Sep 16, 2014

Ransler and Sinha: Husk Power

A cool little video on  rice husk based systems and a company that is providing microgrid solutions along with local employment opportunities in rural India.

2008 PopTech Fellows Chip Ransler and Manoj Sinha present the achievements and plans of  Husk Power Systems (HPS), a for-profit company that’s created a proprietary technology to cost-effectively convert rice husks into electricity. HPS delivers electricity – and dramatically improved lives – to India’s “Rice Belt.”

Ransler and Sinha: Husk Power


Jun 13, 2014

Tesla Motors Open up Patent Portfolio

In a somewhat altruistic move and a clear move to promote more innovation in the electric car segment, Tesla Motors (NYSE: TSLA) announced that their patents are now available for anyone to use.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.
Musk goes on to say and take a dig (rightfully so) at the (solely) materially minded folks in the legal profession:
 I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.
Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day. 
A great way to locate these specific Tesla patents is to use the google search:,+Inc.%22

(hat tip: )

Good luck to Tesla Motors and also to highly efficiency electric cars!


Apr 24, 2014

Efficient Urban Mass Transit

Bogota, Colombia has one highly efficiency and urban mass rapid transit systems, at very low costs. 
Read more about how this city of about 8 million people (comparable to New York city USA)

Key facts: 
  • Buses have a dedicated lane through the major roadways in the city (usually placed in the center/median of the roadway with access ramps and overpasses to connect pedestrians to the median). "troncal" is the term.
  • Bus stations have platforms that line up with the bus threshold for easy access to all passengers including those on wheelchairs.
  • Up to 1400 main buses (long buses - people pay a fare with card) and over 400 feeder buses (that run free) that connect to the main lines.
  • Will add financial info soon, so far all the budget data we looked at are in spanish so we are working on translations.

One other cool thing to note (in a traditionally male dominated field like transportation engineering: their current CEO is a female.

  1. Street Films Vlog on Youtube:
  2. Transmilenio Authority
  4. Transmilenio's Youtube channel:
  5. Transmilenio on Twitter:


Mar 31, 2014

the Need to Develop a Framework towards Sustainable Use of Forestry Biomass

Biomass is normally considered a "renewable and carbon neutral energy source" but unless the biomass is harvested in a sustainable manner with long term plans to regenerate those plants and trees, it would not remain a truly renewable and carbon neutral source. Here, we discuss some brief ideas on how to develop a basic framework for sustainable harvest of forestry biomass. 
The world (or at least the primary energy producers) need to focus on energy needs by region, biomass resource availability by type (crop residues, forest residue, methane (landfills/manure management, wastewater), urban wood residues and mill residues, and a discussion on the matching capabilities of these resources by economic extraction value. For the US and N. American regions, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden CO has some excellent interactive mapping tools available online [1].
Map of Forestry Residues (Contiguous lower 48 USA); Query source: NREL
A detailed thermodynamic analysis of the use with existing technologies should be estimated for a foreseeable short period of about five years. Beyond five years, we should develop synergistic technologies that can take advantage of cyclical solar energy to produce viable biobased fuel products in various biorefineries as well as biomass combustion units. The stakeholders involved in this could be the entities that own the forests (government units such as Dept of Environment/Forests, timber mills, businesses with leases on biomass use for energy), indigenous people/society that is dependent on forest for livelihood etc. In certain regions, the use of forest biomass should take the societal aspect also into consideration [2].
The efficient use of these forest residues and projections over next twenty years could have a significant impact on the ecological, economic and societal aspects for a large portion of our growing population. The balance between agricultural expansion into forest land, forest thinning practices and timber management’s impact on woody fuel production are all significant issues that need to be addressed by several states and also need to be addressed by consortia of multiple states in some cases. 
There is a pressing need for a real framework to be developed for carbon emissions measurement, the reach of regulatory bodies (existing and necessary new rules) and a quantification of the sustainability of forest use through an accounting and documenation procedure. Specific quantitative rules that assess the balance between use of woody biomass from forests in thermochemical processes versus other opportunistic fuel use should be discussed based on regional constraints. A thermodynamic analysis juxtaposed with heat rate needs for populations in the forestry’s harvest region would be one determining factor for the rate of forest thinning. A detailed look at the existing framework of rules for certifying the sustainability of forestry biomass use should not just be carbon centric but should also be water centric [3]. 
1. NREL. 2014; Available from:
2. Myllyviita, T., et al., Sustainability assessment of wood-based bioenergy – A methodological framework and a case-study. Biomass and Bioenergy, 2013. 59(0): p. 293-299.
3. WWF. Position Paper on Sustainability Criter for Forest Based Biomass in Europe used in Electricity, Heating and Cooling. 2012; Available from:


Mar 27, 2014

Fusion Energy Developments: for Space travel

It may not be the most efficient way of producing propulsion or power for consumption on earth, but for travel in the space/reducing travel time etc, fusion could be one of the best bets. 

So much so, that NASA has given two rounds of funding to a joint team of scientists from U Wash and  MSNW for a fusion based rocket project. Most of the big details of Slough et al's work is discussed in the paper (below) and Technews's article (link below).

One set of three rings weighing about 350 gm will be used for each implosion, Slough said. The pressure inside the rings will reach 600,000 atmospheres for a few microseconds, vaporizing the rings. The resulting superheated ionized metal will be ejected out of a divergent magnetic nozzle at high velocity. (link)

What I am really hoping is that this Lithium based fusion plasma reactor could spawn the development of a economical and safe fusion reactors for civilian power on earth.

This project has been partly funded by the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Review.

Sources: The Fusion Driven Rocket: Nuclear Propulsion through Direct Conversion of Fusion Energy    Slough et al. 2013 (PDF paper)


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