This month we are issuing our Call for Abstracts (250-word) for our next COFE9 to be held July 28-29, 2017 at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque NM in conjunction with the ExtraOrdinary Technology Conference, giving you access to two (2) simultaneous conferences for the same price. We invite presentations on energy, propulsion, or bioenergetics research at
FUTURE ENERGY.org Send in your proposed talk to
IRI@starpower.net . It is worth mentioning the OnDemand video service now emerging with Vimeo starting with the 2015 ExtraOrdinary Tech Conference which includes Valone's presentation on research with the carbon-free "
V-Track Spiral Magnetic Motor" Spiral Magnetic Motor which you can rent for only $1.99. Lastly, in our Story #5, if anyone wants one or more DVDs from this year's future energy conference, COFE8
On October 19, 2016, environmentalist Dr. Jim Hansen sent a public letter to Norway's Prime Minister Solberg of Norway asking him to withdraw his latest (24th) licensing round to drill in the Arctic since the resulting carbon upsurge violates the country's signing of the Paris Agreement. In an extraordinary move, Dr. Hansen has collaborated on a lawsuit in that country against the government based on Norway's liberal constitution which guarantees in Article 112: "Every person has a right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources should be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations whereby this right will be safeguarded for future generations as well." IRI believes that such rights to a temperate environment that is not overheated may become the basis for more lawsuits in other countries as well. All the more reason to support our efforts to explore new forms of future energy and propulsion that are carbon-free.
In the same vein, on behalf of Rocky Mountain Institute and the Carbon War Room, everyone is invited to join another famous environmentalist, Amory Lovins for a special discussion hosted by Brookings Institution. Commemorating the 40th anniversary of his landmark article "Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken" the event will be on Wednesday, November 2, 9-10:30am, in the Falk Room, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC. The discussion will feature Amory and other energy experts discussing advancements in renewables and energy efficiency over the past four decades-and their expectations for the next 40 years. RSVP. Space is limited.
Please enjoy the original 1976 article, "Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken" and Amory's 2016 article reflecting on the last 40 years, "Soft Energy Paths: Lessons of the First 40 Years." Please contact Meg Cayler at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or RSVP for this upcoming event or RMI-CWR.
This month, our First Story #1 is a double header celebrating the "Rise of the Electric Cars" for those who are interested in continuing their support for freeing our country from fossil fuel usage in the next election. If the next eight years has supporting policies for clean air and reduction of carbon emissions, Tesla, Chevy, and Nissan plan to start selling long-range electric cars in the $30,000 range and by 2022 (just six years from now), "electric cars will cost the same as their internal-combustion counterparts" (old fashioned gas-chugging, black smoke belching vehicles) and thus displacing about 2 million barrels per day of oil demand by 2023. This article also projects battery performance, demand, and cost reduction per year. In the Related Article, the new 2017 Chevy BOLT (with a "B") has an amazing and realistic reviewer's confirmation of a 238 mile range, which is more than most people drive in a day!
Our Story #2 is a real breakthrough for combining SOLAR desalination of seawater with waste coconut husks to grow hydroponic tomatoes with NO pesticides or soil! Check out the short video explaining this trend for the future of farming, when drought from climate change starts encroaching on every country's fertile farmland, such as in California.
Story #3 gives us an update on the evolution of wind farms, which some groups successfully opposed for various reasons. Now the latest trend is a FLOATING platform with anchors that can survive a hurricane and have less environmental impact. The other advantage is locating them ten miles offshore, as the first installations off the coast of Scotland and Maine have been. The next upscale will be about 100 turbines more than 30 miles off the California coast by Trident Winds .
Story #4 is a great review of the slow progress of cold fusion, the most controversial energy technology known, with the US Secretary of Defense now providing a briefing on it to the House of Representatives because Russian, China, Israel, Japan, and India all have cold fusion programs in place. Furthermore, the University of Missouri has a $5 million lab as well. The article also contributions from our former COFE presenters, Dr. David Nagel from GWU and Dr. George Miley from the U of Illinois and LENR great, Dr. Peter Hagelstein from MIT. With anomalous heat being the main common phenomenon, it is interesting how theories still widely vary. Perhaps we will hopefully see a commercial form of any type of fusion in our lifetime.
A shift is under way that will lead to widespread adoption of EVs in the next decade. By 2040, long-range electric cars will cost less than $22,000 (in today's dollars), according to the projections. Thirty-five percent of new cars worldwide will have a plug.
This isn't something oil markets are planning for, and it's easy to see why. Plug-in cars make up just one-tenth of 1 percent of the global car market today. They're a rarity on the streets of most countries and still cost significantly more than similar gasoline burners. OPEC maintains that electric vehicles (EVs) will make up just 1 percent of cars in 2040. Last year ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance told me EVs won't have a material impact for another 50 years-probably not in his lifetime.
But here's what we know: In the next few years, Tesla, Chevy, and Nissan plan to start selling long-range electric cars in the $30,000 range. Other carmakers and tech companies are investing billions on dozens of new models. By 2020, some of these will cost less and perform better than their gasoline counterparts. The aim would be to match the success of Tesla's Model S, which now outsells its competitors in the large luxury class in the U.S. The question then is how much oil demand will these cars displace? And when will the reduced demand be enough to tip the scales and cause the next oil crisis?
First we need an estimate for how quickly sales will grow.
ast year EV sales grew by about 60 percent worldwide. That's an interesting number, because it's also roughly the annual growth rate that Tesla forecasts for sales through 2020, and it's the same growth rate that helped the Ford Model T cruise past the horse and buggy in the 1910s. For comparison, solar panels are following a similar curve at around 50 percent growth each year, while LED light-bulb sales are soaring by about 140 percent each year.
Yesterday, on the first episode of Bloomberg's new animated series
Sooner Than You Think, we calculated the effect of continued 60 percent growth. We found that electric vehicles could displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023. That would create a glut of oil equivalent to what triggered the 2014 oil crisis.
Compound annual growth rates as high as 60 percent can't hold up for long, so it's a very aggressive forecast. BNEF takes a more methodical approach in its analysis today, breaking down electric vehicles to their component costs to forecast when prices will drop enough to lure the average car buyer. Using BNEF's model, we'll cross the oil-crash benchmark of 2 million barrels a few years later-in 2028.
BNEF's analysis focuses on the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles, including things like maintenance, gasoline costs, and-most important-the cost of batteries.
Batteries account for a third of the cost of building an electric car. For EVs to achieve widespread adoption, one of four things must happen:
1. Governments must offer incentives to lower the costs.
2. Manufacturers must accept extremely low profit margins.
3. Customers must be willing to pay more to drive electric.
4. The cost of batteries must come down.
The first three things are happening now in the early-adopter days of electric vehicles, but they can't be sustained. Fortunately, the cost of batteries is headed in the right direction.
There's another side to this EV equation: Where will all this electricity come from? By 2040, electric cars will draw 1,900 terawatt-hours of electricity, according to BNEF. That's equivalent to 10 percent of humanity's electricity produced last year.
The good news is electricity is getting cleaner. Since 2013, the world has been adding more electricity-generating capacity from wind and solar than from coal, natural gas, and oil combined. Electric cars will reduce the cost of battery storage and help store intermittent sun and wind power. In the move toward a cleaner grid, electric vehicles and renewable power create a mutually beneficial circle of demand.
And what about all the lithium and other finite materials used in the batteries? BNEF analyzed those markets as well, and found they're just not an issue. Through 2030, battery packs will require less than 1 percent of the known reserves of lithium, nickel, manganese, and copper. They'll require 4 percent of the world's cobalt. After 2030, new battery chemistries will probably shift to other source materials, making packs lighter, smaller, and cheaper.
Despite all this, there's still reason for oil markets to be skeptical. Manufacturers need to actually follow through on bringing down the price of electric cars, and there aren't yet enough fast-charging stations for convenient long-distance travel. Many new drivers in China and India will continue to choose gasoline and diesel. Rising oil demand from developing countries could outweigh the impact of electric cars, especially if crude prices fall to $20 a barrel and stay there.
The other unknown that BNEF considers is the rise of autonomous cars and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, which would all put more cars on the road that drive more than 20,000 miles a year. The more miles a car drives, the more economical battery packs become. If these new services are successful, they could boost electric-vehicle market share to 50 percent of new cars by 2040, according to BNEF.
One thing is certain: Whenever the oil crash comes, it will be only the beginning. Every year that follows will bring more electric cars to the road, and less demand for oil. Someone will be left holding the barrel.
A New farm will produce 17,000 tonnes of tomatoes every year, in the Australian desert, using only water from the ocean and sunlight.
Sundrop - The Produce
If you want to build a farm, you first need two things: good soil and good water. The Australian desert has neither - but it does have a lot of sun and it's close to the ocean. An international team of scientists wanted to take advantage of this scenario and spent the last six years designing a system which would thrive under these conditions.
It all started with a small greenhouse in 2010. Then in 2014, they started building the full-scale farm and now the whole thing's up and running. They pipe draws seawater from two kilometers away without using any fossil fuels, to a 20-hectare site in the arid Port Augusta region. There, a solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough freshwater to irrigate the 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse. The farm already has contracts with supermarkets in Australia to sell tomatoes.
As if not having water and soil wasn't enough, the climate is also unfavorable for tomatoes. The summer is too hot and the winter is too cold for the plants to thrive. Yet with technology and careful planning, this can also be overcome. During the summer, seawater-soaked cardboard keeps the greenhouse cool and during the winter, solar energy heats it up. There is also no need for any pesticides or soil, as the plants grow in coconut husks instead of soil. Seawater cleans the air and kills off unwanted germs and pests.
All of this is powered by 23,000 mirrors reflecting sunlight to a 115-metre high receiver tower. The system produces 39 megawatts of energy on a good day, more than enough for the farm.
"These closed production systems are very clever," says Robert Park at the University of Sydney, Australia. "I believe that systems using renewable energy sources will become better and better and increase in the future, contributing even more of some of our foods."
Without a doubt, this is an innovative system, but is it truly needed? Paul Kristiansen at the University of New England, Australia, questions this need.
"It's a bit like crushing a garlic clove with a sledgehammer," he says. "We don't have problems growing tomatoes in Australia."
But he does add that in the future, under the huge stress created by climate change, farms like this might become extremely useful in some parts of the world. "Then it will be good to have back-up plans," he concludes.
ORONO, Me. - The sun was beating down on the leafy campus of the University of Maine one afternoon last month. But inside a hangarlike laboratory, a miniature hurricane was raging.
Storm-force gales swept over a deep pool of water, churning waves that, at full scale on the ocean, would have been twice the size of those recorded during Hurricane Sandy
Happily for the researchers, the equipment they were testing, a novel type of floating platform meant to support a wind turbine in open water, remained upright through the maelstrom.
True, it was only one fifty-second of the real-world scale. But it was a success as one of many experiments and projects underway worldwide in a similar quest. As clean-energy engineers seek to make offshore wind farmsmore financially, aesthetically and environmentally viable, they are turning to floating supports to enable wind turbines to move into deeper waters farther from the coast.
Right now, almost all offshore wind turbines require fixed platforms built into the seafloor. Floating turbines, with anchors, would mean new flexibility in where wind farms could be placed, with potentially less impact on marine life - and less opposition from the human neighbors on shore.
Look," exclaimed Habib Joseph Dagher, executive director of the university's Advanced Structures and Composites Center here, pointing to a minuscule figure perched on the bobbing deck. "The water is just reaching his feet." The Lilliputian plastic platform worker had weathered the storm.
The University of Maine testing is part of an elaborate physics experiment meant to simulate conditions that full-scale floating wind turbines could face at an installation being planned about 10 miles off the Maine coast in up to 360 feet of water near tiny Monhegan Island.
For nearly 18 months in 2013 and 2014, an operating version of the apparatus - one-eighth of scale - sat in the waters off Castine, Me., sending electricity to the grid. That proved the technology fundamentally worked and guided refinements to the design. Now, Dr. Dagher's team is using the data collected at the lab to confirm the final form, a crucial next step in bringing the technology to market.
The claim to have tamed the sun in the lab was debunked 25 years ago. So why are governments and investors now pouring money into it again?
SCIENCE has had its share of embarrassing moments. Take Piltdown man, the missing link in human evolution exposed as a fraud after 40 years. Or the Allan Hills meteorite, hailed by US president Bill Clinton in a televised announcement in 1996 because it seemed to contain evidence of life on Mars - only it probably doesn't.
But few scientific embarrassments raised temperatures quite as much as cold fusion. In 1989, University of Utah chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced that they had, at room temperature in the lab, tamed the process that powers the sun: nuclear fusion. This would have been an almost unimaginable technological leap. But no one could reproduce the result, at least not provably, reliably, or to general satisfaction. With no convincing theory to back up the observations either, Pons and Fleischmann were ostracised. Cold fusion - and anyone still willing to work on it - was frozen out.
Fast forward 25 years, and thaw is in the air. You won't hear the words "cold fusion", but substantial sums of money are quietly pouring into a field now known as low-energy nuclear reactions, or LENRs. Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services declared it was "aware of recent positive developments" in developing LENRs and noted their potential to "produce ultra-clean, low-cost renewable energy" and their "strong national security implications". Highlighting too the interest of Russia, China, Israel and India, it suggested the US could not afford to be left behind, and requested that the Secretary of Defense provide a briefing on the
science by 22 September.
Cold fusion seems to be coming in from the cold - but why?
Mainstream physics has long had a simple answer for cold fusion believers: no-can-do. Nuclear fusion means overcoming the hugely powerful electrostatic repulsion between atomic nuclei and forcing them to merge into heavier nuclei. That needs humongous temperatures and pressures. The dream of hot fusion is being pursued with vigour by the scientific establishment: at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in the south of France, for example, and in a host of smaller projects.
But a small band of believers has never lost faith in cold fusion. Researchers at the US Naval Research Lab (NRL) in Washington DC, have long put small budgets and spare time into seeing whether nuclear reactions really can happen at room temperature. Graham Hublerstarted there, and is now director of the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance at the University of Missouri in Columbia, a cold-fusion lab established in 2012 with $5.5 million of philanthropic funding. "We're convinced there's some sort of energy source here," he says. "I wouldn't have taken this job if I didn't feel that way."
"In Japan, they want to develop the technique to clean up nuclear waste"
That energy source lies in deuterium, a form of heavy hydrogen found naturally in seawater, with nuclei composed of a proton and a neutron. Most incarnations of cold fusion are some variant on Pons and Fleischmann's original: you take a rod of palladium metal, dunk it into a beaker of water enriched in deuterium, and pass a low current through a platinum wire coil also held in the beaker. The idea is that somehow this current loads deuterium on to the lattice of palladium atoms so forcefully that the deuterium nuclei begin to fuse together, releasing energy. Do this right, and a cubic metre of seawater would release the energy of 10 barrels of crude oil.
Ask David Nagel, another former NRL scientist, whether the sort of room-temperature "heat anomalies" that Pons, Fleishmann and others claim to have seen in experiments are real, and he doesn't mince his words. "Yes - as in hell, yes," he says. Nagel now works at George Washington University in Washington DC, and recently set up a non-profit LENR lobbying association, called LENRIA. "I wouldn't have done that if I didn't think this was both real and important," he says. "The results are out there, and people are ignoring them."
Credibility and acrimony
A cynic might say they are all too easy to ignore. "At NRL we did 120 experiments in the first two years and got absolutely nothing," says Hubler. In the past year, however, the NRL team has made some experimental changes and produced six anomalous heat events. The overall success rate of just 5 per cent might be seen as a "black eye", Hubler admits, but he insists he knows researchers with much better reproducibility rates.
That is not without consequence, and if acrimony is a measure of research credibility, there is something in cold fusion's new wave. Take Italian LENR researcher Andrea Rossi and his Leonardo corporation. For some years, Rossi has been testing a device he calls the Energy Catalyzer or "E-Cat", latterly with heavyweight financial backing. Tom Darden, CEO of the $2.2 billion private equity fund Cherokee Investment Partners, put more than $10 million into Leonardo through a subsidiary, Industrial Heat, that has interests in a suite of LENR technologies.
In April this year, things turned sour. Rossi filed a lawsuit in a Florida court against Industrial Heat, complaining that Darden and various other business associates had "meticulously and systematically defrauded" him and his company in an effort to "misappropriate" his intellectual property rights. Industrial Heat has since brought a counterclaim, alleging that one of Rossi's E-cat tests had been a "carefully scripted effort to deceive". Both sides deny any wrongdoing.
The saga has given renewed ammunition to cold fusion's critics in the US and Europe. In Japan, however, things have been proceeding more quietly - initially with a rather different end in mind than generating energy. In 2002, researchers from Japan's multinational Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) claimed to have used LENR techniques to "transmute" toxic, radioactive elements, such as those produced in conventional nuclear fission reactors, into other, less dangerous elements. That work is still going on. "MHI wants to develop the technique to clean up nuclear waste," says Jirohta Kasagi of Tohoku University's Clean Energy Research Lab.
In 2013, researchers from Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories reported successfully replicating the original experiment. In a technical review published in December last year, Mitsubishi claims that "transmutation from cesium (Cs) to praseodymium (Pr), from barium (Ba) to samarium (Sm), from strontium (Sr) to molybdenum (Mo), etc., has been observed". The processes have, of course, been patented. The Japanese government, keen to decontaminate the site of the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown, is now providing some funding for academic LENR research.
A decade ago, researchers at the NRL tried to reproduce the Mitsubishi results, and sent a team to Japan to learn how to transmute elements first hand. NRL's David Kidwell, who carried out tests on the Mitsubishi lab equipment, was not given permission to talk to New Scientist directly, but NRL documents authorised for public release suggest another explanation for the results: contamination. They declare that "environmental surveys at MHI by NRL and MHI found praseodymium in key areas of laboratory" and the "presence of praseodymium may have other explanations than transmutation of Cs". Yasuhiro Iwamura, who led the Mitsubishi team, rebuts the NRL explanation and sticks by his claims for the experiments.
Post-Fukushima, Japan has also seen a wave of interest in LENR for energy generation, with Mitsubishi, Toyota and Nissan all investing money. Last year, the Japanese government's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization announced a programme called "Energy and the Environment New Leading Technology" that called, among other things, for research into technologies that induce heat reactions between metals and hydrogen. Hideki Yoshino, a language schools magnate, has set up a company called Clean Planet to research "cleaner, safer, and more abundant resources such as solar, geothermal, LENR (also known as cold fusion), and wind to supply our energy needs".
Clean Planet is the driving force behind the Tohuku Clean Energy Research Lab, where Kasagi works. Kasagi's aim is to bring a device producing anomalous heat to market by the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. "Expected heat output might be up to several tens of watts or more," he says. As yet, he doesn't know how reliably this heat will be produced, but he is working on theories that might help improve reproducibility. "My deep interest is to clarify how the nuclear reaction can occur," he says.
That remains perhaps the biggest stumbling block: explaining how LENR is supposed to work when physics says it can't. "I dismiss most of the theories out of hand," Hubler says. Nagel feels similarly. "When it comes to the crunch, there's no theory that overlaps sufficiently with experimental data," he says.
Instead, the anomalous heat generation comes about because, when infused with deuterium and possibly other contaminants, a palladium surface generates a varying electromagnetic field that shifts electrons about, in turn releasing neutrons. These are absorbed by other nearby atoms, transmuting them and causing them to release gamma-ray photons that are absorbed by other electrons, which radiate the extra energy as heat.
Joseph Zawodny at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia thinks the theory is a "rich concept" that could prove extremely fruitful. "LENR is only one of its applications," he says. It doesn't rely on new physics, and makes some very specific predictions - not that those predictions have been properly tested yet. Zawodny made his own attempts, but they were "brief and low budget", he admits. The ongoing controversy surrounding Rossi's E-Cat has made getting funding for further experiments difficult, he says.
Besides Zawodny's inconclusive results, Widom and Larsen have graphs that purport to show a match between their theoretical predictions and experimental observations of how quickly various transmutation products are created. But this isn't terribly convincing to critics, because it is "after-the-fact" fitting to data from controversial experiments carried out years ago.
George Miley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did those experiments. Now emeritus, he is still active. He had a patent granted in 2012 for a process called "dislocation site formation", which describes loading and unloading of isotopes of hydrogen into thin films in order to provide, among other things, "nuclear reaction processes". Miley claims to have a working LENR technology that produces hundreds of watts of energy, but doesn't want to say any more than that. "It is premature to discuss this new work in any detail," he says.
No risk, no reward
Such reluctance to share doesn't help to dispel scepticism, Zawodny laments. "The cold fusion stigma still remains, albeit in a weakened form," he says. "We're frustrated," says Hubler. "If we had just one-thousandth of the money going into hot fusion..."
That comparison is somewhat problematic. It's true that hot fusion isn't going anywhere fast either. ITER is beset by delays and cost overruns, and won't be working fully until the 2030s, while other projects are hardly out of the starting blocks. But at least we know why and how hot fusion works - it's what powers the sun, after all. Making it work on Earth is simply a monumental engineering problem.
Hubler's unspoken hope is for a funded fundamental physics programme that would methodically dissect cold fusion experiments to work out what is going on in the interesting 5 per cent. At the moment, he admits, there is too much trial-and-error experimentation coupled with wild speculation by theorists who often tend to ignore the details of experiments carried out so far - and indeed sometimes the known laws of physics.
Zawodny sees three vital tasks ahead. First, independent validation of existing methods for producing anomalous heat. Second, theoretical work to explain as much of the body of observations as is possible with one theory. Third, experimental testing of what a suitable theory predicts. "I think you must have all three," he says. The sticking point, as he sees it, is that most people want hard, reproducible proof that the effect is real before they stump up any cash for research. "There are few rewards without risk," he says.
"One theory makes an interesting statement about cold fusion: it isn't fusion"
Some think it is worth a punt. Despite Cherokee's aborted investment in Rossi's technology, Woodford Investment Management in Oxford, UK, has recently funnelled £35 million into Industrial Heat. The company acknowledges that this is a "high risk area", but says it has done two years of due diligence and wants to build a suite of LENR technologies from what it sees as the most highly regarded people in the field. "We analysed numerous reports from a variety of scientists as well as data on investigations that had been undertaken by several government departments around the world," a spokesman told New Scientist.
Woodford's strategy is to take candidates showing real evidence of success, develop and optimise them, and then gain independent third-party verification of their findings. "It is an area that has been met with much scepticism and we are certainly not blind to this," the spokesman says. "However, the evidence we have seen to date, coupled with the potential market opportunity, suggests to us that it is an area that is worthy of further investigation."
Clearly, the House Committee on Armed Services feels the same way, but the latest signs are that the Secretary of Defense's report is delayed and won't now be presented next week as planned. We must wait a little longer to hear how warm his words will be.
The nuclear family
Nuclear fission involves splitting up heavy atomic nuclei into smaller ones. The energy this releases powers all nuclear power stations in operation today
Nuclear fusion releases energy by joining up light atomic nuclei such as hydrogen and helium, the process that at huge temperatures powers the sun. So far fusion has only been achieved on any scale on Earth in the uncontrolled environment of the hydrogen bomb. Cold fusion is the controversial idea that high temperatures are not required for nuclear fusion: it can be achieved at or close to room temperature
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