OSU Engineers Discover Clean Fossil Fuel Solution

Engineers at The Ohio State University are developing technologies that have the potential to economically convert fossil fuels and biomass into useful products including electricity without emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

In the first of two papers published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the engineers report that they’ve devised a process that transforms shale gas into products such as methanol and gasoline—all while consuming carbon dioxide. This process can also be applied to coal and biomass to produce useful products.

Under certain conditions, the technology consumes all the carbon dioxide it produces plus additional carbon dioxide from an outside source.

Finally, the same team has discovered and patented a way with the potential to lower the capital costs in producing a fuel gas called synthesis gas, or “syngas,” by about 50 percent over the traditional technology. The technology, known as chemical looping, uses metal oxide particles in high-pressure reactors to “burn” fossil fuels and biomass without the presence of oxygen in the air. The metal oxide provides the oxygen for the reaction.

Chemical looping is capable of acting as a stopgap technology that can provide clean electricity until renewable energies such as solar and wind become both widely available and affordable, the engineers said.

Another advancement involves the engineers’ development of chemical looping for production of syngas, which in turn provides the building blocks for a host of other useful products including ammonia, plastics or even carbon fibers.

This is where the technology really gets interesting: It provides a potential industrial use for carbon dioxide as a raw material for producing useful, everyday products.

Marching, Music, Travel

Next fall, the Ohio State University Marching Band will take is incredible field performance all the way to London. They NFL have invited them to play a pregame show for Buffalo Bills/Jacksonville Jaguars series of games that will be part of the National Football Leagues “NFL International Series.

The Ohio State University Marching Band has regularly played for Ohio’s NFL teams and has been invited to international sporting events in the past; however, this is the first time scheduling allowed international travel to be an option. The performance is a first for the NFL International Series, as well.

Using technology to enhance not only performances, but rehearsals has become a hallmark of “The Best Damn Band in the Land”. One such innovation includes learning drills on iPads, while other innovations include floating formations, measure-step marching and script writing—which originated with the famous Script Ohio formation.

Everyone in the band is ecstatic and thrilled about the opportunity to travel to London, said head drum major Nathan MacMaster, a graduate student from Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

Ohio State’s marching band is one of a few collegiate all brass and percussion bands in the United States, and with 225 members, is commonly acknowledged as the largest of its type in the world.

The NFL will cover all of the band’s travel costs for the London trip.

Self-Charging Cell Phones?

While many of us probably view a dead cellphone battery as a minor annoyance in our daily lives, epic texters, gamers and business people who need constant access to their phones will likely view the new technology being developed by researchers at the Ohio State University as a metaphoric life preserver.

This new technology promises to increase a single charge’s life span by 30 percent. This is made possible through a new patented technology that converts some of the cell phone’s radio signals into direct current which in turn charges the phones battery. Researchers say this technology could be built into a modern cell phone with negligible increases in size or weight.

While there are some devices like this already on the market, they are only able to gather a few radio waves and only charge small devices such as temperature sensors.

Almost all of the radio waves transmitted by a cell phone are lost and never recovered – this device allows your phone to recycle those radio waves. Oddly enough, the principles behind this technology are hardly new to science. In fact, the ideas are as old as commercial electricity. Radio waves are essentially a very high-frequency form of alternating current. Like most modern electrical devices, a cell phone needs direct current. This new technology works like the adapters or rectifier circuits inside modern devices to switch the AC (the radio waves in this case) into DC power the phone can use to stay charged. Whether you know it or not you’ve seen a rectifier before. Many modern cables, like a laptop charger, have external rectifiers.

The system only works when the phone is transmitting signal, however, typically data transmission is what drains a phones battery the most. Therefore, this new technology would help a phone charge itself when it is working its hardest.

Researchers estimate the first charging system will cost around a hundred dollars.

Jody Victor

New Technology Inspired by the Lotus Leaf

Inside Dr. Bharat Bhushan’s lab at the Ohio State University one might find some very average looking pieces of stainless steel mesh. So normal in fact one might consider them garbage. In truth these pieces of mesh are rather like Super Man assuming his alter ego Clark Kent as they might be the new super hero of environmental clean up efforts.

Water can pass through the mesh, but oil doesn’t. The real super hero here isn’t the mesh, but rather a nanotechnology inspired by nature, a coating applied to the mesh. With this coating a mixture of oil and water is able to be poured onto the mesh—the water passes cleaning through into one beaker while the oil is easily poured off the mesh and into another.

The new nanotechnologies are under development at the Ohio State University and have been written about twice in the Nature Scientific Reports journal. As one would guess, cleaning up oil spills is one immediately imagined application of the technology, but it might also be used for tracking oil deposits underground.

“If you scale this up, you could potentially catch an oil spill with a net,” said Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and Howard D. Winbigler Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State.
But what does all this have to do with Lotus leaves?

For years his work has been inspired by the humble lotus leaf whose surface naturally repels water, but not oil. By using a polymer embedded with a surfactant—the part of soap that gives it its cleaning power—Dr. Bhushan was able to create this coating.

Dr. Bhushan explained that some combinations of ingredients he tried actually bind to oil instead of repelling it, which would be useful for cleaning up oil spills.

Another exciting aspect of the technology is that will probably be inexpensive to reproduce—maybe less than a dollar per square foot.

Jody Victor

Buckeyes In The News

Jody Victor: Buckeye alumni are out there in almost every job. career, employment, service, military, occupation you can think of. In fact, there may be some we didn’t think of. Case in point, here’s an excerpt from an article on osu.edu about just such an alumni.

In 1984, the black-and-white Nintendo Entertainment System was still a year away from its U.S. release; the first version of Tetris had just been created in Moscow.

Sixteen-year-old Steve May was used to the barebones video game graphics that defined the era. But a story in Science that year–focused on new “amazing computer-generated imagery”–fascinated him.

Best of all for the Mansfield teen? It was happening at Ohio State’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, a trailblazer in the field of computer animation.

Three Ohio State degrees later, May is a shining star at Pixar, where he’s worked on Up, Cars, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story 2. (May earned a bachelor’s in 1990, master’s in 1992, and PhD in 1998, all in Computer and Information Science.)

For Brave, which opened at No. 1, May oversaw and developed technology used in the film; ensured the movie lined up with the director’s creative vision; and supervised animators.

“I loved school,” says May, who also served as Ohio State faculty for 12 years. “I studied computer graphics and animation, so it directly applies to what we do at Pixar.”

Go Bucks!!!

Jody Victor