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Entries in fossil fuels (2)

Thursday
Feb172011

Machine Converts Plastic Waste Into Fuel

An ingenious new invention from a Japanese scientist has the potential to solve two staggering environmental problems at once. 

Akinori Ito's machine turns plastic waste into fuel--and it could be the solution we've been waiting for to curb our dependence on foreign oil and dispose of the unimaginable amount of plastic waste we create every year.

Since the plastic in bags, bottles, caps and other packaging materials is made from oil, all Ito had to do was discover a way to return it to its original form. The machine uses a carbon-negative process; first, the plastic is heated up, and the resulting vapors are trapped in a system of pipes and chambers. The vapors are cooled and then condensed back into crude oil. At that stage, the crude can be used in generators and certain types of stoves. It can also be further refined into gasoline.

Although the machine currently costs $10,000, Ito says the price should fall as demand and production increase. Built for home use, the device is small and efficient. It can convert 1 kg of plastic into a liter of oil using only 1 kw/hr of energy.  

Wednesday
Jan192011

Solar Roadways Would Charge Your Electric Car, End Icy Streets?

What happens when solar energy goes beyond rooftop solar cells? If Scott Brusaw has his way, the roads you drive every day could soon be harnessing the energy of the sun. 

Brusaw is the founder of Solar Roadways, a company that is creating a Solar Road Panel prototype. His vision is threefold: 

Suppose we made a section of road out of this material and housed solar cells to collect energy, which could pay for the cost of the panel, thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time. What if we added LEDs to "paint" the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving? What if we added a heating element in the surface (like the defrosting wire in the rear window of our cars) to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? 

The company's long-term goal is to cover every concrete and asphalt surface that is exposed to the sun with Solar Road Panels. Brusaw sees this as America's way to end its dependency on fossil fuels.

Civic leaders may want to adopt the road panels to minimize snow and ice accumulation. Individual businesses and restaurants could cover their parking lots with the special panels, enabling them to be fully "off the grid." 

Brusaw also believes the road panels could help the all-electric vehicle industry. If, for example, a fast-food chain retrofit its parking lots with solar panels, they could become charging stations for EVs, drawing in new business and making the cars much more practical in terms of range limitations.