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The Tiny Creek That Connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans April 22, 2014

Filed under: Green Living,Nature — bferrari @ 9:18 am
There's a natural spring in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming that flows in 2 directions. One ultimately connects to the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The other connects to the Columbia River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean. It's a natural wonder called the Parting of the Waters.

There’s a natural spring in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming that flows in 2 directions. One ultimately connects to the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The other connects to the Columbia River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a natural wonder called the Parting of the Waters.

There’s a natural spring in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming that flows in 2 directions. One ultimately connects to the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The other connects to the Columbia River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a natural wonder called the Parting of the Waters.




You can reach the spot after a 15-mile hike from a trailhead in the park. A sign points to the flow of both oceans.

(Photo: Actroterion)

(Photo: Actroterion)

But there’s more! The Parting of the Waters isn’t the only water connection in the United States between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Just a few miles away is Isa Lake, which also divides its two outlets between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. But Isa Lake does it backwards. The western outlet loops around and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The eastern outlet also loops around and heads toward the Pacific.



What Do You Do With Material That is Barely Recyclable? Repurpose It. April 9, 2014

Filed under: Green Computing,Green Living,Recycling — bferrari @ 11:45 am
Repurposing glass from cathode ray tubes from old televisions.

Repurposing glass from cathode ray tubes from old televisions.

Once a critical part of every home and office’s technology, cathode ray tubes (CRT) were located inside televisions and computer monitors around the globe. As these devices have since become outdated in favor of flater and clearer LCD and plasma screens, we’re left with over 860 pounds of waste from the CRT alone.

Unfortunately, these tubes are one of the hardest forms of electronic waste to recycle, which means we are stuck with a whole lot of very unusable (and potentially dangerous) tubes. ButFireclay Tile has a clever solution to breathe new life into CRT by melting them down into glass tiles.

The company is now selling the tiles to the public for residential purposes and they are working on a version that can stand up to the challenges of a commercial site. They are available in 2×8, 2×4 and penny-size, sold in matte and gloss, and can be used for indoor or outdoor purposes.

The cathode ray tubes were required to be very thick and highly shatter resistant for their original intended purposes, which makes them perfect to be reused as tiles. After melting the tubes down at tempertures over 1,700 degrees fahrenheit, Fireclay adds a touch of white color pigment before pouring the glass into the molds to create a more design friendly hue.



London’s new solar bridge is the largest in the world January 29, 2014

Filed under: Energy Generators,Government Policies,Green Living,Solar — bferrari @ 1:46 pm

London's largest solar bridge, in the world.

London’s largest solar bridge, in the world.

Network Rail, which is responsible for Britain’s rail infrastructure, just opened the “world’s largest solar-powered bridge” — which stretches across the Thames, has 4,400 solar panels on it, and will provide half the energy to central London’s Blackfriars train station.

BusinessGreen reports:

The project was one of the most complex to date for Solarcentury, which installed the panels in a series of phases over the past two years, pausing to minimise the impact on the station during the 2012 Olympic Games.

“We had different sections of roof available at different times to fit in with this complicated jigsaw of getting everything up and going,” explained Gavin Roberts, Solarcentury’s senior project manager, adding that the company had even considered shipping some of the components in via the Thames.

This is exactly the sort of project, though, that gets easier the more times a company’s done similar work — the more big, urban solar projects go up, the faster and cheaper the next one will be. Looking forward to an all-solar London Bridge!


Protean Electric in-wheel motors rolling toward production December 26, 2013

Filed under: Electric,Green Living,Vehicles — bferrari @ 3:25 pm

A new set of wheels is on the way.

Protean Electric has teamed up with a major automobile manufacturer to develop its novel in-wheel electric motor technology, with the intent of using it in a production car.

The Michigan-based company is working with FAW-Volkswagen, a Chinese automaker part-owned by VW Group, to integrate the system into a battery-powered Bora sedan demonstration vehicle.

Based on the last-generation VW Jetta, FAW-VW has been working for a couple of years on an all-electric version of the car using more conventional electric-drive technology. But now it is re-engineering it with Protean to incorporate its in-wheel motors.

Protean says that installing its motors directly at the wheel eliminates the need for driveshafts and  other components, while offering better control of the power delivery to each wheel.  The design also incorporates all of the electronics required to operate them, so they don’t require a separate unit located somewhere else in the vehicle, as all electric cars currently use.

The Bora is being developed as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with one motor at each wheel. The Protean motors feature an inside-out design, with the stator on the inside and rotor on the outside, and are bolted directly to the wheels, where they deliver 100 hp and 739 lb-ft of torque each, the latter as much as the twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 in a Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG. Each motor should cost about $1,500 when series production begins.

However, Protean Vice President of Business Development Ken Stewart notes that while they plan to have a working prototype on the road in 2014, a production vehicle for FAW-VW is likely still several years down the road.

The company is also in talks with several other automakers through its offices in the U.S., China and the U.K.



Back to Land Lines? Cell Phones May Be Dead by 2015 December 5, 2013

Filed under: Energy Exploration,Green Computing,Green Living,Hybrids — bferrari @ 11:06 am


What do a cell phone, a laptop and an electric car have in common?

All three use batteries made with lithium — the lightest metal in nature. About five grams is in an average laptop, about half a gram in a cell phone. Surprisingly, what keeps your devices charged and wireless can also affect your brain: It’s an active ingredient in drugs used to treat manic depression. Batteries using lithium have twice the capacity of traditional nickel cadmium batteries, creating a “lithium boom” in several places around the world as these technologies become more ubiquitous. In China, cell phone sales were up 57 percent last year; in India, cell phone use is expected to double by 2014.

The More We Use It the More We Lose It
Lithium is difficult to find and excavate. Tiny amounts are found in compounds everywhere, including in the bodies of mammals, but in extremely small quantities. The best way to mine it is to dig under the beds of dried lakes with high saline contents, where volcanoes in wet climates leached groundwater into a landlocked basin tens of thousands of years ago — not exactly in your backyard. Very few places on the globe match these exacting conditions, and some of them are politically problematic.

The Afghan Connection
The world’s best reserves are in the Bolivian Andes, with smaller quantities in Chile, China and the U.S. The Pentagon created a stir last year when a leaked memo called Afghanistan a potential “Saudi Arabia of lithium” because of deposits located in dried salt beds in the west — though much of it remains unexploited because of the war. Bolivian President Evo Morales has said he wants the nation to mine its own lithium and he has discouraged foreign investors; but it’s uncertain if Bolivia can build the necessary extraction plants to handle the expected high demand. The Western Lithium USA Corp. announced plans last year to develop a deposit in the Kings Valley region of Nevada, which could yield up to 11 million tons.

Crisis by 2015?
A shortage could affect the price of laptop computers, as well as cause a slowdown in the production of hybrid electric cars that could cripple new initiatives in Detroit, and undermine President Obama’s plans to reduce our dependence on oil. The car manufacturer Mitsubishi has predicted a worldwide supply crisis by 2015 if new reserves are not discovered. Obama has called for at least 1 million of these plug-in vehicles on the roads by then. Conventional nickel-cadmium batteries do not allow them to store as much energy or drive as far as lithium, which has been a major impediment to the future success of electric cars. New advances in nanotechnology may allow more lithium than ever before to be stored inside hybrid car batteries, as much as 10 times the previous levels, putting even more pressure on global supplies.



Honda’s next hydrogen car coming in 2015 November 21, 2013

Filed under: Energy Exploration,Green Living,Vehicles — bferrari @ 11:49 am

LOS ANGELES –  Honda has been in the hydrogen car game for over a decade, and while its latest effort looks like it comes from the far future, its right around the block.

The FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) Concept on display at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show is a preview of the company’s next generation hydrogen-powered vehicle, which is set to go on sale in 2015.

The sleek five-passenger four-door has all of the trappings of an ultra-efficient car, including skirts over the rear wheels like Honda’s first hybrid car, the 1999 Insight, which still holds the record for highest fuel economy among vehicles without a plug-in battery.

Key to the FECV’s design is a new fuel-cell powertrain that Honda says fits entirely in the “engine” room of the vehicle, rather than spreading its components throughout the car as many hybrids and electric vehicles do. Instead of burning the gas, a fuel cell combines it with oxygen in the air to generate electricity which drives an electric motor. It effectively takes the place of battery in an electric car, and its only emission is water vapor.

Details on power and performance have not been revealed, but Honda says the FCEV will have a range of over 300 miles per fill up, which takes less than three minutes at a hydrogen fueling station.

No word yet on pricing, but Honda currently leases its Clarity fuel cell vehicle for $600 per month with fuel and collision insurance included, so the new car should at least be competitive with that, if not less expensive.

It’s not likely to be widely available at first, however, as the hydrogen distribution infrastructure is still in its nascent stage, with just a handful of public stations currently in operation, mostly in Southern California. But with several automakers, including Hyundai and Toyota also rolling out fuel cell-powered cars over the next couple of years, the industry is expected to start expanding along with the availability of vehicles.



Toyota Brings Hydrogen Cars to Production November 15, 2013

Filed under: Energy Generators,Green Living,Hydro,Vehicles — bferrari @ 4:30 pm

The automaker’s new hydrogen fuel-cell car can go 400 miles on a fill-up.

Twelve years ago, Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) began testing a unique — and outlandishly expensive — automobile in California: a car powered by hydrogen fuel cells. This so-called FCHV (fuel cell hybrid vehicle) was an electric car that didn’t need to be plugged in. Its electricity was generated by a stack of fuel cells that ran on compressed gaseous hydrogen, a relatively cheap fuel that gives off no harmful emissions; its only byproduct was water vapor. The FCHV never made it to dealer lots, however. Production of plug-in electric cars proved more viable, partially because the FCHV technology was prohibitively expensive.

Fast-forward a decade, and things have changed. In 2015 Toyota will begin selling a production version of its hydrogen fuel-cell (HFC) car that can refuel in three minutes with enough hydrogen to drive more than 300 miles, the company says. Toyota won’t be alone. Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Nissan, Honda Motor Co. (NYSE: HMC), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) (in partnership with Renault), and Chevrolet at General Motors (NYSE: GM) are also all expected to begin producing HFC cars, beginning a new revolution in automobiles that, Toyota estimates, should result in “tens of thousands” of HFC cars on American roads by 2020.

“We think this is the only alternative-fuel technology right now that comes close to gasoline,” says Craig Scott, advanced technology manager for Toyota — and someone who’s been working on fuel-cell cars for the company since the program’s onset. “There are no compromises, unlike with other alternatives.” Scott also works on plug-in electric cars, and loves them, but notes that they are limited by current battery technology; batteries are heavy and expensive, and you just can’t drive very far using them as a power source. An HFC car, however, “looks and drives like a gasoline-powered car” with no range limitations. That is critical, Scott notes. Consumers want to be good environmental stewards — if they can do it without being inconvenienced. “You have to be able to let people drive it like a normal car,” Scott says.

Scott says that politics helped push EVs to the forefront, while relegating HFCs to the back burner, but he also admits that the cars weren’t ready, technologically, for the mass market. “We hadn’t solved durability, or cold weather. These were major engineering hurdles that we spent the past eight years cracking.”

Once Toyota cleared those hurdles, the next challenge arose: making the HFC car affordable for mass production. The original prototypes were valued at $1 million or more per car. “For the last four years or so we’ve been steadily working on how to get the cost out,” Scott says. “That’s what Toyota does best.”

Toyota welcomes competition, Scott says, because HFCs can only be viable if there’s an infrastructure to support them. And convincing the business world to invest in hydrogen filling stations will require volume — enough cars to make those stations profitable.

He understands that consumers are naturally hesitant to take a risk on anything new, but he’s confident that they’ll come around. After all, when Toyota introduced the Prius, now America’s best-selling hybrid, sales were sluggish. “Fuel-cell cars will probably be polarizing at first,” he says. But over time, people will see that a HFC car has the range and convenience of a gasoline-powered car, with absolutely no emissions. “Then they’ll realize, ‘Why wouldn’t I buy this?’”




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