Biofuels: The Next Generation

Posted by on in Energy

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far, far away someone had the novel idea to take plant matter and convert it to liquid fuel. What started with first generation (or conventional) biofuels has rapidly evolved to biofuels made from 'sustainable' feedstocks and beyond.

Now. Before the comment board fills up with comments pertaining to the terrible Star Trek / Star Wars references – Biofuels: The Next Episode just didn't have the same ring to it.

Biofuels have been getting a lot of attention lately from everyone from multinational oil companies to President Obama. But what exactly are they talking about? And are we all talking about the same technology? The short answer is no.

"Gas and renewable energy sources should be seen as allies rather than enemies". New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a cleantech enthusiast, offered this advice recently at the 2013 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. Others see the relationship between renewables and natural gas as symbiotic.

Don’t Scoff at MOFs

Posted by on in Energy

Metal Organic Frameworks, or MOFs for short, are hybrid organic-inorganic crystalline compounds that currently hold world records for internal surface area and gas storage capacity. MOFs, sometimes referred to as porous coordination networks or porous coordination polymers, derive their unique properties from their ability to form ordered structures with tunable pore sizes and tunable chemical environments within the pores. From this nanoporosity, some MOFs exhibit extremely high surface areas. To put it in perspective, one gram of MOF material can have more surface area than a football field!

As a self-professed solar industry cheerleader, even I have learned that striking up a conversation about solar with my venture capitalist peers will typically yield eyes that either quickly start looking around the room, or start to resemble those of the devil as if I have committed a great sin. The fact is that most dedicated clean tech funds and the Sand Hill Road heavyweights have invested heavily in the sector and I can point to exactly one solar module company exit to-date that could legitimately be bragged about. The sad truth is that solar investments have single handedly laid the knockout blow to several mainstream venture firms that got on the wrong side "all in" bets. Nevertheless, while most of the attention has been cast on the highest profile flameouts, quietly within the four walls of numerous buildings around the world, the survivor start-ups toil away despite a negative margin-pricing market bloodbath and a near impossible fundraising environment.

Look! What’s that up there in the sky?! It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! No, It’s Superman?!

Ok – not really. But some time soon there might be high temperature superconducting material up in the sky. Teams of scientists in the US and Europe are studying the incorporation of superconducting wire into wind turbines (in place of copper) which could increase the generation power from 2-3 megawatts to super-powered 10 megawatt generators.