Center for Alternative Technology – Paul Allen

Last Friday, Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth Mid-Wales spoke about the centers work during seminar in the Parson’s Lab.  He is the CAT Development Director and co-author of the Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) report. Mr. Allen has spent the last month traveling the US from the East Coast to the West Coast by train giving his presentation about the CAT and the ZCB initiative.

The CAT advocates for an environmental policy that integrates current and emerging environmental management practices, new technology, and education to promote sustainable living communities.  Recently they partnered with University of East London to offer graduate programs in Architecture specializing in Environmental and Energy Studies, Renewable energy in the Built Environment, and Ecological Building Practices.  Mr. Allen’s work with CAT and the ZCB report is providing a policy and lifestyle framework which if adopted, can lower their dependency on fossil fuels and imported energy taking Britain a long way on the road to zero carbon emissions and energy independence.  Along the way, I hope they can provide a successful, sustainable environmental management model that can be used by other developed nations.  If you are interested in finding out more about the CAT, make sure to visit them online.

Life under high pressure – the setup

High Pressure Chamber PartsIt was only recently that we began to understand the capacity of microbes to populate the most inhospitable places on earth.  From the inside of nuclear reactors to highly corrosive sulfur environments, microbes are there.   We have found them in 100,000 year old ice cores and in the bottom of the deepest ocean. Microbes were among the first life forms and many of them have evolved in extreme, isolated environments.

One of my research interests is to examine how microbes thrive in these extreme environments.  One unique place where microbes live is deep in the earth’s surface.  Here, they live at elevated temperatures and pressures.   They also have to make do with very little source of nutrients.  Between the extreme environment, low nutrients,  and evolutionary isolation, these life forms harbor the possibility of novel energy regulation and utilization pathways.

To study these microbes, we have to design and build our own experimental equipment.  Currenlty, I am building a high pressure microbial growth chamber for one of the projects I am work on.  This system is going to be able to withstand pressures greater than 160 ATM (1 ATM = 14.7 psi).  We also will have an optical setup with a view cell which will let us examine how our cultures are behaving under these high pressures.  I hope to have the safety cage built this week (the picture is of me drilling the 3/8″ steel plate for the bottom of the cage) and start piping the growth chamber next week.  It is really exciting to see how all of this is coming together.  Stay tuned to see the progress of the high pressure growth chamber.

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Joost Bonsen – Maximizing Progress

I ran into Joost on Thursday of last week at Bosworth’s Cafe in Lobby 7 at MIT.  As usual, ended talking about one of our favorite subjects, emerging technologies and the developing countries.  Joost is a good friend with whom I have shared many beers at the Muddy Charles pub.  He is one of those people that makes MIT such a great place to be.  Joost is interested in everything dealing with global startups, social enterprises, sustainability, innovation, and technology.  He runs the blog Maximizing Progress, in which he shares stories about people, ideas, technology, and just plain cool stuff that happens around MIT and the world.

I love spending time with Joost as we usually end up kicking back some tasty brews, discussing and sometimes pushing to the limit ideas dealing with the plight of humanity and how science, technology, and engineering can provide answers to some of the issues facing the developing world.  Just a little of what he does around MIT and Cambridge: HighTech Fever on Cambridge Community TV; teaches various seminars and classes at MIT; The Muddy Charles Pub; Techlink; MIT Enterprise Forum; HowToons.  If you see him around campus, definitely stop him and introduce yourself.

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

TED Logo

I remember the first time I visited the a TED conference (it stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design) website.  Jarrett, a good friend who I blogged about, introduced me to a video from Aubrey de Grey called Why we age and how we can avoid it.   de Grey  has very interesting ideas regarding the disease called aging and what modern science and engineering can accomplish to minimize and prevent the causes and effects of aging and dying.  I instantly became hooked on TED!a

Since then I have become a regular visitor to the TED site, logging on and listening to talks ranging from evolution and god, to design and emerging technologies.  This is one of the few places that I can go and get inspired by the stories and the vision of incredible thinkers and doers.  TED expanded my view of the relationship between ideas, design, innovation, and the development of technology to benefit every part of humanity.