A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy

A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy

Over the past year many luminaries have made clarion calls for a concerted effort to solve the energy crisis. It is a crisis, with 300 million middle class Chinese determined to attain the unsustainable lifestyle we have sold them. Their thirst for oil is growing at 30% a year, and can do nothing but heat the earth and spark political conflict.

We have been heating the earth since the agricultural revolution with the positive result of providing 10,000 years of warm stability. But since the Industrial revolution we have been pushing the biosphere over the brink. Life forces have done this before — during the snowball earth period ( Cryogenian Period ) in the Neoproterozoic toward the end of the Precambrian – but that life force was not sentient!

Thomas Freedman of the New York Times has called for a Manhattan Project for clean energy The New York Times> Search> Abstract. Richard Smalley, one of the fathers of nanotechnology, has made a similar plea http://news.uns.purdue.edu/html3month/2004/040902.Smalley.energy.html.
We are at the cusp in several technologies to fulfilling this clean energy dream. All that we need is the political leadership to shift our fiscal priorities.

I feel our resources should be focused in three promising technologies:

1. Nanotechnology: The exploitation of quantum effects is finally being seen in these new materials. Photovoltaics (PV) are at last going beyond silicon, with many companies promising near-term breakthroughs in efficiencies and lower cost. Even silicon is gaining new efficienies from nano-tech: Researchers develop technique to use dirty silicon, could pave way for cheaper solar energy http://www.physorg.com/news5831.html
New work on diodes also has great implications for PV, LEDs and micro-electronics Nanotubes make perfect diodes (August 2005) – News – PhysicsWeb http://physicsweb.org/articles/news/9/8/11
Direct solar to hydrogen is at 10% efficiency: Hydrogen Solar home http://www.hydrogensolar.com/index.html

Thermionics: The direct conversion of heat to electricity has been at best only 5% efficient. Now with quantum tunneling chips we are talking 80% of carnot efficiency. A good example is the proposed thermionic car design of Borealis. ( http://www.borealis.gi/press/NEW-GOLDEN-AGE-IBM.Speech.6=04.pdf ) . The estimated well-to-wheel efficiency is over 50%. This compares to 13% for internal combustion and 27% for hydrogen fuel cells. This means a car that has a range of 1500 miles on one fill up. Rodney T. Cox, president of Borealis, has told me that he plans to have this car developed within two years. Boeing has already used his Chorus motor drives http://www.chorusmotors.gi/.
on the nose gear of it’s 767. (Boeing Demonstrates New Technology for Moving Airplanes on the Ground http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2005/q3/nr_050801a.html )
The Borealis thermocouple power chips http://www.powerchips.gi/index.shtml (and cool chips) applied to all the waste heat in our economy would make our unsustainable lifestyle more than sustainable.
You may find an extensive discussion on thermo electric patents at: Nanalyze Forums – Direct conversion of heat to electricity http://www.nanalyze.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1006&#2686

2. Biotechnology: Since his revolutionary work on the human genome project, Craig Venter has been finding thousands of previously unknown life forms in the sea and air. His goal is to use these creatures to develop the ultimate energy bug to produce hydrogen and or use of their photoreceptor genes for solar energy. http://www.venterscience.org/ Imagine a bioreactor in your home taking all your waste, adding some solar energy, and your electric and transportation needs are fulfilled.

3. Fusion: Here I am not talking about the big science ITER project taking thirty years, but the several small alternative plasma fusion efforts and maybe bubble fusion – Is bubble fusion back? (July 2005) – News – PhysicsWeb
http://physicsweb.org/articles/news/9/7/8 )

On the big science side I do have hopes for the LDX : http://psfcwww2.psfc.mit.edu/ldx/.

There are three companies pursuing hydrogen-boron plasma toroid fusion, Paul Koloc, Prometheus II, Eric Lerner, Focus Fusion and Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems http://www.electronpowersystems.com/ . A resent DOD review of EPS technology reads as follows:

“MIT considers these plasmas a revolutionary breakthrough, with Delphi’s
chief scientist and senior manager for advanced technology both agreeing
that EST/SPT physics are repeatable and theoretically explainable. MIT and
EPS have jointly authored numerous professional papers describing their
work. (Delphi is a $33B company, the spun off Delco Division of General


“Cost: no cost data available. The complexity of reliable mini-toroid
formation and acceleration with compact, relatively low-cost equipment
remains to be determined. Yet the fact that the EPS/MIT STTR work this
technology has attracted interest from Delphi is very significant, as the
automotive electronics industry is considered to be extremely demanding of
functionality per dollar and pound (e.g., mil-spec performance at
Wal-Mart-class ‘commodity’ prices).”

EPS, Electron Power Systems seems the strongest and most advanced, and I love the scalability, They propose applications as varied as home power generation@ .ooo5 cents/KWhr, cars, distributed power, airplanes, space propulsion , power storage and kinetic weapons.

It also provides a theoretic base for ball lighting : Ball Lightning Explained as a Stable Plasma Toroid http://www.electronpowersystems.com/Images/Ball%20Lightning%20Explained.pdf
The theoretics are all there in peer reviewed papers. It does sound to good to be true however with names like MIT, Delphi, STTR grants, NIST grants , etc., popping up all over, I have to keep investigating.

Recent support has also come from one of the top lightning researcher in the world, Joe Dwyer at FIT, when he got his Y-ray and X-ray research published in the May issue of Scientific American,
Dwyer’s paper:

and according to Clint Seward it supports his lightning models and fusion work at Electron Power Systems

Clint sent Joe and I his new paper on a lightning charge transport model of cloud to ground lightning (he did not want me to post it to the web yet). Joe was supportive and suggested some other papers to consider and Clint is now in re-write.

It may also explain Elves, blue jets, sprites and red sprites, plasmas that appear above thunder storms. After a little searching, this seemed to have the best hard numbers on the observations of sprites.

Dr. Mark A. Stanley’s Dissertation

And may also explain the spiral twist of some fulgurites, hollow fused sand tubes found in sandy ground at lightning strikes.

The learning curve is so steep now, and with the resources of the online community, I’m sure we can rally greater support to solve this paramount problem of our time. I hold no truck with those who argue that big business or government are suppressing these technologies. It is only our complacency and comfort that blind us from pushing our leaders toward clean energy.

Erich J. Knight

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1 thought on “A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy”

  1. Dear Folks:

    To really gain some perspective on the energy problem , and understand what a tough nut it is, read this reply by Uncle AL, from another Sci-forum:

    “Do you have any idea how much energy the US uses/year? It has held reasonably steady at 60 bbl oil equiv/capita. 1 boe = 1700 kWhr-thermal. There are 290 million US folk or

    1.74×10^10 boe/year, or
    2.96×10^13 kWhr-thermal/year, or
    1.065×10^20 joules/year, or…

    …or the equivalent of 1.2 metric tonnes of matter 100% converted into energy each year, E=mc^2. Are ya gonna alternatively burn algae, git, or catch wind

    The US consumes the equivalent of 1.2 metric tonnes of matter 100% converted into energy each year, E=mc^2.

    You are all clueless. Sparrow farts run through a gas turbine won’t get you 10^20 joules/year. Not now, not ever. Pulling 10^20 joules/year out of wind or waves would monstrously perturb the weather. Where do the energy and raw materials necessary to fabricate and install your New Age hind gut fermentations originate? Who pays for the environmental impact reports and litigations therefrom?

    What are the unknown hazards? Can you guarantee absolute safety for 10,000 years? Let’s have a uniform set of standards, eginineering and New Age bullshit both. Area necessary to generate 1 GW electrical, theoretical minimum

    Area, Modality
    1000 biomass
    300 wind
    60 solar
    0.3 nuclear

    3×10^7 GWhr-thermal/year would need 9 billion mi^2 of wind collection area. The total surface area of the Earth is 197 million mi^2. 24 hrs/day. Looks like yer gonna come up a little short if 100% of the Earth were wind generators powering only the US.

    Are ya gonna alternatively burn algae to generate 10^20 joules/year? Now you are a factor of 3 even worse – before processing and not counting inputs. THEY LIED TO YOU. They lied to you so poorly it can be dismissed with arithmetic. Where are your minds?

    Uncle Al
    (Toxic URL! Unsafe for children and most mammals)

    Now ya know how big the problem is!!
    My reply to UncleAl:

    “Dear Uncle Al,
    Your logic and math are impeccable, However you seem to ignore the macro energy equation.
    All fossil and nuke fuels ultimately add to the heat load of the biosphere while most of the solar / wind / thermal conversion technologies (except geothermal) recycle solar energy instead of releasing sequestered solar energy. This is the goal and definition of sustainability, not over loading the dynamic equilibrium of the biosphere.

    At least you seem not to take account of this, and I feel you dismiss the rising curve of increasing efficiency for PV, direct solar to hydrogen, wind and thermal conversion to electricity, not to mention P-B11 fusion.
    From what I understand of the direct solar to hydrogen fabrication technology it is a much greener process, and cheaper that silicon based PVs. ( Hydrogen Solar home http://www.hydrogensolar.com/index.html )

    And the nano-dot approach to PVs also promises full spectrum conversion efficiencies along with clean production processes. ( UB News Services-solar nano-dots http://www.buffalo.edu/news/fast-ex…rticle=75000009 )”

    Recently I found this technology page on the Suncone, Sustainable Resources, Inc. – The Suncone Solar Power Generator http://www.sriglobal.org/suncone_intro.htmland
    The Claim of a 50 MW array producing at $.046/KWhr is the best I’ve seen for solar at this level of development, and the PV solar roofing technology they are acquiring looks solid too.

    And This new work By Dr.Kuzhevsky on neutrons in lightning: Russian Science News http://www.informnauka.ru/eng/2005/2005-09-13-5_65_e.htm is also supportive of Electron Power Systems fusion efforts http://www.electronpowersystems.com/ . I sent it to Clint Seward and here’s his reply:

    “There is another method to producing neutrons that fits my lightning model that I have described to you.
    It is well known that electron beams have been used extensively to produce neutrons, above electron energies of 10 MeV, well within the voltages reported in the lightning event. (An Internet search produced several articles that reported this). I do not pretend to have researched this extensively, and do not know the actual target molecules or the process, but it appears plausible from what the papers report, and is consistent with my lightning model.
    The proposed method you sent to me is a lot more complex, and I would have to say I can not agree with the article as written without experimental results.”

    Science News Daily http://www.sciencenewsdaily.org/story-6724.html
    Wow…………..1 million g’s……………I had never seen van der Waals interactions measured in these terms…….and shouldn’t it be considered ” van der Waals forces” (london & Waals) because the electron density in a molecule is redistributed by proximity to another pole? Are individual atoms a different story?
    As you can see I only know enough to be dangerous or look ignorant.
    At any rate this gives you an appreciation of the powers in the Nano and Quantum worlds

    A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy

    Erich J. Knight
    “Religion is Bunk” T. A. Edison

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