The Google Earth Blog announced it has made a huge update to New York City regarding 3D buildings. "Google has completed nearly every building in Manhattan Island for Google Earth. Just fly to "New York City" and turn on the 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth." Google engineers tried to keep a lot of user-submitted 3D buildings along with their own updates. Head on over to their site to see before and after pictures of the update, it gives you the same feeling the latest update for Google Streetview gives you — Awed and creepy.
2008 was a big year in energy and one that we could very well look back upon as the platform to the not so distant future of energy. Much has happened. To help you make sense of it all, we here at The Energy Roadmap have sifted through our bookmarks, Google Notebooks, back of the napkin lists, Twitter searches, interview transcripts, and RSS feeds to come up with the top 10 energy stories that will have an impact on our culture, society, and lives.
Gorden E. Moore, in a landmark 1965 paper, observed that the density of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years and with it comes increased performance and lower cost. It has been a hallmark for computers and information technology for decades. We have exploited this phenomenon to create amazing artifacts and tools which are just emerging to solve our exponentially increasing problems and it doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon.
As we move into 2009 with Moore’s Law intact, we are pushing the boundaries of computational power. We’ve already reached the petaflop in processing power and we set our sights on the exaflop. While I remain optimistic, Moore’s Law has been in danger of hitting a brick wall for quite awhile now. We’ve had problems passing the 4 GHz barrier (in the consumer market) because of power consumption and heating issues, and it is getting increasingly difficult to create transistors at the sub 30nm level. However, the industry has sidestepped some barriers and kept Moore’s Law alive by using multi-core and high-k metal gate technology. While MCT has kept performance very high, it is creating some major headaches in the IT field.
Senior Research Scientist at NPL Dr Olga Kazakova said “The solution lies in changing not only the material but also the structure of our transistors. We have worked mainly with germanium nanowires that we have made magnetic. Magnetic semiconductors don't exist in nature, so they have to be artificially engineered. Germanium is closely compatible with silicon, meaning it can easily be used with existing silicon electronics without further redesign. The resulting transistors based on NPL's germanium nanowire technology, which could revolutionize computing and electronic devices, could realistically be 10 years away."
The Solar industry is growing up and going global. Now materials giant Dow Corning is investing $3 billion into basic materials for traditional photovoltaics and thin film solar.
The Chemistry side of Solar The full potential of solar energy depends on our ability to make big advances in materials science.
How quickly solar can grow depends on our ability to design nanoscale structures that maximize the conversion of photons into electricity, photons into heat, or photons into hydrogen. And how many utilities and consumers take the leap!
So when we see 'Big Chemistry' companies get involved in the solar industry materials market, that should be a signal of growth (and growth pains) ahead!
Dow goes Greenby Being Black Dow Corning Corporation has announced several billion dollars of investment to provide critical materials to the fast-growing solar technology industry for both glass based solar and carbon based thin film.
Dow Corning and its Hemlock Semiconductor joint venture will begin manufacturing high purity monosilane, a key specialty gas used to manufacture thin-film solar cells and liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Combined with the new $1.2 billion build up at a Clarksville, Tennesee facility and the $1 billion expanded monosilane plant in Hemlock, Michigan operations may add up to 34,000 metric tons of polysilicon capacity for the fast-growing solar industry. Construction of both the Michigan expansion and the new Tennessee site will begin immediately.
GE Labs, those crazy people who brought us bouncing water, have put together a nifty holiday greeting using a single band of flexible OLED panels. "The tree is made by wrapping a working 6 inch by 15 foot OLED around a stand." What better way to highlight their breakthrough OLED roll-to-roll producing technology than through a wacky video. Check out photos from the lighting over at the GE Blog.
Top Gear recently test drove the Honda Clarity in Los Angeles and proclaimed with certainty that this car will be the most important one in 100 years. The reason? It runs on Hydrogen.
It looks like a normal car, drives like a normal car, fills up like a normal car, and its only by-product is water. They also go on to say how the car may never have to be serviced since the engine has only one moving part. It's crazy to think how much people are investing in hybrid or electric technologies (meaning plug-in cars) when a hydrogen-powered car will obliterate them all in the coming decade.
Now if we could just find an incredibly cheap way of making Hydrogen at home from air we'd be set.
In the blur of announcements from solar companies, oil company TV commercials, and news pundits, science sometimes get lost in the conversation. But it's science that will bring us to a workable energy future and this year has seen some significant breakthroughs. MIT's Daniel Nocera announced the development of a low cost catalyst that helps in the electrolysis of water into oxygen & hydrogen. The development of Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) for solid hydrogen storage continued to evolve; Nanotechnology continues to bring promising experimental results across many energy related fields including, catalysts for fuel cells; conversion of waste heat into electricity; a new theory explaining molecular movement in polymers; and more.
Which of these scientific breakthroughs might change the commercial viability of cleaner hydrocarbons, bioenergy, renewables and advanced energy storage systems?
Continue Reading other Top 10 Energy Stories from 2008
Reuters reports that most leaders in the mobile phone industry see sales plummeting in response to the global economic crisis. "On average, the poll of 36 analysts shows global market volumes shrinking 6.6 percent next year and 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter -- traditionally the strongest period for the industry due to holiday sales." The interesting note is that a similar poll in early November saw predictions that the market would grow by 2.6% next year.
We all know the economy is going to crap, so it's not surprising that people are going to stop buying things they don't really need. For many, that's a brand-spanking new cellphone. Our culture has become (or always has been) a sort of throw-away culture where if your technology isn't the latest then you're way behind the curve.
iPhone after iPhone is thrown away, replaced by a new one ten times better and sexier, only to get replaced less than a year later. This economic jolt might be what it takes to get people to start sticking to their stuff, quell the need for the latest and greatest, and stop shopping smartly. Imagine a phone where you could switch out some of the components instead of buy a whole new product. Like a computer tower, just upgrade the parts instead of buying a whole computer. Honestly though, I see this as unlikely.
In 1972 a team of futurists published the book Limits to Growth which explored long-term forecast models based on rapidly expanding global economic and population growth against finite natural resources.
While most people assumed that growth could continue unabated, Limits to Growth offered a shocking alternative scenario - overshoot and collapse. Their future? The modern industrial economy would expand beyond the legacy resource capacity of the planet as supplies plateaued and depleted faster than expected. The 'Overshoot and Collapse' future scenario was mostly ridiculed by mainstraem economists and political leaders.
Now the world's leading oil forecasting agency is hinting that this future is closer than expected with regard to our conventional oil supplies. They are calling for an 'energy revolution'.
For those who have followed the 'peak oil' conversation evolve, this is the most shocking admission on record from a leading global oil analyst. Birol acknowledges that the major differences between the IEA's World Energy Outlook report from 2007 were based on the 'wrong assumptions' of oil field decline rates. He admits that, until 2008, no organization has ever done a comprehensive global oil field decline rate survey.
Monbiot's annoynance with the IEA's failure to back their forecasts with actual data is priceless, and scary given the implications of IEA's role in providing governments with accurate oil forecasts. In 2007 the IEA said the decline rate asumption was 3%, now in 2008 they say data support 6-7%. At that rate, the world's conventional oil production plateau could happen between 2020-2030.
Birol says that the current path is "not (economically) sustainable" and the IEA is now calling for 'an energy revolution'. We think this should certainly start with global leaders pushing to Kill the Combustion Engine and taking away the liquid fuel fed energy device that makes us so dependent on oil.
What to watch: Peak Oil is about to go Mainstream The broad implications of peak production in conventional oil resources?
By the fall of 2008, every major automanufacturer from GM to Nissan to Tata--and a few startups such as Tesla and Aptera--had announced production model plans for all manner of electric vehicles, from all electrc vehicles, to plug-in hybrid electrics, to fuel cell vehicles, with deliveries to consumers starting in 2010. 2008 could well be known as the nail in the coffin for the bulky combustion engine which has plagued the auto industry with its manufacturing and design liabilities, and association with volatile oil markets.
How quickly might the world re-tool the global auto industry to build new vehicle chassis based on electric motors and advanced energy storage systems?
Continue Reading other Top Energy Stories from 2008