Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bio-fuels - Extraordinary Possibilities

Bio-fuels: Extraordinary Possibilities
Bio-fuels have been known to be an excellent replacement for traditional gasoline and diesel for years.  Fossil fuel production, especially when obtained through hydraulic fracturing, can cause significant damage to the environment.  Eco-Enthusiasts have gone to great lengths to make their cars compatible with this new fuel.  These people have the will and desire to be completely free of fossil fuels.  Sadly, none of these bio-fuels have actually achieved any real traction.  Most people, especially those with busy schedules, have not gone to such lengths and have instead decided to avoid the hassle and cost of converting their vehicles.  No car company or energy company has come up with a solution to this problem.
 Part of the problem, which is typical of new technologies, is that the cost of purchasing this new equipment is too expensive for the customer.  Furthermore, obtaining bio-fuels in the open market, especially in the United States, is significantly more difficult than obtaining gasoline or diesel.  It is also difficult for the leadership of publicly traded companies to convince their shareholders that making an investment/risk in the bio-fuels market would actually pay off in the near-term.  Shareholders, in most cases, want to do what is in their financial best interest and not necessarily what is in the best interest of energy independence.
Bio-fuels do have a bright future when they can be applied to a market driven economy effectively.  Designs must be highly adaptable and attractive to the end user.  For instance, a successful Eco-friendly vehicle would have a solar panel on the top of the car, a battery plug in on one side of the car, and port for filling bio-fuel on the other side.  By giving the end user a variety of options you make the vehicle more attractive and marketable.  With a mix of wind, solar, hydroelectric, and wave energy, these bio-fuels can allow society to end its dependence on fossil fuels.
The one thing that is lacking in the discussion is a solution that does not put Automotive or Energy Companies in a defensive posture.  Actually, an Energy and Automotive Company partnership would have the greatest chance of successfully designing, building, marketing, and distributing bio-fuel cars to the marketplace.  A partnership like this makes sense because the organizations have a symbiotic relationship with each other.  This partnership would also allow both organizations to reduce the risk inherent in a significantly challenging investment.  Ironically, there are already some groups trying to figure out how to produce bio-fuels out of organic waste.  Mass producing such a concept would help drive the conversion from gasoline/diesel to bio-fuels.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Amazing Airships - Cargo Transport Reinvented

Amazing Airships - Cargo Transport Reinvented

Airships are designed to be sturdy and cross great distances.  The older airships, such as the Zeppelin, created buoyancy through the use of hydrogen.  Unfortunately, hydrogen is highly unstable and can become explosive if exposed to static electricity or lighting.  The Hindenburg disaster demonstrated how dangerous hydrogen was to public safety when an entire Zeppelin caught fire.  The airships of today have come a long way since the Zeppelin era.  Modern Airships utilize helium, which is stable and safer than hydrogen, to create buoyancy.  To ascend, the ship releases compressed helium gas from its tanks to displace the air that had originally filled the hull.  To descend the ship compresses the helium and allows air to refill the hull.
Popular Mechanics

Northrop Grumman is creating airships for military purposes but Lockheed Martin and Worlwide Aeros Corporation are creating airships for transporting cargo.  The cargo application, especially the Worldwide Aeros Corp., Aeroscraft airship, is appealing because it requires no runway to take off or land.  The Aeroscraft can also carry 66tons of cargo, more carrying capacity than a Boeing 767, which can be transported anywhere in the world.  There is no surprise that most of the capital investment behind these projects comes from NASA and the Pentagon.  The average investment firm is not going to take the risk on an unproven and futuristic helium airship venture.
Orange County Register

This technology is important because this capability will allow large amounts of cargo to arrive in remote locations that were traditionally impossible to reach.  This also means that, through the use of GPS technology, these airships can allow distributors to bypass old international transportation routes and deliver cargo closer to the customer.  The need for special equipment and large diesel trucks will eventually become obsolete when this technology is refined and mass produced.
Popular Mechanics

Why this is all important for the environment and safety?

1)         This new technology is better for the environment.  Unlike powerful cargo planes, there is no need for high fuel consumption jet engines and large wing spans to create lift.  These new airships only need enough fuel to propel them to their locations and compress the helium hull for descent.

2)         There is no need for the dredging operations that are required to maintain a port for large shipping vessels.  In order to lower the cost of transportation and increase the profitability of shipping operations many ship builders continue to make their ships even larger than before.  Larger ships require ports to perform more dredging which negatively impacts marine life. 

3)         Airships, unlike large shipping vessels, will not be exposed to the same dangers from pirates.  Airships can cross the vast oceans and never once come in contact with a pirate.  This means the crew will be safer and the amount of insurance required in the event of a loss will be much lower.