Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs



Sunday, July 28, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Fellow global citizens, the lithium battery of your laptops and cellphones could most likely be powered by rice husk byproducts in the near future. The new byproduct alone could bring down the cost of the said batteries, thus bring down further their retail prices in the open market.

Yes, folks, rice husk has silicon nano particles. And the good news for everyone is that the said nano particles are easy to extract, as the production cost is low. Which of course brings more sunny smiles on rice producing farmers who, at the end of the day, will be selling their rice husks en toto to silicon nano particle manufacturers.

China alone produces 120 million tons of rice husks every year. India also has several millions of tons of the same off-harvest rice wastage. ASEAN countries likewise produce a huge aggregate of the material. So, anticipate that the East-to-South Asia corridor will be up for a very exciting development on the new innovation.

The new development directly links up grain crop producers specializing in rice to the high technology sector, thus bringing new life to the value chain. This, aside from the fact that rice production itself has benefited from hybridization and high knowledge over the last 5 decades, which raised its status to a high tech production in the primary sector.

For your browsing, the interesting article on the subject is shown below.

[Manila, 11 July 2013]

Nano Particles from Rice Husk Set For Use in Batteries

Rice farmers may soon have a more lucrative use for a common low-value byproduct: rice husks, the hard, protective coverings around the edible grains.

The husks contain natural silicon nanoparticles that can easily be extracted and used in battery manufacture, a study shows.

The simple and low-cost process for recovering the nanoparticles and using them in the lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly found in portable electronics, was published in Scientific Reports last month (29 May).

Silicon nanomaterials have various industrial applications but they are complicated, costly and energy-intensive to produce.

"China plays an important role in battery manufacturing, so the rice nano-silicon could be locally integrated into battery manufacturing."

Yi Cui

Meanwhile, 120 million tonnes of rice husks are produced as byproducts of rice agriculture worldwide each year.

"The novelty of this paper is the high-yield and low-cost recovery of nano-structured silicon from an agricultural byproduct. And the morphology of the recovered silicon is ideal for direct application in high-energy, lithium-ion batteries," Yi Cui, study coauthor and associate professor at Stanford University, United States, tells SciDev.Net.

"A lot of developing countries, such as China and India, produce a huge amount of rice husks each year. Currently, the rice husks only have some low added-value applications," he says.

The new procedure, Cui says, could allow these countries to use the husks to build batteries, and his team is trying to establish links with battery companies to achieve this.

"China plays an important role in battery manufacturing, so the rice nano-silicon could be locally integrated into battery manufacturing," he adds.

  Jie Xiao, a senior scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, United States, says the "approach is interesting and promising" but warns that "more research needs to take place before this method would be useful on a broad scale".

Farmers will probably be unable to directly sell rice husks to battery companies since most of these firms do not make their own raw materials, she says. "However, companies that supply [battery] electrode materials, or chemical factories, could build [production] lines to process husks and harvest [their] silicon for battery use," she adds.

Cary Hayner, chief technology officer of SiNode Systems — a materials venture based out of Northwestern University that is commercialising novel silicon-based battery anode technology — says the study demonstrates what could be a tremendous opportunity to make use of an abundant agricultural byproduct.

"Farmers would be best served by selling their rice husks to a company that will transform the husks into the useful silicon," he says.

Link to full paper in Scientific Reports

Monday, July 22, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Landgrabbing by foreign investors has been rising anomalously since the year 2000, and it seems that the grabbing includes freshwater areas as well. The phenomenon is alarming, which makes it a new factor input in the development game.

Consider the following: as of end of 2013, the total landgrabbed area was already estimated at 32.8 million hectares, up from the previous year’s 26.2 million hectares. That’s a whopping 6 million+ of hectares gobbled up within a 12-month period, as the pattern seems to be pointing to an exponential rise of the grabbing.

So huge is the aggregate landgrab that the figure is a country as huge as Poland or the Philippines. The estimates could in fact be very conservative, as the estimators—from the Land Matrix—admit to the limitations of data gathering methods.

The African continent is the most badly affected by the rising landgrabbing, as per latest reports. Being an observer of international development for decades, I would expect this to happen, as the European financier oligarchic families have the agenda of competing for a grab of the entire continent to take advantage of the “half man half ape” mindset of Africans as perceived by the former.

The reportage on the alarming development is shown below.

[Manila, 07 July 2013]

Open Data Reveal Extend of Landgrabbing

[Oxfam Italy]

The total area of land controlled by foreign investors globally is similar to the size of Poland, according to the most up to date estimates contained in an online database that aims to document large-scale land acquisitions or 'land grabs'.

The database, called the Global Observatory, reveals that investors have acquired 32.8 million hectares since 2000 — up from its 2012 estimates of 26.2 million hectares.

Land grabs are often not conducted openly, which has made them difficult to monitor. However, the revamped online tool, revealed this month (10 June), allows for the crowdsourcing and visualisation of data as well as the verification of sources of such data, to promote transparency and accountability in land and investment decisions.

Most of that land has been acquired in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the top three investor countries being the United States, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

Land grabbing has recently moved to the forefront of the international development agenda.

"This amount of information, as imperfect as it may be, is still greatly preferable to totally missing or unreliable data because there were wild swings in estimates before this database."

Ruth Meinzen-Dick

Following the global rise in food prices in 2008, investors and some foreign governments bought land in the global South — often parcels totalling thousands of hectares — to try to cash in on agricultural commodities and secure food supplies.

Advocacy groups claimed that these deals dispossessed traditional land users, often smallholder farmers or pastoralists who relied on the land for their livelihood. Critics also pointed out that investors' promises to increase economic activity by developing related large-scale agricultural or biofuel projects have often come to nothing. And a recent study found that, along with land, significant amounts of fresh water are also being grabbed.

The consortium of research institutions behind the Land Matrix, a global land monitoring initiative that developed the Global Observatory, hopes that having reliable data on deals will increase accountability.

"The aim of the Land Matrix is to create more transparency about this issue by highlighting the facts," says Markus Giger, head of the Global Change Cluster at the University of Bern, Switzerland, who is working on the database.

While the latest figures from the Global Observatory show an increase in land acquisitions, Giger says this reflects the database's new methodologies and verification of data more than real-world changes.

Giger admits that the estimates may not be completely accurate as they rely on information from stakeholders themselves.

"It is quite a task to have factual and precise information about each land deal," he says. "We try our best to provide correct information, but there is always a degree of uncertainty involved."

Nonetheless, these numbers represent the first real data set on the global scale of land grabbing, according to Ruth Meinzen-Dick, a senior researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute, United States.

"This amount of information, as imperfect as it may be, is still greatly preferable to totally missing or unreliable data because there were wild swings in estimates before this database," she says. "Now at least there is something a bit more rational to look at."

Link to Land Matrix

Sunday, July 14, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious Day to all ye fellow Planetary Citizens!

There has been a mad scramble for lands for biofuels production in developing countries most recently. Accordingly, biofuels emit less carbon on the atmosphere, thus contributing to ecological balance in the long run.

What the experts from the global S&T community found out, through their latest analytic models, is that indeed biofuels production and usage on massive scales do not at all harm the global environmental community so as to induce global warming. There is validity to the thesis of less carbon emissions coming from the end-product of biofuels production, true.

However, the regions where biofuels are most highly sought for massive production, domestic usage and importations will suffer immeasurably from warming. As the analytic models indicate, the tropics will be affected the most toward a new round of warming.

Needless to say, the new round of warming for any region concerned will redound to more disturbances of a less predictable geo-atmospheric condition. Coming at a time of climate change patterns on the said region, massive biofuels production and usage will immeasurably factor on even more hellish hot days during dry season and super-storms during the wet season.

For the policy makers and development stakeholders in the tropics, better rethink the biofuels option. The discussion on the subject is enclosed below, for your very own added insight.

[Manila, 02 July 2013]

Biofuels Boom Could Accelerate Warming in Tropics

CAIRO] The large-scale conversion of land for biofuel farming could make some tropical regions even warmer, according to a study.

Researchers from the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), assessed the impact on the climate of increased biofuel production by modelling two scenarios: one where trees are chopped down to plant biofuel crops and one where forests are maintained and fertilisers and irrigation are used to intensify the production of biofuel crops.

They found that both scenarios have a negligible impact on global warming. For example, in the first scenario the additional cropland reflects more sunlight, counterbalancing the warming associated with fewer trees and higher greenhouse gas concentrations. Also, in both scenarios, increasing the proportion of biofuels used would reduce warming by using fewer fossil fuel-based energy sources.

But their findings also point to significant regional differences.

Willow Hallgren, a researcher at MIT's Center for Global Change Science, tells SciDev.Net that the real significance of the study is that it reveals that energy policies promoting large-scale biofuel plantations as a way of cutting carbon emissions will exacerbate existing warming trends in the tropics.

Hallgren says that the study differs from others looking at the climate impacts of biofuels because it incorporates "numerous 'real world' determinants of where and how much biofuel crops are grown".

The areas where this regional warming would occur are located in the Amazon basin and in central and western Africa, she says.

"It would be more logical to link the increase in warming to deforestation rather than to [expanded] biofuel production."

Balgis Osman Elasha

The policy in which the biofuel expansion is embedded determines how much the local climate will warm, says Hallgren. "If you protect tropical forests, you greatly lessen this regional warming, which would likely have significant ecological, economic and social impact on people living in those regions," she says.

Hallgren's team is looking more closely into biofuel-related climate change in the tropics, as previous research has found that cutting down tropical forests for agriculture could cause climate change and then reduced agricultural yields.

The authors also found that the Arctic regions may experience an overall cooling due to an increase in reflectivity caused by deforestation.

Balgis Osman Elasha, a climate change expert at the Tunisia-based African Development Bank, says the relationship between global warming and biofuels is unclear.

"Deforestation could happen in any part of the world for different reasons including the need for biomass energy, timber production, land use changes, agricultural expansion, fodder production and so on," says Elasha.

"It would therefore be more logical to link the increase in warming to deforestation rather than to [expanded] biofuel production."

The study was published online in Geophysical Research Letters in April.

Link to abstract in Geophysical Research Letters

Saturday, July 06, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Earth quake of magnitude 9.2 on Reichter! Tsunami that could result to hundreds of thousands of dead bodies!

Such are the possible outcomes of the geological reality surrounding the Arabian sea, a heretofore unexpected reality of previous studies that were largely flawed. New modeling of quake & tsunami forecasting for the Arabian sea, with focus on the Makran rupture zone, indicate a gigantic magnitude quake that could occur in the zone any time soon.

A big quake in the zone could easily heap up tsunami that could threaten the coasts of Pakistan, Oman, India, Iran, and further. As seismology and geological updates indicated, seismic activities have been occurring in the zone in more recent times, activities that were largely absent previously.

Below is a reportage from the about the subject matter.

[Manila, 26 June 2013]

Arabian Sea at high risk of quakes and tsunamis

Dilrukshi Handunnetti
17 June 2013 | EN
[COLOMBO, SRI LANKA] Countries surrounding the Arabian Sea may be at a much higher risk of a major earthquake and tsunami than previously thought, say researchers.

A tsunami in this area of the Western Indian Ocean could threaten the coastlines of India, Iran, Oman, Pakistan and further afield. The scientists say further investigation should feed into hazard assessments and planning for such events in the region.

The Makran subduction zone, which lies along the southwestern coast of Pakistan, has low levels of seismic activity, so people assumed it was incapable of generating major earthquakes.

·                       New modelling shows the Makran rupture zone is longer and wider than previously thought
·                       This makes it capable of earthquakes of up to 9.2 magnitude
·                       Previous risk assessments for the Arabian Sea have underestimated risk: more research is needed
But a new analysis published recently in Geophysical Research Letters (30 April) used thermal modelling to show that the rupture zone may be longer and wider than previously thought. This, in combination with thick sediments on the plate being pushed under, makes an earthquake more likely.

The models indicate that earthquakes similar in magnitude to the earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, in 2004 that triggered a tsunami, killing more than 230,000 people, could occur in the region.

"Past assumptions may have significantly underestimated the earthquake and tsunami hazard in this region," says the study's lead author, Gemma Smith, who is based at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

The Makran subduction zone has previously recorded an earthquake in 1945 of 8.1 magnitude and another in 1947, of 7.3 magnitude.

"The Makran may be capable of significantly higher magnitude earthquakes — of up to 8.5-9.2 magnitude, due to the unusually wide potential rupture zone and thick sediment on the subducting plate," Smith tells SciDev.Net.

Kapila Dahanayake, a geologist based at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, who studies tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, says: "We were caught unawares in 2004. Further studies could reveal underestimated vulnerabilities".

She adds that recent earthquakes in areas considered less vulnerable — such as the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Iran in April 2013 — coupled with increased seismic activity in the Indian Ocean, show more research is needed.

"Sri Lanka, too, should look for more science and safeguards," Dahanayake says.

Kumar Arulalanthan, a Sri Lankan oceanographer and vice president of the Regional Committee for the Central Indian Ocean for UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, tells SciDev.Net: "We are experiencing seismic changes that were at one time considered not possible. Seismic activity in the Arabian Sea is likely to impact more territories — the indicators may have just begun to come."