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24 November 2012

Muse brings Peak Oil to the mainstream

Muse is a modern British progressive rock band, one of an handful that has harnessed commercial success during the past decade. They rank 9th in my Last.fm top, although time wise they just nearly make it into the top 25. The band released a new LP, the sixth of their career, about 2 months ago. So far I've been too busy to lend any attention to it, although friends already referenced it as well worth listen.

Thanks to our galician friends at Véspera de Nada I found out today that this LP is actually a reflection on the energy sustainability of modern society. Here's the trailer of The 2nd Law

03 November 2012

Alternative materials

Part of the use modern industrial society gives to energy is to gather and synthesise disperse matter into complex materials. Due to their solid state and relative stability at room conditions, metals have always had a central role in industrial societies. The processes of mining, transport, refining and casting are vital in the modern economy and demand huge quantities of energy. And this energy demand is proportional to scarcity and dispersion of the raw material in the Earth's crust. There's an interesting post by Ugo Bardi on this matter for a deeper review.

The energy transition modern societies are undergoing today can also be (and most likely will be) a transition into a different way of using matter. A possibility that has been explorer since the 1960s is the usage of carbon fibre composites to replace metals in a variety of applications. Strong and light, they have been promising a new Industrial Revolution for a long time. But while carbon fibres dispense much of the energy consumption of mining and refining processes, they still require relevant amounts of energy in its fabrication process; barring relevant innovation on this aspect, carbon fibre won't become an everyday material.

It so happens that Nature itself fabricates materials not that different from carbon fibre reinforced polymers. Trees produce their own polymers, cellulose and lignen, that are bound together into a material that has great resistance to compression and tension: wood.