Thursday, March 29, 2012

patentECO - Gone Fishin'

Gone Fishin’

Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to plan to go fishing. Fishing is a great activity, like treasure hunting, grouse hunting, and visiting used book stores — you never know what you’ll find, and the thrill of the chase is the main thing.
Here are some inventions from the patentECO Extraction & Harvesting Index, which includes technologies that increase the efficiency of resource extraction (e.g., minerals, liquids, gases) or harvesting (e.g., forest products), reduce pollution from these activities, and support waste minimization and reuse, that you might consider as you prepare for the 2012 fishin’ season.
If you didn’t properly clean and dry your fishing equipment after last season, you might need Patent No. 5,906,215, “Fishing reel cleaning solution.” Invented by Alan P. Conroy, St. Petersburg, FL, and assigned to Reel Clean Corp., Palm Harbor, FL, the patent issued on May 25, 1999 and is classified as 134/22.1, for cleaning and liquid contact with solids, featuring cleaning of hollow containers or internal surfaces. The object of the invention is to provide “. . . an aqueous cleaning solution that specifically is useful for removing rust, salt and old oil or grease from fishing reels. This solution is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.”
We’ve all had fishing line break. Mine usually breaks from the size and strength of the fish (“Hey, Louie, what was the biggest fish you ever caught?” “14 inches. Between the eyes.”). However, abrasion on rocks, underwater limbs, overhead limbs, and exposure to the UV in sunlight also can significantly weaken the line. We’ve probably also seen rats nests of fishing line discarded in the water or onshore. Jeffrey C. and Beverly Annabel were awarded Patent Number 6,102,319 for a “Device for removing fishing line from fishing reels” on August 15, 2000. The object of their invention “. . . is to provide a device and method for safely and efficiently removing fishing line from fishing reels and arranging the fishing line into neat and compact bundles that allow for recycling of the fishing line for efficient and safe disposal.” It uses conical shaped spools to capture used fishing line, forming a neat, donut-shaped bundle. Classified as USPC 242/362, it is found with other winding, tensioning, or guiding inventions that use a rotatably driven loop collector.
Some fishermen prefer to use barbless hooks (and in some areas or for some types of fishing they may be required) to lessen potential injuries to fish and fishermen. Joseph M. Ivey, Panama City, FL, developed a “Fishing loop method of fishing” “that employs a fishing loop as the terminal tackle article that holds bait and interoperates with fish attractants.” Awarded Patent Number 7,673,414 on March 9, 2010, his invention is intended to increase catch efficiency (catch per unit effort, or CPUE, in the parlance of fisheries scientists) of barbless tackle, reduce potential injuries to fish and angler, and improve survival for fish that are caught and released. His emphasis on increased harvest efficiency and improved survival for released fish move this invention into the realm of clean technologies. Classified as 43/4.5 for methods of fishing found within broader fishing, trapping, and vermin destroying technologies, the ‘414 patent is a recent ones in more than 260 patents in this subclass stretching back to a fish hook patent issued in 1855.
Use of non-toxic replacements for lead fishing weights has been in vogue in recent years. Brian Kevin Rayner, Balboa Island, CA, addresses this in Patent Number 6,851,217, issued on February 8, 2005, which provides a “Fishing line weight that detaches from line.” His first claim states:
A line weight which detaches from said line upon water contact comprising: a) two halves such that when said two halves are joined together said weight is formed with a hole to allow said line to be passed through said weight, b) a water soluble binding layer encircling said weight in a manner that holds said weight together, whereby said line is attached to said weight though said hole in said weight until water contact.
His preferred embodiment of the invention uses a clay, or other negatively buoyant, non-toxic, environmentally-harmless material, two-part weight body. This invention is found in 43/43.12, another fishing, trapping, and vermin destroying invention that uses line-attached bodies, hooks, and rigs releasable from the line, e.g., casting weights.
As we’ve seen with patents in other patentECO Indexes, those within the Extraction & Harvesting Index may overlap technologies found in other Indexes. For example, inventions found in 134/22.1 (the ‘215 patent, above) might also be found in the Industrial Index, as might those in 242/362 (the ‘319 patent). The ‘414 and ‘217 patents, both within USPC Class 43, are in the Extraction & Harvesting Index. The common themes through all the patents highlighted here are greater harvest efficiency, recycling and waste minimization, or reduced use of toxic materials pertaining to resource harvesting.
Catch a big one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

patentECO - The First Clean Tech Patent

The First US Clean Tech Patent

The US Patent & Trademark Office recently closed its Green Technology Pilot Program that provided accelerated examination of patent applications meeting certain criteria to qualify as clean technology.
What was the first US clean technology patent? It probably was issued sometime after the growing movement of ecological awareness in the early 1970s, wouldn’t you say? Or perhaps the first clean tech invention came about in response to the publishing of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962?
Before we proceed, we should review a portion of our patentECO clean technology definition:
“Clean technologies use less material, less energy, minimize waste, or lessen negative environmental consequences.”
The patentECO Industry Index includes technologies pertaining to waste minimization, improved production processes that reduce resource (e.g., feedstocks, process chemicals, energy inputs) requirements, and reducing the use of toxic or potentially harmful chemicals when possible, to name a few.
The first US clean tech patent was issued to Edward M. Chaffee of Roxbury, MA. His invention is titled “Application of Caoutchouc to Cloths, Leather, and Other Articles.” He developed an improved process for preparing, coloring, and applying india-rubber to cloth of all kinds, leather, and other articles, without the use of a solvent. Classified in the US Patent Classification (USPC) as 156/231, the invention is found with others that pertain to adhesive bonding and other chemical manufacture, “with formation of lamina of continuous length by molding or casting on endless carrier”. This is patent-speak for processes that form a continuous layer by casting or molding on an endless belt or calendar roll carrier, contacting the layer while on the carrier with a preformed base and then removing the layer from the belt or carrier. Chaffee’s invention has the distinction of being the first one issued with that classification as the original classification; the original (or first-listed US classification on a patent) represents the central inventive subject matter of a patent.
Chaffee’s patent was the 16th issued by the Patent Office, on August 31, 1836.
The second patent in this classification was awarded 13 years later, in 1852, to a New Haven, CT inventor named Charles Goodyear.
Thus, clean tech inventions in the US have been with us for 176 years, and started in industry, with a concern for reducing solvent use in a manufacturing process.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

patentECO - Add Carpet and Stir...Alternative Concrete

Alternative Concrete
We offer a generic concrete recipe:
  • 4 parts gravel
  • 2 parts sand
  • 1 part Portland cement and water
  • Mix ingredients, pour into forms, and allow to set.
Various forms of concrete have been used since the times of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Romans. Concrete is one of the strongest, and most widespread, building materials. Its manufacture and use offer opportunities to apply clean technology from multiple patentECO indexes such as Air, Energy, Industry, Extraction & Harvesting, and Water.
Inventors James Glessner (Santa Rosa, CA), Richard McCabe (Occidental, CA), and Meredith Ware (East Palo Alto, CA) offer a glimpse of how concrete can be more efficiently made. Their invention, patent number 7,727,327, is a “Low embodied energy concrete mixture.” Awarded on June 1, 2010, the patent is classified as 106/644 which includes inventions dealing with fiber, bar or wire containing compositions within the coating or plastic compositions technologies. Why would cleantech concrete be found here?
It all depends on how the technology class, in this case Class 106 Compositions: Coating or Plastic, is defined by the USPTO. Their definition states:
“This class is the broad generic class for:
(1) Coating, impregnating or plastic compositions, especially those which set or harden to retain a given shape. Most of the compositions herein found are those which are capable of undergoing a change from a fluent to a nonfluent condition, or from a solid noncoherent form to a solid coherent form, which changes may be effected in any or more of the following ways:
  1. By setting, e.g., concrete . . .”
Glessner et al. claim:
“1. A cementitious mixture comprising: Portland cement; fly ash; silica fume; recycled aggregate; ground recycled carpet fibers; organic fibers; and water.”
This claim gets us into clean technology via “recycled aggregate; ground recycled carpet fibers; organic fibers . . .”
They further claim (claim number in parentheses) that 
  • the ground recycled carpet fibers comprise nanoparticles (2)
  • the recycled aggregate comprises crushed, recycled concrete (3), recycled glass (4), crushed concrete and bricks (5)
  • the organic fibers are rice hulls and other natural waste fibers (7)
  • ground granulated blast furnace slag (8), lime kiln dust (12), or cement kiln dust (16) is substituted for some of the Portland cement
  • a high range water reducer (20) is added to the mixture.
The inventors’ intention is to reduce the amount of energy needed to manufacture concrete by substituting recycled materials for Portland cement, which requires large amounts of energy to make. The use of recycled materials substituted for aggregate reduces the amount of virgin aggregate that would otherwise need to be mined. Assuming that the strength characteristics of the concrete made according to the invention are satisfactory for the intended use, this appears to be a multiple win-win clean technology innovation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blue Gold on World Water Day

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

patentECO - Reely Local Agriculture

Reely Local Agriculture

In a 2009 report the National Gardening Association estimated that 43 million U.S. households planned to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs in 2009. Tomatoes are the most popular crop, grown in 86 percent of gardens, followed by cucumbers (47 percent), sweet peppers (46 percent), beans (39 percent), carrots (34 percent), summer squash (32 percent), onions (32 percent), hot peppers (31 percent), lettuce (28 percent), and peas (24 percent). They estimated the average home garden size at 600 square feet, with a yield of 1/2 pound per square foot, or 300 pounds per average well-maintained garden. This translates to a food value of $600.
According to a 2010 US Department of Agriculture report entitled “Local Food Systems,” the U.S. Congress as part of the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Act) defined local agriculture as the total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” as less than 400 miles from its origin, or within the State in which it is produced.
A backyard garden or local greenhouse meets this definition, and is about as local as one could get. Home gardeners, and greenhouse owners, are no less interested in improving crop yields than are large commercial growers.
Terril DeFoor (Clovis, NM) was granted patent number 6,378,246 “Method and apparatus for growing vined produce” on April 30, 2002. Claim 1 states:
“Apparatus for growing vined produce, comprising a container having an axis, a peripheral wall extending about said axis and having axially spaced apart opposite ends, and end walls closing said peripheral wall at said opposite ends, said peripheral wall and said end walls providing said container with an interior for receiving a rooting media, a plant opening radially through said peripheral wall for the vine of a plant rooted in a rooting media in said interior to extend outwardly of said peripheral wall, and support means for supporting said container for said axis to be in a fixed location spaced above an underlying support surface and for rotation of said container about said axis and relative to said support means at said fixed location.”
While invented specifically for tomatoes, DeFoor’s apparatus can also be used with cucumbers, squash, beans, and other vined produce. As you can see from the drawing, a tomato plant is grown by rooting a tomato seedling in a container which can rotate around a horizontal axis — think of a garden hose reel for tomatoes, cukes, squash, and beans. The container is periodically provided with a nutrient to promote crop growth, the produce is periodically harvested from the vine, and the harvested portion of the vine is wrapped around the container. The inventor states that this system reduces pest and viral problems, provides up to 30 days’ earlier ripening, and reduces the labor required on a per plant basis by as much as 50-70 percent compared with tomatoes grown by conventional methods and equipment.
The Patent Office classifies this invention as 47/62R, for a nutrient recirculation system (e.g., hydroponic system) within plant husbandry technologies. The earliest US patent with this classification (albeit a cross reference classification) is number 221,067 issued in 1879 for a water closet cistern. Hmmm.
DeFoors tomato-cuke-squash-bean reel is found within Way Better Patents s' Agriculture Index. Green fishing reels are elsewhere.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

patentECO - Fracking and Waster Water Treatment 2

Hydraulic Fracturing and Waste Water Treatment - Part 2
My previous post provided some statistics on natural gas supplies in the US and a brief overview of hydraulic fracturing as a procedure for extracting gas from formations such as the Marcellus shale. We saw that there are large volumes of water used in the process — this water requires treatment prior to and after its use in fracturing the shale.
Hydraulic fracturing fluid typically contains a biocide which helps delay the biological breakdown of the gel used in the fluid to thicken it so that it can suspend the sand. Biocide volumes are about 0.001 percent of that of the fracturing fluid. For a 3.8 million gallon injection, this is about 38 gallons or slightly more than an average curbside trash can.
Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. (Houston, TX) (NYSE: HAL) was recently awarded two patents for irradiating fluids with ultraviolet light, eliminating the need for biocides. Patent number 7,678,744, “Hydrocarbon industry servicing fluid and methods of performing service operations,” was granted on March 16, 2010 to Laurence Abney and four co-inventors. This invention is classified as 507/200 for well treating in the USPC class covering earth boring, well treating, and oil field chemistry. A 2008 Halliburton patent, number 7,332,094, “Irradiation system and methods of treating fluids in hydrocarbon industry applications,” was classified as 210/748.11 for liquid purification or separation that destroys living organisms.
In mid-September 2011, Halliburton patent application 20110220371, “System and method for fluid treatment,” was published by USPTO. The proposed invention provides a system that treats fracturing fluid with ozone and ultraviolet light, and then allows the fluid to be re-used in the well-drilling process. The application is classified as 166/401, for injecting a gas or gas mixture into a well. A companion application, 20110272155, “System and method for fluid treatment,” issued on November 10, 2011, also provides ultraviolet treatment of fracturing fluid. Halliburton’s CleanStream Service relies on these patents.
General Electric Capital Corporation (NASDAQ: GEC) takes a different approach to fracturing water treatment in patent number 7,842,121 “System and method for providing aqueous stream purification services,” issued November 30, 2010. Larry Sanderson and three co-inventors invented a water purification system that includes a mechanical vapor recompression separator, a steam stripper, and a secondary recovery heat exchanger. Their invention is classified in the US classification system as 95/1  for gas separation processes with control responsive to a sensed condition. According to the inventors, their system provides oil and gas producers a more efficient way to process waste water and can provide a source of clean water for use in further well operations, for human and agricultural needs, or for reinjection into the ground. It is intended to be mounted on a truck — GE is now marketing its Mobile Evaporator through GE Water & Process Technologies (Trevose, PA).
Inventor William Kerfoot takes yet another approach to treating shale gas well flowback. His patent, number 8,016,041, “Treatment for recycling fracture water gas and oil recovery in shale deposits,” uses an ozonation process for adjusting the oxidation/reduction (ORP) potential of the flowback water to strip it of hydrocarbon impurities and reduce its salinity. ORP is a measure of the tendency of a chemical species to acquire electrons and thereby be reduced. The treated water can then be reused in the drilling operation, or stored to further reduce the ORP and then released. The patent, issued on  September 13, 2011, is classified as 166/310, which places it with other inventions that provide for entraining or incorporating treating material in flowing earth fluid, within broader well technology. Kerfoot Technologies (Mashpee, MA) is offering this system for use as part of a frac water recycling system that includes U.S. Patents 6,913,251; 6,984,329; 7,264,747; 7,326,002, and other pending applications.
In addition to biocides, other chemicals and compounds are added to the water used for shale fracturing. On August 16, 2011, Paul Berger was granted patent number 7,998,911, “Environmental friendly fracturing and stimulation composition and method of using the same.” Assigned to Oil Chem Technologies (Sugar Land, TX), Berger’s patent uses non-toxic, readily available, biodegradable substances as the frac fluid additive. The invention, classified as 507/267, is found with others that provide an organic component that contains carboxylic acid, ester, or a salt thereof, within earth boring, well treating and oil field chemistry technologies.
Shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations often use open pits to store the flowback prior to treatment or removal to an offsite treatment location. H2O TECH, Inc. (Castle Rock, CO) owns patent number 7,731,854, “Situ system and method for treating an oil and gas well drilling fluid,” issued June 8, 2010. The inventor is Robert Herbst. The invention treats flowback water in a storage pit using a floating electrocoagulation unit with positive and negative charged electrodes received in the drilling fluid in the first side of the pit. A generator is connected to the electrodes for applying positive and negative direct current and destabilizing contaminants in the fluid. Heavy sludge, colloidal solids and dissolved metals form stable precipitates that settle to the bottom of the first side of the pit. The treated water can be re-used in the drilling operation or discharged. Herbst’s invention is considered by the USPTO to be technology that removes specified material as part of a liquid purification or separation process.
Ecosphere Technologies, Inc. (Stuart, FL) (OTCBB:ESPH) owns four patents supporting its Ozonix water treatment process. The most recent of these is 7,943,087, “Enhanced water treatment for reclamation of waste fluids and increased efficiency treatment of potable waters,” issued May 17, 2011. Dennis McGuire and Sanjeev Jakhete are the inventors. The earlier patents, of the same title, are 7,699,988, 7,699,994, 7,785,470. These patents provide a mobile system that combines ozonation, hydrodynamic and acoustic cavitation, acoustic cavitation, and electro-chemical decomposition. The process destroys bacteria and oxidizes contaminants in the frac water, allowing it to be re-used or released. The ‘087 patent is classified as 422/20 for using sonic or ultrasonic energy as part of chemical apparatus and process disinfecting, deodorizing, preserving, or sterilizing technology.
Innovation is being applied to the cleanup of hydraulic fracturing fluids, helping to remove an issue of concern to those opposed to the development and use of domestic energy supplies. These and many other clean technologies are found in the patentECO Water Index.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

patentECO - Fracking and Waste Water Treatment

Hydraulic Fracturing and Waste Water Treatment - Part 1
The US Energy Information Administration estimates that US potential natural gas resources total 2543 trillion cubic feet (tcf), with shale gas deposits contributing 862 tcf (34 percent) of this total. At 2010 consumption rates (about 24.1 tcf), the estimated reserve could supply more than 100 years of use. In the eastern US, the Marcellus shale formation extends from New York through Pennsylvania, western Maryland, virtually all of West Virginia, and includes portions of western Virginia and eastern Ohio, and is generally 4000-8500 ft below ground surface. This is far below the aquifers that supply well-water for drinking. It is estimated by researchers Terry Englander, a geoscience professor at Pennsylvania State University, and Gary Lash, a geology professor at the State University of New York, to contain about 50 tcf of recoverable natural gas.
As with any resource extraction activity, concerns have been expressed regarding the procedures used and their actual or potential environmental impacts. In the case of shale gas production, a major concern is related to the hydraulic fracturing used to open cracks in the shale which allow the natural gas to be more efficiently collected. A central focus is on both the volume of water needed for the “fracing” process, the chemicals used, and the potential for groundwater contamination and spills of the waste water water to surface streams and rivers.
The hydraulic fracturing process injects water, sand, and other ingredients at very high pressure into the well. The high pressure creates small fractures in the rock that extend out as far as 1,000 feet away from the well. After the fractures are created, the pressure is reduced. Water from the well returns to the surface (known as flowback), but the sand grains remain in the rock fractures, effectively propping the fractures open and allowing the gas to move. Most frac fluid used in shale gas wells consists of water, a proppant (generally sand), a friction reducing agent (to help the flow-back water return from the well at the end of the frac job), and other chemicals used to protect the well and to optimize performance.
The US Department of Energy estimates that for a typical well in the Marcellus formation, 80,000 gallons of water are needed for well drilling, and 3.8 million gallons for fracturing. Water and sand comprise more than 98 percent of the fracing fluid. 30-70 percent of the fracing fluid returns to the surface as flowback. Thus, there is a large volume of contaminated water from each natural gas well that must be treated in some fashion.
In my next post, we’ll review recent innovations found in Way Better Patents Water Index that apply to the water used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

patentECO - Wind & Water

US Patent 6,023,105
Hybrid Energy — Water & Wind

Grid energy storage, or large-scale energy storage, if you prefer. It’s one of the phrases you hear bandied about in discussions of alternative energy, solar and wind power, and other forms of non-continuous energy generation and refers to ways of storing electricity on a large scale within a power grid. The only currently available, fully operational, efficient, and widely used grid storage technology is pumped storage hydroelectricity.

Hydropower produced 31 percent of the total renewable energy consumed in the US in 2010, according to the US Energy Information Agency. Wind produced 11 percent. What would happen if you coupled water and wind energy generation technologies?

Wasfi Youssef (Mamaroneck, NY) obtained patent number 6,023,105, “Hybrid wind-hydro power plant,” on February 8, 2000. The patent is classified as a prime-mover dynamo plant including a fluid-current motor (290/54). There are currently (early January 2012) 749 patents in this innovation space within the patentECO Energy Index.

Claim 1 states:

“A hybrid wind-hydro power plant in which a difference between two water levels is utilized to generate an electrical power, comprising:

a first water reservoir located at a high level;

a second water reservoir located at a low level;

an equipment for pumping water from said second low reservoir to said first high reservoir consisting of: (a) a water pump positioned in said second reservoir for pumping water to said first reservoir, (b) a penstock from said pump to said first reservoir, which has a non-return valve to allow water flow upstream but not downstream, and (c) a windmill with a rotational shaft coupled directly to said water pump to rotate said water pump and act as a prime mover for said water pump;

a hydraulic turbine installed to receive water via penstock from said first reservoir and to discharge said water to said second reservoir and to convert said water's kinetic energy into mechanical energy of turbine rotation;

an electrical generator coupled to said turbine and rotated by said turbine to produce electrical energy.”

Youssef intends that wind-driven pumps lift water from downstream, or the tailwater area of a hydropower station, to upstream, or headwater. An adjustable weir constructed downstream the water pump holds the water discharged from the turbine and creates a pool or lake from which water can be pumped. The weir can be lowered or raised, allowing the water flow can be managed to suit the wind and the hydropower plant operation.

Another application of his invention is at sites where the wind is strong and there are two nearby waterbodies separated in elevation. The wind-driven water pumps lift water from low elevation to high elevation, where it is stored until used by the hydropower plant to generate electricity. In this application, a hydropower plant is needed, but a dam and adjustable weir are not needed.

Any type of windmill can be utilized, although a vertical-axis type is preferred by the inventor to a horizontal-axis windmill. The former requires fewer connecting components and its tower is much smaller than that of the horizontal-axis type. On the other hand, the horizontal-axis type can be built in larger units and can be more efficient.

The world’s largest pumped hydro facility lies in Bath County, VA, and generates 3,003 MW of power for Dominion. In recent years there has been much interest expressed by wind energy developers to create large mountain-top wind farms in that part of Virginia  and adjacent West Virginia. Will the Bath County pumped storage station become a water and wind hybrid?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

patentECO - Lots of Holes

Four Thousand Holes
“I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all . . .”
These lyrics, by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, from the last verse of “A Day in the Life” on the classic 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, were inspired by an article they read in the January 7, 1967 UK Daily Mail about . . .
. . . potholes.
Much of the U.S. will soon be moving into pothole repair season. What a treat it is to hit one at speed in traffic on an interstate. Potholes are pretty mundane, but represent a non-trivial source of annual vehicle repair costs to US motorists. A 2009 report by the the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and TRIP entitled “Rough Roads Ahead, Fix Them Now or Pay for It Later” estimates that rough roads add $335 annually to typical vehicle operating costs, and may be as high as $746 in urban areas with high concentrations of rough roads.
So what does the Beatles’ song “A Day in the Life”, and a report about rough roads have to do with patentECO and clean technology innovations?
Three patents, as examples.
Patent number 6,984,670, “Recyclable composite materials articles of manufacture and structures and method of using composite materials,” was issued on January 10, 2006 to John J. Meyers, III (Penfield, NY), John H. Swartz (Coraopolis, PA), and Nathaniel G.  and Matthew J. Kurczewski (Moon Township, PA) and assigned to Ace Tire & Parts, Inc. (Coraopolis, PA). The patent is classified (521/50 with other inventions that deal with a process of treating scrap or waste product containing solid organic polymer to recover a solid polymer therefrom, which lies within a broad class accepting synthetic resins or natural rubbers.
The invention uses a composite material using recyclables (glass, polymers, plastics, rubber, both fiberglass and asphalt roof/siding shingles, coal combustion by-products, metals) and that does not contain newly added petroleum products or new, non-recycled chemicals. This material may be used to fill potholes in asphalt and concrete pavement, fill manhole cover recesses, to make expansion joints in roadways, and in building materials, such as, for example, building blocks, structural panels and other structural elements including pipes and fixtures.
Patent number 6,652,185, “Fast efficient permanent pavement repair material system,” was issued on November 25, 2003 to William D. Frey of Leawood, KS. Frey’s invention can be found with others that provide a reinforced structure in a road structure, process, or apparatus (404/70).
Frey’s innovation provides a repair composite for pavement and pothole repair. The repair composite is composed of an a polyester casting resin premixed with dry silica sand, cobalt in combination with dimethylanaline, and a catalyst. How is this clean tech? According to the invention summary, “[t]he use of this composite will eliminate the use of most of the heavy equipment normally used in road repair.”
Patent number 6,588,973, “Pavement method and composition with reduced asphalt roofing waste,” was invented by James S. Omann (Rogers, MN), and granted on July 8, 2003. The invention deals with pavement aspects of a road structure, process, or apparatus (404/17).
Omann has invented a method of manufacturing and applying a novel pavement and patch material for roadways, driveways, walkways, patch for potholes and like surfaces, including the steps of reducing recycled asphalt roof waste to granules, adding aggregate and other solid recyclable materials to the granules, adding rejuvenating oil, adding emulsifier, adding asphalt concrete oil, adding anti-strip additives, adding liquid silicone, mixing the composition, heating the composition, applying the composition to the roadway or the like and compacting a new paving material.
These inventions fall within the recycling aspect of the patentECO Industry Index, but also within the road construction materials and techniques components of the Transportation Index.
And the lyrics at the top of this piece are found within the great music index.

Friday, March 2, 2012

patentECO - Blue is the New Gold

Water is the next big commodity.  A commodity.  The world economy hasn't reached the point where traders are buying and selling H20 futures but it seems we are heading in that direction.

Alexander Crawford posted an article on that gives the rundown on 13 different ways to invest in blue gold.  It's an interesting list that highlights the broad way of looking at the water patent ecosphere.

Here is our slightly different short list of thing to think about in the blue gold space:

1)  Municipal water treatment and aging infrastructure.
2)  Water treatment chemicals - The chemistry of clean water.
3)  Getting water to, from, and around industrial plants.
4)  Pumps, seals and valves - enough said.
5)  Pipes
6)  Household systems - see 3, 4, and 5 above only think smaller footprint.
7)  Filtration
8)  Distribution - old infrastructure here and no infrastructure there.
9)  Irrigation - growing populations and we're growing our food and our fuel.
10) Desalination - Because you can't get the salt out without it.
11)  All the meters and other devices needed to manage this stuff that will be part of the smart water grid.

Here are the some of our recent posts on the inventions in this space.

1)  Water on the Move - Generating power through the flow of water.  (Innovative water metering.)

2)  Put That In Your Pipe - An autonomous robot for inspecting the interior of a sewer pipe.

3)  Low Tech Clean Tech - An low tech approach to clean water complete with a schmutzdeuke layer

4)  Indoor Wetlands -- An overview of some of the latest inventions for dealing with polluted water including some hydroponic approaches.

Learn more about what is in the Way Better Patents Water Index.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

patentECO - No-Till Poultry Litter

No-till poultry litter

The Shenandoah Valley, where I live, is a major poultry producing area. The Valley lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a 64,000 square-mile area that contributes tributary flow, and pollutants, to the Nation’s largest and most productive estuary. In 2010, the Chesapeake Bay watershed produced more than 1 billion broiler chickens, 27.5 million turkeys, and 1.5 million tons of poultry litter, which is the bedding material and poultry manure produced by the poultry houses that raise the birds. Poultry litter contains significant amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, and represents a valuable source of agricultural fertilizer (and a potential alternative energy source).

These 1.5 million tons of litter also represent a significant source of nonpoint source pollution to the region’s waterways after the litter is applied to farm fields. An article this morning in our local paper covered a research project now underway in the area that is testing a new piece of agricultural equipment that can potentially reduce pollutant loads from field-applied poultry litter.

The equipment injects poultry litter below the surface of a field in a manner similar to that used in no-till agricultural practices. After some detective work, I found that this equipment was recently granted a US patent.

Patent number 7,814,848, “System for distributing poultry litter below the soil surface,” was granted to Daniel H. Pote (Booneville, AR) and Stephen M. Haller (Magazine, AR) on October 19, 2010. Pote and Haller are employees at the Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research Center in Arkansas; the Center is a part of the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. The patent is assigned to USDA. It is classified as 111/130, which covers planting technology that uses broadcasting. As of early January 2012, 278 patents are found in this subclass, with the earliest issued in 1841 for a rotary cultivator. It was Patent number 2,040; check out the drawing — it’s art.

Back to the present. Claim 1 states:

“An apparatus for distributing soil amendment materials comprising:

a) a plurality of soil cutting blades effective to cut a plurality of substantially parallel trenches in the soil when pulled through the soil in a direction of travel;

b) a dispenser for delivering soil amendment material to the trench cut in the soil rearward of said cutting blades, wherein said dispenser comprises:
1) a receptacle comprising opposed front and rear walls and opposed side walls, an inlet for said material, and a lower surface extending between said walls;
2) said lower surface comprising a plurality of substantially parallel elongated troughs disposed substantially longitudinally along the length thereof, each of said troughs having an outlet at the bottom thereof, wherein each said outlet is positioned adjacent to one of said front wall or rear wall and rearward of and over the path of travel of one of said cutting blades effective to dispense said material to said trench in the soil;
3) a plurality of screw augers, wherein one said auger is disposed in each of said troughs and said augers are adapted to both transport said material in a direction along the length of said troughs toward said outlets and grind or shear said material as said material is transported;
4) an upstanding face plate disposed laterally between said side walls substantially perpendicular to said troughs and augers, and on the side of said outlets which is upstream from said direction of transport of said material in said troughs, said face plate defining first and second volumes within said receptacle, said first volume being upstream of said face plate relative to said direction of transport of said material, and said second volume being downstream of said face plate relative to said direction of transport of said material and encompassing said outlets; and
5) said face plate comprising a bottom edge adjacent said troughs and an upper edge disposed above the uppermost radial edge of said augers, and said face plate further comprising a plurality of openings through which said screw augers pass.”

This technology, found in the patentECO Agriculture Index, allows biodegradable solid soil amendment material, such as poultry litter, to be disposed of in soil by cutting soil trenches, grinding or shearing the material, and distributing it to the trenches in the soil.

A November 2010 press release from ARS announced that an exclusive license was awarded to BBI Spreaders of Cornelia, GA to commercialize this technology. BBI’s spreaders can also use precision agriculture electronics. ARS estimates that nutrient losses from field application of poultry litter can be reduced by 90 percent. Widespread use of these spreaders could make a significant contribution to the long-term and ongoing efforts to improve water quality in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.