Eat More Sesame

I really like tahini, which is sesame butter. I’ll be eating it more often in the future.

Modern research has found that sesame seeds offer a broad range of health benefits. Sesame may be especially well suited to helping reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women in America today. Numerous biochemical processes can contribute to the pathogenesis of heart disease, including unfavorable lipid profiles, oxidative stress, elevated blood pressure, and reduced levels of protective antioxidants.

Sesame and its lignans—fibrous compounds that may act as antioxidants and influence hormone metabolism—may be valuable therapeutic tools in modulating cardiovascular risk through their numerous actions in the body. Sesame lignans have been found to enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of essential fatty acids, lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), block oxidative damage implicated in atherosclerosis, and reduce blood pressure. Sesame lignans can dramatically increase tissue and serum levels of the vitamin E fractions alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol, thereby enhancing their protective properties.3 Studies have shown that sesame can also reduce inflammatory processes known to promote cancer, senescence, and aging.

Sesame and its lignans boost antioxidant levels, reduce inflammation, normalize blood pressure, improve lipid levels, and promote fat burning. They act synergistically with other nutrients such as gamma tocopherol, fish oil, and conjugated linoleic acid, thereby enhancing the bioavailability and effectiveness of those nutrients. Through its many biochemical actions, sesame may help in managing some of today’s most pressing health concerns, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and inflammatory disorders.

Early research on vitamin E focused on alpha tocopherol, the form most commonly found in supplements. When scientists started examining other vitamin E fractions, one in particular—gamma tocopherol—was found to possess several unique properties. Although not as powerful an antioxidant as alpha tocopherol, gamma tocopherol was found to be the only vitamin E fraction capable of quenching reactive nitrogen oxide species such as peroxynitrite and nitrogen dioxide. Generated by inflammation, these dangerous free radicals are implicated in a host of degenerative diseases, including atherosclerosis, AIDS dementia complex, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Re-searchers also discovered that gamma tocopherol and its water-soluble metabolite, gamma-CEHC, reduce inflammation by inhibiting prostaglandin E2 (PGE-2).

In addition to inhibiting chronic inflammation, gamma tocopherol exerts additional non-antioxidant effects to prevent cancer.


Sesame and its lignans have been shown to possess multiple health benefits, both alone and in synergistic combination with other compounds, including gamma tocopherol and fish oil. Sesame lignans help to increase tissue and serum levels of biological antioxidants that have been strongly correlated with improved health in mammals and humans.

Sesame lignans have also demonstrated anti-inflammatory benefits and block free radical lipid peroxidation in fish oil supplements to suppress inflammation. Lignans are powerful inhibitors of LDL oxidation, effectively reducing atherogenic processes. Lastly, lignans are potent stimulators of fatty acid oxidation, one of the key processes involved in weight control.

By influencing biochemical processes in the body, sesame and its lignans promise to help reduce risk for many of today’s most common diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and inflammatory disorders.

Source: Life Extension Magazine, February 2005 – Report: Do Your Antioxidants Suppress Enough Free Radicals?.

A Return to the Age of Sail?

Wind power is not a new concept. Windmills have been around for centuries, and wind-powered sailboats have been around for even longer — since 3200 bce, or even earlier. The advent of engine-powered shipping relegated wind-powered boats to hobbyists, tourists and adventurers. But if the German company SkySails is right, we may soon see a return to shipping powered by the wind. The notion is straightforward: a large parasail-type kite on a tow cable can add significant power to a standard diesel engine ship when lofted to 500 meters or so in the air. How much power? SkySails claims that a cargo ship can increase speed for a given fuel consumption by at least 10%, and often more; conversely, a sail-enabled ship can run at its standard speed but cut fuel consumption by as much as one-half.Sail 

The technology is more efficient at capturing wind power than standard sails, takes up less shipboard space, and supposedly does not require additional crew. Navigational software linked to real-time weather data routes for optimal wind speed and travel time. The design has won a number of German innovation awards, but has not yet been field-tested in its full configuration (at least as far as I can tell); SkySails proposes that the design would work not just for commercial vessels, but for ships of all types.

Link: WorldChanging: Another World Is Here

Turning Waste into Energy

From Joel Makower at the Two Steps Forward blog:

Turning waste into fuel. Seems like one of those too-good-to-be-true concepts — like cars that run on water. But it’s far from farfetched.

An Agricultural Research Service soil scientist at the North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris, Minn., has teamed up with an inventor of a patent-pending process to turn agricultural biomass — wastes like peanut shells — into hydrogen fuel and charcoal fertilizer. Volatiles and steam released by charring biomass produce hydrogen. The charring turns the biomass into charcoal pieces. This charcoal becomes a nitrogen-enriched fertilizer with the addition of ammonia formed by combining a third of the hydrogen with nitrogen. The remaining hydrogen can be sold as fuel, both for a hydrogen-based, clean diesel and to run fuel cells.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison have found a way to use the carbon monoxide — a waste gas — to produce more energy in a reaction that can take place at room temperature. The method could eventually be used in portable systems that use renewable fuel produced from plant matter, said James Dumesic, a U of W professor of chemical and biological engineering. The process could also be used to treat wastewater and contaminated gas streams, he said.

Dr. Bruce Rittmann, a professor at Northwestern University, has posed an answer to the following quandary: On a two-year trip to Mars, according to one estimate, a crew of six humans will generate more than six tons of solid organic waste — much of it feces. So what do you do with all that?

According to, what Rittmann proposes to do is to harness bacteria — specifically, a member of the Geobacteraceae family that feeds on, and can decompose, organic material. Geobacter microbes were first discovered in the muck of the Potomac River in 1987; they like to live in places where there’s no oxygen and plenty of iron. They also have the unexpected ability to move electrons into metal. That means that under the right conditions, Geobacter microbes can both process waste and generate electricity.

This isn’t just pie-in-the-sky stuff. In Washington state, King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division, FuelCell Energy Inc., and the U.S. EPA are jointly sponsoring the world’s largest demonstration project of a fuel cell using digester gas — a.k.a. methane — as fuel. Two King County wastewater treatment plants now use gas generated during treatment operations, which is sold to two local utilities.

What’s going on here? While a typical fuel cell runs on hydrogen, these microbial fuel cells rely on bacteria to metabolize food, releasing electrons that yield a steady electrical current. Other microbial fuel cells have used fuels like glucose or ethanol. In the case of King County, the fuel was skimmed from the settling pond of a wastewater treatment plant.

The potential, suffice to say, is tremendous. Why drill, dig, and mine "virgin" energy sources when there is endless potential to capture the detritus of human and industrial activity and transform it into electricity and usable fuels?

Link: The Alchemy of Turning Waste into Energy

U.Va Professor Leads Study of North America Environment

Hopefully they will uncover some important cause-and-effect relationships.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other early Americans kept meticulous records of temperature, precipitation and barometric pressure. They often compared notes with each other, looking for long-term trends and relationships. Jefferson even proposed that every county seat have a weather station. He was concerned about the effects of climate change on farming.

By the 1870s, the United States began building a network of weather stations across the country to better predict the weather and to understand the relationships between conditions in different areas. This eventually led to our daily weather forecasts, which can be relied upon for agriculture, transportation, commerce and everyday safety.

Jefferson also suggested conducting biological surveys, which have happened too, but sometimes haphazardly, with scientists in different locations often working in isolation on similar problems.
That may be about to change.

Bruce Hayden, U.Va. professor of environmental sciences, has been chosen by the National Science Foundation to head a national team of scientists in planning a multimillion-dollar National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The project will consist of numerous research stations across the continent, from the arctic to the tropics, all linked by state-of–the-art communications and data management equipment.

The concept for NEON is driven by the understanding that most systems in nature, such as watersheds or grasslands, share common characteristics and that all systems are interrelated and ultimately co-dependent. By setting up observatories around the continent — each conducting similar observations and studies and sharing data throughout a long period of time — patterns and trends will begin to emerge, enlightening scientists’ understanding of the various ecosystems and the global environment. Hayden and his colleagues hope to design a network that will allow scientists to more fully understand the effects of human activity on landscapes and how nature responds to these changes. The long-term goal of NEON is prediction of the future states of ecological systems.

Some of the big areas that will be investigated include climate change, patterns of land use, invasive species and the spread of infectious disease.

Link: A&S Online – Jefferson’s dream come true.

Green chemistry takes root

Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, reports:

A new kind of chemical revolution is brewing, 150 years after the first one transformed modern life with a host of conveniences. This 21st-century revolution — called green chemistry — is a reaction to the environmental and economic costs that often are the dark underbelly of such a transformation.

The fundamental idea of green chemistry is that the designer of a chemical is responsible for considering what will happen to the world after the agent is put in place, says John Warner of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

But by rethinking chemical design from the ground up, green chemists at universities and in private industry are developing new ways to manufacture products that fuel our economy and lifestyles, without the damages that have become all too evident in recent years.

In fact, green chemistry has gone from blackboard conjecture to a multimillion-dollar business in the past 15 years. "Chemical manufacturers are understanding that part of their costs — and therefore subtractions from their bottom line — are waste and environmental disposal," says Mary Ellen Weber of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The stakes are high indeed. Cleaning up chemical messes is growing ever more costly. This fall, the DuPont company agreed to pay up to $600 million in fines and settlement costs over environmental damage caused by production of Teflon and Gore-Tex. General Electric will spend years and tens of millions of dollars to clean up PCBs it discharged into the Hudson River. Other companies face costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up dioxins, perchlorate, mercury and asbestos.

But keeping the planet safe doesn’t have to mean giving up non-stick pans and Gore-Tex. Typically the non-stick coating Teflon is manufactured in water, requiring a particularly nasty chemical called PFOA. But by re-thinking the fundamental way that the molecules making up Teflon are put together, Joseph DeSimone and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill instead found a way to do it in carbon dioxide, the stuff you’d find in tanks at McDonald’s to put the fizz in soda.

Carbon dioxide, it turns out, works so much better as a manufacturing medium for Teflon that no PFOA is required. DuPont has invested $275 million in a plant in North Carolina that makes one form of Teflon using this PFOA-free method, possibly saving a fortune in long-term cleanup

Link: – Green chemistry takes root.

via Alex Steffen

SunPower’s Solar Cells Designed Into Futuristic “BioHaus” Building

SUNNYVALE, Calif., November 19, 2004 – SunPower Corp., a subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: CY), today announced completion of the first Building Integrated PhotoVoltaic (BIPV) system using its A-300 high efficiency solar cells. The office building, which opened today, is located in Paderborn, Germany, and is being occupied by BioHaus, a manufacturer and distributor of solar-electric modules and inverters. SunPower’s A-300 silicon solar cells—which generate 25-30 percent more power than conventional solar cells—were encapsulated between sheets of glass by Saint Gobain Glass Solar and integrated into the building’s rounded south fa硤e. The building also features solar panels on its southeast and southwest walls and roof. The SunPower glass/glass modules will generate up to 1.8 kW of energy for the building.

Link: SunPower’s Solar Cells Designed Into Futuristic “BioHaus” Building.

via Jamais Cascio

Making Plastic from Corn

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 11, 2004 – Metabolix, Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Company have agreed to establish a 50,000-ton production facility to commercialize a new generation of high-performance natural plastics from corn.

The new facility, part of a 50/50 joint venture to manufacture and market natural PHA polymers for a wide variety of applications, including coated paper, film, and molded goods. Natural PHA polymers are produced using a fully biological fermentation process that converts agricultural raw materials such as corn sugar into a versatile range of biodegradable and compostable plastic.

Link: GreenBiz News | New Partnership to Commercialize Plastic from Corn.

HP Plans Biodegradable Printer

For years, Hewlett-Packard has encouraged its customers to recycle their ink cartridges, and it even pays the shipping costs for sending them back.

But now, HP is embarking on an even more ambitious recycling program. For starters, HP has already undertaken a program in which it uses a wide variety of recycled consumer goods to build scanners. Now, the company has a prototype of a biodegradable printer made out of corn.

"You can’t throw it in your backyard," said HP spokeswoman Lynelle Preston, adding that the prototype on display was a very early version of the printer. But "given the right conditions, it would disappear."

Link: Wired News: Everything Is Green at This Fair.

via TreeHugger

A New Type of Solar Cell

Scientists in Japan have made the first device that can convert solar energy into electricity and then store the resulting electric charge. The "photocapacitor" designed by Tsutomu Miyasaka and Takurou Murakami at Toin University in Yokohama could be used to power mobile phones and other hand-held devices (Appl. Phys. Lett. 85 3932).

Conventional solar cells need a secondary device, such as a battery, to store the electrical power generated from light. The photocapacitor combines the photoelectric and storage functions in a single structure.

Miyasaka says that the next goal is to increase the charging voltage and the charge-discharge capacity to a practically and industrially useful level for applications.

Link PhysicsWeb – News – A new type of solar cell (November 2004).


Eaton and Peterbilt to Produce Hydraulic Hybrids

Peterbilt and Eaton Corporation are jointly developing refuse trucks using Eaton’s parallel hydraulic hybrid system—Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA). Peterbilt plans to build and evaluate a production version of the vehicle during the next year.

The hydraulic launch assist system uses regenerative braking to capture the energy otherwise lost in braking. Unlike its electric cousins which use regenerative braking to generate electricity to store in a battery for use with an electric motor, the hydraulic hybrid system recovers the energy in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid.

The HLA system uses a reversible hydraulic pump/motor coupled to the drive shaft through a clutch and two accumulators. When a driver steps on the brake, the pump/motor forces hydraulic fluid out of a low-pressure accumulator into a high-pressure accumulator, increasing the pressure of nitrogen gas stored there to 5,000 psi.

During acceleration, the HLA system switches from pump mode to motor mode. The nitrogen gas forces the hydraulic fluid back into the low-pressure accumulator, and the pump/motor applies torque to the driveshaft through the clutch.

The hydraulic hybrid truck uses the hydraulic power for the intimal acceleration boost, then blends in the engine. This results in a significant reduction in fuel consumption and improved acceleration due to the high power density of hydraulics.

Eaton estimates that the HLA can provide a 25–35% percent improvement in fuel efficiency, with 25–35% reductions in emissions and some 50% reduction in brake wear.

With a version of HLA Eaton developed with Ford, the engineers found that approximately 80% of the initial kinetic energy was returned to the vehicle.

Link Green Car Congress: Eaton and Peterbilt to Produce Hydraulic Hybrids