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|The great energy paradigm shift - and why I don't care|
To quote Bob Dylan, the times are a-changin'.
Let's start with cars. I was always a Tesla skeptic. I
believed that it would crash and burn - kind of like the DeLorean -
but on a much bigger scale. In fact, I actually shorted TSLA stock a year
ago.1 Fortunately, I covered my short position during a
otherwise I would be feeling some major pain today. The stock is up
eightfold over the past 12 months!
At over $400B, Tesla is worth more than Volkswagen ($91B), General Motors ($45B), Daimler (which includes Mercedes, $58B), BMW ($49B), Honda ($43B), Hyundai ($35B), Ford ($28B), Fiat Chrysler ($26B), and Nissan ($15B) combined! In short, a lot of smart people think we'll all be driving electric cars in the near future. And with California announcing that it will ban gas-powered cars, this trend may have some teeth. I'm still not so sure. But you know what? I don't care.
And it's not just the gas-powered automobile that is headed for obsolescence. Nikola is promising to replace today's polluting diesel eighteen-wheeler with clean hydrogen and electric powered trucks that produce twice the horsepower, twice the acceleration, and zero emissions. Other than the recent abrupt departure of the company's college-dropout founder and the Hindenburg Research report claiming market manipulation, what's not to like? But you know what? I don't care about that either.
The first oil well was drilled in neighboring Pennsylvania in 1859. However, it took over a hundred years for oil to replace coal as the leading source of energy in the United States. It was only seven years ago that Exxon was the largest company in the United States by market capitalization. Since then, it's lost 60% of its value and has been booted from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. What's going on? Times are a-changin'. The fossil fuel divestment movement is picking up some momentum. Depending how things pan out in November, the movement may pick up some more steam - or not. But you know what? I don't really care.
I don't care which energy rules because no matter what happens and no matter how fast or slow the great energy Paradigm Shift happens, they all need us. And we need them. Let's start with old energy.
Fracking has bootstrapped the US toward energy independence during the past decade by tripling the level of domestic crude oil production. Over 1.7 million fracking wells have been drilled and over seven billion barrels of oil have been produced. But for fracking to work well, fracking fluid and surfactants need to be developed and optimized to keep fracking safe while lowering the interfacial tension between water and oil. That's where we come in. All of our instruments (except one) can now measure interfacial tension. Conventional oil production methods, transportation, and storage also require an understanding of wetting properties where contact angle analysis is beneficial.
Anything that involves fossil fuels is considered old energy. That includes coal - even if it's "clean" coal. In order to make coal "clean", various processes are used to remove pollutants. Many of these processes involve methods that increase or modify hydrophobicity.2
Nuclear is also considered old energy. And if you guessed that there are myriad methods and systems used in nuclear power plants that rely on precise wetting properties, you would be right. Novel methods address not only waste disposal issues, but can also improve reactor safety. An exciting future for nuclear would be to convert it from a sustainable energy source to a renewable one. This could be done by using seawater to obtain uranium - instead of mining it. There are over 4 billion tons of uranium in the seawater presently. The trick is figuring out the best way to extract it. Current methods under consideration rely on nonwoven sheets and hydrophilic fibers.3
Moving on to new renewable energy, solar needs superhydrophobic self-cleaning panels that improve efficiency and lower maintenance costs.4 Wind power in northern terrain requires icephobic coatings to keep turbines balanced and efficient. In warmer areas, anti-stick and superhydrophobic coatings improve efficiency by reducing fouling from bugs and improve self-cleaning capabilities.
So, while we really do care about the future of energy, we are not overly preoccupied about how fast or slow the big Paradigm Shift will take. We are here to serve our new energy and our old energy customers with an equal degree of dedication and fervor.
1 Shorting a stock is
making a bet that it will fall in value. You aren't actually buying
the stock. Rather you are borrowing shares with the promise to
replace them in the future when (hopefully) you can buy them at a lower
In last month's newsletter we were
talking about the surface roughness of an ideal surface. We
indicated that such a surface would have a surface roughness under
0.1 µL. Obviously that's a typo. The correct unit of measure is µm.
In addition to making precision contact
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