Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome to my new blog

Now why should I start a blog, and what am I going to write about?  Well, the things I want to say typically relate to my philosophy of life and my resulting inventions.  By way of background, I have a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Western Australia.  I lectured at the University of New South Wales from 1975 to 1981 and then had a number of different jobs in CSIRO Australia from 1981 to 2003.  I developed mathematical models for physical and industrial processes, I enthusiastically ran meetings on industrial applications of mathematics, I managed CSIRO’s applied mathematicians for a dozen years, I commercialised software, I did lots of work for professional mathematical associations and I directed a major international congress held in Sydney in 2003.

Over the years, I became concerned about humankind’s impact on planet Earth.  A long time ago, I accepted the science behind Anthropogenic Global Warming and I start to think particularly about how issues would play out in Australia.  This island continent is large, sparsely populated, prone to heat and drought, and occasionally floods.  Meanwhile, the world will need energy, and although we have sources in abundance (coal, natural gas, uranium, sunshine, wind, waves, geothermal), most of these are not good for the long-term health of the planet, whilst the others are difficult to harvest in a commercially viable way.

I found myself thinking more and more about inventions, eventually to the point where I decided to resign from CSIRO and follow my passion.  My thoughts focussed on power generation directly from sunlight, in a cheap and eco-friendly way of course.  In May 2004, I invented a new heat engine based on evaporative cooling of hot dry air at reduced pressure.  This seemed to offer good prospects for power generation from passive solar heat collection, so I worked hard to analyse the thermodynamic cycle as manifested in various ways – in a piston-in-cylinder engine, in continuous-flow, or using the Bernoulli effect. 

Associated inventions are a heat pump that operates on condensation in humid air at reduced pressure, and new schemes for desalination.  At the moment, they have been shelved whilst I work on the evaporation engine.

After completing and publishing the analysis of the thermodynamic cycle for my engine, I decided to build and test an experimental device, a project completed in 2008.  As the concept still looked promising, at least to this still-wet-behind-the-ears optimist, I started to look for investors to take things further.  Not easy, even if the Global Financial Crisis hadn’t occurred around the same time!  The only way forward was to work for a couple more years so as to answer the key questions that were always asked – how much power will it produce and what will it cost?

That led in 2010 to simulations of my heat engine, as powered by heat collection under a transparent insulated canopy, either horizontal or sloping.  I have also estimated how much my concept would cost to build and how the costs compare to other renewable technologies.  That brings me to the present.  From a technical standpoint, I’m now looking at thermal storage with my heat engine.  And, with an eye on commercialisation, I make comparisons on costs of power from various technologies.  Those are the things I plan to blog about – the technical work I’m doing, and cost comparisons.

More details on my inventions are available at my regular site, www.sunoba.com.au.

I encourage input to this blog.   I want to learn from people who have concerns like me and scientific/engineering/commercial knowledge to share.

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