be at least twice the size of the Swiss-based CERN, where the Higgs boson was discovered. Scientists believe the particle is one of the fundamental building blocks of the universe. The final concept design for the project is on schedule to be completed by the end of next year, Wang Yifang, director of the Institute of High Energy Physics at the China Academy of Sciences, told the China Daily. The facility is expected to generate millions of Higgs boson particles, far more than the capacity of Europe`s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), helping scientists to answer some fundamental questions about how the universe works. As planned, the Chinese project will generate seven times the energy of the LHC, colliding electrons and protons at super high speeds to generate the elusive particles on an unprecedented scale. "LHC is hitting its limits of energy level," Wang told the China Daily, which is published by the government. "It seems not possible to escalate the energy dramatically at the existing facility." At a time when austerity measures have led many developed nations to reduce research funding for projects without clear applications, China is pouring huge sums money into theoretical as well as practical science, hoping to become a world leader in fields from biology to cosmology. Planning for the project began in 2013, shortly after the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, according to slides from a presentation by Wang in Geneva that appeared on his institute`s website. He suggested Qinhuangdao, a northern port city that is the starting point of the Great Wall, as an ideal location for the underground facility, noting its favourable geological conditions and local wineries as important selling points. China`s rapid economic growth and large population put it in a unique position to invest in basic scientific research, he wrote. "This is a machine for the world and by the world: not a Chinese one," he added, noting that physicists from around the globe had travelled to China to help with the project.
Category: Technology
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