Tag Archives: Breakthroughs

Breakthrough Spotlight: Biofuel from microbial organisms

Unlike cellulosic ethanol made from foodstuffs and grasses, bio-fuel makers are on their way to creating a commercially viable bio-fuel made from microbial organisms. From Techpulse 360:

Now a third-generation of biofuel makers is showing progress with novel laboratory work. This new wave is a sharp departure from the ways of the past and has interesting potential. It hopes to simplify manufacturing by avoiding the fermentation step of first and second generation companies and convert organisms directly into fuel using just carbon dioxide and sometimes sunlight.

It is an exciting prospect. Not only could these new ventures remake an industry, they could open the door to new ways to store solar energy (in a fuel!) and help remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Why is this a breakthrough relative to other bio-fuels? Most of it has to do with the ease of implementation within our existing infrastructure and limited burden on current resources.

Renewable sources of energy such as solar are geographically specific and currently, are unable to effectively store the energy on a large scale for that energy to be transported elsewhere.  While bio-fuels capture that energy from the sun and transforms into an effective storage vehicle that can be easily implemented with our current infrastructure, bio-fuels created from foodstuffs and grasses put a strain on available land and resources, usually translating into higher prices for food. Combine that with several production steps to create it, and you can see where bio-fuels become economically disadvantaged.

With microbial organisms such as these, the combined inputs of solar power and carbon dioxide add the benefit of reversing our carbon emissions. Add the fact that bio-fuel can already be easily implemented within our infrastructure and you can see why commercially viable bio-fuels from microbial organisms are a breakthrough.


Moore’s Law Continues


Micron Technology and Intel Corp. announced a joint venture to create what the companies are calling “the smallest, most advanced process technology in the semiconductor industry.”

The companies introduced an 8 gigabyte, 25-nanometer “NAND” memory chip that they said will increase storage for portable music and media players, smart phones and more. It is the latest in the joint venture’s ever-shrinking NAND innovations. The two companies say they have doubled the density of NAND every 18 months — they started with a 50 nm device in 2006 and dropped it to 36 nm in 2008.

Stacking processors will certainly get easier for even smaller devices.

Breakthrough spotlight: Edible cottonseed, biodegradable chemicals and cyborgs!

I currently have a recurring “theme post” entitled “Internalizing Externalities.”  I have been trying to think about what other ways I could incorporate different stories I come across that happen to fall under the same theme of interest.  “Internalizing externalities” was a way of pointing out unintended consequences of particular actions – usually externalities such as pollution.

I believe I am going to begin another “theme post” entitled “Breakthrough Spotlight.”  Considering that this blog name is Pushing Possibilities, I would figure that illuminating different scientific and technological breakthroughs would be able to jump start the imagination and hopefully ignite optimism in our future.  So without further ado, I have three scientific and technological breakthroughs that I have come across that I believe are not only incredible, but practical, providing enormous amounts of added value to our economic future and hopefully make our world a better place.

The first breakthrough: Edible Cottonseed.

A Texas researcher has found a way to reduce toxin in cottonseed that until now could only be eaten by cattle. The bovines’ multiple stomachs gradually digested the poisonous substance called gossypol.

The new seeds can be eaten by pigs, chickens, fish and humans and could show up in protein bars, shakes, breads, cookies and other foods within about 10 years. The amount of cotton already grown worldwide contains enough protein to feed 500 million people per year, researchers said.

Besides the obvious economic benefits, it may also prove to have a significant health benefit. Raw soy has too much phytoestrogens, putting its hopes of being the usual suspect at the dinner table at the level of red meat. Therefore, this could be a healthier, long-standing alternative, especially for vegans and vegetarians.

The second breakthrough: A movable prosthetic that is controlled by the mind.

A robotic hand has been successfully connected to an amputee, allowing him to feel sensations in the artificial limb and control it with his thoughts…

The experiment lasted a month, and the scientists say it was the first time a patient has been able to make complex movements using his mind to control a biomechanic hand connected to his nervous system.

The future is here!

And last but not least, my favorite: A replacement for toxic industrial chemicals.

it’s a biodegradable, environment-neutral chemical that could be used in everyday materials, such as road salt and detergents, to replace harmful persistent petrochemicals and phosphates, which can last for centuries.

But wait, it gets better…

They’ve not only invented a chemical process using a computer-controlled reactor to make the product cheaply in large volumes, they’ve discovered a process that is adaptable and can produce other environment-friendly building block chemicals.

There is one more benefit I have to add: This is made from sugar so therefore this chemical isn’t dependent upon being made from oil. Make these guys national heroes for leading us one step forward to oil independence!