February 2009


Imagine that there will be such a thing as a Magnesium Combustion engine. In fact, it’s not imagination. Japan, via the Tokyo Institute of Technology, is developing an efficient solar powered laser. This laser will supposedly aid in the development of a viable magnesium combustion engine.

According to Takashi Yabe, a professor of mechanical engineering and science, their goal is to create a powerful laser that can effectively combust magnesium from sea water. Isn’t it fascinating to know that Magnesium is a great energy source? Did you know that its energy storage density is 10 times more than hydrogen? Moreover, it is also immensely abundant.

Mr. Yabe also claims that magnesium oxide produced from the reaction can again be converted into magnesium. This recycling process does require enormous heat but the conversion process makes the energy source sustainable and reusable. Also, in order to operate a magnesium combustion engine, solar power is required for the lasers. Lasers concentrate sunlight on neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet. I know this sounds like deep science and it’s almost a yawn but if you think about it, you know that solar powered lasers depend on mirrors. Regardless of all these twists and turns, Mr. Yabe, along with his colleagues at the University, have already developed an immensely powerful laser that can fill the bill.

So the magnesium combustion engine is no longer a fantasy. The entire project has been made possible with the addition of chromium. Through the addition of Chromium, “the efficiency from sunlight to laser is greatly enhanced”, according to Mr. Yabe. Instead of large mirrors, they have made use of a small Fresnel lens. Amazingly, in their work, they have “used only 1.3 meter squared and achieved 25 watts,” Yabe explained, adding, “so we are expecting 300 to 400 watts with the four-meter-squared Fresnel lens.”

By experts in the field, this is considered an unusual approach. But according to the same experts, “The key issue is cost and total efficiency.” There are also many other ways of generating hydrogen from solar power. And all of these projects make possible the entire spectrum of renewables to be at our disposal in the future. Our imagination is the only limit in the potential world view.

Solar Laser courtesty of Eco Friend

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Finally, the EPA is making strides toward reigning in air pollution! After eight years of Bush, who did not believe in air pollution, we are starting to see some work being done in the name of the people. I don’t care if you believe in global warming or not but there is no denying COPD and Black Lung. Not everybody who dies of lung cancer was a smoker. Think about that.

So now the EPA is demanding that cities clean up their air. They have added 15 cities to the sooty air list, mostly in states not usually thought of as polluted, such as Alaska, Utah, Idaho and Wisconsin. This surprise is probably due to the prevalence of wood burning stoves in western and northern regions, a top EPA official said.

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According to Wikipedia, Biochar is “charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass. The resulting charcoal-like material can be used as a soil improver to create terra preta and is a form of carbon capture and storage. Charcoal is a stable solid and rich in carbon content, and thus, can be used to lock carbon in the soil. Biochar is of increasing interest because of concerns about mitigation of global warming being caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

This sounds like another great idea for controlling our carbon emissions problem, along with algae in the ocean which I posted about last month. I don’t believe that any singular solution is going to appear and that our eventual plan will include many different ideas and technologies. I do think that Biochar has a part to play. In particular, it has great possibilities in the area of reducing the global impact of farming and the piling up of agri-waste. Yes, there is a great deal of agricultural waste because any process that turns raw materials into products generates residuals that are discarded. Without a viable use for these residuals, we end up with piles and piles of waste materials… ie, the landfill.

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This is what I have read around the net. That a much respected scientist at NASA has declared that Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. This scientist is Jim Hansen, who is known to be a leading expert in the climate and has been looked to here in Florida many times over during our weather calamities, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Hey, this assessment is pretty bleak and I admit it startled me. This man, Hansen, is not known for being in the pockets of anyone in particular, especially not any biofuel company nor is he known to be friends with Al Gore.. or any Democrat that I know of. So this, I can safely say, is not some crazy conspiracy or business scheme. But I just not kidding when I say that he has warned that only urgent action by the new President could halt the devastating climate change that now threatens Earth. And he puts the window at four lousy years, meaning that action will have to be taken within Obama’s first administration to be effective. No waiting around, pals. No dragging them disbelieving feet.

According to Hansen (and other scientists like him), soaring carbon emissions are already melting the ice caps and threatening to trigger global flooding, widespread species extinctions and major disruptions of weather patterns in the near future. “We cannot afford to put off change any longer,” warns Hansen. “We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.”

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