Engineers and Environment

Hybrid Cars

Posted by Susan Sharma on January 25, 2007

 
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In a new study issued last week, automotive consumer information service Intellichoice.com reported that gasoline-electric hybrid cars and trucks—favored by environmentalists for sipping instead of guzzling gas—have significantly lower total cost of ownership than equivalent traditional gas-only models.

 
“Across the board, we found that all 22 hybrid vehicles have a better total cost of ownership over five years or 70,000 miles than the vehicles they directly compete against,” said Intellichoice.com publisher James Bell.

“Hybrids are proving themselves to be an excellent alternative for car buyers,” Bell added. “Even when factoring in the additional upfront costs for their purchase, the long-term savings hybrids generate makes them a sensible and attractive purchase.”

Intellichoice.com’s findings run contrary to previous analyses from Consumer Reports which concluded that hybrid owners cannot make up the higher up-front costs of a hybrid with fuel savings down the road. The key difference is due to the fact that Intellichoice.com factored in hybrids’ retention of resale value as well as the availability of various tax and financial incentives.

SOURCES: intellichoice.com

Engineers and Environment

Wind Energy

Posted by Susan Sharma on October 11, 2006

 
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Here is an excerpt from a report in the New York Times dated 28 September 2006.

Wind power may still have an image as something of a plaything of environmentalists more concerned with clean energy than saving money. But it is quickly emerging as a serious alternative not just in affluent areas of the world but in fast-growing countries like India and China that are avidly seeking new energy sources. And leading the charge here in west-central India and elsewhere is an unlikely champion, Suzlon Energy, a homegrown Indian company. ...

Roughly 70 percent of the demand for wind turbines in India comes from industrial users seeking alternatives to relying on the grid, said Tulsi R. Tanti, Suzlon's managing director. The rest of the purchases are made by a small group of wealthy families in India, for whom the tax breaks for wind turbines are attractive.

Wind will remain competitive as long as the price of crude oil remains above $40 a barrel, Mr. Tanti estimated. To remain cost-effective below $40 a barrel, wind energy may require subsidies, or possibly carbon-based taxes on oil and other fossil fuels.

Engineers and Environment

New bird species discovered by an astrophysicist!

Posted by Susan Sharma on September 12, 2006

 
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A striking multi-colored bird has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh making it the first ornithological find in the country in more than half a century.

Discovery of this new species in Arunachal Pradesh was made by Dr. Ramana Athreya who is a professional astronomer with the National Centre for Radio Physics in Pune. Bombay Natural History Society honed his birdwatching skills.

The Bugun Liocichla, scientifically known as Liocichla bugunorum, a kind of babbler, was discovered in May at the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. The bird -- with olive and golden-yellow plumage, a black cap and flame-tipped wings -- is 20 cm (8 inches) in length and named after the Bugun tribespeople who live on the sanctuary's periphery.

The story is certainly inspiring for all bird watchers!

Read more about the discovery at

http://www.hindu.com/2006/09/12/stories/2006091202072200.htm

Engineers and Environment

Who killed the electric car?

Posted by Susan Sharma on September 10, 2006

 
Forum Post

Who Killed the Electric Car?

The year is 1990. California is in a pollution crisis. Smog threatens public health. Desperate for a solution, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) targets the source of its problem: auto exhaust. Inspired by a recent announcement from General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, the Zero Emissions Mandate (ZEV) is born.

It was among the fastest, most efficient production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry.

Fast forward to 6 years later... The fleet is gone. EV charging stations dot the California landscape like tombstones, collecting dust and spider webs. How could this happen? Did anyone bother to examine the evidence? Yes, in fact, someone did. And it was murder. The electric car threatened the status quo.

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? is not just about the EV1. It's about how this allegory for failure - reflected in today's oil prices and air quality - can also be a shining symbol of society's potential to better itself and the world around it. While there's plenty of outrage for lost time, there's also time for renewal as technology is reborn in WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?

http://www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar/electric.html

( The above review is from http://www.wildfilmnews.org)

 

Engineers and Environment

Shift plea ignored

Posted by Susan Sharma on August 31, 2006

 
Forum Post

A 22-km bridge from Sewri in Central Mumbai to Nhava in Navi Mumbai, proposed to be built ( work expected to start in Dec 2006) will destroy the Sewri habitat of lesser flamingoes.

The sheltered bay attracts a lot of flamingoes, both the greater and the lesser varieties apart from several waders and birds of prey. The area is designated as an important bird area (IBA) and is a popular place for viewing the birds and studying them.

The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) had been demanding that the project site be shifted 500 metres away to protect this "Important Bird Area". The bridge goes over the Bay area and this small adjustment would have made a big difference, according to Mr Isaac Kehimkar of the BNHS.

However, the Government did not accept that suggestion.

 

Engineers and Environment

Free booklets on birds and butterflies

Posted by Susan Sharma on August 20, 2006

 
Forum Post

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, an Engineer and Chartered Accountant for 15 years in the U.K, returned to Srilanka with the aim of creating a million wildlife enthusiasts in Srilanka by 2025.

“Gehan’s Photo Booklet” series published by Jetwing Eco Holidays, Srilanka, is now available as booklets in downloadble form ( free download).

The first booklet of this series is the Butterflies of Sri Lanka and Southern India. Photographs of 96 of the 242 species of butterflies and skippers found in Sri Lanka are included in the booklet. Many of the species have two images each, depicting both the underwing and upperwing of the butterfly. For some of the species where sexual dimorphism is present, images of both sexes are included. Images of Sri Lanka’s largest species of Butterflies such as the Blue Mormon, Common Birdwing and the endemic Ceylon Tree Nymph are included in the booklet.

The second booklet of the series is the Birds of Sri Lanka and Southern India. All the photographs in these booklets have been taken by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, CEO of Jetwing Eco Holidays. To encourage and facilitate a wide a audience, especially school children to learn and identify the butterflies and birds they encounter, the species names have been given in three languages (English, Sinhala and Tamil). The booklets can also be used in Southern India as Sri Lanka shares many of the butterfly and bird species with Southern India.

Here is the link for the downloads http://www.jetwingeco.com/web_pages/sales/jetwing_sales.html

 

Engineers and Environment

Invisible rural engineer

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 12, 2006

 
Forum Post

Chewang Norphel, 67, is a soft-spoken innovator from Ladakh. For over 15 years, Norphel, a civil engineer by training, has been building ‘artificial glaciers’ to make life a little easier for the hard-working but poverty-stricken farmers of Ladakh. Farmers in his village call him a messiah. Ex-President K R Narayanan called him an “invisible rural engineer”. But Norphel is better known as Ladakh’s ‘glacier man’ who can generate water and vegetation in the barren landscape of Ladakh.

For his work he was awarded the Far Eastern Economic Review’s 1999 Gold Asian Innovation Award.

Norphel comes from the small village of Skarra on the outskirts of Leh, the capital of Ladakh. He always wanted to do something to help the people of the region who suffer the harsh conditions of this remote, inhospitable high-altitude desert in the Himalayas, where temperatures can drop to below -30°C. Ladakh experiences long, severe winters and brief summers. And to top it all, water is in short supply. Ladakh is in the rain-shadow area of the Himalayas, where the annual average rainfall seldom exceeds 50 mm. The only water source is glacier water coming down the mountains. When glaciers melt in summer, they release water that is used by the people of Ladakh to irrigate their crops.

 “I realised that all the problems of the region were related to water, which was scarce in most areas,” says Norphel. This water shortage is more acutely felt during the summer months, between March/April and June. These months are critical for Ladakh’s farmers. Any delay in sowing the crop rules out an October harvest, as the crop does not then mature in time to beat the harsh winter. Only single crops like wheat, barley and peas are grown here.

The glaciers begin melting only after July. And so the short sowing season sometimes begins and ends before the bulk of water is made available through the melting of natural glaciers. Sometimes there’s no water to irrigate even a few crops. Norphel’s watershed intervention -- the ‘artificial glacier’ -- came from the simple observation that “while there was such a shortage of water at the start of the cropping season, a lot of water was being wasted during winter”.

He noticed that in winter water taps were left open to stop the water from freezing in the pipes. The water flowed into the drains surrounding the taps and froze. “And it is then that it occurred to me: why not try and make artificial glaciers in the vicinity of the village so that local farmers get a real headstart when they need it most,” says Norphel.

Norphel used to work with the Jammu and Kashmir rural development department making zings (small tanks fed by run-off from melting glaciers). A year after he retired from government service, in 1996, he joined as project manager for watershed development for the Leh Nutrition Project, a local civil society organisation. This gave him the opportunity to try out his ‘artificial glacier’ idea to trap and freeze water for future use. Norphel’s technique uses a network of pipes to capture and channel precious snowmelt that would otherwise be wasted. No crops are grown during Ladakh’s severe winters; the little water there is in the mountain streams generally goes waste.

Using some local ingenuity, Norphel built his ‘artificial glacier’ from stone embankments and a few hundred metres of iron pipe. First, water from an existing stream was diverted through iron pipes to a shady area of the valley. From there, the water was made to flow out onto a sloping hill at regular intervals along the mountain slope. Small stone embankments impede the flow of water, creating shallow pools. During the winter, as temperatures drop steadily, the water in these small pools freezes. Once this cycle has been repeated over many weeks, a thick sheet of ice forms, resembling a long, thin glacier. Norphel managed to freeze water in pipes as well. “I noticed in Leh that water sometimes did not freeze in the channels but did so in the thin iron pipes. As the pipes are made of metal and are very thin, they lose heat quite rapidly,” he explains.

There are several advantages of an artificial glacier over a natural one. To start with, it’s closer to the village and at a comparatively lower altitude. Natural glaciers, on the other hand, are located way up in the mountains and they melt slowly in summer, releasing water to the villages quite late. Early water release from an artificial glacier comes as a bonus for farmers. It enables them to get water a whole month before the snow starts melting on the mountain tops. This is particularly useful to start sowing, as the sowing season ends before water from natural glaciers begins to flow down the mountain.

The largest artificial glacier Norphel has built so far is near the village of Phuktsey. About 1,000 feet (300 metres) long, 150 feet (45 metres) wide, and four feet (1 metre) deep, it supplies irrigation water to the entire village of around 700 people. Norphel says the glacier was built at a cost of about Rs 90,000, which is about a tenth of what it would have cost to build a reservoir with similar storage capacity.

This technology has become immensely popular with the people of Ladakh, not only because it is effective but also because it is simple and affordable and makes use of local resources and skills. And there’s minimal maintenance required. “The villagers can understand this,” Norphel says. “This is optimum utilisation of water by using the simplest technique, at a low cost. It also helps recharge groundwater and nearby springs.”

As more and more glaciers are being constructed all over Ladakh, more and more barren land is coming under cultivation, providing better opportunities to poor and marginalised communities in the region. Norphel hopes that solving Ladakh’s water problems will help slow down the migration of young people to the plains. Improving the economic viability of farms, he says, will sustain village communities and also preserve the ancient Buddhist heritage of his people.

Norphel’s efforts have been tracked in a film by docu-filmmaker Fayaz Rizvi, titled A Degree of Concern, which was recently screened on the National Geographic Channel.

Engineers and Environment

Alternate fuel-Ethanol 101

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 15, 2006

 
Forum Post

Ethanol is a renewable fuel distilled mainly from corn. In the near future, ethanol may also be produced using agricultural and wood waste, of which there is an abundant supply for both in agricultural states and counties throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Because of its comparatively high oxygen content, ethanol is cleaner burning than regular unleaded gasoline and can be blended to 10 percent without having to modify standard engines. A 10 percent blend also substantially reduces carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, benzene and other exhaust emissions as well as related greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Before we can celebrate ethanol as a viable alternative to petroleum, one simple fact must be considered: producing ethanol requires more fossil fuel energy than the petroleum it would replace. This result was confirmed researchers at Cornell University and the University of California. The reason? It takes a lot of energy to grow crops and transform them into ethanol.

Regardless, ethanol has a lot of political support, and despite building evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Department of Agriculture believes that ethanol delivers more energy than is consumed in making it.

Sources: American Coalition for Ethanol, Growing Expectations, and Cornell University News Service.

Engineers and Environment

Automated vehicular pollution detection system(Pollution Buster)

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 12, 2006

 
Forum Post

Four students from Dr.B.V Raju Institute of Technology, Narsapur, Medak District, Andhra Pradesh have designed a "Pollution Buster".

The device includes a user module comprising a circuit which has a carbon monoxide sensor, to monitor the vehicle's emission. The receiver module placed at strategic traffic points transmits the registration number of the polluter vehicle to the pollution control authorities. The team says the concept provides a three day grace period to the motorist to correct pollution levels, before he is reported automatically.

The concept is real time and hence expected to be more effective in checking pollution. The foursome is among the four teams selected from India by Microsoft Sudent challengE 2006.

(Report courtesy Education Times June 12, 2006)

Engineers and Environment

Grey water recycling in Mathematical Institute

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 03, 2006

 
Forum Post

The Chennai Mathematical Institute, spread across five acres in Siruseri, proposes to implement a grey water recycling system in its premises.

The project, in its first phase, would be designed to treat about 2,000 litres of used water. Grey water refers to waste water produced after cleaning, washing and bathing. The treated water could be used for gardening or ground water recharge.

Grey water is easier to treat than black water or water from toilets. This is because black water is loaded with pathogens that are difficult to get rid of through a simple treatment system. Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Managing Director of Ecoscience Research Foundation, who designed the project for the Chennai Mathematical Institute, said that root zone treatment would be used to treat the grey water.

The principle behind the system is quite simple. Grey water is allowed to flow through a horizontal filter that is three metres long, two metres wide and 30 centrimetres deep. The water is passed through a filter of pebbles and gravel. The water also passes through a reed bed, which is slightly sloped so that the water flows easily.

Root zone treatment The reed bed is crucial to the water treatment. The best plants to use for the reed bed include Canna (kal vaazhai), Banana and Colocasia (a yam). The plants keep the soil partially aerobic by pumping atmospheric oxygen to the roots, where some micro organisms live. These bacteria help in the break down on any suspended solids in the grey water.

Once the first phase of the project is fully operational, Mr. Ismail also proposes to treat black water through a more elaborate technology. A composting shed for solid waste management is also being planned.

Chennai Mathematical Institute is an autonomous institution for teaching and research in Mathematical Sciences. It is supported by the Department of Atomic Energy.

SOURCE : The Hindu, Monday, May 22, 2006

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