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KIT and Evonik researchers develop novel polymer network that self heals rapidly and repeatedly at relatively low temperatures

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2014-04-14 07:00

Scientists of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Evonik Industries have developed a chemical cross-linking reaction that ensures good short-term healing properties of a polymer material under mild heating. The research results have been published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The KIT group headed by Christopher Barner-Kowollik uses the possibility of cross-linking functionalized fibers or small molecules by a reversible chemical reaction for the production of self-healing materials. These “switchable networks” can be decomposed into their initial constituents and reassembled again after the damage. The advantage is that the self-healing mechanism can be initiated any time by heat, light or by the addition of a chemical substance. The method requires no catalyst or additive, said Professor Barner-Kowollik, Chair for Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry at KIT.

It took about four years of research for the working group of Barner-Kowollik, together with the Project House Composites of Creavis, the strategic innovation unit of Evonik, to develop a novel polymer network.

Reducing the time needed for healing and optimizing the external conditions, under which the healing process takes place, are major challenges for self-healing materials. At comparably low temperatures from 50°C to 120°C, the network exhibits excellent healing properties within a few minutes.

The KIT researchers have found a large number of intermolecular compounds that close again within a very short term during cooling. Mechanical tests, such as tensile and viscosity tests, confirmed that the original properties of the material can be restored completely.

The self-healing properties can be transferred to a large range of known plastics. In addition to self-healing, flowability is enhanced at higher temperatures—i.e., the material can be molded well. A potential field of application lies in the production of fiber-reinforced plastics components for automotive and aircraft industries.


  • Oehlenschlaeger, K. K., Mueller, J. O., Brandt, J., Hilf, S., Lederer, A., Wilhelm, M., Graf, R., Coote, M. L., Schmidt, F. G. and Barner-Kowollik, C. (2014) “Adaptable Hetero Diels–Alder Networks for Fast Self-Healing under Mild Conditions,” Adv. Mater.. doi: 10.1002/adma.201306258

World Bank/ICCT report provides guidance to reducing black carbon emissions from diesels in developing countries

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2014-04-14 06:00

Historical Trends in Black Carbon Emissions from Surface Transportation (teragrams of black carbon per year). Source: Minjares et al. Click to enlarge.

The World Bank has published a report, undertaken by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), intended to inform efforts to control black carbon emissions from diesel-based transportation in developing countries. The report proposes approaches for integrating black carbon emission reduction considerations in cost-benefit assessment and applies an analytic framework to four simulated projects to illustrate the associated opportunities and challenges at a project level.

The transportation sector accounted for approximately 19% of global black carbon emissions in the year 2000, according to the report. Road transportation accounted for 9% of global black carbon, with diesel engines responsible for nearly 99% of those emissions. In the near term, black carbon emissions from mobile engines are projected to decline as a consequence of policies implemented in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. However, black carbon emissions are projected to increase in the next decade as vehicle activity increases, particularly in East and South Asia.

Global black carbon emissions from transportation by region among top 10 motorized regions, 2000-2050. Source: Minjares et al., data from Facanha et al. (2012). Click to enlarge.

Black carbon has been found to be second to carbon dioxide in terms of its climate forcing. (Earlier post.) Black carbon is 3,200 times more effective on a mass-equivalent basis than carbon dioxide in causing climate impacts within 20 years, and 900 times more effective within 100 years.

Black carbon increases global and regional temperatures when emitted into the atmosphere, where individual particles directly absorb energy from the sun and radiate it back as heat. Black carbon also reduces the strong cooling effect of large, highly reflective surfaces such as glaciers and Arctic ice. High concentrations of black carbon in the atmosphere can change precipitation patterns and reduce the amount of radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, which affects local agriculture.

In addition to the climate effects, exposure to particulate matter is associated with a range of diseases, including chronic bronchitis and asthma, as well as premature deaths from cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute lower respiratory infections.

In 2012 the International Agency for Research on Cancer re-categorized diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans based on evidence that sufficient exposure is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. (Earlier post.)

Controlling diesel black carbon emissions in developed countries has successfully relied on fuel quality improvements and vehicle emissions standards. Such standards require new vehicles to be equipped with filters and to use ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD). This enables the use of diesel particulate filters and the adoption of strict emissions standards (e.g., Euro 6/VI). However, the report notes, refinery investment in upgrades or importation are key to the availability of ULSD in developing countries.

Furthermore, the report notes, no developing country has adopted fuel and vehicle standards equivalent to Euro 6/VI. Among non-OECD countries, Brazil has adopted the most stringent fuel and vehicle standards, followed closely by Russia. Brazil may adopt more stringent fuel quality standards by 2015; similarly tough vehicle standards are less certain, according to the authors.

China and India have made significant progress in moving to Euro 4/IV standards for light- and heavy-duty vehicles; some major cities, including Delhi and Beijing, have taken steps to advance beyond the national requirements.

Implementation of improved fuel and vehicle standards, which requires both government regulation and enforcement, may be difficult however in regions where governance is weak and technical capacity is limited. Emissions control strategies should be both sensitive to local needs and aim for maximum feasible reductions guided by best practices. Policy roadmaps can be a useful tool in providing greater predictability of interventions.—“Reducing Black Carbon Emissions from Diesel Vehicles”

Other programs can provide significant benefits, such as vehicle scrappage and replacement, inspection and maintenance, and vehicle retrofitting, the report suggested. Complementary policies to limit growth in travel demand and long-term growth in emissions include fuel taxation, congestion charging, and logistics management, among other strategies.

Cost benefit. This study applied a new cost-benefit analysis methodology to four simulated diesel black carbon emissions control projects—diesel retrofit in Istanbul; green freight (plus retrofit) in São Paulo; fuel and vehicle standards in Jakarta; and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses in Cebu—taking into account the additional climate benefits of black carbon reductions.

The study found that for some projects, the net benefits were positive only when assuming a large benefit from black carbon control on the climate in the near term (using 20 years Global Warming Potential or GWP) and a low social cost-of-carbon discount rate.

The analysis demonstrates that consideration of black carbon may make some projects viable that otherwise would not be considered worthwhile. While investments in many diesel emissions control projects can be justified without the consideration of black carbon, the inclusion of black carbon into a cost-benefit modeling framework was found to provide a more comprehensive assessment. In two of the four cases the health benefits of diesel emissions control alone were substantial enough to justify the interventions; the other two projects became viable only with the inclusion of climate benefits.

Further work is needed to fully test this methodological framework with real-world projects and to establish clearer guidelines for the incorporation of black carbon into cost-benefit analysis. Additional work is also needed to narrow the range of assumptions for the discount rate tied to the social cost of carbon as well as the Global Warming Potential. Importantly, a social cost of black carbon needs to be developed and alternative methodologies need to be explored whereby temperature response and damage functions (for climate impacts) are applied.—“Reducing Black Carbon Emissions from Diesel Vehicles”


Hitachi establishes European Nuclear Research Centre

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2014-04-14 06:00

Hitachi, Ltd. will establish a new R&D base in the UK—the European Nuclear Research Centre (ENRC)—by the end of September 2014. The Centre will have the aim of facilitating the development of safe and efficient nuclear power technologies based on advanced plant maintenance technology and proven decommissioning techniques in Europe, as part of Hitachi’s plan to expand its overseas nuclear power business.

The nuclear power industry in the UK has a long history which dates back to the beginning of commercial operation of the Calder Hall Nuclear Power Station in 1956. Currently, the research and development that has underpinned the industry has mainly been conducted at universities, and is particularly strong in basic research fields such as materials and analytical measurement, as well as decommissioning techniques, including the disposal of waste, since there is a large number of aging nuclear power facilities in the UK.

ENRC will be conducting joint research with UK and European universities to bring together the leading technologies developed in Europe and Hitachi’s BWR (boiling water reactor) technology, to develop safer and more efficient nuclear power technologies, including technology to reduce the level of radiation exposure to plant personnel, and technology to raise plant utilization.

Further, through such activities, Hitachi aims to train local technical staff in Hitachi’s BWR technology. ENRC will also be undertaking R&D for medium to long-term issues such as reducing the volume of waste and lowering the cost of decommissioning.

Hitachi has joined the Research Centre in Non-Destructive Evaluation (RCNDE), a research consortium composed of six UK universities as well as leading manufacturers and other organizations, on the 1st of April, ahead of the establishment of ENRC.

Hitachi will be bringing together advanced European technologies and its own nuclear power technologies, as it proceeds with the global deployment of highly reliable and efficient nuclear power plants. Hitachi will also work actively towards resolving medium to long-term issues such as the decommissioning of reactors in Japan.

IPCC report highlights need for collective and significant action to keep warming below 2°C

Pipe: Aviation - Mon, 2014-04-14 05:58
The latest report by the United Nations scientific panel on climate change shows that collective and significant global action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global warming below 2°C. The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that the longer we wait, the more expensive and technologically challenging meeting this goal will be.

Will humanity take effective action against climate change?

Pipe: Homepage Latest Headlines - Mon, 2014-04-14 05:41

In the fall of 2015 the international community is set to adopt a comprehensive action plan to combat climate change. Paris having been chosen as the meeting place the French government is showing more interest in climate issues and trying to mobilise the EU on a rapid agreement of its 2030 climate objectives.

The UN preparatory machinery keeps running full steam to obtain a successful outcome.

This goes above all for the scientific aspects.

In the last seven years, Humanity has accumulated a huge amount of scientific data on the climate change that has taken place during the 20th century and is likely to occur during the 21st century. Never have human beings known so much about the climate. It is therefore no longer possible for anyone to deny climate change taking place and being mostly man-made.

There is also a consensus on its main causes: C02 and methane emissions from burning fossil energies for heating, cooling, transport, industrial processes and massive deforestation are the principal villains.

If Humanity were able to contain these major causal factors within the next five decades it would still have a chance of mitigating climate change.

Theoretically this is possible.

Humanity can do without burning as much fossil energy as it does. This goes in particular for the wealthy West and China.

Wind, solar, biomass and waves can substitute fossil energy, provided storage facilities and long-distance grid interconnections are in place.

As long as they are still more expensive than coal and gas temporary subsidy regimes should offer incentives.

But why should the 2015 “big bang” in Paris be any different from the 20 preceding “Conferences of the Parties” and lay out a convincing path for Humanity to throw off the burden of climate change that will weigh so heavily on the shoulders of the coming generations?

The 195 countries that will attend the COP 21 remain deeply divided on the nature of the commitments and the burden sharing they will have to accept for a successful outcome. So far they are likely to agree only on the necessity to contain global warming within the critical margin of two centigrade; but that would be nothing new and rather meaningless without firm and verifiable commitments as to the actions to be taken.

But the international community is less than ever concerned about climate change. According to the last assessments the impact of climate change on the global economy is likely to be much lower than projected only six years ago by the Stern Report. And how many politicians care already about the impacts on biodiversity, natural catastrophes or even a steep increase in the numbers of “climate refugees”!

It is therefore not surprising to see the emphasis shifting from mitigation to adaptation. Humanity seems to prefer the costs for adaptation rather than invest in mitigation efforts, even if that will be risky because of the irreversible effects of climate change.

It is fully in line with this trend that:

  • big polluter countries like Japan, Australia, Canada or Russia are anything but keen combating climate change;
  • all major fossil energy producing countries refuse phasing out their massive oil and gas subsidies;
  • EU climate policy suffers from the global indifference. The EU rightly underlines that its efforts matter less and less as its share of global emissions is approaching 10 per cent. Contrary to the wishes of the UN Secretary General, it is not likely to play the role of a powerful locomotive in Paris, however regrettable this may be.

China and USA, the two emission giants, accounting for about half of global emissions, might be a glimpse of light in the gloomy picture.

But China will take another 20 years or so before its emissions might start falling; and the US objective of reducing its emissions by 17 per cent until 2017 compared to 2005 will not be a glorious achievement, considering its extremely high per capita emissions of 14 tons and the EU scheduled reductions and by at least 40 per cent until 2030 over 1990.

In conclusion, it looks presently unlikely that the COP 21 in Paris will turn out to be a thrilling success.

It would be a great progress if:

  • the 20 major emitter countries responsible for about 75 per cent of global emissions committed themselves to formulate 20-year strategies within a UN framework and to submit annual performance reports;
  • all rich countries, including the oil/gas exporters, offered the World Bank the financial means – say $ 100 billion per year – to help finance a big programmes for wind, hydro and solar energy;
  • the tropical forest countries were to curb illegal wood cutting and receive appropriate compensation for these efforts.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 11/4/2014

GM sells 1 millionth vehicle in China in 2014; 8th consecutive year and earliest yet

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2014-04-14 05:30

General Motors and its joint ventures sold their 1 millionth vehicle in China in 2014. This is the eighth consecutive year that GM has sold more than one million vehicles in a calendar year, and the earliest it has reached the 1 million mark.

GM first sold 1 million vehicles in China in 2007, when it achieved the milestone in December. Last year, GM hit a million on April 22. As a point of comparison, GM’s four brands in the US (Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac) have delivered 649,637 vehicles during the first three months of 2014.

General Motors has made China a global priority, expanding both our brand and product lineup to keep up with the changing demands of the market. We appreciate the support that we have received from our partners, our joint ventures and, most important, our customers in China.—GM Executive Vice President and GM China President Matt Tsien

Google iLUC alert: ILUC Unverifiable and Biofuels Economically Beneficial...

ICCT ILUC - Mon, 2014-04-14 05:28
...economically beneficial and that Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) modelling is unverifiable. “Sunday’s report ... local economies and that Indirect Land Use Change modelling is nothing more than a flawed theory,” stated...

How To Budget For Your Car

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2014-04-14 05:20
You can estimate the average distance travelled each month, and divide this by the car's estimated fuel economy to figure out how much fuel ...

2015 Chevy Cruze features connectivity updates; 4G LTE and Siri

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2014-04-14 05:00

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze will debut at the New York International Auto Show with greater connectivity—including new Text Message Alerts, Apple Siri integration and OnStar 4G LTE with available Wi-Fi hotspot—in addition to revised exterior styling, enhanced interior convenience.

The enhanced connectivity and convenience features for the 2015 Cruze include a new Text Message Alerts feature for smartphone users with Bluetooth profile (MAP), which reads incoming texts through the vehicle’s speakers, and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7 users to enhance connectivity and convenience. Each enables voice-controlled connectivity.

OnStar 4G LTE with available Wi-Fi hotspot provides a mobile hub for drivers and passengers with easy access to apps and services that require a high-speed data connection. If the vehicle is on, the connection is on, allowing passengers to connect personal devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, to high-speed wireless Internet. Each vehicle can accommodate seven devices at one time.

The Chevrolet AppShop allows owners to view all available apps and download them directly to the vehicle, then organize, update or delete them as needed. Available apps connect drivers to vehicle data, music, news, weather, travel information and more.

The new exterior styling cues are inspired by the all-new Impala and restyled 2014 Malibu, while more intuitive controls update the interior. New voice-controlled features enhance safety when responding to text messages in the vehicle.

Cruze also offers more standard safety features than any other car in its class, including 2014 models of the Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla. Cruze has 10 standard air bags—including side-impact and knee air bags for front passengers—and offers side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist and a rearview camera.

Cruze is the cornerstone of Chevrolet’s North American small-car lineup; Cruze is also Chevrolet’s best-selling car around the world, with more than 2.5 million sold globally since its launch in mid-2010.

Collectively the lineup in the US—including Spark, Spark EV, Sonic, Cruze and Volt—saw a 15.4% increase in overall sales in the first quarter of 2014. Since Cruze’s launch about four years ago, and the additions of the Spark and Sonic, Chevrolet’s overall share of the small-, compact- and mini-car segments has more than tripled—up 221%—with nearly half of the customers new to Chevrolet.

DOE to award up to $20M for further studies on methane hydrates; projects worth up to $80M

Pipe: Advanced tech - Mon, 2014-04-14 05:00

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement for up to $20 million (DE-FOA-0001023) for applications for selection and award in FY 2014 that focus on the (1) methane hydrate reservoir-response field experiments in Alaska; and (2) field programs for marine gas hydrate characterization. DOE anticipates that individual total project values may be up to $80 million depending on the number of awards, complexity, duration, and level of recipient cost share. 

These projects are to support program goals and represent a critical component of advancing several of the specific mandates previously established for the Methane Hydrate Program under the Methane Hydrate Act of 2000 (as amended by Section 968 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005).

Methane hydrate—molecules of natural gas trapped in a cage of frozen water molecules—represents a potentially vast methane resource for both the United States and the world. Recent discoveries of methane hydrate in Arctic and deep-water marine environments have highlighted the need for a better understanding of methane hydrate as a natural storehouse of carbon and a potential energy resource.

The volume of methane held in methane hydrate deposits worldwide is immense. A frequently quoted estimate of the global methane hydrate resource is 20,000 trillion cubic meters, or about 700,000 trillion cubic feet. As two points of comparison, total US proved natural gas reserves were 322.7 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The Oil and Gas Journal says that Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, with 1,688 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), as of 1 January 2013.

In addition, methane is itself a potent greenhouse gas, remaining in the atmosphere for about a decade before it is converted to carbon dioxide.

The methane hydrate Funding Opportunity Announcement seeks projects in FY14 that will:

  • conduct scientific field tests in Alaska to further the understanding of the long-term response of gas hydrate occurrences to controlled destabilization via depressurization and other complimentary approaches; and

    better characterize naturally-occurring gas hydrate deposits on the US Outer Continental Shelf via multi-site deepwater marine drilling, logging, and/or sampling programs.
  • /ul>

    DOE is looking for projects that will conduct field-based scientific evaluation programs that industry is not likely to pursue on its own accord in the near term (2-3 years) in the absence of public funding.

    The FOA specifies two technical topic areas:

    • Extended Duration Testing of Arctic Gas Hydrate Deposits. DOE is seeking projects that will conduct field operations to evaluate the occurrence, nature, and extended-duration response of gas hydrate accumulations in Arctic regions to destabilization via depressurization and other complimentary approaches. Field programs on the Alaska North Slope, including those areas beyond the existing Prudhoe Bay infrastructure area—and in particular, those areas recently set aside by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (oil and gas set-aside tracts)—will be considered highly preferred.

      DOE expects projects under Topic Area 1 to be highly leveraged (significant recipient cost share) and structured with separate phases (performance periods) based on the proposed research approach.

      DOE anticipates that projects proposed will consist, at minimum, of an initial planning phase (including activities designed to evaluate and satisfy all applicable state land access and permitting requirements); a geophysical and/or geologic characterization phase; and a field-based testing phase.

    • Field Programs for Marine Hydrate Characterization. This area seeks field programs that will collect in situ data and samples (e.g., cores) in marine gas-hydrate-bearing sediments. Proposed projects that investigate documented or interpreted occurrences of gas hydrate within the highest potential areas of the US Lower-48 Outer Continental Shelf will be considered highly preferred.

      DOE expects projects under Topic Area 2 to be structured with separate performance periods based on the proposed research approach. For example, it is anticipated that projects proposed may consist of a minimum of a site selection phase, an operational planning phase, and a field execution and analysis phase.

    DOE anticipates making 1-4 awards under this announcement depending on the size of the awards.


Tips to Reduce Allergens in Your Home this Season

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2014-04-14 03:41
If dust is disturbed from furniture, hard surfaces and carpet, those allergens can become airborne and reduce indoor air quality. May is designated ...

EU-Studie: Jeder fünfte Lkw fährt unbeladen durch Europa

Pipe: Europe - Mon, 2014-04-14 03:41
Europas Autobahnen ächzen unter dem Lkw-Verkehr. Vielfach offenbar unnötig, denn eine Studie der EU kommt zu einem brisanten Ergebnis: Jeder fünfte Laster in Europa ist ohne Güter an Bord unterwegs.

Fish losing survival instinct in acidic oceans: Study

Pipe: India - Mon, 2014-04-14 02:34
Fish are losing their survival instinct — even becoming attracted to the smell of their predators — as the world's oceans become more acidic because of climate change, new research said on Monday.

Google iLUC alert: RFA criticizes California Air Resources Board’s draft ILUC analysis

ICCT ILUC - Mon, 2014-04-14 02:34
...pertinent to CARB’s draft indirect land use change analysis. Said Geoff Cooper, RFA’s senior vice president ... the results of recent independent ILUC studies. As described in a recent letter to CARB Chair Mary Nichols...

Five South Korea firms win combined $7.2 billion in Kuwait refinery orders

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2014-04-14 01:42
The contracts, which stem from $12 billion in bids approved in February for the state-run company's Clean Fuels Project, highlight efforts by South ...

Google iLUC alert: RFA: CARB ILUC Analysis Out of Date and Out of Step With Independent...

ICCT ILUC - Mon, 2014-04-14 01:03
...pertinent to CARB’s draft indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis. Geoff Cooper , RFA’s senior vice president ... the results of recent independent ILUC studies. As described in a recent letter to CARB Chair Mary Nichols...

U.N. Climate Panel Warns Speedier Action Is Needed to Avert Disaster

Pipe: Climate and Health - Mon, 2014-04-14 01:00
The countries of the world have dragged their feet so long on global warming that the situation is now critical, experts appointed by the United Nations reported Sunday.

Google iLUC alert: UN Report Finds ILUC Unverifiable and Biofuels Economically Beneficial

ICCT ILUC - Mon, 2014-04-14 00:41
...economically beneficial and that Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) modelling is unverifiable. “Sunday’s report from ... local economies and that Indirect Land Use Change modelling is nothing more than a flawed theory,” stated...

Detroit 3: High octane has pluses

Pipe: Passenger vehicles - Mon, 2014-04-14 00:09
DETROIT -- Automakers could increase fuel economy as much as 5 percent if the United States used the same blend of high-octane gasoline that is ...

Does Musk’s Gigafactory Make Sense?

Pipe: Aviation - Mon, 2014-04-14 00:00

Tesla’s audacious plan to build a giant battery factory may mostly be a clever negotiating tactic.

Lithium-ion batteries are just about everywhere—they power almost all smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Yet in three years, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, says he intends to build a single factory in the United States that will more than double the world’s total lithium-ion battery production. The plan is still in its early stages, but already four states are negotiating with Tesla in the hope of becoming the factory’s home.