Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.
A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.
Using high-brilliance x-rays, Stanford Univ. researchers track the process that fuel cells use to produce electricity, knowledge that will help make large-scale alternative energy power systems more practical and reliable. Fuel cells use oxygen and hydrogen as fuel to create electricity; if the process were run in reverse, the fuel cells could be used to store electricity, as well.
Rice Univ. chemical engineer Michael Wong has spent a decade amassing evidence that palladium-gold nanoparticles are excellent catalysts for cleaning polluted water, but even he was surprised at how well the particles converted biodiesel waste into valuable chemicals.
Confined water exists widely and plays important roles in natural environments, particularly inside biological nanochannels. After several years of work, scientists in China have developed a series of biomimetic nanochannels that can serve as the base for confined transportation of water. The technology suggests a potential use in energy conversion systems.
Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have unveiled the first glycosyltransferase clone collection specifically targeted for the study of the biosynthesis of plant cell walls. The idea behind “the JBEI GT Collection” is to provide a functional genomic resource for researchers seeking to extract the sugars in plant biomass and synthesize them into clean, green and renewable transportation fuels.
A research center at Purdue Univ.'s Discovery Park has been awarded a $12 million, four-year grant as part of a $100 million U.S. Dept. of Energy initiative to accelerate scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st century energy economy. The Purdue-led C3Bio will use the additional funding to advance methods for converting plant lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels and other bio-based products.
The possible bid by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for turbine businesses of French engineering firm Alstom is part of Japan's effort to carve out a share of the lucrative global energy infrastructure business. Mitsubishi and German rival Siemens AG said Wednesday they are considering a joint bid for parts of Alstom and will decide by Monday whether to pitch it to Alstom's board.
Turning the “hydrogen economy” concept into a reality, even on a small scale, has been a bumpy road, but scientists are developing a novel way to store hydrogen to smooth out the long-awaited transition away from fossil fuels. Their report on a new solid, stable material that can pack in a large amount of hydrogen that can be used as a fuel appears in Chemistry of Materials.
Wouldn’t it be nice to use solar- or wind-generated electricity to turn excess carbon dioxide into fuels and other useful chemicals? The process would store up the intermittent solar or wind energy in a form that could be used when and where it was needed, including in transportation applications, all while getting rid of some greenhouse gas.
Today’s smartphone is a complicated power device, using a small lithium-ion battery of about 1,400-mAh capacity to power a variety of electronic systems, including a touchscreen display, a central processing unit, antennas, speakers and a microphone. All of its components, including the materials used to build it, are optimized to perform as efficiently as possible to extend battery life.
Investigated heavily since the 1970s, solar cells have been the great unfulfilled promise for unlimited, almost free energy to power the world. The reasoning is solid: The Earth absorbs almost as much energy per hour than the entire human race uses in a single year.
Solar panels made in China have a higher overall carbon footprint and are likely to use substantially more energy during manufacturing than those made in Europe, said a new study from Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory. The report compared energy and greenhouse gas emissions that go into the manufacturing process of solar panels in Europe and China.
Solar cell technology has advanced rapidly, as hundreds of groups around the world pursue more than two dozen approaches using different materials, technologies and approaches to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has set a new record for the most efficient quantum-dot cells.
Soon after graphene’s isolation, early research already showed that lithium batteries with graphene in their electrodes had a greater capacity and lifespan than standard designs. At the Univ. of Manchester, U.K., where graphene was first isolated, researchers are working with more than 30 companies to advance technology in graphene-enabled energy storage, particularly in the area of lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors.
Wondering what the impact on killer whales might be from a turbine installed under the sea? Curious whether crabs and other crustaceans might be attracted to underwater cables carrying electricity to homes and businesses on the mainland? Interested in which country is harvesting the most energy from the world's oceans? The answers to these and many more lie with Tethys.
When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money. A new review article in Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics.
For Altaeros Energies, a startup launched out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the sky’s the limit when it comes to wind power. Founded by alumni Ben Glass and Adam Rein, Altaeros has developed the world’s first commercial airborne wind turbine, which uses a helium-filled shell to float as high as a skyscraper and capture the stronger, steadier winds available at that altitude.
Reform of energy subsidies in oil-exporting countries can reduce carbon emissions and add years to oil exports, according to a new paper from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The paper reviews the record of energy-subsidy reforms and argues that big exporters should reduce energy demand by raising prices, and that this can be done without undermining legitimacy of governments that depend on subsidies for political support.
A Northwestern Univ. study by an economist and a chemist reports that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to mostly switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.
Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials’ photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment.
Like a hungry diner ripping open a dinner roll, a fuel cell catalyst that converts hydrogen into electricity must tear open a hydrogen molecule. Now researchers have captured a view of such a catalyst holding onto the two halves of its hydrogen feast. The view confirms previous hypotheses and provides insight into how to make the catalyst work better for alternative energy uses.
Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings by a Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The stakes are incredibly high for the safety and compliance efforts of today’s oil and gas industry. Engineers and crews must be trained for increasingly complex processes and procedures used aboard drilling rigs and production platforms. The consequences of inadequate training during oil production can be disastrous to both operator crews and the environment.
Navigant Research forecasts that the “global biofuels production will reach 61 billion gallons by 2023, replacing nearly 6% of global transportation fuel production from fossil sources and generating $70 billion in new revenue over the next decade.” The demand for an appropriate crop that can provide biofuels, without competing for land use with food crops, is on.