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    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off the meeting in Valencia, Spain, which will result in the production of the Synthesis Report on climate change. The report will summarize the core findings of the three volumes published earlier by the separate working groups. IPCC - November 12, 2007.

    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Scientists discover record-breaking hydrogen storage materials - absorb 14% by weigth at room temperature

Scientists at the University of Virginia (UVa) have discovered a new class of hydrogen storage materials that could make the storage and transportation of energy much more efficient — and affordable — through higher-performing hydrogen fuel cells. The news is important for the bioenergy community, because, on a well-to-wheel basis, biohydrogen used in fuel cells is the most efficient and cleanest form of hydrogen utilization out of 28 generic fuel production and propulsion options for the gas (see earlier discussion of a large EU well-to-wheel study on hydrogen production, or see graph, click to enlarge).

Bellave S. Shivaram and Adam B. Phillips, the UVa physicists who invented the new materials, presented their findings today at the International Symposium on Materials Issues in a Hydrogen Economy.
In terms of hydrogen absorption, these materials could prove a world record. Most materials today absorb only 7 to 8 percent of hydrogen by weight, and only at cryogenic [extremely low] temperatures. Our materials absorb hydrogen up to 14 percent by weight at room temperature. By absorbing twice as much hydrogen, the new materials could help make the dream of a hydrogen economy come true. - Adam B. Phillips
In the quest for alternative fuels, UVa's new materials potentially could provide a highly affordable solution to energy storage and transportation problems with a wide variety of applications. They absorb a much higher percentage of hydrogen than predecessor materials while exhibiting faster kinetics at room temperature and much lower pressures, and are inexpensive and simple to produce.

The challenge of hydrogen storage is finding a way to store enough of it to make it worthwhile — enough to fuel a vehicle for its required driving range, within the constraints of weight, volume, efficiency, and cost. Current technologies — and their downsides — include:
  • Compressed gases in pressurized tanks, like the ones that transport today's propane and natural gas — which could require large-volume tanks
  • Metal hydrides — which are very heavy and thus reduce a vehicle's driving range.
Hydrogen is a poorly compressing, low-density gas, difficult to liquefy. A storage medium would need to be small, lightweight, and provide a high concentration of hydrogen to the weight of the storage material.

For the automotive industry, this medium also needs to be on board the vehicle, providing sufficient fuel to travel a range of 300 miles on a single tank— without sacrificing space, lifestyle or price. The primary goal is to get the largest amount of hydrogen into the smallest volume.

Yet another important feature is the ability to put hydrogen in the medium and take it out again without expending too much energy. Finally, it also has to be inexpensive, not too sensitive to impurities, and safe. This is a very tall order indeed.

The three most basic approaches to a storage solution are the following:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
  • Physical storage: developing tanks for either compressed hydrogen gas or liquid hydrogen;
  • Reversible chemical storage: storing the hydrogen in solid materials so it can be released and refilled without physically removing the storage medium from the vehicle
  • Irreversible chemical storage: releasing hydrogen via an on-board chemical reaction with the storage material and replenishing the hydrogen off-board.
The new materials fit in the second category and are based on carbon/metal hybrid materials.
These materials are the next generation in hydrogen fuel storage materials, unlike any others we have seen before. They have passed every litmus test that we have performed, and we believe they have the potential to have a large impact. - Bellave S. Shivaram
The inventors believe the novel materials will translate to the marketplace and are working with the UVa Patent Foundation to patent their discovery.

The U.Va. Patent Foundation is very excited to be working with a material that one day may be used by millions in everyday life, said Chris Harris, senior licensing manager for the UVa Patent Foundation. According to him, Dr. Phillips and Dr. Shivaram have made an "incredible breakthrough" in the area of hydrogen absorption.

Phillips’s and Shivaram’s research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

We will report back as more details about the materials become available.

A quick note on biohydrogen: it may be the cleanest and most energy efficient way of producing hydrogen, the problem is that biomass can be used more efficiently still for the production of heat and electricity. For this reason, some bioenergy advocates are more in favor of a transition towards electric vehicles, because these would allow just as large a range of primary energy sources (including biomass, solar, wind, nuclear, etc...) and are surprisingly efficient and clean compared to hydrogen used in fuel cells. But then, such a transition requires major breakthroughs in battery technology. The jury is still out.

UVa Today: University of Virginia Scientists Discover Record-Breaking Hydrogen Storage Materials for Use in Fuel Cells - November 9, 2007.

Biopact: Hydrogen out, compressed biogas in - October 01, 2006


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