On The White Path  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , , ,

Technology Review has an article on using nanocrystals to create white light LEDs (the future of energy efficient lighting).

Thomas Edison's lightbulb has ruled the world's lighting for more than a century, but numerous researchers are trying to replace the incandescent bulb with more energy-efficient solid-state lighting. One problem has been producing bright white light. To address the problem, D.D. Sarma, a materials scientist at the Indian Institute of Science, in Bangalore, has made tiny crystals of semiconductor material that, when coated onto a light-emitting diode (LED), give off a white glow just the right color for illuminating a living room. So far, it's only a weak light, but Sarma hopes to make it much brighter.

Sarma says that his approach gives better control over the whiteness and is simpler than other research efforts that use nanocrystals to produce white-light LEDs. Sarma grows tiny crystals of cadmium sulfide. He then paints them onto an LED that emits ultraviolet wavelengths, and the crystals produce the mix of colors that we perceive as white light. It's the extremely small size of the nanocrystals--each crystal is only five nanometers in diameter--that gives them their remarkable properties, says Sarma.

Single-color LEDs have largely taken over for lightbulbs in uses such as traffic signals. There's a big push to replace incandescent and fluorescent bulbs for general illumination as well. Sandia National Laboratory estimates that if half of all lighting is based on LEDs by 2025, the world would use 120 gigawatts less electricity, saving $100 billion a year and cutting the carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants by 350 megatons annually.

But to light up a room, single-color LEDs won't do. LED makers typically coat on a mix of phosphors to get white light out of an ultraviolet LED--the same method used in fluorescent bulbs. However, the molecules in the phosphors are so big that they scatter the light in unpredictable directions, and a good deal of it bounces back toward where it came from, never providing useful illumination. Scattering becomes a nonissue with the nanocrystals because they have less surface area for photons to bounce off. "The nanomaterials in general are so small they don't scatter light," Sarma says. "It is one of the reasons we get so excited about these materials."

Another potential advantage of nanocrystals over current materials, Sarma says, is that his nanocrystals produce a uniform shade of white. Traditional phosphors individually produce red, green, and blue light; they have to be mixed in the right ratios to create white light. But the phosphors that emit red light also absorb some of the green and blue light, making the mix more complex, so different LEDs wind up producing different shades of white. And the different phosphors age at different rates, so the color of the light could change over the lifetime of the product. Neither is a problem with the nanocrystals, Sarma says.

A number of other researchers are also developing nanocrystals to produce white-light LEDs. James McBride, for one, is an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University who as a graduate student found a way to make white-emitting nanocrystals. Instead of using cadmium sulfide like Sarma, McBride makes his nanocrystals out of cadmium selenide. And while Sarma dopes his crystals with manganese to get enough red in the white light, McBride uses no dopants. But Sarma says that his approach gives better control over the shade of white coming out and requires less uniformity of size among the nanocrystals.

Neither Sarma nor McBride is on the verge of producing marketable nanocrystal coatings. Sarma reported that only 2 percent of the energy going into one of his coated LEDs was coming out as white light. McBride says that he's now up to about 8 percent. But the technologies will need to reach 40 or 50 percent before the other advantages of nanocrystals make them competitive with existing phosphors.

And the cadmium could be a problem as well. It's highly toxic, and the lighting industry would rather avoid it. McBride thinks that if the nanocrystals prove superior in other ways, the industry might take the steps necessary to make processing the material safer. Meanwhile, both researchers hope to take what they're learning with cadmium-based semiconductors and see if it works with less-toxic material.

Neal Dikeman has a post on CNet looking at some of the factors inhibiting the efficiency of rooftop solar panels - In the real world, solar often gets barely a passing grade.
I'm a big fan of solar power. But as with anything, I like to know exactly what I'm getting. One of the big unspoken issues in the solar sector is the difference between the rated or estimated potential output of a solar system--and the actual production of kilowatt-hours. A range of factors from the margin of error in the modules, to temperature, dust and losses from wiring, conversion to AC power and any batteries all can contribute to as much as 30 percent lower actual power production--even in the first year.

Compounding this problem in my mind is that in California only about a third to half of our solar installations are actually independently monitored, according to one of my friends at Fat Spaniel, one of the leading monitors of solar systems. The California Energy Commission did some good thumbnail analysis of solar in the real world several years ago. Here's the punch line from their analysis:

"So the '100-watt module' output, reduced by production tolerance, heat, dust, wiring, AC conversion and other losses will translate into about 68 watts of AC power delivered to the house panel during the middle of a clear day (100 watts x 0.95 x 0.89 x 0.93 x 0.95 x 0.90 = 68 watts)." From A Guide to Photovoltaic System Design and Installation (PDF) by the California Energy Commission. If you are interested in solar, you need to read their report.

But this 68 watts is only part of the story. If you have battery storage on the system they say it could reduce the power another 6-10 percent. They then stated that poor installation layout problems--including shading can take an additional toll. Another big issue is the angle of the roof and the direction it faces (in California, where your roof faces can affect the power output up to another 15 percent for many roofs). And interesting enough, for all the talk about making windows out of solar in what is typically described as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), a vertical installation can reduce the power output up to about half all by itself! ...

When it comes to solar, let's make the right choice for solar power, but make it with our eyes open to the real world.

The ABC has an article on the "solar cities" initiative in Victoria - "Renewable Energy conference: microgeneration and solar cities".
Every industry breeds new technology and hopefully some jobs. They also seem to breed their own terminology and buzzwords - and the buzzword for renewable energy technologies seems to be 'microgeneration'.

Microgeneration means you can generate in small areas and you can be out there embedded in the community; you're not having to deal with the assumption that you lose 15 to 20 per cent of what you generate, in our instance, coming across poles and wires [from the Latrobe Valley] to central Victoria," says Michael McCartney. He's the project director for Central Victorian Solar Cities. Solar Cities is a partnership between local projects and the Federal Government, begun in 2004. "It was a challenge to industry players to address issues like the adoption of solar power; why, as a country, we don't adopt it, what are the savings that can be made by adopting solar and deferring investment in the grid network. Plus it also challenged industry players to think about demand management, time-of-use tariffs, retrofitting housing stock; a whole lot of issues were all bundled into one program," Mr McCartney says.

Central Victoria has been chosen to host one Solar Cities project. It's not quite ready to go yet, with negotiations still underway between the Central Victorian Solar Cities organisers and the Federal Government. The success of the local bid was announced in July 2007, after the group's initial expression of interest was lodged in July, 2005, and a follow-up business plan was submitted in April, 2006. Mr McCartney says he's hoping that, by the start of 2008, there will be a definitive funding agreement signed off.

In the meantime, the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance is soliciting registrations of interested households and businesses via its website. So what does that actually mean? If you do sign up, what can you expect? They're looking for around 2,500 households and 100 businesses to sign on as participants. "There's a range of trials, and they'll all be taking place within different parts of central Victoria," Mr McCartney says. "You'll get a new meter on your house that'll be a smart meter; you'll have the opportunity to have a new tariff, or you'll retrofit a house. Depending on which trail you take part in, it may even be PV (photo voltaic) panels on your roof.

The Australian reports that Howard's energy plan has hit turbulence in the form of some particularly ignorant parliamentarian claiming wind power isn't "feasible". That's funny, I thought places like Denmark seemed to get quite a lot of energy from the wind. On the plus side, she did say that we should be focussing on solar power instead (rather than prattling away about 'clean coal" or some other mythological form of energy).

THE Howard Government's policy shift on clean energy has been undermined, with a federal minister launching a blistering attack on wind farms despite the renewable energy industry declaring wind power is vital if the Coalition is to meet its 2020 climate change target. Just one day after John Howard committed the Government to new clean energy targets, Tourism Minister Fran Bailey insisted wind power was largely unsuitable for Australia, saying there was no evidence it was a feasible alternative energy source.

And despite the Government saying its new strategy would cost $7.5 billion, senior Howard ministers had warned three years ago that a more modest doubling of mandatory renewable energy targets would cost the economy $23billion, when they were arguing against an increase to the original scheme.

And as Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty warned that climate change - not terrorism - would be the security issue of the century because of its potential to cause death and destruction on an unprecedented scale, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer urged the UN to use the climate change outcomes of the Sydney APEC summit as the template for a proposed new international agreement on combating greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy industry said wind power would dominate the Government's new clean energy target of 30,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, as most other technologies that meet the threshold of 200kg of greenhouse gas per megawatt hour, such as clean coal or solar, were either not ready or were too expensive to install at a large scale in the next decade.

Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the new targets would be achievable in conjunction with a proposed carbon trading scheme. "This is not the only influence on renewable energy. We have an emission-trading scheme, which will be putting a price on carbon, and of course making the economics of renewable energy better, and encouraging renewable energy," he said yesterday. "Our new clean energy target ... is aimed for 2020, and it will then work in together with the emissions trading scheme and see us having a very substantial but most importantly a very achievable share of our electricity market being clean energy by 2020."

But Ms Bailey, who vowed to campaign against a proposed wind farm in Victoria's spa region, northwest of Melbourne, said wind had not been subject to adequate cost-benefit analysis, industry claims of job creation were a "furphy", and government policy should instead focus on developing solar power. She said the areas in Australia where wind farms would be appropriate were limited. "My own view, and this is my personal view, is I have always thought that wind technology as an alternate technology was far more suited to the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere," she said. "What we (should be) doing is placing an emphasis on solar energy and making sure we spend as much as we can on developing solar energy. I think that should be a priority." ...

The energy industry said yesterday that wind power would dominate the Government's new clean energy target of 30,000 gigawatt hours by 2020. Energy supply association chief Brad Page said the industry's recent assessment of clean coal had it available from about 2020, while other eligible low emission technologies were unlikely to be affordable or ready within the next decade. "We think this scheme would largely favour wind farms," Mr Page said. "We wouldn't envisage that there is going to be a huge rush on that target made by carbon capture and storage technology. It's very unlikely."

Industry sources say nearly 4000 new wind turbines will be needed to meet this new mandatory target by 2020. There are about 500 installed, mainly across the southern coastal regions of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.

TreeHugger has a post on the acidifying oceans - "Never Mind Future Temperature Increases: CO2 Emissions Deserve EPA's Attention NOW".
As far as oceanographers and biogeochemists are concerned, the level of attention that has been bestowed on the interactions between increased carbon dioxide emissions, global warming and the oceans amongst media and policy circles has essentially boiled down to one of two memes: higher sea surface temperatures or higher sea levels. Even then, the media's focus on these global warming-induced effects has paled in comparison to the attention paid to terrestrial ecosystems and future changes.

Though no big secret amongst marine biologists - some of us have been studying the phenomenon of ocean acidification for years now - the long-term effect of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on the ocean's chemistry has largely remained an unknown quantity to the general public. In a nutshell, a larger influx of carbon dioxide into the oceans will shift the delicate equilibrium governing the water's chemistry, prompting an increase in the hydrogen ion concentration and, thus, a lowering of its pH.

A new study investigating the effects of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on the oceans has found that - unless emission cuts are immediately enacted - they will exceed the EPA's standards within the next few decades. This directly contradicts the results presented by an earlier article that had claimed that the oceans' pH would easily remain within the EPA's standards.

Criticizing the paper's author for having made "inappropriate assumptions and erroneous thermodynamic calculations," the authors of the new study argued that he erred by significantly underestimating how much the pH would change as a result of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. In fact, the pH changes could be large enough to cause the large-scale dissolution of coral reefs around the world and the deaths of phytoplankton species unable to form their mineralized shells. Because these species sit in the bottom trophic level of the seas' elaborate food chains, their removal would have drastic consequences - including the complete and utter collapse of most commercial fisheries.

Unless the EPA revises its stand - which "does not impose legally binding requirements on EPA, states, tribes or the regulated community" - the authors warn that we could move pass the point of no return as far as the oceans' water chemistry is concerned. Isn't it about time they started acting on limiting carbon dioxide emissions?



The Nation has a look at Blackwater, Oil and the Colonial Enterprise. The Washington Post has a much smaller article - Iraq Oil Deal Gets Everybody's Attention - noting Kucinich is still fighting the good fight.
Blackwater USA's mercenary mission in Iraq is very much in the news this week, and rightly so. The private military contractor's war-for-profit program, which has been so brilliantly exposed by Jeremy Scahill, may finally get a measure of the official scrutiny it merits as the corporation scrambles to undo the revocation by the Iraqi government of its license to operate in that country. There will be official inquiries in Baghdad, and in Washington. The U.S. Congress might actually provide some of the oversight that is its responsibility. Perhaps, and this is a big "perhaps," Blackwater's "troops" could come home before the U.S. soldiers who have been forced to fight, and die, in defense of these international rent-a-cops. But it is not the specific story of Blackwater that matters so much as the broader story of imperial excess that it illustrates.

If Blackwater, with an assist from the U.S. government, beats back the attempt by the Iraqis to regulate the firm's activities -- as now appears likely, considering Friday's report that the firm has resumed guarding U.S. State Department convoys in Baghdad -- we will have all the confirmation that is needed of the great truth of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: This is a colonial endeavor no different than that of the British Empire against America's founding generation revolted.

But even if Blackwater loses its fight to stay, even if the corporation is forced to shut down its multi-billion dollar, U.S. Treasury-funded operation in Iraq, the brief "accountability moment" may not be sufficient to open up the necessary debate about Iraq's colonial status. The danger, for Iraq and the United States, that honest assessment of the crisis will lose out to face-saving gestures designed to foster the fantasy of Iraqi independence. It is not enough that Blackwater is shamed and perhaps sanctioned. A Blackwater exit from Iraq will mean little if its mercenary contracts are merely taken over by one or more of the 140 other U.S.-sanctioned private security firms operating in that country -- such as Vice President Dick Cheney's Halliburton.

Whatever the precise play out of this Blackwater moment may be, the likelihood is that the colonial enterprise will continue. That's because, in the absence of intense pressure from grassroots activists and the media, Congress is unlikely to go beyond a scratch at the surface of what is actually going on in Iraq. The deeper discussion requires that a discussion about the substance that no less a figure than former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan describes as the reason for the invasion and occupation of this particular Middle Eastern land: oil

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly observed that "colonialism was made for domination and for exploitation," and there is no substance that the Bush-Cheney administration is more interested in dominating and exploiting than oil.

Thus, while it is right to pay close attention to the emerging discussion about Blackwater's wicked work in Iraq, Americans would do well to pay an equal measure of attention to the still largely submerged discussion about an Iraqi oil deal that will pay huge benefits to the Hunt Oil Company, a Texas firm closely linked to the administration. How closely? When he was running Halliburton, Cheney invited Hunt Oil Company CEO Ray Hunt to serve on the firm's board of directors. Hunt, a "Bush Pioneer" fund raiser during the 2000 campaign recently donated the tidy sum of $35 million to George W.'s presidential library building fund.

The new "production sharing agreement" between Hunt Oil and the Kurdistan Regional Government puts one of the administration's favorite firms in a position to reap immeasurable profits while undermining essential efforts to assure that Iraq's oil revenues will be shared by all Iraqis. Hunt's deal upsets hopes that Iraq's mineral wealth might ultimately be a source of stability, replacing the promise of economic equity with the prospect of a black-gold rush that will only widen inequalities and heighten ethnic and regional resentments. The Hunt deal is so sleazy -- and so at odds with the stated goals of the Iraqi government and the U.S. regarding shared oil revenues -- that even Bush acknowledges that U.S. embassy officials in Baghdad are deeply concerned. What Bush and Cheney won't mention is the fact that Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, says the deal is illegal.

Unfortunately, as with the Blackwater imbroglio, however, there is no assurance that the stance of the Iraqi government is definitional with regard to what happens in Iraq. All indications are that what happens in Washington matters most. And that is why it is so very disturbing that, for the most part, members of Congress -- even members who say they do not want the United States to have a long-term presence in Iraq -- have been slow to start talking about Hunt's oil rigging.

That is why it is disturbing that, for the most part, members of Congress -- even members who say they do not want the United States to have a long-term presence in Iraq -- have been slow to start talking about Hunt's oil rigging.

One House member who has raised the alarm is Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich, who in his capacity as a key member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has asked the committee's chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman, to launch an investigation into the Hunt Oil deal. "As I have said for five years, this war is about oil," argues Kucinich, who is mounting an anti-war bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, declared on the floor of the House this week. "The Bush Administration desires private control of Iraqi oil, but we have no right to force Iraq to give up control of their oil. We have no right to set preconditions to Iraq which lead Iraq to giving up control of their oil. The Constitution of Iraq designates that the oil of Iraq is the property for all Iraqi people."

With that in mind, Kucinich explains, "I am calling for a Congressional investigation to determine the role the Administration may have played in the Hunt-Kurdistan deal, the effect the deal will have on the oil revenue sharing plan and the attempt by the Administration to privatize Iraqi oil."

Waxman has been ahead of the curve on Blackwater, seeking testimony from the firm's chairman at hearings scheduled for early October. But Waxman needs to expand his focus, and the way to do that is by heeding Kucinich's call for an investigation into the Hunt deal.

That inquiry should begin with two fundamental questions:

Who runs Iraq -- the Iraqis or their colonial overlords in Washington?

And, if the claim is that the Iraqis are in charge, then why is Ray Hunt about to start steering revenues from that country's immense oil wealth into the same Texas bank accounts that have so generously funded the campaigns of George Bush and Dick Cheney?

Democracy Now has a rather strange pair in for an interview with Amy Goodman - Naomi Klein debating Alan Greenspan.
AMY GOODMAN: Alan Greenspan, let's talk about the war in Iraq. You said what for many in your circles is the unspeakable, that the war in Iraq was for oil. Can you explain?

ALAN GREENSPAN: Yes. The point I was making was that if there were no oil under the sands of Iraq, Saddam Hussein would have never been able to accumulate the resources which enabled him to threaten his neighbors, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia. And having watched him for thirty years, I was very fearful that he, if he ever achieved -- and I thought he might very well be able to buy one -- an atomic device, he would have essentially endeavored and perhaps succeeded in controlling the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz, which is the channel through which eighteen or nineteen million barrels a day of the world eighty-five million barrel crude oil production flows. Had he decided to shut down, say, seven million barrels a day, which he could have done if he controlled, he could have essentially also shut down a significant part of economic activity throughout the world.

The size of the threat that he posed, as I saw it emerging, I thought was scary. And so, getting him out of office or getting him out of the control position he was in, I thought, was essential. And whether that be done by one means or another was not as important, but it's clear to me that were there not the oil resources in Iraq, the whole picture of how that part of the Middle East developed would have been different.

AMY GOODMAN: We're also joined in studio by Naomi Klein, author of the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Your response to that, Naomi Klein?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I'm just wondering if it troubles Mr. Greenspan at all that wars over resources in other countries are actually illegal. Mr. Greenspan has praised the rule of law, the importance of the rule of law, in his book. But in his statements about the reasons why this has not been publicly discussed, he has said that it's not politically expedient at this moment. But it's not just that it's not politically expedient, Mr. Greenspan. Are you aware that, according to the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, it is illegal for one country to invade another over its natural resources?

ALAN GREENSPAN: No. What I was saying is that the issue which, as you know, most people who were pressing for the war were concerned with were weapons of mass destruction. I personally believed that Saddam was behaving in a way that he probably very well had, almost certainly had, weapons of mass destruction. I was surprised, as most, that he didn't. ...

Links:

* SMH - Hope Withers On The Vine
* SMH - Costa push to derail Hills link
* The Australian - Australia is part of the global warming problem
* The Australian - Industry jockeys to cash in on renewables targets
* Wired - Rising Seas Likely to Flood U.S. Historical Site
* Wired - Schwarzenegger, Gore Seek Climate Action
* Real Climate - Nature's 'Climate Feedback' blog: Worth A Look
* After Gutenberg - Stop Coal, Save the Future
* AllAfrica.com - Ghana: Solar Energy, Rain Water Law Advocated
* CNN - Solar lifeline saves Darfur women
* SMH - Soldiers switch to solar power
* ENN - Yes, The Internet Saves Energy. Wishful thinking I suspect.
* Pocket Lint - Greenpeace publishes latest Green Guide - Nokia is the greenest
* WorldChanging - Paul Hawken, Bill McKibben on Blessed Unrest and Deep Economics
* The Age - The end is nigh. Be positive
* Beyond The Beyond - Pulp Based Computing
* Boing Boing - Kevin Kelly's Life Countdown Clock
* Tom Whipple - Peak Oil Review - September 24th, 2007
* Associated Newspapers Of Ceylon - Global oil extinction: Could be a blessing in disguise for Lanka
* Brisbane Courier Mail - A Crude Awakening. Petrol politics in Queensland.
* The Australian - Petronas buys 25pc stake from Shell in Timor sea gas venture
* Newsweek - Let's Make an Oil Deal
* Concord Monitor - What counts as 'victory' in Iraq?
* Dave Winer - How CBS Interviewed Iran's President
* Gil Smart - Flying forward. Where is Billmon these days ?
* Cryptogon - Bush, the Little Voice in Hillary’s Head
* Word of the day - Schadendouche

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