Posts tagged new technology
Power plants that use natural gas and a new technology to squeeze more energy from the fuel release far less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than coal-fired power plants do, according to a new analysis accepted for publication Jan. 8 in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The so-called “combined cycle” natural gas power plants also release significantly less nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which can worsen air quality.
“Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30 even 40 percent for some gases since 1997,” said lead author Joost de Gouw, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
De Gouw, who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), and his NOAA and CIRES colleagues analyzed data from systems that continuously monitor emissions at power plant stacks around the country. Previous aircraft-based studies have shown these stack measurements are accurate for carbon dioxide (CO2) and for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide can react in the atmosphere to form tiny particles and ozone, which can cause respiratory disease.
To compare pollutant emissions from different types of power plants, the scientists calculated emissions per unit of energy produced, for all data available between 1997 and 2012. During that period of time, on average:
- Coal-based power plants emitted 915 grams (32 ounces) of CO2 per kilowatt hour of energy produced;
- Natural gas power plants emitted 549 grams (19 ounces) CO2 per kilowatt hour; and
- Combined cycle natural gas plants emitted 436 grams (15 ounces) CO2 per kilowatt hour.
In combined cycle natural gas plants, operators use two heat engines in tandem to convert a higher fraction of heat into electrical energy. For context, U.S. households consumed 11,280 kilowatt hours of energy, on average, in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. This amounts to 11.4 metric tons per year of CO2 per household, if all of that electricity were generated by a coal power plant, or 5.4 metric tons if it all came from a natural gas power plant with combined cycle technology.
The researchers reported that between 1997 and 2012, the fraction of electric energy in the United States produced from coal gradually decreased from 83 percent to 59, and the fraction of energy from combined cycle natural gas plants rose from none to 34 percent.
That shift in the energy industry meant that power plants, overall, sent 23 percent less CO2 into the atmosphere last year than they would have, had coal been providing about the same fraction of electric power as in 1997, de Gouw said. The switch led to even greater reductions in the power sector’s emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which dropped by 40 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
The new findings are consistent with recent reports from the Energy Information Agency that substituting natural gas for coal in power generation helped lower power-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2012.
The authors noted that the new analysis is limited to pollutants emitted during energy production and measured at stacks. The paper did not address levels of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that leak into the atmosphere during fuel extraction, for example. To investigate the total atmospheric consequences of shifting energy use, scientists need to continue collecting data from all aspects of energy exploration, production and use, the authors concluded.
Authors of the new paper, “Reduced Emissions of CO2, NOx and SO2 from U.S. Power Plants Due to the Switch from Coal to Natural Gas with Combined Cycle Technology,” are de Gouw (CIRES), David Parrish (NOAA ESRL), Greg Frost (CIRES) and Michael Trainer (NOAA).
The new ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection system will replace the existing chlorine gas and sulfur dioxide gas systems, which have been in use since 1990 and pose a significant safety risk. The new technology is more efficient and eliminates the need to store and use hazardous gases. The UV light is a highly effective disinfectant for bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
“The new UV disinfection system is a major milestone for the facility and demonstrates the city’s commitment to continuous operational improvements that meet evolving community and regulatory needs,” said Director of Public Works for Utilities Jeff Arthur.
The Wastewater Treatment Facility improvements also include mechanical and electrical upgrades to the wastewater digester complex and headworks facility. The improvements are funded by a $9.2 million revenue bond and are expected to reduce long-term operating costs. Construction began in July 2011 and is currently on schedule to be completed in March 2013.
Wastewater from the community’s sanitary sewer systems is collected at the Wastewater Treatment Facility, where it is sent through a 20-hour, multi-stage treatment process. The facility treats an average of 12.5 million gallons of wastewater per day. In September 2012, the city’s Wastewater Treatment Facility received a Plant Performance Award from the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association (RMWEA) in recognition of the facility’s commitment to outstanding maintenance, operations and public relations.
For more information about the Wastewater Treatment Facility improvements or to schedule a group tour, contact Wastewater Treatment Coordinator Chris Douville at 303-413-7341.
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Psychology and neurosciences department Associate Professor Don Cooper, co-founder and chief science officer of Mobile Assay Inc. of Boulder who developed the technology in his laboratory at CU’s Institute for Behavioral Genetics, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project titled “A Lab on Mobile Device Platform for Seed Testing.”
Grand Challenges Explorations, or GCE, funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and most persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve problems people in the developing world face every day. Cooper and Mobile Assay Inc. are one of more than 80 Grand Challenges Exploration Round 9 grants for $100,000 each announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Cooper’s Mobile Assay Inc. team has developed new technology — which includes using mobile devices, test strips (similar to pregnancy test strips), geographical tagging and “cloud computing” — to rapidly detect, quantify and track common seed-borne pathogens in real time to address the economic impact of seed-borne diseases in developing countries. “This will ultimately allow farmers in developing countries to identify and track pathogens infecting seeds and share their data, which could improve crop yields and prevent crop losses,” he said.
“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of the Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”
To receive funding, Grand Challenge Exploration Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global health and development topic areas that included agricultural development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Exploration round 10, will be accepted through Nov. 7, 2012.
Test strips are typically plastic with chemically impregnated pads designed to react with specific antibodies to produce a specific visual signal. Once the reaction takes place, the strip is developed in less than 10 minutes and the visual signal is quantified using the camera on a smartphone or mobile tablet device and proprietary software. There are now Lab on Mobile Device-compatible tests strips that are used to identify more than 1,000 different pathogens and pollutants.
A crucial part of the LMD project developed by Cooper and his team is Mobile Image Ratiometry, or MIR, which is a unique software algorithm that analyzes images and can precisely quantify the level of infection of crop pathogens, which are then mapped and shared via cloud computing that uses both software and hardware over the Internet. The LMD technology will allow for the creation of electronic “push-pin” maps where data will be made available on an openly shared website, enabling anyone to upload results and track outbreaks and infestations of seed-borne pathogens, ultimately helping people better regulate the informal exchanges of seeds, he said.
Cooper said the team will initially target the fungus Botrytis — which can devastate crops like yams, potatoes, wheat, soybeans, onions and sorghum around the world — as well as aflotoxins, which can contaminate seeds during storage and which are among the most carcinogenic substances known. Cooper said the MIR imaging technology can be used to increase the sensitivity of test strips — including those for Botrytis and for aflotoxins produced by Aspergillis fungi — by a factor of 100.
Experts estimate seed-borne diseases cause a loss of 50 million tons of food annually and that losses in developing countries are 60 to 80 percent higher than in industrialized countries. Estimates show 90 to 95 percent of seed used by small-scale and subsistence farmers is acquired through informal sources at the farm and community level.
It is estimated that by 2015 there will be more than 2 billion people in the world using smartphones, including more than 40 percent of the people in Africa. The Mobile Assay Inc. team also is developing a web application capable of performing test image analysis for those without smartphones but who have cell phones with cameras. Such an application would be extremely useful in Africa, said Cooper, where there are now an estimated 700 million cell phone subscribers — nearly 70 percent of the continent’s population. The vast majority of cell phones today are equipped with cameras.
CU owns exclusive license to the technology developed by Cooper and his team and has an equity share in Mobile Assay Inc. Cooper and Lee Burnett, the CEO of Mobile Assay Inc., worked closely with CU’s Technology Transfer Office, CU’s Entrepreneurial Law Clinic and the Innovation Center of the Rockies to develop a corporate structure and commercialization plans for the CU spinoff company.
Cooper said Mobile Assay Inc. will seek matching funds for the first phase of the project from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. In addition to the Gates Foundation grant for seed testing, Mobile Assay Inc. is in the process of applying the company’s new technology to detect water pollutants, drugs, contaminants in dairy products and other biological and chemical pathogens across the globe.
The LMD platform, which can target multiple pathogens like fungi, bacteria and parasites, also could conceivably be used to help monitor chronic diseases in humans, Cooper said. While ill people often go to doctors for diagnoses and additional tests that can take days or weeks, a number of health tests ranging from high cholesterol to abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone levels could be conducted at home using specific test strips, with the data made available immediately to their health care providers over the Internet.
Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.
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TV and music pioneer Dick Clark dies at age 82
American Bandstand is an American music-performance show that aired in various versions from 1952 to 1989 and was hosted from 1956 until its final season by Dick Clark, who also served as producer. The show featured teenagers dancing to Top 40 music introduced by Clark; at least one popular musical act—over the decades, running the gamut from Jerry Lee Lewis to Run DMC—would usually appear in person to lip-sync one of their latest singles. Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon holds the record for most appearances at 110.
The show’s popularity helped Dick Clark become an American media mogul and inspired similar long-running music programs, such as Soul Train and Top of the Pops. Clark eventually assumed ownership of the program through his Dick Clark Productions company.
It premiered locally in late September 1952 as Bandstand on Philadelphia television station WFIL-TV Channel 6 (now WPVI-TV), as a replacement for a weekday movie that had shown predominantly British movies. Hosted by Bob Horn as a television adjunct to his radio show of the same name on WFIL radio, Bandstand mainly featured short musical films produced by Snader Telescriptions and Official Films, with occasional studio guests. This incarnation was an early predecessor of sorts of the music video shows that became popular in the 1980s, featuring films that are themselves the ancestors of music videos.
Historic marker at WFIL studiosHorn, however, was disenchanted with the program, so he sought to have the show changed to a dance program, with teenagers dancing along on camera as the records played, based on an idea that came from a radio show on WPEN, The 950 Club, hosted by Joe Grady and Ed Hurst. This more-familiar version of Bandstand debuted on October 7, 1952 in “Studio ‘B’,” which was located in their just-completed addition to the original 1947 building (4548 Market Street), and was hosted by Horn, with Lee Stewart as co-host until 1955. Tony Mammarella was the original producer with Ed Yates as director. The short Snader and Official music films continued in the short term, mainly to fill gaps as they changed dancers during the show—a necessity, as the studio could not fit more than 200 teenagers.
On July 9, 1956, Horn was fired after a drunk-driving arrest, as WFIL and dual owner Walter Annenberg’s The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time were doing a series on drunken driving. He was also involved in a prostitution ring and brought up on morals charges. Horn was temporarily replaced by producer Tony Mammarella before the job went to Dick Clark permanently.
In late spring of 1957, the ABC television network asked their O&O’s and affiliates for programming suggestions to fill their 3:30 p.m. (ET) time slot (WFIL-TV had been pre-empting the ABC program with ‘Bandstand’). Clark decided to pitch the show to ABC brass, and after some badgering the show was picked up nationally, becoming American Bandstand on August 5, 1957.
“Studio ‘B’” measured 80′x42′x24′, but appeared smaller due to the number of props, television cameras, and risers that were used for the show. It was briefly shot in color in 1958 when WFIL-TV began experimenting with the then-new technology. Due to a combination of factors that included the size of the studio, the need to have as much space available for the teenagers to dance, and the size of the color camera compared to the black-and-white models, it was only possible to have one RCA TK-41 where three RCA TK-10s had been used before. WFIL-TV went back to the TK-10s two weeks later when ABC-TV refused to carry the color signal and management realized that the show lost something without the extra cameras.
Clark would often interview the teenagers about their opinions of the songs being played, most memorably through the “Rate-a-Record” segment. During the segment, two audience members each ranked two records on a scale of 35 to 98, after which the two opinions were averaged by Clark, who then asked the audience members to justify their scores. The segment gave rise, perhaps apocryphally, to the phrase “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” In one humorous segment broadcast for years on retrospective shows, comedians Cheech and Chong appeared as the record raters.
Featured artists typically performed their current hits by lip-synching to the released version of the song.
The only person to ever co-host the show with Dick Clark was Donna Summer, who joined him to present a special episode dedicated to the release of the Casablanca film Thank God It’s Friday. Throughout the late `50s and most of the `60s, Clark’s on-camera sidekick was announcer Charlie O’Donnell, who later went on to announce Wheel of Fortune and other programs hosted or produced by Clark, such as The $100,000 Pyramid.
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