Silicon is a chemical element (Si), a hard dark-grey semiconducting metalloid which, as a crystal, is used to make electronic chips and solar cells. In contrast, silicones are polymers (large molecules with repeating sub-units). Here the repeats involve siloxane, which is a chain of alternating silicon and oxygen atoms, sometimes combined with carbon, hydrogen, and other elements.
Silicones exhibit many useful characteristics, including:
Low thermal conductivity. It insulates, rather than conducts heat.
Thermal stability. Heat does not break it down into new products, in a temperature range of −100 to 250 °C. It melts around 500 °C.
Low chemical reactivity. It doesn’t form new chemical compounds easily.
Low toxicity. It is not poisonous.
It repels water, useful for making watertight seals.
Does not stick to many substrates, but adheres very well to others, e.g. glass.
Does not support microbiological growth.
Resistance to oxygen, ozone, and ultraviolet (UV) light, resulting in its widespread use in the construction and automotive industries.
Can be formulated to be electrically insulative or conductive, it has a wide range of electrical applications.
High gas permeability, making silicone useful for medical applications in which increased aeration is desired. Conversely, silicone rubbers cannot be used where gas-tight seals are necessary.
Silicone can be a substitute for many plastics that have adverse health effects. If it is labelled FDA compliant, it means that the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved it as a food grade product, suitable for use in close proximity to food, beverages and pharmaceuticals, including their manufacturing, packaging and/ or storage. Other countries have their own way of expressing this. In Norwegian it is, næringsmiddelgodkjent.
Because FDA compliant silicone is non-toxic, it is a preferred material for making different forms of cookware, including bakeware and kitchen utensils. As will be shown in an upcoming weblog post, this makes the material suitable for many different DIY (do it yourself) projects.
Some silicone products are so inexpensive and widely available, that it is better to buy them than to make them. These include silicone spatulas and other utensils. These function better than their rubber equivalents. They do not melt and there will be no need to trim worn edges. They function at normal cooking and baking temperatures.
Other products are inexpensive, but could be fun to make. These include pot-holders, trivets and kitchen mats, that are made of silicone because of its heat-resistant characteristics. Silicone is, however, more heat-conductive than similar, but less dense fiber-based products. Since silicone is water repellent, as well as heat resistant to temperatures up to 260 °C , oven mitts can be made that allow one to reach into boiling water.
Some products can be made to incorporate important personal preferences. Bread (loaf), cake, muffin and pie forms/ molds/ pans/ pots as well as baking sheets can be made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
In general the advantages of silicone bakeware include: grease free preparation; Pans heat quickly and bake evenly; baked goods are easily removed, if they are twisted slightly their sides pull away, allowing whatever is inside to emerge. While pans are hot to touch while in the oven, they cool down quickly.
Silicone containers are freezer, refrigerator, microwave, oven and dishwasher safe. One can bake, store, freeze, and reheat in the same pan. There is no need to adjust recipes with respect to batter or temperature.
Silicone products are lightweight, easy to clean, and retain their shape. No special considerations need to be taken with respect to their storage.
Some negative considerations. Some molds and pans may need a cookie sheet underneath to provide stability. Knives and other sharp objects can damage silicone cookware. Silicone products are not suitable for open flames or stovetop burners.
On 2019-10-07, Briceburg in Mariposa County, near Yosemite National Park, in California, lost the only power line connecting it to the electrical grid in a wildfire that devoured over 20 square kilometers. The system, owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), but installed and developed by BoxPower, provides Briceburg with a self-reliant, stand-alone power system made of solar panels in an array, batteries and a backup generator. It began operating 2021-06-01.
The solar array consisting of 36.5 kW of photovoltaic solar panels, a 69.12 kWh lithium ferro phosphate battery bank. This can provide 27.2 kW of continuous power output with a surge capacity of up to 48 kW. The system has two integrated 35 kVA propane prime power generators and a fire suppression system to protect the hardware. PG&E and BoxPower will be able to monitor/ control the system via satellite.
While wildfires in 2019, forced PG&E to file for bankruptcy in 2019, the main reason for using this technology is to improve energy resilience in California as extreme heat, drought and wildfires devastate the American west. Human-based climate change is causing blackouts and disrupting power supply. Wind-storms led utilities to deliberately shut off power to large areas of California to keep high-voltage transmission lines from starting fires. Then 2020-08-14 & 15, an oppressive heat wave forced the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state power grid, to declare a stage 3 emergency Friday night, which set off rolling power outages for the first time since 2001. More than 800,000 homes and businesses lost power.
Meanwhile, back at the Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR), members of the Wiyot, Yurok, and Hupa tribal nations, living northwest of the city of Blue Lake, Humboldt County, California on 0.31 km2 of property, keep electricity flowing using two microgrids that can disconnect from the larger electrical grid, and switch to using solar energy generated and stored in battery banks near its hotel-casino. This is not strictly off the grid, but a supplement to the grid.
After the 2011-03-11 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami caused local panic but little damage, the tribal nation complex decided to install a microgrid. Humbolt University’s Schatz Energy Research Center was the prime contractor and lead technology integrator for the project. A final report for the project was published in 2019.
Other participants included: The California Energy Commission (major funder), the BLR (site host and major funder), Pacific Gas & Electric (local utility), Siemens (MicroGrid Management System = MGMS), Tesla (battery energy storage system), Idaho National Laboratory (testing and simulation), Robert Colburn Electric (electrical contractor), REC Solar (turnkey PV system), McKeever Energy & Electric (PV installation), GHD, inc. (electrical engineering), and Kernen Construction (civil construction for the project).
It consisted of a 430-kW solar photovoltaic array with a 500 kW/ 950 kW/h Tesla battery storage system and two legacy diesel generators with a combined capacity of 1.8 MW. These are designed to retain electricity after storms/ wildfires/ earthquakes and to supply the grid with power, during peak demand. Construction started in 2015 and was completed in 2017. During the microgrid’s first year of operation it was able to reduce the tribe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 175 tons and lower its energy costs by about $195 000.
The microgrid investment made sense to ensure service and business continuation during nuisance outages that were typical in the region, lasting for an hour or two. The tribe also recognized how climate change was amplifying local impacts including wildfires and volatile weather. This led them to develop a comprehensive lifeline strategy for energy, water, food, transportation and communications/IT. They started with energy, because it supports all the other lifelines.
When the microgrid was constructed, they were not thinking of extended power outages to prevent the grid from causing or contributing to wildfires. Today public-safety power shutoffs happen regularly and they are projected to occur more frequently with a duration of two to five days or even longer. This situation may be the norm for the next decade.
The MGMS automates large portions of microgrid functions. This eliminates the need for 24/7 monitoring, and allows the microgrid to buy and sell power to the larger grid.
As most of sat in the dark during a planned shutoff in October 2019-10-08 to 10, the Blue Lake Rancheria became a lifeline for thousands of rural Humboldt County residents: The gas station and convenience store provided fuel and supplies, the hotel housed patients who needed a place to plug in medical devices, saving at least four lives, the local newspaper used the conference room to put out the next day’s edition, and a hatchery continued pumping water to keep its fish alive.
Islanding: The electrical service to BLR was reconfigured to create one point of common coupling (PCC) between the microgrid and the main utility grid. This PCC includes the powerline protections and control functionality required for the microgrid to automatically disconnect from the main grid during an outage, and then reconnect when grid power has been restored. Operators at BLR can also manually island the microgrid for energy management, maintenance, or security reasons. Seamless transitions between connected and islanded states are unnoticeable to building occupants, and have been approved by PG&E.
Optimal battery dispatch:Under normal conditions, the microgrid uses an energy load forecast, the solar availability forecast, and the current electricity rate schedule to determine when to store energy in the battery and when to dispatch it to the main grid.
Resiliency: If the main grid loses power, the microgrid automatically disconnects and begins operating in island mode. When islanded, the microgrid management system (MGMS) prioritizes clean generation — but if needed, the MGMS can also seamlessly bring a 1 MW isochronous backup generator online to support the PV and battery.
Conceptual Microgrid, as provided by Schatz Energy Research Center
The Free Software Foundation’s (FSF) GNU project, started 1983-09-27, has a noble goal, to give computer users control over computers and related devices by developing software that gives everyone the right to run/ copy/ distribute/ study/ modify it, through its licenses, GNU General Public Licenses (GPL).
The Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification program extends this approach into hardware, by certifying devices, (and vendors at the device level) to ensure that the hardware respects the rights of users to freely use these products. Certification requires vendors go through a review process, where the FSF examines the user experience, from initial purchase through the flashing of modified versions of firmware. Certification criteria ensure that users never encounter nonfree software or documentation.
Certified vendors may use the RYF certification mark on the certified device and associated sales pages. The device is then listed on the RYF site to allow users to find devices. The certification can be revoked at any time, should issues arise.
At the 2021 LibrePlanet conference, online 2021-03-20 to 21, the FSF decided to prioritize e-book readers, in terms of RYF hardware certification. They were considering both adapting existing e-book readers but also contracting the production of new readers.
Most e-book readers run some version of the Linux kernel, and some run Linux operating systems. While e-book readers are a few steps closer to freedom (as the FSF puts it) than other devices, ensuring certification will still require a significant amount of work. Several critical e-reader components will not function without nonfree software, such as the e-ink screen, that powers the display.
In related moves, Denis “GNUToo” Carikli has documented e-book reader components (and other single-board computers). In 2020, David Remmel ported Parabola Linux to the reMarkable tablet, created a free e-book reader.
Challenges come not just with e-book readers, but with e-books themselves. Many books come with DRM = Digital Rights Management = Digital Restrictions Management (in FSF-speak), which prevents people from reading and sharing books that they buy and own. Consenting to the DRM that many e-books are distributed with, means that people lose control of their digital autonomy, no matter what kind of device they have.
DRM has gotten more restrictive. Textbooks commonly require a constant and uninterrupted Internet connection, and restrict the loading of a discrete number of pages at a time. In the global south, where internet connections can be unreliable, this negatively impacts the quality of education.
If the FSF is successful in providing RYF certification to an e-book reader, it will ensure that users will gain the ability to read appropriate digital file formats, of which epub is the most important. It will ensure that all readers will gain the right to read, essentially voiding e-book DRMs.
The Free Software Foundation
The FSF is not the first open-source organization I would want to contribute money to, or even join. Much of this is related to Richard Stallman (1953 – ) who on 2019-09-16 was forced to resigned as president of the FSF after pressure from journalists and members of the open source community in response to him making controversial comments in defence of Marvin Minsky (1927 – 2016) on Jeffrey Epstein’s (1953 – 2019) sex trafficking scandal. Stallman remained head of the GNU Project and in 2021 returned to the FSF board of directors, unfortunately.
There is a need to modernize the foundation’s governance structure and processes. That said, there could be hope ahead. The FSF board has now retained a professional consultant to help them “optimize the impact of the board and the organization”. The purpose of this consultation is to use six months to devise a range of systems and infrastructure that lead to:
– A transparent community-supported process for identifying new board members and evaluating current board members; – A board member agreement that clearly outlines the responsibilities of all board members; – A code of ethics that articulates the values of the FSF and conveys a set of principles to guide its decision making and activities, as well as the behaviour of its board members, officers, employees, and volunteers; and, – More focused and streamlined board processes that encourage consistent attention on FSF’s most pressing needs.
These revisions are to ensure that user freedom cannot be compromised. Efforts are needed to strengthen the organization’s governance, ensuring that it is transparent, accountable, and that current and future board members, associate members, staff and the broader free software movement, act professionally. In particular, there is a need to attract a new generation of activists for software (and hardware) freedom to grow the movement.
The publication date of this weblog post marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Coventry born, bred and blitzed, Delia Ann Derbyshire (1937-05-05 – 2001-07-03) is most famously remembered as the arranger of the theme and incidental music for Doctor Who, based on a score by Ron Grainer (1922 – 1981), while working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Of course, she should have been recognized as a co-composer, at the very least.
The most important source for information about Delia Derbyshire is Breege Brannen’s Thesis in Computer Music at the University of Dublin, submitted in 2008. Reading about her life leads to a greater understanding of how women have been suppressed, right up to the current day.
To appreciate her work, one of the most important documents is a video showing how she created works.