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New Processes

- New Device Harnesses Sun and Sewage to Produce Hydrogen Fuel

A novel device that uses only sunlight and wastewater to produce hydrogen gas could provide a sustainable energy source while improving the efficiency of wastewater treatment.
Apparently this self-driven and self-sustained microbial-solar hybrid is a combo of two types of fuel cells, microbial fuel cells and photoelectrochemical cells, which allows for a higher voltage generation. It cleans the wastewater in the process, at least to a certain degree, too.

- Solar Panels Can Be Used to Provide Heating and Air Conditioning

The use of solar panels for hot water in the bathroom is standard practice, but researchers at the Madrid Universities Carlos III and Politécnica suggest that they may also be used to provide large offices with heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Their proposal involves the incorporation of solar collectors into a gas-based co-generation system with an absorption machine, which would reduce both energy expenditure and CO2 emissions.
Update to the uncommon tri-generation systems (heat, cooling, and electricity) which are gas-powered to run office buildings, train stations, and other major building complexes.

- Power from the sea? Triboelectric nanogenerator extracts energy from ocean waves

American researchers are now aiming to use waves to produce energy by making use of contact electrification between a patterned plastic nanoarray and water. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, they have introduced an inexpensive and simple prototype of a triboelectric nanogenerator that could be used to produce energy and as a chemical or temperature sensor.

The triboelectric effect is the build up of an electric charge between two materials through contact and separation – it is commonly experienced when removal of a shirt, especially in dry air, results in crackling. [...] The triboelectric effect is not limited to solids; it can also occur with liquids. The only requirement is that specific electronic energy levels of two substances are close enough together. Water just needs the right partner – maybe a suitable plastic.

Looks like mostly still early in prototype stages (actually true of the first one as well), and doesn't work as well with seawater as fresh water, but it does still work some there, so it's still quite an interesting launching point at the very least.


- Economic Dangers of 'Peak Oil' Addressed

Researchers from the University of Maryland and a leading university in Spain demonstrate in a new study which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk when global oil production peaks ("Peak Oil"). This multi-disciplinary team recommends immediate action by government, private and commercial sectors to reduce the vulnerability of these sectors.
Interesting graphic representation. Apparently there's not a lot of specific economic research on the effects of Peak Oil on specific industries, but this is that attempt.
For the United States, such sectors would include iron mills, chemical and plastic products manufacturing, fertilizer production and air transport.
Also from the same piece, seen elsewhere but not enough, so worth repeating:
Improvements in extraction and refining technologies can influence flows, but this tends to lead to steeper decline curves after the peak is eventually reached. Such steep decline curves have also been observed for shale gas wells.

"Shale developments are, so we believe, largely overrated, because of the huge amounts of financial resources that went into them (danger of bubble) and because of their apparent steep decline rates (shale wells tend to peak fast)," according to Dr. Kerschner.

- Innovation in renewable-energy technologies is booming
The increase was most dramatic in patents related to renewable energy, chiefly solar energy and wind. Patents in fossil-fuel technologies showed a more modest increase, while those in nuclear technology were flat.

For example, between 2004 and 2009, the number of patents issued annually for solar energy increased by 13 percent per year, while those for wind energy increased 19 percent per year, on average; these growth rates approach or exceed the rates for technologies such as semiconductors and digital communications. Overall, renewable-energy patents in the United States increased from fewer than 200 per year in the period from 1975 to 2000 to more than 1,000 annually by 2009. By comparison, there were about 300 fossil-fuel-related patents in 2009, up from about 100 a year in earlier decades. The fraction of all patents accounted for by energy is also increasing

Well, that's good news! That and a few other things lately have really made clear how close we are to a massive tipping point in renewable energy economics. And here's the same story from Climate Progress as well, with an interesting graph.

Extreme Weather

- With 17 Dead, 50 Missing After Deadly Typhoon In Japan, this story about Typhoon Francisco doesn't look good.

Typhoon Francisco continues to become better organized as it spins to the southwest of Guam.

Francisco has developed in a similar area to where former Typhoon Wipha formed last week.


Warm water and low wind shear should allow for further intensification as Francisco takes a track very similar to that of former Typhoon Wipha.

- Rescue teams evacuate residents after typhoon in India
Typhoon Phailin and flooding in the Indian state of Odisha has affected more than 12 million people and killed 26 victims, rescue authorities said.


The river flooded two highways and destroyed nearly 250,000 homes, the Hindustan Times reported.

Teams rescued nearly 70,000 people from shelters Tuesday and brought them to safety.

- 'Catastrophic' Wildfires Hit Australia
About 100 bushfires raging in New South Wales, Australia's most populated state, forced thousands of people to flee their homes yesterday.


Unseasonably warm temperatures and strong winds fanned the flames, according to news reports. The extreme weather followed a dry, warm winter. There were no reports of deaths, but the extent of damage is unknown, because some fires are too intense for firefighters to safely battle the 'catatrosphic' blazes[...]

- A Song of Flood and Fire: One Million Square Kilometers of Burning Siberia Doused by Immense Deluge

This one's a couple months old, but I've only seen it mentioned once on the web, and it's such an important story. It pairs nicely with this story which preceded it and has a stunning photo of a submersed football (soccer) stadium.

Miscellaneous Other

- World Ocean Systems Undermined by Climate Change by 2100

- Carbon Cycle Models Underestimate Indirect Role of Animals

- Norway’s billions could go into renewables

- Pacific ocean temperature influences tornado activity in US, study finds

- Arizona solar plant achieves six hours after sun goes down

- In case you missed it, the blog entry of a young Antarctic researcher affected by the Republican shutdown's forced ending of the year's whole Antarctic research program. Pairs nicely with this unrelated follow-up article on the Antarctic program since the end of the shutdown: Shutdown Ends, But US Antarctic Research Still on Thin Ice.

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