Monday, April 30, 2007

LED Light

We are working on the design of a “City Light” that can bring sustainable technology to people who live on the edge of the economy. Shown above is an LED Light fixture prototype made up of fast growing bamboo, a recycled plastic bag and recycled electronics. The only new parts purchased to make this light are the LEDs themselves and a few resistors. The electronics should cost less than $2.00 total and we hope when the design is finalized to get the total parts cost down to about $1.80.

Why the price pressure? We want to make and sell these fixtures in “Squatter Cities” where power is limited. My survey of the squatter areas around Mexico City that I made many years ago and that I have had recently re-verified, shows many households living with about 60 watts of power total. The most common use for the power is a single incandescent light bulb. If we can trade LED lights for old incandescent lights then people will have brighter homes and the limited power in these areas will go further. (BTW the second most common electric item is a radio and or TV with the volume set on Stun)

One vision of the LED City Lights program is to have people trade in incandescent lights for LED lights. We want to charge less for LEDs than currently is charged for incandescents. Each 60 watt incandescent bulb that is traded for an LED would reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the LED light. Carbon credits could be used to offset much of the cost of the program if it can be shown to really reduce CO2 production. Additional benefits are bringing employment to people in squatter cities, recycling lots of electronic components and creating economic development where it is needed most.

This is a work in progress. If this phase works out we will have a “beach head” where we can introduce Internet connectivity, WiFi and communications. We are negotiating to have a second generation prototype made at XelaTeco.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Japan: Land of Green Gizmos


An environmentally friendly bio-gasoline went on sale at 50 gas stations in Tokyo on Friday. The Japanese plan to offer the fuel at another 50 stations over the next year and to expand to the whole nation after that.

fuel cell
More Photos

It's an experiment that might not work in many countries, but in Japan, green is definitely in fashion.

The new fuel mixes gasoline with ethanol made from corn and sugar cane. It costs more to make, but the Japanese government and the oil industry are picking up the extra cost, so the bio-fuel costs the same as gasoline at the pump. That's more than $5 a gallon, but Japanese have been paying that for years without complaint.

The Japanese have embraced green technology -- in their cars and in their homes. The Maeda family in Tokyo have equipped their home with the latest energy-efficient air conditioning units and the lowest-wattage electrical appliances, including an energy-conscious refrigerator that emits a signal if you don't close the door properly.

They are particularly proud of their newest gadget -- an experimental home fuel cell that converts natural gas into clean hydrogen, which provides electricity. They say it has cut their utility bills in half.

But for the Maedas and, in fact, most Japanese, energy conservation is about more than saving money -- they see it as a responsibility.

The Japanese have one of the world's most switched-on societies when it comes to managing and conserving energy, partly out of insecurity.

In the 1970s, the Japanese economy was crippled by the Middle East oil embargo. The nation vowed it would never be an energy victim again.

Japan began setting global standards for energy conservation by dramatically raising the fuel-efficiency of its cars and by introducing the world's first hybrid and electric vehicle.

Japan also turned to nuclear power, which now provides a third of the nation's electricity. Nuclear energy produces no carbon, but some environmentalists consider it a bad bargain since it produces dangerous radioactive waste.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Flat Light Emitting Diodes

Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) are versatile, bright, efficient light sources. OLEDs are flat two dimensional lights made by placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, light is emitted. OLEDs are usually sandwiched between layers of protective clear plastic.

The General Electrics Ecomagination department has been developing OLEDs since 1999, and in 2003 they demonstrated a 2′x2′ OLED light source (see pictures above). For a behind-the-scenes look at what is going on, check out this recent blog post by one the GE engineers involved in OLED development. In the blog, there is a video that shows OLEDs being bent, spindled and mutilated.

OLEDs can be made very thin and very power efficient. While currently not as efficient as fluorescent lights, OLEDs have a very high theoretical maximum efficiency. Due to their efficiency OLEDs don’t produce waste heat and are thus a good source for illuminating things you don’t want to get hot, like cell phone screens.

The manufacturing process for OLEDs can include printing dots of different organic compounds on a clear plastic carrier to create a matrix of pixels that emit different colored light. These systems can be used in television screens, computer displays, and cell phone screens.

At the Las Vegas CES 2007 Summit Sony showcased 11 inch (resolution 1,024 x 600) and 27 inch (full HD resolution at 1920 x 1080) OLED televisions claiming a million-to-one contrast ratio and total thickness of 5 mm. According to news reports, Sony plans to begin releasing TVs this year.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ethanol Fuels IndyCar Race

When IndyCar racers take up the Ethanol banner, you know things are changing fast.

The 2007 season IndyCar Series is underway powered by Ethanol. The cars feature a new Honda designed engine and run on 100% Ethanol. All 17 races on line for 2007 will be run on Ethanol, including the Grandaddy of all American races, the Indianapolis 500. This exposure of Ethanol as a high quality racing fuel will certainly give Ethanol use a boost.

The specially modified engines from Honda are designed with higher compression to take advantage of Ethanol™s very high octane rating. Drivers are noticing the difference, “These cars have a lot more torque,” said Driver Marco Andretti, “They just jump out of the turns.”

The IndyCar Series switch to ethanol has been great. We are definitely on the right path with ethanol. There is more power with the new [3.5-liter Honda Indy V-8] engine. It runs clean and it is better for the environment. So it is a win-win situation, and that is great for the series. Ethanol is another alternative to gasoline. If we can show that the IndyCar Series cars can run ethanol, then it is good for everyone’s street cars.”

Tony Kanaan, 2004 IndyCar champion

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) is working on a national marketing campaign around a partnership with the IndyCar Series. With both farmers and now Nascar fans getting behind Ethanol the market demand may outstrip our production capacity.

We have covered Ethanol in many previous posts. The SDU position on Ethanol is that we need to develop Cellulosic Ethanol instead of corn based ethanol. One promising technology is the MixAlco process for making Cellulosic Ethanol. MixAlco can make most of the fuel we need from agricultural waste, municipal solid waste and sewage sludge. If I were an investor, Venture Capitalist or just wealthy, I’d invest in the MixAlco process.

Via Green Car Congress