General Electric (GE) Global Research has just announced the development of a prototype turbine which converts carbon dioxide into electricity. While the size of the turbine does not exceed that of a desk, the inventors say it could actually power a town of 10,000 homes!
This sounds really promising, given that this innovation has the potential to help solve two critical issues of the modern world – CO2 pollution and energy crisis – at the same time.
As Doug Hofer, GE steam turbine specialist who is leading the development of the carbon dioxide turbine technology, said in a press release, “the world is seeking cleaner and more efficient ways to generate power. The concepts we are exploring with this machine are helping us address both.”
Unlike conventional turbines which convert the thermal energy of pressurized steam into mechanical energy, GE’s turbine uses CO2 in the form of a supercritical fluid to operate. This state is what gives the turbine some truly remarkable properties. A supercritical fluid is basically an intermediate state between a gas and a liquid, which is reached thanks to the incredibly high temperatures and/or pressures at which the substance is maintained. Thus, supercritical fluids can both move through solid matter like gases and dissolve materials like liquids.
According to GE, these exceptional properties of supercritical fluids significantly increase the efficiency of their prototype turbine in comparison with steam turbines, along with the advantage in compactness (steam turbines are normally about 10 times bigger). Moreover, carbon dioxide is capable of absorbing, storing and releasing heat much quicker than water, which further increases the turbine’s energy efficiency.
Let’s take a closer look at how the carbon dioxide turbine works. First, heat from the sunlight is harvested in the form of molten salt, which is then used to superheat dry ice and extract the CO2 it contains. As a result of this process, CO2 becomes a supercritical fluid and can be utilized to power the turbine, which in turn, can produce enough electricity for 10,000 homes.
Thus, it’s a great way to utilize the harmful CO2 which otherwise would be released into the atmosphere and wasted. According to GE specialists, the turbine could enhance the energy efficiency of solar energy farms and traditional gas turbine stations. They have estimated that if the carbon dioxide turbine technology is integrated into a CSP plant, up to 68% of the stored energy could be transferred back to the grid. And most importantly, this technology would provide a greener energy solution and help solve the environmental problems that plague our planet.
Hofer told Mail Online: “With energy demand expected to rise by 50 percent over the next two decades, we can’t afford to wait for new, cleaner energy solutions to power the planet. We have to innovate now and make energy generation as efficient as possible.”
Image credit: GE Global Research
Florida Set to Release a Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in “Nightmare” Experiment
Environmentalists and Florida residents voiced concern and outrage Monday as state government officials and the biotechnology giant Oxitec announced plans to move ahead this week with a pilot project that involves releasing up to a billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in Monroe County over a two-year period.
Presented by local authorities as an effort to control the population of Aedes aegypti—a mosquito species that can carry both the dengue and yellow fever virus—critics warn that the effort’s supposed benefits and its potential negative consequences have not been sufficiently studied.
Responding to news that the first boxes of genetically modified mosquitos are set to be placed in six locations in Monroe County this week, Friends of the Earth noted in a press release that “scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.”
Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which approved the project last May—to “halt this live experiment immediately.”
“This is a dark moment in history,” said Perls. “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic. This release is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec said late last week that “less than 12,000 mosquitoes are expected to emerge each week” in Monroe Country over a duration of around three months, the initial phase of the experiment.
The stated goal of the project is for Oxitec’s genetically altered, non-biting male mosquitos to mate with the local biting female population, producing female offspring that die in the larval stage before they can spread disease.
As the Miami Herald explained earlier this year: “A ‘death mechanism’ designed into mosquitoes is meant to ensure no viable female offspring will result from the mating, according to Oxitec. The male offspring will pass on the ‘self-limiting gene’ to half of their offspring, said company spokesman Ross Bethell.”
“My family’s bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent,” Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, said in a statement Monday.
Barry Wray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, added that the “EPA has set the lowest possible bar for approving genetically engineered insects and has opened Pandora’s Box for future experiments that will slide through with little investigation.”
“Everyone should be writing the White House to stop this release until there are regulations and standards that truly protect us,” Wray said.
Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons
SpaceX Starship Had “Near Collision” With Unknown Flying Object, NASA Confirms
On Friday, NASA was able to successfully deliver four astronauts into orbit on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon starship, marking the first time that a manned mission took place using a reused rocket and spacecraft.
While the launch was a historical success, with the four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France reaching the International Space Station without any complications, there was a tense moment when they were warned of a potential collision with an unidentified flying object, or literal “UFO.”
While there was no time to perform an avoidance maneuver to avoid colliding with an object, the crew was informed that they should get into their pressurized suits to mitigate any harm in case of a collision, reports Futurism.
“The NASA/SpaceX team was informed of the possible conjunction by US Space Command,” said NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries. “The object being tracked is classified as ‘unknown.’
“The possibility of the conjunction came so close to the closest approach time that there wasn’t time to compute and execute a debris avoidance maneuver with confidence, so the SpaceX team elected to have the crew don their pressure suits out of an abundance of caution,” Humphries added.
The space agency was notified by the Pentagon about the potential collision roughly seven hours after the launch of the spacecraft, according to U.S. Space Command spokesman Erin Dick.
“After further analysis, the 18th Space Control Squadron quickly determined there was no conjunction threat, all aboard are safe and the spacecraft was not at risk,” Dick said.
While the “UFO” hasn’t been precisely identified, the most likely explanation was that it was a piece of space junk – or one of a growing number of human-made pieces of junk like chunks of rockets and dead satellites that have been the subject of increasing concern over the years, with the European Space Agency hosting a major conference on space debris just last week.
Humphries notes that the object only came as close as 45 kilometers from the spacecraft, posing “no real danger to the crew or the spacecraft.”
Nevertheless, the small scare illustrates the potential havoc that could be caused by the increasingly litter-strewn low-Earth orbital space.
Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells
For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.
Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.
Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.
Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25 pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.
After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.
However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.
“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”
Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.
“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.
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