Farming new fuels

Cattle and corn may soon connect at the gas pump
Ethanol pulled into the fast lane in Missouri this year when Gov. Matt Blunt approved a bill requiring that gasoline sold in the state be blended with at least 10 percent of the corn-based biofuel by Jan. 1, 2008.
As with most alternative sources of energy, ethanol has significant benefits: it‘s a clean-burning, high-octane fuel that can help keep gas prices down by increasing and diversifying the nation‘s fuel supply. Yet there‘s a major catch: energy is needed to grow corn and turn it into ethanol.
In ethanol production, the starch portion of the corn is fermented into alcohol and then distilled. Natural gas and electricity are used to run the ethanol plant, powering everything from the hammer mill that grinds the feedstock into a fine powder to the boilers that liquefy the starches.

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Your own…personal…fuel cell

By 2015, drivers may be less concerned about gas mileage than about hydrogen storage. By 2030, the United States’ dependency on foreign oil to power our cars and trucks could be a thing of the past.
A few years later, homeowners might be able to drop off the grid, generating their own power from in-house fuel cells and leaving behind nothing but clean, potable water.
Yangchuan Xing, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, is working to bring these possibilities into reality using polymer electrolyte membrane (or PEM) fuel cells.
In a PEM fuel cell, electrons are conducted across two electrodes with a polymer membrane sandwiched between them. The anode is fueled with hydrogen to produce protons and electrons. The polymer membrane conducts the protons through to the cathode, where they recombine with electrons and oxygen to form water, the only byproduct of a PEM fuel cell. The process creates the electricity to power devices from laptop computers to cars to homes.
“It’s a very environmentally friendly process,” Xing says.

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Run Rabbit, run

Rabbit.jpgNorman Cox figures his 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit gets the equivalent of about 130 miles to the gallon – primarily because it doesn’t run on gasoline.
Cox bought the Rabbit in the 1980s with the idea of converting it into an electric car, an idea he’d been kicking around since the oil embargo of 1973. “I drove it for a year, and it was a real lemon,” says Cox, an associate professor of electrical engineering at UMR.

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Getting on board

Soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., may soon get the chance to reduce their use of fossil fuels and ease the strain on their wallets – just by sitting down.
The idea is simple. A public transit system would transport commuters along the Interstate 44 corridor, from Fort Leonard Wood to Rolla and Lebanon. If successful, hydrogen-powered shuttle buses would then retire the gasoline-powered fleets, creating the first rural test site for the federal government’s hydrogen technology program.

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Hard times call for a heavy alternative

When Samuel Frimpong thinks about the world’s ever-increasing dependence on crude oil, his mind turns to sands and statistics.

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Personal energy audit: What can YOU do?

The UMR Magazine staff caught up with John Sheffield of UMR’s Industrial Assessment Center to find out what the average consumer can do to conserve energy. The IAC conducts energy audits for companies to help them cut their energy costs. Sheffield says real energy savings come through the use of energy-efficient appliances. And apparently, it’s all about reading labels.

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It’s a flat, flat, flat, flat world

It was “a time of tremendous excitement” for engineers when Harry J. “Hank” Sauer Jr. entered graduate school at MSM-UMR 50 years ago. It had been nine years since Chuck Yeager had broken the sound barrier, and the U.S. seemed poised for even greater breakthroughs in flight. Fueled by the post-World War II economy and federal funding for research, MSM-UMR’s graduate programs were also poised for takeoff.
But a year later – as Sauer, ME’56, MS ME’58, joined the mechanical engineering faculty while continuing his graduate studies part time – something happened that further accelerated the research activities at MSM-UMR and other universities throughout the nation. That something was the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first satellite, a basketball-sized sphere known as Sputnik I.

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The world is flat. Or is it fat?

After Columbus and before globalization, we realized the idea of a flat world was a myth. We’ve known for a long time that the world was really quite round. But, recently, we learned the world is being flattened by global competition. Or is it?

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From Beijing to Pine Street

Kim “Mac” McGinnis, ME’79, hasn’t missed a single St. Pat’s celebration since graduation – even though, for the past five years, he’s had to travel halfway around the world to get back to Rolla.

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America’s quiet crisis

William J. Daughton, chair of engineering management and systems engineering, reviewed Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century for the American Society for Engineering Management’s Engineering Management Journal. Friedman’s book, Daughton writes in his December 2005 review, “brings into focus trends and events that most readers would recognize but perhaps have not thought about in the larger context of flattening the world.”

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