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Published: Monday 16 September, 2013

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Think of it as a chemical vacuum cleaner for sucking greenhouse gases out of the air.



Air capture, in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, has been touted as a potentially promising way to tackle climate change. Thats because unlike carbon capture from power plant flue gases, the technology has the potential to reduce existing CO2 levels, rather than simply slowing the rate of increase.



To demonstrate that the technology works, Christopher Jones at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta tested a CO2 absorbent based on amines the chemicals predominantly used in power plant carbon capture trials on gases with CO2 concentrations similar to those found in ambient air.



He found the material was able to repeatedly extract CO2 from the gas without being degraded, which will be vital if the technology is to be used economically on a widescale.



Helen Knight, technology reporterExtremophiles normally found lurking in deepsea hydrothermal vents are being put to work on land to produce low cost biofuels.



By using the microbes, which do not need sunlight to grow, the developers hope to produce biofuels without using large amounts of land.



Lithos Biofuels, based in Mill Valley, California, is working with the microbe Nautilia profundicola, found in deepsea vents, which makes sugar using the socalled reverse Tricarboxylic Cycle. This means the microbe does not use conventional photosynthesis to generate energy.



Instead, the microbes eat cheap and widely available foods like formic acid, sulphur and ammonia, says Lithos Rick Holmes. We just grow the cell on the cheap and abundant feedstocks that this autolithotrophic microbe eats and the biofuel comes along for the ride, he says. As a result, the microbes could be cheaply grown in tanks, reducing the amount of valuable agricultural land used and cutting the carbon dioxide emitted by transporting traditional biofuel crops from the field to processing plants.



An enzyme used by all airbreathing organisms to regulate their carbon dioxide levels could soon help clean up power plant emissions.



Existing methods to capture carbon dioxide from power plants, based on forcing the exhaust gas through a chemical solution where it is absorbed, can add up to 80 per cent to the cost of electricity production.



That is because releasin michael kors hamilton bag g the CO2 from amines in the solution so it can be reused involves heating it to very high temperatures, increasing the amount of fuel consumed by the power plant by up to 40 per cent.



In a bid to reduce the cost of CO2 capture, researchers have been investigating a number of different techniques, such as crystal sponges called zeolitic imidazolate frameworks with pores that trap CO2 molecules inside. Other teams are passing power plant flue gas over minerals that react with the CO2 to form cement, locking away the greenhouse gas in the process.



Now researchers at United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford, Connecticut, are developing a carbon capture technique based on the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, found in nature.



The heat and toxic chemicals within a power plants exhaust flue would harm an enzyme over time, says lead scientist Harry Cordatos. It would be like cutting the wings off a bird and trying to make a model airplane with them.



So the team, with funding from the US Department of Energys Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy, has developed a synthetic version of the enzyme, designed to withstand these harsh conditions. In recent tests the team has shown that the harsh chemicals in flue gas do no irreversible harm to the artificial molecule.



They now plan to add the molecules to a thin polymer film to create a membrane. Power plant flue gas on one side of the membrane would be pressurised, causing only the CO2 to dissolve through the film, says Cordatos.



Since the membrane contains no moving parts or chemicals that are consumed in the reaction, it should be cheap and simple to add to new and existing power plants.



Researchers have long attempted to mimic the way in which photosynthetic organisms use the energy from sunlight to break down water into oxygen and hydrogen, with the latter then reacting with carbon dioxide to produce sugars.



Now a team led by Hugh ONeill at the US Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee has combined lightharvesting proteins with compounds known as block copolymers and a platinum catalyst to produce a membrane that generates hydrogen from sunlight.



The team extracted light harvesting complex II LHCII proteins from spinach. They then added them to a liquid containing the copolymers and sodium hexachloroplatinate, which is converted into platinum in the presence of sunlight and the proteins.



The proteins interact with the copolymers, selfassembling to form layered sheets like those found naturally in photosynthetic membranes. When the team studied these sheets using a technique called smallangle neutron scattering analysis, in which a bea michael kors hamilton bag m of neutrons is fired at the sample and the refracted radiation is measured to determine what elements are present, they found that the membranes were producing hydrogen. Whats more, they continued to do so for over 100 hours.



The protein molecules absorb sunlight and release electrons, transferring them to the nearby platinum molecules. The platinum then catalyses the reduction of protons to hydrogen gas, which is readily usable as fuel.. michael kors hamilton bag

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