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New conversion process turns biomass “waste” into lucrative chemical products

December 17, 2014 2:58 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | Videos | Comments

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel. A team of researchers from Purdue Univ.'s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities.

Seed grants awarded for innovative energy research

December 12, 2014 10:37 am | by Mark Shwartz and Mark Golden, Stanford University | News | Comments

Stanford University's Precourt Institute for...

‘Smart windows’ have potential to keep heat out, save energy

December 10, 2014 2:07 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Scientists are developing a new kind of “smart...

Revving Up Energy Solutions Innovation

December 8, 2014 5:02 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

During the 2014 R&D 100 Awards event, R&D Magazine expanded the banquet to hold...

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Researchers to use algae to clean up mine water

December 5, 2014 10:04 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A groundbreaking research project by the GW4 Alliance aims to clean up water from a Cornish tin mine, using algae to harvest the precious heavy metals and produce biofuel at the same time. GW4 brings together the South West and Wales’ four leading, research-intensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

Detecting defects in solar cells

December 2, 2014 11:06 am | by National Physical Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory have developed a new method for detecting defects in solar cells using a technique called compressed sensing. Solar panels are being rapidly deployed across the world as costs fall and the need for sustainable, low-carbon energy grows. Being able to effectively characterize solar cells is a key factor in quality control during manufacturing and understanding their long-term behavior.

Sweet smell of success

December 2, 2014 8:37 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Two years ago, researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute engineered E. coli bacteria to convert glucose into significant quantities of methyl ketones, a class of chemical compounds primarily used for fragrances and flavors, but highly promising as clean, green and renewable blending agents for diesel fuel. Now, after further genetic modifications, they have managed to dramatically boost the E.coli’s methyl ketone production 160-fold.

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New technique could harvest more of the sun’s energy

December 1, 2014 8:32 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

As solar panels become less expensive and capable of generating more power, solar energy is becoming a more commercially viable alternative source of electricity. However, the photovoltaic cells now used to turn sunlight into electricity can only absorb and use a small fraction of that light, and that means a significant amount of solar energy goes untapped. A new technology epresents a first step toward harnessing that lost energy.

Matched hybrid systems may hold key to wider use of renewable energy

December 1, 2014 8:09 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

The use of renewable energy in the U.S. could take a significant leap forward with improved storage technologies or more efforts to “match” different forms of alternative energy systems that provide an overall more steady flow of electricity. Historically, a major drawback to the use and cost-effectiveness of alternative energy systems has been that they are too variable. This lack of dependability is costly and inefficient.

Model evaluates where bioenergy crops grow best

November 24, 2014 7:59 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect. Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have published a study identifying yield zones for three major bioenergy crops.

2015 R&D 100 Awards entries now open

November 13, 2014 11:27 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced the opening of the 2015 R&D 100 Awards entry process. The R&D 100 Awards have a 50 plus year history of awarding the 100 most technologically significant products of the year. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items, high-energy physics and more.

Versatile process efficiently converts biomass to liquid fuel

November 12, 2014 8:05 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process to convert all biomass into liquid fuel, and the method could make possible mobile processing plants. The researchers at Purdue Univ. filed a patent application on the concept in 2008 and have now demonstrated that it works in laboratory experiments.

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Wind energy reaches greater heights

November 6, 2014 3:14 pm | by Rob Matheson, MIT | News | Comments

Wind turbines across the globe are being made taller to capture more energy from the stronger winds that blow at greater heights. But it’s not easy, or sometimes even economically feasible, to build taller towers, with shipping constraints on tower diameters and the expense involved in construction.

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

November 5, 2014 8:31 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.

Process transforms wood, crop waste into valuable chemicals

November 3, 2014 10:13 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Scientists disclosed a new method to convert lignin, a biomass waste product, into simple chemicals. The innovation is an important step toward replacing petroleum-based fuels and chemicals with biorenewable materials. Lignin is the substance that makes trees and cornstalks sturdy, and it accounts for nearly 30% of the organic carbon in the biosphere.

After Fukushima, Japan gets green boom … and glut

October 30, 2014 3:01 pm | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

Traumatized by the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and encouraged by the highest rates for renewable energy in the world, Japan has been undergoing a green boom. It's now rapidly turning into a fiasco as the cost proves prohibitive and utilities anticipate putting some nuclear reactors back online. The utilities say they can't accommodate the flood of newcomers to the green energy business.

Boosting biogasoline production in microbes

October 28, 2014 8:53 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the on-going effort to develop advanced biofuels as a clean, green and sustainable source of liquid transportation fuels, researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute have identified microbial genes that can improve both the tolerance and the production of biogasoline in engineered strains of Escherichia coli.

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Fraunhofer develops economical process for micro energy harvesting

October 27, 2014 9:52 am | News | Comments

The trend toward energy self-sufficient probes and ever smaller mobile electronics systems continues, and are used to monitor the status of the engines on airplanes, or for medical implants. They gather the energy they need for this from their immediate environment, such as vibrations. Fraunhofer Institute researchers have developed a process for the economical production of piezoelectric materials that supply this type of energy.

Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

October 24, 2014 10:50 am | News | Comments

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global hydropower electricity production, it could reduce the number of remaining large free-flowing rivers by 20% and pose a threat to freshwater biodiversity. A new database has been developed in Denmark to support decision making on sustainable modes of electricity production.

Turning waste from whisky-making into fuel

October 22, 2014 10:09 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A startup company in Scotland is working to capitalize on the tons of waste produced by one of the country’s most valued industries and turn the dregs of whisky-making into fuel. Celtic Renewables, formed in 2011, has refined its process based on a century-old fermentation technique and is now taking the next step toward a commercial plant.

Simplifying Oil Content Measurements for the Petrochemical Industry

October 22, 2014 9:32 am | by Sandy Rintoul, Executive Vice President, Wilks-A Spectro Inc. Company | Articles | Comments

Measuring oil content in wastes is nothing new to the petrochemical industry. Whether it’s produced water from onshore or offshore sites, effluents from refineriers or drill cuttings and drilling mud, limits on hydrocarbon levels need to be met. With the increase of hydraulic fracturing in the U.S., more public attention has been focused on the need for regulations and limits.

Researchers take big data approach to estimate range of electric vehicles

October 21, 2014 10:58 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed new software that estimates how much farther electric vehicles can drive before needing to recharge. The new technique requires drivers to plug in their destination and automatically pulls in data on a host of variables to predict energy use for the vehicle.

Global natural gas boom alone won’t slow climate change

October 16, 2014 9:14 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new analysis of global energy use, economics and the climate shows that without new climate policies, expanding the current bounty of inexpensive natural gas alone would not slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide over the long term, according to a study. Because natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many people hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change.

Why drop in oil prices has downside for U.S. economy

October 13, 2014 4:38 pm | by Jonathan Fahey - AP Energy Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

Researchers pump up oil accumulation in plant leaves

October 8, 2014 9:20 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

Join the best of the best in innovation

October 1, 2014 8:57 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

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.

How to make a “perfect” solar absorber

September 29, 2014 8:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

On the road to artificial photosynthesis

September 26, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

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. 

How LIMS is Essential in the Biofuels Industry

September 25, 2014 10:26 am | by Colin Thurston, Director of Product Strategy, Thermo Fisher Scientific | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

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.

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