Water leads to chemical that gunks up biofuels production

Battelle / PNNLBy Mary Beckman, published by PNNL

Study shows water trips up key chemical reactions that turn plants into fuels, provides scientific principles that can speed up biofuel development.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. The study, which was reported online at theJournal of the American Chemical Society in July, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.

The study examines the conversion of bio-oil, produced from biomass such as wood chips or grasses, into transportation fuels. Researchers used computer simulations to explore what happens to a common bio-oil byproduct. Water, everywhere during biofuels production, turns the byproduct into an impurity that disrupts and blocks the reactions that lead to biofuels. The results apply not only to water but to related liquids in bio-oil such as alcohols and certain acids.

The study provides a thorough view of the byproduct phenol reacting with catalysts. Catalysts are what chemists use to speed up the reactions that convert plants into fuels, reactions that occurred deep in the Earth over millions of years and gave us the fossil fuels we use today.

“We are getting to the heart of the fundamentals of biofuels catalysis,” said co-author Roger Rousseau, a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “The work tells us that the impurity is unavoidable and we need to make sure it does not build up enough to interfere. Although this is a very fundamental issue, it points out for us what types of things we can do to help extend the lifetime of the catalysts we are using to make bio-oil.” Read More…


Yaletown Venture Partners – Another Active Quarter and New Identity

Washington, Kirk

KIrk Washington, Yaletown Venture Partners

Yaletown Venture PartnersAugust 2014 Quarterly Update:  Since our June update, Tasktop closed a financing, Endurance expanded its leadership and Board, and we’ve seen more industry awards earned by our portfolio companies. We’ve also done some work on our own business – launching a new website, a new brand identity and leaving behind the partner’s photo on our newsletter. We welcome your feedback – take a look at the new site.

Read the full update here.


Bacterial nanowires are really wires, not hairs

Battelle / PNNLBy Mary Beckman, published by PNNL

RICHLAND, Wash. – Some bacteria shoot out tendrils that conduct electricity. Now, researchers have determined the structure of one variety of bacterial nanowire, and found the wires are distinct from common bacterial hairs that they closely resemble.

The results will help scientists understand how bacteria build up or break down minerals, and help researchers harness the bacteria to make microbial fuel cells, batteries, or to turn waste into electricity.

Appearing later this week online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, the work was led by Moh El-Naggar at the University of Southern California. Contributors included researchers from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Penn State, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute.

To determine what the nanowires are made of, researchers used genetics and molecular biology to narrow down the proteins involved. They found that rather than the expected bacterial hair proteins, the nanowires comprised specialized proteins called cytochromes that shuttle electrons. PNNL researchers helped make the cytochromes fluoresce in cells, allowing the team to show they are located in the wires.

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This work was supported by the Air Force, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institutes of Health.


Help Design the Next Generation of Personal Energy Systems

HydrobeeHydrobee has launched an online survey to improve the design of the new PowerBee personal renewable energy power system.   The short survey asks what features of the PowerBee are most desirable, where it is likely to be used, the user profile, and a few other questions.  Everyone who responds will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad Mini!

Hydrobee Stream Body - ModelThe survey just takes a few minutes and will greatly help us make the PowerBee system right for you. Look at the new design prototype, put on your thinking cap and share your suggestions for new applications and solutions!

Check out the new PowerBee design and user survey

Hydrobee is a startup company in Seattle revolutionizing the concept of personal renewable energy. The soda-can sized Hydrobee turbine battery harvests renewable energy from any natural energy source, including water pipes, rivers and streams, wind, fire, sun, bikes and muscles.  It puts out USB power for phones, LED lamps, or any USB device.  Once attached to an energy source, the battery in the Hydrobee can be “hot-swapped” with another battery or taken away with you for power on the go.


‘Stand-up Economist,’ Illustrator take Comic Book Look at Climate Change

Our friend and occasional panelist, Yoram Bauman, Ph.D.,  was profiled in The Herald, August 17, 2014.

By Robin Lindley

August 17, 2014 – (Everett, WA) – Seattle’s Dr. Yoram Bauman is probably best known for clarifying the intricacies of economics with doses of humor as “the world’s first and only stand-up economist.” He has a national following and has shared the stage with luminaries from Robin Williams to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

WCTA Climate Series: The Carbon Tax Discussion

Yoram Bauman, James Tansey, Todd Myers, and Jon Talton at a recent WCTA event

Dr. Bauman now focuses his wit and economics expertise on the daunting issue of climate change with illustrator Gary Klein in an educational and entertaining new book, “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change” (Island Press). In the book, Dr. Bauman offers — using humor — a primer on global climate history, the science of climate change, the consequences of human use of fossil fuels, and policy guidelines for addressing climate change — before it’s too late. Read More…


Think the Northwest is just too gloomy for solar? Think again!

By Sarah Joy Smith, A&R Solar.

Blog 1

August 15, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – Believe it or not, the Northwest is actually an ideal climate for solar power. As native Northwesterners we know how hard that can be to imagine, but the system does not work in the way you might think.

It’s our milder summer climate (read warm but not scorching) that makes it possible for solar panels to absorb the light more efficiently. This coupled with what are considered to be long summer days is a big reason solar is an excellent choice in the NW.

Fun Fact: Did you know that because we are north of the 45th parallel that our days, from sun up to sun down, can last from 5am to 10pm in summertime? Even in the southern half of the country, where sun is more prolific in nature, days often last from 7am to 7pm in the summer months. Read More…


Washington State Green Jobs Reports

offshore-wind-powerA summary of the Washington State Green Jobs Reports published between 2008 and 2011, written by Amrita Ghasghase, Seattle University MBA Candidate and WCTA Intern.

August 13, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – As directed by the Washington State Legislature, the Employment Security Department conducted a survey in 2008 to understand the scope of green jobs in Washington State.  This was followed by further surveys in 2009 and in 2011.

The 2008 survey targeted only private sector firms that most likely had “green jobs.”  Based on the findings of this survey, the 2009 survey was expanded to include the public sector.  Both the 2008 and 2009 surveys were conducted in industries that were presumed to be “green.”  The 2011 survey was expanded to all industries in the private and public sectors.  All data was self-reported by companies. Read More…


Clean Jobs Index Shows 1.2 Million New Clean Jobs in 2014

American clean jobs are up 88 percent since January 1, 2014 over the prior year

August 12, 2014 (Denver, CO) — Ecotech Institute’s Clean Jobs Index, a tool to compare states’ use and development of clean and sustainable energy, found more than two million job postings in the green energy sector in quarters one and two of 2014 alone. This is almost an 88 percent increase from the first and second quarters in 2013. The Clean Jobs Index classifies clean energy jobs based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics description, which says that a clean job is part of a business that benefits the environment or conserves natural resources. Read More…


WCTA Government Affairs Committee Meets with Senator Liias

Senator Marko Liias

Senator Marko Liias

August 12, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – The decisions that voters make this year will have more dramatic implications on state government than normal, State Senator Marko Liias told the WCTA. If Democrats control the legislature—or voters insist on the development of a moderate Republican faction, important decisions will be made and things will get done. If the legislature stays as divided as is has been, we will face continual impasses on important issues such as education funding, research & development, and climate. Read More…


Opportunity: WA Dept. of Commerce – Clean Tech Sector Lead

This is an Exempt Management Recruitment and the hiring authority reserves the right to fill this position at any time prior to the advertised closing date. It is to the Applicant’s advantage to submit your materials as soon as possible, first review of applications will be August 25, 2014. Salary is determined based on job relevant experience, skills and abilities.Click for Full Job Listing  Read More…

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