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…)
In March 2009, the Andasol-1 solar thermal collector opened in Spain, the first of its kind in Europe. Later that year Andasol-2 was opened and in 2011 another Andasol collector became reality. In contrast to the common photovoltaic systems we see on rooftops, the thermal collectors store the sun’s heat in a big heat reservoir of molten salt, by reflecting the sunlight with parabolic mirrors pointed at the reservoir. Via thermal turbines this heat is be transformed into electricity, enough for up to 200 000 people.