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Friday, 8 April 2011

ASME Article "Manufacturing Tested by Japan earthquake, Tsunami forces debate over vertical evacuation, Advanced Biofuels weaning clean energy off corn

April 2011

Manufacturing Tested by Japan earthquake

Automotive and electrical manufacturers are among those expecting business interruptions emanating from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that battered the northern coast of Japan's Honshu Island.

Although much attention continues to focus on the Fukushima nuclear reactors, the quake also has disrupted the supply of raw materials used for electronics components such as batteries and semiconductors, as well as production of finished products, including automobiles. The magnitude of the quake also exposed a weakness in just-in-time and lean manufacturing methods developed by Japanese industry and adopted by manufacturers around the world.

Tsunami forces debate over vertical evacuation

Experts agree that Japan was as well or better prepared than any nation in the world for the catastrophic impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. With scientific and engineering initiatives dating back to the 1800s, Japan today has highly evolved prediction and early warning technologies, building codes, and public education programs designed to save lives and minimize damage from seismic events.

In the early aftermath of the Tohoku quake, seismic experts will be closely watching how one of the latest emerging preparedness technologies—purpose-built tsunami evacuation buildings (TEBs)—performed in this crisis.

Advanced Biofuels weaning clean energy off corn

Though wind and solar energy are important alternative energy sources, it will take second generation biofuels technologies to reduce U.S. dependence on petroleum. While debate rages over the impact of first generation biofuels (corn ethanol) on food and feed prices, experts believe that advanced biofuels, created from non-food resources, will avoid direct competition with food and feed supplies. They may, however, compete for land use.

Controversial ethanol (C2H5OH) is produced by fermentation of starches from corn grain--an important feed and food commodity in the U.S. Currently, there is currently no other readily available starch-or sugar-based crop in the U.S. from which to ferment ethanol in large quantities. Unless cellulosic biomass feedstocks can be utilized, production is limited.


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