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Independent Professional: Experienced educator and management consultant for engineering educational institutions, researcher, trainer, technical consultant on sustainable technologies, related to cement manufacturing and characterisation, using industrial and agricultural wastes in cement and concrete, durability of concrete and fuel cell power.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

E-cigarettes: US FDA caution

Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post , Wednesday, July 22, 2009 reports the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that an analysis of leading brands of electronic cigarettes (new type of "smokeless" nicotine product) showed carcinogens and a chemical used in antifreeze that are toxic to humans.

Electronic cigarettes, also called "e-cigarettes," are battery-operated devices that generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. The electronic cigarette turns nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. Since they produce no smoke, they can be used in workplaces, restaurants and airports. The products are relatively new and began appearing on the market about five years ago, sold over the internet, in mall kiosks and in stores. They often come in candy and fruit flavors.

The FDA and other public health experts cautioned consumers against using the products, saying that the health effects of electronic cigarettes are unknown.

The FDA studied the ingredients in the sample cartridges of electronic cigarettes. In one sample, it detected diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. Other samples turned up carcinogens, including nitrosamines.

The FDA considers e-cigarettes to be drug devices and says that manufacturers must first get federal approval to market them. It has refused to allow imports of e-cigarettes

Watch FDA video on e-cigarettes:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sustainable power makes a world of difference

AFP , 13 July 2009, reports twelve European companies launched a 400-billion-euro (560-billion-dollar) initiative to set up huge solar farms in Africa and the Middle East to produce energy for Europe.

The massive project could provide up to 15 percent of Europe's electricity needs by 2050. The electricity could begin flowing to Europe within 10 years.

Engineering giants ABB and Siemens, energy groups E.ON and RWE and financial institutions Deutsche Bank and Munich Re are among the companies which signed a protocol in Munich.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) would build solar-power generators from Morocco to Saudi Arabia and pump electricity to Europe via underwater cables. It would also provide a substantial portion of the power needs of the producer countries, transform sea water into drinking and irrigation water for local populations. Many details must still be worked out however, including where to install the plants, when the power would come on and how much it would cost, potential profits, political stability in some areas and the financing. Under the protocol, a Desertec study office to be established by October will have three years to elaborate plans to create the network of solar farms.

Other companies invoved are the Spanish firm ABENGOA Solar and the Algerian conglomerate Cevital along with several German banks and engineering companies.

The Siemens estimate that the solar farms could generate up to 100 gigawatts of electricity, the equivalent of 100 power plants.

The German Social Democratic deputy Hermann Scheer opined that it was not necessary to go to North Africa to collect the sun's rays. We could invest the 400 billion euros in the recession-hit eurozone. He also preferred a network of decentralised operators that produced renewable energy from many sources rather than having one key project in the hands of major corporations. Others doubt that producer countries would fully benefit from a plan designed with Europe in mind,and warn of potential "eco-colonialism."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lighting revolution

ScienceDaily, July 22, 2009, reports development of a new substance, which emits brilliant light. The discovery could lead to a revolution in lighting for the home and office in five years, as claimed by a leading UK materials scientist, Professor Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University. The new substance, gallium nitride (GaN), is already used for some lighting applications such as camera flashes, bicycle lights, mobile phones and interior lighting for buses, trains and planes.

The new lighting material can reduce the typical electricity consumption for lighting of a developed country by around 75%, while delivering major cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and preserving fossil fuel reserves.

The GaN LEDs are incredibly long lasting. A GaN LED can burn for 100,000 hours, one hundred times longer than a conventional light bulb. In practice this means it only needs replacing after 60 years of normal household use. Also, unlike the energy-saving compact fluorescent lights now in use, GaN LEDs don't contain mercury so disposal is not such an environmental headache.

However to unlock these benefits, important barriers need to be tackled by scientists. The GaN LEDs are too expensive to manufacture for wide scale deployment in homes and workplaces. The harsh quality of the light produced is another limiting factor.

At the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride where Professor Humphreys leads the research, a detailed new theory that explains the mystery of why GaN emits light so strongly has recently been developed in collaboration with Professor Phil Dawson of Manchester University. The understanding is vital to improving GaN lighting's quality and efficiency. The centre is also working on an innovative technique for growing GaN on six-inch diameter silicon wafers, rather than the sapphire wafers used to date. That will result in a tenfold reduction in manufacturing costs and so help GaN lighting penetrate new market. Another of the centre's projects is investigating how GaN lighting could be made to mimic sunlight which could have important benefits for sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The GaN lighting should start making its mark in homes and offices within about five years. It will also benefit consumers in terms of convenience, electricity bills and quality of life.

Looking further ahead, the possibilities for GaN light appear wide-ranging. Currently, GaN LEDs are phosphor -coated to transform the light from blue into white. There could be scope to remove the coating and incorporate mini LEDs, each producing a different colour, in the overall ‘light bulb'. Together the mini LEDs would produce white light but people in the home or office could alter the precise balance, for example to a bluish light, to suit their mood. This and other applications, for example in healthcare for detecting tumours, and water treatment for developing countries, might be achievable in 10 years, says Professor Humphreys.

More on LED

What is LED ? Watch a video

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bamboo bikes

Jim Cornfield in the Scientific American , June 2009 Special Editions, reports
about the growing popularity of Bamboo Bikes. The versatile bamboo provides a green and renewable alternative to traditional bike metals

In the cycling world, the name “Calfee” evokes images of upscale, featherweight carbon-fiber road bikes, produced by California designer-manufacturer Craig Calfee. The bamboo now constitutes one leading edge of his portfolio, because the bikes have the lowest carbon footprint on the planet.

Bamboo’s versatility is no secret. Certain varieties are fast growing yet extremely rugged. There are bamboo bridges, dams, boats, even airplanes, thanks to its shape and remarkable vibration damping.

Today about a third of the 400 bikes that Calfee’s Santa Cruz factory makes are bamboo and getting strong reviews. At four pounds, the bamboo frames are heavier than Calfee’s signature carbon-fiber models but lighter than standard metal.

After he visited the West African nation of Ghana, Calfee established an outreach program and micro-industry there to manufacture bamboo bicycles for local sale. With his training and logistical support, Ghanaians have begun to produce serviceable cargo bikes, using their local bamboo, which sell at very modest prices. Calfee plans to expand such operations beyond Ghana.He has brought some jobs and optimism to the country’s poor. He thinks the project will become a self-sustaining.

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Bamboo Bikes Grow."

Watch video on Bamboo Bike
Know more about Bamboo

Bike infrastructure:
It's no secret that bicycling is the most eco-friendly, inexpensive and efficient means of going about daily business in your dense community. Read more ....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar lantern

Alternative Energy reports, a Kansas State University student is combining engineering and nature to design a more affordable and more sustainable lighting source, solar lantern, for those living without electricity. Tai-Wen Ko, Kansas State senior in electrical engineering, is working in collaboration with Justin Curry. Ko is aiming this product for people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. If one waits for providing them electricity in conventional manner then it will take considerable amount of time to light up this part of the earth. Solar lamps are greener and cleaner option than kerosene lamps. Solar lanterns are safe too because they don’t start a fire.

The new solar lantern consists of three main components: a solar panel, battery and a white light-emitting diode. It is is about 30 percent cheaper than the average market value. The usual florescent tubes are not used in these lanterns, because they consume lots of power. Ko is trying to find an alternative to lead-acid battery out of environmental concerns. He is researching on a recycling plan that could be implemented in the Sub-Saharan African region.

Solar panel roads:

Roads with glass solar cell panels capable of generating enough power to support local communities. Under the scheme, a US firm is currently working on a prototype panel that could be embedded into existing roads. The company has received $100,000 grant from the US Department of Transportation. Read more .. ..


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Eco-towns

Lowcarboneconomy reports that four sites have been approved by the UK government for the construction of low-carbon eco-towns. They will serve as a platform from which to pioneer and launch the energy-efficient design and infrastructure necessary for lower carbon emissions.

From 2016 all new residential buildings are to be built to zero-carbon specifications as part of plans to reduce the quarter of all UK emissions that come from housing. More than a quarter of CO2 emissions come from houses.

The eco-developments will be fully equipped with smart meters to measure electricity consumption, community heat sources and electric car charging points. Homes will also feature renewable energy technologies to draw power from the sun, wind and earth. All schools, shops, restaurants and public buildings in the eco-towns will also be designed to emit zero carbon. The government aims to have ten eco-towns under development by 2020.

They will be expected to deliver outcomes against the following criteria

* zero carbon and environmental standards
* sustainable transport
* design quality
* community involvement
* employment
* health
* use of land.

FAQ on eco-towns

Publications on eco-towns

Friday, July 17, 2009

Biofuel standards are needed

ScienceDaily , October 9, 2008, reports that the policies needed to ensure that cellulosic biofuel production will not cause environmental harm. The paper, published in the October 3rd issue of the journal Science, urges decision makers to adopt standards and incentives that will help ensure that future production efforts are sustainable, both energetically and environmentally.

Cellulose-based biofuels hold promise, but we need to proceed cautiously and with an eye toward minimizing long-term ecological impacts. Without a sound plan, we could wind up doing more environmental harm than good. Grain-based ethanol has already served as a lesson in the perils of embracing energy solutions before their environmental effects are understood.

If cellulosic ethanol is to emerge as a feasible source of renewable energy, a vast amount of land will need to be used for its production. This land conversion, estimated to be as large as the amount of land in row-crops today, will change the face of the global landscape. Production standards and incentive programs could help minimize negative impacts and, in many cases, help farmers choose crops that provide valuable ecosystem services. There is the real potential for science to inform sustainable cellulosic crop strategies. It is about picking the right plant or assemblage of plants, for a given landscape and managing crops in a minimally invasive way.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sustainable development: training future leaders

Congratulations MacArthur Foundation for taking up sustainable development as a mission. In my opinion the sustainable development, besides other aspects, involves the following:

(a) Conservation of the natural resources

(b) Process developments, standards and controls to minimise the industrial and anthropogenic pollution and greenhouse gas emission

(c) Techniques of recapturing and recycling the pollutants and green house gases

In the first place there is a need to create an awareness about these aspects in the general public.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reduce calories, live longer

Cutting daily calorie intake by 30 percent may slow down the aging process, have beneficial effects on the brain and result in a longer life span, according to a new 20-year study on rhesus monkeys published in the journal Science. The findings of the study may well be applicable to the humans.

The calorie-restricted monkeys preserved volume in areas of their brain that have been linked to motor control, memory, and problem-solving.

Recent studies show that lighter diets can also keep memory intact in the old age

Delaney is an advocate of calorie-restricted diet. He says he is not starving, despite his low-calorie lifestyle.

He eats a hearty breakfast which includes a large bowl of low-fat granola and fruit, soy milk, nonfat yogurt and a cup of coffee. Delaney admits his 900 calorie breakfast is more than most people consume in the morning, but he then skips lunch, works for 8-9 hours day, eats a high-fiber, vegetarian dinner, keeping his total intake under 2,000 calories a day. An average adult male consumes about 2600 calories a day. As a result, Delaney may live a longer and healthier life than his peers, who consume more calories. The studies in mice, worms and flies have confirmed this finding. The calorie-restricted diet also results in lower risk of some cancers, heart disease and other illnesses associated with aging.

How a calorie-restricted diet helps stave off age-related diseases and extend lifespan is unknown, but controlling calories can help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for many diseases. Eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods can also produce important physiological changes in the body, which may lower disease risk.

However everyone does not agree with these findings. Some experts argue that it can lead to a lot of problems such as dizziness and fatigue in the short term. In the long term, there can be nutritional deficiencies, decreases in bone mineral density that can lead to osteoporosis and menstrual irregularities that can lead to infertility. Perhaps a milder version of 5 percent calorie restriction could be tried.

The first step is to get rid of high fat, high sugar foods in the diet and then move on to the quality of diet and make sure there are adequate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy in the diet

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Green living: improving health today and tomorrow

Much attention has been paid in recent years to what seems to be a growing environmental conscience in the United States. Going green used to be considered expensive and a luxury for those who could afford the trend. Now it appears that we are learning that not only is adopting more environmentally conscious attitudes good for our economic situation, but also our….health? Yes, if we dig a bit deeper we can see that dirty industries and backwards policy is actually harming the health of the earth for our children and the health of her inhabitants today.

How Does Environmental Policy Affect Public Health?

There are two levels of health consequences associated with dirty industry, both direct and indirect. The direct consequences are examples like increased asthma rates in areas with high smog indices. Chlorofluorocarbon release into the atmosphere has shown to decrease the filter of direct sunlight on the planet, resulting in more concentrated ultraviolet light reaching the surface of the earth. Perhaps it is no surprise then that in countries with depleted atmospheric gas, skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world.

The indirect health consequences are harder to see immediately, but closer examination reveals that these are, in fact, perhaps the most hazardous. Bi-products of dirty and backwards industries, such as coal and oil processing, include cancer causing substances like asbestos and benzene. A U.K. study conducted in 2002 indicated that coal and oil industry workers are at a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma (associated with asbestos exposure) and leukemia (traced to benzene and heavy-metal exposure). Dr. Valerie Rusch among many other doctors who specialize in this area understand that these are substances that can be directly traced to antiquated pre-regulation equipment in industries whose environmental hazards are even more inherent.

Can we really afford to continue on the path we were on before? Investment in clean industry means not a healthier planet for our children and grandchildren, but also a healthier place for us to live today.

--June 21, 2009 Written by Bill Hawthorne with the maacenter