The question we put to them was this: Wind, solar or biofuels? Which do
you think will have the biggest impact first?
Like any group of people, our LinkedIn group is not without its wisecrackers. As Bob White,
president and chief engineer at Embedded Power Labs, put it: "Wind and biofuels
are simply different ways of harvesting solar power." While he's certainly
correct, we could just end the discussion saying that all life and forms of
energy on the planet wouldn't exist without the sun, so it's really all just
various forms of solar power. But what fun would that be? So, on with the
Weighing in on behalf of biofuels was Daniel
Johnson-O'Mara, an instrumentation technician at the University of Iowa Power
Plant. "Storage is the principle problem (when it comes to) megawatts of solar
and wind," he said.
Storage issues aside, biofuels definitely had its
detractors. "I usually get angry when I see someone mixing biofuel with
renewable energies like wind and solar," said Emilijan Iljoski, general manager
at EiP Elektronika Co. He maintains that biofuels are as polluting as oil or
coal, plus the fact that setting aside crops for biofuels manufacture leads to
food cost and production issues for humans worldwide.
Chris Stergiou, a mechanical and manufacturing system
engineer, doesn't consider biofuel a renewable energy source and therefore
gives his nod to solar. "Since it is practically unlimited, relatively low
efficiencies are tolerable as long as practical amounts can be converted with
minimum physical footprints," he said.
Taking a different tack on the discussion, Andrew Wright,
machine design and electronics sales at Wright Track Enterprises Inc., suggests
that it is not a question of which will have the most impact based on its own
merits as an energy source. Instead he contends the answer will be all about
which one experiences the biggest comeback (since none of them are new) once
people "finally grow tired of rising fuel prices."
Based on his own experiences in building an off-the-grid
home, Wright said that "while my county's building restrictions aren't
prohibitive, trying to get someone to insure the home has proven a challenge." He added that in North Dakota (where he's building), the "individual and business tax incentives for adding alternative energy sources
to your property were low to non-existent last time I checked."
During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill., an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.