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An inexpensive scalable multi-channel potentiostat

As our preferred reader, you know already what we work on Power-to-Gas to combat Global Warming. We think that giving CO2 a value will incentivize its recycling and recycling it into fuel turns it into a commodity that everyone needs. While the price of CO2 from air is still too high to convert it into combustion fuel, working on the other end (the CO2 conversion) will help to accommodate such high prices. We have now published an research paper that shows how how to reduce the costs of electronic equipment needed for CO2 conversion. For Power-to-Gas as well es for electrosynthesis of liquid fuels, it is necessary to poise an electrochemical potential. So far, only electronic potentiostats could do that. We have developed a software solution that can control cheap off-the-shelf hardware to accomplish the same goal. Since the software controls µA as well as MA, it is freely scalable. By stacking cheap power supplies, it can also run unlimited channels.

Frontcell© potentiostat setup with two channels. From left to right: digital multimeter (in the back), relay board (in front), two H-type electrolysis cells, power supply, control computer.

We tested the software at a typical experimental Power-to-Gas setup at −800 mV and found that the recorded potential was stable over 10 days. The small electrochemical cells could also be replaced by a larger 7 liter reactor treating real wastewater. The potential was stable as well.

The potential of −800 mV controlled by the Frontcell© potentiostat was stable for 200 ml electrolysis cells (left) as well as for a larger 7 l reactor (right).

As instrument control of mass products also makes the chemical processes involved cheap, microbial electrolysis of wastewater becomes economically feasible. Removal of wastewater organics usually occurs at positive electrochemical potentials. Indeed, the software also stabilizes such potentials at +300 mV.

The Frontcell© potentiostat stabilized a 200 ml electrolysis cells at +300 mV for ten days.

The potentiostat is currently available as command line version. We are currently accepting pre-orders at a 50% discount for the commercial version that comes with a graphical user interface and remote control using an internet browser.

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Fuel Cells Have the Potential to Become the Best Green Energy Alternative to Fossil Fuels

Global warming is – as the name already suggests – a global concern. It causes problems such as sea level rise, more frequent and more severe strms, and longer droughts. Thus, it global warming concerns all of us. To best fight global warming, adopting green energy in your life is the best viable solution.

Green energy is getting more attention today. It helps to reduce our carbon footprint and thus curbing the global warming. Increasing carbon footprint is the main cause for rising temperatures. Moreover, investing in green energy is also a business case generating steady revenue stream without marginal costs. Hence, many governments promote the use of green energy by providing subsidies and teaching people its benefits in their life.

There are many ways green energy is produced, for example, solar energy, wind energy, the energy produced through bio-waste. Fuel cells are a major breakthrough in this regard. They have impacted the production green energy in many ways. They are also convenient to use. As their fuel (hydrogen, methane …) is produced by using electrical energy, they can use a wide range of green sources to produce energy.

What Are Fuel Cells?

A fuel cells is a device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy. The process combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce water& electricity as main products. Fuel cells are somewhat similar batteries. The main difference is that a fuel is supplied without a charge-discharge cycle. Like batteries, fuel cells are portable and can be used with a variety of fuels like ethanol, methanol, methane, and more.

There are different types of fuel cells. But the most popular ones are hydrogen fuel cells that provide a wide range with only some of advantages as follows:

  • The cells are more efficient than conventional methods used to produce energy.
  • They are quiet – unlike, for example combustion engines or turbines
  • Fuel cells eliminate pollution by using hydrogen instead of burning of fossil fuels.
  • Fuel cells have a longer lifespan than batteries because fresh fuel is supplied constantly
  • They use chemical fuels that can be recycled or produced using renewable energy which makes them environmentally friendly.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells are grid-independent and can be used anywhere.

How Do Fuel Cells Work?

A fuel cell produces power by transforming chemical energy into electrical energy in reduction-oxidation processes, much like batteries do. However, unlike batteries, they produce electricity from external supplies of fuel to the anode and oxidants to the cathode. Fuel cells are capable of producing energy as long as the fuel required to produce energy is supplied. Main components of fuel cells are electrolytes that allow for ion exchange. They aid the electro chemical reaction.

Hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, and methane are used as a source of energy. Methane, which is extracted from the subsurface, can be transformed into hydrogen rich stream. With an abundance of the hydrogen in nature, fuel cells seem to be the most viable technology that helps to produce green energy at large scale and at the most affordable cost.

Fuel cells are all set to become the most reliable source of green energy in the near future. They are fuel efficient, so businesses can make the best use of them. At Frontis Energy, we offer a unique selection that helps you build and improve your own fuel cells – be it for research and development or for production.

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How do the fuel cells work as an effective renewable power?

Fuel cells are the devices that convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy. The process combines hydrogen and oxygen produce water& electricity as main products. Fuel cells are similar to batteries in that they produce electricity but also different in that a fuel is supplied without a charge-discharge cycle. Like batteries, they are portable and developed by technological experts. The cells can be used with a variety of fuels like ethanol, methanol, methane, and more.

Here are the advantages of hydrogen fuel cells –

  1. The cells are efficient when compared to the conventional forms of producing energy.
  2. Hydrogen fuel cells operate silently.
  3. Fuel cells eliminate pollution by switching from burning of fossil fuels to hydrogen.
  4. Fuel cells last longer than batteries because they use chemical fuels to produce energy.
  5. Hydrogen fuel cells are grid-independent and can be used anywhere.

Components of Fuel Cells. A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy, much like a battery. But unlike batteries, they produce electricity from external supplies of fuels to the anode and oxidants to the cathode. Fuel cells can operate virtually continuously as long as the necessary fuel is supplied. Electrolytes are the major components of the fuel cells and keep that allow ion exchange. Fuel cells also have electrodes that are catalysts of the electrical chemical reaction.

Fuel for Fuel Cells. Fuel cells can operate using a variety of fuels like hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, and methane. Fossil fuels like methane are extracted from underground and converted into a hydrogen rich stream. There is also a huge abundant amount of hydrogen in water which can be used for the hydrogen power supply .For higher voltages, fuel cells can be stacked. Fuel cells can power anything from microchips to buses, boats, and buildings.

Fuel Cell Efficiency. The fuel cells are much more efficient than conventional power generation. This is because conventional power is generated be converting chemical energy into heat, mechanical energy and lastly into electrical energy. Fuel cells are converting energy directly into electrical energy and are much more efficient.

Fuels cells are a promising technology and already a source of electricity for buildings and vehicles. The devices operate best with pure hydrogen. In contrast, fossil fuel reserves are in limited and the energy future of the world needs to include several renewable alternatives to our declining resources. Hydrogen is the most abundant element present in the universe and serves as the fuel for nuclear fusion in the sun. Due to this abundance, hydrogen fuel cells are the best green energy source.

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What is bio energy? Why do we need bio fuels for energy production?

Bioenergy is the form of energy that is stored in the biological matter or ‘biomasses. It is available in abundance in our world and it is the world’s most important source of renewable energy. Biomass is a versatile source of energy that is used for the production of heat, power, and transport fuels. Biofuels also have the potential to significantly mitigate global warming, also known as climate change. Bioenergy and biofuels encompass energy products derived from plants or animals or organic materials.

Biodiesel, for example, does not only have a positive impact on the environment, it also improves economic activity. As part of our energy mix, biodiesel is not meant to replace fossil fuel but contributes to energy security and benefits local communities.

Good reasons to use biodiesel:

The ease of use

One of the main reasons to use biofuels is that it can be used in combustion engines of vehicles and that it integrates well into existing infrastructures without the need to make changes. It is the fuel that can be stored, burned and pumped the same way as petroleum diesel fuel. It can also be used in pure forms.

The form of energy is providing security

 Energy security of supply as well as affordability rank highest among consumers, as well as in the industry. The economic risks for the biofuel industry are, as for all commodities, energy price hikes, which can disrupt the supply of fossil fuels as fuel becomes an overall limited resource.

Economic development is possible via the use of biofuels

The increase in investment in biofuels will result boosts economic growth, especially for local markets involved in its production and processing. It means that there will be more job opportunities and the developing countries realizing this market opportunity will benefit hugely from the economic growth resulting from global energy demand

Greenhouse gas and emission reduction

Appropriate methods of biofuel production can mitigate significant amounts of greenhouse gases which are currently produced from fossil fuels. It leads to the potential of addressing the important challenges regarding fuel quality and emission. Biodiesel is also the successful alternative to compete with the rigorous emission.

It helps in energy balance

The energy balance refers to the ratio of how much energy is required to produce, manufacture, and distribute of fuel compared to the amount of energy that is released when fuel is burned. Biofuels generally improve the energy security and the energy balance through domestic energy crops.

It is recyclable and biodegradable

Biofuel is less toxic as its attributes make it less likely to harm the environment and cost less damage. It is safer to handle than petroleum fuel due to its low volatility. The recycled oils create multiple benefits to a thriving market and benefit hugely to the growing economies.

But the use of biomass faces criticism due to its costs, both economically and in terms of its energy carbon balance. It is expensive compared to other forms of low carbon energy, for example, natural gas. It drives up the cost of wood in other markets, for example in manufacturing and construction. Finally, it sometimes fails to deliver greenhouse gas savings over meaningful timescales relevant to the climate change targets. When managed sustainably, biomass is an essential part of the portfolio of renewable energy technologies, delivering low-cost carbon heat and power.

Some of the environmental benefits of bioenergy

  • It helps the reduction of pressure on finite natural resources
  • The release of greenhouse emissions gets reduced significantly with the use as fossil fuel addition or even substitution
  • The removal of the need for specialist food crops
  • Reduction of landfill waste and associated issues
  • Provision to thermal, electrical, and mechanical energy services
  • The handling of contaminated wastes
  • The removal of carbon from wastes
  • The increase of reservoirs and terrestrial carbon sinks
  • The reduction of dryland salinity and protection of ground water supplies
  • The maintenance of logging sites
  • The return of land into production with enhanced biodiversity

There are also other forms of energy that are being considered sources of energy for future use. For example, hydro-electric energy is used for peak and base-load power production, while nuclear power can deliver base-load power. Each of the technologies faces planning and cost barriers that are likely to stunt the future growth. Biomass is already an affordable form of energy that will meet the energy demands of the future.

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You Can Have the Pie and Eat It

In Paris, humanity has set itself the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. Most people believe that this will be accompanied by significant sacrifice of quality of life. That is one reason why climate protection is simply rejected by many people, even to the point of outright denial. At Frontis Energy, we think we can protect the climate and live better. The latest study published in Nature Energy by a research group around Arnulf Grubler of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, has now shown that we have good reasons.

The team used computer models to explore the potential of technological trends to reduce energy consumption. Among other things, the researchers said that the use of shared car services will increase and that fossil fuels will give way to solar energy and other forms of renewable energy. Their results show that global energy consumption would decrease by about 40% regardless of population, income, and economic growth. Air pollution and demand for biofuels would also decrease, which would improve health and food supplies.

In contrast to many previous assessments, the group’s findings suggest that humans can limit the temperature rise to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels without resorting to drastic strategies to extract CO2 from the atmosphere later in the century.

Now, one can argue whether shared car services do not cut quality of life. Nevertheless, we think that individual mobility can be maintained while protecting our climate. CO2 recovery for the production of fuels (CO2 recycling that is) is such a possibility. The Power-to-Gas technology is the most advanced version of CO2 recycling and should certainly be considered in future studies. An example of such an assessment of the power-to-gas technology was published by a Swiss research group headed by Frédéric Meylan, who found that the carbon footprint can be neutralized with conventional technology after just a few cycles.

(Picture: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Land of Cockaigne, Wikipedia)

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Why CO2 Emissions Reduction?

It is important to reduce the flow of greenhouse gases which is spurring global warming. The reduction of carbon emissions could prevent up to 3 million premature deaths annually by the year 2100. The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is increasing at an alarming rate and it has harmful & severe detrimental effects. The world needs to act fast and effectively to reduce the CO2 emissions and protect millions of lives.

Carbon emissions are directly responsible for climate change and global warming is a very pertinent issue these days. The problems are many from rising water levels to seasons changing at unusual times. We are able to view the unfavorable conditions right now in the world today and there is the need to act fast and instantly for quick solutions.

What is a greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is the process which traps hot air within the earth’s atmosphere. While some of the hot air is useful for maintaining the optimal temperatures for survival on the planet, unfortunately accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat which causes global warming. The Industrial Revolution has led the world to surge in carbon dioxide levels resulting in overall warming of the planet.

Burning fossil fuel is generating CO2 and other air pollutants that are harmful to human health. The global warming caused due to carbon emission is changing the topology of the world. Carbon dioxide is a gas which is used when burning fossil fuel with oxygen. Reducing carbon emissions protects mankind from various health risks. It is therefore essential to control and reduce the levels of carbon dioxide emission and this must be done at the earliest.

The use of Green Technology for Reducing the Greenhouse Effect

Green technology is using non-pollutant practices to produce materials which are non toxic. It is taking help of modern innovation for solving carbon emission issues. World leaders have agreed to reduce carbon emissions and green technology is key to fulfill current requirements. Green technology includes sewage treatment, energy production, green chemistry, and construction of environmentally friendly buildings.

The goal of the green technology include –

  • The use of natural resources in a conservative manner
  • Create products that are recyclable or reusable
  • Alternatives environmental practices
  • Education and change of humans behavior
  • Reduce waste and pollution to bring change in the production pattern

There are different ways to reduce or global carbon footprint of which one is the use of bio mass instead of fossil fuels. This organic material is produced by living organisms by using sunlight. This chemical energy is then stored by these photosynthetic microorganisms. It is stored as a form of chemical energy and it can be burned directly. This fuel is produced from biomass in solid, liquid or gaseous.

While combustion of biomass produces about the same amount of CO2 as fossil fuels, bio fuels are produced in the present day and their combustion does not release additional CO2 into the atmosphere. Bio fuels such as bio ethanol can also be used as fuel additives to reduce carbon emissions from gasoline prices. But there are also vehicles that are powered mainly by bio fuels. Bio ethanol and bio methane are widespread in India and Brazil. The control and reduction in the levels of dioxide emission will reduce the levels of carbon dioxide emission.

The future is dependent on the hand of innovators and the people in power.

What is Green technology used for?

Green and sustainable technologies are quick and efficient in solving different problems related to carbon emissions. Future economic activities will depend on creating products that are safer and more beneficial to the environment.

Green Energy Production is an area where green technology has the major applications. The green technology uses the conversion of energy from new sources using new methods as well as bringing energy efficiency. It includes the development of different alternative sources of energy to reduce the use of fossil fuels which are damaging the environment. Green energy production sources from renewable products can reduce the dependency on the fossil resources like petroleum, coal etc. It includes also non-polluting methods that produce energy from various alternative sources like wind, biomass sunlight etc. Green technology is used to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings using appropriate design and location for the construction of buildings.

The Future of Green Technology

It is expected that in the coming years the use of green technology will extend into more areas. Future economic activities will depend on creating products that are safer and more beneficial to the environment. The governments of various countries recognize the need for using green technology and promote the use of items produced using green technology that is environmentally friendly. There will be new careers opening up which are centered on green technology. Creating awareness among people about the use of green energy and environmentally friendly products will improve the scope of this technology.

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Mapping Waste-to-Energy

Most readers of our blog know that waste can be easily converted into energy, such as in biogas plants. Biogas, biohydrogen, and biodiesel are biofuels because they are biologically produced by microorganisms or plants. Biofuel facilities are found worldwide. However, nobody knows exactly where these biofuel plants are located and where they can be operated most economically. This knowledge gap hampers market access for biofuel producers.

At least for the United States − the largest market for biofuels − there is now a map. A research team from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published a detailed analysis of the potential for waste-to-energy in the US in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

The group focused on liquid biofuels that can be recovered from sewage sludge using the Fischer-Tropsch process. The industrial process was originally developed in Nazi Germany for coal liquefaction, but can also be used to liquefy other organic materials, such as biomass. The resulting oil is similar to petroleum, but contains small amounts of oxygen and water. A side effect is that nutrients, such as phosphate can be recovered.

The research group coupled the best available information on these organic wastes from their database with computer models to estimate the quantities and the best geographical distribution of the potential production of liquid biofuel. The results suggest that the United States could produce more than 20 billion liters of liquid biofuel per year.

The group also found that the potential for liquid biofuel from sewage sludge from public wastewater treatment plants is 4 billion liters per year. This resource was found to be widespread throughout the country − with a high density of sites on the east cost, as well as in the largest cities. Animal manure has a potential for 10 billion liters of liquid biofuel per year. Especially in the Midwest are the largest untapped resources.

The potential for liquid biofuel from food waste also follows the population density. For metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York, etc., the researchers estimate that such waste could produce more than 3 billion liters per year. However, food leftovers also had the lowest conversion efficiency. This is also the biggest criticism of the Fischer-Tropsch process. Plants producing significant quantities of liquid fuel are significantly larger than conventional refineries, consume a lot of energy and produce more CO2 than they save.

Better processes for biomass liquefaction and more efficient use of biomass still remain a challenge for industry and science.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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The Photosynthetic CO2 Race − Plants vs. Algae

Algae store CO2 but also release it. Some of us may know that. However, so far it was unknown that algae may release additional CO2 due to global warming. That’s what researcher Chao Song and his colleagues of the University of Georgia in Athens, GA, found out.

As they published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the metabolism of algae and other microbes is accelerated by higher water temperatures in large streams. This could lead to some rivers releasing more CO2 than they do now. This could, in turn, further accelerate global warming. Although photosynthesis in algae would accelerate, plants along the river banks would be even faster. Decomposition of the plant material would immediately release the so fixed CO2. With extra nutrients from plants, competing microorganisms would overgrow the river algae or the algae would degrade the plant material themselves.

To calculate the CO2 net effect, scientists monitored temperature, dissolved oxygen, and other parameters in 70 rivers worldwide. Then they used their data for computer models. These models suggest that over time, accelerated photosynthesis in some rivers may not keep pace with plant growth. This net increase of 24% of the CO2 released from rivers could mean an additional global temperature increase of 1 °C.

However, the computer model still lacks some data. For example, the sedimentation rates are not taken into account. In addition, not all banks grow plants. Many rivers pass only sparsely vegetated land. As always, more research is needed to get better answers.

(Photo: Wikipedia)