Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Solar America Initiative


The primary goal of the Solar America Initiative is to ensure that solar energy technologies will play a growing role in U.S. energy supplies and the U.S. economy by making the technology cost-competitive in the near future.

Secondary goals are to achieve market competitiveness for the following technologies:
* Photovoltaics (PV) by 2015 through government partnerships with industry, universities, national laboratories, states, and other public entities
* Concentrating solar power systems by 2020 through ongoing and new research and development (R&D) activities.


Current objectives include the following:
* Fill the industry R&D pipeline for next-generation, low-cost, scaleable products
* Establish a framework for university involvement in the Solar America Initiative
* Calibrate the National Renewable Energy Laboratory research portfolio and role for the future
* Ramp up testing and evaluation for development and qualification
* Catalyze the collaboration on industry-wide issues such as codes and standards
* Expand U.S. policy and regulatory measures.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Acoustic Neuroma

Also called: Acoustic neurilemoma, Acoustic neurinoma, Vestibular schwannoma

Acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous tumor that develops on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. The tumor usually grows slowly. As it grows, it presses against the hearing and balance nerves. At first, you may have no symptoms or mild symptoms. They can include

* Loss of hearing on one side
* Ringing in ears
* Dizziness and balance problems

Acoustic neuroma can be difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms are similar to those of middle ear problems. Ear exams, hearing tests and scans can show if you have it.

If the tumor stays small, you may only need to have it checked regularly. If you do need treatment, surgery and radiation are options. If the tumors affect both hearing nerves, it is often because of a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis. The tumor can also eventually cause numbness or paralysis of the face. If it grows large enough, it can press against the brain, becoming life-threatening.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MTBE in Fuels

What is MTBE?

MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is a chemical compound that is manufactured by the chemical reaction of methanol and isobutylene. MTBE is produced in very large quantities (over 200,000 barrels per day in the U.S. in 1999) and is almost exclusively used as a fuel additive in motor gasoline. It is one of a group of chemicals commonly known as "oxygenates" because they raise the oxygen content of gasoline. At room temperature, MTBE is a volatile, flammable and colorless liquid that dissolves rather easily in water.

Why is it used?

MTBE has been used in U.S. gasoline at low levels since 1979 to replace lead as an octane enhancer (helps prevent the engine from "knocking"). Since 1992, MTBE has been used at higher concentrations in some gasoline to fulfill the oxygenate requirements set by Congress in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. (A few cities, such as Denver, used oxygenates (MTBE) at higher concentrations during the wintertime in the late 1980's.)

Oxygen helps gasoline burn more completely, reducing harmful tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles. In one respect, the oxygen dilutes or displaces gasoline components such as aromatics (e.g., benzene) and sulfur. In another, oxygen optimizes the oxidation during combustion. Most refiners have chosen to use MTBE over other oxygenates primarily for its blending characteristics and for economic reasons.