As energy costs rise, more Americans are turning to bioenergy to provide power to their homes and workplaces. Bioenergy is renewable energy made from organic sources, such as biomass. Technology has advanced enough that biomass power plants small enough to fit on a farm can be built at relatively low costs. Now, researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas.
Despite their potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption, electric and hybrid cars and trucks struggled for years to find a solid customer base. Much of the reason came down to cost and convenience: Electric car batteries are expensive, and charging them requires plug-in infrastructure that’s still sparse in the U.S.
A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers shows that nearly 90% of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules. Interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a cobaloxime catalyst provides an inexpensive photocathode for bionic leaves that produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
Future lunar missions may be fueled by gas stations in space, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers: A spacecraft might dock at a propellant depot, somewhere between the Earth and the moon, and pick up extra rocket fuel before making its way to the lunar surface.
The wind has long been used as a metaphor for constant change, wayward and capricious. Wind turbine engineers deal with that changeability every day, along with a host of other challenging factors. Their products must operate in desert sandstorms and in corrosive salt water. The ambient temperature at the turbine site can be blisteringly high or numbingly frigid.
Photovoltaic spray paint could coat the windows and walls of the future if scientists are successful in developing low-cost, flexible solar cells based on organic polymers. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently discovered an unanticipated factor in the performance of polymer-based solar devices that gives new insight on how these materials form and function.
Artificial photosynthesis, in which we emulate the process used by nature to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electrochemical energy, is expected to be a major asset in any sustainable energy portfolio for the future. Artificial photosynthesis offers the promise of producing liquid fuels that are renewable and can be used without exacerbating global climate change.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have devised a way to trap carbon dioxide and transform it into useful organic compounds, using a simple metal complex. More work is needed to understand and optimize the reaction, but one day this approach could offer an easy and inexpensive way to recapture some of the carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles and power plants.
The viability of the bioenergy crops industry could be strengthened by regulatory efforts to address nonpoint source pollution from agricultural sources. That, in turn, means that the industry should be strategic in developing metrics that measure the ability to enact positive changes in agricultural landscapes, particularly through second-generation perennial crops, according to a paper by a Univ. of Illinois expert in bioenergy law.
For the past 24 years, Mark Z. Jacobson, a prof. of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford Univ., has been developing a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather and climate. A recent application of the model has been to simulate the development of hurricanes. Another has been to determine how much energy wind turbines can extract from global wind currents.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a superabsorbing design that may significantly improve the light absorption efficiency of thin-film solar cells and drive down manufacturing costs. The superabsorbing design could decrease the thickness of the semiconductor materials used in thin-film solar cells by more than one order of magnitude without compromising the capability of solar light absorption.
A multi-institutional team reports that it can increase sugarcane’s geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30% and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. These are only the first steps in a bigger initiative that will turn the highly productive sugarcane and sorghum crop plants into even more productive, oil-generating plants.
Generating electricity is not the only way to turn sunlight into energy we can use on demand. The sun can also drive reactions to create chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, that can in turn power cars and trains. The trouble with solar fuel production is the cost of producing the sun-capturing semiconductors and the catalysts to generate fuel.
The U.K. could generate almost half its energy needs from biomass sources, including household waste, agricultural residues and home-grown biofuels by 2050, new research suggests. Scientists from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at The Univ. of Manchester found that the U.K. could produce up to 44% of its energy by these means without the need to import.
The first thorough comparison of evidence for natural gas system leaks confirms that organizations including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have underestimated U.S. methane emissions generally, as well as those from the natural gas industry specifically.
Abu Dhabi’s recent expensive renewable energy venture will neither allow the United Arab Emirates to forgo construction of conventional energy generation, nor will it provide more than a token reduction in carbon-emissions growth, according to a new paper from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas and gasoline also can be obtained from shopping bags.
Parabolic troughs and dry-cooled towers deliver similar value for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, despite different solar profiles, a new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found. The report found that the value of delivered energy of dry-cooled tower and parabolic trough CSP plants, integrated with thermal energy storage, are quite similar.
In today’s search for renewable energy sources, researchers are turning to the high-tech, from solar and hydrogen fuel cells, and the very low-tech. The latest example of a low-tech alternative comes from an age-old industry: paper. A new study reveals a sustainable way to turn the huge amounts of waste from paper production into solid fuel with the added bonus of diverting the sludge from overflowing landfills.
Rice Univ. synthetic biologist Ramon Gonzalez sees a near future in which Americans get enough clean transportation fuel from natural gas to help make the nation energy independent. As a program director with the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, he’s in a position to help make it happen.
Oil and gas remain primary power sources for both personal and industrial use worldwide. Extraction of these fuel resources from underground reservoirs involves complex geomechanical processes, and can result in subsidence of the ground over a reservoir. Since this occurrence can have an impact on the environment and affect the operability of extraction equipment, it needs to be accurately predicted and kept within safe limits.
Gasoline-like fuels can be made from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process invented by chemists at the Univ. of California, Davis. The process could open up new markets for plant-based fuels, beyond existing diesel substitutes.
What do champion surfers who gathered at last week’s Mavericks Invitational have in common with a Univ. of California, Berkeley engineer? They all are looking to harness the power of big ocean waves. But the similarities end there. For assistant professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave mechanics, the seafloor “carpet” he is proposing will convert ocean waves into usable energy.
Wind energy experts have completed a comprehensive study to understand how wind power technology can assist the power grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system. They find that wind power can do this by adjusting its power output to enhance system reliability, using forms of active power control such as synthetic inertial control, primary frequency control and automatic generation control regulation.
If you are like millions of Americans and own a broad stock index fund, you own parts of Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy and other companies that earn money selling oil, coal and other fossil fuels. For some, that's great. Fossil fuels give us light, keep us warm, help grow our food, deliver our products and jet us around the planet. Some companies are stable and profitable and offer consistent dividends that pad retirement accounts nicely.