Microwaves utilized to convert used motor oil into fuel

It has been estimated that over 8 billion US gallons of used motor oil are produced every year by the world’s cars and trucks. While some of that is re-refined into new oil or burned in furnaces for heat, neither of those processes are entirely environmentally-innocuous. In other cases, it is simply discarded. Today, however, researchers from the University of Cambridge announced the development of a process that uses microwaves to convert waste oil into vehicle fuel.

Scientists have already been using a process known as pyrolysis for recycling oil. It involves heating the oil to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen, and causes the oil to break down into a mixture of gases, liquids, and solids. While the gases and liquids can be converted to fuel, the Cambridge scientists state that traditional pyrolysis doesn’t heat the oil very evenly, making the fuel conversion process difficult and impractical.

What they did, however, was to add a microwave-absorbent material to samples of waste oil, before subjecting it to pyrolysis by heating it with microwaves. The addition of the material caused the oil to heat more evenly, allowing almost 90 percent of it to easily be converted into a mixture of conventional gasoline and diesel.

Another step forward presented this week at the meeting of the American Chemical Society. Great news.

[I actually know someone who is a member of that body. I must ask him if he attended?]

Samsung ready to market mass produced transparent LCD panels

When it comes to display technologies nothing says “cool” like a transparent display. While we’ve seen a number of prototypes, such as TDK’s flexible OLED display, pop up at trade shows in the last couple of years, Samsung has announced it has already started mass production of a 22-inch transparent LCD panel.

Because they rely on ambient light instead of the usual back lighting, the transparent panels consume 90 percent less electricity than conventional LCD panels. But despite the fact the new panels are starting to roll off the Samsung production lines, it will probably still be a while before transparent panels make it onto our desktops…

No doubt reflecting the expected high price of the transparent panels – and possibly while the boffins at Samsung rack their brains for possible everyday home and office applications – Samsung is touting the possibilities for the panels for use in advertising in shop windows and outdoor billboards. It also says corporations and schools could put the panels to use as an interactive communication device…

Just the kind of tech that I believe will be easy to commercialize. Americans aren’t especially familiar with the ubiquitous LCD screen/panels facing every form of transportation around the world – from foot traffic to underground waiting platforms – but, it seems an obvious step to replace fully transparent glass with nothing more than a single painted or glowing sign with something that offers the capacity for motion and slide shows.

Family judge tells divorcing father to use Skype to see his children

Britain’s most senior family judge has overturned a man’s attempts to stop his children emigrating to Australia with their mother – saything they can keep in touch by Skype.

Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the High Court Family Division, refused to block plans by the man’s former lover to start a new life on the other side of the world saying it was in her two young children’s “best interests”.

He heard how the woman, who cannot be identified, had become “isolated, trapped and depressed” in Britain and that the children were keen to go with her.

But the children’s father argued that their departure would destroy the “embryonic” relationship he has with them.

Whilst accepting that the man’s objections “came from the heart”, Sir Nicholas said it would be “plainly wrong” to block the woman’s chance of a new life.

Although he “did not minimise” the man’s objections, he added that the age of instant online communication including Skype – the voice and video call software – meant that the children’s move did not mean the end of the relationship with their father…

Har! Modern reality offers an alternative direction to jurisprudence.

I wonder what other decisions might be affected in this manner?

U.S. nuclear powerplant problem: 63,000 tons of spent fuel

COGEMA La Hague site for reprocessing fuel rods
DISCLAIMER: I own a few shares in the company that owns this reactor. Har.

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster is focusing attention on a problem that has bedeviled Washington policymakers since the dawn of the nuclear age — what to do with used nuclear fuel.

[Any regular reader of this blog knows what my answer be. The rest of y’all should read on.]

Currently, spent fuel — depleted to the extent it can no longer effectively sustain a chain reaction — is stored in large pools of water, allowing the fuel to slowly cool and preventing the release of radiation.

But events in Japan, where two of the six spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi facility were compromised, have raised questions about practices at the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors, which rely on a combination of pools and dry casks to store used fuel.

[CNN is progressing. First mention I recall of dry casks.]

Currently, there is no maximum time fuel can remain in spent fuel pools, the NRC said Wednesday. As a result, critics say, nuclear plants have made fuel pools the de facto method of storing fuel, crowding pools with dangerous levels of fuel, industry critics say.

As of January 2010, an estimated 63,000 metric tons of spent fuel was in storage at U.S. power plants or storage facilities, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission…

“Spent fuel pools are considered ‘safety significant’ systems, so they meet a lot of the same standards that the reactor itself would have to meet,” said Greg Jaczko, chairman of the NRC. “For example, the spent fuel pools themselves are required to withstand the natural phenomena like earthquakes and tsunamis that could impact the reactor itself…”

A nuclear industry representative said the “lack of a national strategy” on waste storage is exacerbating the problem, since it does not know whether to place spent fuel in permanent, on-site containers, or containers suitable for transport.

The Yucca Mountain storage fiasco will raise it’s ugly head once again. I thought it was dead and buried, literally, after [1] geologic faults were revealed and [2] they had been known for years and covered up by site reports filled with lies.

Our “national strategy” has always been deformed by a Cold War mentality which presumed a spy ring would steal uranium from any breeder reactor and build a bomb big enough to destroy Foggy Bottom. So breeder reactors are outlawed on a power generation scale. The rest of the world uses breeder reactors to recycle 95% of their spent fuel.

Congress still thinks recycling anything is a mortal sin.

Drugs sent to jail in coloring book paint for “Daddy”

Three inmates and their loved ones were charged with attempting to smuggle drugs into a New Jersey jail on the pages of a children’s coloring book…

The drug, Subozone, normally used to treat heroin addiction but itself classified as a controlled dangerous substance, was dissolved into a paste and then painted into the coloring book, said Cape May County Sheriff Gary Schaffer. Pages with “To Daddy” scribbled on top were sent to the prisoners at the jail in Cape May, New Jersey.

I’ve been in law enforcement for 38 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Schaffer…

Charged in the case were prisoners Zachary Hirsch, Charles Markham and Paul Scipione. Also charged were Markham’s mother, Debbie Longo, of West Wildwood, New Jersey, and Katelyn Mosbach, of Trevose, Pennsylvania, who was still being sought.

The New Jersey drug bust was the second one this month involving Suboxone smuggling behind bars.

Authorities at a prison in Carbon County, Pennsylvania earlier this month arrested 11 people in what they said was a scheme to hide the drug beneath postage stamps on letters mailed to inmates from family members.

Hey, with nothing but time on their hands would you expect a slammer full of junkies to be inventive about anything other than getting drugs inside?