Archive for April 2012
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You are browsing the archives of 2012 April.
Credit: Katie Fehrenbacher, GigaOm.
Bloom Energy is making a big push to establish a foothold along the Eastern Seaboard. Today, Bloom is holding a ground-breaking ceremony a its new “Bloom Box” solid oxide fuel cell manufacturing plant in Newark, Delaware, at a site that was once a Chrysler assembly plant (Bloom’s other manufacturing is in California, and this essentially doubles the company’s capacity). The company also announced several new customers in the East.
Plans for the Delaware manufacturing hub were actually revealed last summer, and the hope then was that the facility would employ 900. No specific job numbers were mentioned in today’s announcement, but the numbers discussed in 2011 are in line with the number of workers at Bloom’s California facility.
Interestingly, the property is owned by the University of Delaware, which is also developing a Science and Technology Campus on grounds, and the hope is that the Bloom facility will provide an anchor for the campus.
One of the deal-sealers for this development is an agreement between Bloom and Delmarva Power & Light, an East Coast utility, for a whopping 30 MW of Bloom Boxes.
The company also announced several new customers, including Owens Corning, Urban Outfitters, Washington Gas and AT&T (the latter already uses Bloom units in California facilities). Stories surfaced in March that Apple also had reached a deal to install Bloom energy servers in a North Carolina facility.
The company also is rolling out a new line of SOFC units that, according to the company, feature a 20 percent gain in efficiency and double the energy density (based on footprint of the installation).
It also touts that the fuel cells change the energy paradigm for their customers in that the Bloom Boxes will provide the basic power for the companies’ core operations. In other words, instead of the electrical grid providing the basic power and the fuel cells providing backup power, the SOFCs become the primary source and the grid becomes the backup.
Katie Fehrenbacher at GigaOm has the story in an interesting post and the above video interview with Bloom’s Asim Hussein, the company’s director of product marketing.
• Electrical Engineering Solutions has announced to be currently working on a challenging furnace rebuild appointment for Consol Glass, one of the largest glass manufacturers in Africa. Tthe rebuild is at Consol’s Bellville plant. The existing B4 furnace produces approximately 285 tons per day, and the rebuilt B4 furnace will increase capacity to 320 tons per day.
• PPG Industries has announced that it will continue to be patient with its glass business but, according to chair and chief executive officer Charles Bunch, it is not ruling out a sale. The company’s glass segment consists of glass fiber and flat glass production.
• According to reports, quick action by firefighters and efficient response by local utilities prevented a more serious outcome after a molten glass spill at Johns Manville’s Richmond, Va, facility in the US on April 20, 2012.
• Seville Industries, of Italy, TX, is in the process of buying a western Pennsylvania glass plant that shut down nearly two years ago, with plans to refurbish and re-sell the operation. Seville’s business involves liquidating manufacturing facilities, like the Owens-Illinois plant that closed in July 2010 in Clarion, Pa., about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
• Xinyi Glass Holdings Ltd. announced that it held a ceremony for igniting the furnace, for trial run, of its second high-quality float glass production line at its complex in the Wuqing Development Zone in Tianjin, China. With a daily melting capacity of 600 tons, the line is expected to commence its production by the end of May.
• Austria’s RHI AG has submitted a bid for Serbian state-owned basic materials manufacturer Magnohrom. RHI had planned to complete the acquisition in the first half of 2012, and is expected to spend €65 million on the deal.
When our neighbors down the street at NexTech Materials (Lewis Center, Ohio) came in to work recently and saw that nothing had happened in the lab overnight, they knew they had reached a big milestone.
NexTech has been running a continuous test of it manganese cobalt oxide coatings on SOFC interconnects and reached the one-year milestone in March. The test (still going) has been running at expected and accelerated operating temperatures, and the coated interconnects have been subjected to hundreds of thermal cycles. This work is a continuation of testing NexTech reported on last year when it first began performing accelerated stability tests which, according to the company, predicted a service life of over 40,000 hours (equivalent to about 4.5 years) at 750°C. Thus, the actual one year of service begins to offer some pretty strong confirmation of the predicted durability of the interconnects.
SOFC interconnects physically and electrically connect the individual cells in series and collect the electricity generated by the cells. They are exposed to both the oxidizing and reducing sides of the cell (anode and cathode) at operating temperatures in the range of 650-800°C, so they must be chemically very stable, oxidation resistant, electrically conductive, etc. Chromium-rich ferritic stainless steels, like 441, are good candidate materials because they are mechanically stable at those temperatures, compatible with other SOFC components, inexpensive and their oxide scale is electrically conductive.
Unfortunately, at the cathode side, which is the air channel, volatile chromium oxides and chromia-oxy-hydroxide compounds form and can poison the cathode. These species can eventually reach the triple phase boundary in the electrolyte and impair the electrochemical reaction that is the essence of a fuel cell.
The best approach to avoiding the problem has been to coat the interconnects, usually with MCO. According to a NexTech press release, there are a number of high-cost coating manufacturing methods tried that use high-cost manufacturing methods. NexTech engineers say they have developed a process based on technology licensed from Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited that uses “relatively inexpensive yet high-speed equipment, thereby reducing the coating cost by nearly 67%.” (NexTech’s website has a nice video showing coatings being applied.) NexTech CEO, Bill Dawson says the company sees the coating as a “significant technical and economic breakthrough to improve SOFC stack life while reducing SOFC stack costs.”
The NexTech work has been supported by a collaboration of commercial partners and the DOE SBIR program. Matt Seabaugh, director of NexTech’s commercial services division, Nexceris, says the project is a “demonstration of small business, technology integrators and government agencies collaborating to create new technologies and products for a world market.” The company says it has applied for US and international patents on its materials and is working with several SOFC stack manufacturers to assume “a portion or all of their interconnect business.”
For interconnects testing, when the “big news” is “no news,” that’s a good thing.
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Once again, we are reminded that not all scientifically interesting nanotubes are of the carbon variety. Researchers from a number of US and international institutions have released a new study that suggests that placing boron nitride nanotubes on the surface of cancer cells may be able to significantly improve one of the treatment options for soft-tissue cancers, such as those in the pancreas, liver, lung, brain and prostate.
The treatment is called Irreversible Electroporation and it is a relatively new and minimally invasive treatment for difficult-to-treat cancers in soft tissues that uses short pulses of high amplitude static electric fields to attack the cell walls of tumors. ”Irreversible Electroporation is a way of putting holes in the wall of a tumor cell,” says Michael W. Smith in a story on the Jefferson Lab website. Smith, now the chief scientist at BNNT LLC, was formerly a staff scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center. ”The cell will literally go, ‘Oh, something’s terribly wrong,’ and kill itself. That’s called apoptosis,” he explains.
According to the Jefferson Lab story, Smith read about research being conducted at the Institute of Life Sciences, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa with BNNTs in a journal, and “he offered the researchers a sample of the very high-quality Jefferson Lab/NASA Langley/National Institute of Aerospace BNNTs. These BNNTs are highly crystalline and have a small diameter. Structurally, they also contain few walls with minimal defects, and are very long and highly flexible.”
Using the new BNNTs with in vitro samples, the Italian researchers found the IRE treatment method combined with BNNTs killed twice as many cancer cells (88 percent) on the tumor surface than without (40 percent).
“They were able to get, in a petri dish, more than double the effectiveness. So, this technique works twice as well with our nanotubes on the cells than without them” says Smith. Smith’s company acquired on March 22 the intellectual property rights for making the material available for scientific and commercial research, development and products.
The collaborators are now attempting to scale up the BNNT production process and improve their purity. They caution that their IRE/BNNT work is still very preliminary and say their next step will be studies in mice.
The BNNTs given to the Italian group were made, according to the Jefferson Lab story, using a pressurized vapor/condenser, where a laser aimed at at a boron target first creates boron gas. Then the gas is exposed to a condensor metal wire, which causes liquid boron droplets to form. These droplets combine with the nitrogen to self-assemble into BNNTs.
The work is featured in a paper in Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment.