From The CENtral Science Blogs
- Dec 3rd, 2013By Melody Bomgardner
- Nov 28th, 2013By Jeff Huber
- Nov 27th, 2013By Carmen Drahl
- Nov 22nd, 2013By Jyllian Kemsley
- Oct 24th, 2013By Rick Mullin
- Oct 13th, 2013By David Kroll
- Sep 30th, 2013By Alex Tullo
All Latest Posts
The end of 2013 is shaping up to be merry for the solar industry. It’s been a tough few years – as European governments cut back on incentives, inventories of solar panels, cells, and even raw materials started to pile up. But all that is getting sorted out, and a bunch more positive news is starting to point to a happy 2014 and beyond.
Demand for solar in China, Japan, the U.S. and even Europe has been strong since the summer. The pull has been felt througout the supply chain, but is not likely to be so strong that solar will become more expensive for end-users.
One sad tale this year has been a trade war between the developed home countries of some solar makers (in Europe and the U.S.) and China. But it looks like the compromise that the EU and China reached in July will stick, says Bloomberg. Perhaps those discussions will serve as a model for U.S.-China relations.
Speaking of the U.S., In October, 12 new solar installations accounted for 504 MW or 72.1 percent of all new electricity capacity last month. For the year, solar’s share is more like 21%. The Earthtechling blog digs into numbers from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Solar companies are sending positive signals to investors – and company stock has been soaring, points out Dana Blankenhorn at The Street.
At Lux Research, analyst Ed Cahill is taking a longer view. He says that solar will become competitive with natural gas by 2025, or if gas prices are between $4.90 and $9.30 MMBtu, perhaps as early as 2020. Apparently natural gas is a helpmate to solar – because using both together “can accelerate adoption and increase intermittent renewable penetration without expensive infrastructure improvements.”
Cahill says solar will become broadly competitive across the globe and that solar system prices will fall to $1.20 per W, from $1.96 per W in 2030 as modules get more efficient. One trend from the past will continue to dog the solar industry – as countries (and in the U.S., states) change policies, the industry will continue to see ups and downs. [Here's a press release about the report, along with a map]
The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what went on in last week’s issue of C&EN.
It’s not every day that academics get to take off their pants for a cause.
But in this week’s Newscripts, C&EN Senior Editor Michael Torrice writes about how one daring humanities job seeker dropped his or her pants and won $100 to boot.
Rebecca Schuman, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, challenged the readers of her blog to enclose a photograph of their (clothed) rear ends in an academic job application to prove a point. She advertised the challenge on Twitter using the hashtag #ButtScan and promised $100 to the first person to actually submit a #ButtScan application.
Schuman often writes about how absurdly involved applications for humanities positions are and seriously doubts that job committees go through the hundreds of 80-plus-page applications that are sent to them.
“What happens is you meticulously and lovingly craft these 85-page dossiers. And then you pay $14 to send them. And then you get a gaping chasm of silence—literally bupkis, nothing—until April when they send you a form rejection letter,” Schuman told Michael.
Much to her dismay, she crowned a winner just 48 hours after her call to action. She had posed the challenge as a joke but paid up when a reader sent her proof of the submitted application. #winning
The second Newscripts item is for a select crowd that has both a dangerous job and a deep pocket. A Toronto tailor is offering bulletproof men’s suits for a pretty $20,000 penny.
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Jeff Huber.
Some key facts about this year’s pardoned turkeys. Decide for yourself as to whether or not they really deserved to be pardoned. [White House]
The White House’s “We the Geeks” series takes on Thanksgiving cooking (video). [The White House]
More breakdown of the science of cooked turkeys: “As the turkey is cooked … the bonds within the molecules begin to break down, which causes proteins to unravel and the dense muscle meat to become more tender.” Mmmm… you had us at unraveling proteins. [RedOrbit]
Turns out that eating a bunch of food on Thanksgiving, and not just eating turkey, makes you sleepy. Weird, huh? [NBC News]
New Orleans institute has some ideas on how to incorporate insects into traditional Thanksgiving recipes. If only they had told you before you started cooking this year’s meal! [TreeHugger]
And now for non-Thanksgiving-themed news: Know what will make you think twice about drinking tons of Coke? The fact that Coke can also be used to remove rust from bolts, blood stains from clothes, dye from hair, and paint from metal furniture. [ThoughtPursuits]
One reason why your kindergartner is winning the argument to stay home from school: Turns out toddlers are smarter than 5-year-olds. [NPR]
… And likely smarter than nine-year-olds, given that one just got suspended for snorting Smarties. [Time]
Tweet of the Week:
Chemjobber tweeted this, but credit has to go to Derek Lowe for writing it. I bow down before his superior writing skills. Who else could pull off a reference to camp horror movies in a post about 23AndMe and FDA?
— Chemjobber (@Chemjobber) November 27, 2013
Happy Turkey Day, chem-keteers. And remember, tryptophan doesn’t make you sleepy on Thanksgiving. Overeating does.
To the Network:
Cleantech Chemistry: M&G Paves the Way for Coke’s PlantBottle in China
The Watch Glass: The Cranberry Sensation and A tiny atomic generator and Remembering JFK and JFK, a death in the family and Science in the Romantic Age and RIP, Frederick Sanger and Goodyear Spectrometer and It’s elemental: Chlorine and Antenna and Protection for police officers
The Newscripts gang prefers to digest our Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing before facing the inevitable onslaught of the holiday shopping season. But this year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fall on the same day – a rare convergence that won’t occur again until the year 79,811. So to help out the last-minute shoppers among our Jewish readers (don’t forget you’ve got an eight-day grace period), we’re putting up our chemistry-themed gift ideas a week earlier than usual.
Chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks:
- On Nov. 20, UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran had a status check with the judge regarding felony charges of labor code violations that led to the death of researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji. The result of that status check was another status check scheduled for Jan. 10, 2014. Harran’s preliminary hearing concluded on April 26. We’re going on two years since charges were filed on Dec. 27, 2011, and five years since the Dec. 29, 2008, fire.
- On Nov. 1, former UC Davis chemist David Snyder was arraigned on felony charges of reckless disposal of hazardous waste, possession of a destructive device or explosive, possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device, and possession of firearms on university property. The charges relate to an explosion in his campus apartment nearly one year ago. Snyder’s preliminary hearing concluded on Oct. 10. Snyder is scheduled for a trial-setting conference on March 17, 2014, and a jury trial to start on March 24, 2014.
Tweets of the month from @Free_Radical1:
First synthesis lab of the semester, and 3 students not wearing goggles. Lab uses conc. phosphoric/sulfuric acid. Meh, vision is over-rated.
— Free Radical (@Free_Radical1) November 11, 2013
Idea for post-lab question: do a Google Image Search for “sulfuric acid in eyes”, screen cap the first page of hits, email to TA. #tempting
— Free Radical (@Free_Radical1) November 11, 2013
I think our safety committee would have an issue with 450 undergrads synthesizing TNT: http://t.co/xYphFEXxMh
— Free Radical (@Free_Radical1) November 21, 2013
Came across a J Chem Ed lab where the students used lithium aluminum hydride. Um…yeah. And by “yeah”, I mean “no”.
— Free Radical (@Free_Radical1) November 21, 2013
Other items of interest
- The president-elect of ACS, Diane Grob Schmidt, is currently the chair of the Division of Chemical Health & Safety
- NIOSH released new recommendations for controlling worker exposure to nanomaterials
- BioRAFT will hold a webinar on Proactive EHS Management & Communications on Dec. 12
- Residents near an Allenco Energy oil field in Southern California have been complaining for three years about fumes from the site. At Sen. Barbara Boxer’s request, EPA investigators visited the site in October. “I’ve been to oil and gas production facilities throughout the region, but I’ve never had an experience like that before,” [EPA regional administrator Jared] Bumenfeld said. “We suffered sore throats, coughing and severe headaches that lingered for hours.” No word on what’s happened since.
- Also in California, state regulators are supposed to match hazardous material origin paperwork with what arrives at disposal sites. They don’t. “These so-called lost loads include more than 20,000 tons of lead, a neurotoxin; 520 tons of benzene, a carcinogen; and 355 tons of methyl ethyl ketone, a flammable solvent some in the industry call ‘methyl ethyl death.’” (I’m curious to know what chemists think of that nickname. It’s flammable, yes, but it’s not ranked category 1 for any GHS hazard class.)
- And, er, ALSO in California, a waste mystery: “more than 100 metric tons of the banned pesticide DDT and industrial compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have vanished from one of the country’s most hazardous sites, almost a 90% drop in just five years. Scientists are at a loss to explain the decline across the 17-square-mile site, which sits about 200 feet below the ocean surface and two miles off the Los Angeles County coast.” The chemicals wound up there from industrial waste dumped into sewers.
Fires and explosions
- A Sinopec oil pipeline in China ruptured, then “oil that entered local rain drainage pipes exploded“;
so far reports say that 35 people have died and 166 are injuredMONDAY UPDATE: CNN reported late Friday that 44 people were killed and at least another 135 were injured
- An explosion and fire in a cracking unit at a Chevron refinery in Mississippi killed operator Tonya Graddy
- A massive fire at a Southern Energy facility in Tennessee seems to have started when a methanol tank overflowed and something sparked
- “Accidental ignition” was reportedly the cause of an explosion at Aerojet Rocketdyne in California; one employee is hospitalized
- An employee “moving chemicals” may have caused a spark that led to a fire at Chemical Technology in Michigan; no one was injured but homes, a school, and other businesses were evacuated
Leaks, spills, and other exposures
- A 20,000-gal tank of liquid…something…overpressurized and launched itself through the roof of American Vinyl Company in Florida; one employee died and was found covered in a yellow liquid, while five others were injured
- More than a pound of mercury spilled onto the ground and into a deep well at an Archer Daniels Midland site in Iowa, “when a contractor was pulling a submersible pump from the well and the mercury seal in the pump broke”
- Sulfuric acid leaked from a Solvay plant in California, the cause was a malfunctioning scrubber; 13 people in the area were treated for nose and throat irritation and vomiting
- Chlorine dioxide leaked at Nucor Steel in Arkansas; 18 employees and contractors were treated for exposure
- Two workers at dental implant manufacturer Hiossen in Pennsylvania were pouring nitric acid from one container into another when some sort of reaction occurred; the workers were wearing gloves but no other PPE, and suffered burns to their airways and upper bodies
- Gluteraldehyde spilled at an office building in Texas; the chemical was possibly intended to disinfect health care equipment that cannot be heat sterilized
- Five University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, students got to experience safety showers after a plastic waste container ruptured, likley from “nitric acid mixing with a reducing agent to produce a nitrogen oxide gas“; two containers of ammonium hydroxide also broke
- A mixture of ammonia and sulfuric acid spilled at the University of Connecticut; two students were evaluated for exposure
- A Syracuse University student dropped a bottle of ethylenediamine and got an emergency shower and trip to the hospital for evaluation
- A Melbourne University chemical engineering student “was mixing chemicals when a glass container exploded in front of him“; he suffered cuts to his face and arms
Not covered (usually): meth labs; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.
Smithsonian releases 3-D printable files of some of its artifacts, including Amelia Earhart’s flight suit, a 1903 Wright Flyer, and an ornately carved late 18th-century Italian Pergolesi side chair. We’re holding out to print Archie Bunker’s arm chair though. [Slate]
Fourteen-year-old Yorkshire terrier just signed up for health insurance using a state exchange. Hopefully this doesn’t translate into higher premiums for younger Yorkshire terriers. [Opposing Views]
And how bad can health care in this country really be if a blind dog in Philadelphia can get its own seeing-eye dog? [Mother Nature Works]
GoldieBlox riffs off of Beastie Boys’ gender-stereotyped song “Girls” to advertise their new engineering toys for girls with a massive Rube Goldberg machine. [LA Times]
Gentrification is for the birds. Literally. Wild turkeys are flocking to cities where they are “fouling yards with droppings, devouring gardens, waking up residents with raucous predawn mating sessions, and utterly disregarding dogs and other supposed deterrents.” [AP]
The chemistry of cookie-making. Mmm, cookies. [Gizmodo]
Guys, are you feeling self-conscious about the size of your nose? It’s not your fault. It’s evolution’s! [ScienceDaily]
And last but not least, check out this year’s winner of the Dance Your Ph.D. contest. To the naysayers out there, this is more evidence that sex always wins. [Science]
Cleantech Chemistry thanks C&EN colleague Marc Reisch for contributing this news about biobased chemicals.
M&G Chemicals, a unit of Italy’s Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi, plans to build a $500 million biorefinery in China to make ethanol and the polyester raw material mono-ethylene glycol from 1 million metric tons of biomass per year. The facility in Fuyang, Anhui Province, China, will be four times larger than M&G’s recently commissioned Crescentino, Italy-based biorefinery when it is open in 2015.
To be built in a joint venture with minority partner Guozhen Group, a Chinese energy and real estate conglomerate, the Fuyang refinery will use Proesa technology from Beta Renewables, a joint venture partly owned by M&G which is also a polyethylene terephthalate maker.
M&G’s CEO Marco Ghisolfi says the Fuyang refinery “is the first act of a green revolution that M&G Chemicals is bringing to the polyester chain to provide environmental sustainability.” The company’s entry into China will ultimately position it to supply PET to firms such as beverage maker Coca-Cola which have advanced the development of renewably-sourced bottles, among them Coke’s own “PlantBottle.”
Coke currently buys ethanol-based ethylene glycol from India Glycols to make a PET bottle that is nearly 30% biomass derived. To increase feedstock availability, last year Coke formed a partnership with India’s JBF Industries to build a 500,000 metric-ton-per-year bio-ethylene glycol plant in Brazil, also set to open in 2015.
While the JBF plant will use sugarcane and sugarcane-processing waste as feedstock, M&G’s China facility will be based on wheat straw and corn stover. So M&G’s plant has the added virtue of depending on a non-food feedstock source.
But the ethics of using one feedstock crop versus another, or of using biomass versus petrochemical feedstocks, might not matter if consumers don’t care. At the BioPlastek Forum, a conference held in June, Coke, Ford Motor, and yogurt makers Danone and Stonyfield Farm told bioplastic makers that most consumers are unwilling to pay higher costs for bioplastics (C&EN, July 15, page 18).
And while the large M&G and JBF plant may have the economies of scale to drive down bio-based PET costs, they’ll encounter headwinds from petrochemical-based ethylene glycol makers. Lux Research senior analyst Andrew Soare points to the spate of ethylene and derivatives plants planned in the U.S. based on low-cost natural gas. M&G itself, for instance, is building a 1 million metric-ton-per-year PET polymer plant in Corpus Christi, Texas.
However, M&G will be challenged to make cost competitive ethylene glycol in China given the competition expected from U.S. petrochemical producers, Soare says.