Month: November 2012

Australians develop glycerol-based biomass pretreatment process

Read the full story in Biomass Magazine.

Australia-based Leaf Energy Ltd. is developing a new biomass pretreatment process that utilizes glycerol, a coproduct of the biodiesel process, in a Glycerol Bio-refinery Process, that the company says uses lower temperatures and pressures, requires less enzymes and releases fewer inhibitors than other pretreatment systems in development.

“Data published in the patent specification for the ‘Glycerol Bio-refinery Process’ shows that after 24 hours this process can liberate over 90 percent of the digestible cellulose,” said Alex Baker, chief operating officer. “We believe this is a significant improvement over the current acid/steam processes.”  Not only does the process use temperatures of 130 degrees Celsius, considerably lower than steam explosion or dilute acid systems, the company says it is a quicker process that does not degrade the lignin coproduct.


NREL breakthrough could optimize capture of sugars for biofuel

Read the full story in Biomass Magazine.

Scientists at the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the BioEnergy Science Center combined different microscopic imaging methods to gain a greater understanding of the relationships between biomass cell wall structure and enzyme digestibility, a breakthrough that could lead to optimizing sugar yields and lowering the costs of making biofuels.

A paper on the breakthrough, “How Does Plant Cell Wall Nanoscale Architecture Correlate with Enzymatic Digestibility?” appears in the current issue of Science Magazine.  

Illinois Electronics Purchasing Study

Delta Institute and the Green Electronics Council (GEC), two Illinois non-profit organizations, invite you to participate in an Electronics Purchasing Study.

Purchasing decisions for electronic office equipment, such as computers, printers, and fax machines, are often made without considering the disposal of the equipment at the end of its life.

Delta and the GEC are working together to identify opportunities and barriers for purchasing agents to include decisions about final disposal (end-of-life) in the electronics purchasing process.  The ultimate goal of this research is to increase the recycling and re-use rates of electronic waste (e-waste.)

By answering this survey, you can win a new iPAD and your company may become eligible to be selected for FREE technical assistance.

To access the survey, follow this link:

The survey must be completed by Friday, December 7, 2012.

Fast Pyrolysis Oil Stabilization: An Integrated Catalytic and Membrane Approach for Improved Bio-oils

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This University of Massachusetts, Amherst project, “Fast Pyrolysis Oil Stabilization: An Integrated Catalytic and Membrane Approach for Improved Bio-oils” started on 1st February 2009 and finished on August 31st 2011. The project consisted of 7 tasks, which are described as follows:

  1. Char Removal by Membrane Separation Technology
  2. Acid Removal by Membrane Separation Technology
  3. Acid Removal by Catalytic Processing
  4. Acid Removal using Ion Exchange Resins
  5. Characterization of Upgraded Bio-oils
  6. Commercialization Assessment
  7. Project Management and Reporting

Char particles above 1μm in size were removed from fast pyrolysis bio-oil by microfiltration using ceramic membranes. The microscopic images and ash analysis confirm the removal of the majority of the optically visible char particles from the bio-oil with both the 0.5 and 0.8 μm membranes. Microfiltration had little impact on the concentration of the key components related to the energy content of bio-oil, which can be viewed as a positive finding. The microfiltration process and the removal of the char particles did not seem to have any effect the physico-chemical aging process of the bio-oil, although some theories have implicated char as an important contributor to the aging process. A detailed fouling analysis showed a clear predominance of the cake formation mechanism in the 0.5 and 0.8 μm membranes. For the 0.5 μm membrane this mechanism is predominant over the entire permeation run, however, in case of 0.8 μm membrane, there was some evidence that other fouling mechanisms such as pore constriction and pore blocking may contribute during the initial stages. Currently there is no established process to remove char particles from bio-oil in the size range of 10 μm or less, and this study has shown that microfiltration is promising for this separation. One future goal is to develop this process for the pilot and industrial scale, in which will require more detailed investigation of the different factors affecting the fouling process including the crossflow velocity and the concentration of char particles present in the feed stream. Understanding the underlying mechanisms for char particle removal from bio-oil will allow more efficient membrane separation processes to be designed in the future.

Asad Javaid, Tatiana Ryan, Gayla Berg, Xiaoming Pan, Tushar Vispute, Surita R. Bhatia, George W. Huber, David M. Ford, Removal of char particles from fast pyrolysis bio-oil by microfiltration, Journal of Membrane Science 363 (2010) 120–127. DOI:

Long-Term Results: New Construction Occupied Test House, Urbana, Illinois

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For this study, a house was designed and built to the Passive House (Passivhaus) Standard for low energy consumption. The house incorporates an airtight, super-insulated thermal enclosure, southern facing windows with overhangs, a single point mini-split heat pump and electric resistance heaters, and a balanced energy recovery ventilator (ERV). The house was instrumented with sub-metering on all major electrical circuits, temperature and humidity measurements in each room, domestic hot water consumption, and recovery efficiency of the ERV. The energy performance was documented and compared to modeled predictions, and the thermal comfort performance of the heat pump was assessed.

Communication of Energy Efficiency Information to Remodelers: Lessons From Current Practice

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The effective communication of energy efficiency and building science information to remodeling contractors is achieved through varying formats, timelines, and modes depending on who is delivering the information, who is intended to receive it, and what technical, intellectual,and time resources the recipients have at their disposal. Determining what type of communication is effective does not lend itself to a clearly quantifiable test but rather a qualitative one. That qualitative judgment can be supported by the research of current practices deemed effective for one or more of the following reasons: it has led to the successful completion of a certifying test or other evaluation, it has been widely used for the remodeling industry, it has been considered effective by a sampling of remodeling contractors, and/or it has proven effective in the field for the BARA team. These criteria were used to create a select list of communications to be further analyzed to determine why they are effective and how less successful formats or strategies can be revised for greater effectiveness.

Threadless WWF Design Challenge

WWF does more than protect cute cuddly pandas, fuzzy arctic polar bears, and other endangered species. As the world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works to inspire all of us to protect and restore the places where we live and rely on for our resources. That could mean taking shorter showers to conserve water, buying locally produced foods to reduce our carbon footprint, or joining a campaign for renewable energy to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

And now you can help support WWF’s global conservation efforts by creating a design about both the little and big things we can do to look after our natural world. Design a t-shirt to show us what you find most inspiring about the Earth’s habitats and species and why we should all help them to thrive. You should not use any logos in your design.

The winning design will be printed on 100% certified organic cotton with water-based sustainable inks and dyes. 25% of the sale from the winning tee will be donated to WWF.

More information at

Study finds biodiesel from algae, yeast and bacteria can displace both petroleum diesel and soybean biodiesel

Read the full post at Green Car Congress.

Biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester) derived from oleaginous microbes—microalgae, yeast, and bacteria—can effectively displace both petroleum diesel and biodiesel produced from plant oils, according to the findings of a new study by a team from Utah State University.

The researchers, who reported their results in a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, examined the properties, engine performance, and emissions for biodiesel produced from the microalgae Chaetoceros gracilis; the yeast Cryptococcus curvatus; and the bacterium Rhodococcus opacus.

Full citation for the article: Bradley D. Wahlen, Michael R. Morgan, Alex T. McCurdy, Robert M. Willis, Michael D. Morgan, Daniel J. Dye, Bruce Bugbee, Byard D. Wood, and Lance C. Seefeldt (2012) Biodiesel from Microalgae, Yeast, and Bacteria: Engine Performance and Exhaust Emissions. Energy & Fuels doi: 10.1021/ef3012382

Abstract: Biodiesels (fatty acid methyl esters) derived from oleaginous microbes (microalgae, yeast, and bacteria) are being actively pursued as potential renewable substitutes for petroleum diesel. Here, we report the engine performance characteristics of biodiesel produced from a microalgae (Chaetoceros gracilis), a yeast (Cryptococcus curvatus), and a bacteria (Rhodococcus opacus) in a two-cylinder diesel engine outfitted with an eddy current brake dynamometer, comparing the fuel performance to petroleum diesel (#2) and commercial biodiesel from soybeans. Key physical and chemical properties, including heating value, viscosity, density, and cetane index, for each of the microbial-derived biofuels were found to compare favorably to those of soybean biodiesel. Likewise, the horsepower, torque, and brake specific fuel consumption across a range of engine speeds also compared favorably to values determined for soybean biodiesel. Analysis of exhaust emissions (hydrocarbon, CO, CO2, O2, and NOx) revealed that all biofuels produced significantly less CO and hydrocarbon than petroleum diesel. Surprisingly, microalgae biodiesel was found to have the lowest NOx output, even lower than petroleum diesel. The results are discussed in the context of the fatty acid composition of the fuels and the technical viability of microbial biofuels as replacements for petroleum diesel.

Why scaling up sustainable urban growth is critical for the planet

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

In 2010, we quietly crossed a global threshold: The majority of the world went from living in rural areas to living in cities. As with foreign direct investment flows and the rise of atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations, this shift is a reminder that we live among imperceptible but significant megatrends.

By 2050, it is estimated that 70 percent of all people will live in cities, and the infrastructure needs to accommodate them and sustain this growth are massive, requiring a delicate balance of social, environmental, and economic considerations. As we have seen, urbanization can take multiple paths — sometimes resulting in cities that thrive, and other times creating cities with multiple tiers of poverty and disparity.

These trends make the case for sustainable urban growth appealing: We need to invest in sustainable infrastructure now because the lead times are long, the capital expenses high, and the systems that enable a lower per capita social and environmental footprint today will have exponential savings tomorrow. While the logic is sound, the growth of sustainable infrastructure has not kept pace with the need.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a chance to speak with several individuals in the private sector who are at the forefront of infrastructure development and who have shared their views on the challenges that business faces and what needs to change to make sustainable urban growth attainable.

Facing the Climate Gap: How Environmental Justice Communities Are Leading the Way to a More Sustainable and Equitable California

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…this is the third in atrilogy which aims to contribute to local and national conversations on climate solutions and policy choices….our first report, The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap (2009), synthesized available data on the disproportionate and unequal health and economic consequences of climate change on people of color and the poor – as well as offering recommendations on closing that gap. Our second report, Minding the Climate Gap: What’s at Stake if California’s Climate Law isn’t Done Right and Right Away (2010) went deeper, performing an analysis that suggested that the mechanisms we choose to reduce greenhouse gases can have important and differential health consequences for people of color and poor communities and the pattern of environmental injustice in the state.

This report chronicles what’s being done by those who are actually “facing the climate gap.” This is a qualitative companion to the previous more quantitative reports on disproportionate impact. Here, we show how those affected communities are implementing creative responses in terms of adaptation and policy innovation to the direct, indirect, and unjust effects of climate change. To be clear, there are many more aspects of community response to climate issues – we were particularly interested here in which groups are doing this in relation to the rubric of “climate justice” and are thus mobilizing new constituencies to the climate change debate.