Showing posts from September 20, 2009

Race Cars to the Rescue

Race Cars to the Rescue One does not usually associate energy efficiency with Formula One racecars, but they do go together. Many of the standard features in today’s cars were tested on race tracks (and before that by bootleggers doing their best to outrun the local gendarme. Likewise, Formula One cars are helping in the development of two major innovations for increasing vehicle efficiency, the zeroshift gearbox and regenerative braking. In “F1 Soups up the Family Car,” Science Illustrated (September/October 2009, pages 50–53) describes how these two innovations are important in the high-performance arena and how the investments there may yield dividends for ordinary road vehicles. For racers, the biggest advantage of the zeroshift transmission is that it gives quicker surer gear changes. For ordinary cars, reducing those freewheeling seconds between gears can reduce energy losses to the level of

Getting the Juice: How About Silicon-Nanotube Electrodes?

Getting the Juice: How About Silicon-Nanotube Electrodes? It’s just another research initiative … a fond hope, … but it might work yet. Researchers at Stanford University in California, USA and Hanyang University in Ansan, Korea are working to develop silicon nanotube electrodes that might hold more mobile lithium ions in a lithium battery. The result might be a tenfold increase in battery capability per unit of mass. That could upgrade electric cars from 40-mile range to 400-mile range. The reason Henry Ford politely declined to work for Thomas Alva Edison on the electric car would disappear The development program was described in the journal Nano Letters, and Technology Review summarized it at and it has great possibilities. However, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. Theoretical possibilities cannot be produced in mas

Geothermal—Drilling Hot But Ground Shaking

Geothermal—Drilling Hot But Ground Shaking Geothermal energy, tapping into the fission heat of the Earth’s core, has the potential to supply a major part of humanity’s energy needs without major outputs of carbon dioxide. Those possibilities got both good news and bad news in mid September 2009. The good news was provided by ETH Zurich (Switzerland) who have done the basic research for a thermal drill to penetrate rock with potential for providing geothermal energy. Drilling is typically one of the greatest costs for geothermal energy, and indeed, any place on Earth could provide geothermal energy if drilling costs were low enough. In fact, drilling costs for geothermal tend to be high for two reasons. First, except for a rare geologic sites, deep drilling is required. Second, heat (by definition) tends to be in igneous (that is volcanic-type) rocks, or at least metamorphic (sedimentary rocks that have been cooked by nearby magma). Such rocks t