This week, an unseen amount of snow covered large parts of the United states. In three days, an equivalent to a year’s supply of snow has fallen, killing at least 10 people. Global warming is intensifying the water cycle of planet earth and sights like this will become the standard. The snow is not the only misery; when it starts melting many states will have to deal with severe flooding.
This week, SolaRoad opened its first solar powered bike road in the Netherlands. The test lane is about 100 meters long and will give useful information about the efficiency of the solar panels build into the concrete lane, covered with a thick glass sheet to protect the panels. An interesting experiment, yet there are many objections to make. Why lay solar panels on the ground, where they will rapidly get covered with mud and dirt? SolaRoad says it solves this problem by tilting the bike lanes slightly. The test project will show if this is sufficient. Another important objection is that the panels aren’t tilted properly to catch as much solar power as possible. According to The Guardian this could mean a decrease of 30% electricity. It is very unlikely solar panel roads will be powering street lightning, let alone electric vehicles passing over it.
On the morning of the 25th of October, the world received the news European leaders reached a long-awaited deal on how to tackle climate change after 2020. By now, most people have heard about the 20-20-20 strategy outlined in the climate and energy package in 2009. The three key points of this package are (all to be reached by 2020):
- A 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels;
- Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%;
- A 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency.
So far, many European countries are doing quite some efforts to reach this goals and many of them will reach this targets well in time. But it was time to think about the next step, and that’s what the recent European top in Brussels was all about. This time, new goals for the decade following 2020 were on the table. The new key points are bolder:
- 27% energy efficiency,
- 27% renewables
- 40% reduction of greenhouse gases
Tar sands, also called bituminous sands, is loose sand containing a of mixture of clay and water saturated with a dense and viscous form of petroleum, technically referred to as bitumen. They are found in very large quantities in Canada, Kazakhstan and Russia. The estimated worldwide deposits are far more than estimated deposits for petroleum. The extraction process is expensive, but due to high oil prices tar sands development has seen a big increase the last years. Tar sand mines treathen natural habitats and landscapes as seen on the picture above.
In this post I discuss the basics of composite materials. A composite material is a composition of two or more materials, combined to have “best of both worlds”. The bulk material is called “the matrix” and is somehow reinforced, e.g. by fibers or small particles. They increase the strength and stiffness of the matrix. (more…)