Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Climate Change: Too Many Visionaries, Too Few Grunts? by Griffith Hack
July 22, 2010, 9:17 am
Filed under: Articles

Is the climate change debate being hijacked by the ongoing search for a technological fix, the idea that will solve all our problems? US commentator Auden Schendler certainly thinks so, and has railed against this view in a recent column.

But is this view fair? The strongest argument against a movement away from our current high emissions technologies in Australia is the price of alternative technologies. Whether we like it or not, coal, gas and oil are cheap and the alternatives are still expensive. Proponents of alternative technologies argue that the price of these technologies will fall rapidly with volume, scale and experience. No doubt this is true, but these prices do need to fall to be competitive in the long term.

But maybe, just around the corner, there is the breakthrough technology, the clean energy technology that has the clear potential to replace dirtier technology. In the early 20th century, one of the world’s important industries was the distribution of natural ice. Engineers worked long and hard on improved means of preserving ice. Then one day, in Geelong, mechanical refrigeration was invented to help ship meat to Europe. Sometimes breakthrough technologies matter.

Mike Lloyd

Water innovation in Australia: Pipeline to Profit? by Griffith Hack

As a country which has continually had to deal with the scarcity of water, Australia is ideally placed to become a leader in the US$400 billion global water market.  But a detailed analysis of our water innovation patents by Griffith Hack in the report ‘Pipeline to Profit?’ has found Australian companies are failing to leverage their valuable intellectual property (IP) into global markets.

The paper finds: “Few applicants are developing a critical mass of patented technology to support their export ambitions. Australian applicants are filing more patents in the water technology area than in most other areas, but the majority of these patents are for domestically oriented inventions.”

“It has been estimated that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, which is recognised as an unsustainable rate,” notes Griffith Hack Senior Associate, Dr Mary Turonek.

“Australia has built up significant expertise in managing demand for water using technologies – and there is a potential for Australia to export this expertise to the world. But we are not securing our innovative ideas and products for the multi-billion-dollar export market.”

Click here for the full report.

Greentech Awards by Griffith Hack
May 19, 2010, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Articles

See this link for details on the Consensus Greentech Awards 2010. Nominations are now open from May through to August.  These awards exist to reward excellence in Australian and New Zealand Green Technology and to grow and strengthen Australia’s and New Zealand’s contribution to sustainability in society.

Australian Innovation Festival – ‘Spigot’ Online marketplace for new ideas by Griffith Hack
May 10, 2010, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Articles

Griffith Hack is proud to be a sponsor of the ‘Spigot’ Online marketplace for new ideas, which is part of the Australian Innovation Festival.

The Spigot on-line market place is a virtual marketplace for new ideas. This allows registered participants to show their enthusiasm for new ideas by investing virtual currency and hence building the “market value” of your idea. Ideas can be submitted against four themes: “A Better Future for our Children” (ideas to help future generations); “Sustainable Environments” (climate control, green technology etc.); “The Connected World” (making use of the national broadband network); and “The Recovering Economy” (making Australia a more robust economy).

Ideas can be adapted and improved as feedback is received. Winning ideas providers will not only have their ideas showcased in the media but also be eligible for assistance in having their ideas commercialised through our innovation award sponsors; Griffith Hack, the Hargraves Institute and Business21C.

Even if you don’t submit an idea, for those participants who most actively contribute to developing ideas through constructive advice or investment can also be rewarded through prizes from our Reward Shop. Why not try your hand as a venture capitalist? By investing early in “winning” ideas your wealth will grow, potentially making you eligible for Reward Shop prizes.

One week before the close of the competition, a panel of expert judges will pick the 16 most prospective ideas to enter the final round. In the final week supporting votes and investments will be limited to the finalists to determine the overall winners.

While this a new concept for Australia, this type of ‘crowd-sourcing’ has been tested overseas, and may provide an interesting model for new business development. Interesting in learning more? Check it out here . Just be sure that you have thought about IP protection for your new concept before you post it. Once you post it, you can end up losing ownership rights to this idea. If in doubt, speak to us first.

Mike Lloyd

Ultra-efficient reverse osmosis drives peace by robertwulff
December 9, 2009, 9:03 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , ,

I came across this interesting article in “The Chemical Engineer” on two water desalination pilot plants being planned  in Jordan and Israel, with the unlikely assistance of NATO.

Rob Wulff

World’s first osmotic power station opens by Griffith Hack

Norway’s state owned power company Statkraft has announced the opening of the world’s first experimental power station powered by osmotic pressure.

Energy is provided by the pressure created when salt water is placed next to fresh water and joined by an osmotic filter. There is a strong tendency for fresh water to dilute the salt water, and this ‘osmotic pressure’ is equivalent to 120 metres of water head pressure, which would be a useful sized hydroelectric plant. Osmotic power is the opposite of reverse osmosis desalination, which relies on high pressure and energy intensive pumps to force water from a salt water to a fresh water source.

The biggest challenge has been to develop osmotic filters that can withstand this head pressure, but researchers have developed a polymer composition to meet these requirements.

Would this work in Australia once it is at commercial scale? This would require a good supply of fresh water next to sea water, i.e a river mouth. One advantage of this power supply is rivers flow 24/7, with the unfortunate exception of the Murray River.

Mike Lloyd

what about nuclear? by Griffith Hack

Some of the politicians in the current debate about the emission trading scheme have raised the topic of nuclear power as a possible source of low carbon power.

Nuclear power is a proven technology, and in France provides 80% of electricity used at the lowest power prices in Europe. Nuclear power has its share of Australian supporters, such as Professor Barry Brook, Sir Hubert Wilkins Professor of Climate Change at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.  While in Australia even talk of a nuclear power plant is anathema to local politicians,  in France local municipalities compete to get a nuclear power plant due its ability to generate high technology jobs and lower regional taxes. Australia has enough nuclear reserves to last for many years, and improvements in nuclear technology may further extend the usable life of our reserves

Many questions remain. Nuclear power plants can be very expensive, and use a very large amount of concrete and steel in their construction, which in turn generate a lot of CO2 in their production. However nuclear power may have applications in other technologies. The Economist magazine published a letter in March 2009 by a heart patient who had an experimental plutonium 238-powered pacemaker implanted in 1976. It was about the size of a small can of tuna fish, and was still operating at near 98% efficiency some 33 years later. While nuclear powered pacemakers raise a number of questions, it does make you wonder what other unexplored innovation opportunities for nuclear power might be out there.  As but one example of this, in 2004 Hyundai filed a patent for a nuclear fusion powered internal combustion engine.

Figure 1: Korean concept for nuclear fusion power internal combustion engine.
One possible option could be for smaller scale nuclear plants. Toshiba and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) are jointly developing a 10 MW reactor, claiming that this reactor will be “self sustaining and can last for up to 30 years without refuelling, producing electricity for only 5 cents per kilowatt hour, about half the cost of grid energy”.

An Australian subsidiary of Toshiba even filed an Australian provisional patent application titled “Applications of Small Nuclear Reactors in Power Generation Systems”, but this appears to have lapsed.

Does nuclear power deserve to regarded as a clean and sustainable technology?  Apart from the question mark about the CO2 produced in their construction, there is little CO2 produced thereafter.  The big issues are probably nuclear waste and what to do with the decommissioned reactor many years in the future.  Quantities of nuclear waste tend to be very small, and there is scope to burn some types of nuclear waste in fast generation reactors. The decommissioned reactor problem may be a larger issue though.  Many current nuclear power plants are being run for longer than their initial planned lifetimes, but eventually they will become uneconomic to run, and decommissioning costs may be large.

Of course all energy production technologies may cause problems. Wind farms can upset neighbours, but a decommissioned windmill should be of value to steel recyclers. Wave or geothermal power may need to be located a long way from power users, leading to unsightly high tension power lines running across the country. Hydro-dams can flood attractive valleys, as we saw with the Franklin dam proposal. Solar panels appear to be recyclable but also cause CO2 to be emitted in their production. Ethanol production from biomass in the US is controversial, but less so in Brazil.

So getting back to my original question, does nuclear power deserve to regarded as a clean and sustainable technology?  There are strong arguments either way, but perhaps nuclear power should not be dismissed out of hand.

Mike Lloyd