Futuristic Alternative Energy – Part 3: Got Some Juice?

It’s Sunday again, which means it’s time for….

Future Nature Logo

Today’s post is going to focus on biological energy — namely, “Bio Juice”. By using this term I refer to the chemical energy produced by organic tissues that can be converted into heat or directly into electricity.

Our body is an amazing machine. It is capable of miraculous doings that science can only dream of. Even the most sophisticated mega-computers of our day can’t compete with the human brain in many everyday activities, such as social learning or decision-making in conditions of uncertainty. In addition, our body is able to comprehend different forms of energy coming from our surroundings — light, sound waves, mechanical pressure on our skin, food intake, oxygen, and more — and to convert it into other forms of energy, whether chemical, thermal or electrical.

What happens when we digest food? Isn’t it amazing that we are able to convert a tasty chunk of apple into the energy that powers us up? What is the magic this apple holds? Well, nothing special really; it is simply an organic compound, consisting mainly of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. During the process of internal digestion, our body is able to extract the matter it needs for self-construction and also for the production of intra-cellular energy. To put it simply, a large part of the carbohydrates in our food is diverted, following several chemical alterations, into an organelle called Mitochondrion, which extracts from the certain carbohydrates an amount of 30.6 kilojoules per mol (units of energy produced per a certain amount of mass).

There are countless Mitochondria in our body, many of them inside our cells, although these organelles are abundant in the inter-cellular space as well. These Mitochondria have their own DNA, and are believed to be the result of a prehistoric symbiosis with a certain type of prokaryotes (bacteria is one type of a prokaryote). In plain words, we all have billions of bacteria-like “creatures” inside our body which absorb sugar (carbohydrates) and extract energy. Sweet, isn’t it?

SewageThe energy produced inside of the Mitochondrion is stored in molecules known as ATP, which then travel around the cell and release their chemical energy in the form of heat. Our car’s engine — mind you — is functioning as a result of heat generated in the combustion tank; and the giant dynamos situated inside a power plant revolve as a result of heat generated via the combustion of coal. However, to operate both the car’s engine and the giant dynamos, we use fossil fuels, since fuel is a relatively pure agglomeration of carbohydrates, and thus it releases high amounts of energy during combustion.

Long story short: Our body is burning up carbohydrates to produce energy, in a similar manner our car is burning up fuel. But while we couldn’t digest fuel, our car can’t operate on apples.

Or can’t it?

Our body is using enzymes and probiotic bacteria inside our stomach to disintegrate the food into manageable molecules. This way, we can extract the sugar from the juice and burn it up inside our Mitochondria. The process is quite feasible — We wouldn’t be here otherwise!

What we can expect to see in the coming years is the development of organic devices, where billions of enzymes could digest our everyday garbage and extract most of its “Bio Juice”. Can you imagine our garbage bin being a digestive tract, connected directly onto the power grid? Can you picture the sewage system directing all its flow into the local power plant? This is indeed extreme recycling.

Futuristic Alternative Energy – Part 2: Can you hear it buzzing?

Yesterday I began this unique series of posts about possible energy sources humankind could find itself using in the future. At the moment, these are all fascinating ideas, quite unfeasible, but theoretically valid. In the coming decades and centuries, what now seems like science fiction may be taken for granted by every toddler.

On and OffEnergy comes in many forms: Magnetic energy, Mechanical energy, Electrical energy, Light energy, Thermal energy, Nuclear energy, and more. According to the first law of thermodynamics, titled the “law of preservation of energy”, energy cannot be destroyed. And according to Einstein, matter and energy are interchangeable (E=MC^2). Put together, we can see that particularly everything in the universe is a potential energy source. The trick is capturing and converting a certain type of energy into a different type of energy that can be utilized into the power grid (i.e. Electrical energy).

I want to dedicate this post to sound waves. The air around us is filled with music. Some of it is the harmonious twittering of birds, and some of it is the loud noise of traffic bustle. In both cases, vibration waves are creating a domino effect in the space around them, slightly changing the compression of matter for a fraction of a second. Sound waves can traverse every state of matter, and not just gas (such as the Earth’s atmosphere). We can hear sounds under water, we can hear our neighbors making love through the wall, and if were able to dive into the sun and stay alive, we could hear the plasma exploding around us. Only in outer space, where the waves of sound have no atoms to vibrate through, silence is abundant.

It’s important to distinguish between sound waves and air currents (winds). Although both involve the movement of molecules in the air, they are not the same. You should not confuse energy produced by wind turbines with the kind of energy conversion I am referring to in this post. To mention just the most obvious distinction between the two, while winds move at relatively slow speeds, sound waves travel the air at an average speed of 767.3 mph.

Now imagine we could manufacture a device that captures sound waves and converts them into energy. Not only would we be tapping into a clean and endless power source, but also by doing so, we could diminish the nuisance of noisy activities, such is the case in airports, in steel factories, and in the streets surrounding a soccer arena.

Jet FighterAnd if we can allow ourselves to dream thus far, why not take the predictable next step and dream about devices that tap only into sound waves with certain frequencies or at certain decibels. For example, urban layers that absorb only loud noises, or unique devices on stage that prevent live performers from singing off-key, by absorbing certain melodic disturbances and turning them into the electricity that powers the amplifiers.

After all, converting sound waves into electricity is something our own ears are doing constantly throughout our life. Minuscule hair cells inside the inner ear can differentiate among different types of sounds, and turn the vibrations into neural impulses, sending electrical signals to the Primary Auditory Cortex of the brain.

I can imagine futuristic “carpets”, made of billions of these “hair cells”, which will drape the outside of advanced vehicles and prevent them from omitting any sound. Come to think of it, such a technology is prone to appear first in military applications, before it reaches the general public.

So next time you pick your ears, allow yourself to be proud of them….

— Epilogue: —

I have decided to turn these special posts into a regular series, appearing here at Natural Buy every Sunday. It will be called “Future Nature”, and you could find here unique and stimulating posts about possible environmental scenarios we all might encounter in the near future.

Future Nature Logo

Next Sunday on Future Nature I will post the third chapter of Futuristic Alternative Energy, which will deal with the power of sewage and other cool stuff. Don’t forget to check it out.

Futuristic Alternative Energy – Part 1: Harnessing the Rage of Mother Earth

As we’re approaching the end of the first decade of the third millennium, many things which we had previously thought of as imaginary are already materializing before our eyes, such as commercial space tourism, men with wings, or the development of wireless electricity.

I want to dedicate this unique series of posts to the sorts of alternative energy that mankind might turn to in the foreseeable future.

Let us begin with “Quake Power” — Turning devastating seismic waves into usable energy.

As China faces the aftermath of a devastating earthquake last week, and Indonesia is still recovering from the 2004 Tsunami, the threat of unpredictable havoc coming from beneath remains a grave concern in almost every corner of the planet. Seismic waves are generated by a host of causes, such as gas migration beneath the earth, nuclear experiments, pressure building along fault planes, and more. Whatever the reason, the end result is the explosion of kinetic energy — a whole lot of kinetic energy! And turning kinetic energy into electrical energy is something proven theoretically by Einstein and done practically for many decades, in such examples as electrical dams or wind turbines. What if we could harness large amounts of clean energy, and by doing so, prevent earthquakes from reaching monstrous magnitudes?

The geography of the Earth’s fault lines is known to science and some faults are known to be more active than others. However, predicting major quakes is similar to predicting the weather — both are highly volatile predictions, which can be made about the near future alone. A better solution than capturing the big quakes would be capturing the continuous kinetic energy venting from the earth, and by doing so, to raise the threshold of a major kinetic eruption.

The greatest difficulty with such a futuristic method is the sheer size of the fault lines. Capturing “Quake Power” before it reaches the Earth’s crust will require large engineering projects never taken before by humankind. And that wouldn’t be enough — there are still many scientific questions to solve and methods to develop.

One possible solution might be the deployment of millions of crystals deep inside the Earth’s belly, which would serve to capture the kinetic energy and would have the ability to transmit this energy in a wireless manner onto special generators located above. Yes, it sounds completely fantastic, but it is absolutely feasible in theoretical terms, and energy transmission is already an everyday phenomenon, evident whenever we use our cellular phone.

Wave Energy

New theories concerning electricity being generated from the power of ocean tides and waves may be closer to being reality than previously thought. Harnessing the power of ocean waves has been thought about for years, but so far no practical type of device has been made that is strong enough to withstand the battering received by the power of even normal ocean surf.

A number of countries are interested in turning the power of marine waves and currents into clean, pollution free electric power. Some of these countries include Australia (which has some of the most powerful waves in the world), Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Spain, South Africa, and Cyprus. One of the most promising ideas for undertaking this feat comes from an Israeli inventor named Shmuel Ovadia. Ovadia has been involved in this project for nearly 20 years, and has already patented several devices for turning waves into electricity. His idea involves a series of large buoys that ride on top of the waves and are attached of large hydraulic “arms” that contract, or turn backwards, powering an alternator that makes electricity in a similar manner as a belt powered alternator does in a car. According to Ovadia, the process is completely free of pollution as no fuel is needed to create power as is the case in present electric power plants, whether they are powered by oil, coal, natural gas, or atomic power.

Waves - A potential source of alternative energyThe power of tides in the world’s seas and oceans can be enough to provide between 10-20% of needed megawatts of electricity which will not only save on fuel costs, but be very beneficial to the world’s environment. Areas of particular interest are locations in Africa and Asia where this kind of power would be very beneficial to developing economies that have constant problems with electric power shortages. This is where people like Ovadia and his company, SDE, come in; and he hopes that his company’s “wave power” devices will one day be providing electricity to countries which have plenty of wave power and little natural energy resources. SDE currently has developed devices large enough to provide as much as 100 megawatts of power depending on the time of year and size of the waves. As ocean waves are usually stronger in both summer and winter, the devices, called “modulators” would supply electricity at times when it is really needed to provide heating during winter months and air conditioning during hot summer months.

Ovadia wishes that his own country, Israel, would be more interested in this kind of system. Bur so far, electricity generated in Israel is still made from conventional power plants fueled by imported coal and oil.

There are some drawbacks in this type of system, as large ones take up considerable area and appear to cause some damage to beaches, due to adverse currents generated by the hydraulic arms. But the question is, as Ovadia puts it, whether this is a worse problem than pollution caused by conventional power plants.

Whether or not the idea is accepted in Israel is not currently important though, as there are plenty of other countries more than willing to listen to people like Shmuel Ovadia; who may one day be recognized as one of the foremost pioneers of alternative energy solutions.

Sources: Sea Wave Power Plants , The Jerusalem Post

India Prime Wind Turbine Manufacturer

India ShoreAlternative energy sources, such as wind turbines have been in the news a lot lately. And one Indian company, Suzlon Ltd is now making a name for itself as one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines that generate electric power. Suzlon’s story began in 1995 with nothing more than an idea to find a way to create reliable electric power to a textile company in the Indian state of Gujarat. The company’s founder, Mr. Tulsi Tanti, had heard about the use of wind turbines to create electricity and decided to form his own wind turbine manufacturing co. as a subsidiary to his textile concern. Starting out with only 20 employees, Mr. Tanti built a prototype wind turbine generator facility that was able to generate around 3 MW of power which was about enough to power his textile factory. Buoyed by this modest success, Tanti decided to take a big risk and devote his finances and personal energy into manufacturing wind turbines.

Since then, he’s never looked back as his company has now grown in only 13 years into a multi million dollar concern that has branches in 16 countries, especially in Europe and the USA. From only 3 MW, his turbines now generate thousands of mega watts of clean, non-polluting electrical power which help satisfy the electrical power needs of large manufacturers such as TATA Automobile Company (largest in India) and municipal power entities such as Edison Light and Power Company in southern California. His company is the fifth largest in the world wind turbine industry, with over 10.5% of total global production and electricity production. From only 20, the company has now grown to over 13,000 employees from 14 different countries.

Suzlon targets its turbines in areas that have a plentiful supply of his product’s power source, i.e. wind. For this reason, his turbines have found ready markets in American states like California, Illinois, and Texas, as well as in European countries like Spain, Portugal, Germany and Denmark.

Since Suzlon’s wind turbines are virtually non-polluting, they are one of brightest future sources of world energy. They can be installed virtually anywhere that there is a readily available wind source of at least 10 -15 km per hour. The turbines can operate year round, and even in the coldest winters or hottest summers.

The future definitely looks bright to this company that is making it’s mark as a world supplier of clean electrical energy; and is a true friend of the world’s environment.

Plight of Polar Bears Affects Us All

Polar bears, like the one pictured here, have now been put upon the endangered species list due to global warming. In fact, fears for their survival have become so real by prominent environmentalists, that it has now been predicted that these Arctic carnivores may become extinct in the wild by the year 2050. The Arctic ice shelf, the bear’s hunting grounds, has been receding steadily for the past 30 years. The bears depend on large ice floes for both hunting and to bare their young, which occur in the spring. It has now been estimated that since the late 1970’s the total area of summer polar ice has declined more than 20 per cent and is accelerating each year at a much faster rate.

Polar Bear PlightPolar bears depend on a steady diet of Arctic ringed seals, walruses and fish, all of which are declining or moving to other locations further north. With a decline in these food sources, polar bears will have no choice other than either to adapt to their new environmental reality – or die. And that ‘adaptation’ may force the bears to add another possible food source to their hunting forays – Man. Eskimos and other indigenous people who also live in the arctic regions, and depend on the same food sources as the polar bears may find themselves on ursus maritumus’ shopping list, as the bears loose their natural fear and apprehension and begin to approach villages and other places of human habitation to find food. People working in the far north, including oil well drillers, scientists, and other people may also be at risk, especially if they are out alone and far away from others.

Even now, with a shrinking habitat, polar bears are coming closer to settlements and are even raiding garbage dumps in search of food. While most bears are omnivorous by nature, polar bears have formerly relied on the food chain to receive their traditional diet of fresh seal meat as well as occasional whale carcasses. With present changes in their natural environment, there have even been reports of bears attacking baby beluga and narwhal whales, previously a rarity.

It’s a sad fact that many folks aren’t concerned about polar bears becoming extinct, like the pre-historic cave bear did, as long as enough remain in captivity in zoos (like the orphan baby bear in the Berlin Zoo). The bears may possibly even become another exhibit in places such as city aquariums or marine world exhibits, like beluga whales and sea otters. The truth is, though, is that the demise of such animals may be an omen in regards to our long term future on this planet – often called an island we cannot leave.

The threatened demise of ursus maritimus is only one example of the dangers that global warming is bringing upon the earth. If most of the Arctic polar ice cap melts, seas will rise at least 3 to 7 meters and most coastal cities, even those in the Mediterranean area, will find themselves under water. Hundreds – perhaps thousands of other plant and animal species will also be endangered and this will eventually threaten the future of Mankind as well. As long as fossil fuels continue to be consumed at the present rate, as is evident in many large cities, the effects of global warming, including famine and violent weather patterns, will create havoc to all of the inhabitants of our planet. There still may be time to reverse some of this threat by an international concerted effort to develop alternative energy sources. If this doesn’t happen, then not only will the polar bear one day be no more; even Mankind itself may find itself as being on the endangered species list.

The Fire – This Time Doomsday Eco-Thriller Becomes Reality

A little more than thirteen years back, A T.V. movie entitled: The Fire Next Time gave a chilling preview of what the world might be like in the year 2017, as a result of the consequences of global warming and severe depletion of the earth’s ozone layer. The movie, directed by Tom McLoughlin, depicted an environmental disaster in the United States, with much of the Continental 48 states in a disastrous situation due to severe drought, literally burning by raging forest fires, or plummeted constantly by hurricanes and similar severe storms. The film’s main characters, a Louisiana family engaged in a dwindling shrimp fishing business, have both their livelihood and their home literally destroyed by a monster hurricane similar to Hurricane Katrina which hit the city of New Orleans and much of the U.S. Gulf Coast in August, 2005.

Global warming and the so-called “greenhouse effect” are definitely issues being dealt with in our present time, 13 years after the above movie was first shown. Events happening in countries all over the world, give testimony to the present state of the earth’s environmental problems that appear to be getting worse as time goes on.

Numerous hurricanes have already created mayhem in the Caribbean. These events, combined with several typhoons and similar severe storms in Asia, have resulted in billions of dollars in property damages, economic loses, and hundreds of human lives. Huge forest and brush fires in California, Colorado, Arizona, and other western states, as well as in Australia and Southern Europe, have wrecked their havoc as well during the past few years.

Where is this all heading? Scientists and environmentalists have been warning us for some time that the continuous abuse of our environment by over use of petroleum based ‘fossil fuels’, including coal, fluorocarbons from aerosol cans, air conditioning systems and the like; would someday result in global warming, melting of glaciers and Artic/Antarctic ice caps, resulting in serious consequences to the inhabitants of this planet. Only recently, it was discovered that a huge Arctic ice shelf had broken loose off Alaska’s Northwestern coast after having been in place for more than 5,000 years. Polar animals, including whales, walruses, polar bears, and other artic creatures are now on the endangered list due to changes in their habit as a result of global warming.

This reality coincides with the recent documentary movie An Inconvenient Truth written and produced by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, in which the effects of global warming were graphically noted, and the dire warnings Mr. Gore is presenting are still being unheeded by many world governments, including his own. The movie must have effected many, however, as it received an Oscar at the 2007 Academy Award ceremonies in Hollywood California.

Alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen fuels, fuel cells, electricity produced by natural gas and hydro-electric generators, wind and solar power, just to name a few, will result in a much better environment and eventually reduce the damage created by over-use of fossil fuels. The technology exists, and at whatever the costs, it must be implemented before it is too late to reverse the present effects of global warming.

And if not, the consequences, as noted in The Fire Next Time, and An Inconvenient Truth will result in science fiction becoming a tragic reality, for you see, we are only looking at the world in ten years time. And you don’t believe this keep watching your TV’s to see what result might be in this year’s hurricane season. Many living in Florida and New Orleans, for example, are still picking up the pieces after previous bad storms, now attributed to the effects of global warming.

Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability – LOHAS

Have you ever imagined what may be America’s (if not the world’s) largest consumer marketing network? It’s not dealing with entertainment industries (exclusively, that is), fashion, or fast foods. It’s a marking network so large that an estimated 30% of all Americans, 50 million people, are members. And this network covers many categories, from natural foods and health products to alternative energy resources and environmentally friendly modes of transportation. In case you haven’t guessed it already, the ‘network’ is called LOHAS, an abbreviation for Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.

In the U.S. alone, LOHAS connected services and industries constitute a $229 BILLION business; and it continues to grow each year. Just some of the many categories and industries within this group include:

Alternative Healthcare – Health and wellness solutions including Homeopathy, holistic health approaches, acupuncture, naturopathy, alternative or complementary medicine, therapeutic message, etc.

Healthy Lifestyles – Natural and organic food and food supplement products, nutritional and dietary supplements, personal health and fitness care.

Ecological Lifestyles – Environmental friendly vehicles and appliances, products from recycled materials, “Eco-Tourism” and travel, including alternative transportation and energy sources.

Personal Fitness and Development – Including body building and weight loss programs, books and tapes on mind and body development, spiritual and physical development programs (Yoga, meditation, aerobic and work-out programs, etc).

The range of products and services are so wide that a great majority of people incorporate at least some of these LOHAS concepts in their everyday lives; whether it be purchasing energy saving devices for their homes, eating healthier foods, or taking natural or organic food supplements, using paper and other products from recycled materials, the list goes on and on. And these concepts are not only happening in America, but in other countries too, as more are more people contemplate the connections between economies, environmental issues, and even political governmental systems in order to acquire to total holistic approach to life.

The possibilities are just as varied as the many aspects involved in world holistic thinking. As more and more people become LOHAS advocates, the world may one day become a better place for all. As it has been said many times, we all live on an island from which we cannot leave.