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July, 2013:

New lithium-ion battery design that’s 2,000 times more powerful, recharges 1,000 times faster

New lithium-ion battery design that’s 2,000 times more powerful, recharges 1,000 times faster

University of Illinois, 3D porous microstructure lithium-ion battery

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Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new lithium-ion battery technology that is 2,000 times more powerful than comparable batteries. According to the researchers, this is not simply an evolutionary step in battery tech, “It’s a new enabling technology… it breaks the normal paradigms of energy sources. It’s allowing us to do different, new things.”

Currently, energy storage is all about trade-offs. You can have lots of power (watts), or lots of energy (watt-hours), but you can’t generally have both. Supercapacitors can release a massive amount of power, but only for a few seconds; fuel cells can store a vast amount of energy, but are limited in their peak power output. This a problem because most modern applications of bleeding-edge tech — smartphones, wearable computers, electric vehicles — require large amounts of power and energy. Lithium-ion batteries are currently the best solution for high-power-and-energy applications, but even the best li-ion battery designs demand that industrial designers and electronic engineers make serious trade-offs when creating a new device.

Which brings us neatly onto the University of Illinois’ battery, which has a higher power density than a supercapacitor, and yet comparable energy density to current nickel-zinc and lithium-ion batteries. According to the university’s press release, this new battery could allow for wireless devices to transmit their signals 30 times farther — or, perhaps more usefully, be equipped with a battery that’s 30 times smaller. If that wasn’t enough, this new battery is rechargeable – and can be charged 1,000 times faster than conventional li-ion batteries. In short, this is a dream battery. (See: DoE calls for a chemical battery with 5x capacity, within 5 years – can it be done?)

Diagram illustrating the University of Illinois' 3D anode/cathode fabrication

These huge advances stem from a brand new cathode and anode structure, pioneered by the University of Illinois researchers. In essence, a standard li-ion battery normally has a solid, two-dimensional anode made of graphite and a cathode made of a lithium salt. The new Illinois battery, on the other hand, has a porous, three-dimensional anode and cathode. To create this new electrode structure, the researchers build up a structure of polystyrene (Styrofoam) on a glass substrate, electrodeposit nickel onto the polystyrene, and then electrodeposit nickel-tin onto the anode and manganese dioxide onto the cathode. The diagram above does a good job of explaining the process.

The end result is that these porous electrodes have a massive surface area, allowing for more chemical reactions to take place in a given space, ultimately providing a massive boost to discharge speed (power output) and charging. So far, the researchers have used this tech to create a button-sized microbattery, and you can see in the graph below how well their battery compares to a conventional Sony CR1620 button cell. The energy density is slightly lower, but the power density is 2,000 times greater. On the opposite end of the bleeding-edge spectrum — increased energy density, but lower power density — then IBM’s lithium-air battery currently leads the pack.

Energy density vs. power density for a variety of battery technologies, including University of Illinois' new microstructured anode/cathode li-ion battery

Energy density vs. power density for a variety of battery technologies, including University of Illinois’ new microstructured anode/cathode li-ion battery

In real-world use, this tech will probably be used to equip consumer devices with batteries that are much smaller and lighter — imagine a smartphone with a battery the thickness of a credit card, which can be recharged in a few seconds. There will also be plenty of applications outside the consumer space, in high-powered settings such as lasers and medical devices, and other areas that normally use supercapacitors, such as Formula 1 cars and fast-recharge power tools. For this to occur, though, the University of Illinois will first have to prove that their technology scales to larger battery sizes, and that the production process isn’t prohibitively expensive for commercial production. Here’s hoping.

Now read: We are slaves of electricity and battery technology

Research paper: doi:10.1038/ncomms2747 – “High-power lithium ion microbatteries from interdigitated three-dimensional bicontinuous nanoporous electrodes”

Microbiological Process Report Factors Affecting the Survival of Bacteria in Sea Water’

Download PDF : applmicro00326-0062

EU meets most international air pollutant emissions limits, further cuts possible

EU meets most international air pollutant emissions limits, further cuts possible

Published : Jun 26, 2013 Last modified : Jun 26, 2013 11:51 AM

Topics: Air pollution , Environment and health , Industry ,

Many air pollutant emissions are below internationally agreed limits, except nitrogen oxides, according to a European Environment Agency report released today. Emissions of three air pollutants, including fine particulate matter, are only slightly above targets to be met in 2020.

Image © Tim Fields

Europe can go beyond the emissions reductions that have already been achieved. We also need to think beyond purely technical measures, working towards a structural shift in our economy and promoting international cooperation.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are mainly caused by traffic, although this pollutant is also emitted by industrial facilities and power plants. This pollutant and many others are still harming health and the environment across Europe. For three pollutants – ammonia (NH3), NMVOC and fine particles (PM2.5) – emission levels in 2011 are already very close to the 2020 reduction commitments under international legislation, according to the EEA technical report, indicating that the EU could aim for more ambitious targets.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “Air pollution still has an impact on Europeans and our environment. Europe can go beyond the emissions reductions that have already been achieved. We also need to think beyond purely technical measures, working towards a structural shift in our economy and promoting international cooperation.”

The UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) was agreed in order to limit air pollutants causing acid rain and eutrophication, often far away from the source of the pollution as air currents carry the pollutants long distances and across borders. Many of the pollutants addressed also harm human health, causing a range of problems from respiratory illnesses to cardiovascular disease, leading to premature death in some cases.

The Gothenburg Protocol to the UNECE LRTAP Convention contains emission reduction commitments that have to be met from 2010 and onwards, for the pollutants nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur oxides (SOx) and ammonia (NH3). In addition to the emission reduction commitments for individual countries, the protocol also specifies reduction commitments for the EU.

NOx is the only pollutant for which the 2011 emissions exceeded the respective EU emission reduction commitment. For the remaining pollutants, the emissions in 2011 were below the respective air pollutant reduction commitments. The Protocol was recently updated to include five targets for the year 2020, including a target for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Past air pollutant emission reductions

Since 1990 the EU’s most successful reduction of air emissions has been cutting sulphur dioxide (SO2) – in 2011 emissions were 82 % lower than in 1990. Many other air pollutant emissions have more than halved during this time, including the main heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury), and persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins and furans, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Between 2010 and 2011, emissions of most main air pollutants continued to fall, including NOx, sulphur dioxide (SO2), NMVOCs and carbon monoxide. For all pollutants except NOx, the European Union’s emissions were below the respective reduction commitments in 2011.

There are many reasons for emission reductions, including power stations switching from solid and liquid fuels to fuels such as natural gas, new legislation limiting vehicle exhaust emissions, flue-gas scrubbing technology in industry, reduced sulphur content in some liquid fuels, lower point-source emissions from industrial facilities, and the closure of older industrial facilities as a consequence of economic restructuring.

Background information

The report includes emissions over the period 1990-2011 for the air pollutants sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), ammonia (NH3), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM), heavy metals (HMs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The inventory compiled by the EEA on the basis of data submitted by EU Member States is largely complete for 5 (NOx, NMVOCs, SO2, NH3, CO) out of 26 air pollutants. Member State submissions contain various data gaps for particular pollutants or years in the time series. A procedure to fill such gaps was applied, but was impossible in some instances in which case the EU emission totals for these pollutants are underestimated.

EU emission inventory report 1990-2011 under the UNECE Convention on LRTAPEU emission inventory report 1990-2011 under the UNECE Convention on LRTAP

Islanders’ bid to halt Shek Kwu Chau incinerator fails

Friday, 26 July, 2013, 8:38pm

NewsHong Kong


Austin Chiu and Ada Lee

Court throws out all arguments of challenge to plan to build a HK$15b waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau near dolphin habitat

A Cheung Chau resident yesterday lost his legal battle to stop the government building a massive offshore waste incinerator on an island south of Lantau.

Leung Hon-wai objected to the proposed HK$15 billion incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau, which is near an important marine habitat for finless porpoises. He claimed the environmental impact assessment conducted for the project was flawed.

He saw all eight challenges he mounted dismissed by the Court of First Instance and vowed to take the challenge further.

“We will definitely file an appeal. It’s not surprising that we lost,” said Leung, 66, who took the case to court on behalf of Cheung Chau residents. “Our grounds are reasonable. We ought to fight for justice.”

Leung said he opposed the construction of the incinerator because the government had not done enough to mitigate potential respiratory problems arising from the operations of the giant burner.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the court’s decision reaffirmed the objectiveness and transparency of the impact report, which was filed by the Environmental Protection Department.

The government would retable the project in the Legislative Council “at a suitable time”, Wong said.

The proposal was presented to Legco in April last year, but the environmental affairs panel decided, amid public opposition, not to endorse it.

Wong declined to give an estimate on how much the projected costs had risen since then, but appealed for public support as an incinerator could take as long as eight years to build.

“Any further delay will not benefit Hong Kong’s long-term development,” he said.

Friends of the Earth advised against retabling the incinerator plan too soon. Instead, the government should seek to build public trust with its efforts to reduce and recycle waste, the environmental group said.

Leung’s lawyers argued that the impact report failed to meet the requirements of a technical memorandum and a study brief from the government.

In part because of that, the department should not have granted the project an environmental permit, nor should the Town Planning Board have submitted a draft plan on the zoning of Shek Kwu Chau to the Chief Executive in Council, Leung said.

Dismissing the arguments, Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung said off-site mitigation measures proposed in the impact report met requirements.

The judge pointed to the government’s proposal to designate 700 hectares for a marine park – where no further developments would be allowed without prior approval – that would meet the requirement to offset a permanent loss of 31 hectares of marine habitat due to the project.

On Leung’s challenge that the impact report failed to take into account a certain amount of persistent organic pollution and very fine particles, the judge said it was up to the “professional judgment” of the department to decide what to include in the report since there were no specific requirements.

Au also threw out Leung’s position that it was wrong for the director of environmental protection to compile the impact report, approve it and grant the permit. The judge said the different tasks had in fact been done by the director’s subordinates, who were properly separated.

The judge ordered Leung, who brought the case using legal aid, to pay costs.

Source URL (retrieved on Jul 27th 2013, 8:14am):

An overview of EU environment policy targets and objectives

An overview of EU environment policy targets and objectives

<div class=”portalMessage“> This website has limited functionality with javascript off. Please make sure javascript is enabled in your browser. </div> Published : Jul 25, 2013 Last modified : Jul 24, 2013 01:20 PM

Topics: Environmental scenarios , Policy instruments , Green economy ,

European Union legislation has established more than 130 separate environmental targets and objectives to be met between 2010 and 2050. Together, these can provide useful milestones supporting Europe’s transition towards a ‘green economy’, according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Image © NHD-INFO

This report shows that while we have been successful in agreeing a wide range of policies to protect the environment, implementing these policies remains a challenge. We are making some progress towards the EU aim of creating a green economy, but we need to keep the pressure on up to 2020 and beyond.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director

The ‘green economy’ has emerged as a priority in policy debate in recent years. But what does the concept mean in practice and how can one measure progress towards this strategic goal? A new EEA report, ‘Towards a green economy in Europe’, provides some answers. It does so through a comprehensive overview of environmental targets and objectives established by EU legislation for the period 2010–2050 and by providing examples of analysis of progress towards achieving them.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “This report shows that while we have been successful in agreeing a wide range of policies to protect the environment, implementing these policies remains a challenge. We are making some progress towards the EU aim of creating a green economy, but we need to keep the pressure on up to 2020 and beyond.”

The report identifies 63 legally binding targets and 68 non-binding objectives set out in EU policy covering the period 2010–2050. Of the 63 legally-binding targets, 62 have their deadlines in 2020 or before. Most of the current targets and objectives can be seen as interim steps towards a transition to a green economy, because in most cases eradicating the problems will require longer-term efforts beyond 2020.

The ‘green economy’ is an economic model which aims to increase prosperity by using resources efficiently as well as maintaining the resilience of the natural systems that sustain societies. With its ‘Environmental indicator report 2012‘, the EEA undertook its first analysis of Europe’s progress in the transition towards a green economy, using indicators to assess resource efficiency and to address ecosystem resilience. The findings show a mixed performance, although they suggest that Europe has made more progress in improving resource efficiency than preserving ecosystem resilience.

The new overview is useful as a comprehensive basis for reviewing progress in the past, and for considering the prospects for meeting future environmental policy objectives and targets.

Progress towards environmental targets in Europe

  • The EU has a non-binding objective to cut energy use to levels 20 % below business-as-usual projections by 2020. Although this implies that consumption must be a little lower than the level in the mid-1990s, the trend since then has moved upwards. So it appears likely that achieving the 2020 objectives will require stronger policy implementation and possibly additional policy impulses.
  • Alongside policies to mitigate climate change, the EU has several policies to help Member States adapt. The European Commission encourages all Member States to adopt comprehensive adaptation strategies. By mid-2013, 16 States had achieved this.
  • Regarding air pollution, the EU has generally made good progress towards its 2010 emissions targets set by the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. Meeting 2020 targets will require continued efforts.  Only in the case of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is there an obvious need to accelerate abatement efforts significantly. Modelling also suggests that achieving the targets is technically feasible for all pollutants except PM2.5.
  • Waste generated per capita should be in absolute decline by 2020, according to another non-binding objective. Waste generation shows a trend which, when extrapolated, suggests that the EU would narrowly miss its 2020 target. The trend is certainly ambiguous, however, with the decline in waste generation since 2007 giving some cause for encouragement.
  • Member States also have another waste-related objective, specifying that landfilling of waste should be near zero by 2020. An extrapolation of the trend points to a decline from 179 kg per capita in 2011 to 114 kg per capita in 2020, so achieving the target for near-zero landfill appears to require a radical change in waste management practices.

CIA Pays for Research to Manipulate Our Climate Living Green Magazine

CIA Pays for Research to Manipulate Our Climate

Editor Post | July 24, 2013 |

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By Jon Bowermaster for

Instead of working to stop the causes of global warming, the government is publicly announcing plans to geoengineer our planet.

Progress very often comes with a price.

If we are not collectively learning anything else from the global warming emergency, perhaps that’s the biggest lesson: The world cannot advance the way it has—seven billion people burning fossil fuels with wild abandon—without a cost.

One cost is that we have so cooked the atmosphere that even conservative estimates predict average temps will rise three to seven degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

There are several ways to respond to this global cooking. One is to ignore and party on. Another is to conserve. Another is to vigorously look for options, towards renewables. And yet another is to tinker even further with technology to engineer our way out of the mess.

This week it was disclosed that the CIA is putting $630,000 into a geoengineering project that will study how humans are influencing weather patterns and assess more ways they can do so. The investment comes a year after the spy agency was forced by Congress to shutter its in-house research center on the relationship between climate change and national security.

Offloaded to the National Academy of Sciences, the program will be responsible for overseeing the first geoengineeringstudy funded by an intelligence agency. One of the CIA’s apparent prime curiosities is trying to slow global warming by using experimental technologies ranging from simulating volcanic eruptions to seeing how pumping sulfides into the atmosphere might impact national security.

While going public with the study may be new, this is hardly the first time government agencies have tried to fool Mother Nature for the sake of national security. During World War II, the Germans experimented with producing fog to confuse allied bombers. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force seeded clouds above the Ho Chi Minh Trail to encourage tropical rains to turn the ground into muck. In a more plebian effort, in 2008 the Chinese had its “Weather Modification Office” seed clouds in order to discourage rain from falling over its Olympic stadiums.

Such experimentation continues today. Indonesia would prefer that its torrential rains fall over the ocean rather than land, where it produces flooding. The methodology, dropping tons of salt from military planes, has so far not been effective.

The notion of governments trying to fool nature is slippery territory.

And there is little stopping individuals from launching their own DIY attempts, as in the wacked effort last summer by San Francisco-based Planktos to seed the northern Pacific Ocean with 100 tons of iron sulphate as an alleged way to encourage plankton growth and slow warming of the seas. All that was accomplished was creating a brand-new waste dump of 100 tons of iron on the sea floor.

Read the rest of this article at

Tags: CIA, climate change, geoengineering, global warming, pollution


HK Butterfly Net

Hong Kong is home to more than 260 butterfly species, which is one-tenth the total for China. Hong Kong can be described as a “butterfly paradise”. Butterflies catch people’s attention with their varied colours and elegant poses. They are the most beautiful guides in nature, leading people to an appreciation of the magnificent natural world.

Shell Nature Watch– Butterfly Explorer has been co-organised by Green Power and Shell HK Ltd. since 2004. It is the first local large scale educational and monitoring programme with butterflies as the theme. Starting from community promotion, school education and ecological surveys, we organised various activities to increase public awareness of and concern of butterflies, aiming to protect local butterfly diversity.

Friends fall out

Friends fall out

The Hong Kong branch of Friends of the Earth has severed relations with the international environmental organisation because of a dispute over sponsorship. The disagreement focuses on support of the Hong Kong group by Shell, the multinational oil company. Shell pays for local education programmes and buys advertising space in the group’s magazine One Earth. Shell is the target of a campaign by FoE International against producers of pesticides that contaminate the environment.

The argument arose at FoE International’s annual meeting last September. FoE England and Wales complained about the Shell adverts in One Earth. ‘They said we would be expelled unless we made major changes to our policy,’ says Ross Penlington, chairman of Hong Kong FoE;s board of directors. ‘It would have meant closing our magazine and changes in our funding policy which we didn’t feel we could make.’ Hong Kong FoE announced its temporary withdrawal from FoE Internatiohnal.

Arctic methane ‘time bomb’ could have huge economic costs

Arctic methane ‘time bomb’ could have huge economic costs

BBC News

– ‎43 minutes ago‎

Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world.

Methane gas can dramatically change the global climate

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Methane gas can dramatically change the global climate

There are large uncertainties in the $60tn figure

Methane gas is one of the wildest of wild cards in the game of trying to assess future climate change. But among the many uncertainties, scientists know two things for sure: there is a vast amount of methane stored in the Arctic region, and if it were to be suddenly released into the atmosphere, it could dramatically change the global climate.

The latest study, it has to be said, is only the first, tentative stab at trying to assess the economic impacts of a sudden methane release from the Arctic. Unlike the usual peer-reviewed research papers in Nature, this one was clearly published under the rubric of “comment”.

The three researchers – an economist, a social scientist and an Arctic ice specialist – have broken new ground by tackling the difficult issue of assessing the economic costs of a large-scale escape of methane, which as a greenhouse gas is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

They used an economic computer model called PAGE09 which was also used by the Stern Review into climate change costs and the US Environmental Protection Agency. They estimated, on average, it would cost a staggering $60 trillion (£40tn) if just one of the known Arctic methane reserves were to be suddenly released as a result of melting permafrost.

Some will no doubt argue that these kinds of computer models are not to be trusted, and there are many assumptions and uncertainties lying behind this kind of work. Nevertheless, the researchers believe this is a useful exercise in balance given the optimism over the supposed economic benefits of Arctic oil and gas exploration, to say nothing of the shipping bonanza offered by an ice-free Northern Sea Route between Japan, China and Europe.

There are large uncertainties even in this $60tn figure. There is a 5 per chance that the costs could be as little as $10tn and a 5 per cent chance of them being as high as $220tn. But 80 per cent of this extra financial burden is likely to fall on the poorer nations of Africa, Asia and South America, which will suffer most as methane magnifies the risk of flooding to low-lying areas, extreme heat stress, drought and storms.

“What the model does is allow us to work out how much extra temperature rise there is and we find in average terms it brings forward the date at which the 2C temperature rise is exceeded by somewhere between 15 and 35 years,” explained Chris Hope, an economist at Cambridge University.

“As the temperature and sea levels rise, we can the go on to estimate the extra impacts in the regions around the world and in different economic sectors,” Dr Hope said.

“Of course the answer is uncertain, as everything about the climate is uncertain, but we can run the model many thousands of times to try to take account of this uncertainty,” he said.