Aluminum Superatoms – High Temperature Superconducting Materials

Superconductors can carry electricity with no resistance and are used for specialized applications like MRIs, maglev trains and particle accelerators. Superconductor-based electronics would be extremely efficient because they would generate no waste heat, but he fact that they would only work at temperatures close to absolute zero makes them impractical.

Source: www.gizmag.com

>” […]

Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have made steps toward discovering a new family of superconductor materials that work at relatively high temperatures, with possible applications in physics research, medical imaging and high-performance electronics.

As electrons travel through an integrated circuit, they regularly bump into microscopic imperfections within the conductive wire and veer off course, creating electrical resistance and releasing waste energy as heat. Waste heat is a big inconvenience to both designers and end-users of electronics, but it simply can’t be avoided using the materials currently at our disposal.

[…] Thirty years ago, a new class of so-called “high-temperature superconductors” was discovered, although the name can be deceiving because these still require temperatures below 135 K (-135 °C or -210 °F) to operate, which still makes them impractical for use in electronics.

Now the USC team led by professor Vitaly Kresin has discovered hints of yet another family of superconductors which work at relatively high temperatures. Specifically, they found out that while single atoms of aluminum only turn superconductive at very low temperatures (around 1 K), so-called “superatoms” (clusters of evenly spaced atoms that behave as a single atom) of aluminum turn superconductive at much higher temperatures, around 100 K.

Superconductivity takes place when so-called Cooper pairs form within a material. These are pairs of electrons that are very faintly attracted to each other and activate a mechanism whereby the electrons don’t veer off course, and therefore lose heat, whenever they bump into an imperfection within the material. Because the attractive force between the electrons, which happens only under certain conditions, is so weak (two electrons would normally repel each other), even a small amount of external energy (which could be given off in the form of heat) can upset this equilibrium. This is why superconductors only work at very low temperatures.

Kresin and team built a series of aluminum superatoms between 32 and 95 atoms large. For superatoms containing 37, 44, 66 and 68 aluminum atoms, the scientists found evidence that Cooper pairings were taking place, turning the material into a superconductor.

The researchers suggest that creating superatoms of different metals could lead to the discovery of similar superconductors that work at relatively high temperatures. While the threshold temperature was 100 K (-280 °F, -173 °C) for an aluminum superatom, different materials are likely to turn superconductive at different (hopefully much higher) temperatures.

“One-hundred Kelvin might not be the upper-temperature barrier,” says Kresin. “It might just be the beginning.”

Should one of these materials operate as a superconductor at room temperature, it would likely have huge impact on the worlds of electronics, medical imaging, microscopy and electric motors, just to name a few. ”

A paper describing the advance appears on the journal Nano Letters.

Source: University of Southern California

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Net Zero Case Study: Bullitt Center – Green Materials

The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, is one of the most self-sufficient buildings on the planet.  It is net zero energy and, after the water reuse system is approved by city authorities, net zero water.  Net zero means that the building uses the same amount as it creates or generates – it is self-sufficient.

Source: greenbuildingelements.com

>”[…]

Healthy Green Materials

The Living Building Challenge requires projects to avoid as many of the chemicals and substances that are found on the Red List as possible.  These substances have been recognized by government agencies, such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, the European Union Commission, and the State of California, as potentially harmful to human or animal life on Earth.  Not all of the substances can be avoided, though, due to the lack of availability of materials that do not contain them.

The Bullitt Center team avoided over 360 known chemicals on this list.  Some were easy to avoid, as alternatives were readily available.  The team also worked with suppliers to create products that met their requirements, changing the way the products were made and making them available to others.

Most plumbing valves, even those made of brass and bronze, contain up to 7% lead.  Lead free valves, with an allowable lead content of only 0.25%, were used in both the potable and non-potable water systems, including fire sprinklers.Phthalates are commonly used in PVC and other plastic products.  A high-performance water barrier company performed 6 months of research to develop a product that did not contain phthalates, just for the Bullitt Center project.  The new product has now replaced the original version going forward.  Dioxins are a by-product of the manufacture, combustion, and disposal of products containing chlorine, most notably PVC products.  Couplings for no-hub ductile iron pipe are commonly made with neoprene, which contains chlorine.  The team worked with the manufacturer to special order couplings made of EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber.  The electrician was able to find electrical wire not coated in PVC that met code standards.  The fiberglass insulation in the project is held together by a plant-based polymer, not the usual one that contains formaldehyde.

Certified Wood

The Bullitt Center is a wood-framed structure.  Because of its location and the importance of the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest, the project team decided this was the best choice for the project.  100% of the lumber in the building has been harvested from anForest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified source.  The project was also recognized as the only commercial project to receive the Forest Stewardship Council Project Certification, in recognition of responsible forest products use throughout the building.

Local Sourcing

Perhaps the greatest story about green materials and the Bullitt Center involves the curtain wall (window) system.  Due to the high performance needs of the project, only one product could be used, and it was only manufactured in Europe.  A Washington company partnered with the European manufacturer to gain the knowledge to manufacture and install the system in the US.   The Washington company flew their employees over to find out how to make and install the system, and a licensing agreement was reached.  Now this high performance system is available in the US for future projects to use.

[…]”<

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Net Zero Building Nears Completion in Edmonton

the mosaic centre for conscious community and commerce is nearly ready for occupancy, which could make it the most northerly net-zero structure on the planet.

Source: www.journalofcommerce.com

>” […] The Edmonton centre’s designers and builders are hoping that others can learn from the project that sustainable design doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming – so much so that they have made the contract, calculations and drawings available to anyone.

The City of Edmonton said the Mosaic Centre will be the world’s most northerly commercial building to achieve net zero status, the city’s first designated LEED platinum building, the first in Alberta to be petal certified by the Living Building Challenge and Canada’s first triple bottom line commercial building.

Once completed, the new 30,000 square foot building will include  photovoltaic panels that will cover much of the roof.

It will also have LED lighting designed with a time-clock/daylight controller to meet minimum light levels and a geo-exchange system which will draw heat in winter and coolant in summer.

The 32 bore hole geothermal system reduced the size of the system by 40 kW, saving about $150,000.

It was built 25 per cent ahead of schedule and five per cent under budget.

HKA architect Vedran Skopac, who worked on the project, said it was done to prove to the industry that complex, sustainable buildings can be delivered on time, on budget and without animosity between the parties.

He said the key to this all started with using Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

The model emphasizes collaboration at an early stage and encourages all the participants to use their talents and insights throughout the different stages for best results.

“It goes all the way down to the end of the line of the tradesmen,” Skopac said.

“We invested so much in designing the process, and training and making everyone a leader.”

Skopac said a major influence on designing the actual structure was creating collision spaces, or places where building residents would be forced to meet and interact.

Skopac also wanted to influence sustainable behavior, like making windows easy to operate and open rather than using air conditioning, and making natural light penetrate deep into the building rather than encourage residents to turn on lights. […]”<

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LED Savings Estimator for Common Commercial Lighting Fixtures

Originally posted on Granite City Electric Supply:

energy savings calculator

With the recent increase in electricity rates, it has never been more important for electrical contractors to show your customers some LED options.  Everyone knows that LED lighting fixtures are more energy efficient, last longer, and require less maintenance and replacement.  However, there will still be commercial customers and business owners who are nervous about the upfront costs associated with a full retrofit or new installation.

While some money will be spent upfront purchasing new LED fixtures, the savings associated with the reduced wattage fixtures can rapidly offset the initial costs.  And with rebates available for commercial customers of NGRID, NSTAR, WMECO, Unitil and Cape Light Compact, your customers will see a return on investment in a short period time with energy savings for years to come.

The Energy group at Granite City Electric is available to work with you on any new construction or retrofit project to ensure all…

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Focus on financing energy efficiency

duanetilden:

“EEFIG’s report states that energy efficiency investment is the most cost effective manner to reduce the EU’s reliance, and expenditure, on energy imports costing over €400 billion a year. Today, this makes energy efficiency investments strategically important due to high levels of energy imports, energy price instability and the need for Europe to transition to a competitive low carbon and resilient economy. EEFIG’s members see energy efficiency investing as having a fundamental and beneficial role to play in the transition towards a more competitive, secure and sustainable energy system with an internal energy market at its core.

EEFIG participants believe that the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) should put energy efficiency first and that it is essential in the context of the Energy Union to reframe the role that energy efficiency plays in how Europe plans for, finances, and constructs its energy system.”

Originally posted on Energy in Demand - Sustainable Energy - Rod Janssen:

When we are discussing the EU’s energy efficiency strategy, the elephant in the room is money: where does the funding come from and will there be enough to meet investment needs. On the one hand, most energy efficiency measures are considered to be cost effective and thus it is in the interest of consumers to take such action. However, energy efficiency investments can often have a high up-front cost, making it difficult to justify such expenditure in a fragile economic situation.

The European Commission and the UNEP Finance Initiative set up a group of experts to address that elephant in the room, knowing that the elephant would not go away until there was a sustainable way forward. That group has now produced a major report that goes a long way to address this need.

The Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG) has just launched its final report “Energy Efficiency –…

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Amager Resource Center Copenhagen, Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

The waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen was selected as a citation winner in the 62nd Annual Progressive Architecture Awards.

Source: www.architectmagazine.com

“BIG won the competition for the 1.02 million-square-foot Amager Resource Center with this widely touted scheme, which promises to turn a waste-to-energy plant into a popular attraction. By integrating a ski slope into the roof and a rock-climbing wall up one face, the architects build upon the project’s location: a part of Copenhagen on the island of Amager that has become a destination for extreme sports enthusiasts, thanks to its parks, beaches, dunes, and a lagoon for kayaking and windsurfing.  At 100 meters tall, the center will be one of the city’s tallest landmarks when completed—and a striking example of building-as-landscape. Indeed, the client has taken to calling it the Amager Bakke, or Amager Hill.”

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Duke’s maligned handling of toxic coal ash is claimed typical for industry

Over 200 contaminations and spills document water contamination and deformed fish near coal ash sites.

Source: www.utilitydive.com

>” Duke Energy faces criminal charges and a $100 million fine for a 2014 spill of 39,000 tons of coal ash into North Carolina’s Dan River but environmental activists say its mishandling of coal ash waste is not atypical of the coal industry.  […] EPA released a final ruling on handling coal ash last December but both utility industry and environmental groups were dissatisfied. It creates requirements and standards for the management of coal combustion residuals (CCRs or coal ash) under Subtitle D of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). That subtitle governs solid waste. There is not yet adequate data, the EPA said, to justify managing coal ash under Subtitle C of RCRA, which pertains to hazardous waste.

“Coal ash is a toxic soup of heavy metals,” said NC WARN Energy Expert Nancy LaPlaca. “Pretending it is not hazardous waste is outrageous.”

Utilities are “pleased” that the EPA found it did not have adequate information to regulate coal as hazardous waste, explained Schiff, Hardin Partner/Utilities Counsel Josh More. But “EPA is pretty explicit this is not their final determination.” It failed, he added, because “it is a self-implementing program.”  […]”<

 

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Wide Bandgap Semiconductors – LED’s and the Future of Power Electronics

Hidden inside nearly every modern electronic is a technology — called power electronics — that is quietly making our wor…

Source: www.youtube.com

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“Hidden inside nearly every modern electronic is a technology — called power electronics — that is quietly making our world run. Yet, as things like our phones, appliances and cars advance, current power electronics will no longer be able to meet our needs, making it essential that we invest in the future of this technology.

Today [January 15, 2014], President Obama will announce that North Carolina State University will lead the Energy Department’s new manufacturing innovation institute for the next generation of power electronics. The institute will work to drive down the costs of and build America’s manufacturing leadership in wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor-based power electronics — leading to more affordable products for businesses and consumers, billions of dollars in energy savings and high-quality U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Integral to consumer electronics and many clean energy technologies, power electronics can be found in everything from electric vehicles and industrial motors, to laptop power adaptors and inverters that connect solar panels and wind turbines to the electric grid. For nearly 50 years, silicon chips have been the basis of power electronics. However, as clean energy technologies and the electronics industry has advanced, silicon chips are reaching their limits in power conversion — resulting in wasted heat and higher energy consumption.

Power electronics that use WBG semiconductors have the potential to change all this. WBG semiconductors operate at high temperatures, frequencies and voltages — all helping to eliminate up to 90 percent of the power losses in electricity conversion compared to current technology. This in turn means that power electronics can be smaller because they need fewer semiconductor chips, and the technologies that rely on power electronics — like electric vehicle chargers, consumer appliances and LEDs — will perform better, be more efficient and cost less.

One of three new institutes in the President’s National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, the Energy Department’s institute will develop the infrastructure needed to make WBG semiconductor-based power electronics cost competitive with silicon chips in the next five years. Working with more than 25 partners across industry, academia, and state and federal organizations, the institute will provide shared research and development, manufacturing equipment, and product testing to create new semiconductor technology that is up to 10 times more powerful that current chips on the market. Through higher education programs and internships, the institute will ensure that the U.S. has the workforce necessary to be the leader in the next generation of power electronics manufacturing.

Watch our latest video on how wide bandgap semiconductors could impact clean energy technology and our daily lives.”

source:  http://energy.gov/articles/wide-bandgap-semiconductors-essential-our-technology-future

 

Clothes Dryers Latest Home Appliance to Obtain Energy Star Certification

For the first time in six years, Energy Star certification, a standard seal of approval for energy efficiency, has been expanded to include another major household appliance. Clothes dryers, perhaps the last of …

Source: www.pddnet.com

>” […] Clothes dryers, perhaps the last of the major household appliances to be included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program, became available in 45 Energy Star models starting Presidents’ Day weekend, according to the EPA.

“Dryers are one of the most common household appliances and the biggest energy users,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

While washing machines have become 70 percent more energy-efficient since 1990, dryers — used by an estimated 80 percent of American households — have continued to use a high amount of energy, the agency says. […]

“Refrigerators were the dominant energy consumer in 1981. Now dryers are the last frontier in the home for radical energy conservation,” said Charles Hall, senior manager of product development for Whirlpool.

Energy Star-certified dryers include gas, electric and compact models. Manufacturers offering them include LG, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Maytag and Safemate.

All of the energy-efficient models include moisture sensors to ensure that the dryer does not continue running after the clothes are dry, which reduces energy consumption by around 20 percent, the EPA says.

In addition, two of the Energy Star-approved models — LG’s EcoHybrid Heat Pump Dryer (model DLHX4072) and Whirlpool’s HybridCare Heat Pump Dryer (model WED99HED) — also include innovative “heat pump” technology, which reduces energy consumption by around 40 percent more than that, the EPA and manufacturers say.

Heat-pump dryers combine conventional vented drying with heat-pump technology, which recycles heat. The technology, long common in much of Europe, is similar to that used in air conditioners and dehumidifiers.

Although Energy Star models can cost roughly $600 more than comparable standard models, Hall said the higher cost is more than balanced out by energy savings and up to $600 rebates offered by government and utility incentive programs.

But the real impact will be felt once the transition to Energy Star models is complete. According to the EPA, if all the clothes dryers sold in the U.S. this year were Energy Star-certified, it would save an estimated $1.5 billion in annual utility costs and prevent yearly greenhouse-gas emissions equal to more than 2 million vehicles.

To earn the Energy Star label, products must be certified by an EPA-recognized third party based on rigorous testing in an EPA-recognized laboratory.”<

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Vanadium Flow Battery Competes With Lithium and Lead-Acid at Grid Scale

The company claims LCOE [Levelized Cost of Energy] is less than half the cost of any other battery technology available.

Source: www.greentechmedia.com

>”[…]

Imergy Power Systems just introduced its third-generation vanadium flow battery, claiming it offers a low-cost, high-performance energy storage solution for large-scale applications, including peak demand management, frequency regulation and the integration of intermittent renewable energy sources.

The ESP250 has an output power capability of 250 kilowatts and 1 megawatt of energy storage capacity. It’s suited for both short- and long-duration storage, with available energy ranging from two to 12 hours of output duration. The 40-foot batteries (each about the size of two shipping containers) are designed to be deployed individually or linked together for larger-scale projects. […]

Where Imergy has been able to edge out its competitors is on material cost. Vanadium is abundant but expensive to extract from the ground. Imergy has developed a unique chemistry that allows it to use cheaper, recycled resources of vanadium from mining slag, fly ash and other environmental waste.

With this chemistry, the levelized cost of energy for Imergy’s batteries is less than half of any other battery on the market right now, according to Hennessy. Vanadium flow batteries are orders of magnitude cheaper than lithium-ion batteries on a lifetime basis because they can be 100 percent cycled an unlimited number of times, whereas lithium-ion batteries wear down with use, according to the firm. Despite the compelling cost claims from Imergy, lithium-ion has been the predominant energy storage technology being deployed at this early point of the market. And very few flow batteries are currently providing grid services.

Imergy’s capital costs are lower than every other battery technology except lead-acid, Hennessy added. But he believes the company can hit that mark (roughly $200 per kilowatt-hour) by the end of the year by outsourcing contracts to manufacturing powerhouse Foxconn Technology Group in China. Delivery of the ESP250 is targeted for summer of 2015.

At this price, Imergy says the ESP250 offers an affordable alternative to peaker plants and can help utilities avoid investing more capital in the grid. Some might disagree with the claim that grid-scale storage can compete with fast-start turbines and natural gas prices below $3 per million Btu. But according to Hennessy, it all comes down to the application. Batteries can’t compete with gas at the 50-megawatt scale, but they can compete with gas at the distribution level.

“Batteries that are distributed have a huge advantage over gas, because when you buy gas down at the low end, you’re paying a lot more than $3 to $4 per MMBtu, because you’ve got to pay for all the transmission down to the small end,” he said.

Demand for cost-effective energy storage is growing as intermittent renewables become cheaper and come on-line in higher volumes. GTM Research anticipates the solar-plus-storage market to grow from $42 million in 2014 to more than $1 billion by 2018.

Imergy sees a ripe market in the Caribbean, parts of Africa and India, Hawaii and other places where the LCOE for solar-plus-storage is already competitive. As costs continue to fall, New York, California and Texas will also become attractive markets.”<

 

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