Archive for category Energy Issues

Good news: Ultracaps are coming right along.

As of today, October 15th, 2015, commercially available ultracaps have obtained an energy density of 10.1 wh/kg. A standard lead-acid battery, such as the one you almost certainly use to start your car, offers an energy density of 40 wh/kg.

This means that within about four times the weight (and probably the volume) of said battery, you could use ultracaps (and the appropriate control electronics), you could completely — and permanently, as the ultracaps have multi-million charge/discharge cycle capability — replace your vehicle’s starter / power battery. This capability is considerably further along the development and commercial availability road for ultracaps; the last time I really paid close attention, ultracap energy density was down in the 2.5 wh/kg range, and so it would have taken sixteen times the weight (and volume!) of them to do the same job. That’s a lot tougher to justify.
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Maxwell’s Daemon rolls over in grave, finds pea

So, perpetual motion… nah. Of course not. And therefore, no device can have an efficiency over 100%. Right? RIGHT? Well, apparently not. Follow that link. Read. Imagine the consternation of the scientist upon determining the first results. I’ve been smiling ever since I thought about it that way.

There, wasn’t that interesting? Physics is COOL. huh. huh.

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Ultracaps — has the “wall” been jumped?

After years of ultracaps lagging battery power density, but tempting us with an almost endless stream of other benefits, UCLA has announced a breakthrough: easily manufactured, physically robust, high energy density ultracaps. After having been burned so badly by EEStor’s complete failure to back up its claims, we’ve every reason to be skeptical, but… this comes from UCLA. Surely they actually know what they’re doing, have actual peer review, and so on?

Well, all I can say is, bring it on, baby. If I never buy another battery, it’ll be too soon.

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AGW skepticism is warrented. Here’s why.

Science – The path from unsubstantiated hypothesis to experimentally-verified theory, more to the point – requires that we come up with models, which then lead to predictions of the result of experiments in the realm of the hypothesis. These predictions, if borne out by experiment (the model is not falsified), validate the hypothesis and then we have a theory with laws (that is, rules for models we can use to predict.) If the predictions are wrong, they falsify the model and we are back to, or still have, an unsubstantiated hypothesis. We get to try once again, if we still think the hypothesis has merit, hopefully with more information at hand the next time around.

Now, the problem with the AGW hypothesis is that the models which are making the predictions are not matching the actual results. These climate models never worked well at both the poles and the mid-latitudes; they failed to predict the current long-lasting stall; the rates of temperature rise predicted don’t match, when rise actually does occur; and so what we have here are hypothesis that are not producing rules that we can use to predict their notional basis. With regard to predictions made of future performance, as that future has not arrived, as the near-term predictions have failed, there is no basis to presume that the models are verified long term.
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Solar storage "breakthrough"?

Solar Cells

Solar Cells

MIT professor Daniel G. Nocera is excited because he’s developed a way to separate hydrogen and oxygen using catalysts and electricity; It’s still no more than a lab experiment (the design requires platinum, which is very expensive, and suffers from the usual electrode erosion and low production issues.) Presuming the separation mechanism can be made other than experimentally possible, he suggests using the hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell centric design to recover the energy later. He’s apparently under the impression that energy storage is the problem.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the entire problem, or even a problem at all at medium to large scales.

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Most Interesting Company: EEstor

[EDIT: EEStor have been unable to produce the hoped-for results as of 2018. This article is still correct, but I wouldn't get your hopes up about EEStor at this point. To be fair, they're still around, and apparently still trying... but after all these years it seems very unlikely they will actually succeed.]

EEstor, of Cedar Park, Texas, is either headed for an ignominious (though well intentioned, I think) fall, or they’re in on the ground floor of the Next Big Thing. You see, EEstor is trying to produce a material that will in turn make relatively high voltage ultracapacitors practical.

That’s a mouthful, but it isn’t really that hard to understand; and when you understand it, the potential for change is mind-blowing.

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Is the senate… stupid?

The U.S. Senate has again failed to pass a bill that would extend solar tax credits to build new power plants. In direct reactions, I’ve seen it asked on the net: “Are they stupid?”

No. They’re not stupid. They’re bribed. 100% in the pocket of the oil companies. And why wouldn’t they be? Junkets to warm, sunny places, nights with escorts, free suites. Guarantees of lucrative speaking engagements after their terms are over, campaign contributions, perks-a-plenty… and all they have to do to get it is act like they usually do.

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