THE GREEN PLANET BLOG - Our World and Environment...

All about conservation, ecology, the environment, climate change, global warming, earth- watch, and new technologies etc.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

RESEARCH WATCH: Scientists hope to collect electricity from the air...

Moody sun burst hovering over a trough at Kram...Image via Wikipedia  RESEARCH WATCH: Scientists hope to collect electricity from the air - green energy... 

'Hygroelectric' collectors could someday harness atmospheric electricity

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Nikola Tesla once dreamed of being able to harness electricity from the air. Now, research being conducted at Brazil’s University of Campinas (UC) is indicating that such a scenario may indeed become a reality. Professor Fernando Galembeck, a UC chemist, is leading the study into the ways in which electricity builds up and spreads in the atmosphere, and how it could be collected. “Our research could pave the way for turning electricity from the atmosphere into an alternative energy source for the future," he stated. "Just as solar energy could free some households from paying electric bills, this promising new energy source could have a similar effect.”

Scientists once believed that water droplets in the atmosphere were electrically neutral, even after having come into contact with charged dust particles. Galembeck and his UC team, however, have shown that this isn’t the case. In a lab experiment, they noted that tiny particles of silica and aluminum phosphate became negatively and positively charged (respectively) when circulated in highly-humid air. “This was clear evidence that water in the atmosphere can accumulate electrical charges and transfer them to other materials it comes into contact with,” Galembeck explained. “We are calling this 'hygroelectricity,' meaning 'humidity electricity'.”

He now pictures collectors, not unlike solar cells, that could someday collect and distribute hygroelectricity from the air. Just as solar cells work best in sunny places, his collectors would do best in humid parts of the world. He even believes it’s possible that by diminishing the electrical charge in the air, his collectors could prevent lightning, especially if mounted on top of tall buildings. His team is currently experimenting with different metals, to find out which would work best for capturing atmospheric electricity and preventing lightning strikes.

"These are fascinating ideas that new studies by ourselves and by other scientific teams suggest are now possible," he said. "We certainly have a long way to go. But the benefits in the long range of harnessing hygroelectricity could be substantial."

A report on Galembeck’s research was presented this week at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blogger Buzz: How Blogger Inspired The Creation Of BlogWorld & New Media Expo

Blogger Buzz: How Blogger Inspired The Creation Of BlogWorld & New Media Expo

Climate change inaction will hurt the economy...

Official photo of Russel Norman, Co-leader of ...Image via WikipediaClimate change inaction will hurt the  economy :

Russel Norman MP, New Zealand.

Subjects: Climate Change, Employment, Sustainable Development


Doing nothing about climate change will lead to more extreme weather events, events like the storm that lashed the country over the weekend, costing millions of dollars and hurting the economy and communities, the Green Party said today.

"This weekend we have seen the devastating impact that extreme and unseasonal storms can have, and our hearts go out to the affected communities like Invercargill," Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.

"Unfortunately, we know that one effect of climate change in New Zealand will be more extreme weather like this.

"There is no way to know whether this particular storm was related to climate change, but there is no doubt of the direction of the trend. As warmer air carries more water, there will be more extreme precipitation in the form of heavier rain, and - yes, weirdly - even more snow.

"Storms like this bring a huge economic and social cost. If we include these costs when we assess the problem of climate change, we can begin to see how wide-ranging its effects will be. Climate change has the potential to hurt not just our environment, but our economy and our communities as well."

Dr Norman said factoring in all the impacts of climate change could shed some light on the UMR poll result which showed climate change ranked below other issues like jobs and the economy as an issue of concern to 500 New Zealanders surveyed.

"Of course, at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, jobs and the economy will be top of people's minds. But doing nothing about climate change will lead to more economic damage.

"This poll was commissioned by the lobby group for big polluters, the Greenhouse Policy Coalition. It is no surprise that they framed the questions to suggest that taking action on climate change will cost jobs and money while inaction will cost nothing.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Doing nothing on climate change is very expensive and will damage our economy, due to these extreme weather events and other effects such as sea level rise."

Dr Norman said there were many ways for New Zealand to respond to the looming threat of climate change.

"We can invest in clean technologies and make the shift to a clean economy with lower emissions. Switching to sustainable technologies was supported by 66 percent of the UMR poll respondents.

"We can get ready for more extreme weather events and make sure that our communities are ready when they strike again. Improving our building codes to ensure our homes, businesses, and infrastructure can withstand more extreme events is one way to do this.

"And we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, something successive Labour and National Governments have consistently failed to do.

"The excuse of doing nothing to protect the economy doesn't wash. The best way to safeguard our economy for the future is to take action on climate change now," Dr Norman said.

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Electron switch could make a thin, light, high-powered organic batteries a reality...

Battle Hall, located at coordinates 30.2854° -...Image via Wikipedia RESEARCH WATCH:  Electron switch could make thin, light, high-powered organic batteries a reality

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Illustration of an assembled set of different molecules that meet, exchange electrons and then disassemble because chloride ions, which are represented as green spheres, are present – if these chloride ions are removed, the entire process can be reversed

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There’s no arguing that batteries are an essential element of today’s electronics landscape. Without them our mobile devices would be a lot less mobile and we might still be crank starting our cars. The explosion in mobile electronic devices enabled by batteries and miniaturization has a major downside in the form of discarded batteries, the majority of which contain toxic heavy metals. Chemists have now discovered a new way to pass electrons back and forth between two molecules that could see the development of organic batteries that are lightweight and work without the need for toxic heavy metals.

Batteries consist of electrochemical cells that store energy in the form of chemical energy, which is converted into electrical energy when connected to an electrical circuit in which an electrical current can flow. When molecules meet, they often form new compounds by exchanging electrons. In some cases, the electron transfer process creates one molecule with a positive charge and one molecule with a negative charge. Molecules with opposite charges are attracted to each other and can combine to form something new.

In their research, University of Texas at Austin chemists Christopher Bielawski and Jonathan Sessler created two molecules that could meet and exchange electrons but not unite to form a new compound.

Pull-push molecules

"These molecules were effectively spring-loaded to push apart after interacting with each other," says Bielawski, professor of chemistry. "After electron transfer occurs, two positively charged molecules are formed which are repelled by each other, much like magnets held in a certain way will repel each other. We also installed a chemical switch that allowed the electron transfer process to proceed in the opposite direction."

Sessler adds, "This is the first time that the forward and backward switching of electron flow has been accomplished via a switching process at the molecular scale." Sessler is the Roland K. Pettit Centennial Chair in Chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin and a visiting professor at Yonsei University.

Bielawski says this system gives important clues for making an efficient organic battery. He says understanding the electron transfer processes in these molecules provides a way to design organic materials for storing electrical energy that could then be retrieved for later use.

Organic batteries

Organic batteries made from organic materials instead of heavy metals could be lightweight, could be molded into any shape, have the potential to store more energy than conventional batteries, be safer and cheaper to produce and more environmentally friendly when being disposed of.

"I would love it if my iPhone was thinner and lighter, and the battery lasted a month or even a week instead of a day," says Bielawski. "With an organic battery, it may be possible. We are now starting to get a handle on the fundamental chemistry needed to make this dream a commercial reality."

Additionally, the molecular switch could also be a step toward developing a technology that mimics plants' ability to harvest light and convert it to energy through photosynthesis. With such a technology, fuel could be produced directly from the sun, rather than through a plant mediator, such as corn.

"I am excited about the prospect of coupling this kind of electron transfer 'molecular switch' with light harvesting to go after what might be an improved artificial photosynthetic device," says Sessler. "Realizing this dream would represent a big step forward for science."

The University of Texas at Austin chemists’ research was published in the journal Science.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The ozone layer is no longer in danger - that has to be a great thing for Mother Earth...

Antarctic ozone layer in September with the ho...Image via Wikipedia
The ozone layer is no longer in danger - that has to be a great thing for Mother Earth...

A new report suggests that international efforts to halt the destruction of the ozone layer have been successful. Launched on the UN International Day for Preservation of the Ozone Layer, the report by 300 scientists also provides new information about the net effects on Earth's climate, and also the effects of climate change on the ozone later moving forward.

The UN International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer on 16th September is to commemorate the signature date in 1987 of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This international treaty aimed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out use of harmful substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) believed to be responsible for ozone depletion and contributing to the greenhouse effect. The report reaffirms that the Montreal Protocol is working; "It has protected the stratospheric ozone layer from much higher levels of depletion by phasing out production and consumption of ozone depleting substances."

Given that many substances that deplete the ozone layer are also potent greenhouse gases the net benefits are two-fold; first the arrest of ozone-layer depletion; secondly, the reduction of greenhouse effect, both of which should impact climate change.

Read more here:

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Let the developed world set an example and lead to the developing world in improving the environment of their waterways...

Let the developed world set an example and lead to the developing world...

 A sunset on the Mekong River.
Image via Wikipedia

In recent times we have read and heard all the rhetoric concerning climate change, global warming, emissions trading schemes carbon footprints ad nauseam.

But what I suggest is that countries throughtout the developed world look at their own backyards first, before preaching to  those in the developing world. We know of the environmental records of China, India and other asian countries in relation to the pollution of their waterways - the Mekong River that flows through a number of southeast asian countries is undoubtably one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

Be that as it may, many western countries have waterways not much better than the Mekong and other asian rivers. Waterways have been treated for a couple of centuries or more as convenient sewers to dispose of industrial waste and other effluent. Even down in New Zealand, with its internationalyl acclaimed 'clean and green' image has its own problems; much of it damaged by polluted dairy farm run-off effluent.

New Zealand has been unfairly criticised by overseas media such as the British Guardian newspaper because of its alleged double standards, but is well aware of its shortcomings and is making  and has made progress in the pollution stakes. Farmers have been criticised by government agencies because of their practices in not preventing polluted run-off into streams and rivers, such as the mighty Waikato River which is also the source of fresh water in the Waikato and Auckland.

I have also read about Maori tribal authorities in the central North Island who have implemented schemes to clean up the algae weed in their lakes. They need to be congratulated for making such  positive progress in this area - the algae is the result of decades of polluted run-off from dairy farms; a common occurence in many areas of New Zealand in both islands.

New Zealand doesn't need the hypocrisy of British media who might be better off identifying pollution in British waterways.  As they say a case of the pot calling the kettle black! Let the developed world set an example and a lead to the developing world who may improve the environmental record and standards in their own areas of the globe.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Something new - the rechargeable LED lightglobe...

R, G, and B LEDs [7].Image via Wikipedia

Have you seen this before? Something new readers -  a rechargeable LED lightglobe...

Now here's something we've never seen before – a rechargeable lightglobe. Chinese company Magic Bulb has patented a new type of device which incorporates a battery and LED lightblobe to produce a lightglobe which uses only 4 watts but produces the equivalent light of a traditional 50W globe. If the power fails, the globe will keep running for around three hours or it can be screwed out of its socket and the handle extended to turn it into a bright torch.

The Magic Bulb was on show in the China section of IFA in Berlin this week and is expected to retail for between US$30 and $40 when it finds distribution in other parts of the world. Does it have a significant and viable point-of-difference to other globes – you betcha!

It's a set and forget solution that will almost certainly come in handy when the electricity goes down next. It has a life of 20,000 hours, saves over 70 percent of the power used by an equivalent brightness 50W filament globe, and meets all the international standards.

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