UK firm develops way to store hydrogen
Cella Energy used nanotechnology to develop microbeads that can trap hydrogen and release it when heated
One of the biggest stumbling blocks on the road to hydrogen power has long been the difficulty in storing the fuel. Hydrogen atoms are so small that they can slip between the spaces in molecules of other materials, and the gas can be a hazard if it escapes.
But a cheap and practical way of storing hydrogen has been developed by a British company. Cella Energy used nanotechnology to develop microbeads – about the size of a grain of sand – that can trap hydrogen and release it when heated. The energy can then be used safely to power vehicles – drivers could simply top up with microbeads on filling station forecourts. What's more, the beads are not just for hydrogen vehicles - they also work in standard combustion engines, in which they can be used as an additive to help the petrol burn more cleanly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Cella's invention, developed at its lab in Oxford, was in the limelight on Tuesday after the company scooped this year's Springboard award from Shell.
Stephen Voller, chief executive, said the prize was "a great boost [that] will give us real credibility in the eyes of customers and potential investors alike". Cella received £40,000 from Shell, which the company will use to scale up its technology to an industrial scale.
Second place in the awards went to VPhase, a Chester-based company, for a voltage optimisation product for households. This works on the basis that standard voltage is variable, meaning some devices are using more energy than they need to run. So installing the device should result in instant savings on electricity bills.
Among the runners-up and regional winners from the 200 small businesses that entered were Ashwoods Automotive, with a product that lengthens the life of electric car batteries, and Naked Energy, with a solar panel that generates both electricity and hot water in cool climates.
The Springboard awards have been running since 2005, in which time 53 companies have shared more than £2m.
Comments in chronological order (Total 38 comments)
25 February 2011 4:58AM
Major breakthrough in Hydrogen energy storage. Hydrogen is the future energy carrier. Hydrogen along with fuel cells are expected to be major alternate energy.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),IndiaChina plans to make a million electric vehicles a year by 2015
- Green Futures: China and India take a lead in electric vehicle manufacture
China is aiming to put more than a million electric vehicles onto the road each year by 2015, according to the state-run People's Daily. It claims that new plans for the auto industry are about to be published and will make "new energy" – electric and hybrid electric – vehicles a national priority.
China's long-term target is for 100 million new cars and buses to be produced each year by 2020, it says. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is pledged to invest more than 100 billion yuan over the next 10 years to support new energy vehicle production, "in order to make China the world's largest new energy automobile production country".
EV manufacturers in India, meanwhile, have had a boost in the shape of a government decision to extend support in their domestic market. The subsidy package is worth up to about £13.4 million between now and 2011 and will represent 20% of each vehicle sold to Indian customers.
Pawan Goenka, the automotive sector president of G-Wiz manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra, said the move will encourage development of alternative fuel technologies across India. But Goenka, who leads the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said the government would have to continue supporting the country's "technology leap" beyond 2011.
Comments in chronological order (Total 30 comments)
19 February 2011 10:27AM
China can make it. But what are needed are standards for Electric Vehicles. Our past experience with Electric scooters in India leaves much to be desired. Unless the efficient batteries are used for storage at an affordable price, Electric Vehicles may not be that popular.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
Green economy needs 2% of every nation's income, says UN
Global green investment drive 'would pay off in terms of jobs, cleaner air and energy use'
The United Nations will call on Monday for 2% of worldwide income to be invested in the green economy, a move it says would boost jobs and economic growth.
The call is expected to be matched by statements of support for low-carbon investment from heads of state including President Barack Obama of the US and Hu Jintao of China, and several chiefs of multinational companies.
An investment of 2% of global GDP would more than pay for itself in the form of millions of new jobs, the development of new industries, health benefits from cleaner air, energy efficiency savings and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the UN is expected to say.
These findings are also backed up by a report to be published today by the German government, which warns that Europe will suffer continued low growth rates unless investment in green projects is increased. Raising the level of ambition in the EU's climate targets would increase European GDP by up to $842bn, a 6% rise, and create up to 6m additional jobs across member states.
The world stands at a critical point in terms of low-carbon investment, according to the UN. While India has a national action plan expected to stimulate $1tn of investment in the next decade, and China - already the biggest producer of wind power and solar panels - is pushing ahead with a five-year plan for a "clean revolution", other economies are wavering.
In the US, investment in renewable energy has stalled, and an HSBC analysis found that Republican plans currently before Congress would more than halve federal spending on low-carbon projects, including high-speed rail, carbon regulation and contributions to international climate funds. Plans put forward by Obama, by contrast, provide for a 20% increase in climate and clean energy funding above 2010 levels, paid for by the repeal of $4bn in fossil fuel subsidies and research.
Nick Robins, head of climate change at HSBC, said: "We expect tough negotiations to close this gulf in budgetary priorities between the president and Congress... Although we do not expect all the proposed cuts to materialise, key climate initiatives look set to be curbed."
In the European Union, politicians, green campaigners and businesses are at loggerheads over whether to adopt more ambitious climate targets. Several member states, including the UK, want to toughen the current goal of cutting emissions by 20% by 2020 to a cut of 30% by the same date, arguing that a more stringent target will create new jobs and allow the EU to keep up with China in the race to dominate the green economy. Their case was strongly boosted by a confidential European Commission analysis, seen by the Guardian, showing that if existing policies are followed through, the EU will comfortably exceed its current target, with a fall in emissions of about 25% by 2020.
The German environment ministry's report, also seen by the Guardian, added to this case, concluding that the current 20% target "has become too weak to mobilise innovations". Sticking with it, the authors say, "is the equivalent of digging deeper while still being stuck in a hole", while the 30% target is not only achievable but "economically beneficial".
In the UK, a group of leading businesses will unite today to urge George Osborne, the chancellor, to include measures to stimulate low-carbon development in his March Budget. Peter Young, chairman of the Aldersgate Group, said: "The chancellor has promised a budget for growth but we believe this must be a budget for green growth. The UK needs an explicit strategy to take advantage of the global shift to a green economy, driving jobs and exports. Cuts alone will not deliver a competitive economy."
21 February 2011 10:44AM
Yes. Every country should earmark sizeable budget for Green Economy.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
Bill Bryson launches battle against litter on railways
Campaign led by the author aims to force Network Rail to fulfil its legal obligation to clear up rubbish
Bryson, the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which has published a guide on complaining about litter. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA
Standing on a crowded, windswept railway platform can be dreary on a cold Monday morning, especially when it's filthy with crisp wrappers and drink cans.
But in stations around the country, commuters are rising up and striking a blow against litter – even if they can't do anything about the weather.
The author Bill Bryson and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) are spearheading a campaign to force Network Rail and the train operators to clean up their stations, sidings and approaches, as they are legally obliged to do. Members of the public can use a legal mechanism called a litter abatement order to compel public land managers to remove rubbish.
Bryson, the president of the CPRE, is presenting an order to clean up the litter in stations in Cambridgeshire. Other campaigners are targeting London Bridge station, St Austell in Cornwall, Hersham in Surrey, Ainsdale on Merseyside, Clacton-on-Sea in Essex and Gravesend in Kent.
Bryson said: "This is not a complicated or controversial issue. Organisations responsible for public land are required to keep it clear of litter. If they are not taking this responsibility seriously, we all have the power to compel them to do so."
CPRE has written an online guide to the orders. For one to be granted, the complainant has to show that litter was persistently left uncleared, and a request to the land manager to clean it was ignored.
A photograph of the problem is the best way to start, along with a letter or email to the station manager. If this is ignored, it should be followed up with an email or letter to the chief executive of the station operator – such as Network Rail – declaring the intention to apply for a litter abatement order. At this stage, according to CPRE, most managers will respond and clear up.
Applying for an order costs about £80 to £200, but if a magistrate decrees it is valid, the costs are returned.
Bryson said railway stations had been targeted first because of the poor image they give to tourists and visitors. "Railway operators and Network Rail are not the only offenders, but they are responsible for far too much uncollected litter," he said. "The first impression for a visitor arriving in a town is often formed by their view from a train carriage, and it is a disgrace that the view is so often a degraded and dirty one that suggests a lack of care or pride in the area."
14 February 2011 2:21PM
I agree with you Bill Bryson, I wish we in developing countries adopt cleanliness in Railways and public places. As Mahatma Gandhi said, CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS. The trouble is many people in developing countries are individually clean but collectively not.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
The cost of climate policy uncertaintyHow extreme weather could create a global food crisis
Whatever the government may say, wind turbines are not necessarily a good thing·
Wind turbines generate electricity only when the wind is blowing and there is no economic way of storing it. Photograph: Heath Korvola/Getty Images
People are frightened of criticising windfarms. It is politically incorrect to do so, for windfarms are hailed as powerful weapons in the battle against global warming. Unlike fossil fuels, which presently generate more than 70% of Britain's electricity, wind turbines emit no carbon into the atmosphere. They are clean and green and therefore virtuous, unlike those who attack them. They are viewed as such throughout the world, and especially by the EU, which has told member countries how much of the energy they use must come from renewable resources by 2020: for Britain the figure is 15%. In our sunless country that kind of energy means windfarms, and the British government has actively encouraged them by requiring that power companies buy a percentage of their electricity from renewable generators or face fines. So to oppose windfarms is to be both unpatriotic and a bad citizen of the world.
There is a downside to wind turbines, of course. They are enormous. If Antony Gormley's Angel of the North is considered tall, the average wind turbine is twice its height. Windfarms loom over the countryside, visible for miles around. They kill bats by exploding their little lungs. They frighten horses with an effect known as "shadow flicker". They make a noise that keeps people awake at night. But all these drawbacks pale into insignificance compared to the great benefits they are supposed to bring to mankind. Even the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) decided at one stage that the "industrialisation of the countryside" was acceptable "in order to avoid the damage to the environment caused by not generating renewable energy". If even the CPRE, the chief defender of the English countryside, was in favour of these huge excrescences in the landscape, how could anybody reasonably object to them?
Wanting to look on the bright side of life, many people claim to find wind turbines beautiful; and it's true that one turbine standing alone in a windswept setting can look very striking. But just as the Angel of the North is striking, one might get a bit fed up with it if it were replicated thousands of times all over the country. Be that as it may, the drawbacks of wind turbines are well known and should, we are told, be tolerated for the sake of the greater good. And it particularly behoves those of us who live near potential wind-farm sites to forsake nimbyism and set an example of self-sacrifice. But at this point I must reveal an interest and confess that self-sacrifice is not an option I plan to adopt.
I live in south Northamptonshire, where I am the custodian of two 17th-century pavilions, once linked by colonnades to a country house called Stoke Park that burned down in the 1880s. Built originally as a chapel and a library, they are attributed to the architect Inigo Jones and are among the very first buildings in England in the Palladian style. They were almost derelict when my late uncle Robin bought them more than 50 years ago and restored them with the help of a large government grant. Though I say it myself, they are rather beautiful and look out over tranquil parkland that was recently replanted and returned to pasture with the aid of another government grant. Bordering the parkland runs the little river Tove, beyond which, along the length of the valley between Stoke Park and the racecourse at Towcester about three miles away, it is proposed to erect 16 wind turbines, each nearly 100 feet taller than Big Ben, or two and a half times the height of Nelson's Column. They would be a blight not only on the Stoke Park pavilions, which would be the nearest buildings to them, but on everyone and everything else for miles around.
The formal planning application has yet to be made. It is being preceded at present by an Environmental Impact Assessment in which interested bodies (but, strangely, not individuals) are asked to give their opinions about how the project would affect landscape, heritage, wildlife, traffic, leisure and so on. It seems pretty certain that English Heritage will advise against it, as I expect will the CPRE, which is becoming daily less keen on windfarms. In a paper entitled Windfarms: Time to Change Direction? which was published in July last year, the Northamptonshire branch of CPRE said the organisation should "re-evaluate" its support for them in the light of new evidence suggesting "that the generation of electricity from wind is not an effective way of reducing carbon emissions".
There are lots of reasons for believing this, but the main one is probably the fact that there is as yet no economic way of storing electricity; and since turbines generate it only when the wind is blowing, and this isn't necessarily when demand for electricity is high (as during last December, when the weather was freezing but there was very little wind), the old fossil fuel generators will have to be kept going to keep supply and demand in balance. There is also a question as to whether the carbon emitted in the manufacture of wind turbines exceeds the amount saved during many years of their operation. A recent article in the Sunday Times also highlighted the disastrous environmental pollution caused in northern China by the extraction of neodymium, a metal needed for the magnets on which wind turbines depend.
However persuasive the case in general against windfarms may be, the district councils that decide whether or not they may go ahead are not allowed to take this into account. They may not question the government's policy, which is that windfarms are a good thing, even at the cost of ruining large stretches of unspoiled countryside. But at least I don't need to feel guilty any more about objecting to having one on my doorstep.
5 February 2011 5:23PM
It seems the author is not aware of the history of Wind Energy and the present need to generate power by all means including wind. The following are some of the numerous advantages of using wind turbines.
• Generate more electricity since this energy is renewable.
• Wind turbines are cleaner compared to other sources of energy that creates pollution.
• It provides additional energy demand as population increases and many people are using the energy day by day.
• The energy we use here is free
• Wind energy is renewable so it will never runs out of availability
• There are no hazardous emissions in wind powered energy technology.
• There is no adverse impacts on environment
Wind is the oldest among Renewable Energy Sources.Water pumping windmills and windmills for grinding in Netherlands are centuries old. With the emergence of Wind Turbines large scale wind turbines are in operation. The present Wind Installations
The Total capacity of Wind Installations Worldwide upto June 2010,MW.
USA 36,300 China 33,800 Germany 26,400 Spain 19,500 India 12,100 Italy 5,300 France 5,000 United Kingdom 4,600 Portugal 3,800 and Denmark 3,700 Rest of the World 24,500 and Total 175,000 MW.
Latest offshore wind statistics released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) confirm that the UK is the European and world leader in the sector, with 1,341MW installed. The UK is followed by Denmark (854MW), the Netherlands (249MW), Belgium (195MW) and Sweden (164MW). Germany, Ireland, Finland and Norway have a further 145MW between them.
Alexander Chancellor,all the drawbacks of wind turbines you mention like noise, killing of birds, storage are nothing compared to the benefits of Wind Energy as a supplementary energy to conventional Energy like Coal,Petroleum,gas etc., There are two systems to tap wind energy: Stand alone systems which store energy in batteries and grid connected large wind turbines. Today the largest Wind Turbine is 5 MwW.
The wind energy has actually been used for thousands of years. This was used by our ancestors on their navigation, exploration and fishing.. Population is increasing every minute and the wide use of energy causes our sources to deplete faster than it is being replaced. Thus, we really have to consider using wind powered energy appliances as a strong contender for future production of renewable electricity.
“No Power is costlier than No Power” so spoke Dr.H.J.Bhabha the noted Indian Nuclear Scientist. In this context wind energy offers promise to provide energy in inaccessible areas which are not covered by Grid.
There is a Chinese old saying,: “When winds of change occur some build walls while others build Windmills”.
Let us promote Wind Energy which is inexhaustible, pollution-free and which cannot be misused.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
Wind Energy Expert