Tech Tuesday 6/12/18 – Packing up the office Edition

Packing up my office this week to put on the truck, but I still wanted to share. I promise, once this move is complete, I will make these more substantive.

Tech Tuesday 6/12/18 - Packing up the office Edition

TT01Combining Ultra Capacitors with Lithium ion batteries in an electric car can allow for smaller batteries and more efficient regenerative braking, plus be better for the environment.

TT02 – Harvard professor not only has a plan for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fuel feed-stock, he has the technology demonstrator up and running and has figured out a cost per metric ton.  Although $94 to $232 per ton is quite the range.  Still, it’s hard data, not SWAGs.

TT03 – On the plus side, this is a great way to deal with waste heat from a data center.  On the down side, I could see something like this causing problematic local heating of the oceans (many things living in the ocean like the water to be on the colder side).

TT04 – One for Br. Cain and J_A – a technology to reduce grid transmission loss.  Is this legit, or vaporware?

TT05 – This is one of those “kinda so obvious I’m surprised we haven’t been doing this all along” things.

TT06Proving the theory.  FYI Ferroelectric materials typically don’t contain iron, despite what the name implies.  If you need it broken down a bit more.

TT07 – A 30% increased in blast velocity is… WOW!  And just by using novel aluminum nano-particles.

TT08 – Better superconductors through frustration?  If we got better flow of anything through frustration, Seattle traffic would be awesome!

TT09 – One for Veronica.  Better aircraft scheduling models.

TT10 – Honeybees know nothing, which is a pretty big deal!

TT11 – Using mathematical models to efficiently manage public debt.  The down side is you can’t choose approaches that satisfy your ideology or greed.

TT12 – New solar cells hit efficiency record.  25.2% of all solar energy converted to electricity.

TT13 – A new code base for working with big data.


TT00 – This came to my attention today and makes for a fun oddball link.  What our money could look like.

Staff Writer

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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23 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday 6/12/18 – Packing up the office Edition

    • I don’t think it would be much of a thermodynamic price though – the water is already condensed to droplets, so you don’t need to persuade it to change states. You do need to generate the ions, which has some energy cost.

      On the other hand, if you were going to need that water either way, then you have to get it from somewhere. Generating ions and collecting water from mist that’s already directly above your cooling tower, so it flows by gravity to where can cool the reactor a second time could be cheaper than pumping it up even a relatively small rise from a lake or river.


  1. [TT09] Yay combining robust optimization with combinatorial optimization.

    Actually I have no idea how airlines approach scheduling these days. I work in pricing more than scheduling. That said, with big data approaches, better modelling, by which I mean nonlinear modelling, has obvious payoffs.


  2. TT10 I guess we already know of an example of bees working with the idea of zero – when they do their “directions and distance to the nectar” dance, bees who have been to that source more recently and found that the nectar was all collected will communicate this by standing in the way of the singing bee.


  3. TT04: Your description — “reduce grid transmission loss” — isn’t an accurate description of what’s in the article. The company claims to have a box that can be used where the customer is attached to the grid to filter the power and make all of the customer’s AC electrical equipment 20% more efficient. Every electric motor? Every AC-to-DC converter? That’s an extraordinary claim.


    • I will admit I was getting confused by exactly what the Vox article was talking about, and I wasn’t sure if it was because Vox was doing a bad job explaining it, or because grid issues is one of my weak areas of knowledge.

      But then I remembered that there are two regulars on this forum who might be able to parse this much better than I…


      • You made me break one of my strongest rules: never to read a Vox article, because they (I) insult the intelligence of the reader by talking like the reader is six (really, showing me the math of how many microseconds in a power cycle; thank you, Vox!); and (ii) are completely devoid of hard data (probably because readers tender six year old brains can’t handle real data).

        Long story short, yes, apparently, the claim is that magic box can affect the way reactive power, harmonics, and other, are seen by generators and make generators react instantaneously (in microseconds, of which there are many in a cycle).

        Not only do we not learn what magic box does at the load side to correct what the grid sees, we don’t get to know how the magic box communicates with the generation control system, nor, more importantly, how do we get the generators to adjust in microseconds (time constants go out the window; forget Carnot, we are talking Newton here, we are the best!)

        Yes, if you could get the load to be more like a nice three phase induction motor or a nice incandescent lightbulb, that would have a non negligible effect on the losses (non negligible doesn’t mean huge, there’s fruit much more low hanging than this). All our electronics have further negatively impacted the T&D losses and other power quality issues (our electronics do not like to be connected to grids polluted by electronics connected to it). If magic box can do something like that (*), well, that would be awesome. And it might be it does, but Vox can’t tell us as long as their editorial policy is to aim for the under mental age 10 readership.

        (*) insofar as magic box claims it can affect the generation side instantly i’ll call BS, but that might just be Vox messing it up.


        • I found two separate links to the technology and they both went back to the Vox article. Sorry. Vox is never my first choice for these links, and I would have passed on this, but damn it, I wanted to understand why my BS detector was humming out a warning tone, and you and Michael were my best bet for that answer.

          BTW thank you both for commenting on it.


        • But this isn’t what they are dealing with. (I think). They are trying to control the reactive impedance (if I’m understanding them right). Reactive impedance does cause real I^2*R losses (but it’s been over twenty years since I did that EE course and I’d have to look up again how exactly you calculate power factors in an AC circuit)


          • Oscar’s link at 6:55 is overall US energy flows, from primary energy sources to end use. In that figure, the 79% of transportation inputs and a very large portion of the 66% of electricity generation inputs that go to “rejected energy” are thermal efficiency losses. Eg, nuclear power reactors typically have both MWt and MWe ratings; roughly one-third of the heat energy produced is converted to electricity, the rest is dumped into the local environment.


  4. (TT02) Legit question: do you think that carbon sequestration as a strategy for combating climate change has been hindered by the moralizing associated with the loudest climate change advocates? As in, wouldn’t it be a downer for a lot of people if we could just buy our way out of it while keeping up a wasteful, gauche first-world lifestyle without some sort of penance or reckoning? I understand that the technocrats should be open to whatever works, but it’s been my impression that the most passionate climate change advocates have a deeper problem with the global economy than the fact that it creates negative environmental externalities.


    • I think they like to insist everyone else wear a hairshirt and flog themselves, but the people who actually matter in this just want to pull the CO2 out and find ways to stop adding more. If a given process can encourage us to reduce the amount of already sequestered CO2 (petroleum, coal, etc.) we are releasing while itself remaining carbon-neutral, the self-flagellators can pound sand.


    • I understand that the technocrats should be open to whatever works, but it’s been my impression that the most passionate climate change advocates have a deeper problem with the global economy than the fact that it creates negative environmental externalities.

      Yup, that’s the real reason we have a problem with climate change: the allegedly imperfect motives of people to your left who think suffering is good.


    • Way back when, we had a post about climate change and the differences between seeing it as an ethical problem and seeing it as an engineering problem.

      For my part, I think that it’s a lot more likely that we’re going to be able to find engineering solutions if we treat the problem as an engineering one.

      I also don’t think that the ethical solutions that are realistically achievable are likely to have sufficient engineering problems as a by-product.

      But I would.


  5. Related to TT03 and TT05, as both mention sea-cooled power plants… The Diablo Canyon nukes in California are shutting down primarily because the owners are not willing to gamble on the cost to rebuild the cooling plant to get in line with the state’s new restrictions on discharge temperatures. The day is coming when dumping waste heat into the ocean, like dumping waste plastic, is gong to be greatly restricted in some parts of the world.


    • I can’t recall which TT had it, but I had a link once about how sea grass is great for sequestering CO2, and sea grass likes shallow, cold water. So do a lot of shellfish we use as food. And regular fish. And other edible plant species.

      So yeah, especially in the coastal areas, discharge temps are going to be a closely watched metric.


  6. TT02: Its always nice to see new technologies to combat climate change, but its going to be a while before this one is ready for prime time. The price for carbon permits in Europe is about 15 Euros per tonne of CO2 right now, and while that should end up increasing over time it will be a long time before the tech is viable even if the true cost is at the low end of the range quoted.


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