Saturday, April 30, 2011

Down the Foxhole - ActiveDen

Down the Foxhole - ActiveDen

Link to Envato Notes

Freebie Friday: Ubuntu 11.04

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 07:54 PM PDT

As everyone interested in Linux would know, Ubuntu 11.04 (codenamed “Natty Narwhal”) was released this week. And it’s free!

Linux is a secure operating system with a plethora of free applications for virtually every purpose. And it gets friendlier every year in spades. Ubuntu has been the most popular distribution of Linux virtually since its launch in 2004.

Judging by the comments on our Your Say posts, there are quite a few Linux users among our readers. I used Linux (in various versions) as my only operating system from 2003 to 2009, and found it did everything I needed it to.

Some people, however, may find that Linux lacks a few essential apps that they absolutely require, Though now that Adobe Creative Suite for Linux is on the radar, that may eventually change for many of you.

In any case, it’s definitely worth checking out. I don’t believe that anyone who hasn’t tried Linux can honestly call themselves a geek!

Have you tried the new Ubuntu yet? Will you be sticking with the new Unity desktop environment, moving on to Gnome 4, or staying with the safe and familiar? Do you prefer a different Linux distro? Or did you find that Linux doesn’t suit you? Let us know in the comments.


Latest From : CleanTechnica

Latest From : CleanTechnica

First HVDC Transmission Projects Beginning Globally

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 05:41 PM PDT

Finally. We are starting to get the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system we need to shift massive amounts of wind power from all those empty states where all the wind is, to all the full ones where all the people are. Green Car Congress reports that Siemens is starting to build the much-needed grid that doing that will take.

The world has mostly used alternating current (AC) for above-ground cross-country transmission ever since the dawn of the electrical age, only because Thomas Edison – who advocated for DC – was not able to out-argue Nicola Tesla, who favored AC. But AC has high losses over distances, and would lose even more in cables underground or under water, which is where we need them, for example for off-shore wind.

DC, by contrast loses up to 40% less in transmission, so using DC transmission, wind farms can be spread over large geographic areas to produce a more even supply of power (as it’s always blowing somewhere). Since distance transmission is key to desert solar and lonely-state wind, DC is better for renewables.

In 2010, Siemens had $41.6 billion in sales of its high voltage DC systems.

Beginning in 2013, its new HVDC PLUS technology will transmit 2,000 MW as direct current underground connecting the Spanish grid with that of France.

A 1,000-MW HVDC cable was recently put into operation along a 260-kilometer underwater line between the Netherlands and the UK.

Desertec (Half a Trillion Dollars to Build Huge Desertec Plan) the ambitious plan to ship power from the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East to Europe will definitely need HVDC.

But Siemens is not only building renewable-friendly transmission in the EU. The company has built HVDC here too, and right in my neck of the woods, the San Francisco Bay Area: “Transbay, likewise erected by Siemens Energy, transmits 400 MW of electrical output at a transmission voltage of ±200 kV with low losses and high energy efficiency via an 88-kilometer marine cable link from Pittsburg, California, to San Francisco.”

There are wind farms in Pittsburg, and people in San Francisco.

Scientists Create Material 10x Stronger than Steel, with Malleability

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 01:10 PM PDT

A UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) research team recently created strong graphene paper from graphite with a tensile strength ten times greater than that of steel. It is also six times lighter, two times harder, and exhibited thirteen times more resistance to bending than steel, and of course, it does not rust.

Graphene is a material consisting of carbon nanotubes which has very unique property combinations which composite materials do not, such as malleability, exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity, high strength, the ability to be rigid as well, very light weight, and the material required to construct it is not rare. Nothing on the planet has ever even come remotely close to these exceptional characteristic combinations.

The lead researcher Ali Reza Ranjbartoreh said: “No one else has used a similar production and heat testing method to find and carry out such exceptional mechanical properties for graphene paper. We are definitely well ahead of other research societies.”

Ali Reza Ranjbartoreh also added: “The exceptional mechanical properties of synthesised GP render it a promising material for commercial and engineering applications. Not only is it lighter, stronger, harder and more flexible than steel it is also a recyclable and sustainable manufacturable product that is eco-friendly and cost effective in its use.”

There are many implications of such a technological advancement. If affordable, it can:

  • Make significantly stronger, very efficient, more environmentally sound, and lighter vehicles, from economy cars, to trains, buses, ships, and passenger jets.
  • Extend the range and performance of electric vehicles due to its light weight, and reduce the required battery capacity due to less weight, because less weight requires less power, and power is provided by the batteries.
  • Make much stronger, lighter, and more efficient wind turbine blade designs possible. Blades could bend instead of break. It would be able to prevent damage to wind turbine blades caused by lightning strikes. Wind turbine blades are normally constructed with composite non-metals which do not conduct electricity well and therefore cannot safely channel lightning into the ground. When lightning strikes a composite wind turbine blade, the temperature of the air inside it can increase 30,000 degrees Celsius, causing it to expand rapidly (explode). The blades are equipped with lightning receptors at the tip which channel the current into the ground, and this is helpful, but not always enough. Like lightning rods, wind turbines need to be designed so that they attract lightning to conductive materials such as metals that channel them into the ground. In other words, they divert them into the ground so they don’t reach sensitive components, because electricity follows the path of least resistance.
  • All portable devices such as notebook computers, tablet PCs, cellphones, music players, could be stronger while still being lightweight.

Another key advantage of this material is that it is recyclable.

Australian mines happen to contain a large amount of graphite, meaning that the widespread use of such a material in the future could be very beneficial to Australia. This industry is likely to grow in the foreseeable future as it strides up a long path to becoming mainstream.

Mr Ranjbartoreh said that the results of this project promise significant benefits to the use of this material in the aviation and automotive industries.

h/t Physorg

Images via University of Technology Sydney

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Shampoo Will Use Plastic Bottles Made From Sugar Cane

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 07:59 AM PDT

New plastic bottles are being introduced to the consumer marketplace, made primarily from sugar cane instead of petroleum.

Proctor & Gamble's Pantene brand shampoo bottles that are made from sugarcane will represent the newest development in new forms of sustainable packaging. The bottles are scheduled to be released in Western Europe by mid-year. The product brand will be "Nature Fusion."

The technology to create plastic from plant material is fairly new. Its use for commercial packaging is even newer. Beverage companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have begun using plant-based plastic for their soda bottles.

According to P & G, Pantene is the first major hair care brand to use this new type of sustainable packaging. Switching to sustainable shampoo bottles for Nature Fusion is part of Procter & Gamble’s overall sustainability strategy, which includes a 25 percent switch from petroleum-derived packaging to sustainable packaging by 2020.

European consumers can expect to see the new plant-based bottle on shelves in summer 2011. No release date has been announced for these bottles in the United States. P&G claims the sustainable shampoo bottles will look and function the same as their petroleum-derived predecessors. The plant-based plastic shampoo bottles can be tossed in the recycling bin just like any other plastic bottle.

While they may look like other plastic bottles, plant-based plastic bottles have a reduced environmental impact. The bottle made from natural and renewable sugarcane instead of a complete fossil fuel formula. The bottle uses 70 percent less fossil fuel in the production process. P&G reports that using plant-based material for plastic bottles decreases greenhouse gas output by 170 percent.

Some recycling groups have applauded the efforts to replace petroleum-based products, however, they are quick to point out that say some plant-based plastics aren’t as recyclable as they might appear. A number of recycling facilities aren’t yet set up to handle the plastic.

David Cornell, technical director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, told Associated Press that high-density polyethylene made from plant material is identical, “chemically and functionally,” to polyethylene made from natural gas liquids.”

Bamboo Discovers American Soil

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 02:35 PM PDT

Moso bamboo plantation Source: Master Garden Products

Who knows? Perhaps one gateway out of the economic doldrums will come from a boom – a bamboo boom.

Over a year ago, writer Harry Sawyers wrote in Popular Mechanics that bamboo has come into vogue as a green, sustainable resource – used for everything from cutting boards to clothing, wood floors, and garden plants. Once, it came almost exclusively from overseas. But new planting techniques have been developed that might open the economic doors to millions of new bamboo shoot acres, particularly in farmland on the Mississippi Delta,

The American Bamboo Society (ABS) today counts over 1,400 members living throughout the U.S. and in 37 other countries. For those who are interested, the ABS issues a bimonthly Magazine and the Journal to disseminate information about the use, care, propagation and beauty of bamboo.

Of interest, bamboo has traditionally been considered as a wood product, due to its hardness and durability. But in reality, it is a grass – considered to be the largest of the grasses. There are over 1600 species of bamboo, 64 percent of which are native to Southeast Asia. Thirty-three percent grows in Latin America, and the rest in Africa and Oceania. In North America there are only three native species of bamboo as opposed to the 440 species native to Latin America, writes Master Garden Products.

Bamboo varies in height from dwarf, one foot (30 cm) plants to giant timber bamboos that can grow to over 100 feet (30 m). It grows in many different climates, from jungles to high on mountainsides. Bamboos are further classified by the types of roots they have. Some, called runners, spread exuberantly, and others are classified as clumpers, which slowly expand from the original planting.

Author Paul Schneider has written about his love affair with bamboo and growing the grass in colder climes. "Bamboo has proven to be an aesthetic asset to our garden here in Cambridge, New York. It mixes well with many other plants both perennial and annual. Depending on the species, it can be used as a tall or medium background plant, a "statement" plant or as a low border or ground cover plant."

Others grow bamboo more as a wood product. Schneider says that gardeners in northern climates "must be willing to accept the challenge of working with a plant that normally doesn't grow in their climactic zone. And they must also understand that the taller bamboos will not grow to the height they would reach in Zones 5 or warmer."

Regardless of the weather downside in the United states, spring in here in full force, always inviting planting experiments .

Harnessing Volcanoes Themselves for Energy?

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 02:12 PM PDT

A derailed 2009 project in search of improved geothermal resources has been found to have uncovered a new way to harness energy from volcanic magma itself, according to a paper just published at Geology: Origin of a rhyolite that intruded a geothermal well while drilling at the Krafla volcano, Iceland by Wilfred Elders, a professor emeritus of geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Riverside.

An unexpected intrusion of volcanic magma destroyed the original geothermal test, conducted by a consortium of US universities including UCDavis and Stanford, the US and Icelandic governments, including the USGS, and Iceland’s GeoSurvey and Landsvirkjun Power.

Before they could complete the drilling of what was to be 15,000 foot borehole, volcanic magma breached the wall, filling 30 feet at the bottom of the 6,900-foot-deep open borehole, forcing the researchers to terminate the drilling. Instead they turned it into a production well.

However, in the meantime, the turn of events gave them a chance to study the magma and test the volcanic system as an energy source. The magma poured in at temperatures of 1,652 F, which is far hotter than normal geothermal fluids. What they found is promising for other regions with very hot young volcanic rock formation.

Elders believes it should be possible to find reasonably shallow bodies of magma, elsewhere in Iceland and the world, wherever young volcanic rocks occur, and that the economics of generating electric power from such geothermal steam improves the higher its temperature and pressure.

"As you drill deeper into a hot zone the temperature and pressure rise, so it should be possible to reach an environment where a denser fluid with very high heat content, but also with unusually low viscosity occurs, so-called 'supercritical water'” says Elders. “Although such supercritical water is used in large coal-fired electric power plants, no one had tried to use supercritical water that should occur naturally in the deeper zones of geothermal areas."

The high-pressure dry steam flowing to the surface from a depth shallower than the magma was heated to 400 C (750 F), the researchers found.

That steam could have a generating capacity of five times that of typical geothermal fluid.

“Cleanest” and “Dirtiest” Internet Data Centers (Yahoo & Google Rock! Apple & Facebook.. not so much)

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 01:36 PM PDT

google facebook flick wordpress

This actually came out last Thursday, but Earth Day and a number of other stories and projects kept me from covering it until now. What’s the story?

Greenpeace released a report last week highlighting the green efforts and not-so-green efforts of the world’s top IT companies.

‘How dirty is your data?’ [PDF] is the first ever report on the energy choices made by IT companies including Akamai, (Amazon Web Services), Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo,” Greenpeace wrote.

Greenpeace notes that, interestingly, if the Internet were a country, it would be the 5th most electricity-consumptive country in the world. IT companies require a ton of energy.

One of the key findings of the report was that while a lot of IT companies have focused on energy efficiency a good deal, they have largely ignored the importance of renewable energy (except for Google and Yahoo!, who lead the IT pack). Greenpeace wrote, “the IT sector is fueling its expansion, and the storage of your data, with dirty energy sources, like coal and nuclear.”

As indicated in the title, Apple and Facebook are particularly dirty-energy-dependent (and not looking to change that as far as anyone can tell).

Here’s more from Greenpeace on report highlights:

  • The $1 Billion (USD) Apple iData Center in North Carolina, expected to open this spring, will consume as much as 100 MW of electricity, equivalent to the electricity usage of approximately 80,000 homes in the U.S. or over a quarter million in the E.U.. The surrounding energy grid has less than 5 percent clean energy, with the remaining 95 percent coming from dirty, dangerous sources like coal and nuclear.
  • Both Yahoo! and Google seem to understand the importance of a renewable energy supply, with Yahoo! siting most of its data centres near sources of renewable energy, and Google is directly signing power purchasing agreements for renewable energy and investing in solar and wind energy projects in many US states as well as Germany. Their models should be employed and improved upon by other Internet (“cloud computing”) companies.
  • Facebook, one of the fastest growing and most popular destinations on the web, is unfortunately on track to be the most dependent cloud computing companies on coal-powered electricity, with over 53 percent of its facilities estimated to rely on coal to power the Facebook cloud.

For more, view the Full report (PDF, 36 pages) or Facilities table (PDF, 4 pages)

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Image via DBarefoot