Thursday, December 29, 2011

Study finds moderate link to improved health after mold remediation

Researchers from the Finnish Occupational Institute of Health report moderate evidence for a reduction in asthma related symptoms and acute care visits when comparing buildings with and without mold remediation.  Further study will be needed to confirm or refute the efficacy of mold remediation.

Based on my experience, effective mold remediation has resolved allergy and asthma symptoms associated with mold exposure.  There was evidence of reduced antihistamine use and the ability of asthmatic individuals to return to the workplace.  When the mold remediation was poorly done or when areas were missed, the occupants symptoms did not improve.

Mold remediation - photo N. Carlson





Infectious fungi in bathroom drains

Fusarium spp. growing on fruit - Photo: N. Carlson
NPR news reports that Fusarium spp. found in bathroom drains has been linked to sinus and toenail infections.  It is also allergenic and is in rare occasions fatal to people with compromised immune systems.



Fusarium spp. - microscopic photo N. Carlson



In my experience Aureobasidium spp. is more commonly found in bathrooms on the caulk and in the corner of a shower.  It is allergenic and associated with a malady known as sauna takers lung.  The fungi is black and slimy in texture when wet.  

Aureobasidium spp. photo - N. Carlson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sweden is leading the way in energy efficiency





As reported in cleantechnica Sweden has reduced carbon emissions and improved GDP at the same time.  This is similar to Germany's experience reported in an earlier blog.   Sweden has increased the use of biomass, reduced the use of heating oil and reduced the amount of electric heat. 

Mold remediation course in rescheduled for April 24-25, 2012


This course has now been completed.  We had good attendance from around the state of Minnesota with a good mix of students from schools, industry, non profits, graduate school and consultants.
The course may be repeated in 2013.
Register at www.hazmat.umn.edu


Brain eating amoeba in neti pot?

Web MD reports that there have been two confirmed deaths in Louisiana which appear to be related to the use of tap water in neti pots.  The brain eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, has been identified as the culprit.  It is recommended that sterile water, distilled water or boiled water cooled to room temperature be used in neti pots. 

Image from the CDC


Neti pots are used to rinse out the nasal cavities using water usually with dissolved salts.


If this 2 minute video stops due to buffering problems press pause, wait and restart.

Train your brain to see fine shades of gray

A U of MN psychology professor Stephen Engel has been able to train individuals to see progressively lighter shades of lines on a computer screen.  Subjects were trained to improve the ability of their primary visual cortex (V1) to see progressively fainter objects flashed on a computer screen.  The researchers point out that this would be useful for a person reading Xrays. 

Photo- U of Minnesota


After looking into a microscope for more than twenty years, I have found it to be helpful for looking at fungal spores.  Trained microscopists will often draw structures at the edge of the ability for an optical microscope.  The structures have later been verified with electron microscope imaging. 


Shades of Gray - Monkees YouTube Video

Moldy house equals lump of coal for Xmas

KARE 11 TV from Minnesota reports on a White Bear Lake,MN family displaced after mold was found in the lower level of their home.  An August, 2011 rainstorm brought soil and water into the lower level of their house.  This created a microclimate for fungal growth.  An improperly designed addition in 1993 was to blame.  The occupants are feeling better after moving out of the house.

A moldy lump of coal?  A microsopic photo of Nigrospora spp. - N. Carlson

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Climate sustainability plan at U of MN Crookston

The U of MN Crookston has produced a comprehensive sustainability plan.     The plan reviews wind, biodigester and geothermal options.  It also includes information from the U of MN Morris Campus.  The goal of the plan is to make the campus carbon neutral.  Warning: the document may take some time to load it is a 6 MB file.

Morris Wind turbine portal.environment.umn.edu
 




Wind power transmission and resources for the northern hemisphere

As early as 2017 pending regulatory approval the Grainbelt Express power line will bring wind power from Kansas to states east of the Mississippi river.  According to an AP report the first phase of the project has been given preliminary regulatory approval.

The problem of stranded wind energy has been a known problem for decades, with most of the wind reserves in areas of low population density.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory produced a map of the wind reserves for the United States.  I have also included wind maps for a good portion of the northern hemisphere.

Continental US windmap by NREL
http://www.renewbl.com/2011/01/12/iberdrola-buys-wind-farm-in-mexico-from-gamesa.html

http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/jun09/images/wind_mapCanada.jpg

http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/renewable-energy-resources/world/europe/wind-europe/index.shtml
European Wind energy resources at 80 Meters above the ground



http://martex.ru/3110
Russian wind resources - Darker areas have more wind.
http://www.warmdebate.com/business/clean-tech/development-distributed-generation-china
Chinese wind resources

http://greencleanguide.com/2011/08/22/wind-energy-in-india/
http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/energy-issues/south%20korea/index.shtml
Asia wind power

http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/renewable-energy-resources/world/middle-east/wind-middleeast/index.shtml
Wind resources in Africa and the Middle East are rather limited. 




Monday, December 12, 2011

Fracking and ground water cleanup


Fracking may be responsible for the contamination of drinking water in a small town in Wyoming according to reports from Reuters.   A preliminary report from the EPA suggests that fluids from the shallow natural gas deposit moved up to the overlying drinking water aquifer.  Fracking is a common practice in the US for extraction of natural gas.  If drinking water contamination becomes a more frequent problem this could curtail or shut down this practice. 

Update: University of Minnesota Researchers have developed methods to reduce contamination of the water used in fracking. According to a MN Daily article researchers are using natural soil bacteria in porous silicon beads to seperate out the chemicals from the water.  They are working on ways to scale up the operation to use on water filtration systems on site.

As a teenager, I recall being on a dairy farm where the methane from the feedlot entered the drinking water for the family.  They were able to light the surface of the water on fire with a match.  This is very dangerous and I would not suggest that anyone do this.  It points out the need for careful design of  both feedlots and fracking operations to prevent ground water contamination.



                        Diagram from http://www.ecoversity.org/case_focus/fracking/fracking.html


                                                       MSNBC :  Tap water on Fire

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quorn an ecofriendly mycofood meat substitute

photo from www.quorn.com
For several years Quorn has been marketed as a tasty meat substitute for vegetarians.  It is made from the soil mold Fusarium venenatumIts fibrous quality gives it a similar texture to chicken or turkey.  For some individuals Quorn can cause a stomach ache.  As of right now there does not appear to be a way of determining if the Quorn will agree with a person or not without trying it.  If one is adventurous it would be prudent to try it in small quantities to determine if works for you.   Putting it out as a meat substitute at a neighborhood barbeque may not be the best option unless everyone has prevously had a good experience with the food.

MSNBC reports that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been pressuring the FDA to pull Quorn from the shelves or add a warning label to the product.  Some consumers have reported reactions of throat tightening after ingesting the product which resolved after they took antihistamines.   There is some question if the adverse reactions to the product are considered food intolerance or an allergic reaction.  The CSPI has compiled adverse reactions from US, European and Australian customers. 

A Quorn spokesman related that the intolerance for Quorn is less than that for eggs, shelfish and other foods.  As the exclusive patent for this product will be running out expect to see this protein source in other foods not labled as Quorn. 

Thomas M. Burton of the Wall Street Journal provides additional background on the controversy listing a 56 year old Minnesota women, Ginney Linnham's adverse reaction to the turkey subsitute last year.  He also quotes Dr. Ves Dimov, A University of Chicago allergist who reviewed a case of Quorn allergy in a colleague's patient.  "The warning should mention that patients allergic to mold and eggs can have a severe reaction."


Fusarium spp. photo N. Carlson


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why Canada dumps Kyoto

China News reports that Canada is no longer going to comply with the Kyoto protocol.  Canada has failed to meet its carbon emission targets of 5% below 1990 levels.   A WSJ article contains the reason for Canada's change of heart.  Canada has seen an increase in oil reserves over 3,000% over the past ten years.  Oil and gas exploration has shifted from politically unstable countries to the more politically stable Brazil, Australia, Canada and the United States. 

Chart published in WSJ  article

Bloomberg also reports that Canada may escape a 6.7 billion dollar carbon offset bill by exiting Kyoto.  While more than 60% of Canada's electricity is produced by hydropower, the increase in oil sand production will create problems with carbon offsets.  Canadian companies are advocating improving technology rather than spending money on carbon offsets.

Update on December 13, 2011: CNN confirms reports that Canada will no longer be part of the Kyoto protocol. Canadian Environment Minister, Peter Kent stated that Canadian's would be giving other countries $14 billion dollars with "no impact on emissions or the environment."


Monday, December 5, 2011

Detroit Michigan's unsustainable budget

CBS news reports that the state of Michigan is considering taking over the management of the city of Detroit.  The city has a 150 million dollar budget deficit.  Concerns about the budget were raised in 2001 but the decline in the auto industry and the loss of 25% of the cities residents in the last decade has made fiscal solvency difficult.  In many areas the city is behind the times.  The city still has its employees doing garbage collection.  It has not changed from a pension plan to a 401K plan.  The cities finances will be examined over a 90 day period with a decision about state control to come in late February, 2012.

Update: Forbes Magazine has now put Detroit at the top of the 2013 list of the Most Miserable Cities in America.

Detroit  has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at over 11%.  According to The National Institute for Literacy, 47 percent of adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate.  On the bright side, the Detroit's Mayor has promised to demolish 10,000 of the 90,000 abandoned properties.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-20-most-unemployed-cities-2009-11?op=1

It will take some sacrifice, creativity and leadership to revitalize this city.







Friday, December 2, 2011

Geoengineering: setting the world's thermostat

CBS news reports on an international groups analysis of methods to reduce global temperatures through solar radiation management. The solutions are not meant to replace efforts to reduce greenhouse gases but are to be thought of as stop gap measures.  It would theoretically be possible to bring global temperatures to preindustrial levels of 250 years ago.  There are questions about who would set the global thermostat and what are the unintended consequences of global temperature reduction.  A report from the Bipartisan Policy Center in the US is also looking at geoengineering solutions.

Mark Gunther covers this topic well in his Geoengineering blog.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/feb/18/geo-engineering
The above photo is a design for an unmanned cloud producing ship by engineer Stephen Salters.




Climate discussion from various news sources

Bret Stephens from the Wall Street Journal reports that the developed countries no longer have the appetite to transfer money to developing countries to prevent climate change.  The global economic downturn has made the transfer of wealth from formerly wealthy countries to even less wealthy countries a non starter.

Ira Kalb from the Business Insider suggests that renewable energy investment has finally
turned the corner.  In 2011, for the first time the amount of money invested in renewable energy exceeded the amount invested in traditional energy sources.   The technical issues of getting the cost of solar energy which is currently at 11 to 14 cents per kilowatt down to the cost of coal at 5 cents per kilowatt is a major hurdle.  He was optimistic that it could be achieved.  He also suggested that proper marketing of renewable energy is also part of the solution.

Supporters in the climate community have suggested that carbon credits is a way of solving the cheap as coal problem.  I have a preference for forcing the solar panel manufactures to find ways of making the technology cost effective.  This includes some government funding of basic research and quickly transferring this basic research to engineers who can work on process efficiency.

AP reports that UN Climate scientist, Rajendra Pachauri says the cost for controlling climate change which he estimates at 0.12% of GDP is worth it because it will reduce droughts, minimize heat waves and mitigate damage to coastal development.

Don Shelby from MinnPost reports on the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.  At the conference, World Meteorlogical Association Deputy Secretary General, Jerry Lengoasa stated that 2010 was the warmest year on record and that 2011 will go down as one of the warmest years since records have been kept.  He also claimed unequivocal proof that human activities were causing global warming.  On a happier note for 2011, stations in Siberia reported temperature increases of 7 degress F (4 degrees C).


Mark Seeley - MPR news photo

Don Shelby also included information from University of Minnesota Climatologist, Mark Seeley.  Mark noted that Minnesota set an unofficial record for the highest dewpoint of 82 degrees F on July 19, 2011.   

For those of you in more tropical climates you may be used to the high dewpoints.  In Minnesota, spending time outdoors from the middle of July through the first part of August of 2011 was a miserable experience unless you were in a swimming pool.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chevy Volt Update

Reuters reports that the National Highway Transportation Safety Board (NHTSB) has opened an investigation into electrical fires occuring during crash tests of the Chevy Volt.  The investigation is not limited to the Volt but covers all cars with lithium battery packs.  Chevy has offered owners concerned about their car safety a loaner car until the NHTSB investigation is complete. 

Photo NHTSB

Dan Carney from MSNBC provides some perspective on the fires noted in the Volt crash tests.  Under most circumstances you will have a minimum of at least three days to exit the damaged car before a fire starts.  This should more than sufficient time for the jaws of life to extract you from the car.   For a car with a large gas tank the time to exit would be considerably less than three days.  GM spokesman, Dan Martin notes that outside the test facility none of the five or six severe Chevy Volt crashes has resulted in a fire.

 
Ford Pinto Scene from Top Secret



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Carbon dioxide vs. GDP

NPR reports on climate change trends for the world starting in 2006 and the predictions for 2030.  The plot of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the chart of carbon dioxide emissions versus GDP is informative.  The US and China produce roughly the same amounts of CO2.  The US GDP is 3 times that of China.  The European Unions GDP is greater than the US and its carbon production is 2/3rds that of the US.    The GDP to carbon ratio is a good measure of a country's efficiency.

2009 CIA World Fact book

Country      GDP$billion/Metric ton CO2

China                           0.6
Russia                         1.0
India                            1.0
US                               2.0
Brazil                           2.0
EU                               3.4
Germany                      3.9
Japan                           4.0

Source Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  The carbon dioxide data above mirrors the outdoor carbon dioxide data I have taken
  during the course of indoor air investigations.  I will take an outdoor control reading to check the
  field calibration of my instrument along with regular calibration with a known concentration.
  In the middle 80's I was measuring outdoor carbon dioxide at 340 ppm.  I now  measure
  outdoor levels of 380 ppm carbon dioxide.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Creating a green pilgrimage site

NPR describes efforts by the Golden Temple at Amritsar, India to become more sustainable.  Over ten thousand Sikhs visit the temple daily.  They are installing solar hot water heating systems to use in the kitchen for cleaning the dishes used to feed the people visiting the temple.  They are also working on developing rain water collection systems to reduce the amount of water used.


Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, India  Photo: David Bouskill

These measures do not yet include the amount of energy needed for individuals to make their pilgrimage to the site.  The World Tourism Organization reports that 300 million people make a religious pilgrimage each year.

250 MW solar Towers in California

Earth Techling reports on BrightSource Energy's proposed trio of 250 MW solar towers in California.  An explanation of the technology is available at BrightSource Energy's web site.  The two tank molten salt energy storage is a big plus.  The molten salt stores heat and allows for additional energy production when the sun sets. 


Two Tank molten salt storage system- Photo: BrightSource Energy


BrightSource Energy LPT Solar Thermal Energy System - Photo  Earth Techling





Electric car timeline and the New DeLorean DMC-12

NPR provides a timeline of electric car development in the United States.  At the early stages in development, the electric car was seen as a much cleaner alternative to the manure produced by horses and the exhaust from the gasoline powered vehicles.  The problem with the electric car has always been the range of 80 to 100 miles and the anxiety associated with being stranded.  Shortening the charging time, increasing the range and improving the performance of the vehicle in cold weather are the same challenges that were faced in the early 1900's.

In other electric car news, NPR reports the DeLorean DMC -12 will be repurposed as an electric car and not a fusion powered car as seen in the Back to the Future movie series.  It is scheduled to be on the market in 2013 with a a price tag around $80,000.

http://www.autoweek.com/article/20111017/CARNEWS/111019878



Friday, November 18, 2011

Eurozone Foreign debt chart

The BBC news has produced an interactive chart illustrating a countries level of debt and their primary creditors as of June 2011.  Many countries have debt levels that are unsustainable.  I was surprised that the foreign debt per person was higher in the UK than Greece or Italy.  In terms of the ratio of foreign debt to GDP, Ireland is in the worst position at 1,093%.   The UK is in second place at 436%.  In contrast, the US is at 101% of GDP.  The US leads in total foreign debt at over 10 trillion euros with the UK in second place at 7.3 trillion euros.   It will be interesting to revisit this chart over the coming years and determine which countries improve their situation.

Chart from pakalertpress.com


Read the chart above clockwise from the top to match the colors with the country.

Additional charts on the European debt crisis can be found here.


    

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Permo-Triassic Fungal Apocalypse

Jennifer Frazer in her Artful Amoeba Blog offers a fascinating article about a layer of possible fungal mycelia in sedimentary rocks approximately 250 million years ago during the the Permian-Triassic Extinction.   Scientists have referred to the organism as Reduviasporonites but they bear a close resemblance to the modern Rhizoctonia solani.  A friend of mine spent her years in graduate school attempting to identify species of this organism at the U of MN Plant Pathology Laboratory.  She would grow the organisms in culture and then use a doughnut hole cutter to extract mycelia of the same age for chemical analysis.  The organism is important both as a plant decay fungi and in some cases mycorrhizal (breaking down nutrients in soil allowing plants to grow).

During this period of Great Dying 75% of the terrestrial land life was destroyed.  It would have been a perfect time for this organism to ingest decaying vegetation.  When the vegetation was consumed the organism would produce a scleroderma like structure (a tight ball of mycelia) to ride out a period with low amounts of decaying vegetation.  Both the filamentous and scleroderma-like structure are found in the fossil record.

Nicholas P. Money, professor of Botany, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio has written a book covering the more recent success of fungal plant pathogens in wiping out trees and other species.  His book is titled The Triumph of Fungi - A Rotten History.  He lays out the moderately successful and sometimes futile attempts of humans to control destructive adaptable fungal pathogens.





Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Germany's Renewable Energy Experience

At the November, 2011 Minneapolis E3 conference, Friedo Sielemann, a green energy point person based at the German Embassy in Washington, DC provided information on Germany's path  toward a low carbon economy.  Germany has reduced their 2010 carbon emissions to 24% below the levels in 1990.  Many of the new houses constructed in Germany have zero carbon footprint.  Due to generous reimbursement rates and lower prices for solar panels the residential installation of solar panels has grown rapidly in the country.  The government subsidy has now been reduced because individuals were able to actually make a profit off of the excess energy produced by the panels with previous reimbursement rates.

In Germany 370,000 jobs have been created in renewable energy.  Germany will be focusing on developing off shore wind power to reach their goal of increasing the amount of  renewable energy generated through electrical power and to offset the lost power from the elimination of the nuclear power plants by 2020.

During his power point Mr. Sielemann provided a chart illustrating the inverse correlation between Germany's GDP and the level of green house gas emissions.  Dan Haugen from Midwest Energy News provides additional information in his November 7, 2011 article.

Red line - GDP   Blue line- Total energy production  Green line - Green house gas emissions - ppt slide

Geothermal compressed carbon dioxide

At the November E3 conference in Minneapolis, Dr. Martin Saar reported on the use of high pressure carbon dioxide for use in electrical power generation.  The carbon dioxide has the benefit that it can be used in formations where the temperature is less than 100 degrees C and the gas is less geologically disruptive than water used in geothermal energy.  This is a post from an IREE news brief on the subject.   Dr. Saar worked with a graduate student Jimmy Randolph on the project.  They have applied for a patent.  The carbon dioxide would be extracted from a coal or natural gas fired power plant and used to create additional energy while simultaneously sequestering the carbon dioxide.

Dr Saar and Jimmy Randolph





Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fewer particulates plus high carbon dioxide equals a warmer planet

NPR reporter Richard Harris describes unintended consequences of cleaning up the particle pollution in the air in a November 11, 2011 report.  Particulate air pollutants contribute to respiratory problems such as asthma.  The effort to control these particulates has the unintended effect of increasing the amount of solar radiation to the planet and speeding up climate change.  This is due to the combination of increased carbon dioxide and reduced particulate production.  The reduction of  particulate matter is much easier to accomplish through point source reduction and the use of fuels generating lower amounts of particulates.

If wildfires such as those in Texas this past summer become more common, then the particulate generation could offset the man made production of the particulates.  The CDC has a link on the health effects of wildfire particulates. 

Wild fire photo from CDC  
Carbon sequestration of emissions from plants is another approach to controlling the temperature.  Sally Benson from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory describes the technology and risks involved in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 







According to reports from the USGS, a carbon dioxide produced tree kill zone area is visible in the Mammoth Mountain Long valley caldera in California.  The photo below is from a climate change skeptics web site.  Could this be possible if there was a leak from at a man made carbon dioxide sequestration site?

Tree kill zone near Mammoth Mountain California









Chevy volt catches fire three weeks after crash test

Concerns about EV vehicles were raised after a Chevy Volt caught fire in a NHTSA parking lot three weeks after a routine side impact safety test.  An article in Wired.com noted that no other similar fires had been reported in EV vehicles including the volt.  GM noted that the electrical charge should be drained from a vehicle after a crash although GM told the testers after the fire and not before. 

Chevy Volt side impact crash - Photo Wired.com

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jet biofuel use increases

A Monday November 7th a continental flight from Houston to Chicago used a biofuel blend made from algae.  NPR reports this as the first US commercial airline use of biofuels.   NPR also reports that the Air Force and Navy have also begun to use biofuels with the Navy setting a goal of 50% biofuel use by 2020.  Currently biofuels cost 10 x that for regular jet fuel.  The hope is to bring the cost down by improving the refining process.

The camelina plant is used for biofuel for Air Force planes in Abeline, Texas.   More information about Camelina oils can be found at this website.   Camelina is in the mustard seed family and a distant relative to canola.  The plant has low moisture requirements and a short growing season with harvest in late July. The high omega 3 oil can be used as a feed supplement or as a component of biofuels. The USDA is working on approval for use of Camelina for food and feed to humans and animals.

Camelina - photo Montana Dept. of Agriculture


 


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Demographic problems in Russia

The PBS News Hour reports on the Russian problem with declining population demographics.  The current Russian birthrate is 1.4 births per woman in 2010.  This is below the 2.1 birthrate needed to sustain the population.  Unfortunately the country also has a higher than normal death rate for individuals age 20-45.  This has largely been attributed to a high rate of alcoholism which accounts for 600,000 premature deaths per year.

It will be interesting to note how Russian society deals with these two issues.  There have been some positive trends lately in life expectancy and birth rate.   Unfortunately the current path is still unsustainable.  One demographer described it as a European birth rate with an African death rate.  It is a problem that can not be solved by traditional engineering but will require a change in Russian culture and society.

This is a link to a graph of recent Russian Federation population trends.

Prediction of population trends from: http://www.russiablog.org/2009/01/russias_superpower_strategy_ru.php
Update Nov. 17, 2011:  In addition to a decline in birth rate the LA Times reports an increase in emigration from Russia.  Roughly 1.5 million Russians have left the country in the past ten years.  The reasons for leaving have been economic and for some political.  Unfortunately for Russia, many of the individuals are well educated, with skills similar to the Russian physicist who now works in Japan.  Some emigrants have returned after finding economic conditions no better outside of Russia but the general trend is clear with 100,000 plus people leaving each year.  A recent survey found that nearly 40% of 18 to 35 year old Russians are considering leaving the country.  

Biomass gasification

At the E3 conference on November 7, 2011, Lowell Rasmussen from the U of MN Morris spoke about the 15 million BTU biomass gasification plant which uses corn cobs and wood chips to provide steam heat and chill water for the 1 million square foot campus. The process of getting the boiler up and operating was not easy as caked mineral deposits had to be physically removed from the boiler when the temperature of the operation was not properly controlled.

Initial research had focused on the use of loose corn stover as a fuel.  There were problems as this material needed to be compacted to burn properly.  As the cost of natural gas has come down, they needed a material that could be used without additional processing.   Corn cobs were the best fit.   The cobs could be stored during the winter, they did not require additional equipment during harvesting and the cobs remove fewer nutrients out of the soil than the corn stover.   The contract with the farmer fixed the price of the corn cobs  to the BTU cost of natural gas. The farmer supplying the corn cobs reapplies the char left over from the process to the soil to reduce the soil nutrient loss.

For a virtual tour of the biomass facility go to this link from the web site on U of MN Renewable Energy Initiatives.

Model of the biomass facility











Green chemistry and sustainable polymers

Marc Hillmyer gave a talk on green chemistry and sustainable polymers at the IREE conference at the U of MN on November 8, 2011.  Marc is the director at the Center for sustainable polymer research at the U of MN.   He outlined the economic benefits for green chemistry in the US.  He argued that we need plastics that harness nature's complexity. We need to use non petroleum based sustainable bioresources for our polymers.   The materials need to be functional and then degrade rapidly after they are used.  He pointed to the Pacific Garbage Patch that contains plastic designed to last for a long time. 

http://www.blippitt.com/researchers-head-to-great-pacific-garbage-patch/


EPA surveys brownfield sites for renewable energy

Fox News reports that the EPA and NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) is surveying the country for renewable energy sites at former landfills and other blighted sites including a copper mine in New Mexico.  This has the potential for converting eyesores into an area with productive land use.  If the Vikings stadium is not built in Arden Hills this could be another use for that site. 

New Mexico copper mine - Photo from emnrd.state.nm.us

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Powering the Dream

Alexis Madrigal, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, spoke at the E3 conference at the U of MN McNamara Alumni Center on November 8, 2011.  He suggested that we deal with climate change not as an effort to save the planet but as an effort to save civilization.  He opened with a photo of a snow storm that shut down New York last winter.  If climate change will result in more extreme weather events then there will be a push to slow it down because the extreme weather events make it difficult for civilization to work as designed.  Alex is the author of the new book Powering the Dream - the history and promise of green technology.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

U of MN Wind turbine research at Rosemount

On October, 25, 2011 the wind turbines were started at the U of MN U More Park in Rosemount, MN.  The turbine will be used to research issues with operating a turbine in a cold climate.  Additionally, research into radar interference, ice buildup, wind blade design and wind farm design will be conducted.  The turbine will be able to supply energy for up to 600 homes. 


Saturday, November 5, 2011

John Bonner's slime mold movies

Princeton University Professor, John Bonner made time lapse slime mold movies.  Because the post on slime mold has been the most popular on this blog, I've included a brief movie below.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tesla's electric cars sold out for 2012

Fox News reports that the luxury electric car company Tesla has sold out its 2012 electric cars through a preorder system.  It had planned to produce 5,000 cars and it has orders for 6,500.  The company plans to reveal electric SUV prototype in January, 2012.

Tesla car - photo Fox News