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Thread: Living solar panels ...

  1. #1 Living solar panels ... 
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    Biology has to offer many kinds of energy conversions - for example solar into ATP and later glucose. We can now take whole organisms and eg burn them to gain energy (biofuels).
    But remember where natural gases (and other fossil fuels) are from...
    Biology knows these metabolism pathway!
    Maybe we could take for example unicellular photosynthesizing organism and put into it genes of required proteins?
    Just to make it work, than take a few dozens(hundreds) of generations of artificial selection to create cheap, efficient(?) living solar panels, from which we could just pump eg. methane...

    About different kind of energies ... remember that in microscopic scale chemical reactions are reversible - the dominant direction depends of parameters (like ATPase H+).
    We know that we have mechanisms to produce heat using ATP. Now imagine that it has changed parameters to need more ATP density than there is in around - above some temperature, it should work in opposite direction - change ADP->ATP using heat!
    We have plenty of microbes kilometer below... what do they eat? Chemical energy of minerals? They should be about their minimum...
    Maybe they can feed with geothermal energy?
    To check it we should check if water with eg pyrolobus furmanii cool down faster than it should. If yes, a bit of artificial selection and maybe we could produce natural gas from surpluses of thermal energy in a factory.

    Another type of energy is vibration. Myosin can change ATP into movement. Again - with changed parameters, it should be able to work in opposite direction - if it would be attached to cytoskeleton, it should produce energy from vibrations.
    What for? For example to actively absorb them. For example to reduce turbulations in water... we should search for them in fishes, water mammals.
    Thanks of this we could produce active sound/vibration dampers, which produce energy...


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  3. #2  
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    Yes in principle, however.....

    Algae are cheap, efficient solar panels.

    Methane is a greenhouse gas.

    Et cetera.


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  4. #3  
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    But to gain energy from algae or other plant, we have to kill it ... and then reseed...
    Now imagine plants which produce methane or a high energy fluid. They could be put in a transparent tank or such that the fluid can drain down - it should be much cheaper.

    When You burn methane in a kitchen, or in a car, You don't have to worry that it's greenhouse gas...
    (ok - You produce CO2, but it was used to produce CH4 - it this scenario it's closed cycle)
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  5. #4  
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    Your principle is fine, and is described in current research eg here.

    Your details seem a bit woolly, but maybe that's me.
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    Algaes and cyanobacterias are great, thanks of them we have something to breath.
    But how to use them to help with forthcoming energy crisis? Harvest sea and burn them? Maybe there can be simpler way...
    Another thing is that we have plenty of unused surface, like deserts...
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    Deserts are an ecosystem and not a tossaway resource.

    Back to the idea of engineered fuel-producers, have you done a websearch? For example here.
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    About deserts - ok, there is an ecosystem, but is much less effective than there could be. We think about terraforming Mars, forgetting that using a few orders of magnitude less money we could terraform Sahara - it's a matter of large desalination, irrigation systems and initial fertilization and we could have great forest there within a few decades, helping with the greenhouse effect.

    About the link: "converting fatty acid intermediates into petroleum replacement products" - You still have to gather the fatty acids - harvest plants, seed new ones...
    I'm asking if we couldn't 'automatize' this process - eg cyanobacteria which produces methane from CO2 and water.
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  9. #8  
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    The Sahara is a pretty big place and suddenly having it full of vegetation might cause some weather disturbances IMO.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
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  10. #9  
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    I agree, so I've written that it would initially require huge, artificial desolifacation ...
    But after let say - a hundred of years it should create stable ecosystem, characteristic for this geographical height.
    I know - there are many problems - creating stable soil ... but it's doable ... and worth of it!
    And we are completely out of the topic...
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda
    I'm asking if we couldn't 'automatize' this process - eg cyanobacteria which produces methane from CO2 and water.
    Methane is an estimated 25 times as strong as CO2 in radiative forcing. Burning it as a fuel is fine, but it re-creates the CO2 that you started with. Where do you propose to get the other nutrients that are needed.

    That said, the basic principle (harvesting energy from the sun biologically) is arguably sound, and there are web sites devoted to this. Plants and algae do this already. Have you done a web search.

    The re-seeding notion strikes me as odd. Harvest whatever biomass you wish, leave whatever fraction keeps the population growing.

    Vegetating the sahara, apart from showing disregard for the existing ecosystem that depends upon it, would significantly alter albedo at lower latitudes.
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  12. #11 Re: Living solar panels ... 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda

    About different kind of energies ... remember that in microscopic scale chemical reactions are reversible - the dominant direction depends of parameters (like ATPase H+).
    We know that we have mechanisms to produce heat using ATP. Now imagine that it has changed parameters to need more ATP density than there is in around - above some temperature, it should work in opposite direction - change ADP->ATP using heat!
    We have plenty of microbes kilometer below... what do they eat? Chemical energy of minerals? They should be about their minimum...
    Maybe they can feed with geothermal energy?
    To check it we should check if water with eg pyrolobus furmanii cool down faster than it should. If yes, a bit of artificial selection and maybe we could produce natural gas from surpluses of thermal energy in a factory.
    Well since the first part has largely already been covered.

    Deep see microbes use oxidized compounds like SO4 leached from the stone by hydrothermal vents and reduce it to H2S, in the process they form ATP, then dump out the H2S into the water again.

    Um of course ATP in water releases heat, since ATP hydrolyzes almost immediately to ADP in water, and it's an exothermic reaction.

    I don't know how you would think an enzyme would take advantage of heat. Sure, it would lower activation energy of a reaction, but it wouldn't convert kinetic energy to do work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda
    Another type of energy is vibration. Myosin can change ATP into movement. Again - with changed parameters, it should be able to work in opposite direction - if it would be attached to cytoskeleton, it should produce energy from vibrations.
    What for? For example to actively absorb them. For example to reduce turbulations in water... we should search for them in fishes, water mammals.
    Thanks of this we could produce active sound/vibration dampers, which produce energy...
    Myosin works by conformational changes, it consumes energy to change position, it sort of has two feet, consuming an ATP to move each leg, one at a time. If it is scaffolded like in muscles it contracts the actin, or if it's mobile it moves along the filament. How it would "absorb" vibrations to generate ATP is beyond me.
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    About Sahara - yes albedo would increase, but this energy increase per surface should be mainly used for photosynthesis, not increasing surface heat (?) They've start this kind of project in Sahara and China to prevent further desertification:
    http://www.devex.com/blogs/17/blogs_entries/29410

    About vibration absorption ... i agree that myosin's functions are too directed, too complicated to be reversed in practice.
    But imagine a protein which is connected to cytoskeleton and catches ADP and phosphate. Now if the cell vibrates, movement of the cytoskeleton is transferred to the protein which can enforce binding the molecules into ATP.
    I'm not saying that it's simple, but it looks to be possible. And if yes, evolution should have found it for example to perfect swimming, flying...

    About using heat - I agree that it looks even less probable...
    At the first spot it seems to be against classical thermodynamics - converting pure heat into different energy. But this theory is strong simplification. For example hot iron emits photon. Heat energy is random microscopic movement - a noise. The trick is to use a resonance to gather surrounding frequencies and convert them into coherent movement - light, sound ... Lately it was proved that it can be done - change heat into sound and then we can use for example piezoelectric effect to convert it into electricity:
    http://unews.utah.edu/p/?r=111907-2
    The question is if it can be done in microscopic level using proteins and temperatures smaller than 120C? For example a molecule which can resonance to bind ADP and phosphate.
    If yes - evolution should have found it...
    We have plenty of microbes in deep earth for billions of earth - there were/are some sources of chemical energy, but generally they are starving. Scientist has problem to explain their extremely low metabolism:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conten...i;276/5313/703
    Maybe they can absorb pure heat?
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda

    About vibration absorption ... i agree that myosin's functions are too directed, too complicated to be reversed in practice.
    But imagine a protein which is connected to cytoskeleton and catches ADP and phosphate. Now if the cell vibrates, movement of the cytoskeleton is transferred to the protein which can enforce binding the molecules into ATP.
    I'm not saying that it's simple, but it looks to be possible. And if yes, evolution should have found it for example to perfect swimming, flying..

    About using heat - I agree that it looks even less probable...
    At the first spot it seems to be against classical thermodynamics - converting pure heat into different energy. But this theory is strong simplification. For example hot iron emits photon. Heat energy is random microscopic movement - a noise. The trick is to use a resonance to gather surrounding frequencies and convert them into coherent movement - light, sound ... Lately it was proved that it can be done - change heat into sound and then we can use for example piezoelectric effect to convert it into electricity:
    http://unews.utah.edu/p/?r=111907-2
    The question is if it can be done in microscopic level using proteins and temperatures smaller than 120C? For example a molecule which can resonance to bind ADP and phosphate.
    If yes - evolution should have found it...
    We have plenty of microbes in deep earth for billions of earth - there were/are some sources of chemical energy, but generally they are starving. Scientist has problem to explain their extremely low metabolism:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conten...i;276/5313/703
    Maybe they can absorb pure heat?
    ^

    Explaining their extremely low metabolic rates and rates of reproduction seems no different from explaining the extremely low metabolic rates and rates of reproduction of psychrophiles that live in pockets of water in ice, I doubt these guys are surviving off of absorbing heat.

    To vibration that would require evolution to somehow start again from scratch and undo the basics of the cytoskeleton which have been conserved since the earliest eukaryotes.
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  15. #14  
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    Jarek Duda I think you're discounting deserts' albedo regulating role. We need that dust to form cloud. Right now I'd say we ought to be allowing desertification.

    Apart from that I like your suggestion.
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    'We need that dust to form cloud'? What do You mean? There are plenty of places far away from deserts and there are formed clouds...?

    About psychrophiles - they have extremely low metabolism because of cold - all reactions are slowed down. It's not because lack of energy - they usually have access to it.
    We are talking about thermophiles , which should have consumed most of chemical energy sources for last billions of years and new ones come extremely rarely.
    Remember that energy is needed not only for metabolism, reproduction ... it's necessary to sustain the structure of the organism, fight with increasing entropy - especially in high temperatures!
    Their life would be much easier if they would be able to feed not only with chemical energy, especially when there is plenty of it in heat and tectonic vibrations around...

    About vibrations - there could be normal cytoskeleton with additional protein structures in intersections of filaments ... or perhaps something completely different ... mother nature is extremely inventiveness creature
    Look how sophisticated machinery was constructed to use energy from light...
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda
    'We need that dust to form cloud'? What do You mean? There are plenty of places far away from deserts and there are formed clouds...?
    Sorry, I should say

    1) Warming depends mainly on cloud cover.
    2) Cloud cover depends on vapour (which is abundant) plus seed particles (which are scarce).
    3) Seed particles are either pollution (e.g. volcanoes), salt blown off whitecaps, or mineral aerosols AKA dust from arid soil.
    4) Dust contributes the bulk of seeding, globally, and regulates temperature because hot weather promotes desertification and increased dust.

    We need arid land feedback to keep temperature in check. You were just saying the deserts are good for nothing and we ought to plant them over.
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    I believe that thanks of condensation centers, there is required smaller humidity to create rain, but I hadn't realized that Sahara could be their essential source for whole world...
    Perhaps You are right... planting there forest could reduce rainfall and increase humidity a bit ... but are You really sure that desertification is something positive in this moment?
    Maybe You could send a link of for example some simulations?
    I have to admit that I don't feel climatology... I'm mathematician/physicist so I can believe that I'm simplifying ...
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda
    Maybe You could send a link of for example some simulations?
    I wish I could. Most aerosol research ignored climate or weather even. We were focused on air quality as perceived by humans. Air pollution. We can't simulate cloud formation yet... why your weather forecasts are just educated guesses.


    I must confess, the idea that arid lands feedback albedo through cloud cover is Pong's pet theory. I'm just connecting dots as I see them. You could understandably take me for a crank.
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  20. #19  
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    I agree that clouds can reduce albedo, but I think it's plus for forest...
    You are saying that sand from desert is used as condensation nuclei?
    From wiki: sand particles 0.0625-2 mm, cloud is 'small droplets or ice crystals, typically 0.01 mm in diameter'...
    But our pollution is perfect for this purpose
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_brightening
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda
    But our pollution is perfect for this purpose
    Yes and that's scary because temperature may be balanced atop precarious offset.

    Anyway, I think it rash to plan massive planting over the remaining arid lands, when we've already seeded and irrigated so much from the natural state.
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    Natural state? There were plenty of forest, we've already chopped...

    Returning to feeding with heat - hot bodies naturally emit thermal infrared (a few micrometers) ...
    We even wants to use it in much lower temperatures for example to power MP3 players:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/320/5883/1585.pdf

    Maybe some of thermophiles have constructed photosynthesis for these frequencies... ?
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  23. #22  
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    There is no natural state. Or there is, but the nature of the natural state is that it is constantly changing. Usually towards some kind of forest type of ecosystem.

    But depending on local conditions this can also be grasslands. Or desert.
    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

    - Arnaud Amalric

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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda
    Natural state? There were plenty of forest, we've already chopped...
    Quote Originally Posted by spuriousmonkey
    There is no natural state.
    Both points taken. We've cleared forest for cropland on a grand scale. And much forest is still in succession (working up to climax species) since the last ice age.

    We've done a lot more to the landscape than chop trees, that may be overlooked because of our entrenched values regarding land quality. We see nothing wrong with improving wasteland. Where there were tumbleweeds, we want cornfields. We see this as harmless, or even helping nature. The unforested lands e.g. prairies have always been preferred for agriculture and in terms of hectares our greatest footprint largely falls over such marginal landscape. Now we've conquered most of that and look to sandy deserts as they seem especially useless.

    I want to caution that our traditional attitudes regarding land "quality" and "improvement" may be upsetting to the balance of climate. In particular we may do more harm planting sugarcane over desert than that same crop over rainforest.
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  25. #24  
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    I was thinking about 2nd law of thermodynamics and crystallization.
    During this process we get higher ordering (lower entropy), but the cost is energy difference between free and bind molecule - this energy is usually just dispersed around, increasing general temperature.
    But what if we wouldn't allow this energy to run away randomly ... for example storing it in chemical energy of some molecule, like ATP ...

    That lead me to mechanisms that could allow organisms to feed directly with heat (not using thermal infrared):

    Let say that we have two molecules(A,B) which has larger total energy separated(E1) than when they are bind (E2<E1).
    Additionally there is energy barrier between these states.
    Now when they are bind in solution, their thermal energy statistically sometimes exceed the barrier, and they split (reducing temperature!).
    But to bind them back, they not only have to reach the barrier, but they have also to find each other in the solution - it's not very likely, so statistically concentration of AB is relatively small comparing to concentration of separated molecules.

    Now we will need a catalyst which reduce the barrier, but then use the energy difference for example to bind ADP and phosphate.
    For example it catches all required molecules and uses energy stored in own structure to take A and B closer, to make them reach the top of the barrier, then use energy they produce to bind ADP + P and restore own energy.

    I know - this enzyme would work in both directions, but concentration of AB should be small, such that the wanted direction should dominate.
    Is here any problem?
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