Energiewende in person

Just returning from a trip to Berlin, I thought it was interesting to share some of the experience that have to do with the energiewende.

First thing that caught the eye was the enourmous amount of windmills you see when driving from one point to another. This might have been a coincidence. But in just a 4 hour bus drive I think I saw more windmills than I’ve seen in Belgium. Failing to find someone who took a picture of this (I forgot my camera), I searched for a similar picture on the internet.

windmills_germany

For about an hour or so the scenery was nothing but this. I thought it was pretty impressive and showed how it affects daily lives, and everyone is probable aware of the situation.

Second thing were the solar parks, I hadn’t seen any big solar park yet, but in Germany, we drove across 2 quiet large ones in a few hours. Another impressive fact in my opinion.

Third something more subtle, but I thought was very interesting as well, were glued ‘protest’ posters that were encouraging the Energiewende and discouraging nuclear power. I came across a few of these and thought it also showed that the idea of renewable energy is much bigger and wider spread than in Belgium. Where a lot of people know about subsidies you can get for solar panels on your roof, but not much more.

Anyway, this was just a little update and again appologies for the lack of photos which make this less informative. But I’m sure Bram, Wout and Korneel are going to agree that it’s a big difference compared to Belgium.

In Berlin we also went to the ‘Technik Museum’, where we took some photos about the windturbine section. After going through them, and if they seem interesting enough I might write a blog about this as well.

 

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Five medical breakthroughs thanks to technology

While surfing on the internet looking for others breakthroughs in medicine achieved thanks to the evolution in technology and IC, I ended up reading this article:

http://www.goedgevoel.be/gg/nl/823/Alternatieve-Geneeskunde-Algemeen/article/detail/1385150/2012/01/25/Twaalf-medische-doorbraken.dhtml

Okay, now I know it’s not the most scientific source but it shows exactly what I am telling time after time. Technology is really important for the development of our health.
The article shows the latest 12 most significant medical breakthroughs. The article has been published on January 25 2012 so it is possible that it is a bit outdated but that doesn’t matter to my purpose. I just want to show you that from the 12 breakthroughs, 5 are only possible due to technological improvement. That’s almost 50%…

Let’s look at the third point: Skin cells Printer repairs burns (Huidcellenprinter herstelt brandwonden)

Thanks to the 3-D scan and 3-D printing it will be possible to ‘easily’ provide the patient of new skin after he suffers skin loss of skin burn.
It’s not the biggest and most deadly ‘disease’ but it shows that also the daily problems need to be investigated to help improve people’s health.
As mentioned in the article this technique can possibly evolve to ‘organ printing’ and would be a serious breakthrough in donor transplants and also a better solution as the second point in the article (alternative for donor organs).

The fourth point of is: Stomach Pacemaker combats obesity (Maagpacemaker bestrijdt obesitas)

This is also an ‘invention’ that has nothing to do with the most complicated diseases but a disease that occurs daily.
It’s the perfect alternative for unhealthy diets where people starve their selves or take pills that are not 100% controlled or worse not 100% safe.
It is also an alternative for the stomach ring.
The only disadvantage is the high price but this can lower in time as it is introduced in the market or when more research has been done.

The fifth point of the article is close to my previous post: Minilab accelerates correct diagnosis (Minilab versnelt correcte diagnose)

The minilab can detect all kinds of bacteria, viruses in the blood in a very short time instead of the examinations that are done nowadays and which take a lot of time. Examples are the MRSA-bacteria, better known as hospital bacteria. But also flue, cancer and HIV can be detected more quickly due to the minilab.
The fact that there are a lot of similar techniques, points out that those techniques are very doable and very useful!

The tenth point of the article is close to the point of the 3-D printer and 3-D scan: Brand new imaging technique (Gloednieuwe beeldvormingstechniek)

It is a new imaging technique that has been developed. Thanks to this technique it is possible to identify different areas in the lungs. The authentic tests could not identify the different areas and left doctors with no idea about which parts were affected. It is very helpful for people who suffer of ‘the innocent’ kind of asthma or for patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
It is an important breakthrough because now it is possible to give personalized and individual treatments to people because the doctors can see how the inhaled medication is distributed in the lungs.

The twelfth and last discussed breakthrough is: Cheap chip detects infectious diseases (Goedkope chip spoort besmettelijke ziekten op)

This chip is called the mChip (mobile microfluidic chip) and can tell whether the patient is infected with HIV, syphilis or other infectious diseases.
The greatest advantage is that it operates very fast. Instead of very long analysis hours it gives a result that is equally accurate in only 20 minutes.
This chip is also interesting because it can help in our debate about development aid. If this kind of chip is used in third world countries, the death rate -that is a consequence of those diseases- drops and the health increases. Then maybe the people realize that they can have a chance at a better life and they make a ‘click’ like we did after Pasteur’s inventions.

Interview with an expert

Hi everybody,

After a fun and interesting week in Berlin we are back and the focus is back on the thesis and the blog. Before we left we interviewed an expert in the field of renewable energy.  We interviewed Geert Palmers, the CEO of our company (3E, www.3E.eu).

The interview is divided into three parts. First we asked some questions about himself to get you some basic information. In the second part we focused our questions onto the company and the vision of the company.  In the final part we asked his opinion on some of the topics we discussed in our blog, like the energiewende and nuclear energy.   The questions are in presented in bold and some personal comments of us are written in Italic. Hope you guys enjoy the interview.

Basic Info

Name: Geert Palmers
Age:
I forgot, but I was born in 1968
College education:
KUL Burgerlijk Electrotechnisch ingenieur 1991,  Foundation Universitaire Luxembourgeouse – Master in Environmental Sciences 1993.

About 3E

What was the vision, the idea you had for 3E when you started the company?

The 3 founders (Luc De Gheselle, Werner Coppye, Geert Palmers) liked to work together when they were at IMEC, and started a series of common projects at the time. A common vision about the energy future was developed, namely that renewable energy has to play a dominant role in any future energy system. After some other professional experiences – 3E was founded to bring projects to reality.

logo

Fun fact: The name 3E refers to the 3 founders and the fact that they are engineers so 3 Engineers.

Is this vision changed over time and what is the current mission of 3E?

No, our vision stayed the same. Of course, our activities have broadened and our presence have.

Here you can see a map which show the projects of 3E or the projects in which 3E collaborates around the globe

3E projects

 

How do you see the future for 3E?

3E will continue to internationalize it’s consultancy activities as well as it’s software services.  In addition the current spin-offs (Xant nv and Flidar nv) of 3E will continue to develop  and there will follow more new spin-off company’s.

Flidar is the spin-off we are currently working for and Xant has developed a an innovative and certified concept for medium scale wind turbines.

FLiDAR_small_web            XANT

The future of renewable energy

What is your opinion on nuclear energy and do you think the world actually needs nuclear energy?

 It is evident that a energy system can be conceived without nuclear power.

In some countries with high energy intensity, low renewable energy resources, and high share of nuclear power (such as Belgium), the transition will require time and significant power import from neighbouring countries

The nuclear “renaissance” in Europe has resulted in only two partially built nuclear reactors in Finland (Olkiluoto) and in France (Flamanville). Both reactors are several years behind schedule and billions of Euros over budget. New nuclear power is more expensive than most types of renewable energy.

What do you think of the German energiewende? The German initiative to close all nuclear plants by 2022 and thus more relying on renewable energy sources.

Germany has developed a very well prepared plan, and it is feasible. It might take more time, and even if only 80% of the plan would be realised, it will put Germany again in an exemplary and leading international position. This decision of the largest EU economy is a major breakthrough for renewable energy.

Note that Angela Merkel is a physicist which was in favour of nuclear power, even after Chernobyl. She changed her position completely after Fukushima – which happened in a technologically very advanced country.

Do you believe Belgium should follow the German example?

Belgium should build a similar plan, and try to get a broad support for this in society. This would avoid policy changes every election for a theme which needs decades of stable investments in line with the vision.

Belgium can get to a high penetration of renewable energy, but to my opinion it is more affordable and better for public acceptance to have a significant part of its consumption imported from neighbouring countries (e.g. offshore wind from NL, UK,..).

What do you see as promising evolutions in the world of renewable energy?

Continued decrease of prices of solar PV power, new generation of offshore wind turbines (current offshore wind turbines are the onshore versions, but just a bit ‘marinised’), Demand side management, Storage getting more attention and private investments, Internationalisation of the markets and the technology progress speeding it up and making progress more stable (not dependent anymore of a few voluntaristic countries).


To end this blogpost I would very much like to thank mr. Palmers for his time to do this interview with us and I hope you guys enjoyed reading it.  If you have any questions or remarks don’t hesitate to post them in the comments.

Cancer detecting micro-chip

Hi guys,

Apparently today I am in a very inspiring mood so here is another post about micro-chips in de medical section.

The purpose of my posts is to make you aware of the wider application area of micro-chips.
With this statement I mean that micro-chips are not only usefull to make your computer go faster, to have a smaller of thinner smartphone,…

No micro-chips can also be used to save peoples lives!

The link below is the article that I am posting about.
http://www.gezondheidsweb.eu/kanker/microchip-kan-kanker-sneller-helpen-determineren

It is about a micro-chip that can determinate cancer and tells in wath stadium the cancer is evolved.
I chose this article because in my family there is someone who is suffering from cancer and I see the misery and problems from the first row. That’s why I find this article especially interesting and I want to share it with you.

Thanks to this micro-chip the doctor can be advised when the cancer becomes active and it shows how much damage it already caused to the body.
This all without the complicated examinations that a cancer patient has to undergo these days. Like I said, I’ve seen in from nearby and it is not nice.
It goes from numerous blood tests, PET-scans, other blood tests,… and it takes forever to get the results of the tests. Especially when you are the patient.
This is one of the advantages.
The biggest advantage though is that the cancer can be determinate without the specific tests and that they can directly aply the right treatment.
I speak again about the example of my family. The cancer there was detected ‘by accident’ when doing a small operation. This was a like we say in Dutch ‘geluk bij een ongeluk’ becaus if the small operation wasn’t done maybe the cancer was never determined or determined to late and the person I am talking about wasn’t here anymore.
I am sure that you may all know someone who hasn’t been this lucky and when the doctors discovered the cancer it was already to late.

I hope that this kind of stories can make you aware of the importance of research of using the technology of today in the medical industrie.

Thanks you for your time.

Micro-chip medication

Hi everybody,

In my quest of a new topic to blog about I found a very interessting article about the application of micro-chips. The content is again medical related.

The article is about the RFID microchip. Briefly explained: it is a very small micro-chip that is incorporated in medication to control or check the how the patient takes his medication and to supervise on the effect of medication and the patients health.

Here is the link to the article: https://sites.google.com/site/ncfaktueel/fda

Here you can see a picture of the size of the chip:

tiny-microchip1

I find this a very good invention in very different and helpfull ways.

Most of the people don’t like to take medicines and when they have to take the medicines they often take them irregularly of stop taking them before they really begin to help. With this RFID micro-chip this will not be done onobserved anymore. Your doctor will be aware that you aren’t taking you medication the right way and he can show you the risks.

This can be very helpfull for example in the case that you somebody who is close to you is an addict or has a serious problem and he doesn’t want to face it. So you obligate him to go to the doctor. The doctor then prescribes him the medication but after one week the patient stops taking the medication. Now using this RFID micro-chip you can control the patient and help him to carry on taking his medication.

An other example is for the people who forget to take their pills it is a handy way to set a reminder. Like stated in the article you can connect the micro-chip with your smartphone and then your smartphone gives you a reminder. For example the women who take birth control pills. A lot of them get in trouble because they take it irregularly because they simply forget. Thanks to the chip inside the medication they can get a reminder that they have to take it.

An example of the use of the chip is stated in the article below:
http://www.nu.nl/gezondheid/2743019/eerste-medicijn-microchip-succesvol-in-mens-getest.html

It also shows the use. In this example you don’t have to take the medicin yourself but the micro-chip gives it to you.

What do you guys think of this invention and evaluation?

One question that rised up in me is; is this type of medication ethically correct? Because it’s like stated in the article: “Big Brother is watching you”.
You can find a critical article on the link below:
http://www.marcelmessing.nl/content.asp?m=M8&s=P32&l=NL

China, pollutant or innovator?

Hi everybody,

In this posts I would like to take a look at China and see what their opinion is on renewable energy.

China is as we know, seen as most of us have been there, a massive country with lots of extremes and contrasts.  I did some research and found the following results that I would like to share with you.

To begin I have found a graph that shows the amount of energy each an average citizen uses

Schermafbeelding 2013-03-21 om 20.39.08

Note that the graph only shows the average until 2010

As we look at this graph we can see that the average energy use per person is way below what a typical American uses or us Belgians.  Of course it is true that with the rising prosperity the average energy use will continue to rise.  You can see that China is on a rising curve whilst Belgium and the US have a more constant curve.

As we look at the next graph we see the amount of gigawatts China and other country’s produce

Schermafbeelding 2013-03-21 om 20.45.09

Pease note that the graph uses data from 2011 and very important that hydropower is NOT included in this graph.

When we add hydropower to this equation China produces total of  282 GW of renewable energy.

In 2011 China was also the biggest investor in green energy and this for the third year in a row.

Schermafbeelding 2013-03-21 om 20.53.20

This graph shows the amount invested as a percentage of the gross national product.

So when we look at these statistics you should conclude that China is doing a pretty good job right?

However, China is also the largest consumer of coal in the world.  They are generating 68,7% of their electricity from coal ( in comparison the USA generates 49% of it’s electricity from coal).  As we all know coal is a very pollutant energy resource, so China is as well the leader in renewable energy as in polluting energy.

As a conclusion I like to state that I really hope that China continues to invest on renewable energy and keeps on searching for options to eliminate as much as possible the use of coal, but we have to be realistic and look at ourselves too.  You cannot blame them for growing and achieving a higher standard of living. I think it’s time for every country  to take it’s responsibility and to keep on investing in renewable energy for a better future!

World Future Energy Summit

Last week I read an article about a new solar-energy central in Abu Dhabi. I found this interesting, because normally when you think of these places, you think about oil, and oil sheiks etc.

So after searching the web regarding Abu Dhabi and renewable energy, I stumbled upon the website of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES). According to their website: “The WFES Exhibition is an international business platform that connects project owners and solution providers to investors and buyers from the public and private sector.”

Seeing that countrys like Abu Dhabi invest in renewables just shows the importance and the economical factor it can play in the next decades.

–> The Website <–

Another article about WFES shows how they are the world leading country on renewables research. But due to the neglectible prizes of oil their carbon footpint is super high. So where they flourish in research, they fail miserably in actually using it. The article has lots more interesting facts.

The importance of politics and economy in post-MDG-framework

This is a post about the different opinions on the future of the Millennium development goals, which I quoted earlier on this blog.

Currently the different governments are having a debate about the continuation of the international developing framework on account of the ending of the period about the Millennium development goals (MDG’s).

According to Mr. Labille special attention needs to be paid to the quality aspect of the projects, for example education, and one must consider more than ever the real impact in the field.

E.g. one should not build schools in regions where there is lack of teachers. Instead, they should finance the local education department to give them the opportunity to provide better training of the teachers.

Conclusion:

The post-2015-framework should comprise the Millennium goals as well as the goals for sustainable development. The financial, economic, social and ecological policy should be evaluated systematically on the consequences for sustainable development.

Mr. Leroy has the same opinion:
“I speak of a term ‘internationalization’ which incorporates not only development cooperation but also world economy, trading, politics… People often don’t see the bigger picture.”

The influence of politics and the economy is mentioned as well by Mr. Van Wassenhoven:

“The feedback that is necessary for a sustainable society is only possible if there is basis. First you need a local basis but later you need the politics to achieve something national. The local basis is just to give a signal to the politics.
Social, economic, political and hygienic aspects are all important to succeed in good development cooperation, but it is the economy which is the basis of it all. It is very important that the economy is redistributive.”

The use of the economic crisis to focus on efficiency

In the following blogs we make a small recapitulation of our previous blogs and a comparison of opinions of different persons about some topics.

On account of an interview with Bieze Van Wassenhoven, employee of Studio Globo and expert on development cooperation, I read the conversation between MO magazine and Belgian minister of development cooperation Jean-Pascal Labille.

Mr. Van Wassenhoven gives workshops at pupils in secondary schools about climate change, food certainty and development cooperation. He also works with teachers and management about sustainability. In the past, he worked as a volunteer in Cambodia and Senegal.

Mr. Labille gives his take on the vision of the future development policy and the impact of the savings of development cooperation. Check following link!

http://www.mo.be/opinie/een-paternalistische-logica-werkt-niet

The Belgian law indicates that 0.7% of GDP has to be invested in development cooperation. But due to the economic crisis, enormous savings concerning this budget were made by the government, especially in 2012 and 2013. The decline is alarming but Labille thinks we should use this economic crisis to focus on more efficiency and effectiveness of development programs.

Some examples:

  • Mr. Labille refers to the Belgian help in Uganda to develop the health sector by investing money in the support of the government’s own action plan. That way, they make themselves responsible of the execution, while Belgium still invest in policy dialogue and strong agreements about the control of the use of medicines.
  • Nowadays the government prefers that multilateral organizations themselves may decide which project will be supported financially and the Belgian government deliberately chooses to finance nothing but the general functioning.

What do you think about the efforts made by the government?

Computer vision vision (not a typo)

In my original post, I asked how a robot would be able to recognize itself, when presented with its image, covered in spaghetti. In other words: how can a robot robustly and reliably recognize itself, based on images? Simple enough, right?

Well, how would a robot ‘see’ to begin with? What’s the ‘vision’, of computer vision? Gabuglio wondered last time, in this comment whether the PR2 could be like Rosey from the Jetsons. Unfortunatley: no. Or at least, not at this point. Using only computer vision however, it could do some other jobs.

Right now, our robot could stand in a factory, matching label colors against the desired color for a paint job . A factory is a highly controlled environment, so you might get away with just using thresholding. For red paint for instance, if your image is made up of levels of red, green and blue: check to see if there’s a uniform patch in the image that’s more than 90% red, but less than 10% blue or green. He could do something more advanced as a factory worker, and be a bottle level inspector. He would probably use an edge detector for this, like you could in Photoshop or any other image editing program. These are some of the simpler operations. Generally speaking, they’re very easy to understand, and use. Like the circuit laws, or the ideal gas law…

If our robot went to school a little bit longer, it might be working for the TSA, where it would be in high demand right now. As you may know, they use so-called full-body scanners over there. That used to mean someone 30 feet down is supposed to literally, but might be figuratively, looking under your clothes, ‘checking you’. Some people were offended… Our robot could do a more acceptable job, and these days, they do.

Backscatter X-ray released by TSA in 2007

Backscatter X-ray released by TSA, Wikimedia.org

Generic view produced by millimeter wave scanners

Generic view produced by millimeter wave scanners, Chicago Tribune

Obviously there’s a lot more involved here. A lot of it though, would have to do with image segmentation: partitioning the image into more meaningful, analyzable regions. Once that’s taken care of, a computer get rids of the areas that are definitely not of concern. What remains is marked, to be inspected by a human. It could do more meaningful things too, like finding tumors in fMRIs (computer vision right now has a lot of applications in medical imaging).

Multiple steps in a more advanced segmentation algorithm

Multiple steps in a more advanced segmentation algorithm, Chen et al.

Segmentation used to automatically mark tumors on fMRIs

Segmentation used to automatically mark tumors on fMRIs, C. Yu.

How would the PR2’s computer know what to mark, and what not? To make the problem clearer, I’ll give our robot yet another job: to check my fingerprints at the border control (this is the part I hate, but anyhow…). Suppose I was a criminal, how would you compare my fingerprints against the millions of fingerprints of known criminals. This is where you need feature extraction; you need some way to extract a small amount of information from the image, that still represents its content, and can be compared with similar information. Possibly through something like the aforementioned methods, sometimes something more advanced, like in the fingerprints below. Sometimes, the features might not have a clear meaning to us anymore, and sometimes they simply don’t… The measurements in this photo of a fingerprint for instance, make total sense:

Fingerprint core point detection by intersection of ridge normals

feature extraction for fingerprints: Core point detection by intersection of ridge normals, Rajanna et al.

At least when compared to the features found in these faces:

Illustration of Gabor features selected for facial expressions

The bottom row consists of Gabor features, which were searched for around the areas marked by dots (at their center) in the images in the top row, Susskind et al.

These are the kind of tools a computer can use to transform images into something it can make sense of. But, it still doesn’t explain how he’d be able to recognize himself. Or spaghetti for that matter… I’ll explain how it can, in my next post.