Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Irish Politics


The State of Irish Politics  - -  a painting by Shame.us O'Con.man


Monday, November 29, 2010

Valuable Chemicals from Biomass


The Test Rig. Photo courtesy of Phil Badger

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Low-Cost Biomass Alternative to Petroleum for Industrial Chemicals

I had a note from Janet Lathrop at UMass Amherst, giving permission to reproduce - thank you Janet. So here is the promised follow up, albeit brief and simplified, on the story of Petroleum Chemicals from Biomass.

The above picture, courtesy of Phil Badger, shows a development test plant, and it is tidy enough to mount on a truck it would appear.

The main man in focus has to be Associate Professor George Huber, head of the chemical engineering team at UMass Amherst. The other guys mentioned in the release are Tushar Vispute, Aimaro Sanno and Huiyan Zhang.

Prof. Huber said that it is now possible to produce high-volume chemicals including benzene, toluene, xylenes and olefins from bio-oils, the cheapest liquid fuels available today derived from biomass. The new process could reduce or eliminate industry’s reliance on fossil fuels to make industrial chemicals worth an estimated $400 billion annually.

It will now be possible to make these valuable and necessary chemicals, used for making everything from solvents and detergents to plastics and fibers, from  cheap oils derived from waste wood, agricultural waste and non-food energy crops.

The team’s efforts have outlined a simple system for converting low-value pyrolysis oils into products with a higher value than transportation fuels. The next phase is for up-sizing and further refining the processes they have outlined for us. This will be done on contract by several interested chemical industries.

I won’t go into reporting the chemistry outlined in the press release. Simply because I don’t understand it myself. I just have to take these guys at their word. This effort looks very promising indeed.

Good luck guys!

Thanks to UMass Amherst Chemical engineering team and Janet Lathrop for permission to reproduce materials.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Celtic Tiger 2010


The New Celtic Tiger 
in Picture


Friday, November 26, 2010

High-Grade Petroleum Chemicals from Biomass


Another Development that will Reduce
the Reliance on Petroleum

A team of chemical engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a highly efficient, and relatively uncomplicated, process to manufacture a wide range of chemicals, normally extracted from oil, from waste timber and other biomass.

The plant will fit on the back of a truck and offers the prospect of high yields of quality petroleum based chemicals from low-grade materials.

This is a highly significant development, as it will help to reduce the reliance on dwindling world oil stocks.

I will need to check with the publishers before reproducing further materials. Check back for a fuller report.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Ireland screwed?


No Comment


Ireland's Financial Problems


Warning: This is a RANT

Will the EU & IMF Conditions
Spell the End of the Irish Gravy Train?

It is my personal hope that the massive money crisis Ireland now finds itself in, will put an end to the Band Wagon and Gravy Train mentality which has largely caused the crisis, and so completely swamped the Irish psyche. The Celtic Tiger bred a meaner society, and widely promoted an "I'm all right Jack" attitude.

The Parliament (Dail) and the Public Sector particularly have been severely corrupted in this way. Our TDs (members of Parliament) have several times voted themselves substantial salary increases and dozens of perks.  Prime Minister of this tiny country of four million gets almost as much as President Obama. Retired Government ministers get massive pensions - yes plural - some have three, four or more pensions!!!

One independent member of the Dail clocked up €75,000 in expenses in one year. That figure represents three years earning for many people.

If I was an IMF official the first savings I would insist upon would be:
(a) Reducing the number of TDs (members of Parliament) by half.
(b) Reducing the salary of the remaining TDs by 50%
(c) Capping expenses of TDs at a maximum of €10,000 of receipts p.a.

In fact if the Dail was to show any sort of moral stamina and leadership, they should voluntarily take a 50% salary cut and cap their expenses. But there lies the core of the problem; MORALS and ETHICS.


Are LED Bulbs Worth the Price Part 1


Are LED Bulbs
Worth the Money

Regular readers will know that I had temporarily given up on LED bulbs as a viable domestic alternative. I had two reasons for this; (1) The very high cost of good quality LED bulbs running at around $35 each.  (2) The very poor quality of most of the cheaper alternatives.

Types of Light Emitting Diodes

LED bulbs use tiny individual elements or diodes to produce an intense light. The first LED made in 1962 was red coloured. In the early types of LEDs the diode elements were totally encased in plastic and were a small fraction of a millimeter in size.

It took a fair time for so called white light LEDs to be developed. The light produced is in fact very blue. To obtain white light of a nice natural colour involved introducing a yellow dye into the diode to filter the bluish colour and make it warmer in nature.

Types of LED domestic bulbs

Some domestic replacement LED bulbs use dozens of the tiny plastic diodes in order to produce sufficient levels of light.

Other types, based on more modern technology use larger high powered elements of up to several millimeters in size, sometimes mounted in multiples on the one die.

LED diodes of all types get VERY hot and need to be efficiently cooled or they will simply burn out or become otherwise damaged by the heat. Many will overheat and will turn blue to purple in colour and the light output will be greatly reduced by heat damage.

Good LED bulbs will have large aluminium finned coolers or "heat sinks" in order to carry away the excess heat. The crappy ones will not have metal fins to disperse the heat. These types of LED bulb will generally lose their light output, becoming dimmer and dimmer, and the light colour will turn bluish or purple in just a few months of working.

Any LED bulb that does not have sufficient cooling built in will not last "kissing time"  - I know, I have several duds in a drawer to prove it!!

More soon.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Electric Cars and LED Lighting


A Couple of
Bits & Pieces

Electric Cars

GlennC - has left a new comment on your post "Nissan turn a new Leaf":

I have to agree with John. The EVs currently available are not there to replace a car that is used for regular long journeys. There are plenty of people in this country with 2 cars, generally one small and one big. The small one is normally used for commuting to work or going shopping - this is where the market is. It is not suppose to be a blanket replacement. For longer journeys there are hybrids that will go as long as any car. If you need a car to go up and down to Kerry from Dublin all the time then yes, the current EV cars are useless to you.

Hi Glenn - I guess the point I was trying to make in the post is that EVs need to be aiming at being a 100% replacement for current road transport. With the emergence, soon hopefully, of the new generation of nano-technology super-batteries, that goal can be quickly realised. But for now, EVs just do not make sense to many people.

LED Lighting

Yea- yea - I did say I have a post in the pipeline on the next generation of GU10 and MR16 LED bulbs. I apologise, I just have not got around to the testing and photographing of the samples I have in hand. 

I have bought a dozen of these LEDs from four different sources. The price is very good at a ballpark price of around $5 to $7 a pop plus shipping. As I already stated, my initial reaction is one of surprise at how well they perform in terms of light output and colour temperature match.

As there is actual physical work and a fair bit of time involved in the testing and photographing, and as I am currently in a place where time is not too plentiful, it may take me a couple of weeks to get around to the testing and review bit. So please bear with me on this one.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Solar Energy goes BIG


Solar Energy Plants
go B I G

US Desert Solar Boom

The U.S. government has approved plans for what is perhaps the world's largest solar power plant in Blythe in Southern California.  At the centre of the proposal is a German company called Solar Millennium AG.

The generating capacity of the proposed plant is hefty 1000 megawatts - that is really big for a solar project and is the kind of power one would associate with a large coal burning plant.

Small Solar Concentrating Plant at SanlĂșcar la Mayor near Seville

The plant will use a system of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays to super heat a fluid that in turn will create steam to drive the turbines. There are a total of nine solar plants in the pipeline in the US. It is not clear from the reports if the proposed engineering includes some degree of heat storage, (of the superheated fluid),  which would be most useful in a solar facility.

South Africa goes Mega size Solar

Meanwhile, South Africa is winding up their spin doctoring machines in the hope of getting the investments for a truly massive 5,000 MegsWatt solar facility at Upington in the Kalahari. If this gets off the ground the plant would account for over 12% of the energy need of the country.

Keep an eye on China and the Far East. These guys will be pushing the solar boundaries in the coming years.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Are Philips CFL bulbs short lived?


tom has left a new comment on your post "Philips CFL Bulbs only 1 Euro":

Why are the manufacturers and promoters of cfl bulbs claiming long life on these bulbs? Six years ago I started using these bulbs , I have had to replace many of them in that time , I now put the date of installation on each bulb.

Today I replaced 2 Philips genie 8w screw cap bulbs that I fitted on 11/4/09, 1 blew 2 weeks ago & the other blew yesterday.

reply to comment:

Tom, I have some 22 CFL bulbs currently running in my house. Like you I started to put the date on the base of the bulb with a pencil, so I have a fairly good idea about the lifespan.  All CFL bulbs have their lifetime quoted as an "average" number of HOURS. Frequent switching on and off will affect the lifespan, as will any form of dimmer.

Regarding Philips CFL bulbs specifically, about 4 years ago I experienced a high rate of failure in some Philips bulbs at that time. I contacted Philips and they were very good about it and sent me a bunch of free bulbs.

Now, only occasionally does one blow. My porch light is the most frequent one to blow. This light is switched on during the winter time from maybe 4pm till 9am the following morning. That adds up to 17 hours a day. That bulb lasts about 2 years on average. I am not dissatisfied with this lifespan, which averages out at about 9,000 hours. I would have replaced at least 4 filament bulbs in the same period.

You might have got a dud batch, in which case, you should contact Philips.

I still think CFL bulbs are terrific value for money and a really great energy saving method. As LED bulbs improve in design and reduce in price, they will eventually overtake CFLs, but that time has not yet arrived.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Ryan's Air or a Big Wind Project


Ryan’s Air
hopefully not just Hot Air!

Big wind is afoot. No - not a storm. Irish energy Minister Eamonn Ryan has just announced a kick off of some big plans for massive offshore wind farms. Hold up there - plans - just plans at this stage.

The idea is to construct, over the coming years, off-shore wind capacity some ten times the national energy requirements, and then to sell the nine tenths surplus power to Europe via an interconnect.

First, Ireland will have to do a fair bit of convincing in the EU, and further will have to do some major spinning of the story to convince the lenders to make the necessary funds available.

Playing with Figures

The start up budget for the off-shore winds farm project is only a drop in the ocean compared to the current national deficit, at a piddling €3billion. Eventually, however,  the project budget could reach a figure close enough to the National Debt at around €15billion.

A few Minor Obstacles

Apart from securing the money and subsidies, there are a few small details to consider like:

(a) an off shore grid system,
(b) an interconnect with England, and
(c) European and British contracts to buy the intermittent and erratic wind power we might thereby generate.

Minister Ryan seemed very positive about it all and is quoted as saying “This is very real, this is very much happening today. This is very much at the centre of Government thinking”.

"This is very much" good luck with the plans Minister.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Waste Plastic to Oil


Mr. Ito's Machine

Recycling plastic, other than just melting into masses to mould as garden seats etc, has been a high-tech factory based operation. Turning plastic back into oil has been a highly technical and expensive process. We have mountains of plastic to dispose of every year. On a global scale the estimates suggest that 7% of the world's oil production is used to make plastic.


Japanese inventor and businessman, Mr. Akinori Ito, has developed a process so simple that it can be fully realised in a machine small enough to fit on top of your kitchen table. What is even more important, is that the process is safe, releasing no toxic gasses. The final residue can be safely disposed of.

In various forums and articles concerns have been expressed about the safety of Mt. Ito’s process. General worries about pollution and toxic residue from the process have been addressed by the Blest Company. They say that, if the recommended plastics are fed into the machine, polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene PP, PE,  PS plastics, that there is no toxic substance released. And, as already mentioned, any residue can be disposed of with regular rubbish. The company also state that while methane, ethane, propane and butane gasses are released during the process, the machine has been fitted with an off-gas filter. The filter effectively degrades the gases into water and carbon.

Mr. Ito’s machine is called the Blest Machine. The process is basically a controlled heat process. You place the plastic waste in a large sealed pressure cooker type of container. After switch-on the temperature begins to rise melting the plastic. The plastic firsts becomes liquid, and eventually, as the temperature further rises, it becomes a gas. The gas is filtered through water, is cooled and again forms a liquid. This time the liquid is a flammable oil. One Kilogram of plastic rubbish will produce 1 Litre of usable oil.

This oil is immediately usable for certain purposes, for instance it can be burned in just a slightly modified central heating furnace.

In fact, this was the essence of my suggestion to the Kerry County Council; to recycle the plastic and heat the County Buildings with the oil produced. The system would probably pay for itself in time. But even if it didn’t, it would still be a worthwhile exercise, simply because we would not be exporting the problem.

The oils produced by Mr Ito’s machines can be further refined into petrol, kerosene and diesel and directly used in cars and other transport vehicles.

Cost of the table top machine is around €6500.  This is little better than a demonstration / assessment machine.

 The larger machine the B120 has a capacity of 5Kgs per hour or 5 litres of oil output per hour or 120 litres per 24h day. A cycle uses 4Kw/h of electricity. That would work out at around 10 cents per litre electricity costs.