Low oil prices sure feel nice. But there are downsides to the recent plunge in oil prices. Low fuel prices can help boost economic growth by reducing fuel bills and leaving consumers and companies with more money to spend on other things. Problem is, two factors behind the oil-price drop—a weaker global economy and a stronger dollar—could hurt the U.S. economy by reducing exports, employment and spending.
Increasing the oil content of plant biomass could help fulfill the nation's increasing demand for renewable energy feedstocks. But many of the details of how plant leaves make and break down oils have remained a mystery. Now a series of detailed genetic studies conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals previously unknown biochemical details about those metabolic pathways.
The 52nd annual R&D 100 Awards event will present a series of panel discussions featuring today’s top technological minds revealing their secrets for innovation. Draw inspiration from these leading experts as they discuss technology-driven strategies for transforming your ideas into excellence.
The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material’s spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun—but not much of the rest of the spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is reradiated by the material, and thus lost to the conversion process.
The excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide that is driving global climate change could be harnessed into a renewable energy technology that would be a win for both the environment and the economy. That is the lure of artificial photosynthesis in which the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is used to produce clean, green and sustainable fuels.
As U.S. energy imports dramatically drop it would appear that renewables investment is in jeopardy, including the biofuels market. There’s some evidence to support this; but if declining or stalled investment is predicated on the limited potential of existing technology, much of which still relies on biomass, the biofuels industry may, in fact, be undergoing a natural transition instead of a decline.
Researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s Argonne National Laboratory announced a new tool for analyzing the economic impacts of building new compressed natural gas fueling stations. Called JOBS NG, the tool is freely available to the public. Mostly made up of methane, compressed natural gas is an alternative fuel for cars and trucks that can offer greenhouse gas benefits over gasoline.
A new report prepared by analysts from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines the potential impacts of customer-sited solar photovoltaics on electric utility profitability and rates. The report shows that these impacts can vary greatly depending upon the specific circumstances of the utility and may be reduced through a variety of regulatory and ratemaking measures.
Finding an economical way to store renewable energy from wind or the sun has proved challenging. An alliance of four companies say they have found an answer and are proposing an $8 billion power project that would start with turbines on a huge wind farm in Wyoming and end with enough electricity for over 1 million households in Southern California. The key link is an underground energy storage site carved out of a massive salt formation.
Achieving complete breakdown of plant biomass for energy conversion in industrialized bioreactors remains a complex challenge, but new research shows that termite fungus farmers solved this problem more than 30 million years ago. The new insight reveals that the great success of termite farmers as plant decomposers is due to division of labor.
Inertial confinement fusion creates nanosecond bursts of neutrons, ideal for creating data to plug into supercomputer codes that test the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Down the road, it could be useful as a source of energy. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Z machine have produced a significant output of fusion neutrons, using a method fully functioning for only little more than a year.
Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have created a small scale “hydrogen generator” that uses light and a 2-D graphene platform to boost production of the hard-to-make element. The research also unveiled a previously unknown property of graphene. The 2-D chain of carbon atoms not only gives and receives electrons, but can also transfer them into another substance.
A chinstrap that can harvest energy from jaw movements has been created by a group of researchers in Canada. It’s hoped that the device will be able to generate electricity from eating, chewing and talking, and power a number of small-scale implantable or wearable electronic devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, electronic hearing protectors and communication devices.
Yale Univ. associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee has been awarded $2,540,000 to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 750 F. In addition to converting a portion of the sunlight directly into electricity, the solar cells will use the remainder of the light to heat high-temperature fluids that can drive a steam turbine or be stored for later use.
When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.
The price of solar energy in the U.S. continues to fall substantially, according to the latest editions of two annual reports produced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). A third Berkeley Lab report, written in collaboration with researchers at Yale Univ., the Univ. of Texas at Austin and the DOE, shows that local permitting and other regulatory procedures can significantly impact residential photovoltaic prices.
Two massive, 20,000-lb buoys decked out with the latest in meteorological and oceanographic equipment will enable more accurate predictions of the power-producing potential of winds that blow off U.S. shores. The bright yellow buoys are being commissioned by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state's Sequim Bay.
There’s an old saying in the biofuels industry: “You can make anything from lignin except money.” But now, a new study may pave the way to challenging that adage. The study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory demonstrates a concept that provides opportunities for the successful conversion of lignin into a variety of renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials for a sustainable energy economy.
Tesla Motors Inc. is building a supercharger station in the Sierra Nevada north of Lake Tahoe where drivers of the company's electric cars can recharge along Interstate 80, a newspaper says. Tesla officials previously announced plans to build a station near Truckee, Calif., about 30 miles southwest of Reno but hasn't confirmed an exact location or opening date.
In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming. Now scientists at Stanford Univ. have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.
Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. The study, which was reported online at the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.
Under the right scenario, exporting U.S. coal to power plants in South Korea could lead to a 21% drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning the fossil fuel at plants in the U.S., according to a new Duke Univ.-led study. For the reduction to occur, U.S. plants would need to replace the exported coal with natural gas. And in South Korea, the imported coal must replace other coal as the power source.
Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a team of mechanical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy.
PTT Public Co. Ltd.’s PTT DIESEL CNG is a new concept for DDF engine conversions which improves the gas engine characteristics by increasing the diesel replacement ratio to 50%, increasing engine efficiency 30% and reducing methane emission 30% compared with conventional technologies.
The control of power flow in power systems is a major concern for utilities and system operators. But full power flow control has been prohibitively expensive, requiring large numbers of complicated and costly devices. As a result, power systems almost always operate sub-optimally at billions of dollars per year. A simple, magnetic-field-based valve-like device for power flow control, the Continuously Variable Series Reactor (CVSR), developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, SPX Transformer Solutions Inc. and the Univ. of Tennessee, has introduced substantial improvements.