DISASTER SOLAR

MOBILE SOLAR GENERATORS
http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2012/11/14/mobile-solar-generators-one-mans-odyssey-to-bring-power-back-to-new-york/
One Man’s Odyssey to Bring Power Back to New York
by Peter Kelly-Detwiler  /  11/14/2012

Shortly after Superstorm Sandy smashed in to the East Coast, Chris Mejia of Consolidated Solar decided to do something about it.  Chris’s company is a distributor for portable solar generators out of Harrisburg, PA..  He leases trailers with a solar unit/battery combination made by DC Solar Solutions in California.  On a normal day, he leases the units for somewhere around $500 to folks who need power someplace where it’s hard to get.  He does pretty well with construction sites, where it’s a lot cheaper to lease a solar generator than string lines to a site.  Construction workers only need limited juice for charging power tools and perhaps a cellphone power, pretty much the same thing disaster survivors require immediately after impact.

So as soon as the storm hit, Chris was on the phone trying to help.  He called the emergency management agencies including the state units and FEMA.  They were too busy to call back.  He tried City Hall and the mayors of small towns.  For a while, it looked like he would be teaming up with a cell phone company, but they finally said no thanks.  He recalled thinking to himself “You need power.  I have power.  Why is this so tough?”  Finally he Googled “Sandy Relief” and identified the relief agencies working in the region.  But they all wanted Chris to donate the unit outright, which he couldn’t do since he was just starting his business and leasing the units from DC Solar Solutions.  Finally, he chanced on the organization Solar One, NY city’s “first green energy, arts, and education center.”  They were developing a solar-based emergency response as well, The Solar Sandy Project.  They turned him onto SolarCity, who volunteered to pick up the leasing costs for his units.

Since then, Chris said, he’s moved three 10 kW units to the area, driving the trailers to where they are needed.  At the moment, all three are in the Rockaways, which the Long Island Power Authority still has not brought on line, with two more to be located there shortly.  Chris notes they are extremely simple to set up. “You fold the panels out so they are pointed at the sun, press a few buttons on the inverter, and that’s it.  It’s on.”  With the battery back-up, they provide an independent source of power to 6 three-prong outlets, with up to 50 amps.  “The moment we set up the first one, a guy ran over to it in order to recharge his flashlight.  Word was spreading quickly as we drove off to set up the other unit.”

As the Sandy post-mortem analysis turns to talk of resiliency and hardening the electric grid, resources that do not depend on fuel at all deserve a place in the conversation.  Solar/battery combinations are likely to play a critical part in a community’s effort to survive the immediate and perilous aftermath.  These units may not provide all of the benefits of the more extensive and powerful micro-grid (micro-grids are isolated mini systems that can be disconnected from a dead power grid), but they are mobile, independent, quick to set up, can be daisy-chained to increase power output, and don’t require a huge infrastructural commitment.  And they are relatively cheap.  For communities that may not be able to commit resources to a full micro-grid, or may take years to set one up, this type of resource is worth considering.  As Chris Collins, Executive Director of Solar One stated “Solar generators should be in the emergency preparedness plan of every community.  After a storm, people need safe places to go.”  In fact, he commented that after the flooding, his own building on the East River “lost everything.  But we set up our solar panels the day after Sandy and we had lights and power.”

Micro-grids are an important solution: a combination of a generator and hardened distribution system can supply reliable and larger quantities of electricity to a small circuit of users including emergency services, shelters, gas stations and grocery stores.  But once you build a micro-grid, you are committed to what you have built.  Mobile solar generators – though not nearly as powerful – can be reconfigured according to need, and can be daisy chained together to provide sufficient power to do more than charge cell phones and batteries.

This concept of solar power in disaster relief is not new.  In the aftermath of 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, a portable solar generator supplied as community center for six weeks after the storm.   After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, PV systems were brought in to provide power to shelters and streetlights.  In the California Northridge earthquake in 1994, PV kept some communications links open.  More recently California-based Mobile Solar freighted 6 units to Japan immediately after the Fukushima disaster, providing communications and battery charges to workers struggling to rebuild.  And a project is underway today to create a solar-powered water purification system to supply the needs of 750-1500 people per day.

In the aftermath of Sandy, it is clear that we have much work to do to plan for prevention, resiliency, and recovery.  Micro-grids will be a critical piece of this puzzle.  But solar generators can play a key and reliable role in disaster recovery and getting communities back on their feet.  They are doing so today in some of the hardest hit areas of the East Coast, and they merit serious consideration.

PORTABLE EMERGENCY SOLAR
http://www.cleanenergyauthority.com/solar-energy-news/greenpeace-brings-solar-power-to-sandy-victims-110612
by Amanda H. Miller  / November 06, 2012

A week after sub tropical storm Sandy made landfall in New York, thousands are still without power in their Rockaway Beach neighborhood homes. Greenpeace has been doing what it can to help and rolled into the neighborhood Oct. 31 with its Rolling Sunlight solar truck. The truck’s 256 square feet of solar panels produce 50 kilowatt hours of electricity a day, enough to power a typical household, said Jesse Coleman, a Greenpeace researcher who is manning the truck. Parked at a storefront at the corner of Rockaway Beach Boulevard and 113th Street, the solar truck is the only spot with electricity for several blocks. “It’s become a major hub,” Coleman said. “The entire area is without power and probably will be for a couple weeks.”

Many residents in the neighborhood have lost everything, Coleman said. Their homes are filled with mud and they have to clean them out with nothing more than light from the sun and flashlights. “It’s a major problem,” he said. “People’s whole lives were destroyed.” While the Rolling Sunlight truck can’t fix all of that, it does give some of the New York residents a place to charge their cell phones so they can call each other, communicate and ask their neighbors for help. It’s also created a warm, lighted gathering place for the community. “People who are now, literally homeless, are out there cooking food for the community and giving it out,” Coleman said.

Greenpeace has set up seven locations throughout the city to help residents, though the Rolling Sunshine truck is the only solar power the organization brought with it. Greenpeace is helping to coordinate donation efforts and process items in a nearby gymnasium. Coleman said they received some box generators that they’re giving out to people who need them. This is not the solar truck’s first appearance. It’s more than 10 years old, Coleman said. And it has brought portable power to people in Mexico, powered the Seattle Space Needle and electronics at events like Occupy New York and Occupy Washington, D.C. Coleman said he plans to stay until the weekend and will likely spend this week on helping residents transition.

FEMA’s HURRICANE SANDY RUMOR CONTROL SAYS NOTHING ABOUT SOLAR
http://www.fema.gov/hurricane-sandy-rumor-control

There is a lot of misinformation circulating on social networks regarding the response and recovery effort for Hurricane Sandy. Rumors spread fast: please tell a friend, share this page and help us provide accurate information about the types of assistance available. Check here often for an on-going list of rumors and their true or false status.


http://www.solarover.com/

Calling 1-800-621-FEMA
Due to the large volume of calls, individuals trying to register with FEMA may experience long wait times. We ask for your patience as FEMA is increasing its capacity at call centers to address long wait times.  For individuals with internet access, you can register with FEMA for disaster assistance by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov orhttp://m.fema.gov on your mobile phone.   The websites and 1-800-621-FEMA request identical information.

EXAMPLE RUMOR:  Cash Cards / Food Stamps
There are message boards and traffic on social media sites related to FEMA and/or the American Red Cross distributing cash cards to individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy.  This is FALSE.

MEANWHILE: OCCUPY SANDY GIFT REGISTRY
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/11/occupy-sandy-hacks-amazons-wedding-registry-in-a-good-way/264543/
A group takes advantage of Amazon’s gift registry to get donations to storm victims / Nov 5 2012

Occupy Sandy isn’t getting married. But it would like a gift all the same. The volunteer group – an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, focused on helping victims of the storm — is using an especially clever hack of an existing system: Amazon’s gift registry service. Those displaced by the storm, the group realized, need blankets. They need flashlights. They need hygiene products. They need a bunch of things that are orderable — with that famous one-click efficiency — through Amazon. Now, anyone who uses Amazon can buy them those things, and have them shipped to the area hardest hit by the storm. Victims need stuff; people want to give them stuff; Occupy Sandy, via Amazon, is bringing them together. The registry started, coordinator John Heggestuen told me, with a particularly frustrating phenomenon: a thwarted attempt at volunteering. Heggestuen and two of his friends — Alex Nordenson and Katherine Dolan — went to a shelter on Friday in an attempt to volunteer there. “They didn’t have anything for us to do,” Heggestuen said in an email, “so we went to the Occupy Sandy location at 520 Clinton Ave (Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew).” And “there was a tremendous effort there.”

As the friends were walking to a store to buy some food that they could donate, Heggestuen says, they talked about how they might improve the donation system. “My friend Alex said something to the effect of, ‘we need something like a wedding registry.’ I thought it was a great idea and my gears started turning. When we got to the store, I was so excited that I gave my friends my money for groceries and ran back to the church to start to set this up.” Heggestuen asked Sam Corbin, who was was helping to oversee the effort at the church, if the location could serve as a shipping address for out-state-donations. And “she said it was a great idea.” With that in place, the friends worked on setting up the registry over the weekend — an effort helped along by the fact that both Nordenson and Dolan work in social media. “Right now,” Heggestuen says, “we are setting up an inventory management team at the church to keep track of the donations when they arrive.”

As for the people who have decided to use the registry to assist Sandy’s victims? “We are still trying to get clear numbers,” Heggestuen says. “We know it’s a lot from emails we have received, but Amazon’s registry is not updating quickly enough to accurately reflect what has been bought. We need some help getting their attention and we are asking twitter users to tweet @amazon for free shipping and tech support for the Sandy Wedding Registry.” Despite the lag time, though, gifts are being bought. Thanks to the effort, Sandy victims will have blankets — and flashlights, and toothbrushes — that they didn’t before. “It is really inspiring how much support has poured out for Sandy victims,” Heggestuen says. “I have never seen a volunteer effort like Occupy Sandy, everyone is so motivated to help. I’m humbled.”

http://votesolar.org/2012/11/guest-post-deploying-solar-in-sandy%E2%80%99s-harrowing-aftermath/

Even two weeks later, the air quality in the hardest hit areas of New York City is still extremely poor. There is an enormous amount of dust, human waste, and previously buried pollution in the air. The stench of gasoline is also pervasive. Since the storm hit, you can smell gas all over parts of Rockaway and Staten Island, as people line up in cars or on foot waiting for to get what little gas is being rationed each day. It’s ironic that gas is so scarce yet, due to all the emergency gas generators and stoves, our lungs are filled with the stuff.

In the hardest hit places like Rockaway and Gerritsen Beach, people have two choices each day: (1) go get some food for the day, maybe find someone to fill a prescription, or inquire about FEMA assistance; or (2) do none of those things, and wait in a four-hour gas line so they can have some heat that night.

It is in this bleak context that the Solar Sandy Project was conceived. First, our company SolarCity partnered with Consolidated Solar to deploy five solar generating units (equipped with battery storage) as quickly as possible. To date these generators have served four areas in Rockaway, with one more scheduled this week. We partnered with NYC-based solar advocacy group Solar One to help spread the word, do community outreach, and host a match making website for areas of further need. These solar generators can provide power for warmth, cooking, electronics charging, and whatever else people need. And they do all this without burning gas that (a) might be better put to use in cars right now, and (b) would preferably not be burned anyway.

SOLAR GENERATORS
http://www.solar1.org/solar-sandy-project/

Solar One, SolarCityConsolidated Solar and NYSERDA are partnering to connect communities rebuilding from Sandy to mobile solar generators so that they can get much-needed temporary electricity. So far, we have installed five 10kw solar generators deployed in the Rockaways. We will be installing units in other parts of the city in the coming days. These units are installed in community gathering places where folks are already getting warm clothes, a bite to eat, and some basic medical services.

With solar generators, we can provide clean, quiet power hubs that don’t need refueling. People can charge phones, power tools, and laptops; heat food; and run other critical equipment. Not an installer? Donate to the project!

WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR
From Installers/Equipment Providers

  • Plug and play mobile generators that can easily be setup for these communities.
  • Individuals with the right skill set (solar installers, electricians, etc) who can help with deployment, installation, and maintenance of the systems
  • If you have off-grid solar experience with battery storage, this can be particularly useful.
  • If you can assist in any way, fill out the Installer/Equipment Sign-Up below.

From Community Organizations:

  • We are trying to figure out the best places to deploy these generators. Ideally they would be in already existing community gathering spots that have cropped up since the storm.
  • If you would like to be considered, please fill out the Deployment Area Sign-Up below.
Installer/Equipment Sign-Up Deployment Area Sign-Up

OTHER WAYS to HELP

CONTACT
Want to sign up to get more info, help out in another way, or donate? Email volunteer[at]solar1[dot]org using the subject line Solar Sandy.

PRESS INQUIRIES
Check out our Press Release and contact the person listed.

WHERE SOLAR HAS BEEN DEPLOYED SO FAR
Here’s a map of where the current solar installations can be found in Staten Island and the Rockaways(use the arrows to scroll left and right to see where the installations are):

KEY: The systems that we have deployed by the Solar Sandy Project are in Blue. Systems that have been deployed by friends and affiliates are in Purple.


View Solar Sandy Project in a larger map

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LOW-COST ENERGY STORAGE

IRON-AIR BATTERIES
DOI: 10.1149/2.034208jes
http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/breathing-battery-saves-energy-for-rainy-day/
Breaking the barriers for low-cost energy storage / August 1, 2012

A new low-cost, “air-breathing” battery has the capacity to store between eight and 24 hours’ worth of energy. The rechargeable and eco-friendly battery uses the chemical energy generated by the oxidation of iron plates that are exposed to the oxygen in the air—a process similar to rusting. “Iron is cheap and air is free,” says Sri Narayan, professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC). “It’s the future.” Details about the battery were published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society. Narayan’s patent is pending, and both the federal government and California utilities have expressed interest in the project. Iron-air batteries have been around for decades—they saw a surge in interest during the 1970s energy crisis, but suffered from a crippling problem: a competing chemical reaction of hydrogen generation that takes place inside the battery (known as hydrolysis) sucked away about 50 percent of the battery’s energy, making it too inefficient to be useful.

Narayan and his team managed to reduce the energy loss down to 4 percent—making iron-air batteries that are about 10 times more efficient than their predecessors. The team did it by adding very small amount of bismuth sulfide into the battery. Bismuth (which happens to be part of the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol and helps give the pink remedy its name) shuts down the wasteful hydrogen generation. Adding lead or mercury might also have worked to improve the battery’s efficiency, but wouldn’t have been as safe, Narayan says. “A very small amount of bismuth sulfide doesn’t compromise on the promise of an eco-friendly battery that we started with,” he adds.

The California Renewable Energy Resources Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2011, mandates that the state’s utilities must generate 33 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by the end of 2020. This aggressive push toward renewable energy sources presents utilities with a problem: solar power works great on clear days and wind power is wonderful on windy days, but what can they do when it’s cloudy and calm out? People still need electricity, and won’t wait for the clouds to clear to turn the lights on. Currently, solar and wind power make up a relatively small part of the energy used in California. In 2009, 11.6 percent of electricity in the state was generated by wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric plants combined. (Large hydroelectric plants accounted for an additional 9.2 percent.) As such, dips in energy generation from solar and wind power plants can be covered by the more predictable coal-burning grid.

As California moves toward more renewable energy, solar- and wind-power plants will need an effective way of storing large amounts of energy for use during clouding and calm days. Traditionally, utilities store power by pumping water uphill into reservoirs, which can then release the water downhill to spin electricity-generating turbines as needed. This method is not always practical or even feasible in drought-ridden California, where water resources are already in high demand and open reservoirs can suffer significant losses due to evaporation, Narayan says. Batteries have typically not been a viable solution for utilities. Regular sealed batteries, like the AAs in your TV remote, are not rechargeable. Lithium-ion batteries used in cell phones and laptops, which are rechargeable, are at least 10 times as expensive as iron-air batteries. Despite his success, Narayan’s work is still ongoing. His team is working to make the battery store more energy with less material.

[Collaborators include additional researchers from USC and Andrew Kindler of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech. Funding for this research came from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, an arm of the US Department of Energy.]

CONTACTS
Sri R. Narayan
http://chem.usc.edu/faculty/Narayan.html
email : srnaraya [at] usc [dot] edu

Danielle Fong
http://lightsailenergy.com/team.html
http://daniellefong.com/about-the-author/
email : Dani.Fong [at] gmail [dot] com


An early drawing of the first prototype built by Danielle Fong and LightSail — a device that uses excess electrical power to compress and store large amounts of air in a small space. This compress air can then be used to generate energy when it’s actually needed. According to LightSail, the prototype can reproduce about 70 percent of the energy put in to it.
View the full diagram

COMPRESSED AIR TANKS
http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/07/danielle-fong/#
World’s Most Wired Steam Punk
by Caleb Garling / 07.02.12

Danielle Fong was 12 years old when her mother decided she should go to college. Danielle’s teachers didn’t agree. Though an aptitude test put her above 99 percent of students who had already graduated from high school, her teachers said the move to college would ruin her education. But her mother sent her anyway. “Why would I conceivably put my child through six more years of that bullshit?” remembers Danielle’s mother, Trudy Fong, who was 15 when she herself went to college. “I didn’t bring my kid into the world to have her tortured — and be treated like dirt for being brilliant.”

Little more than a decade later — after graduating from Canada’s Dalhousie University and then dropping out of the Ph.D. program at the Princeton plasma physics lab when she decided academic research was as broken as grade school — Danielle Fong is the chief scientist and co-founder of a company called LightSail Energy. Based in Berkeley, California, this tiny startup is built on an idea that’s as unorthodox as Fong’s education. LightSail aims to store the world’s excess energy in giant tanks of compressed air. The goal is to plug these tanks into wind and solar farms, so that they can squirrel away energy for times when it’s most needed, much like reservoirs store rain water. The wind and the sun are prime sources of renewable energy, but they generate power unpredictably. LightSail’s compressed air tanks, Fong and company say, will make the power grid that much more efficient — and ultimately make the world a greener place.

In 2010, Danielle Fong and LightSail took their compressed air storage idea to the U.S. Department of Energy’sAdvanced Research Projects Agency, seeking a grant for their work. The agency turned them away, saying she and her team were unfit to manage a company, that the idea wouldn’t work anyway, and that her air compressor would likely explode. But like her mother, Danielle didn’t listen. Backed by $15 million in funding from green-minded venture capital outfit Khosla Partners and with a team of 32 employees, LightSail is pushing ahead with its plan to reinvent the power grid. Fong believes the potential market for compressed air tanks will exceed $1 trillion over the next 20 years. “People get skittish,” says Fong, who is now all of 24. “If you have your own resources and have a real effort, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks, in its knee-jerk, fight-or-flight response.”

In a way, Fong is going back to the future. Compressed air tanks have been used to store energy as far back as the late 19th century. They were installed in cities across the globe, from Paris to Birmingham, England to Buenos Aires. Germany has been using the technology for the past 30 years, and a power company in Alabama opened a facility in 1991. The idea is a simple one: If you have a power source — whether it’s gas or coal or renewable sources such as wind — you can use the energy to cram air into a tank. When the air compresses, it heats up, as we all know from high school physics — or just from pumping up a bicycle tire. Then, when you need the energy at some point down the road, this stored heat can be turned back into power. It’s a bit like coiling and releasing a spring. The rub is that you lose power with each transfer, and you lose heat when the air is in storage. Because it’s less than efficient, compressed air storage never caught on in a big way. Current systems often lose more than 50 percent of the power originally put into them, since they use the released energy to run a generator — which only loses more power.

Since the 1700s, scientists have struggled to store energy in more efficient ways, working to refine everything from Galvanic fuel cells to modern-day batteries. The question is always the same: How do we build a system that lets us storage energy and then retrieve almost all of it? But Steve Crane — LightSail’s CEO and a geophysics Ph.D. — says Danielle Fong has cracked at least part of the code. “It’s a little arrogant to put it this way,” he says, “but I think that Danielle has succeeded where Edison and others have failed.” The trick? Fong added water. LightSail’s prototype sprays a dense mist into the compressed air tanks, and this absorbs the heat produced during compression. Water can store heat far more efficiently than air, and with this mist, Fong says, the prototype more easily stores and releases power. It heats up the tanks to temperatures that are only about 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the environment, as opposed to several thousand degrees. The tanks are still pressurized to about 3,000 pounds per square inch — and Fong hopes to increase that amount — but since the power is stored at lower-temperatures, it’s easier to insulate the tanks. Some compressed air storage systems sit deep underground, taking advantage of the earth’s natural insulation, but LightSail’s tanks sit above ground, which is less costly. When you want the heat back, you just reverse the process, spraying the warm water out of the compression tank as the air expands, and it drives a piston to reproduce the power. But in both storing the heat and spitting it out, you need just the right amount of water. LightSail has tested nearly 40 nozzle heads — not to mention various tank designs — in an effort to achieve just the right mix. According to Fong, her system doubles the efficiency of compressed air, from about 35 percent to roughly 70 percent.

You might think of Danielle Fong as a real-life incarnation of Steampunk, that science-fiction literary genre that re-imagines Victorian technology in a post-apocalyptic future. The difference is that her prototype isn’t fiction. Fong’s original plan was to put her tanks into cars. She holds up Elon Musk, the founder of electric car pioneer Tesla, as a role model. “He was willing to go all out,” she says. But rather than equip cars with combustable engines or rechargeable batteries, LightSail planned to fill them with compressed air. The hot air would drive the pistons in a new breed of automobile engine. But after a nudge from their backers, Fong and team decided that — whatever Musk has accomplished with Tesla — convincing old-school automakers to put these tanks into their vehicles was an almost insurmountable task. So she chose another almost insurmountable task: Reinvent the power grid.

The world is already moving to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms. But these don’t produce a steady stream of power. Some days you have sun, and some days you don’t. Plus, more power is typically consumed at night, when solar farms are no longer generating energy, so you need an efficient way of storing it. Fong envisions a power grid that behaves more like the internet, where resources are evenly distributed across the world and they can be readily accessed whenever they’re needed. Yes, the grid is fundamentally designed to distribute power to places of need, and we have “peaking plants” that only operate when additional power is required. But Fong hopes to provide a level of efficiency the world has never seen, especially in large countries like India and China, where power grids are less developed. “It dramatically makes it easier and more economical to do a network this way,” she says, “rather than in a way where your expensive assets have to be designed for the peak anticipated loads over the next 20 years.”

Is this doable? According to Samir Succar, a researcher at Princeton University’s Environmental Institute, compressed air storage could indeed improve the efficiency of wind and solar farms and other less-than-predictable energy sources. But he points out that wind and solar power still accounts for only a small portion of the power grid, and that compressed air doesn’t make sense for more traditional — and more predictable — sources such as coal and gas. “We just don’t have penetration rates that would require energy storage right now,” he says. What’s more, he says, power companies have little incentive to build energy storage centers — whether they use compressed air or some other technology. According to Succar, the power giants prefer to invest in technologies with a proven history, such as natural gas. What’s more, because compressed air can mean so many different things, it can be difficult for these companies to understand which technologies are the most efficient.

Tom Zarella — CEO of a competing compressed air outfit, SustainX — agrees that no matter how effective the hardware built by LightSail or his own company, the task ahead is immense. While some are pushing for greener forms of energy, the political and economic barriers aren’t exactly coming down. According to both Zarella and Fong, the collapse of solar outfit Solyndra — after it had won a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee — soured investors and turned the political discourse against alternative energy efforts. “The moment of ‘Me Too!’ investing in clean energy — where people believe it is easy — is over,” Fong says. “We realize that.” But she says there are some basic realities that will float LightSail to the top: air is free, and it’s everywhere. Any country can use it without depending on another. She says that some of the company’s initial targets include Third World countries, isolated towns and islands that operate without power grids and depend on diesel generators and other local power sources. Much of the wattage generated by these sources is wasted, she says, and her compressed air tanks can turn things around. But she’s eying the United States as well. The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently released a report saying about 75 percent of the United States is suited to compress air storage because it could accommodate buried tanks. But Fong doesn’t need to bury hers. She can put them anywhere. “We know we can sell as many of these as we can make,” she says, insisting that by 2015, her company will be growing threefold every year. “This has never been achieved in any industrial setting. At all. But there’s no other possible energy storage solution that can do that. And if we don’t do it, pretty solid models about the climate — and the way the economy is going to go and what people will do with coal plants — will fuck the world.” Some may doubt whether all this will happen. And others may doubt whether Danielle Fong has the right plan to deal with it. But she’s used to that.

MEANWHILE

NO STORAGE on the GRID
http://grist.org/news/second-day-of-black-outs-leaves-nearly-10-percent-of-humanity-without-power/
Second day of blackouts leaves nearly 10 percent of humanity without power
by Philip Bump / 31 Jul 2012

This is not a repeat from yesterday. It is worse. For the second day in a row, power consumption in India vastly exceeded available supply, due in part to high temperatures. The result: grid failure that first struck the northern part of the country — which had the same issue yesterday — then, the eastern. Reuters suggests that the outage affected 670 million people — 9.5 percent of all people on Earth. For nearly four hours, power and transportation systems in the nation’s capital were at a standstill, forcing hospitals and “VIP zones” to rely on generator backups. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Hundreds of trains stalled across the country and traffic lights went out, causing widespread traffic jams in New Delhi. Electric crematoria stopped operating, some with bodies half burnt, power officials said. Emergency workers rushed generators to coal mines to rescue miners trapped underground.

At least 46 of the 200 trapped miners have since been rescued.

That coal miners were trapped is not without irony. The root of India’s electricity problem, exposed by surging demand in high temperatures, is that a wobbly infrastructure is combined with too little generation. A business trade group puts the blame for generation issues specifically on “the nonavailability of coal.” As we noted last week, the quality of India’s domestic coal is largely too poor for recent-generation coal plants.

The Times’ Andy Revkin has a good round-up of deeper explanations for the power failures, further explaining the link between India’s power problems and its coal problems. He cites theWall Street Journal, which blames environmental regulations:

More than half of India’s power-generation capacity of 205 gigawatts is coal-based, and Coal India Ltd., the world’s biggest coal producer, is unable to produce enough owing to delays in getting environmental clearances for mining. Meanwhile, government giveaways in the form of free electricity to farmers and a reluctance among politicians to raise power tariffs to sufficiently cover costs have drained cash reserves from the largely state-run electricity-distribution companies, leaving them with mounting debt and hampered ability to purchase power.

But again, it’s not clear that mining more coal would solve the country’s problems. If generation facilities can’t use the coal, there’s not much point in sending more people down to retrieve it.

[For more on the power outage (which is now largely resolved): The BBC has a good gallery of images. The Times of India is running a liveblog.]

EXCEPTION

A man cleans panels installed at a solar plant at Meerwada village of Guna district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh June 18, 2012. Life in the remote Indian village of Meerwada used to grind to a standstill as darkness descended. Workers downed tools, kids strained to see their school books under the faint glow of aged kerosene lamps and adults struggled to carry out the most basic of household chores. The arrival of solar power last year has changed all that. On a humid evening splashed with rain, fans whirr, children sit cross-legged to swat up on their Hindi and delighted people can actually see what they are eating and drinking. REUTERS-Adnan Abidi

OFF-GRID SOLAR (MEERWADA, INDIA)
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/us-india-solar-idUSBRE8701PT20120801
Off-grid power shines in India solar village
by Jo Winterbottom  /  Aug 1, 2012

Life in the remote Indian village of Meerwada used to grind to a standstill as darkness descended. Workers downed tools, kids strained to see their schoolbooks under the faint glow of aged kerosene lamps and adults struggled to carry out the most basic of household chores. The arrival of solar power last year has changed all that. On a humid evening, fans whirr, children sit cross-legged to study their Hindi and mother-of-seven Sunderbai is delighted people can actually see what they are eating and drinking. “When it was dark, we used to drink water with insects in, but now we can see insects, so we filter it and then drink,” said the 30-year-old, whose flame-orange sari and gold nose ring are small defiances in a life close to the poverty line.

Children watch television powered by solar energy at Meerwada village of Guna district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh June 18, 2012. REUTERS-Adnan Abidi

Meerwada, on a dirt track rutted by rains and outside the reach of the national grid, struck lucky when U.S. solar firm SunEdison picked it to test out business models and covered the hefty initial expense of installing hi-tech solar panels in the heart of the village. But rapidly falling costs and improved access to financing for would-be customers could encourage the spread of such systems down the line, while simpler solar schemes are already making profits in areas where the grid either does not extend or provides only patchy power. And Asia’s third-largest economy, where just this week hundreds of millions were left without electricity in one of the world’s worst blackouts, needs all the help it can get in easing the strain on its overburdened power infrastructure. The country’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) hopes solar systems that bypass the national grid will account for just under one percent of total installed capacity by 2022. Still a mere flicker, but that 4,000-megawatt (MW) goal would be way up from 80 MW now when so-called off-grid solar systems are still out of reach for most of the country’s rural poor.

Large-scale solar facilities that directly feed the grid, such as those at an over 600 MW solar park recently launched with great fanfare in Gujarat, have been gaining traction for some time. But potential growth in off-grid solar power offers a ray of hope to the around 40 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population that the renewable power ministry estimates lack access to energy. People like those in the village just 200 meters away from Meerwada, who rely on a hand pump for water and cook by torchlight as hungry goats creep up on them out of the gloom. Covering initial investment on solar is key as, in a country with around 300 days of sunshine a year, subsequent costs are largely limited to maintenance and repairs. “The high up-front capital cost is one of the adoption barriers (for solar projects),” said Krister Aanesen, associate principal at McKinsey & Company’s renewable energy division. “Although diesel is more expensive on a full-cost basis, you defer cash outlay for the fuel … the cash outlays are different and that’s one of the key challenges.”

Small-scale direct current (DC) systems from Karnataka in the south to Assam in the north-east have already cleared that hurdle, supplying simple lights and mobile phone chargers at 100-200 rupees ($1.80-$3.60) per month per light — prices that typically allow installers to cover their initial costs in time. Private company Mera Gao Power fits roof-top solar panels and then transmission to other houses who pay about 40 rupees to connect, with costs thereafter about 25 rupees per week, said Nikhil Jaisinghani, one of the firm’s founders. That means it should currently take about 12 months to repay panel installation expenses of about $2,500 for 100 houses, though the cost is set to fall. Initial expenses are far more onerous on more comprehensive mini-grids like the one in Meerwada, which includes a room full of batteries that can store enough electricity to provide round-the-clock supply to the village and which has recently started powering water pumps. California-based SunEdison reckons it cost $100,000-$125,000 to build the 14 kilowatt (KW) plant in Meerwada, an expense that would have demanded fees way too high for the 400 or so villagers, whose per capita income is about $250 a year.

The firm expects initial capital costs to come down enough to make alternating current (AC) systems affordable in villages like Meerwada in a few years, with improving technology and fierce competition reducing hardware costs, while enhanced battery storage driven by the auto industry’s push on electric cars is also helping. SunEdison, which sells solar power plants and services worldwide to commercial, government and utility customers, has over 50 MW of interconnected solar electricity in India, with projects ranging from small rooftop installations to part of the Gujarat solar park. “Three years ago, the panel price was $2.60 per watt. Today it is 75 cents a watt. I don’t think it will halve in the next few years but I clearly see 50 cents a watt by 2014/15,” said Ahmad Chatila, president and chief executive of MEMC Electronic, SunEdison’s parent company. In the meantime, the government is offering 30 percent of the project cost and in some cases low-interest loans for solar power systems under its Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission policy launched in 2010. But that still means systems are beyond the reach of many poor, rural customers, so some solar companies are putting up the 20 percent deposits on loans required by banks or acting as guarantors for customers who are outside the conventional banking system.

A man stands inside his illuminated house powered by solar energy at Meerwada village of Guna district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh June 18, 2012. REUTERS-Adnan Abidi

Back in Meerwada, which lies in central India’s Madhya Pradesh, the villagers have added an unexpected ingredient to the cost equation — frugality. Lights even now are turned on only when darkness falls and fans target the youngest children and the elderly, saving on power use. Only the village leader, Sampat Bai, has been able to afford a television but it’s open to all and her bare-walled main room is crowded when the latest epic dramas come on screen and the children have finished their homework. Manorbai, a 30-something mother who is now making more money by working at night to mend and sew on her vintage black-and-gold foot-pedal sewing machine, has a simple message on the future. “Our village has power and other villages should too,” she said.

SEE ALSO

SOLAR COOKING at NIGHT
http://inhabitat.com/wilson-solar-grill-stores-the-suns-energy-for-nighttime-fuel-free-grilling/
Wilson Solar Grill Stores the Sun’s Energy for Nighttime Fuel-Free Grilling
by Bridgette Meinhold / 08/14/11

Many of us will be firing up our grills this weekend for some well-deserved barbecue time. After all, barbecuing is one of America’s greatest past times, but it certainly isn’t one of our most environmentally friendly. Whether you prefer charcoal, wood chips or propane, grilling releases emissions and contributes to poor air quality. Up until now, solar powered grilling has required, as you might expect, the sun, which means traditional fuel-fired grills are required after sunset. But new solar technology developed by MIT professor David Wilson could bring a nighttime solar-powered grill to the market very soon; an invention also of great benefit to those in developing nations who rely on wood to cook all their food.

Wilson’s technology harnesses the sun and stores latent heat to allow cooking times for up to an amazing twenty five hours at temperatures above 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The technology uses a Fresnel lens to harness the sun’s energy to melt down a container of Lithium Nitrate. The Lithium Nitrate acts as a battery storing thermal energy for 25 hours at a time. The heat is then released as convection for outdoor cooking.
“There are a lot of solar cookers out there,” says Wilson, “but surprisingly not many using latent-heat storage as an attribute to cook the food.” Wilson developed the idea after spending time in Nigeria, where wood is used for cooking, which causes a number of problems. Not only is cooking with firewood leading torespiratory illnesses, but is also increasing the rate of deforestation and women are being raped while searching for wood.

A group of MIT students are working with the technology to develop a prototype solar grill. Derek Ham, Eric Uva, and Theodora Vardouli are conducting a study through their multi-disciplinary course “iTeams,” short for “Innovation Teams”, to determine the interest in such a concept and then hopefully launch a business to manufacture and distribute these grills. The goal is to develop a business model for distributing solar grills to developing nations as well as a grill for the American market. The American version is expected to be a hybrid propane/solar model that will allow for flame cooking as well as through thermal convection.

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SPACE TRAVEL without FUEL

ion drive

QUANTUM PROPULSION
http://www.humanipo.com/blog/437/19-year-old-girl-in-Egypt-invents-a-spacecraft-propulsion-device
http://www.fastcompany.com/1837966/mustafas-space-drive-an-egyptian-students-quantum-physics-invention
Egyptian Student’s Quantum Physics Invention
by Kit Eaton / 05-21-2012

Remember the name, because you might see it again: Aisha Mustafa, a 19-year-old Egyptian physics student, patented a new type of propulsion system for spacecraft that uses cutting edge quantum physics instead of thrusters. First, a little background: One of the strange quantum facts at work in Mustafa’s engine idea is that there’s no such thing as a vacuum, devoid of particles, waves, and energy. Instead the universe’s supposedly empty spaces are filled with a roiling sea of particles and anti-particles that pop into existence, then annihilate each other in such a short space of time that you can’t readily detect them. Mustafa invented a way of tapping this quantum effect via what’s known as the dynamic Casimir effect. This uses a “moving mirror” cavity, where two very reflective very flat plates are held close together, and then moved slightly to interact with the quantum particle sea. It’s horribly technical, but the end result is that Mustafa’s use of shaped silicon plates similar to those used in solar power cells results in a net force being delivered. A force, of course, means a push or a pull and in space this equates to a drive or engine.

In terms of space propulsion, this is amazing. Most forms of spacecraft rely on the rocket principle to work: Some fuel is made energetic and then thrust out of an engine, pushing the rocket forward. It’s tricky stuff to get right, particularly on Earth, which is why we shouldn’t be surprised SpaceX’s recent launch stopped at the critical moment due to a problem with one of its chemical rocket engines. For in-space maneuvering, many different types of rocket are used, but even exotic ones like ion drives (shown in a NASA image above) need fuel. The only space drive that doesn’t involve hauling fuel and complex systems into orbit is a solar sail. And Mustafa’s invention can, rudimentarily, be compared to a solar sail…because it doesn’t need “fuel” as such, and exerts just the tiniest push compared to the thundery flames of SpaceX’s rockets. It’s potential is enormous–because of its mechanical simplicity and reliability it could make satellite propulsion lighter, cheaper, and thus indirectly lower the cost of space missions of all sorts. And if you want proof that the tiniest of pushes can propel a spacecraft, check this out: Two Pioneer space probes, launched in the 1970s, are the farthest manmade objects from Earth…but they’re not as far away as they should be. Over the course of a year they deviate by hundreds of kilometers from where all our science says they must be in orbit, and it’s been found that it’s down to the tiniest of pushes coming from radiators on-board that radiate heatwaves out slghtly more in one direction than another.

Aisha’s invention is so promising that her university’s staff aided with a patent application. She intends to study the design further in the hope of testing it out for real in space, but as theOnIslam.net site points out she notes that there’s no funding for a department of space science and this prevents important research being carried out in strife-ridden Egypt.


Aisha Mustafa patented her invention last February in ASRT.

19 YEAR OLD
http://www.onislam.net/english/health-and-science/science/457096-egyptian-student-invents-a-new-propulsion-method.html
Egyptian Student Invents New Propulsion Method
by Islam Mitsraym  /  16 May 2012

An Egyptian physics student has successfully created a new propulsion device that could accelerate space probes and artificial satellites through quantum physics and chemical reactions instead of the current radioactive-based jets and ordinary rocket engines. Aisha Mustafa, who has entered the active research area of spacecraft propulsion by her newly invented device, told the governmental EGYNews agency that she patented her invention last February in the Egyptian Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT). Mustafa’s propelling device is based upon a scientific mix between quantum physics, space technology, chemical reactions and electrical sciences. Current space probes, artificial satellites, spacecrafts and space vehicles use rocket gas engines that depend on forcing a gas to the outside of the vehicle at a supersonic speed or the chemical reactions rockets which propel by solid or liquid fuels such as radionuclide or petroleum, or the electrically-propelled probes which depend on thrusting force via accelerating ions.

On the contrary, Mustafa’s invention powers space vehicles by benefiting from the electric energy formed by Casimir-polder force which occurs between separate surfaces and objects in a vacuum and by the zero-point energy which is considered to be the lowest state of energy. Mustafa added that she used panels for generating electricity. The invention is related to a hypothetical concept of a jet propulsion called “Differential Sail”, which was theoretically created by NASA’s retired professor Marc G. Millis who led NASA breakthrough propulsion physics project.

In a televised interview with the famous Egyptian morning programme “Sabah El Kheir Ya Masr” (Good Morning Egypt), Mustafa, who studies physics in Sohag University, expressed her appreciation to her faculty and university staff for their efforts in helping and providing her with the materials and resources needed. Yet, at the same time she expressed her depression and sadness for the lack of a space sciences department in the Egyptian universities. “Departments of astronomy and physics are only available. Although they are related to space sciences but unfortunately they aren’t into the specific field of my invention and they can’t practically test or implement it.” The 19-year old girl said that lacking of a department for space sciences prevents further national research in this important field and acts as an obstacle for her to continue conducting her studies in this specific area.

According to an Egyptian TV channel, “Egypt 25”, Mustafa’s supervisor, Dr. Ahmed Fikry, who heads the physics department in Sohag University, has shown great interest in his student’s invention and helped her patent it in the ASRT. “I expect this invention to be highly beneficial in several fields and areas of industries,” he assured. On his behalf, the President of Sohag University, Dr. Nabil Nour Eldin Abdellah, said that the university facilitates what he called “Science Clubs” for intelligent and creative students who have the will and capabilities to come up with innovative scientific ideas. “Once we knew about her (Mustafa’s) invention, we encouraged her and provided her with the budget needed through the Science Club for innovative students in the university. This is the case with any other creative student,” Abdellah explained.

EgyptianmaAisha

The scientific field of space vehicles propulsion is astonishingly rocketing and it gains a wider attention worldwide, thanks to its vital importance for other sciences like engineering, astronomy, geology, industry and others. This is in addition to the vast areas of researches it covers and the high probability of brainstorming new creations, methods and creative tools. Events like the retirement of NASA’s vehicle of space shuttle programme and the need for new methods for space travel at a faster, safer, cheaper and easier means pushes forwards conducting more and more researches in the field of space vehicles propulsion. Currently, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas for innovative propulsion systems which are either presently in use or in progress, or which are still eras or even a millennium-far away from our modern technologies. One of these methods for interplanetary and interstellar travels is the “solar sail” which depends on stellar radiation pressure or laser upon ultra-thin mirrors which work like ship sails. Other accelerating methods make use of the fourth state of matter, “plasma” by thrusting and pulsing.

800px-Lunar_base_concept_dr
Electromagnetic Catapult in a Lunar settlement

Some other ideas of innovation include “space elevators”, “space launch loops”, “space fountains”, “electromagnetic catapults”, “space chemical guns”, in addition to numerous hypothetical and theoretically-possible methods which need practical confirmations. Mustafa nowadays aims at testing her invention at major scientific research organisations, hence the possibility of applying it in upcoming space missions. In the next coming decades, space travel would be easier, safer, faster and cheaper, thanks to the mind of an Egyptian girl.

References
Breakthrough Propulsion Physics. NASA. 19th of November 2008.
Glen A. Robertson, P.A. Murad & Eric Davis. New frontiers in space propulsion sciences. 3 December 2007.

FIRST OBSERVATION of DYNAMICAL CASIMIR EFFECT
http://www.quantumfields.com/IEEEJMEMSACO.pdf
http://www.technologyreview.com/view/416614/a-blueprint-for-a-quantum-propulsion-machine/
http://www.technologyreview.com/view/424111/first-observation-of-the-dynamical-casimir-effect/
A rapidly moving mirror that turns virtual photons into real ones is the first experimental evidence of the dynamical Casimir effect.
by KFC  /  May 26, 2011

“One of the most surprising predictions of modern quantum theory is that the vacuum of space is not empty. In fact, quantum theory predicts that it teems with virtual particles flitting in and out of existence.” So begin Christopher Wilson from Chalmers University in Sweden and friends in their marvellously readable paper about a rather extraordinary piece of science. This maelstrom of quantum activity is far from benign. Physicists have known since 1948 that if two flat mirrors are held close together and parallel with each other, they will be pushed together by these virtual particles. The reason is straightforward. When the gap between the mirrors is smaller than the wavelength of the virtual particles, they are excluded from this space. The vacuum pressure inside the gap is then less than outside it and this forces the mirrors.

This is the static Casimir effect and it was first measured in 1998 by two teams in the US. But there is another phenomenon called the dynamical Casimir effect that has never been seen. It occurs when a mirror moves through space at relativistic speeds. Here’s what happens. At slow speeds, the sea of virtual particles can easily adapt to the mirror’s movement and continue to come into existence in pairs and then disappear as they annihilate each other. But when the speed of the mirror begins to match the the speed of the photons, in other words at relativistic speeds, some photons become separated from their partners and so do not get annihilated. These virtual photons then become real and the mirror begins to produce light.

That’s the theory. The problem in practice is that it’s hard to get an ordinary mirror moving at anything like relativistic speeds. But Wilson and co have a trick up their sleeves. Instead of a conventional mirror, they’ve used a transmission line connected to a superconducting quantum interference device or SQUID. Fiddling with the SQUID changes the effective electrical length of the line and this change is equivalent to the movement of an electromagnetic mirror. By modulating the SQUID at GHz rates, the mirror moves back and forth. To get an idea of scale, the transmission line is only 100 micrometres long and the mirror moves over a distance of about a nanometre. But the rate at which it does this means it achieves speeds approaching 5 per cent light speed. So having perfected their mirror moving technique, all Wilson and co have to do is cool everything down, then sit back and look for photons. Sure enough, they’ve spotted microwave photons emerging from the moving mirror, just as predicted. They finish with a short conclusion. “We believe these results represent the fifirst experimental observation of the dynamical Casimir effect.” Impressive result!

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1105.4714: Observation of the Dynamical Casimir Effect in a Superconducting Circuit


Dyckovsky’s bedside table — the spoils of teenage quantum research. {photo: Brendan Hoffman}

MEANWHILE
http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/06/ari-dyckovsky/
by Cade Metz   /  6/12

Ari Dyckovsky was 15 when a Bose-Einstein condensate hit him right between the eyes. It didn’t really hit him between the eyes. That’s just a metaphor. But metaphors are thoroughly appropriate when you’re discussing a trip from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., into that alternate universe known as quantum mechanics. When he was 15, Dyckovsky sat down to watch a PBS documentary that culminated with a group of physicists creating a new form of matter called the Bose-Einstein condensate, or BEC. First predicted in the 1920s by Albert Einstein and an Indian scientist named Satyendra Bose, BEC isn’t a solid or a liquid or a gas. It’s not even a plasma. Existing only at extremely low temperatures, where it exhibits the seemingly magical properties of quantum mechanics, BEC is something different — a group of atoms that act like a single super atom, particles that behave like waves. Sitting in his home in Leesburg, Virginia, about 30 miles west of D.C., Dyckovsky was intrigued by the counter-intuitive nature of the quantum world. But he was also struck by the idea of spending a lifetime building something the world had never seen. That Bose-Einstein condensate hit him so hard, he decided that quantum physics was the life for him too. No doubt, there are countless other teenagers who decide much the same thing. But Ari Dyckovsky took the express route.

Dyckovsky is now 18, and his paper on another mind-bending aspect of the quantum world — quantum entanglement — was just published by Physical Review A, one of the world’s leading physics journals. Co-authored with Steven Olmschenk — a researcher with the Joint Quantum Institute, a collaboration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland at College Park — the paper breaks new ground in the ongoing effort to build a quantum computer, so often called the holy grail of technology research. “Yes, he’s very young, but he’s the first author on that publication and rightfully so,” Olmschenk says. “All of the brute force calculations and things like that — Ari did most of it, if not all of it.” The paper — a theoretical analysis of how two distant and very different particles can be entangled with light — is about 90 percent brute force calculation.

The publication is no surprise to Ari’s mother, Amy Dyckovsky. She traces his quantum ambitions all the way back to a cross-country car ride the family took when he was little more than 3 years old, moving from California to Virginia. At an age when most children are still learning to put words together, Ari sat in back seat solving math problems tossed out by his father, a market researcher and high-tech exec with a degree in economics and a Yale MBA. In the beginning, the games were simple — addition and subtraction — but they quickly progressed into multiple-digit multiplication and the square roots of very large numbers. They continued through elementary school, Ari says, and they soon morphed into something akin to physics. “I would get bored at school, but when I got home, he would make me these math worksheets … algebraic word problems,” he says. “After a while, they became less about math and more about how would you use math to describe something, to show what’s going on. That’s what physics is.” But there’s not a direct line to that PBS documentary. Ari’s rather accelerated education slowed when he was 9. His father died after an unexpected heart attack, at the age of 47, and as Ari tells it, his interest in education of any kind almost dried up completely. “He took a serious downward spiral,” his mother says. “We all did.” This continued for years. “I lost hope in many ways, especially when it came to my education. I immediately adopted the notion that my education was no longer important without my father,” Ari says. “For two weeks, I refused to leave the house, and I was finally forced to attend school. I was not happy about it. It really was a major setback.”

Ari credits his grandfather — his mother’s father — with reviving what had been a natural curiosity. “School was very easy for me, even after I lost interest,” Dyckovsky says. “But my grandfather kept telling me to look at it in a different way. He told me that an A meant nothing. I was dumbfounded. But he told me that wasn’t the best you could get — not even close. It took me a while. But eventually, I figured it out.” As a young teenager, after a nudge from his mother, he was accepted at the Loudoun County Academy of Science in Sterling, Virginia, a selective, part-time high school for promising science and math students. But in some ways, he outgrew this as well. After that BEC hit him between the eyes, he taught himself the basic tenets of quantum mechanics, and when he reached his limits there, he emailed about 70 university professors and researchers, asking if they would help take him further. Only one responded: Steven Olmschenk at NIST. Originally, Olmschenk was little more than a teacher. But eventually, their relationship morphed into a collaboration, and it was only natural that their research would settle on quantum entanglement, the subject of Olmschenk’s Ph.D. thesis.


Recently published in the academic journalPhysical Review A, Ari Dyckovsky’s paper on quantum entanglement is titled “Analysis of Photon-Mediated Entanglement Between Distinguishable Matter Qubits.”. But for those who have shorter attention spans but retain a thirst for quantum mechanics, Dyckovsky has also put together a poster presentation.

First explored in the mid-1930s by Einstein and others, quantum entanglement is a way of linking together two particles that are physically isolated. In our world — the world of classical physics — this is counter-intuitive. But in the quantum world, it’s a very real phenomenon. In essence, if the quantum properties of one particle are altered, a change happens in the other particle. “Separate observations of the two quantum objects are random, but when observed together, their states are correlated. Basically, measuring the state or information in one of the objects will necessarily determine what state is measured in the other object,” Dyckovksy says. He uses two coins as a metaphor. If you and a friend each flip a quarter, he explains, the result of each flip is completely random. But with quantum entanglement, it’s as if the result of one flip is always the same as the other — no matter how far apart you and your friend are standing. In the mid-90s, an IBM researcher named Charles Bennett showed that this sort of entanglement could be used to send information between two quantum objects — such as atoms or quantum dots (artificial atoms). He called it quantum teleportation — “It’s a metaphor,” Bennett says. “It has nothing to do with what you see in Star Trek, but it makes you think of that” — and it’s a key part of the race to build a quantum computer, a machine that could use these same very small particles to achieve speeds well beyond today’s classical computer.

Quantum teleportation would let you move information from one part of a quantum computer to another. The trouble, says Bennett, is that it faces “tremendous barriers” if it can ever be used outside the lab. With his paper, Ari Dyckovsky has helped show that you can have quantum entanglement with vastly different particles, not just particles that are similar. “Nearly all the past and even most current research has looked at the remote or long-distance entanglement of indistinguishable quantum memories — such as two identical atoms or ions,” Dyckovsky says. “We extend the current knowledge to not only include entanglement between identical sources, but entanglement with two sources that are very different.” This is so useful because different particles are suited to different parts of a quantum machine. Some are suited to the equivalent of memory, others the equivalent of a processor. “It’s very important to transfer qubits — quantum data — from one physical form to another, like from the state of a photon to the state of an ion to the state of a nuclear spin to the state of a quantum dot,” Bennett says. “There are dozens of systems that have been proposed for the storage of quantum information. The more expertise we get in moving information from one of these forms to another, the closer we’ll be to building a working quantum computer.”

As Dyckovsky points out, since quantum entanglement can be achieved over long distances, his research could also be used to build a new form of secure communication. “You could use this entanglement scheme to link an ion and a quantum dot, which can be used to perform a teleportation protocol that allows quantum information to be transferred,” he says. “A government agency could use this for message transfer and no eavesdroppers could intercept the message because none of the sensitive info actually traverses the distance.” Dyckovsky’s paper is just one step along the road to quantum teleportation and, ultimately, the quantum computer. But it’s a step. His research has not only earned him a place in Physical Review A, it has won him a $50,000 college scholarship from the Intel Foundation and a spot in this fall’s freshman class at Stanford University. But those are merely the measurements in the classical world. He’s gone much further in the quantum world.

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VIRUS POWERED


Genetically engineered virus has electrical poles at each end that generate a voltage potential when deformed. {Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Labs}

VIRUS GENERATES ELECTRICITY when SQUISHED
http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/05/sheets-of-virus-generate-electricity-when-squished/
by Mellisae Fellet /  May 15 2012

Squishing a stack of virus sheets generates enough electricity to power a small liquid crystal display. With increased power output, these virus films might one day use the beating of your heart to power a pacemaker, the researchers behind them say. Piezoelectric materials build up charge when pushed or squeezed. These materials may be familiar to you: they generate the spark in a gas lighter, and motors powered by such materials vibrate some cell phones. Piezoelectric materials made of metals or polymers require large inputs of energy to build up a charge. Bone, DNA, and protein fibers are weakly piezoelectric, but it’s hard to efficiently organize these materials on a large scale to yield electricity.To handle this organizational issue, Seung-Wuk Lee, of the University of California in Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and his colleagues looked for a biomaterial that had intrinsic order and was easy to make. They settled on the M13 bacteriophage, a rod-shaped virus that only infects bacteria. One bacterium can produce one million copies of the virus within four hours, so starting material isn’t a problem. And the virus neatly arranges itself in stacked rows when spread on a surface.

The researchers first tested the virus to see if it was piezoelectric. Instead of pushing on the virus and measuring a current, they looked for the opposite effect. They electrified a film made with the virus and watched for mechanical motion. The scientists saw the helical proteins covering the virus twist. To understand why the virus is piezoelectric, we need to look at its structure. About 2700 copies of a helical protein stretch along the length of the virus, tipping out from that central axis about 20°. Each helix has a positively charged end and a negatively charged end. The amount of this charge difference and the distance between the two charged areas sets up an electric dipole, which runs along each helix.

 


A closeup of the virus’ coat proteins. The red end is the positively charged end of the protein. The negatively-charged blue end was engineered to contain four extra negative charges. The M13 bacteriophage has a length of 880 nanometers and a diameter of 6.6 nanometers. It’s coated with approximately 2700 charged proteins that enable scientists to use the virus as a piezoelectric nanofiber. 

 

Normally these dipoles cancel each other out because the proteins are symmetrically arranged around the outside of the virus—the amount of negative charge around the virus surface balances out the amount of positive charge. But when the virus is squished from above, its rod shape elongates into an oval, and the dipole moments become uneven. One area of the virus coat can now hold negative charges while another builds positive charge. Establishing that charge difference causes current to flow along the virus. Since the structure of the coat proteins is well known, the researchers engineered the virus to increase its piezoelectric properties. They added four extra negatively charged amino acids, specifically a string of glutamates, to one end of the helical surface protein. That increased the charge difference between the positive and negative ends of the helix, thus raising the amount of electrical energy it produced when squished. Next, the scientists sandwiched sheets of engineered virus between two gold electrodes about the size of a postage stamp. When pushed with a thumb, the virus stack produces 6 nA of current with 400 mV of potential. That’s about one-quarter the voltage of an AAA battery. Combining two of these stacks provides enough energy to bring up a “1” on a small liquid crystal display.

Lee is working to increase the amount of current that these viral particles can produce by tweaking the viral coat proteins and playing with their arrangement on the electrode surface. In five to ten years, he estimates, viral piezoelectric films in your shoes could be personal electricity generators to power your iPod as you run. Or they could use the thumping of your heart to power a pacemaker, Lee says. Though the current produced now is small because only a thin layer of the virus deforms, virus-based devices could still be useful for small scale applications, writes S. Michael Yu, of Johns Hopkins University, in the News and Views article accompanying the paper. This flexible film has a “self-assembling capability that no other piezoelectric materials can even dream about,” he writes. That reliable self-organization forms tidy structures gives the material its piezoelectric activity, Yu writes.

Nature Nanotechnology, 2012. DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.69

CONTACT
http://leelab.berkeley.edu/

Pressing a virus-filled device can generate power. The gloves protect the virus, which only infects bacteria, from us.

Berkeley Lab Scientists Generate Electricity From Squeezing Viruses
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/viruses-harnessed-as-molecular-building-materials/2925?tag=content;siu-container
http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2012/05/13/electricity-from-viruses/
by Dan Krotz  /  May 13, 2012

Imagine charging your phone as you walk, thanks to a paper-thin generator embedded in the sole of your shoe. This futuristic scenario is now a little closer to reality. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to generate power using harmless viruses that convert mechanical energy into electricity. The scientists tested their approach by creating a generator that produces enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge. Their generator is the first to produce electricity by harnessing the piezoelectric properties of a biological material. Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical stress. The milestone could lead to tiny devices that harvest electrical energy from the vibrations of everyday tasks such as shutting a door or climbing stairs.

It also points to a simpler way to make microelectronic devices. That’s because the viruses arrange themselves into an orderly film that enables the generator to work. Self-assembly is a much sought after goal in the finicky world of nanotechnology. The first part of the video shows how Berkeley Lab scientists harness the piezoelectric properties of a virus to convert the force of a finger tap into electricity. The second part shows the “viral-electric” generators in action, first by pressing only one of the generators, then by pressing two at the same time, which produces more current. “More research is needed, but our work is a promising first step toward the development of personal power generators, actuators for use in nano-devices, and other devices based on viral electronics,” says Seung-Wuk Lee, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and a UC Berkeley associate professor of bioengineering. He conducted the research with a team that includes Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a professor of materials sciences, engineering, and physics at UC Berkeley; and Byung Yang Lee of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division.

 

 

The first part of the video shows how Berkeley Lab scientists harness the piezoelectric properties of a virus to convert the force of a finger tap into electricity. The second part shows the “viral-electric” generators in action, first by pressing only one of the generators, then by pressing two at the same time, which produces more current.

The piezoelectric effect was discovered in 1880 and has since been found in crystals, ceramics, bone, proteins, and DNA. It’s also been put to use. Electric cigarette lighters and scanning probe microscopes couldn’t work without it, to name a few applications. But the materials used to make piezoelectric devices are toxic and very difficult to work with, which limits the widespread use of the technology. Lee and colleagues wondered if a virus studied in labs worldwide offered a better way. The M13 bacteriophage only attacks bacteria and is benign to people. Being a virus, it replicates itself by the millions within hours, so there’s always a steady supply. It’s easy to genetically engineer. And large numbers of the rod-shaped viruses naturally orient themselves into well-ordered films, much the way that chopsticks align themselves in a box. These are the traits that scientists look for in a nano building block. But the Berkeley Lab researchers first had to determine if the M13 virus is piezoelectric. Lee turned to Ramesh, an expert in studying the electrical properties of thin films at the nanoscale. They applied an electrical field to a film of M13 viruses and watched what happened using a special microscope. Helical proteins that coat the viruses twisted and turned in response—a sure sign of the piezoelectric effect at work.

The bottom 3-D atomic force microscopy image shows how the viruses align themselves side-by-side in a film. The top image maps the film's structure-dependent piezoelectric properties, with higher voltages a lighter color.
The bottom 3-D atomic force microscopy image shows how the viruses align themselves side-by-side in a film. The top image maps the film’s structure-dependent piezoelectric properties, with higher voltages a lighter color.

Next, the scientists increased the virus’s piezoelectric strength. They used genetic engineering to add four negatively charged amino acid residues to one end of the helical proteins that coat the virus. These residues increase the charge difference between the proteins’ positive and negative ends, which boosts the voltage of the virus. The scientists further enhanced the system by stacking films composed of single layers of the virus on top of each other. They found that a stack about 20 layers thick exhibited the strongest piezoelectric effect. The only thing remaining to do was a demonstration test, so the scientists fabricated a virus-based piezoelectric energy generator. They created the conditions for genetically engineered viruses to spontaneously organize into a multilayered film that measures about one square centimeter. This film was then sandwiched between two gold-plated electrodes, which were connected by wires to a liquid-crystal display. When pressure is applied to the generator, it produces up to six nanoamperes of current and 400 millivolts of potential. That’s enough current to flash the number “1” on the display, and about a quarter the voltage of a triple A battery. “We’re now working on ways to improve on this proof-of-principle demonstration,” says Lee. “Because the tools of biotechnology enable large-scale production of genetically modified viruses, piezoelectric materials based on viruses could offer a simple route to novel microelectronics in the future.”

MEANWHILE


http://www.microbialfuelcell.org/www/index.php/Tutorials/Building-a-two-chamber-MFC.html

MICROBIAL FUEL CELLS
http://www.geobacter.org/press-links
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4761-plugging-into-the-power-of-sewage.html
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21639-modified-bacteria-could-get-electricity-from-sewage.html
by Phil McKenna / March 2012

A fuel cell powered by naturally occurring bacteria has successfully converted 13 per cent of the energy in sewage to electricity – and cleaned the waste water at the same time. It’s hoped genetic engineering could make this much more efficient. Treating sewage and other liquid waste uses roughly 2 per cent of the US energy supply, at a cost of $25 billion a year, yet this carbon-rich material harbours nine times the energy needed to render it environmentally benign. Microbiologists believe they can drastically cut the cost and power consumption by using genetically modified bugs to treat the waste and produce electricity. “It’s a substantial energy resource that we just end up landfilling,” saysOrianna Bretschger, of the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, California. “If we could recover the energy we could do waste water treatment for free.” Bretschger described a 380-litre microbial fuel cell at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego this week. It uses naturally occurring microbes to break down organic waste and produce electrons and protons. The electrons are collected by an anode while the protons pass through a permeable membrane to a cathode. The resulting voltage between the two electrodes enables the fuel cell to produce an electric current.

Major improvement
The announcement represents a significant improvement over the institute’s earlier fuel cell, a 75-litre device able to harvest only 2 per cent of the waste’s potential energy. Further improvements will be needed, however, for the technology to compete with conventional waste water treatment techniques, which can rapidly process huge volumes of water. By genetically modifying microbes to enhance their ability to consume organic waste, and better shuttling electrons to an electrode, Bretschger hopes to harvest 30 to 40 per cent of the available energy. Genetically modified organisms aren’t currently used in either municipal or commercial waste water treatment facilities. Their potential use in a fuel cell would be regulated in the US by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has yet to determine how to govern such applications.

Natural competition
Conventional waste water treatment, however, already has ways of killing microbes before water gets back into the environment, including the use of chlorine, ozone and ultraviolet light. The EPA also recently granted permission for a pilot study in which genetically modified microbes were used as tracers to find leaks from sewers. Roland Cusick, an environmental engineer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, says genetically engineered microbes may boost efficiency, but it may be difficult to control the bug population. “Waste water has millions of microbes in it. Any time you are adding waste water, you are adding competition to your system,” Cusick says.

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DIY SELF-POWERED LIMITLESS FUEL CELLS

GROW YR OWN MICROBIAL SLAVE ARMY
http://news.discovery.com/tech/bacteria-salt-water-make-hydrogen-fuel-.html
Bacteria, Salt Water Make Hydrogen Fuel
by Jesse Emspak / Sep 21, 2011

The ‘hydrogen economy’ requires a lot of things, but first is an easy and cheap supply of hydrogen. There are lots of ways to make it, but most of them don’t produce large quantities quickly or inexpensively.  Professor Bruce Logan, director of the Hydrogen to Energy Center at Penn State University, has found a way to change that. He used a process called reverse electrodialysis, combined with some ordinary bacteria to get hydrogen out of water by breaking up its molecules. Water — which is made of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen — can be broken down with electricity. (This is a pretty common high school science experiment). The problem is that you need to pump a lot of energy into the water to break the molecules apart.

Logan thought there had to be a better way. He combined two methods of making electricity — one from microbial fuel cell research and the other from reverse electrodialysis. In a microbial fuel cell, bacteria eat organic molecules and during digestion, release electrons. In a reverse electrodialysis setup, a chamber is separated by a stack of membranes that allow charged particles, or ions, to move in only one direction. Filling the chamber with salt water on one side and fresher water on the other causes ions to try and move to the fresher side. That movement creates a voltage. Adding more membranes increases the voltage, but at a certain point it becomes unwieldy. By putting the bacteria in the side of the reverse electrodialysis chamber with the fresh water, and using only 11 membranes, Logan was able to generate enough voltage to generate hydrogen. Ordinarily he would need to generate about 0.414 volts. With this system, he can get .8 volts, nearly double. (The microbial part of the cell generates 0.3 volts and the RED system creates about 0.5.)

Using seawater, some less salty wastewater with sewage or other organic matter in it and the bacteria, Logan’s apparatus can produce about 1.6 cubic meters of hydrogen for every cubic meter of liquid through the system of chambers and membranes. Another bonus is that less energy goes into pumping the water — if anything, flow rates and pressure have to be kept relatively low so as not to damage the membranes.  Making hydrogen cheaper is a necessity if hydrogen cars are to be a reality. Some car companies already make hydrogen-powered models. The state of Hawaii is already experimenting with hydrogen fuel systems. Producing cheaper, abundant hydrogen — especially from sewer water and seawater — is a big step in that direction.

LIMITLESS
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14976893
Harvesting ‘limitless’ hydrogen from self-powered cells
by Mark Kinver / 20 September 2011

US researchers say they have demonstrated how cells fueled by bacteria can be “self-powered” and produce a limitless supply of hydrogen. Until now, they explained, an external source of electricity was required in order to power the process. However, the team added, the current cost of operating the new technology is too high to be used commercially. Details of the findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There are bacteria that occur naturally in the environment that are able to release electrons outside of the cell, so they can actually produce electricity as they are breaking down organic matter,” explained co-author Bruce Logan, from Pennsylvania State University, US. “We use those microbes, particularly inside something called a microbial fuel cell (MFC), to generate electrical power. “We can also use them in this device, where they need a little extra power to make hydrogen gas. “What that means is that they produce this electrical current, which are electrons, they release protons in the water and these combine with electrons.”

Prof Logan said that the technology to utilize this process to produce hydrogen was called microbial electrolysis cell (MEC). “The breakthrough here is that we do not need to use an electrical power source anymore to provide a little energy into the system. “All we need to do is add some fresh water and some salt water and some membranes, and the electrical potential that is there can provide that power.” The MECs use something called “reverse electrodialysis” (RED), which refers to the energy gathered from the difference in salinity, or salt content, between saltwater and freshwater.

In their paper, Prof Logan and colleague Younggy Kim explained how an envisioned RED system would use alternating stacks of membranes that harvest this energy; the movement of charged atoms move from the saltwater to freshwater creates a small voltage that can be put to work. “This is the crucial element of the latest research,” Prof Logan told BBC News, explaining the process of their system, known as a microbial reverse-electrodialysis electrolysis cell (MREC). “If you think about desalinating water, it takes energy. If you have a freshwater and saltwater interface, that can add energy. We realized that just a little bit of that energy could make this process go on its own.”

Artistic representation of hydrogen molecules (Image: Science Photo Library)

He said that the technology was still in its infancy, which was one of the reasons why it was not being exploited commercially. “Right now, it is such a new technology,” he explained. “In a way it is a little like solar power. We know we can convert solar energy into electricity but it has taken many years to lower the cost. “This is a similar thing: it is a new technology and it could be used, but right now it is probably a little expensive. So the question is, can we bring down the cost?” The next step, Prof Logan explained, was to develop larger-scale cells: “Then it will easier to evaluate the costs and investment needed to use the technology. The authors acknowledged that hydrogen had “significant potential as an efficient energy carrier”, but it had been dogged with high production costs and environmental concerns, because it is most often produced using fossil fuels.

Prof Logan observed: “We use hydrogen for many, many things. It is used in making [petrol], it is used in foods etc. Whether we use it in transportation… remains to be seen.” But, the authors wrote that their findings offered hope for the future: “This unique type of integrated system has significant potential to treat wastewater and simultaneously produce [hydrogen] gas without any consumption of electrical grid energy.” Prof Logan added that a working example of a microbial fuel cell was currently on display at London’s Science Museum, as part of the Water Wars exhibition.


Bacterial hydrolysis cell with reverse electrodialysis stack

a FEW GRAINS Of SALT
http://live.psu.edu/story/55172
‘Inexhaustible’ source of hydrogen may be unlocked by salt water / September 19, 2011

A grain of salt or two may be all that microbial electrolysis cells need to produce hydrogen from wastewater or organic byproducts, without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere or using grid electricity, according to Penn State engineers. “This system could produce hydrogen anyplace that there is wastewater near sea water,” said Bruce E. Logan, Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering. “It uses no grid electricity and is completely carbon neutral. It is an inexhaustible source of energy.” Microbial electrolysis cells that produce hydrogen are the basis of this recent work, but previously, to produce hydrogen, the fuel cells required some electrical input. Now, Logan, working with postdoctoral fellow Younggy Kim, is using the difference between river water and seawater to add the extra energy needed to produce hydrogen. Their results, published in the Sept. 19 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “show that pure hydrogen gas can efficiently be produced from virtually limitless supplies of seawater and river water and biodegradable organic matter.”

Logan’s cells were between 58 and 64 percent efficient and produced between 0.8 to 1.6 cubic meters of hydrogen for every cubic meter of liquid through the cell each day. The researchers estimated that only about 1 percent of the energy produced in the cell was needed to pump water through the system. The key to these microbial electrolysis cells is reverse-electrodialysis or RED that extracts energy from the ionic differences between salt water and fresh water. A RED stack consists of alternating ion exchange membranes — positive and negative — with each RED contributing additively to the electrical output. “People have proposed making electricity out of RED stacks,” said Logan. “But you need so many membrane pairs and are trying to drive an unfavorable reaction.” For RED technology to hydrolyze water — split it into hydrogen and oxygen — requires 1.8 volts, which would in practice require about 25 pairs of membranes and increase pumping resistance. However, combining RED technology with exoelectrogenic bacteria — bacteria that consume organic material and produce an electric current — reduced the number of RED stacks to five membrane pairs.

Previous work with microbial electrolysis cells showed that they could, by themselves, produce about 0.3 volts of electricity, but not the 0.414 volts needed to generate hydrogen in these fuel cells. Adding less than 0.2 volts of outside electricity released the hydrogen. Now, by incorporating 11 membranes — five membrane pairs that produce about 0.5 volts — the cells produce hydrogen. “The added voltage that we need is a lot less than the 1.8 volts necessary to hydrolyze water,” said Logan. “Biodegradable liquids and cellulose waste are abundant and with no energy in and hydrogen out we can get rid of wastewater and by-products. This could be an inexhaustible source of energy.” Logan and Kim’s research used platinum as a catalyst on the cathode, but subsequent experimentation showed that a non-precious metal catalyst, molybdenum sulfide, had 51 percent energy efficiency.

CONTACT
Bruce Logan
http://www.engr.psu.edu/ce/enve/logan/
email : blogan [at] psu [dot] edu

WASTEWATER
http://www.fastcompany.com/1775321/coming-soon-wastewater-batteries-that-could-power-your-house
Batteries That Run On (And Clean) Used Toilet Water
by Ariel Schwartz / Aug 22, 2011

Humans should have a little more respect for dirty toilet water. In recent years, wastewater has become something of a commodity, with nuclear plants paying for treated wastewater to run their facilities, cities relying on so-called “toilet to tap” technology, and breweries turning wastewater into biogas that can be used to power their facilities. Soon enough, wastewater-powered batteries may even keep the lights on in your house or, at the very least, in the industrial plants that clean the wastewater.

Environmental engineer Bruce Logan is developing microbial fuel cells that rely on wastewater bacteria’s desire to munch on organic waste. When these bacteria eat the waste, electrons are released as a byproduct–and Logan’s fuel cell collects those electrons on carbon bristles, where they can move through a circuit and power everything from light bulbs to ceiling fans. Logan’s microbial fuel cells can produce both electrical power and hydrogen, meaning the cells could one day be used to juice up hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Logan’s fuel cells aren’t overly expensive. “In the early reactors, we used very expensive graphite rods and expensive polymers and precious metals like platinum. And we’ve now reached the point where we don’t have to use any precious metals,” he explained to the National Science Foundation. Microbial fuel cells still don’t produce enough power to be useful in our daily lives, but that may change soon–Logan estimates that the fuel cells will be ready to go in the next five to 10 years, at which point they could power entire wastewater treatment plants and still generate enough electricity to power neighboring towns. There may also be ones that use–and in the process-desalinate–salt water, using just the energy from the bacteria. And if the microbial fuel cells don’t work out, there’s another option: Chinese researchers have developed a photocatalytic fuel cell that uses light (as opposed to microbial cells) to clean wastewater and generate power. That technology is also far from commercialization, but in a few years, filthy water will power its own cleaning facilities one way or another.

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FIRST SOLAR SAIL IN ORBIT

http://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=90027
http://wa4nzd.wordpress.com/
http://nanosaild.engr.scu.edu/dashboard.htm


Artist’s concept of the NanoSail-D spacecraft in orbit. Credit: NASA

NANOSAIL-D
http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=16359
http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1101/22nanosail/
NASA’s first solar sail makes unlikely comeback in orbit
by Stephen Clark / January 22, 2011

After testing the nerves of engineers, NASA confirmed Friday a tiny satellite unfurled an ultra-thin solar sail, a technology that has far-reaching applications both near Earth and in deep space. Project officials have “multiple confirmations” of a successful sail deployment, according to Dean Alhorn, the NanoSail-D mission’s project manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The 8.5-pound spacecraft, NASA’s first solar sail mission, transmitted a beacon signal indicating it attempted to release the sail, which measures 100 square feet and is made of a polymer material called CP1. The membrane is about 3 microns thick, tens of times thinner than a human hair. Not only did engineers get a positive beacon signal from the spacecraft, but ground-based observers reported they saw a different signature from the satellite as it passed overhead. “That signature is consistent with the size change we would normally see if it deployed,” Alhorn said Friday. “What they saw was significant enough for us to have a high confidence that we did deploy the sail.” The deployment occurred around 10 p.m. EST Thursday, according to NASA.

The membrane was wound on a spindle inside a triple CubeSat spacecraft about the size of a loaf of bread. Four spring-loaded guide booms were designed pop out of the compact spacecraft, then the polymer membrane was supposed to stretch tight in a diamond shape within about five seconds. That’s if the sail deployment went as planned. This week marked a significant turnaround for the NanoSail-D project. Officials were growing concerned over the spacecraft’s silence after its scheduled deployment from a mothership satellite named FASTSAT. NanoSail-D launched Nov. 19 inside FASTSAT, a NASA technology demonstration satellite. The craft was programmed to compute a time to release NanoSail-D, but officials never heard from the miniature satellite after its scheduled Dec. 6 separation. Telemetry indicated FASTSAT commanded separation of the subsatellite and the container’s door opened, but NASA couldn’t find NanoSail-D, leading officials to believe it was stuck inside its carrier. “When it was stuck inside, it was very depressing after working on this for three years,” Alhorn said, adding there is no definitive answer for why the craft failed to deploy on the first try. More than six weeks later, FASTSAT radioed Earth that it released NanoSail-D. The deployment was spontaneous, according to NASA.

Alhorn said NanoSail-D’s battery will be drained over the next few days, so the satellite’s beacon signal could die soon. Amateur ham radio operators around the world are listening for radio transmissions from the satellite. But there is still an opportunity for visual observers to catch a glimpse of the satellite. Although officials expect NanoSail-D to be dim for most of its mission, brief flares in brightness could make it visible to the naked eye. The spacecraft is tumbling right now, Alhorn said, but atmospheric drag in low Earth orbit should stabilize the sail’s attitude like a kite. Officials expect NanoSail-D will remain in space between 70 and 120 days until it eventually succumbs to drag and burns up in Earth’s atmosphere. The uncertainty depends on solar activity, which can increase drag for low Earth orbit satellites, causing them to lose altitude.

NASA is calling upon satellite watchers to track the satellite and take pictures. The best time to view the craft is around dawn and dusk. When the sail is tumbling, it could be visible anywhere in the sky, but once its orientation stabilizes, the best viewing will be when the satellite is close to the horizon, according to NASA. Observers can enter their location to find sighting opportunities for NanoSail-D. Because the sail is flying just above the atmosphere, drag is the largest force acting upon the spacecraft. NanoSail-D’s primary objective was to deploy the solar sail and re-enter the atmosphere, not perform any complex maneuvers or flight tests. “We actually did what we said we were going to do,” Alhorn said. “We hope, if there’s enough solar thrust, we might be able to see how much power this design can get.”

Solar sails work by harnessing the pressure of sunlight. Units of light called photons generate miniscule levels of thrust when they collide with a solar sail, much like a kite or sailboat responds to wind. They don’t generate much thrust, but sails can propel lightweight spacecraft long distances into the solar system on timescales much faster than chemical rockets. A Japanese solar sail mission, named Ikaros, successfully demonstrated solar sailing on the way from Earth to Venus last summer. NanoSail-D’s potential applications are closer to home. NASA and the U.S. military are interested in inexpensive methods of removing retired satellites from clogged traffic lanes in orbit. The military tracks nearly 16,000 objects larger than 4 inches circling Earth, and even small debris moving at high speeds pose serious threats to active spacecraft. DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development agency, is studying concepts to pull debris and old satellites out of operational orbits. Such a job is technically challenging, but legal and political hurdles loom even taller, according to experts.

Low-cost CubeSat spacecraft like NanoSail-D could prove solar sails can be packed inside canisters like parachutes, providing a disposal system when satellites are finished with their missions. Over time, sails could slow satellite velocities enough to move the craft to graveyard orbits or into the atmosphere for a destructive re-entry. “It’s possible we could use this sail in the future, or some system similar to it, to aerobrake or de-orbit existing satellites,” Alhorn said. The spacecraft cost about $250,000 to build and test, according to Alhorn. NanoSail-D was originally scheduled to test Alhorn’s solar sail concept in 2008, but the CubeSat was lost in a rocket mishap. NASA had built two NanoSail-D spacecraft, so the agency sought a launch opportunity for the ground spare. The U.S. Air Force provided a Minotaur 4 rocket to launch FASTSAT, NanoSail-D and a cache of military payloads from Alaska in November. “It looked like this thing was going to never going to work,” Alhorn said. “But when we got a launch, we were happy. Then it didn’t come out, and it was a another disappointment in a long chain of solar sail failures. But lo and behold, it ejected on its own.”

20100616_ikaros_2_lg

IKAROS
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2010/07/sunrider-japanese-solar-sail-propelled-by-suns-photons.html
Sun-rider: Japanese solar sail propelled by sun’s photons
by Tiffany Hsu / July 15, 2010

Just when you thought your rooftop solar installation was cool, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has outdone you by putting solar panels in space. And these ones do more than just generate power – they’re able to help maneuver and accelerate the unmanned spacecraft to which they’re attached. The so-called Ikaros solar sail is literally being pushed by sunlight, the space agency said on its website Friday. Particles of light from the sun known as photons exert pressure when they fall on the solar sail’s super-reflective panels, which are embedded into the sail. The small but ongoing thrust exerts about 0.0002 pounds of force on the nearly 700-pound Ikaros. The kite-like drone, which can spin at up to 20 revolutions per minute, has thin-film solar cells built into its 46-feet-wide, 66-feet-diagonal frame.

The craft was launched in May from the Tanegashima Space Center. Ikaros, which stands for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun, was launched with the Akatsuki drone bound for orbit around Venus. Soon, scientists expect to be able to control the Ikaros’ velocity, according to the nonprofit Planetary Society of Pasadena, which is tracking the drone’s progress. The society is planning its own solar sail launch for about a year from now. The LightSail 1 will be lighter – around 10 pounds – and cost under $2 million.

The Japanese space agency already has other grand plans to collect solar power in space by 2030 and beam the energy down to Earth using projects covering several square miles and costing billions of dollars. “The main direction of all of this is that it’s a future propulsion method for planetary, interplanetary and maybe even interstellar missions,” said Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society. “Basically, it allows you to fly around the solar system without any fuel.” Now that’s true space-age energy efficiency.

20100616_ikaros_3_lg
Ikaros sail photographed by a tiny camera onboard. {Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency}

TACKING SOLAR SAILS
http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~diedrich/solarsails/intro/index.html
http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~diedrich/solarsails/links/
http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~diedrich/solarsails/

As every sailor knows, to tack a sailboat is to sail the boat at an angle into the wind. Solar sails can do their own form of tacking by using the force of sunlight pushing out from the sun to actually move closer the sun. Spacecraft, including solar sails, travel around the sun in orbits. A spacecraft that is propelled by a rocket can shrink its orbit, and thus move closer to the sun, by thrusting the rocket in the opposite direction as the spacecraft’s motion. Similarly, if a solar sail can produce thrust in the opposite direction as the spacecraft’s motion, its orbit will also shrink. By producing thrust in the same direction as the spacecraft’s motion, the orbit will expand, and the spacecraft will move farther away from the sun. A rocket can thrust opposite its motion by pointing the rocket engine forward along the path of its motion. This produces a force from the rocket engine that is in the opposite direction as the spacecraft’s motion.

Solar sails are more complex. The force produced by sunlight on a solar sail is the addition of the forces from the incoming sunlight and the reflected sunlight. This force always points away from the sun, and is at an angle that is close to a right angle to the surface of the sail. If this force is angled back along the solar sail’s path, the spacecraft’s orbit will start to shrink, bringing it closer to the sun. If the force is angled foreward along the spacecraft’s path, the orbit will grow and the solar sail will head farther from the sun. This is the general idea behind “tacking into the sun” for solar sails. In real practice, the behavior of a solar sail is more complicated because sunlight pushes not only along the spacecraft’s orbit, but also straight out from the sun. These effects are beyond the scope of this document, however. To visualize how this works, take a look at the following images.

Travelling away from the sun:

Travelling towards the sun:

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PRIVATIZING HELIUM (cont.)

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9860
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12844


Helium-3 Mmm, polarized helium-3 and neutron spin filters

WORLD HELIUM SHORTAGE
http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2010/01/us-sale-of-helium-criticised.html
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-04/helium-3-shortage-hits-scientific-research-and-nuclear-security
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/take-a-deep-breath-why-the-world-is-running-out-of-helium-2059357.html
Why the world is running out of helium
by Steve Connor / 23 August 2010

It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons. But helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world’s reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions. Scientists have warned that the world’s most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle. The law stipulates that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas – by far the biggest store of helium in the world – must all be sold off by 2015, irrespective of the market price.

The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years, potentially spelling disaster for hospitals, whose MRI scanners are cooled by the gas in liquid form, and anti-terrorist authorities who rely on helium for their radiation monitors, as well as the millions of children who love to watch their helium-filled balloons float into the sky. Helium is made either by the nuclear fusion process of the Sun, or by the slow and steady radioactive decay of terrestrial rock, which accounts for all of the Earth’s store of the gas. There is no way of manufacturing it artificially, and practically all of the world’s reserves have been derived as a by-product from the extraction of natural gas, mostly in the giant oil- and gasfields of the American South-west, which historically have had the highest helium concentrations.

Liquid helium is critical for cooling cooling infrared detectors, nuclear reactors and the machinery of wind tunnels. The space industry uses it in sensitive satellite equipment and spacecraft, and Nasa uses helium in huge quantities to purge the potentially explosive fuel from its rockets. In the form of its isotope helium-3, helium is also crucial for research into the next generation of clean, waste-free nuclear reactors powered by nuclear fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the Sun. Despite the critical role that the gas plays in the modern world, it is being depleted as an unprecedented rate and reserves could dwindle to virtually nothing within a generation, warns Nobel laureate Robert Richardson, professor of physics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “In 1996, the US Congress decided to sell off the strategic reserve and the consequence was that the market was swelled with cheap helium because its price was not determined by the market. The motivation was to sell it all by 2015,” Professor Richardson said. The basic problem is that helium is too cheap. The Earth is 4.7 billion years old and it has taken that long to accumulate our helium reserves, which we will dissipate in about 100 years. One generation does not have the right to determine availability for ever.” Soon after helium mining was developed at the turn of the previous century, the US established a National Helium Reserve in 1925. During the Second World War, helium was strategically important because of its use in military airships.

When the Cold War came along, it became even more important because of its uses in the purging of rocket fuel in intercontinental ballistic missiles. The national reserve was established in the porous rock of a disused natural gasfield 30 miles north of Amarillo, which soon became known as the Helium Capital of the World. A billion cubic metres – or about half of the world’s reserves – are now stored in this cluster of mines, pipes and vats that extend underground for more than 200 miles from Amarillo to Kansas. But in 1996, the US passed the Helium Privatisation Act which directed that this reserve should be sold by 2015 at a price that would substantially pay off the federal government’s original investment in building up the reserve. The law stipulated the amount of helium sold off each year should follow a straight line with the same amount being sold each year, irrespective of the global demand for it. This, according to Professor Richardson, who won his Nobel prize for his work on helium-3, was a mistake. “As a result of that Act, helium is far too cheap and is not treated as a precious resource,” he said. “It’s being squandered.”

Professor Richardson co-chaired an inquiry into the impending helium shortage convened by the influential US National Research Council, an arm of the US National Academy of Sciences. This report, which has just been published, recommends that the US Government should revisit and reconsider its policy of selling off the US national helium reserve. “They couldn’t sell it fast enough and the world price for helium gas is ridiculously cheap,” Professor Richardson told a summer meeting of Nobel laureates from around the world at Lindau in Germany. “You might at first think it will be peculiarly an American topic because the sources of helium are primarily in the US but I assure you it matters of the rest of the world also,” he said. Professor Richardson believes the price for helium should rise by between 20- and 50-fold to make recycling more worthwhile. Nasa, for instance, makes no attempt to recycle the helium used to clean is rocket fuel tanks, one of the single biggest uses of the gas. Professor Richardson also believes that party balloons filled with helium are too cheap, and they should really cost about $100 to reflect the precious nature of the gas they contain. “Once helium is released into the atmosphere in the form of party balloons or boiling helium it is lost to the Earth forever, lost to the Earth forever,” he emphasized.

What helium is used for:
Airships – As helium is lighter than air it can be used to inflate airships, blimps and balloons, providing lift. Although hydrogen is cheaper and more buoyant, helium is preferred as it is non-flammable and therefore safer.
MRI scanners – Helium’s low boiling point makes it useful for cooling metals needed for superconductivity, from cooling the superconducting magnets in medical MRI scanners to maintaining the low temperature of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.
Deep-sea diving – Divers and others working under pressure use mixtures of helium, oxygen and nitrogen to breathe underwater, avoiding the problems caused by breathing ordinary air under high pressure, which include disorientation.
Rockets – As well as being used to clean out rocket engines, helium is used to pressurise the interior of liquid fuel rockets, condense hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel, and force fuel into the engines during rocket launches.
Dating – Helium can be used to estimate the age of rocks and minerals containing uranium and thorium by measuring their retention of helium.
Telescopes – The gas is used in solar telescopes to prevent the heating of the air, which reduces the distorting effects of temperature variations in the space between lenses.

MINING the MOON
http://www.wired.com/science/space/news/2006/12/72276
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/1283056
http://www.asi.org/adb/02/09/he3-intro.html
http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19296/page1/
Mining the Moon
by Mark Williams / August 23, 2007

At the 21st century’s start, few would have predicted that by 2007, a second race for the moon would be under way. Yet the signs are that this is now the case. Furthermore, in today’s moon race, unlike the one that took place between the United States and the U.S.S.R. in the 1960s, a full roster of 21st-century global powers, including China and India, are competing. Even more surprising is that one reason for much of the interest appears to be plans to mine helium-3–purportedly an ideal fuel for fusion reactors but almost unavailable on Earth–from the moon’s surface. NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration has U.S. astronauts scheduled to be back on the moon in 2020 and permanently staffing a base there by 2024. While the U.S. space agency has neither announced nor denied any desire to mine helium-3, it has nevertheless placed advocates of mining He3 in influential positions. For its part, Russia claims that the aim of any lunar program of its own–for what it’s worth, the rocket corporation Energia recently started blustering, Soviet-style, that it will build a permanent moon base by 2015-2020–will be extracting He3.

The Chinese, too, apparently believe that helium-3 from the moon can enable fusion plants on Earth. This fall, the People’s Republic expects to orbit a satellite around the moon and then land an unmanned vehicle there in 2011. Nor does India intend to be left out. This past spring, its president, A.P.J. Kalam, and its prime minister, Manmohan Singh, made major speeches asserting that, besides constructing giant solar collectors in orbit and on the moon, the world’s largest democracy likewise intends to mine He3 from the lunar surface. India’s probe, Chandrayaan-1, will take off next year, and ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization, is talking about sending Chandrayaan-2, a surface rover, in 2010 or 2011. Simultaneously, Japan and Germany are also making noises about launching their own moon missions at around that time, and talking up the possibility of mining He3 and bringing it back to fuel fusion-based nuclear reactors on Earth.

Could He3 from the moon truly be a feasible solution to our power needs on Earth? Practical nuclear fusion is nowadays projected to be five decades off–the same prediction that was made at the 1958 Atoms for Peace conference in Brussels. If fusion power’s arrival date has remained constantly 50 years away since 1958, why would helium-3 suddenly make fusion power more feasible? Advocates of He3-based fusion point to the fact that current efforts to develop fusion-based power generation, like the ITER megaproject, use the deuterium-tritium fuel cycle, which is problematical. Deuterium and tritium are both hydrogen isotopes, and when they’re fused in a superheated plasma, two nuclei come together to create a helium nucleus–consisting of two protons and two neutrons–and a high-energy neutron. A deuterium-tritium fusion reaction releases 80 percent of its energy in a stream of high-energy neutrons, which are highly destructive for anything they hit, including a reactor’s containment vessel. Since tritium is highly radioactive, that makes containment a big problem as structures weaken and need to be replaced. Thus, whatever materials are used in a deuterium-tritium fusion power plant will have to endure serious punishment. And if that’s achievable, when that fusion reactor is eventually decommissioned, there will still be a lot of radioactive waste.

Helium-3 advocates claim that it, conversely, would be nonradioactive, obviating all those problems. But a serious critic has charged that in reality, He3-based fusion isn’t even a feasible option. In the August issue of Physics World, theoretical physicist Frank Close, at Oxford in the UK, has published an article called “Fears Over Factoids” in which, among other things, he summarizes some claims of the “helium aficionados,” then dismisses those claims as essentially fantasy. Close points out that in a tokamak–a machine that generates a doughnut-shaped magnetic field to confine the superheated plasmas necessary for fusion–deuterium reacts up to 100 times more slowly with helium-3 than it does with tritium. In a plasma contained in a tokamak, Close stresses, all the nuclei in the fuel get mixed together, so what’s most probable is that two deuterium nuclei will rapidly fuse and produce a tritium nucleus and proton. That tritium, in turn, will likely fuse with deuterium and finally yield one helium-4 atom and a neutron. In short, Close says, if helium-3 is mined from the moon and brought to Earth, in a standard tokamak the final result will still be deuterium-tritium fusion.

Second, Close rejects the claim that two helium-3 nuclei could realistically be made to fuse with each other to produce deuterium, an alpha particle and energy. That reaction occurs even more slowly than deuterium-tritium fusion, and the fuel would have to be heated to impractically high temperatures–six times the heat of the sun’s interior, by some calculations–that would be beyond the reach of any tokamak. Hence, Close concludes, “the lunar-helium-3 story is, to my mind, moonshine.” Close’s objection, however, assumes that deuterium-helium-3 fusion and pure helium-3 fusion would take place in tokamak-based reactors. There might be alternatives: for example, Gerald Kulcinski, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has maintained the only helium-3 fusion reactor in the world on an annual budget that’s barely into six figures.

Kulcinski’s He3-based fusion reactor, located in the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin, is very small. When running, it contains a spherical plasma roughly 10 centimeters in diameter that can produce sustained fusion with 200 million reactions per second. To produce a milliwatt of power, unfortunately, the reactor consumes a kilowatt. Close’s response is, therefore, valid enough: “When practical fusion occurs with a demonstrated net power output, I–and the world’s fusion community–can take note.” Still, that critique applies equally to ITER and the tokamak-based reactor effort, which also haven’t yet achieved breakeven (the point at which a fusion reactor produces as much energy as it consumes). What’s significant about the reactor in Wisconsin is that, as Kulcinski says, “We are doing both deuterium-He3 and He3-He3 reactions. We run deuterium-He3 fusion reactions daily, so we are very familiar with that reaction. We are also doing He3-He3 because if we can control that, it will have immense potential.”

The reactor at the Fusion Technology Institute uses a technology called inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC). Kulcinski explains: “If we used a tokamak to do deuterium-helium-3, it would need to be bigger than the ITER device, which already is stretching the bounds of credibility. Our IEC devices, on the other hand, are tabletop-sized, and during our deuterium-He3 runs, we do get some neutrons produced by side reaction with deuterium.” Nevertheless, Kulcinski continues, when side reactions occur that involve two deuterium nuclei fusing to produce a tritium nucleus and proton, the tritium produced is at such a higher energy level than the confinement system that it immediately escapes. “Consequently, the radioactivity in our deuterium-He3 system is only 2 percent of the radioactivity in a deuterium-tritium system.” More significant is the He3-He3 fusion reaction that Kulcinski and his assistants produce with their IEC-based reactor. In Kulcinski’s reactor, two helium-3 nuclei, each with two protons and one neutron, instead fuse to produce one helium-4 nucleus, consisting of two protons and two neutrons, and two highly energetic protons. “He3-He3 is not an easy reaction to promote,” Kulcinski says. “But He3-He3 fusion has the greatest potential.” That’s because helium-3, unlike tritium, is nonradioactive, which, first, means that Kulcinski’s reactor doesn’t need the massive containment vessel that deuterium-tritium fusion requires. Second, the protons it produces–unlike the neutrons produced by deuterium-tritium reactions–possess charges and can be contained using electric and magnetic fields, which in turn results in direct electricity generation. Kulcinski says that one of his graduate assistants at the Fusion Technology Institute is working on a solid-state device to capture the protons and convert their energy directly into electricity.

Still, Kulcinski’s reactor proves only the theoretical feasibility and advantages of He3-He3 fusion, with commercial viability lying decades in the future. “Currently,” he says, “the Department of Energy will tell us, ‘We’ll make fusion work. But you’re never going to go back to the moon, and that’s the only way you’ll get massive amounts of helium-3. So forget it.’ Meanwhile, the NASA folks tell us, ‘We can get the helium-3. But you’ll never get fusion to work.’ So DOE doesn’t think NASA can do its job, NASA doesn’t think that DOE can do its job, and we’re in between trying to get the two to work together.” Right now, Kulcinski’s funding comes from two wealthy individuals who are, he says, only interested in the research and without expectation of financial profit. Overall, then, helium-3 is not the low-hanging fruit among potential fuels to create practical fusion power, and it’s one that we will have to reach the moon to pluck. That said, if pure He3-based fusion power is realizable, it would have immense advantages.

HELIUM-3
http://www.engr.wisc.edu/ep/faculty/kulcinski_gerald.html#interests
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/536/1
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.08/helium.html
Helium Shortage?
by Emily Jenkins / Aug 2000

There are two kinds of stable helium. You know the first one: It puts lift in birthday balloons, Thanksgiving Day parades, the Goodyear blimp. The other kind, an isotope called helium-3, may not be as familiar. It’s a naturally occurring, but very rare, variant of helium that is missing a neutron. Helium-3 is the fuel for a form of nuclear fusion that, in theory, could provide us with a clean, virtually infinite power source. Gerald Kulcinski, director of the University of Wisconsin’s Fusion Technology Institute, is already halfway there. Kulcinski is in charge of an “inertial electrostatic confinement device,” an experimental low-power reactor that has successfully performed continuous deuterium-helium-3 fusion – a process that produces less waste than the standard deuterium-tritium fusion reaction. The next step, pure helium-3 fusion (3He-3He) is a long way off, but it’s worth the effort, says Kulcinski. “You’d have a little residual radioactivity when the reactor was running, but none when you turned it off. It would be a nuclear power source without the nuclear waste.”

If we ever achieve it, helium-3 fusion will be the premier rocket fuel for centuries to come. The same lightness that floats CargoLifter’s CL160 will allow helium to provide more power per unit of mass than anything else available. With it, rockets “could get to Mars in a weekend, instead of seven or eight months,” says Marshall Savage, an amateur futurist and the author of The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps. The problem? We may run out of helium – and therefore helium-3 – before the fusion technology is even developed. Nearly all of the world’s helium supply is found within a 250-mile radius of Amarillo, Texas (the Helium Capital of the World). A byproduct of billions of years of decay, helium is distilled from natural gas that has accumulated in the presence of radioactive uranium and thorium deposits. If it’s not extracted during the natural gas refining process, helium simply soars off when the gas is burned, unrecoverable.

The federal government first identified helium as a strategic resource in the 1920s; in 1960 Uncle Sam began socking it away in earnest. Thirty-two billion cubic feet of the gas are bunkered underground in Cliffside, a field of porous rock near Amarillo. But now the government is getting out of the helium business, and it’s selling the stockpile to all comers. Industrial buyers use the gas primarily for arc welding (helium creates an inert atmosphere around the flame) and leak detection (hydrogen has a smaller atom, but it usually forms a diatomic molecule, H2). NASA uses it to pressurize space shuttle fuel tanks: The Kennedy Space Center alone uses more than 75 million cubic feet annually. Liquid helium, which has the lowest melting point of any element (-452 degrees Fahrenheit), cools infrared detectors, nuclear reactors, wind tunnels, and the superconductive magnets in MRI equipment. At our current rate of consumption, Cliffside will likely be empty in 10 to 25 years, and the Earth will be virtually helium-free by the end of the 21st century. “For the scientific community, that’s a tragedy,” says Dave Cornelius, a Department of Interior chemist at Cliffside. “It would be a shame to squander it,” agrees Kulcinski.

For helium-3′s true believers – the ones who think the isotope’s fusion power will take us to the edge of our solar system and beyond – talk of the coming shortage is overblown: There’s a huge, untapped supply right in our own backyard. “The moon is the El Dorado of helium-3,” says Savage, and he’s right: Every star, including our sun, emits helium constantly. Implanted in the lunar soil by the solar wind, the all-important gas can be found on the moon by the bucketful. Associate professor Tim Swindle and his colleagues at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona have already begun prospecting. Swindle has mapped likely helium-3 deposits on the moon by charting the parts of the lunar landscape most exposed to solar wind against the locations of mineral deposits that best trap the element. But, says Swindle, when we really want a lot – when we’re rocketing to the Red Planet and back for Labor Day weekend – the best place to gas up won’t be the moon: “The really big source of it is way out.” In our quest for helium-3, we’ll travel to Uranus and Neptune, whose helium-rich atmospheres are very similar in chemical composition to the sun’s. If futurists like Swindle and Savage are right, the gas will be our reason for traveling to our solar system’s farthest reaches – and our means of getting there.

the NATIONAL HELIUM RESERVE
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Helium_Reserve
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/2216/pagetwo.htm
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/2216/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/08/us/closing-of-helium-reserve-raises-new-issues.html
Closing of Helium Reserve Raises New Issues
by Sam Howe Verhovek  /  October 8, 1997

Of all the Federal programs that have ever come under attack, perhaps none has been more ridiculed or more reviled than the national helium reserve, here on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle. It is a collection of pipelines and pumps and vats and, most of all, a seemingly staggering amount of helium: 31 billion cubic feet, enough to supply current Federal needs for 100 years. ”Amazingly stupid, even by Government standards,” P. J. O’Rourke, the conservative humorist, said of the program, which forces Federal agencies to buy helium at inflated prices from the reserve. ”The poster child of Government waste,” said Christopher Cox, the California Congressman who led the fight to get rid of this veritable Fort Knox of helium.

But now that President Clinton has signed a bill that will get the Government out of the helium business and sell off the nation’s helium reserve to private industry, which has long claimed that it can supply helium more cheaply to agencies like NASA, the issue is turning out to be more complicated. In a vivid demonstration that cutting the Federal budget is rarely as easy or as simple as it seems, some experts are even daring to say it: maybe the helium reserve wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.

The jury is still out on just how much money will be saved by closing the operation near here, in part because the new law, for reasons that might prove daunting even for a Nobel laureate in economics, still requires the Government to pay an inflated price for helium. In some of the first contracts signed for privately supplied helium, irritated National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials note that the price, around $70 per thousand cubic feet, is roughly the same that they paid for helium from the reserve.

The American Physical Society, a prominent group of physicists, warns that getting rid of the nation’s helium stockpile is profoundly shortsighted. Though most people may think of helium as the thing that fills balloons and blimps, it is essential in all kinds of scientific pursuits, including the space program. For future generations, scientists say, it will be vital in the development of superconducting power lines, magnetically levitated trains, new kinds of generators and motors, and technology not yet even dreamed of. No one is predicting that the Government’s helium operation, in tumbleweed country about 25 miles north of Amarillo, will be magically revived. ”Everything you see here — it’s all going to go,” said Robert Robertson, an operator in the plant’s control room. ”The death warrant has been signed.” Nonetheless, even a cursory examination of the privatization of the Federal helium program, which the President set into motion when he signed the law a year ago, suggests that so far, instead of saving money, it has led to a messy accounting quandary in which the benefits are not yet clear.

Because the stores here are so large, the law requires that the helium, stored in a massive underground dome, be sold off slowly, over the next two decades, so as not to disrupt prices in the growing world market for helium. And in what, in effect, creates a secondary market in which Government agencies will bid for helium at above-market prices, the helium must be sold at prices that will fully pay off the $1.4 billion ”debt” the helium conservation program has accumulated since President John F. Kennedy helped begin it in the 1960′s so the nation’s space program would have a reliable supply. But because the debt is actually money that is owed by one Government agency to another, paying it off is basically a paper transaction intended to clear the helium reserve’s ledger. The Congressional Budget Office has already ruled that paying off the helium program’s debt will not do anything to reduce the national debt, currently at $5.3 trillion or so.

The bottom line, of course, is just how much money the Government will save by buying helium from private suppliers like the Exxon Corporation. Even the Helium Advisory Council, the industry group that has lobbied vigorously for privatization, says it is not easy to calculate the saving, partly because the new law has not yet cleared the way for the true privatization of the helium program, which would mean selling at market prices. Carl Johnson, chairman of the council, predicts that the closing will save money. But when he was asked just how much taxpayers would save annually and when they would start seeing the saving, he said, ”It’s a very difficult question, and I don’t even know how I would begin to answer it.” Representative Cox, a Republican from Orange County, Calif., who led the crusade to kill the helium program, was more definitive, saying the saving would eventually amount to about $24 million a year: $20 million from the greater efficiencies at private plants, compared with the antiquated complex here, and $4 million from lower helium costs.

But NASA, the main Federal recipient of helium, has yet to save any money because of the privatization. ”We were all in favor of helium privatization, but we missed something here,” said Steve Parker, a procurement official at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. ”Your question is, are we getting the savings we were promised? That’s a no. We’re still paying inflated prices for the accrued debt.” Meanwhile, because nobody knows what will happen to the world market price for helium in coming decades, no one can say for sure whether selling off the national reserve is a good idea in the long run. ”What it really boils down to is this: Do you think this is true debt that is costing the American taxpayers, or is it a cost of a strategic decision to conserve crude helium?” said Timothy R. Spisak, general manager of operations of the helium program here. ”Remember, you’ve still got an asset out here, 30 billion cubic feet of helium. If you sell it off, you don’t have it anymore.”

Colorless, odorless and largely inert, helium is unique among Earth’s 100 or so elements because it remains liquid even at just above absolute zero, which is roughly 460 degrees Fahrenheit. That makes it extremely useful as a pressurizer and a coolant. Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland and the director of the Washington office of the American Physical Society, said that helium would have vastly increased uses in the future and that selling off the Federal reserve might one day be seen as a catastrophically heedless decision. He urged Congress to find some way to mandate an increase in the size of national reserves, even if they are held by private industry.

The supply-and-demand equation involving helium, which is nonrenewable, is extremely complex. The problem is that helium is a byproduct of natural gas and that it is not always economical for companies to extract it. Currently, only about half of the 6.7 billion cubic feet of helium taken out of the earth each year is separated from natural gas and saved. The rest disappears into the atmosphere. But critics of the Government reserve program say concerns about the current loss of helium are overblown. They say there is no reason that the future demand for helium cannot be met by private industry, which already supplies 90 percent of the helium used in the United States. “‘The physicists are right and more expert on the value to science of helium than any source you could consult,” Representative Cox said. ”But the physicists are not experts on economics and markets. And a great deal of what’s at stake here is the latter and not the former.”

In the Texas Panhandle, where the helium operation’s staff of 165 will be whittled to a skeleton crew of about three dozen in the next few years, there has long been a sense of local pride in the program and outrage over the national scorn heaped upon it. ”The public’s been misinformed,” said Trooper Barker, a worker at the plant. ”They think it’s all some big joke about putting gas in blimps. Well, I’ve never once had a blimp fly out here and say, ‘O.K., fill ‘er up.’ ” Mr. Barker said that once private industry took over the helium, it would find ways to raise the price, an opinion widely shared in Amarillo. ”If NASA calls tonight and says, ‘We need 20 tank cars,’ we’ll get it out of our plant tonight,” said Terry Byrd, the production and maintenance manager, during a tour of the site. ”Private industry might charge a premium to do that.”

The helium program has had its defenders over the years, but the widespread national criticism has often made them seem to be voices in the wilderness. In a column two years ago, Gregory Curtis, the editor of Texas Monthly magazine, said that the derision was undeserved and that the helium conservation program was ”in fact an example of government working at its best.” Mr. Curtis said workers and managers at the helium program were ”intelligent, efficient and proud of their work, exactly the opposite of the thick and lazy bureaucrats Federal
workers are often said to be.”

The program has often been on the verge of elimination. In 1993, Bill Sarpalius, a Democrat who was Amarillo’s Congressman, persuaded President Clinton to keep the program alive. The President, struggling to gather a majority for his budget bill, spoke to Mr. Sarpalius four times on the day of the vote. ”Sure I talked to the President about helium,” Mr. Sarpalius, who was later defeated for re-election, said at the time. ”I talk to everyone I can in the Government about helium. And when I had the opportunity to explain to him that this was not really a billion-dollar loss, that this is a program that makes money for the Federal Government, that there’s another side to this picture, he was fascinated by it. He was really interested in helium.”

Mr. Sarpalius voted with the President, and the program was spared another year. But in 1996, with a conservative Republican Congressman, William M. Thornberry, now representing Amarillo and sentiment rising against the program, its gradual elimination was approved. Sometime around 2015, all the helium now in the Federal reserve is expected to be owned by private industry. ”There will be savings,” said Representative Cox, who is the father of 3- and 4-year-olds. ”We won’t know how much until my kids are out of college.”

MACY’S DAY PARADE HOARDING
http://www.photonics.com/content/news/2007/October/19/89406.aspx
Helium Demand Ballooning / Oct. 19, 2007

The worldwide shortage of helium is resulting in rising prices and tight supplies for party supply stores, but it won’t deflate Macy’s annual tradition of floating gigantic characters down Broadway in New York City this Thanksgiving. An international helium shortage, warned about for years, has become more evident recently, industry experts said, as rising global demands for the lighter-than-air, nonflammable gas mean short supplies for low-priority, consumer-level uses. While helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, it is hard to find on Earth, where it is a byproduct of radioactive decay underground. Here, helium is extracted from natural gas. While all natural gas contains at least trace quantities of helium, the gas is distilled from only about seven percent of the natural gas extracted from the ground, and only a few plants worldwide have the capability of separating helium from other gases and purifying it. In the US, purified helium is commercially recovered from natural gas deposits mostly in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It was first discovered in 1903 when an exploratory well in Kansas produced a gas that “refused” to burn. Some of the richest sources are under the Texas Panhandle.

Most people’s familiarity with helium may be through its use in festive balloons, which accounts for about seven percent of the helium market worldwide, but the vast majority of supplies of the gas are for more high-tech applications. Helium is essential for things that require its unique properties — its inertness, its incredibly low “boiling point” (-451.48 °F) and its high thermal conductivity. It exists as a gas except under extreme conditions. At temperatures close to absolute zero (-459.7 °F), helium is a fluid; most materials are solid when cooled to such low temperatures. Liquid helium is used to supercool magnets in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines, representing 20 percent of all helium use globally. Liquid helium is also used to cool some thermographic cameras, which detect heat instead of visible light and are used by search-and-rescue teams can locate people among rubble or through smoke. Another 17 percent of the helium produced globally is used to provide an inert gas shield for laser welding.

Other applications of helium include: in supersonic wind tunnels; to provide lift for high-altitude scientific research balloons; to pressurize space-shuttle fuel tanks; in fiber optics, semiconductor, computer chip and flat-panel display manufacturing; as a protective gas in growing silicon and germanium crystals and in titanium and zirconium production; to create a nitrogen-free atmosphere, when mixed with oxygen, for deep-sea divers so they won’t suffer from “the bends;” in the study of superconductivity and to create superconductive magnets for particle physics research; and in metallurgy and analytical chemistry and in leak detection. Because helium won’t become radioactive, it is also used as a cooling medium for nuclear reactors.

The first laser invented, a helium-neon laser, is used today in laser eye surgery and laser pointers. The shortage is a result of a “perfect storm” of problems, with a new plant in Algeria ramping up production later than anticipated and with half the expected capacity, a plant in Qatar coming online slower than expected, and the world’s largest source of commercial helium, the Exxon Mobil plant in Wyoming, operating at only 80 to 85 percent of capacity because of plant problems. Also, the Bureau of Land Manaqement (BLM), which provides crude helium to the refiners that supply about 40 percent of US helium production, has put restrictions on how much crude helium refiners can take out of the BLM pipeline to process, Phil Kornbluth, executive vice president of Matheson Tri-Gas Global Helium in Basking Ridge, N.J., said on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” program last week.

The US government became interested in helium during World War I as a safe, noncombustible alternative to hydrogen for use in buoyant aircraft. In 1925 Congress created a Federal Helium Program to ensure that the gas would be available to the government for defense needs. The Bureau of Mines constructed and operated a large helium extraction and purification plant just north of Amarillo beginning in 1929. From 1929-1960, the federal government was the only domestic producer of helium. Because demand for helium increased during and after World War II, the government began offering incentives to private natural gas producers to strip helium from the gas and sell it to the government. Some of this helium was used for research, the NASA space program and other applications, but most was injected into a storage facility known as the Federal Helium Reserve.

By 1990 private demand for helium far exceeded federal demand, and the 1996 Helium Privatization Act redefined the government’s role in helium production. The BLM was given the responsibility of operating the Federal Helium Reserve and providing enriched crude helium to private refiners. The BLM’s facility near Amarillo provides crude helium to refiners that supply about 40 percent of helium supplies in the US, and almost 35 percent of the world’s helium production. The government’s strategic stockpile of helium in Amarillo, which held a three-year worldwide supply, is currently being sold off and will be mostly gone by 2015, Kornbluth said.

Under the 1996 Helium Privatization Act, by 2015 the secretary of the interior is to sell 850 million standard cubic meters (scm) from the Federal Helium Reserve, leaving 17 million scm, which represents a less than two-year supply. The Federal Helium Program’s original purpose, in 1925, was to ensure supplies of helium to the federal government for defense, research, and medical purposes. Over time, the program evolved into a conservation program with a primary goal of supplying the government with high-grade helium for high-tech research and aerospace purposes.

Party supply stores and florists around the country are complaining about increased helium prices and short supplies and its affect on their bottom lines. “It’s been affecting us since September 2006, and lately it’s been getting worse,” Lisa Dyer-Love, manager of Cook’s Balloonery in Westerville, Ohio, told the Columbus Dispatch. “The price of helium has gone up several times in the past year,” Matt Johnson, manager of Gases Plus, which supplies helium to party stores, car dealers and other consumers in Montana, told the Billings Gazette. “On average, when there’s been a price increase, it’s been 15 to 20 percent.” In September, industrial gas companies in Japan announced they planned to cut helium gas supplies by as much as 30 percent following significant shortages from US suppliers, a move that could have a detrimental impact on semiconductor manufacturing and electronics production in that country.

Earlier this month, Worthington Cylinders, a Columbus, Ohio-based supplier of pressure cylinders worldwide, announced a 6 percent price increase on all of its portable party kits, called Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kits, effective Nov. 1. “The current short supply and increased demand for helium has resulted in significantly higher helium prices. As a result, the company is forced to pass on its first price increase to the market in several years,” said Dusty McClintock, Worthington Cylinders vice president of sales. “The bottom line in terms of helium supply is that there is very little excess helium refining capacity, and domestic supplies of crude helium are growing ever tighter. Until overseas plants are fully online and/or additional plants are built, we’re potentially facing additional supply disruptions, if not shortages,” stated Leslie Theiss, manager of the BLM Amarillo field office in a January 2007 article on the BLM Web site. “For 350 days last year, the BLM’s crude helium enrichment facility was operating at full capacity, supplying more than 6 million cubic feet a day or 2.1 billion cubic feet per year. We can’t increase production because this would result in adverse impacts to the gas field, wells, compressors and other equipment.”

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade already has enough helium stockpiled to keep its balloons flying this November, Director of Media Relations Elina Kazan told the media recently. Macy’s has faced a helium shortage before — in 2006, parade organizers reportedly decided to use fewer balloons as a result. Also, when the gas was unexpectedly unavailable in 1958, parade organizers filled the balloons with air and suspended them from cranes, according to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Web site.

There may be relief coming, however. Gas companies Air Products and Matheson Tri-Gas announced this week they will build a liquid helium production plant near Big Piney, Wyoming, with an initial capacity of 200 million standard cubic feet per year. Production at the plant is expected to begin in 2009. The plant will be the 10th liquid helium plant operating in the US, and the first new US facility since 2000, the companies said. The facility would process natural gas from the Riley Ridge Field in Wyoming, the second largest helium-rich natural gas field in the US. Riley Ridge is believed to contain sufficient helium reserves to support production for decades. “We are enthusiastic about developing the helium reserves at Riley Ridge. Bringing on this new source, with very long-lived helium reserves, will enable us to further diversify our helium supply and enhance our ability to reliably serve our worldwide customers,” said John Van Sloun, general manager, Helium and Rare Gases, for Air Products. “We continue to see tightness in the supply of helium in the global market. The initial helium volumes expected from Riley Ridge in 2009 are relatively small, but this important new facility can produce additional product to help meet growing global demand.” Also, it was announced last month that Australia’s first-ever helium production plant will be built in the country’s Northern Territory at Darwin after a deal was reached between gas companies there. It is believed that the project will have the capacity to meet the entire country’s helium needs and also supply export markets.


http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/balloons.html

IMPACT ASSESSMENT
The Impact of Selling the Federal Helium Reserve
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9860#toc

Description
The Helium Privatization Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-273) directs the Department of the Interior to begin liquidating the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve by 2005 in a manner consistent with minimum market disruption and at a price given by a formula specified in the act. It also mandates that the Department of the Interior enter into appropriate arrangements with the National Academy of Science to study and report on whether such disposal of helium reserves will have a substantial adverse effect on U.S. scientific, technical, biomedical, or national security interests.

This report is the product of that mandate. To provide context, the committee has examined the helium market and the helium industry as a whole to determine how helium users would be affected under various scenarios for selling the reserve within the act s constraints. The Federal Helium Reserve, the Bush Dome reservoir, and the Cliffside facility are mentioned throughout this report. It is important to recognize that they are distinct entities. The Federal Helium Reserve is federally owned crude helium gas that currently resides in the Bush Dome reservoir. The Cliffside facility includes the storage facility on the Bush Dome reservoir and the associated buildings pipeline.

PRICES SOARING
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20071119/news_1b19helium.html
Products, research rely on element
by Bob Secter  /  November 19, 2007

Helium, the second most plentiful element in the universe, is suddenly in short supply on this planet, and that means soaring prices for a lot of things. “Some customers have told me they’re just not going to sell balloons anymore because they can’t get helium,” said Chicago party wholesaler Lee Brody. “Everybody’s scrambling.” As raw materials crises go, the helium shortage clearly takes a back seat to the global oil crunch, but its repercussions go well beyond the cost of decorating birthdays or bar mitzvahs. The shortage shines a light on an obscure federal helium program critical to feeding the world’s growing appetite. To most of us, helium is just a novelty gas that floats blimps, bobs huge latex whales over car dealers and makes your voice sound like Daffy Duck when inhaled (which experts say is a really bad idea that
could lead to a collapsed lung). Demand for the gas has taken off in industry and scientific research in recent years, and the helium squeeze is being felt everywhere from university physics labs to plants in India, China, Taiwan and Korea that make today’s hottest consumer products. Japanese helium suppliers recently warned customers in the electronics industry to prepare for supply cuts of up to 30 percent.

Helium is less dense than air, which explains why it makes balloons rise. Sound waves travel faster through it. It is also noncombustible and can be liquefied to temperatures approaching absolute zero, properties that render it ideal for cooling metals that produce superconductivity or in processes that throw off a lot of heat. It is used to make flat-panel TVs, semiconductors, optical fibers and medical MRIs, and it toughens industrial welds. NASA uses a full train car load to pressurize a liquid fuel rocket. The U.S. government is the world’s No. 1 source, sucking helium out of a Texas reservoir it began filling after World War I when dirigibles were thought to be the coming thing. That stockpile will be empty in a decade, and new overseas sources have been slow to develop. “We’re pedaling as fast as we can here, but we just can’t produce enough,” said Leslie Theiss, manager of the Federal Helium Reserve near Amarillo. “One-third of the world’s helium comes from our little place here. That’s kind of frightening.”

In today’s increasingly interdependent global marketplace, the balloon business finds itself at the bottom of the helium supply chain. What began as spot shortages last year have grown chronic this year, said Kaufman, president of the International Balloon Association, a party industry trade group. Kaufman is also co-owner of M.K. Brody, a Chicago party wholesaler that often goes through 100 cylinders of helium in a week. The firm’s distributor recently put it on a weekly allotment of 33 cylinders. A standard tank with enough helium to blow up 400 average-size balloons cost $40 five years ago but $88 today, Kaufman said. He’s been told to expect another 50 percent price increase before Christmas. Cindi Cronin, who runs a Chicago party-decor business, said it’s become kind of a scavenger hunt lately to find helium. To stretch her supplies and save money, Cronin has started diluting the helium in balloon decorations with 40 percent air. “They still float, but not as long,” she said.

Helium is abundant in space, a byproduct of the nuclear fusion of stars. On Earth, it is locked largely in natural gas deposits and typically found only at trace levels too expensive to strip out and refine. By a quirk of geology, some natural gas fields in this country are blessed with robust helium concentrations. And that has made the United States to helium production what Saudi Arabia is to oil. Some of the richest sources are in the Texas panhandle, and that is where the federal government began stockpiling the gas in 1925. The Army considered it nearly as good as hydrogen to bring giant airships aloft and much safer, an assessment tragically borne out in 1937 when the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg erupted in flames over New Jersey and killed 36 people. In the 1990s, Congress decided the government should get out of the helium business. Federal law requires the stockpile to be sold off in about 10 years.

Private industry has been slow to pick up the slack. New production facilities in the Middle East have been plagued with problems and not produced hoped-for yields. “Demand is increasing overseas, and people are starting to get nervous,” said Maura Garvey, director of market research for Cryogas International, a Massachusetts-based trade journal that closely follows helium markets. She predicts helium supplies will remain tight through at least 2010 and possibly well beyond. Back in Amarillo, Theiss fears the day of reckoning for world helium supplies might be coming a lot faster than for oil or other nonrenewable commodities. “To our knowledge, nothing has been discovered to date that has the reserves we have here,” she said. “Exports have increased 50 percent in the last five years. If you’ve got a finite amount and a lot more suddenly starts going overseas, do the math. It’s not going to be good when we’re done here.”

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