Thursday, May 22, 2014

Assault and Batteries


Assault and Batteries
An Update 
on the development of the Battery

"The storage battery is, in my opinion, a catchpenny, a sensation, a mechanism for swindling the public by stock companies. The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing. ... Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying."  Thomas Edison 1883

The Dual Carbon Battery

A Japanese company called Power Japan Plus has announced a completely new type of battery. The battery, they say, can be used in just about any application including in electric cars.

Called the Ryden or dual carbon battery. The claims being made for this new battery include:
  • charges 20 times faster than current lithium ion batteries,
  • doesn't heat up, so it doesn't require cooling and is safer in aeroplanes etc
  • cheaper than other current batteries used in cars and trucks.

Reports suggest that this battery is completely new technology.
  • The major component is carbon rather than nickel, manganese etc.
  • It produces little or no heat unlike Lithium Ion batteries, which can cause fires.
  • It is easily 100% recycled.
  • It can be fully discharged without damage.100% deep cycle.
  • It has a reported lifespan of 3,000+ charge/ discharge cycles.
  • Current Nissan Leaf batteries take about 4 hours to charge, with this battery 20 minutes.
What is not made clear in the hype is the actual energy density of this new cell. How does the electrical storage capacity (W/h) compare on both size and weight with the latest Lithium Ion batteries? This question does not appear to have any answer - at least none that I can find.

The major hype is rife with how far an EV (Electric Vehicle) can travel with this new battery and other nice things it can do, but actual scientific test figures are thin on the ground, if there at all.

It is again a wait and see what happens game. Hopefully, sooner or later the hype will hold the truth.

Elon Musk's Giga-factory

Meanwhile Elon Musk is going ahead with massive investment in his giga-factory to produce at low cost and in high quantities current standard Lithium Ion batteries.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

In Memory of Charles Cros


Charles Cros

In memory of Charles Cros a sad genius, inventor and poet. 1842 - 1888 died at 45 years old. Inventor of the gramophone, colour photography etc. He never received credit for his most important inventions.

I have written previously about Charles Cros, a sad man who's genius was ignored in his time. He became a victim of absinthe and died in poverty.

Charles Cros somehow touches something in me, He is the kind of bloke, given the right chance in life, could have contributed so much to the world. I admire his genius, and am saddened by his ignominious and untimely end. By way of a small tribute to this man I have attempted, through some enhancement techniques on an old photograph, to let him gaze, with a little more clarity, through the mist of some 142 years into a world which might have appreciated more his genius, and punished less his failings. May he rest in peace.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Graphene Battery Development


The young Edison posing for the camera

Battery Development
The Lies and the Reality!!

By looking through the content of this blog, you will find extensive writings on battery development going back several years. 

Almost all of the projects that I have written about to date have come to naught. So much hype and so many of the breakthroughs and inventions have proved to be nothing more than mist in the morning air, that I decided to stop covering news of these so-called battery breakthroughs.

On Batteries Thomas Edison in 1883 says it all:

I will let Edison say what I, and many others think:

"The storage battery is, in my opinion, a catchpenny, a sensation, a mechanism for swindling the public by stock companies. The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing. ... Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying."

So why am I writing about battery breakthroughs again? Because a brand new super material, almost magical in its qualities, is becoming readily available. This new super material is Graphene.

Go make some in your kitchen:

 Crann Research Centre Dublin Ireland 
(Crann meaning Tree in Irish and pronounced - crown)

Major breakthrough in graphene production techniques in Dublin Ireland Crann research centre.

(My interpretation) Take the leads from some nice soft 4b pencils and crush them into a fine powder. Add some water and "Fairy Liquid" dish washer fluid. Place in a blender and set to high. Then blend for 30 minutes or longer. You will have some graphene in the blender. 

Not that you will be able to identify it or use it, unless you have some really high-tech equipment and a fair bit of scientific knowledge.

The outcome is that graphene will become many times less expensive to produce, and large quantities can quickly become available.

One of the Graphene 
based Developments

Lithium - Graphene - battery breakthrough?

The word is out in the news agencies that there are several new batteries currently in development. One in particular is at a testing stage and appears to hold a promise of being able to hold twice as much as the best current batteries can hold and thus be able to power an electric vehicle for more than 480 Km about 300 miles before recharging. The defining name of this new battery is Lithium Sulphur Graphene.

Current lithium ion batteries achieve 200 Wh/kg. The century plus old lead acid type battery can hold about 40 Wh/kg. Another key factor is how the battery performs as it goes through cycles of charging and discharging, and for an electric car you would want more than 1,000 cycles without serious deterioration. It's also good if the batteries don't catch fire when being charged!

Recent breakthroughs.

One battery that showed some promise was the lithium sulphur battery. This battery started life as one of several modifications of the common lithium ion battery. The development was soon shelved because the chemical process rapidly deteriorated after only 15 to 20 charge cycles.

Now add some Graphene

Very recently a research team at the Lawrence Berkeley Labs California found what was causing the breakdown in the Lithium Sulphur cells, and were able to add a graphene based layer to prevent the deterioration. They also adopted a different electrolyte and modified the cathode of the cells.

This resulted in a re-born battery which has more than double the capacity of a standard Li ion battery. Tests to date have shown that it can achieve in excess of 1,500 charge cycles without deterioration.

Will this battery make it to the shops for Christmas, or join the ranks of the dozens of others in semi-permanent development? Who knows. But with the Fairy Dust of Graphene in the frame - who knows what might emerge.

Another Graphene Energy Development

The Super Capacitor is another very exciting energy storage device. Up till now, it has not made any quantum leaps in its evolution. But with out new super material Graphene becoming available in many new forms and in quantity, this exciting storage device will also take a big dive forward.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day


Happy Earth Day

"The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens" - "Let your vision be world embracing".

"Only a comprehensive vision of a global society, supported by universal values and principles, can inspire individuals to take responsibility for the long-term care and protection of the natural environment."

Our planet is a fragile beautiful thing - we have raped it over and over through our greed and ignorance. If we are to preserve it, we need a new way of looking at our planet and at humanity. 

We need to see natures laws of co-operation and reciprocity fully functional in society. We need our institutions, our legal systems, our governments, our financial and business systems to function on principles of trustworthiness, equity, truthfulness, and cooperation, instead of the aggressive, adversarial, and greed driven present day systems.

Perhaps we first need to glimpse hell - in order to be properly motivated?


Monday, April 21, 2014

Graphene Made Easy


So Easy 
When You Know How

Graphene is nothing short of a magical material in terms of it's physical and electrical characteristics. 

It is the strongest material known - it is the best electrical conductor known etc. etc. It promises to totally change electronics design and manufacture, and the same for many other technologies.

Graphene was invented / discovered using ordinary sticky tape to separate out the layers of graphene in a piece of graphite - the same stuff in the middle of your pencil.

But there were difficulties in making it. Huge technical problems existed in trying to produce industrial quantities of Graphene - that is until NOW.

Graphene Recipe

Take some fine graphite powder, add some Fairy Liquid, and I presume some water, and stick it in your kitchen blender. Blend for one hour - and hope the blender doesn't burn out. You will have some graphene in your blender - WOW.

Sounds too easy to be true. It is true go and check the news items. The clever people who came on the method say it is fairly simple to scale it up to industrial size and produce large quantities of the magic material at very low cost.

Ireland the Leader in Graphene development

I am very proud that Ireland is taking a major role in this amazing material science. Good on you guys at Trinity. I hope the development phase is rapid and highly successful.

Roll on the graphene revolution.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

SSE Airtricity a User Warning


TWO 2 Reasons 
to WARN Customers

Reason ONE:

Some years ago I published a blog praising Airtricity for its efforts in moving towards wind energy, as the business name strongly suggests. I was a customer for some time and I then moved to Board Gais for a better deal.

I was with Bord Gais for approximately 15 months when an Airtricity representative called to my door offering 16% discount on that standard rate for domestic electricity. This sounded very good indeed. I was assured by the rep that it was the best deal available, even though there was a slightly higher standing charge, so I went for it.

What was not made completely clear to me at the time was - just how much an impact the higher standing charge could and would make on the unit cost of my electricity.

Let me explain that statement. I have seriously reduced my electricity usage over the last several years.

(1) I have installed LED and CFL lighting throughout my house.
(2) I have switched to solid fuel heating on a 24/7 basis, this means I no longer use an immersion heater for hot water, and also means less electricity running an oil boiler.
(3) I have increased the insulation level of the house.
(4) I have bought a low power TV set using the latest LED technology.
(5) I use gas cooking for the most part.

These factors mean I now have a very small electricity usage. This in turn means that the 16% Airtricity discount deal was seriously eroded by the added extra standing charge because the extra cost involved was divided over fewer units of electricity.

The end result is that the deal is no where as sweet as I was led to believe.

Prospective Airtricity customers should be wary of the pricing structure, and especially they not listen to their spin-doctors and sales people.

Reason TWO:

BEWARE of your Energy or Phone company, because in many cases, their ethics don't always match the image their spin-doctors and advertising agencies would have you believe.

When it comes to ethics, I have discovered a major BLACK HOLE. It is situated in the area of accumulated credits. At the end of a contract period when you leave to get, what you hope is, a better deal elsewhere, you will terminate with the current company and move over. What do you leave behind you ? ? ? ?

My Catholic background taught me there were basically two types of sin. (1) Sins of commission, i.e. actively lying etc. and (2) Sins of omission, not fulfilling your moral duty, not paying back a debs, not stepping up to the line to tell the full truth.

Dirty Tricks Departments employ Sins of Omission
To get the best deal with Airtricity several years ago I signed up for a budget-plan and for on-line billing. The budget plan took a fixed amount each month from my bank account which went to build up a credit against my next bill.

Because I was using less and less electricity due to my Energy Efficiency drives, I had a fairly major credit at the end of my contract. The amount was in excess of €99.00.

The money was only resting in my account - Dougal.

I was unaware of this sum of my money "resting in Airtricity's account" Not until I very recently went back to them did I discover - by accident - that they held my money.

  • They held almost €100 of my money for some 15 months. 
  • They made no attempt to return my money. 
  • They made no attempt to properly notify me the money was there in the first place.

Did Airtricity lie to me - no - they didn't actually lie - but they certainly were not moral or ethical in the way they acted.

Final Insult,

I got very angry with Airtricity for holding onto my money resting in their account and making interest for them. When I asked for my money back - Airtricity took weeks to get a cheque to me. They dragged their feet and held onto my money like a drowning man to a straw.


If you have a similar situation to me with Airtricity or any other Power or Phone company double check and treble check to make sure they are not holding credit belonging to you. If you have any influence with law makers, please lobby to have the law change so mean and nasty companies cannot get away with holding onto peoples money.


Friday, March 21, 2014

One Big Switch or Two Big Switches

Big Switch
One Big Switch
Two Big Switches?

"One Big Switch", a group energy purchasing business, opened it's doors on 16th February last. It is a private enterprise AFAIK and its aim is to gather "members" with a view to taking advantage of group or bulk discounts for electricity, gas etc. It sounds a great idea on the surface of it, and it is one I have previously exercised the old brain over.

The general idea in this case seems to be for the business to gather "members" and use the numbers game to barter for discounts. It would use a similar system pioneered by "One Big Switch" with some success in other countries, Australia in particular. It would seem that it was quite successful in Australia with a quoted 500,000 members - I must check that quoted fact out with my contacts in Auz. It is also said that One Big Switch is now one of the largest consumer organisations in the world?

The business is co-founded by Oliver Tattan, who also co-founded health insurer GloHealth, and has several other additional business interests.

So what will One Big Switch actually do? My understanding is that it will try to gather numbers / members and use bargaining power to obtain discounts. It will then pass on part of the discount to the customers while keeping part as it's means of income. It appears to be a privately owned business, and to operate as any other private business. How will the company develop and evolve? I would think much as any other private business, it's success will depend on how many customers it can get and on how much discount it can offers those customers.

There is no charge to sign up as a "member", and the advertising states that there is no obligation on the consumer to accept the negotiated deal. Whether or not there are any other obligation or liabilities to "members" is one of the questions I posed in writing to the company, without a response to date. I also rang and asked to talk to someone but I am still waiting a reply.


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cheaper Coal


Towards Cheaper Heat
this Winter

Each winter I am sharply aware of the immorally high level of fuel poverty affecting so many of the people of Ireland. I started this blog in order to promote Sustainable Energy, but I have now arrived at the conclusion that the most important energy to sustain is winter heat for the disadvantaged and vulnerable.

Consequently, I have turned my focus to achieving the cheapest form of home heating. This I have found to be solid fuel burned in an enclosed stove.

For several years now, I have tried to find the best value suppliers for smokeless coal, eco logs etc. and to announce my finding for what thats worth.

The details hereunder will be of great interest to smokeless coal users. An old family based supplier in Cookstown Northern Ireland will supply – in ton lots and half ton lots to anywhere in the Irish republic. The ton lots are much better value because the shipping cost is the same for a ton and a half ton.

So here are the details:

Strata Ireland offer 50 x 20Kg bags = 1000Kgs or a metric Ton of a mix of Perto-coke / Calco and Lignite. This will be delivered by a courier on a pallet to the front of your house for only Sterling £310 about €375. I know that some fuel merchants are charging between €18 and €21 for a 40Kg bag of this stuff. So this offer which works out at €15 per 40Kg bag is a good deal.

I know a ton of coal is a lot to pay for in one go, and a lot to hump into a shed etc. but there is a substantial saving to be had for some people. Would be worth getting a loan from the Credit Union in order to finance the purchase. A group purchase with neighbours in another way of splitting the cost.

A little care is needed when burning Calco blend, as it can burn too hot and damage a stove. That said, it offers excellent value in terms of heat output v/s cost. It also is very low ash making cleaning a grate or stove a bit easier.

Strata also offer 50 x 20Kg bags 1000Kgs a metric ton of Smokeless Glow Ovoids delivered price is only Sterling £323. These are great for long burning overnight etc. They are also fairly fool proof in stoves.

You can order on-line and Pay with Credit Card or with Paypal here is the link:

Strata Ireland
153a Morgans Hill Road
County Tyrone
Northern Ireland
BT80 8BW
Tel: 048 8676 2103

In North Kerry, Econ Fuels (Now called National Fuels) Monvalley Industrial Estate Tralee, offer good prices on solid fuels, especially if you can only afford to buy in smaller lots. Calco smokeless mix for a 3 bag purchase sells at €16.20 per 40Kg bag.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Oxfam Report on Austerity, Poverty, Inequality

Hard Talk from Oxfam

Oxfam have issued a report on austerity in Ireland which states that the country will most probably experience a rise in inequality, poverty, and emigration.

The report stated that the austerity programmes; “bear a striking resemblance to the ruinous structural adjustment policies imposed on Latin America, South-East Asia, and sub-Sahara Africa in the 1980s and 1990s”.

It states in a dire warning that “left unchecked, these measures will undermine Europe’s social gains, creating divided countries and a divided continent, and entrenching poverty for a generation”.

Some Stated Statistics

  • The report states that in 2011 there were some 120 million people in the EU were in the poverty trap and the figure could rise by a further 25 million.
  • Women will be the hardest hit by austerity.
  • The report projects an erosion of Trades Unions, collective bargaining, and workplace rights. This will further add to the already established trend in poverty among working people.
  • Cuts to public services will result in people losing their jobs,
  • At the same time voluntary institutions that support people in times of hardship will be weakened or even shut down through declining funding.
  • It could take between 10 – 25 years for poverty to return to pre-2008 levels.

Some alternative strategies suggested by Oxfam;

  • Invest in people and economic growth.
  • Invest in public services.
  • Strengthen institutional democracy.
  • Tax fairly

The Oxfam report also suggested:

  • That the EU needs to tackle unsustainable European public debt
  • Address major flaws in the EU financial system
  • That citizens of Europe ... need to increase their political engagement in order to influence government policy.
  • We need to change course to avoid a lost European decade.

Regarding Ireland

Oxfam’s report on Ireland says that although the programme for recovery is ahead of target, the austerity measures “have had a devastating impact on people already struggling with rising unemployment and levels of indebtedness”.

The report said that the poorest are hit hardest by the recession, with a “shocking array of welfare cuts and tax increases” being introduced since 2008 “that have driven more and more people into debt and poverty”.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Solid Fuel Stoves


Solid Fuel Stoves
What's up
This Winter?

I had a brief check on what is moving in the world of multi-fuel stoves for this coming winter. One new comer is the County Kerry made Firebird brand range of high output inset stoves.

While not in the running to win a stove beauty competition, at least on the outside, Firebird have managed to squeeze up to 81% efficiency and a very impressive output from stoves designed to fit into most fireplace openings. 

The Firebird stoves come in two sizes: 16” and 18” with nominal outputs of 12Kw and 16Kw.

The 18” stove has a rated output to water and radiators of up to 12.1 Kw with up to 3.6 Kw of the heat output going directly by convection into the room.

These are very impressive figures indeed for such modest size stoves. I had a very brief look at construction. The boiler is standard steel construction. What impressed me was the door construction and the baffling. The quality of build looks very high with the use of stainless steel in the door.

These impressive performance figures however do not come without a price tag they are priced at approximately €1,350 and €1,650 respectively.

If your budget can stretch, these Firebird inset stoves are worth looking at. Not cheap, and they will require some fittings and a fair bit of work to install properly.

The Blacksmith Anvil 6Kw free standing stove is still on the go, and a favourite. It has stood the test of time. I have owned a Blacksmith Anvil for 3 years and it is as good as the day I bought it. It can pump out the heat effortlessly.

Three years ago I paid €400 for it, today it is just a little more expensive at €455. In the meantime it has had an improved firebox liner fitted which justifies some of the price increase, and since I bought it there has also been a bump up in the VAT further adding to the price.

The Olymberyl Gabriel sold by the same company as Horse Flame offers a quite similar stove to the Blacksmith Anvil at the slight cheaper price of €399. Horse Flame have turned out some nice quality cast stoves.

An inset stove by the same makers rated at 5Kw and nicely cast is the Olymberyl Gabriel Inset costing quite a reasonable €595.

I was looking at these stoves at McElligotts Castleisland Co. Kerry, and the prices I have indicated are as marked in the store on the day I visited - these may have changed in the meantime.

The trend in Ireland is that more and more people are turning to solid fuel stoves as a primary heat source.