8 posts categorized "Energy"


Good News #103 - #107 - Materials, Energy, Transportation, Resources

 Hello again,

Ready for some more GOOD NEWS? Below you'll find five GOOD NEWS ideas to inform and inspire you, including...

  • Dandelion rubber?  
  • Nuclear waste storage down deep 
  • Car insurance by the mile 
  • Michelin's Active Wheel 
  • Cleaning water cheaply 

Also two LINKS to share...

Iwant to personally invite you to check out two links below --- the latest edition of our newsletter and our next ONLINE professional development class:

Scroll down to see my good news ideas #103 through #107.

-- Joel

Jab-square-sm Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author


Joel Barker COLLECTION at the Global Dialogue Center

GOOD NEWS IDEAS #103 - #107


Dandelion #103 - Dandelion Rubber?
Most of us think of dandelions as yellow weeds. But it turns out one Russian variety may be able to produce rubber as part of its growth cycle. If this turns out to be successful, it could be planted twice a year in good climates and be more productive than the rubber trees that presently provide natural rubber. Because it is a weed, it is tough and resilient. The trick will be to adjust its DNA to produce significant amounts of the rubber. Research is going on both in Germany and in America. 

The Economist Magazine, January 2, 2010 p. 60 



Crystalline basement rock #104 - Nuclear Waste Storage
Just as interest is heating up again for nuclear fission power reactors, so is the ongoing question of where to store the waste. Sandia National Laboratory has a new answer that is surprisingly simple--drill very deep boreholes and bury the waste two kilometers deep (about 1.2 miles) in hard, crystalline basement rock which is available in most of the United States. This means no long distance transportation and a wide dispersal of the waste materials. Why didn't we do this 25 years ago?  We didn't have the drilling technology to go this deep. If this solution works out, it lowers the cost of storage as it makes it much safer.

New Scientist, April 6, 2010 Magazine Issue 2754, page 9
Drilling Deep Under the US to Dispose of Nuclear Wasteby Phil McKenna


IllustrationbyPeterArkle-FC4-2010 #105 - Car Insurance By the Mile

A Texas company named MileMeter is proposing a new way to purchase your insurance--based on the miles you drive. In a sense, you get what you need and no more. And, also, low mileage drivers aren't underwriting high mileage drivers. This idea is very interesting to me because it is also a potential model for how road taxes might be raised for electric cars, many of which will never need a single gallon of gas. Brookings Institute did research on this kind of insurance and found that it will probably lower driving miles by about 8% if it were adopted.

Illustration by  Peter Arkle

Cliff Kukang, author, Fast Company, April 2010, page 32


MichelinActiveWheelSystem #106 - French Cars
Electric Motors in Each Wheel
Even as the first electric cars are rolling out (think Nissan's Leaf), new design ideas are flourishing. One area of focus is where to put the electric motor or motors. Michelin tire company is the leader in the concept of an "active wheel" in which both the electric motor and the suspension are located inside the wheel. That would mean four wheel drive and no need for a special place to put the motor which means more room for storage space and batteries. It looks like the French have done it again. By the way, be sure to watch the video at the site. It is very impressive!



NewScientist-PhilCondit-II-Stone-Getty #107 - Cleaning Water Cheaply
The present paradigm for cleaning water is to use a lot of complex expensive equipment to do it. But maybe not in the future. Research done on the cactus plant indicates that these plants have a very efficient way of removing both pollutants and bacteria from dirty water. Norma Alcantar at the University of South Florida and her team looked into the way the prickly pear cactus gets its water. They found that its "mucilage", a kind of gum it uses to store water, causes the impurities to clump together and settle out. The researchers will now look at the best way to apply this technology cheaply.  

New Scientist, April 24, 2010, page 20
Cactus gum could make clean water cheap for millions by Helen Knight 


Good News #88 - #96 --- TRENDS, Energy, Infrastructure, Technology, Health Care, Images of the Future, Outer Space

Hello again,

Ready for some more GOOD NEWS? Below you'll find nine GOOD NEWS ideas to inform and inspire you, including...

  • top ten technology trends from the past decade
  • three energy innovations
  • building bridges faster, stronger, safer
  • washing clothes with 90% less water 
  • cellphone turns into medical lab
  • vision of the future in America
  • transporting goods to outer space

Also two LINKS to share...

I want to personally invite you to check out our new newsletter and professional development class at the two links below:

Scroll down to see my good news ideas #88 through #96.

-- Joel

Jab-square-sm Joel Barker

futurist, filmmaker, author


Joel Barker COLLECTION at the Global Dialogue Center

Good News #88 - #96


2-1-2010 7-11-26 PM-Invention&Technology #88 - The Decade's Top 10 Technology Trends for Consumer Electronics
There is a little known magazine, "Invention & Technology," that regularly produces in depth stories on new ideas and the history of old ideas. For their 2010 Winter edition, they created a very interesting list of consumer electronics trends between 2001 and 2010. Here is their top ten. See how it matches with your own:

1. Cellphone cameras
2. Applications for cell phones(primarily the iPhone)
3. Digital music
4. DVD/Blu-ray
5. GPS
6. Social networking
7. Laptops
8. Digital video recording
9. E Books
10 Big flat screen TV's

It is easy to forget all of that happened in only the last 10 years.


_46878754_picture106-Stanford-PaperBattery #89 - Paper Batteries
It is the revolution of battery technologies. I have written about new kinds of batteries several times. Now, up comes the most interesting one--a battery based on paper!

Researchers at Stanford University took regular old copier paper, painted it with a coating that contained carbon nanotubes (nano technology is becoming mainstream!), dipped the combination in lithium solutions and some other chemicals and, eureka! -- a paper battery.

The paper's acts as both as a structural element and a collector of the electrical charge. And making batteries this way could reduce their weight by 20%. These paper batteries also have another very important property: they can release their energy rapidly which is a requirement for electric car batteries.

Clearly, this is the beginning of a new battery paradigm.

URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8401566.stm

Mg20427366_500-1_300-NewScientist-Tech #90 - Lotus Leaves and Solar Cells
In my book, Five Regions of the Future, I write about a technology domain I call Nature Tech. It uses technology that Nature has developed to improve human designed technology. Researchers at Stanford University have copied a texture from lotus leaves (nanoscale domes that look like eggs touching one another) and applied it to solar panels. 

The results are dramatic reductions in solar energy reflected back into the sky by the solar cell (from 35% to only 6%) and, a surface that is self-cleaning. This makes the solar cell more efficient and reduces maintenance at the same time. What a deal!

New Scientist, November 28, 2009, p. 25, including photo

URL: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427366.500-lotus-leaf-solar-cells-soak-up-more-power.html

Visit Five Regions of the Future self-learning exhibit at the KNOWLEDGE GALLERY at the Global Dialogue Center.

2-1-2010 7-00-12 PM-icestorms #91 - Power Lines That Protect Themselves From Ice Storms
Having lived in Minnesota most of my life, I have seen ice storms come through the state and coat power lines with ice that ultimately breaks the line. Power goes out in the middle of winter and that is very dangerous.

Now a professor of engineering at Dartmouth College has developed a de-icing system that could stop the damage. He has figured out a way to get the cables to heat up enough to melt the ice off the power cables before they break. It takes between 30 seconds and 3 minutes for the process to work and uses less than 1 percent of the energy running through the lines to achieve this.

This is a revolutionary way to protect the power grid. It saves both money to repair the lines and all the costs of not having power to keep your house warm or your business running during the storm.  China is looking at the system to protect their new national electric energy grid.

Popular Science, November, 2009

URL: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2009-10/ice-breaker


Inflatable Bridges #92 - Inflatable Bridges
The old paradigm of bridge building required two months to put up a 28-foot bridge strong enough for cars and trucks. The new paradigm makes it happen in 11 days using inflatable forms. The idea is to inflate 32-foot carbon fiber tubes and then bend them using a frame to create an arch. The the tubes are coated with a resin that hardens in four hours, creating a form that is two times stronger than steel.

You take the arches, put them in place arcing over whatever you want to bridge, cut a hole in them and fill them with concrete. Now you have a concrete tube inside a very strong fabric tube. You arrange the arches across the space you want to bridge. You put a small rustproof, salt-proof surface on top of the arches. Add fill to road level and coat it with asphalt or concrete. Eleven days after you started you are done!

These bridges are faster to install, much stronger and safer that the previous bridges, and built to last 100 years, twice as long as the bridges they are replacing. The end result is a better bridge, faster to assemble, and 50% cheaper in the long run.

By the way, 25% of the nation's bridges need to be replaced or repaired.

URL: http://www.compositesworld.com/articles/bridge-cost-cut-with-inflatable-arches.aspx

Popular Science, December 2009, p18


2-1-2010 6-52-54 PM-lesswater #93 - Cleaning Your Jeans
It is easy to get all excited about Gee-Whiz technology like flying cars and solar cells. But technology developments in other areas are also important. For instance a company named Xeros has developed a way to clean clothes with 90% less water. Its secret is plastic beads mixed with a little water and about 1/3 of the usual amount of detergent.

The beads act as scrubbers and collectors of dirt and grime. And instead of using 8 gallons for a 4 1/2 pound load of clothes, you use less than one gallon.

Because water use is becoming a key limiting factor in the growth of cities, this technology could make a big difference.

Popular Science, November 2009, p 30

URL and Photo Credit: http://www.xerosltd.com/ 


2-1-2010 7-17-02 PM-ucla #94 - Medical Lab on a Cell Phone
One of the biggest problems in the developing world is being able to do a quick blood test when you are out in the field. This problem is about to go away because of the ingenuity of scientists who are working with FrontlinesSMS:Medic. This group is bringing cheap, effective medical testing to places that cannot afford standard care.

Using a technology developed at UCLA by Professor Aydogan Ozcan and his team called LUCAS, a picture of a blood sample can be sent via cellphone to a global data base that compares it to other images and offers a diagnosis within minutes.

Ironically, while this technology will appear first in very poor countries, it can also reduce costs of health care in the most developed countries.

Google:  FrontlinesSMS:Medic, LUCAS, Ozcan, Cell phone lab

URL: http://www.intomobile.com/2008/12/28/lucas-imaging-technology-turns-cellphone-into-blood-analysis-tool.html/lucas-ozcan-8


2-1-2010 7-23-38 PM-popsci #95 -  Rebuilding America!
It's no secret that I am a big fan of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics because they are constantly reporting the leading-edge of new technologies and innovations.

The February Popular Science has a wonderful illustrated article on fixing everything that's wrong in the USA. They focus on transportation, water, energy, communications, and sewage. Each topic has several very positive examples of how to make it right.

Lots of good pictures, by the way, so you may want to buy this magazine for your children so they can look at what could be done. I invite the editors to, once a quarter, pick another set of topics and do the same thing. Great work!

URL:  http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-01/heres-what-future-infrastructure-might-look

A great video - High-Speed Trackless Train Technology:


2-1-2010 7-31-05 PM-jhunter-quicklaunch #96 - Big Gun to Shoot Stuff into Space
What would be the cheapest way to get materials into outer space...stuff like food, oxygen, water, parts,etc?  John Hunter, a physicist turned entrepreneur thinks it is with a gun. His company's name is "Quicklaunch."

His gun is enormous -- 3,300 feet long. To make it manageable, he floats it in the ocean using its buoyancy to suspend it in the water at an angle, with the barrel pointed toward space. The 1000 pound "bullet" carries a package of materials to be "shot",  for instance, to a space station. The bullet is expelled from the 3300-foot tube using hydrogen heated to 2600 degrees F. As the expanding hydrogen gas pushes the bullet up to tube, the bullet accelerates to 13,000 mph. A small rocket engine fires to finish the trip to orbit.

This could reduce cost of delivery to orbit from $5000 per pound to $250 per pound, a huge cost savings. One caveat, however: this is not a ride for anything alive since the acceleration generates 5000 G's of force.

Google: "Quicklaunch, John Hunter"

URL: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17931-blasted-into-space-from-a-giant-air-gun.htm


Good News #80 - #86 --- Energy, Nutrition, Recycling, Materials, Green Farming

Hello again,

Ready for some more GOOD NEWS? Below you'll find seven GOOD NEWS ideas to inspire you, including innovations in energy, nutrition, recycling, materials, and green farming.

Scroll down to see my good news ideas #80 through #86...

-- Joel

Jab-square-sm Joel Barker

futurist, filmmaker, author

2010 CLASS Schedule - How to Get Buy-In for NEW IDEAS
...a professional development class that teaches you how to get your ideas accepted.



NaturalGas-Shale-NYTimes-MattNager-xmmX #80 - New Sources of Natural Gas
American ingenuity rears its happy head again. American energy companies have developed a system for tapping natural gas in previously unusable shale geology.

Why is this important?  Because, for one it looks like there is more than double the amount of natural gas in these kinds of geological structures in the United States than has been found so far in standard natural gas reserves. And second, natural gas has half the carbon dioxide molecules per energy unit produced than coal or oil, so it is a transitional fuel for power companies to use instead of coal. It can also be liquefied and used by vehicles, cutting down the total carbon released into the atmosphere. 

Of course, this is only a bridge to truly non-carbon-based energy sources, but it is very important because it changes the economic calculus of energy location, production and costs. And it reduces the leverage the Middle East has on the rest of the world through its near monopoly or large oil resources.


Safereactors-Rensselaer-sm #81 - More on Nuclear Power
There is a great debate going on in the energy arena. Very smart people like Amory Lovins are making a strong case for no need to go nuclear. Yet, there is a concern about putting all of our energy eggs in the wind/solar/hydro basket. A useful article on nuclear power can be found in "Discover" magazine, June 2009. The emphasis is on safe nuclear reactors that cannot overheat and become dangerous. I have described other nuclear efforts in earlier comments, so this will give you an added insight into the debate.

Discover Magazine: June 2009  pages 53-57

Also see, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - Safe Nuclear Reactors
Photo Credit: RPI

CoolerPlanet-xm #82 - A Listing of New Technology for Cooling the Planet

It is no surprise how often I am citing "New Scientist" magazine. In their Oct 30th, 2009 edition, pages 36-39, they have a wonderful list of positive solutions to help cool the Earth.



IStock_000008517804XSmall[1] #83 - Eating Like a Squirrel
Squirrels like nuts. Well, squirrels are on to something that we should copy. USDA researchers have found that your brain benefits significantly from just seven to nine whole nuts a day. Improvement in balance, coordination (think of that squirrel up in the tree jumping from limb to limb), and memory are all positively influenced by eating nuts. It is the micro-ingredients in nuts that help our brains so much.

Prevention Magazine: Oct. 2009, page 45



Sweden-SustainableCity-TIME #84 - Garbage Tubes in Sweden
The Swedes are testing out a new way to handle garbage efficiently. In the "eco-neighborhood" of Hammarby Sjostad in Stockholm, they have installed pneumatic tubes for sucking away the material to be recycled. The tubes are located in various places in the neighborhood. You bring your garbage and recyclables and send them down various tubes depending on what it is. The organic material gets converted into energy. The paper and metals re-used. And because it is sorted before it goes "down the tube", it is much more useful at the other end. The biogas that is created from the garbage is used to fuel buses, taxis and gas stoves.

Time: August 31, 2009, page 49 - Photo: Time

See VIDEO of story:


LongNanoFibers-DiscoverMag#85 - Nanofibers get long!
The problem with carbon nanofibers is they are so short. No longer. A company in New Hampshire, Nanocomp Technologies, has figured out how to make it by the mile. I am exaggerating a little bit, but it looks like they can make it in very long lengths.

This is important because by mass producing the material, its price drops dramatically. Which means it can be used in more ordinary things like cars and planes and buildings and wind generators and ships and bridges and so many things. Nanofibers are made from carbon and are incredibly strong. This is where oil and coal should be used--as a base for carbon fiber materials which can change the world.  Very exciting!


VerticalFarm.com-photo #86 - Farming in a skyscraper
Designers and engineers are getting serious about an idea that Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University, proposed years ago: farming inside high rise buildings. In an excellent article in Scientific American, the professor explains all the advantages both for humans and for the environment. Here are a couple:  no long transportation needed when the food is grown "in town."  You can use human waste to fertilize the system after you sterilize it. You can use recycled water to water the plants instead of irrigating with river water. You can control the weather inside the building and minimize damage to the plants. And it goes on and on.

We humans are taking up more and more of the natural world to grow food. Maybe it's time to change the paradigm.

Scientific American: November 2009, pp 80-87 (great pictures)

URL:  http://www.verticalfarm.com/

Photo: verticalfarm.com  


Good News #16 - #20 - Cancer Detection, Solar Cells, Fabric, Nano Stuff, Science Policy


The good news keeps coming!

Note: In this edition, we have reversed the order of the posts so the newest post will be first. If this is your first time visiting my GOOD NEWS Blog, you may want to read my first two posts, An Epiphany and Joel Barker's New Ideas to Consider. They will introduce you to the good news ideas you'll find here.

Scroll down to see my good news ideas #16 through #20...

Joel Barker-- Joel

Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author



Duarte-Medicine12 #16 - Military Technique adapted for Cancer Detection
The Navy developed a way to spot mines in the ocean based on how different elements in the ocean distorts a sonar signal. Michael Duarte has taken that software and modified it to work with mammogram machines to improve its resolution. The result should be more accurate and earlier identification of cancer tumors. This is an excellent example of innovation at the verge as well.

Google: Michael Duarte, "Advanced Image Enhancement"


13-Energy-Robert DiMatteo,MTPV #17 - Plastic Solar Cells?
Another route to inexpensive solar cells made of plastic has been found by researchers from Switzerland and China. These kinds of cells are flexible, made of inexpensive material and can be PRINTED rapidly. To be useful they must be at least 10% efficient (that is, convert 10% of the solar energy falling on them into electricity)which they do. Now they will be tested for their durability and longevity in harsh conditions.

Technology Review January/February 2009 p 85;
online - http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21981/?a=f 
Photo: Robert DiMatteo, MTPV

Google: Gratzel cells, printed solar cells

URL: www.technologyreview.com


14nevergetwet #18 - Never Get Wet Fabric
It is a simple problem: how to keep dry in a downpour. Stefan Seeger, a Swiss professor has patented a way of using silicon nano-filaments to keep water from soaking in while it lets any fabric breathe normally. It works on nonfabric materials, too. The technology can also be used on solar cells to help keep them clean.

Google: Stefan Seeger, waterproofing

URL: http://www.geek.com/articles/news/swiss-chemists-create-never-get-wet-fabric-20081128/

Nanobot-15 #19 - NANO STUFF
Nano researchers are starting to do amazing things. For instance, a University of Oxford team has built a a two-legged molecular machine tht can walk following a DNA strand. They have also fiured out a way for it to carry a molecular package between its legs. This, of course, is very early research but it begins to demonstrate the range of possibilities in the nano world.

Google: molecular machines, Niles Pierce, DNA feet, nanobot

URL:  www.newscientist.com

OBAMA #20 - Scientists Picked by Obama to Lead Agencies
After eight years of science and technology being put on the back shelf, President Obama has changed direction dramatically. His appointments in all areas of science have been scientists. Since so much of US innovation is a direct result of the scientific research done in our universities and government labs, it only makes good sense to have people in a leadership roles that understand science. It may be the most distinguished set of appointees in the last 50 years.

Google: Obama science appointments, Steven Chu, Jane Lubchenco

URL: www.newscientist.com



Visit the Joel Barker COLLECTION at the Global Dialogue Center

Joel Barker's Good News Blog
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at the Global Dialogue Center


#5 - Algae to Oil--a gusher

J0437683-MSCA-GlobalGreen A Texas company claims it can grow algae at such volumes that they can produce 100,000 gallons of "algae oil" per acre per year. This compares to corn which yields only 200 gallons of ethanol per year.  The secret is a vertical system that allows a 3 dimensional growing space for the algae and a closed-loop system that keeps contanimants out and re-uses water with more than 90% efficiency.  Given the numbers, one-tenth of New Mexico could supply all the land necessary to provide 100% of the United States' transportation fuel needs, assuming all vehicles can burn diesel fuel.
The really impressive thing about this company is that they are not seeking public funding and have many venture capitalists waiting to help.  This is a project that could change the face of the earth because it takes carbon out of the air (via the algae) to create the lipids in the algae that are then converted to bio-diesel. And anywhere there are moderate temperatures and good access to sunlight, you can have a "factory."
Category: ENERGY
Google: Vertigro 
or http://www.globalgreensolutionsinc.com/s/VertigroFAQ.asp
Source: Global Green Solutions;
graphic: Microsoft Office Home

Joel Barker's Good News Blog
at the Global Dialogue Center

#4 - Electricity in the right places improves engine mileage!

4-Electricity Research done at Temple University confirms that an electric field generated near the fuel injectors of a diesel engine can improve mileage by as much as 20%. It looks like it should work for standard gasoline engines as well. That means a 20% decrease in fuel consumption across the boards for all internal combustion engines.  No comment on whether old engines could be retrofited, but, from the research, it sounds possible.
Category: ENERGY
Google:  electric field, gas mileage
or  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080925111836.htm
Source: Science Daily
Joel Barker's Good News Blog
at the Global Dialogue Center

Joel Barker's New Ideas to Consider

New-ideas-postit This is the beginning of a long exploration. It is a response to people asking me where they can find good news about the future. This will be one place, though it won't be exhaustive.  I will add new items as I see fit on my schedule, so the examples will grow in fits and starts.  My goal is to give you as a parent or a grand parent or an older sibling, a place for find stories that give the younger children and adolescents around you reason for being positive about the future.

I went through more than 200 positive articles to sort out the first 10 new ideas to share with you.  I'll try to add betweeen 5-10 each week which means about 300 stories a year that show how human beings around the world are working to make it a better place.  Of course, it is my definition of "better" and I am sure some of you will disagree with my choices. That's what's nice about a free market. You can disagree with me at no cost.

One more thing: if you have a report on some positive idea for the future, feel free to drop me a note about it. If it meets my own criteria, I'll happily include it with a reference to you.

I will always try to give you a URL to go to to gather more extensive data and, if there are pictures, I'll try to include them since kids love pictures!

See the posts that follow to  to see my first 10 new ideas for you to consider.

Here we go!

Joel Barker-- Joel

Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author

Joel Barker's Good News Blog
at the Global Dialogue Center

An epiphany

IStock_000005020723XSmall[1]-boyinredshirt-smlstThis blog is the result of me having an epiphany.

Over the years, I’ve exhorted my audiences to make sure they share positive news about the future with their children to demonstrate that good things are being done all over the world by good people. People have asked me where to find this good news and I’ve given them a vague answer like, “It is scattered all over the media.” One day I realized that I read all over the media and I know the good news. Why the heck wasn’t I summarizing it for others to read?

So, that’s what this blog is about: the good things I run into as I read and research more than 45 publications a month, plus the stuff I run into on the Internet. My goal is to put five to ten stories each week about something that I consider good news. You can follow up if you want more information by visiting often:

If you have some good news that I am missing, you send me a note. I’ll be happy to take a look at it. If I agree, I’ll post it.

So, for those of you who are tired of running into bad news on the front pages and lead articles, here is an antidote:

Some good news about the future!

Joel Barker-- Joel

Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author