A blog from University of Borås

Monday, December 31, 2012

Music and fashion from wastes!

We usually hear engineers talk about the wastes, as they focus on engineering aspects, technologies, etc. However, it is intersting to see intiation of some people who develop arts and beauty from wastes!

Sometimes ago, I saw a friend in São Paulo University in Brazil (Prof Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos) who work with scavengers and many students, and show many beautiful clothes and materials from wastes, (such as this beautiful cloths in the picture down here). Another aspects I saw was in Indonesia in a project named Clean & Green, in which dirty parts of the cities were converted to beautiful parts and made such as bags or hats.

!!!I wish you all a Happy New Year of 2013!!!!

Now, we see another initiation in Paraguay, where people made different insturments from wastes and played Mozart. Very intresting!!

 (Cloths made from wastes in São Paulo University, photo borrowed from Prof Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos)
(Different handycrafts from wastes. Photo by Agus Prasetya from Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia)

(Playing Mozart by instuments made from rubish)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to find a position as PhD student?

I reguarly get questions from students who are looking for a position as PhD student. Here are some hints for those applicants:
1- The positions as PhD stundents are very limited compared to the number of MSc students. So, if you apply and get a negative answer, you are not alone. Do not give up!
2- The financing is usually a major crerion. If you have financing from e.g. your home country, a ministry, a company etc., it would be easier to find a position. However, if you apply for the positions with salary or scholarship, you have to compete with the other students, which make it much more difficult.
3- Try to contact the professors whom you are interesting to work with. You should avoid general e-mails, since nobody answer.
4- Try to make personal contacts with those professors in e.g. conferences, workshops etc., even if you have to go abroad for such conferences and pay for it.
5- One major merit in selecting the students is to have publications (in scientific journals). You should work hard to do some good work in e.g. your MSc thesis and try to publish it. It increases the chances to find a position.
6- Many MScs try to study another MSc again, in order to get in touch with some peoples and increase their changes. It sometimes works!
7- The grades in your MSc and even BSc are important.
8- The social parts and teamwork are also important to get a position. Do not understimate it!
9- Try to get a good references. The reference letters that are handed over to the applicants are usually useless, since all of the are positive and not real!

Think about these facts and good luck in finding a position!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Prepare yourself for more natural disasters!

It is very disappointing news from Doha (Qatar) that the polititions in the world cannot do more than just prolonging Kyoto Protocol. The level of carbon dioxide is now more than 390 ppm (just notice that it has been generally around 200 to 300 ppm in the last 400,000 years.

The polititions just care about their daily work and perhaps just re-elected and have no possibility to do a longterm investment on the environmental issues. So, people should think about themselves and prepare for:
- Less rain in dried regions, but flood when it rains,
- More rains in the is already too much rain,
- More extreme weather (too cold or too hot),
- More release of methane in the atmosphere (and consequently more global warming),
- Higher level of water (for those who live on the coastal area and also harbors),
- More and stronger storms and tornados,
- Chaning in the Gulf streams (water movement between the poles and equators) and more anaerobic conditions at the bottoms of oceans and seas and less oxygen in the water,
- .....

It is probably the myth of 2012, if you believe in it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

India: zero waste with music and religion?

We had a trip last week to India and had good meetings with several municipalities, companies and universities about zero wastes concept, and conversion of wastes to a variety of energies, fuels and materials as what we do here in Sweden. I hope it leads to some concrete developments in the country.

However, I think India is a very complicated country with many challenges. There is wide span of rich-middle class-poor people, as well as on the education. We see expensive cars on the street, while still many people depend on elephants and camels for transportation. While air-condition is normal in many buildings that I visited, still 44% of the rural area do not have access to electricity.

The questions on wastes and energy are also hot topic in the country. India is in some kinds of transient conditions from the old traditions (where no everything was somehow sustainable) to a consuming society with perhaps American style of life as the model. They should consume more in order to show they belong to a higher class. It results in a lot of wastes (as I heard 1.3 kg/capita/day that is almost similar to Sweden) and also lack of energy (as I heard just one state has surplus of electricity production and the rest have problem with it). There are a lot of plans on waste management, but in principle, the wastes are transported to the landfills and dumping places.

One key factor in Sweden on a proper waste management and achieving zero landfill is the wastes segregation at the source as people do it as home. When we talked about it, there were people who were very pessimistic and said it can never happen in India. However, Indians love dance and music and they are generally very religious. Their home is clean and their temples are also clean, as we have to take out shoes before entering the temples or mosques. Just they need little social works to start with music and beautiful dancers to sing and dance for zero wastes and also their religious leaders to show them that the streets should also be clean as their home and temples are! Let's see if we get some results out of it!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Global CO2 emissions 2011: Made in China

In 2011, the global CO2 emission has been increased by more than 800 million tons to 34 billion tons. This level can be compared to 22,682 million tons in 1990. It means that just in 22 years, we have increased our CO2 emissions by 50%!!!!

USA is no longer the dominating country in CO2 emission, where China "as they call themselves as the world fabric"got the first rank with 8,876 million tons emissions. Comparing the countries are interesting in different aspects. Sweden produces 56 million tons, while indsutrial and cold country as Canada (with 3 times more population than Sweden) produces 628 million tons. Another countries are Iran and Saudi Arabia that are not developed country, but their emissions are more than United Kingdom. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Biofuels in Europe: Ethics or...?

European Union is now going to reduce its target to use food-based renewable energy and limit it to 5% in 2020. In the last few years, a great effort has been to produce ethanol, biogas and biodiesel from food-based vegetables such as grains in Europe. However, whenever a crisis appears, debates on producing such biofuels pops up. However, not all the aspects are usually discussed:

  • Is it ok to take the food from a poor african child and make it as fuel for a rich European?
  • Is it ok to use water in relatively dry countries to produce fuel for reach European cars?
  • Is it ok to use the arable lands to produce biofuels and not food for the billions of hungry mouths?
There are many of such questions, which of course we should say NO!
But, there are some other questions as well:
  • What a poor farmer does, when there is an overproduction of the grains in a region or a year? Should he sell it in low price?
  • Why shouldn't we develop unused lands, and unemployed people in some regions or countries to cultivate grains and produce biofuels?
As example, there are now about 7,000 farm-based biogas plants in Germany, and about 600,000 tons excess grains in Sweden. What should these farmers do? Should we stop their farms and import more oil and gas from Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia? Is it sustainable?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sustainability: A complex question!

I have recently watched a documentary film "The Magical Forest" on YouTube from BBC documentary, and I recommend everybody working on biofuel and bioenergy to watch this film. It shows how different species such as salmon fishes, bears, flying squirrels, fungi, catterpillar, etc. have imporant functions for a nordic forest to survive. It is usally hard to imagine that a lot of nutients for the trees in a forest come from the ocean by salmon, or the squirrels help the trees to obtain water during the dry season.

It shows perfectly that nature has a very complex balance, that is not so easy to predict all the aspects. For example, dams and hydropowers are probably the best way of producing electricity. However, it can damage the Amazon forests as mentioned before, or damage the nordic forests by stopping the nutrients that should come from the ocean by salmon fishes. These aspects are not so often considered and are not highlighted in media. We should also think about such aspects of other lovely bioenergies such as wind power, solar power, biogas, ethanol, biodiesel, etc., and also the fossil fuels such as oil, gas, tar sand, nuclear plants. All the discussions are usually limited to CO2 or some other simple aspects that are easy to measure, but the question is much more complex!!!

(The Magical forest by BBC documentary) 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do we have enough renewable energy?

It would be interesting to have a look on the energy. In each year, 5,4 x 10^24 Joul solar energy is delivered to atmosphere, where just 46% is entered to the atmosphere and the rest is reflected back to the sky. About half of this energy is used to run the hydrological cycles, while about 0.05% of this entering energy (1,26* 10^18 Jouls/year) is saved in photosynthesis. This number can be compared with total energy use by human activity which is just about 33% of the energy saved by photosynthesis.

The conclusion is that all the human activity use just 0.0078% of the energy delivered to the atmosphere. We have no crisis of renewable energy, but we have crisis in our knowledge that is not enough on how to use this energy!!!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Climate warnings and just political and religious fighting!

In these weeks, we got a lot of news on North Pole and its ice that smells much faster than before. We also remember this spring/summer dryness in USA and a lot of rain in Europe, with coming effects in form of higher price of food in autumn. These climate extremes in Europe and USA are connected to the changes in North Pole, and we expect to have more extreme weather by e.g. too cold and long or too warm winter, or more tornadoes or too dry seasons. These types of stories are going to continue and become more often, and affect people all around the world...

When we listen to the political leaders in the world, there is no real debate and action on these issues. It is usually just talk with the purpose of winning the next election. We hear sometimes strange claims from the politicians of e.g. “the enemies made this climate changes”.

The religious leaders also neglect the scientific discussions on environment. People should pray for rain and other natural disasters, without discussing about why we get these disasters of dryness, tornado, storm, flood, too hot or too cold weather, etc. They are supposed to help people, particularly the most affected ones. It is the core of any religion, but they usually praise the political leaders, and not so much for the people.

Even people do not do better than the politicians and religious leaders. We see that one crazy guy make the film "Innocence of Muslims" which is supported by some extremists, and what turbulent follow it in the Muslim countries by other extremists and kill other people. The respect to life, humanity, other believes and religions are getting vanished. I hope we learn to respect each other, and instead of fighting to think about a more sustainable and better world!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Plants evolution on BBC

Plants are the source of energy and food for us, with photosynthesis as the core of absorption of solar energy and its conversion to oil, gas, food etc. Understanding of these plants and their evolution could be a great help to find out new renewable energies and materials in the future.

I have recently watched a very interesting documentary in 3 parts from BBC which is avaialble on YouTube. It discusses the history of earth from 3 billions years ago and how the life came in with purpule bacteria, followed by plants and their changing the atmosphere from a CO2-rich to oxygen-rich, and then how forests, leaves, flowers, fruits, grasses, etc. have been developed. It is very interesting documentary and worth to watch!

How To Grow A Planet 1/3

How To Grow A Planet 2/3 

How To Grow A Planet 3/3



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Global ethanol and biodiesel 2000-2011

Fossil fuel for electricity has several competitor in the market nowadays, such as nuclear power, windpower, wave energy, geothermal, hydropower, etc. However, the diesel and gasoline as fuel do not have so many competitors in the market.

The renewable fuels are dominated by ethanol by 86 million m3/year that is about 4% of the gasoline market. It is followed in large scale by biodiesel with 21 million m3 per year in 2011. Biogas is the third largest biofuel in the market. There are also two other source that is hydrogen and electricity. However, they are still negligible in the market. Ethanol market in 2011 might be negatively affected by the drought in the US this year. We'll see how it is developed!

(Ethanol and biodiesel production in the world adapted from REN21)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A review on small biogas reactors

Biogas is probably one of the oldest biofuels in the world. However, this gas has a great contribution to our current global warming now, since it is well produced from e.g. landfills and rice fields in the world. On the other hand, if biogas is captured in the reactors, it is a great source of energy for cooking, heating, electricity and fuel for the cars.

We have recently reviewed different designs and other aspects of the small reactors used for biogas prooduction. There are several millions of such reactors in the world with different designs, and it is interesting to see the development of such reactors. You can here download the review article.

(Schematic sketch of a janta model fixed dome digester for biogas production)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Canada vs. Sweden: Energy and environment?

Canada and Sweden are both located somewhere in very cold part of the world, and they have many similarities. However, when it comes to the energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Canada and Sweden are quite different. Canada produces 3 times GHGs more than what Sweden do (c.f. picutre below). I think Cananda needs to accelerate energy saving programs.

One of the aspects that I got a surprise is about the energy consumption in the houses. I saw even in the fine hotels, they use aluminium windows with one layer of glasses, while in Sweden, we are using 3-layers windows since 1980s! I believe Canadians pay a lot for the energies in the winter to warm up the houses, as their windows are perfect to loose the energy!

(GHGs emission of different countries according to IEA)

(Photo of a window at a hotel in Canada with one-layer glass and aluminium)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Biogas in Vietnam

Vietnam is a communistic country, with booming in its economy with a relatively open market and cheap labor costs. The country with its 90 million inhabitants is still an agricultural country and is located in the east coast of the Mekong region. It means plenty of agricultural and animal wastes and residuals. The country has followed the Chinese model in investing in small biogas plants at households and farm levels to take care of these wastes, particularly manure. The number that I got from different authorities in the country point to about 500,000 to one millions digesters in the country, most of them in small sizes (less than 10 m3). But the bigger ones such as 100-200 m3 are also available for the bigger farms.

I believe the small sizes of the digesters is a successful project. They usually use the gas for cooking applications, which results in reasonable saving with replacing the LPG gas or kerosene that is commonly used. However, the gas from the bigger digesters have more challenges. They are planned to produce electricity from the biogas. However, with the current prices of the electricity in the country and also low efficiency of the cheap gas engine generators (15-25% of the energy become electricity), this income from the electricity is not feasible!

(A typical underground household digester in Vietnam and Cambodia that convert manure to biogas for cooking and gas lights. I took the picture in Phnom Penh)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Globo TV: Cidade na Suécia reaproveita 99% do lixo

Sao Paulo is one of most populated cities in the world, with the worlds largest landfill. We have started collaboration with Brazil a few years ago for improving the environment and converting wastes to added-value products. The work is going on and become more and more intensive!

There was recently a few TV reports from Borås (Sweden) in GLOBO TV, which I heard is the biggest TV channel in Brazil. It is part of a campaign in Brazil to increase the public awareness for waste production and its conversion to other materials. If you know Portugese language, you can listen to it! I just had link to one of them. But, their whole campaign can be found here!

(Click on the picture to see the report)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Catfish and zero wastes?

I didn't like catfish before, but I think I don't eat it any longer. However, this fish is very popular in many countries, including Southeast Asia.

Yesterday, I visited a community in Bangkok Metropolitan (Thailand) that made their own initiative to take care of their wastes with the help of catfish. Catfish is principally growing in dirty water that no other fish can survive. In this community, they have water under the houses, and started to farm catfish. They put all their organic wastes from the housholds and also a night market to these ponds to grow up the catfish. In addition, their wastewater including the toilet water goes directly to these ponds under the houses. Catfishes eat all the materials and grow well. Then, they harvest the fish and sell them in the market. People were happy and the fish were also happy! In this small community, they succeeded to reduce the amount of waste from 1.8 tons/day to just 200 kg/day, which is a great success! But I don't eat catfish :)