Dealing with “fake news” is a challenge for all of us due to the last four years of people in power blatantly telling untruths. Sadly, in regions like Ontario and others, the response to COVID-19 has equally been marred by people in power denying reality. This information environment makes it challenging for journalists to disseminate well-researched and variable information. Today at Web Summit a panel addressed these issues and argued that all of us need to expand our exposure to varied news sources while increasing our critical thinking skills.
This year, news has stepped into the light as a global force for good, communicating the message on how we can stop spreading Covid-19. The fight against fake news has taken on fresh significance in these trying times, but are we winning it?
Another noteworthy presentation looked into the use of hydrogen in the aviation industry. A somewhat secretive startup, Universal Hydrogen, plans to provide the fuel and more to the future of air travel. Of course, the problem with hydrogen is scalability – let’s hope they solve that! They argue that due to the energy requirements for flight that hydrogen is the best solution for decarbonizing the aviation industry (to be clear, they are focussing on large planes not smaller planes which can be fully electric). With the reduction in costs of renewable energy it means that hydrogen production can now happen in a carbon neutral way.
The Hydrogen Challenger is a tanker ship that has gone from 20th century ideas to storing 21st century hydrogen energy.
Hydrogen Challenger is a 66 meter (216′ 6″) refitted coastal tanker for mobile hydrogen production, it is fitted with a vertical axis wind turbine that generates electricity for the electrolysis of water to fill the hydrogen storage tanks. The total storage and transportation capacity is 1,194 mÂ³ (42,000 ft3), it is stationed in the German Bight or near Helgoland (where the most wind is) and docks in Bremerhaven where the produced hydrogen is delivered to the market.
Now, as Ariel Schwartz of Fast Company reports, Ohio University researcher Geraldine Botte has come up with a nickel-based electrode to oxidize (NH2)2CO, otherwise known as urea, the major component of animal urine.
Because urea’s four hydrogen atoms are less tightly bound to nitrogen than the hydrogen bound to oxygen in water molecules, it takes less energy to break them apart: Just 0.37 Volts need to be applied across the cell, against the 1.23 Volts needed to break down water.
This means the energy balance of urea-derived hydrogen could be considerably better from start to finish than projections for other so-called pathways for obtaining the highly combustible gas.
Given the early stage of this research, we’re betting that the Honda and General Motors fuel-cell researchers aren’t exactly rushing down to do deals with their local sewage plants.
Converting construction waste to hydrogen: Bill Davis of Ze-Gen described his company’s approach to the problem of municipal waste. Each year, the US produces about four billion metric tons of waste that, thanks to the various hydrocarbons in it, actually has about half the energy content as the same weight of coal. Most of that material gets put in landfills, where some of it winds up metabolized into methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Ze-Gen has found a way to liberate hydrogen gas from that waste.
Forget green, solar goes Bloo: Right now, there are many competing approaches to photovoltaic technology, but only one of them made an appearance at the meeting: Bloo Solar, which is working on what it calls a third-generation solar brush. Larry Bowden, the company’s CEO, described it as a solution to two of the biggest inefficiencies in solar power: photons that don’t get absorbed and electrons that don’t get transferred to the conducting portions of the device, where they’re put to use.