Wednesday December 11, 2019
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This fibre material can sense odourless fuel leaks

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Image source: wikimedia.org

New York: A new type of fibre material developed by engineers for a handheld scanner can detect small traces of alkane fuel vapour, a valuable advancement. This could be an early-warning signal for leaks in an oil pipeline, an airliner, or for locating a terrorist’s explosive.

Alkane fuel is a key ingredient in combustible material such as gasoline, airplane fuel, oil — even a homemade bomb.

Currently, there are no small, portable chemical sensors to detect alkane fuel vapour because it is not chemically reactive. The conventional way to detect the odourless and colourless vapor is with a large oven-sized instrument in a lab.

“It’s not mobile and very heavy,” said one of the researchers Ling Zang, a professor at the University of Utah in the US.

“There’s no way it can be used in the field. Imagine trying to detect the leak from a gas valve or on the pipelines. You ought to have something portable,” Zang noted.

So Zang’s team developed a type of fibre composite that involves two nanofibres transferring electrons from one to the other.

“These are two materials that interact well together by having electrons transferring from one to another,” Ben Bunes, post-doctoral fellow at University of Utah, said.

“When an alkane is present, it sticks in between the two materials, blocking the electron transfer between the two nanofibers,” Bunes explained.

That kind of interaction would then signal the detector that the alkane vapor is present, the researchers said.

The discovery was published online in the journal ACS Sensors.

Vaporsens, a University of Utah spin-off company, has designed a prototype of the handheld detector with an array of 16 sensor materials that will be able to identify a broad range of chemicals including explosives.

This new composite material will be incorporated into the sensor array to include the detection of alkanes.

Vaporsens plans to introduce the device on the market in about a year and a half, Zang, who is also the company’s chief science officer, said. (IANS)

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Senate Minority Leader Proposes $454 Billion Plan to Swap Gasoline-Powered Cars for Cleaner Vehicles

The New York Democrat said in a statement that his plan, which would provide rebates of $3,000 or more to individual buyers

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Chuck Schumer, Gasoline, Cars
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 22, 2019. Schumer is proposing a trade-in program to get millions of Americans out of climate-damaging gas vehicles and into electric or hybrid cars. VOA

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday proposed a $454 billion plan over 10 years to help shift the United States away from gasoline-powered cars and trucks by offering cash vouchers to help Americans buy cleaner vehicles.

The New York Democrat said in a statement that his plan, which would provide rebates of $3,000 or more to individual buyers, would help transition 25% of the U.S. fleet, or 63 million vehicles, away from traditional internal combustion-engine vehicles within 10 years.

The plan would be key to reducing the impact of climate change, Schumer said, noting that the transportation sector accounts for nearly one-third of U.S. carbon output.

The plan would award $392 billion in subsidies for owners of gasoline-powered vehicles at least eight years old and in driving condition to trade them in for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid or fuel-cell cars, the statement said. The old vehicles would be scrapped.

Chuck Schumer, Gasoline, Cars
FILE – A model holds the power cable that charges the new electric Audi e-tron Quatro, displayed at the e-Motor show in Beirut, Lebanon, April 11, 2019. VOA

Midwestern support

The proposal came as both Democrats and Republicans are looking to win the support of auto workers in key Midwestern swing states who could be key to determining if President Donald Trump is re-elected and who controls Congress in the November 2020 elections.

Car buyers would get rebates ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 or more, plus another $2,000 for low-income buyers, for the purchase of U.S.-made vehicles, Schumer said.

The plan would “reduce the number of carbon-emitting cars on the road, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and accelerate the transition to net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury,” Schumer said.

Also Read- Pledges for International Fund to Help Poor Nations Tackle Climate Change Reach about $10 Billion

It would adopt rules similar to those of the 2009 $3 billion “Cash for Clunkers” plan that sought to stimulate U.S. auto sales.

Schumer’s proposal would provide $45 billion for additional EV charging stations and $17 billion in incentives for automakers to build new factories or retool existing ones to assemble zero-emission vehicles or charging equipment, with a goal that by 2040 “all vehicles on the road should be clean.”

Rollback of efficiency rules

In August 2018, the Trump administration proposed rolling back Obama-era fuel efficiency requirements through 2026, and its “preferred option” would increase U.S. oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels a day. The administration is expected to finalize its proposal by the end of this year.

Chuck Schumer, Gasoline, Cars
FILE – The electric vehicle logo shines off the fender of a 2019 Bolt at a Chevrolet dealership in Englewood, Colo., May 19, 2019. VOA

Schumer said his proposal had the support of environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters, as well as labor unions.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., which are both spending billions to develop electric vehicles, said they appreciated Schumer’s efforts, with GM praising the effort to “advance electrification through much-needed infrastructure investments, consumer incentives and promotion of American electric vehicle manufacturing.”

Also Read- Researchers Find Cells Linked to Blindness in Elderly People

United Auto Workers President Gary Jones said in a statement that the Schumer proposal “honors the sweat and sacrifice of American autoworkers by investing in domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and incentivizing high-quality jobs across the auto supply chain.” (VOA)