Monday, November 23, 2009

SunMachine Germany

. is a very interesting small company, just 100 employees, recently founded in Germany in 2005. I am very interested in them because they are developing some very interesting CHP machines and a mini solar converter.

The development that fascinates me the most is their Wood Pellet Burner / Stirling Engine CHP.

Unique Down-firing Top-feed Burner

Unique Pellet Burner

I am especially fascinated by the top fed down-firing burner design. Also I love micro-mini feed system and hopper. The rest of the CHP design is a bit more familiar.

This bit of engineering is a serious development of the woodpellet burner - I really hope that it works as good as it looks on paper. It IMHO represents a major design shift for pellet boilers - may I offer congratulations to SunMachine!!!

I wonder how is the ash removed from the machine, and how reliable the pellet transport system is? These two functions are the cause of very many wood pellet service problems in many current machines.

The SunMachine machine looks to be a major departure from the current norms. I would love to see this thing working.

Above diagram shows the basic set-up with an indication that the machine produces 20% Electricty and 70% Heat - giving an overall efficiency of 90%.

Here is the Sunmachine Pellet data sheet:

Datasheet Sunmachine-Pellet
1.0 CHP unit
Electric power fed to grid: ------ approx. 3 kW (electric output)
Thermal power: approx. ------- 10.5 kW (thermal output)
Efficiency (electric): ------------ approx. 20 %
Overall efficiency: -------------- approx. 90 %
CHP coefficient: ---------------- 0.286
Flow temperature: ------------- 50 - max.75° C / 122 - max.162° F
Return temperature, max. ----- 60° C / 140° F
optimal return temperature: --- 30° C / 86° F
Sound emission: --------------- approx. 49 dB
Color: ------------------------- RAL 5001 (blue-green)
Weight: (without covering): --- approx. 410 kg / approx. 903.89 lbs
Dimensions LxWxH in mm / inch: 1160x760x1590 / 45.7"x30"x62.6"
1.1 Burner unit
Fuel: woodpellets, DIN plus (german industrial standard)
Power: 14.9 kW fuel provided
Matintenance interval: recommended once a year or every 3,500 operating hours
1.2 Stirling engine
Cylinders: 1
Cylinder capacity: 520 ccm / 31.73 cubic inch
Speed range: 500 - 1,000 rpm
Working gas: nitrogen
Working pressure: max. 40 bar / max. 580 PSI
2.0 Input with inverter
Feed to grid: single phase 230 Volt 50 Hz
Grid control: 3 phases through build-in grid disconnecting device
2.1 Inverter
Nominal output: 3.4 kW
Peak capacity: 3.8 kW
Input voltage: 350 - 750 Volt
Efficiency: max. 95.7 %
Power factor cosPhi: 0.997
3.0 Control Unit
Interface: graphic touchscreen display
Interface RS 232: suitable for modem and PC (readout of important data)
Optional: 3 heating circuits and one warm water controllable,
switching output for peak load demand
4.0 Feed
Pellet-supply-container: approx. 50 l / approx. 13.2 US gallons
Pellet feed from storage room / bag - silo / via vacuum delivery with internal day / night control
subterranean tank to sunmachine: (closed system)
5.0 Exhaust
Exhaust: Exhaust gas routing after request with solid fuel boilers condensate
6.0 Recommended heat-store stratified storage: min. 1,000 liters / 264 US gallons incl. heating rod 9 kW

Subject to technical modifications. The values, power ratings and other technical data stated in this data sheet, in our brochures, announcements and other bidding documents as well as included images or drawings are standard only approximately, unless the data are explicitly qualified as binding by us. We assume no liability for translation errors! Version: 2/0


Starstruck by Stirling


Sun Machine by SunMachine Germany

Stirling Fan Mail!

I received a very interesting email from Danny Mc Menamin pertaining to the Reverend Robert Stirling's wonderful engine. He is a fan of the Rev. Stirling's invention like myself. He has included some very informative links which you might like to take a look at.

The link that fascinated me the most is the commercial link to a small German company who are developing several new domestic CHP (combined heat and power) type machines, and who also have a mini Stirling sun machine in development.

I will detail what I believe is the most innovative one of SunMachine's developments in my next post. But here first is Danny letter and the links:

EMail from Danny Mc Menamin:

Good work with the blog. Like you I share a fascination with the Stirling engine. See:

Also interesting is the Thermo Acouustic Stirling Engine:

Danny Mc Menamin


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Electric Cars and the Goddess of Love


Electric Cars
and the re-birth of
Love & Passion!!!

Some paintings make Venus look about as sexy as a side of mutton
But I like this one - she is a real beauty!!

In the light of my recent posts on the development of SuperCapacitors and Ionic Fluid Batteries, I felt it time to re-address the problem with electric cars.

Generally speaking, electric cars, to this present time, have been about as popular and desirable as two week old bread. Why is that do you think? Well for one thing, they are VERY very expensive. Also, they take ages to re-charge and can only go for relatively short distances on a single charge. Why with all the hype and hoopla, the government grants, and the urging of the loony fringe, have the public not embraced the electric car with a firmer grasp??

Where do the problems lie?

Electric cars have been around for a quite a long time. Edison had one on the road in 1913 but the Germans had one going in 1904. Early examples had poor quality motors with low efficiency and torque, the batteries weighed a ton and took ages to charge, and oh - not to mention that they were ugly.

Nowadays, however, the electric engines had been re-invented several times over, and the latest breed are super strong, highly efficient, and a relatively small size.

The other factors making the modern electric car more viable than earlier attempts, are the control gear, and the drive chain. These items have, in recent years, been highly perfected.

Sex and the Modern Electric Car

Certainly some of the modern up-market electric cars are things of beauty which could well inspire desire and lust. Tesla have my vote for design sexiness.

The Elephant in the Living room

However, there is one area of the design and refinement of electric cars, which still lies in the realm of the unresolved.

Truth is there is this ‘elephant in the living room’ that is not talked about too much. The glaring problem with electric cars is the battery of course.

When the Lithium Ion battery was perfected, if one can use that word, it was supposed to revolutionise electric driving. However, there are huge problems with Lithium Ion batteries; not least of these is the HUGE bit. Then there is the cost, 40% or more of the total cost of the car. Then, on top of that again, consider that the dang darn battery will last at best 3 to 4 years. Also environmentally the cost is huge - how to dispose of millions of used batteries. On that basis, it makes no sense at all to buy one of these cars.

Never Until a Better Battery is Invented

Electric cars are IMHO doomed unless and until a seriously better and much cheaper battery is available. Then, and only then, will we see the re-birth of the electric car/bus/truck, and, like Venus, they will emerge from their shells in a glorious re-birth and seduce the population.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Super Battery Development


Professor Cody Friesen
and the
of the
Metal-Air Ionic Fluid
Super Battery

As already discussed, “Fluidic Energy” led by Professor Cody Friesen of Arizona SU is working to build a Metal-Air Ionic Liquid battery that has up to 11 times the energy density of the top lithium-ion technologies. The other bit of encouraging news is that they aim to have the x11 strength battery for less than one-third the Li battery cost.

Professor Cody Friesen strikes me as being one of a new breed of scientist; he is young, popular with students, and a real tryer. There also appears, to my limited view, to be a rare and pleasing lack of spin doctoring, hype, and sales talk, and he seems realistic when he talks about the developments made to date.

Popular Prof.

Rate my professor.
Prof. Cody Friesen's Scorecard:
* Average Easiness: 3.0
* Average Helpfulness: 5.0
* Average Clarity: 5.0
* Hotness Total: 0
* Overall Quality: 5.0

In an interview he said that their team has not achieved the ultimate goal of a fully working battery yet. That one statement alone sorta indicates openness and honest – I like openness!!!

On the right in blue shirt

Cody Friesen and his ASU team have been experimenting with various ionic liquids, and anode materials for several years.

Some Goal!!

The team have a short-term goal of energy densities around 1Kw/h per Kg of battery weight – that is some serious punch - - and they are aiming eventually at 1.6Kw/h per Kg!!!!! That means a battery weighing just 50Kg could hold a charge of 80Kw/h – hard to credit this sort of energy density?

Ionic fluids or liquid salts have electro-chemical stability of up to 5 volts – way better than water based electrolytes. This would give much more stability and punch in any battery. Right now ionic fluids are not made in commercial quantities and are therefore very expensive; this is an area of intensive research and development in several research centres. Another problem is finding just the exactly right type of ionic fluid for the job.

Naturally enough “Fluidic Energy” and the professor are a bit coy about specifics on what they have achieved in the development of the super fluids. They are also careful when talking about another key part of their research, that is the development of the metal electrodes.

Battery electrodes essentially corrode under the intense electro-chemical activity. They grow crystal like structures or fur that can eventually lead to breakdown of the cell. Word is that “Fluidic Energy” is working at ‘encasing’ the electrodes in some form of nano-technology coating to prevent the build-up on the electrodes.

Where would you place your bet?

It is a great race, this Super Battery Race, and its good to see that there are several hopefuls in the running. Of the two we have discussed to date, which would you bet on?

Would place your money on the very secretive EEstor and its UltraCapacitor, or would it be the young and hopeful team at Fluidic Energy?


Friday, November 06, 2009

"Fluidic Energy" versus "EEstor"


The Development
of a
Metal-Air Ionic Fluid
Super Battery

A cool looking young Professor Friesen

A company called “Fluidic Energy” is developing an Arizona State University research project and the main man behind the effort is Prof. Cody Friesen, professor of materials science at Arizona State Uni. In development essentially, AFAIK, are ionic fluid electrolytes for a special type of metal-air battery which would have much greater capacity than that of the very best lithium-ion batteries today.

"EEstor": 0 "Fluidic Energy": $5+million

Unlike EEstor, “Fluidic Energy” of Arizona has received a $5+ million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which should help speed up the work no end!! Would you think that also makes a statement, or what, about EEstor??

“Fluidic Energy” is developing the rather unusual type of new battery called a metal-air ionic battery. Batteries generally have metallic electrodes immersed in an acid or some other water based electrolyte. Instead, this new type of cell will have a special liquid salt electrolyte.

Liquid Salts

Normally salts are solids / crystals at anything but very high temperatures, however these new salts are in the form of “ionic fluids” which will be liquid at ordinary room temperatures. These ionic fluids have several major advantages as electrolytes, they will not evaporate, and they will have very much higher energy density.

Here is the really interesting bit; Fluidic Energy is working on a battery that has 11 times more capacity than the same size of lithium-ion battery.

Say that again.

I said; “11 times more juice can be stuffed into this new type of battery”, and what that means is that an electric car with one of these batteries fitted could go for more than 1400km on a single charge, instead of the 140km or so of a current electric car.

Now that is not all of the interesting news either - more in the next post.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

More Comment on EEstor


EESU Charging Infrastructure

The EEstor issue has cause quite a bit of activity and interest on this blog, be it for real or just another stock promotion scam. Comments are flowing in on the subject. When I get comments that are intelligent, relevant, and current, I like to publish them as a post. The following IMHO is one such comment.

Comment from "hendersn":

If EESU's (Electrical Energy Storage Units) are used to store energy at the 'gas' stations, they can provide the high transfer rates necessary to 'fuel' the cars.

Yes, many EESU's would be required at a given 'gas' station to ensure that the peak usage wouldn't exceed the storage capacity, but as long as the average energy consumed over a day by fueling cars doesn't exceed grid capacity to the 'gas' station, this is feasible.

If you can charge the station's EESU's at off peak times, you can actually improve grid efficiency by reducing the ratio of peak to average power delivery.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

EEstor Comment


EEstor Comment

I received an interesting comment on the EEstor ultracapacitor, which pointed out that if the thing actually works, there would be still some problems regarding charging times for electric cars.

Comment from Craig:

Whether the ultracapacitors every materialize as cheap units for small consumer electronics remains to be seen, but they will not provide the dream of a quick refill that you envisage.

The problem is common to all electric cars:
Petrol has an energy density of about 10kWh/kg ~ 12kWh/litre.
A 60 litre fuel tank will hold 800kWh of energy, which is approximately 3GJoules.
Say a refill takes 5 minutes=300seconds (a quick coffee!).
The energy flux is now 3GJ/300s=10MW !!
The problem is not whether the battery can hold the charge (although this is an issue) but that the infrastructure to provide the flow of energy is very significant. That's why I don't think people will willing give up liquid fuels for transport!

Thank you for your informed comment Craig. I would be coming from a nuts and bolts background myself I did a few simple calculations. The EEstor example is given for a 52Kw/h capacitor/battery. As far as I know, these units (if for real) are supposed to work at high voltages.

If we take an operating voltage of say 2000 volts and a capacity of 52Kw/h it would take 26 amps of current 1 hour to charge the battery. 130 amps of current would do the job in 10 minutes. 260 amps would do it in 5 minutes.

Granted, these voltages and currents would present some problems but it would not be impossible to create an infrastructure to accommodate perhaps a less ambitious target of say 15 minutes.

IMHO It is not a question of choice regarding liquid fuels - we simply will have to consider a radically different approach. It may indeed not be ultracapacitors, but for sure carbon based fuels will need to eventually be phased out completely.