Tech News

 20-km-high space elevator a reality soon

TORONTO: A Canadian firm has been granted a US patent to build the world's first-ever space elevator -- 20 times the height of the world's tallest building Burj Khalifa -- that will also have a tower assisting spacecrafts to land and take off.

Ontario-based Thoth Technology has already outlined plans for an elevator to space that will help save enormous amount of fuel and money that go into launching rockets into orbit, Daily Mail reported.

The company will build a freestanding tower, reaching 20 km above the planet's surface.

"Astronauts would ascend 20 km by an electric elevator. From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refuelling and reflight," its inventor Dr Brendan Quine was quoted as saying.

The elevator will also be used for wind-energy generation and communications.

According to Caroline Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Thoth, the space tower will also include self-landing rocket technologies to herald a new era of space transportation.

"Landing on a barge at sea level is a great demonstration, but landing at 20 km above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet," he was quoted as saying.
The Thoth design reportedly uses inflatable sections and flywheels to provide dynamic stability.

The design seeks to get around the complication of geostationary orbit by limiting its height to just 20 km instead of the full 100 km, considered the end of our atmosphere and the beginning of space.

"The present invention is a self-supporting space elevator tower for the delivery of payloads to at least one platform or pod above the surface of the Earth for the purposes of space launch," the patent document read.

"The space elevator tower may also be used to deliver equipment, personnel and other objects or people to at least one platform or pod above the surface of the Earth for the purpose of scientific research, communications and tourism," it added.


The idea of a space elevator was first proposed by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895.



The Science Of Why Cities Are Warmer Than Rural Areas

If you watch the evening news, you may have noticed that cities are often warmer than the surrounding rural or suburban landscapes. For the first time in human history, more people live in cities than rural environments and this trend is likely to increase.

City regions can typically have air temperatures warmer than surrounding rural environments by anywhere from 1 to 15 degrees F. The difference is most noticeable in the evenings. During the daytime, skin or surface temperatures are even larger. This difference is known as the Urban Heat Island. There are different types of Heat Islands: Surface, Canopy or Air Temperature, and Boundary Layer (roughly lowest 1 km of the atmosphere). Herein, I will write generically about them as one entity. The Urban Heat Island or UHI was first noted by Luke Howard in 1820. According to Helmut Landsberg’s classic textbook The Urban Climate, Howard speaking about London noted:

…night is 2.1 degrees C warmer…in the city than in the country

Heat islands can lead to increases in heat related health issues and mortality, increased energy demand, higher air conditioning costs, and more air pollutions and greenhouse gas emissions. So why do UHIs happen? There are several factors that cause the Urban Heat Island.

Heat-absorbing surfaces. If you think about the materials in a city (asphalt, tar roofs, concrete), they are primarily of low albedo and have heat storing capacity. Albedo is a measure of reflectivity of a material. Fresh snow has a very high albedo while dark asphalt has a low albedo. Lower albedo surfaces will absorb more solar energy than higher albedo surfaces. Therefore, roadways, rooftops, and buildings absorb heat throughout the day. These surfaces re-emit that absorbed energy at night, which maximizes the UHI during the hours after sunset. In cities with large buildings, the corridors between them are called urban canyons. Heat energy (longwave infrared) radiated from buildings can accumulate even more within these canyons. Highly reflective surfaces like “light” roadways and white roofing have been proposed as a way to reduce the urban heat island. Kanok Boriboonsomsin has referenced previous studies noting:


…increasing the albedo of 1,250 sq km (483 sq mi) of roadways in Los Angeles by 0.25 would save cooling energy worth $15 million per year, and would reduce smog-related medical and lost-work expenses by $76 million per year.

Credits: http://www.forbes.com/





Getting fuel from used plastics

A new set of emerging technologies is helping to convert non-recycled plastics into an array of fuels, crude oil and industrial feedstocks. Processes vary, but these technologies, known as "plastics-to-fuel," involve similar steps.

Plastics are collected and sorted for recycling. Then the non-recycled plastics (or residuals) are shipped to a plastics-to-fuel facility, where they are heated in an oxygen-free environment, melted and vaporized into gases. The gases are then cooled and condensed into a variety of useful products. Plastics-to-fuel technologies do not involve combustion.
Depending on the specific technology, products can include synthetic crude or refined fuels for home heating; ingredients for diesel, gasoline or kerosene; or fuel for industrial combined heat and power. 
Companies sell the petroleum products to manufacturers and industrial users, while fuels can help power cars, buses, ships and planes.
Economics will likely drive adoption of this technology. For example, by tapping the potential of non-recycled plastics, the U.S. could support up to 600 plastics-to-fuel facilities and generate nearly 39,000 jobs, resulting in nearly $9 billion in economic output from plastics-to-fuel operations. And that doesn't even include the $18 billion of economic output during the build-out phase.

Plastics-to-fuel technologies are increasingly scalable and can be customized to meet the needs of various economies and geographies, so they do not require huge machines. [Plant Plastics Seed New Tech, from Miatas to Tea Bags]

The promise of plastics-to-fuel is particularly exciting as an option to recover materials that today may be buried, or in some regions, illegally dumped or burned in open pits due to inadequate waste management infrastructure. The new facilities could create local revenue for communities in parts of the world where trash has become a hazard and a large source of marine litter.

A cleaner fuel

Another potential environmental benefit of plastics-derived fuels is that they can deliver a cleaner-burning fuel, due to the low sulfur content of plastics. Many developing economies currently use diesel with relatively high sulfur content. 

The main product of fuel from plastic, when refined properly, is a diesel with greatly reduced sulfur content. Using this lower sulfur content fuel for boats, machinery, generators and vehicles can help decrease sulfur-related impacts while reducing non-recycled materials along the way.   

Plastics-to-fuel technologies are expected to be particularly helpful in island nations where fuel prices are high and landfill options are limited. Communities now have the potential to create some of their own fuel locally, providing economic and environmental benefits, while removing a portion of the waste stream that potentially causes harm to their waterways, reefs, and tourism.

These are just some of the reasons our two organizations — one representing America's plastics makers, the other a nonprofit dedicated to a trash-free ocean — teamed up to create two new tools aimed at helping communities around the globe evaluate their potential to adopt plastics-to-fuel technologies.

expert voices, op-edPin It If you're a topical expert — researcher, business leader, author or innovator — and would like to contribute an op-ed piece, email us here.
View full size image
The "2015 Plastics-to-Fuel Developers Guide" and the "Cost Estimating Tool for Prospective Project Developers" were designed to help potential investors, developers and community leaders determine whether this rapidly growing family of technologies could be a good fit for meeting local waste management needs and local demand for the relevant commodities. 

Available at no cost, these tools provide, for the first time, an exploration of available commercial technologies, operational facilities and things to consider when developing a business plan.

We first announced the tools at the fourth annual Plasticity Forum held in Cascais, Portugal, in early June. Each year, the Plasticity Forum draws hundreds of global thought leaders in the areas of policy, design, innovation, waste management, retail/brand management and more. And earlier this month, we introduced the tools at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's "Building Better Cities" Forum in Cebu, Philippines. Today, banks and investors are reviewing the online tools to evaluate investment opportunities.

Plastics — even used plastics — are valuable materials that can be used to create new products or fuels and energy. But not if we bury them in landfills or dump them in our waterways. Plastics-to-fuel is one of several technologies that can play a role in converting non-recycled plastics into valuable energy (gasification and refuse-derived fuel are two others). Because no two communities are the same, it is important for individual regions or municipalities to understand which technology is likely to work best for them. 

Hopefully, these new tools will make that decision a little easier. 

Credits:http://www.livescience.com

No comments: