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BP Develops Improved Ethanol, Hasn't Spilled It Yet

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BP has a long way to go before it can redeem itself from last spring's oil disaster, but helping to wean the planet off the sticky black stuff is a start. The oil giant recently teamed up with the University of Illinois, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California at Berkeley, and Seoul National University to engineer a new strain of yeast that can ferment two types of sugar at the same time to produce ethanol.


Translation: the scientists have created a supercharged yeast that can gobble up sugar faster and more efficiently than any other yeast.


Glucose is generally easy to ferment--it's a primary sugar in plants--but xylose (a secondary sugar in plant stems and leaves) has historically been more difficult for yeast strains to ferment. The engineered yeast, a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (common industrial yeast), can co-ferment glucose and xylose as quickly as it can ferment either sugar by itself, according to Green Car Congress. It can also convert xylose to ethanol up to 20% more efficiently than other strains.


EurekAlert explains:


This approach, initially developed by co-corresponding author Jamie Cate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley, eliminates the costly step of adding a cellobiose-degrading enzyme to the lignocellulose mixture before the yeast consumes it. It has the added advantage of circumventing the yeast's own preference for glucose. Because the glucose can now "sneak" into the yeast in the form of cellobiose, the glucose transporters can focus on drawing xylose into the cell instead.

In practical terms, this means that ethanol could become cheaper and easier to produce. And with increasingly tense debates over the merits of government ethanol subsidies in the U.S., the industry needs all the help it can get.


Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.




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Cool, there's not enough feel-good stories here.  ;D


;D I could add this one if you are thinking you might want an effective mild hybrid some day; ;)




Falling costs heighten appeal of ultracapacitors

03-Jan-2011 19:12 GMT


Various energy-storage technologies have different advantages and disadvantages.


Five years ago, an automotive company looking toward a green future might have considered replacing or augmenting traditional batteries with more efficient components such as ultracapacitors. At that time, such a consideration might have yielded disappointing results. Engineers might have noted that ultracapacitor performance wasn’t quite ready for automotive applications or that the price wasn’t attractive.


Both of those concerns are now outdated, and there is a growing adoption of this technology in the automotive industry.


The rechargeable battery has serious limitations. Batteries are heavy and large, and they offer a limited charging rate and potentially high maintenance. They also can suffer degraded performance at low temperatures. Alternatively, ultracapacitors, or electrochemical double-layer capacitors (EDLCs), provide high charge acceptance, high efficiency, cycle stability, and excellent low-temperature performance.


Ultracapacitors function well in weather as cold as -40°C (-40°F). Batteries, by comparison, do not operate well below 0°C (32°F). Ultracapacitors also are extremely safe and have a long life cycle—one that lasts throughout the life of the machines into which they are incorporated. This means they are maintenance-free, which ultimately results in cost savings. Finally, they are more efficient than batteries: up to 95% as compared to an average of about 70% for batteries in automotive applications.


Being 70% recyclable, ultracapacitors are also environmentally friendly. They contain no heavy metals detrimental to the environment.


And, ultracapacitors offer up to 10 times the power of batteries—an important benefit in vehicle acceleration.


Increasingly, ultracapacitors are besting batteries in terms of price. Over the past decade, their price has fallen by 99%. The cost of a 3000-F ultracapacitor 10 years ago was $5000; today, the component sells for $50. During the same period, battery price fell by 30 to 40%.


There are several reasons for this disparity, including the fact that the increase in ultracapacitor consumption has led to volume discounts, driving the cost of raw materials down. The increased demand has sparked more companies to produce related materials and machines, creating cost-reducing competition. As the price of this equipment falls, ultracapacitor manufacturers can add more machines and further rely upon automated equipment that is less expensive to deploy. At some point, it is likely that demand will outstrip capacity, pushing prices upward, but that is not yet the case. Furthermore, advanced quality control efforts have dramatically trimmed the waste and scrap created by traditional manufacturing processes.


Automotive manufacturers and general transportation companies have embraced the benefits of ultracapacitors in myriad applications. In hybrid buses, for example, ultracapacitors are used to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Some hybrid architectures are also especially attractive for large vehicles, such as urban transit buses and delivery trucks, in stop-and-go driving. Conventional buses and trucks of this type use huge amounts of fuel and produce high levels of toxic emissions because they have large, typically diesel engines that are constantly ramping up and down, which is the least efficient way to operate a power source.


Engine efficiency is increased with the use of a smaller engine mated to a generator and operated at constant, efficient rpm and power output levels. When vehicle power requirements temporarily increase, such as during acceleration or hill climbing, additional power is drawn from an onboard energy-storage system comprising batteries and/or ultracapacitors. During deceleration, regenerative braking recaptures energy while slowing down the vehicle and recharging the energy-storage system. At other times when vehicle power requirements are low, the generator can recharge the energy-storage system.




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Interesting the small improvements R&D can make to a process that has been in use for many years. Like the internal combustion engine, been around for a long time. Lot of folks think, nothing new to be invented, time to change power plant. Now, when motivated by market demands we learn of technology improvement just about every day.


Hopefully, we can keep the improvement ball rolling. Really, bad when management of these ethanol plants batten the hatches and try to recoup as much investor money as possible while possible. Hopefully, the restrictions to their success can be mitigated. Better to simplify their challenges and keep the politics of exploiting central control to minimum i.e. permitting process, Sierra Club, ginned up concerns for public fear. Michigan, probably as all states have a permitting process problem as local municipalities have no clue. They look to obstruct process plant process to stay out of political trouble. Feds, could work to standardize and simply the requirements. No need to invent ever more requirements and delays as this process is not new at least to some.

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The post on super capacitor vs battery power is spot on. Battery weight and cost big detractors. The battery car benefits not nearly as advertised per environmental hype. Even hybrid technology oversold per the benefit. The Russian hybrid car has a better idea of utilizing super caps for 10 seconds of power. Better efficiencies from recouping braking energy. No loss of electrical storage capability upon use, less weight, lower cost while maintaining the sweet spot of benefit. For example city stop go and uphill downhill. Batteries contain precious elements that are hard to recycle and hazardous waste. Batteries need to thermally controlled, and decrease in capability per each cycle.


The best transportation vehicle choice for cost vs value probably capacitor with mild hybrid. Maybe a small battery included in the mix. Auto engine hp needs to be designed to cruise horsepower requirements with an ethanol type engine that can flex its hp output by +/- 30% per the boost and EGR. The electric drive has lots of advantages as an engine generator preforming at max efficiency per constant rpm. Cost vs benefit penalties of such a arrangement?



I read that Ford new model of ecco boost engine is utilizing cooled EGR gas to quench hot combustion of lean fuel mix. Well, what they failed to disclose, they are utilizing the EGR gas to displace combustible air and in effect to decrease size of engine displacement. While they use no ethanol to accomplish this, ethanol has max advantage and capability to preform this efficiency trick. 

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