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Site: http://news.mit.edu/topic/mitenvironment-rss.xml

A team of MIT and Harvard University students won the first-ever Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize on Thursday night for an idea to make India’s temperature-controlled supply chain for food — or “cold chain” — more affordable. The team, GoMango, is developing smart, modular, refrigerated shipping boxes that can be rented out individually to cut costs and save billions of dollars in spoiled perishable goods in India. This innovation earned GoMango the first-place prize of $12,000 at the competition, which was organized by the student-run MIT Food and Agriculture Club to support early-stage ventures focusing on food and agriculture sustainability. For the competition, six finalist teams pitched ideas to a panel of judges from academia and industry, and a capacity crowd, in the Samberg Conference Center. A team of MIT students, Safi Organics, earned the $8,000 second-place prize, and a team of MIT and Harvard University students, Ricult, won a $5,000 third-place prize. Other inventions included edible eating utensils, nanosensors for plants, and robotic hay compactors. Competition co-sponsors were MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) and Rabobank, one of the largest banks in the world that caters specifically to food and agribusiness clients. Keynote speaker was Brent Overcash, who directs Emerging Technologies for the Food + Future coLAB, a collaboration between Target, the consulting firm IDEO, and the MIT Media Lab. In GoMango’s pitch, team member and MIT alumnus Naren Tallapragada ’13, now a PhD student at Harvard University, said refrigerated trucks are rare in India, because they’re too expensive for producers and wholesalers to rent or own. By some estimates, there are as many refrigerated trucks in Boston as there are in the whole country of India. With shipping routes sometimes spanning hundreds of miles in very hot temperatures, nearly 40 percent of India’s fruit and vegetables spoil before reaching customers, Tallapragada said: “This means hundreds of millions of people are malnourished [and] billions of dollars are wasted.” To address the issue, GoMango invented refrigerated boxes that can be collapsed, and stored in partnering cold-storage warehouses. Food producers and wholesalers can rent exactly as many boxes as needed and stack them on traditional dry trucks, which cost roughly $100 less than refrigerated trucks. Boxes are stuffed with packs filled with innovative phase-change materials, much like giant ice packs. They’re kept frozen until packed with food — such as fruits and vegetables and meats and fish — and liquefy throughout a trip to keep contents cool for up to three days. Each box also connects to the Internet to track location, temperature, humidity, and payment information. “We think that we can have a great social impact by getting more food to market, affordably and in an environmentally friendly way, thereby doing our part to keep the developing world healthier, wealthier, and a cleaner place,” Tallapragada said. GoMango’s prize money will go toward developing commercial prototypes to pilot in India in the coming months. Other presenting team members were Francesco Wiedemann, a visiting researcher in the Changing Places group at the MIT Media Lab, and Juan Carrascosa, an MIT Sloan School of Management student. The prize competition is another in a growing list of MIT initiatives — including J-WAFS, which was launched in 2014 — that caters to students interested in food and agribusiness entrepreneurship, said MIT Food and Agriculture Club President Sarah Nolet, an student in MIT Sloan and fellow in the System Design and Management Program. “There’s so much interest around food systems innovation, around changing the food systems, and even just understanding it, and there hasn’t been a good place to go to explore that," Nolet said. “With J-WAFS, the Food and Agriculture Club, and now this prize, we’re giving people who are interested some place to hang their hats, get involved, and join our community.” The competition started last fall, with a generator event that brought together more than 100 student entrepreneurs to meet and form teams. Dozens of teams then submitted ideas and were winnowed down to nine finalist teams that were matched with mentors from academia and industry. Mentors worked with the teams for three months to help them develop the final business plan submissions and presentations. Judges and organizers then chose six teams to compete on Thursday. The other three competing teams were: Plantae.io, which is developing nanosensors to put on plants to monitor their wellbeing; Food Ware, which is developing edible eating utensils; and Iron Goat, which is developing a robotic hay compactor that boosts yields. In his welcoming remarks, J-WAFS Director John H. Lienhard V, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food, said the prize competition furthers MIT’s longtime mission of promoting agricultural innovation. He pointed to the inscription along the ceiling of MIT’s Lobby 7 that reads: “Established for Advancement and Development of Science its Application to Industry the Arts Agriculture and Commerce.” “Our focus on agriculture is literally carved in stone,” Lienhard said. “The prize tonight continues that tradition, and expands and amplifies [innovation] in food and agribusiness.”

News Article | January 4, 2016
Site: http://www.theenergycollective.com/rss/all

Besides the common myth – Upgrading Bio-ethanol is a challenging science. Not only do the practitioners have to break down the complex biomass mixtures efficiently to synthesize bio-ethanol, but they also have to contend with numerous other equally (and often times more) important considerations such as low oil prices (per barrel), process safety, waste streams, and chemical toxicity, recycling of solvents/catalysts, process economics, and a multitude of engineering/ technology considerations. Nevertheless, despite the challenges, the ideal outcome of these efforts when accomplished is quite satisfying: a simple, efficient, green, robust, and safe manufacturing process. A showcase of green chemistry, process intensification, and catalysis along with industrial fermentation – Butanol production (with a global market of about 350 million gallons per year) has garnered wide acclaim. Butanol is an important industrial chemical, which is currently produced by the Oxo-process starting from propylene with hydrogen and carbon monoxide (usually in the form of synthesis gas) over an expensive rhodium catalyst or the Aldol-process starting from acetaldehyde, this is usually referred to as the – petroleum-derived approach as the components i.e., propylene and synthesis gas are derived from petroleum/fossil sources and hence inherently “not green”. The Oxo Process was developed and licensed to the industry through a tripartite collaboration beginning in 1971. The principals were Johnson Matthey & Co. Ltd. (now Johnson Matthey PLC), The Power-Gas Corporation Ltd. (a former name of Davy Process Technology Ltd., now a subsidiary of Johnson Matthey PLC) and Union Carbide Corporation (now a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company). The second, greener pathway is the ABE-fermentation process (Acetone, Butanol, Ethanol) that was pioneered by Chaim Weizmann during World War I. At the time, the petroleum-derived approach proved to be economically advantageous in comparison to the ABE-fermentation based processes. For this reason, most of the facilities using butanol / acetone fermentation process ceased to operate with a few exceptions in Mainland China and South Africa (until 1980s). This happened after World War II when rapid development of the petrochemical industry took place. However, with crude oil prices fluctuations coupled with other geopolitical considerations across the globe have sparked an urgent interest in achieving a transition from non-renewable carbon resources to renewable bio-resources. In addition, researchers and start-ups from across the globe have reported on their staggering progress towards research and development efforts towards the production of butanol from renewable resources. The ABE-process has since received wide acceptance for a second come back to match mandates around the world to meet the standard blends with the petroleum counterparts. Some start-ups have also claimed their niche in developing butanol from the ubiquitous carbon dioxide, or from Scotch whisky by-products! Often the positive points are highlighted – sometimes exaggerated while the negative ones are not openly discussed such as the inherent toxicity of butanol to the cell wall of the microorganism synthesizing it in addition to the low yields. Nonetheless, a plethora of start-ups and joint ventures have flourished since early 2000 and the numbers are growing steadily. The number of start-ups pursuing various aspects of butanol is flourishing more than ever – from carbon dioxide capture, to developing alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) fuel with the potential to deliver aviation biofuels, developing new microbial strains for efficient conversions to butanol, feedstock analysis, to downstream processing. With this astounding pace one would not be surprised to find a start-up next door aiming to be the next analogue of the Oxo-process to synthesize 100% of global butanol production using renewable resources! Butanol has since successfully made the transition from a commodity chemical to a fuel additive specially when it is compared to a much hygroscopic and less energy dense – ethanol. Butanol is versatile for many reasons – one could use it as a fuel additive or chemically transform it to high value high volume precursors such as butanal (global production around 6.6 x 106 tons/year), glycol ethers, butyl acrylates, solvents – butanol by itself can be used as a solvent or converted to the more widely used (“workhorse”) plasticizer such as 2-ethyl hexanol (global production around 2.5 x 106 tons/year) etc. So, contemplating a niche in downstream processing to focus on renewable chemicals or plastics, one may consider butanol conversion to lucrative chemicals markets. One may choose to go to the other end of the spectrum and consider making alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) fuel blend with the ethanol or butanol platform. For example, a plane like a Boeing 747 consumes approximately 1 gallon of fuel (about 3.78 liters) per second. Over the course of a 10-hour flight, (say from Berlin, Germany to New York, United States) it burns about 36,000 gallons (150,000 liters). The Boeing 747 consumes approximately 5 gallons of fuel per mile (12 liters per kilometer). So you would make multitude volumes of the fuel to meet the blending requirements in the aviation department. With the right tools in your belt this is certainly achievable – but remember the goal is to blend NOT replace petroleum 100%! The annual consumption of Jet A-1 fuel used by commercial operators according to the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) in 2013 was 72.2 billion gallons. The annual global production of ethanol according to the RFA Analysis of Public & Private Estimates was 24.57 billion gallons in 2014. In considering the de novo design of any systems that upgrade existing biofuels (such as ethanol to n-butanol or to Jet Fuel A-1) it is imperative to design working systems that are relatively inexpensive to keep investments low which is reflected in the pricing of the end product, i.e., a fuel, ethanol to an upgraded fuel, n-butanol or Jet Fuel A-1 as contemplated here. A simple back of the envelope calculation would suggest the following: with 100% conversion of ethanol to n-butanol the mass yield would be 80%. Similarly, for 100% conversion of ethanol to C16 hydrocarbon (Jet Fuel A-1, contains C8-C16 i.e., carbon atoms per molecule) the mass yield would be 61% and if you started from butanol, the mass yield would be 75% of Jet Fuel A-1. So theoretically if ALL of ethanol produced globally were to be converted to Jet Fuel A-1 i.e., 24.57 billion gallons one will obtain 15 billion gallons of Jet Fuel A-1. Recall the need from year 2013 was 72.2 billion gallons! This amounts to only 21% of the requirement and therefore may be used only as a blend and NOT a replacement. Where does the ABE fermentation stand – The best results ever obtained for the ABE fermentations to date are in the vicinity of 20 g/L in butanol concentration from fermentation, 4.5 g/L/h in butanol productivity, and a butanol yield of less than 25% (w/w) from glucose (1.29 gallons per bushel where, 1 US bushel = 35.2391 L). Therefore if the fermentation route were to be utilized – the limiting step would be a conversion of ethanol to butanol. Thus, 24.57 billion gallons of ethanol would give only 4.6 billion gallons of Jet Fuel A-1, which amounts to 6.4% of the actual requirement of the commercial operators. If you are a smaller/medium sized start-up with a novel idea working on designing a proof-of-concept pilot before venturing into a full scale demo or commercial plant or just planning to expand your patent portfolio or a big conglomerate planning to be brand ambassadors for developing sustainable solutions for tomorrow based on the butanol platform you would want to consider a range of factors including market studies, and important considerations such as value/volume chain analysis, technology know how, process economics, industrial fermentation, separation technology, green chemistry, engineering/technology, or arranging off-take agreements with customers, local and offshore, design and fabrication of pilot plants; region specific legislations associated with the blending protocols, related documentation with RINs credits etc. The list certainly seems monumental but given most start-ups in the field are about to set up a chain of events that will be disruptive in how we as a generation look at energy and its utility – It is definitely a challenge that needs a global perspective and it is most certainly not trivial! Dr Kapil S Lokare is a biomass consultant with the Emerging Technologies Division of Lee Enterprises Consulting, Inc., the world’s largest bioenergy and biofuels consulting group. His expertise is in bio-butanol, ethanol valorization to butanol and higher hydrocarbons, lignin (hydrothermal upgrading), biomass upgrading technologies, bio-renewables, and selective deconstruction of biomass. Dr Lokare, who currently resides in Berlin, Germany, may be reached at kapil.Lokare@lee-enterprises.com or by calling Lee Enterprises Consulting at +1 (501) 833-8511.

« Aemetis acquires license from LanzaTech with California exclusive rights for advanced ethanol from biomass including forest and ag wastes | Main | ABI Research: 6 transformative paradigms driving toward smart, sustainable automotive transportation » Autonomous vehicle driving behavior can have a considerable effect on fuel economy. Researchers in the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University have determined that fuel efficiency for self-driving cars—within the bounds of current fuel economy testing—could improve by up to 10% under efficiency-focused control strategies when following another vehicle. However, the study also showed that autonomous vehicle (AV) technology following algorithms designed without considering efficiency can degrade fuel economy by up to 3%. In a paper published in the journal Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Constantine Samaras and Ph.D. student Avi Chaim Mersky suggest the need for a new near-term approach in fuel economy testing to account for connected and autonomous vehicles. The results of this study have shown that following control algorithms designed without considering fuel economy performance can perform significantly worse, while more intelligently designed control schemes may equal or exceed the base driver performance assumed by the EPA fuel economy tests. At present, with no incentive to design more fuel efficient autonomous rulesets, manufacturers may not design for increased fuel economy. They may design a system to maximize speed and/or acceleration, by default or as an option. … In addition, this study found more advanced connected features can improve performance consistently and significantly, by improving the amount of time a vehicle can predict actions in the future. While the basic testing method outlined here would have to be expanded to meet US regulatory requirements in order to test automated vehicles, it does show the need for a new testing procedure. Additionally, while this study did not attempt to find an optimal control function, it is seen that attempting to significantly improve fuel economy without any predictive or connected features is challenging and inconsistent. This is because the lead vehicle’s behavior in the EPA tests is fairly non-aggressive, and the rules tested did not account for the full range of behaviors exhibited by the EPA drive cycles. In particular, none of the rulesets explicitly distinguished between abrupt emergency stops and general city stop-and-go traffic. The inability to account for this caused poor performance on the urban cycles, where such actions are common, and may have caused poorer performance than could be expected of vehicles following more robust control sets designed for stop-and-go traffic. Additionally the fuel consumption model used precluded any testing of grade-based optimization or broader fuel economy benefits of automation such as platooning or reduced congestion. … As technology and adoption increases and the system becomes more efficient, the driving behavior of the lead vehicle as well as the entire system will change. Hence, car following algorithms will have less predictive power. What is clear is that rapid progress is being made in the development of autonomous and connected vehicles and that AV technology affects individual vehicle fuel economy. Given this, stakeholders can use the methods outlined here as a starting point in the discussions for the best path forward. The proposed standardized method for testing the fuel economy effects of autonomous vehicle behavior when following another vehicle consisted of two steps. This approach is applicable for the near-term, when AVs will travel in traffic with primarily conventional vehicles, the researchers noted. They first abstracted the driverless vehicle’s control strategy for simulation to a simple one lane and one-dimensional road, with only one leading vehicle and perfect visibility; they then ran it following a vehicle obeying the EPA’s FTP and HWFET drive cycles. These derived drive cycles were then tested with a dynamometer, similar to current testing. They then developed a series of simplified rulesets for adaptive cruise control (ACC) behavior and simulated the car following behavior for EPA’s drive cycles. They estimated fuel economy using the Virginia Tech Comprehensive Fuel Consumption model. The researchers also looked at connected vehicle scenarios in which information about a lead car’s travel behavior was communicated to an AV following this lead car. The study found that more advanced connectivity could enhance a vehicle’s performance by providing the vehicle with more time to plan future actions. The longer the vehicle plans into the future, the greater the fuel economy benefits. To start these discussions, the study provided suggestions on how current EPA fuel economy tests could be modified to address AV technologies.

« Standard-production Mercedes E-Class awarded test license for autonomous driving in Nevada | Main | Volvo Car to make Gen 2 Pilot Assist standard on new S90 sedan » Addressing the proliferation of electronic control units (ECUs) in vehicles, Visteon Corporation is preparing to launch an industry-first, automotive-grade cockpit domain controller with a European automaker on a global vehicle program in 2018. SmartCore combines previously separate instrument clusters, head-up displays (HUD) and advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) domains on a one-chip, multi-domain controller that can be accessed through an integrated, easy-to-use human machine interaction (HMI). Visteon displayed the SmartCore connected domain controller at CES 2016. With the average number of ECUs in high-end vehicles more than doubling over the past decade, it is essential to more efficiently manage the increasing cost and complexity of in-vehicle electronics. (Earlier post.) SmartCore provides a security-focused approach to cockpit module consolidation that addresses this complexity while improving the driving experience. The SmartCore system uses Visteon-developed virtualization (MOSS.x, multiple operating system security) that allows a multicore SoC (system on chip) microprocessor to run many functions by splitting up the processor’s power for use by a variety of devices, explains Christopher Andrews, Visteon Leader, Emerging Technologies. Security is achieved by keeping the virtualization software code to a minimum and running multiple operating systems unmodified. This isolates safety-critical elements from non-critical elements and from the outside world. SmartCore also uses a component modeling software architecture that is written in modules. This allows the same basic code elements to be used for all levels of vehicle design, with additional blocks of code inserted for luxury vehicles. Previously, entirely separate and unique code—100 million+ lines— needed to be written for low-, mid- and high-end cars. SmartCore is a game-changing technology that offers significant and unique advantages over traditionally separated and non-connected infotainment systems, instrument clusters and ADAS controllers. Different operating systems can run side-by-side on one core and several levels of information—from safety-critical vehicle data to personal information from the Cloud—are combined into one system for the first time. This significantly improves efficiency and security, while reducing the cost of ownership in the cockpit. Meeting the needs of all vehicle segments through a scalable and flexible framework, the SmartCore platform is offered at different levels in terms of information output technologies and types of software applications and control devices. At the lower end, the platform can feature an instrument cluster system or entry-level infotainment system only. At the higher end, it can incorporate several displays including infotainment, head-up and rear seat displays, and tablets. At CES, Visteon demonstrated a high-end configuration, with two fully digital 12.3-inch color thin film transistor (TFT) displays and an additional head-up display, all driven from a single integrated unit. In addition, up to four tablets can be connected via Wi-Fi, serving as a rear-seat entertainment extension. SmartCore’s Cloud-based connectivity is designed to protect the user’s privacy. The system incorporates mechanisms that guarantee a seamless handover from full Cloud support to fully embedded mode if there is no Cloud connection. If there is an issue—for example a malicious application consuming all processor power or a virus trying to stall the system—all system-relevant and safety-critical features are designed to remain operational. Consolidating ECUs also enhances security by reducing the number of potential “attack surfaces.” As an application-based cockpit domain controller, SmartCore allows the user to change and grow the vehicle’s feature set over its entire lifetime. Users will be able to purchase applications (apps) via a vehicle manufacturer-certified app store on the platform. These apps are stored in an easily-accessible library, from which users can decide which apps are visible.

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Site: http://www.nanotech-now.com/

Abstract: Perovskites, substances that perfectly absorb light, are the future of solar energy. The opportunity for their rapid dissemination has just increased thanks to a cheap and environmentally safe method of production of these materials, developed by chemists from Warsaw, Poland. Rather than in solutions at a high temperature, perovskites can now be synthesized by solid-state mechanochemical processes: by grinding powders. We associate the milling of chemicals less often with progress than with old-fashioned pharmacies and their inherent attributes: the pestle and mortar. It's time to change this! Recent research findings show that by the use of mechanical force, effective chemical transformations take place in solid state. Mechanochemical reactions have been under investigation for many years by the teams of Prof. Janusz Lewinski from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) and the Faculty of Chemistry of Warsaw University of Technology. In their latest publication, the Warsaw researchers describe a surprisingly simple and effective method of obtaining perovskites - futuristic photovoltaic materials with a spatially complex crystal structure. "With the aid of mechanochemistry we are able to synthesize a variety of hybrid inorganic-organic functional materials with a potentially great significance for the energy sector. Our youngest 'offspring' are high quality perovskites. These compounds can be used to produce thin light-sensitive layers for high efficiency solar cells," says Prof. Lewinski. Perovskites are a large group of materials, characterized by a defined spatial crystalline structure. In nature, the perovskite naturally occurring as a mineral is calcium titanium(IV) oxide CaTiO3. Here the calcium atoms are arranged in the corners of the cube, in the middle of each wall there is an oxygen atom and at the centre of the cube lies a titanium atom. In other types of perovskite the same crystalline structure can be constructed of various organic and inorganic compounds, which means titanium can be replaced by, for example, lead, tin or germanium. As a result, the properties of the perovskite can be adjusted so as to best fit the specific application, for example, in photovoltaics or catalysis, but also in the construction of superconducting electromagnets, high voltage transformers, magnetic refrigerators, magnetic field sensors, or RAM memories. At first glance, the method of production of perovskites using mechanical force, developed at the IPC PAS, looks a little like magic. "Two powders are poured into the ball mill: a white one, methylammonium iodide CH3NH3I, and a yellow one, lead iodide PbI2. After several minutes of milling no trace is left of the substrates. Inside the mill there is only a homogeneous black powder: the perovskite CH3NH3PbI3," explains doctoral student Anna Maria Cieslak (IPC PAS). "Hour after hour of waiting for the reaction product? Solvents? High temperatures? In our method, all this turns out to be unnecessary! We produce chemical compounds by reactions occurring only in solids at room temperature," stresses Dr. Daniel Prochowicz (IPC PAS). The mechanochemically manufactured perovskites were sent to the team of Prof. Michael Graetzel from the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne in Switzerland, where they were used to build a new laboratory solar cell. The performance of the cell containing the perovskite with a mechanochemical pedigree proved to be more than 10% greater than a cell's performance with the same construction, but containing an analogous perovskite obtained by the traditional method, involving solvents. "The mechanochemical method of synthesis of perovskites is the most environmentally friendly method of producing this class of materials. Simple, efficient and fast, it is ideal for industrial applications. With full responsibility we can state: perovskites are the materials of the future, and mechanochemistry is the future of perovskites," concludes Prof. Lewinski. The described research will be developed within GOTSolar collaborative project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Future and Emerging Technologies action. Perovskites are not the only group of three-dimensional materials that has been produced mechanochemically by Prof. Lewinski's team. In a recent publication the Warsaw researchers showed that by using the milling technique they can also synthesize inorganic-organic microporous MOF (Metal-Organic Framework) materials. The free space inside these materials is the perfect place to store different chemicals, including hydrogen. The research on mechanochemical methods for the synthesis of three-dimensional structures is funded by the TEAM and MISTRZ grants of the Foundation for Polish Science. About Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences The Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences was established in 1955 as one of the first chemical institutes of the PAS. The Institute's scientific profile is strongly related to the newest global trends in the development of physical chemistry and chemical physics. Scientific research is conducted in nine scientific departments. CHEMIPAN R&D Laboratories, operating as part of the Institute, implement, produce and commercialise specialist chemicals to be used, in particular, in agriculture and pharmaceutical industry. The Institute publishes approximately 200 original research papers annually. For more information, please click Copyright © Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sci If you have a comment, please us. Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

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