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The Lead

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries

April 16, 2014 8:15 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Electric vehicles could travel farther and more renewable energy could be stored with lithium-sulfur batteries that use a unique powdery nanomaterial. Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery's cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.

Nanostructures show promise for efficient LEDs

April 4, 2014 3:05 pm | News | Comments

Nanostructures half the breadth of a DNA strand could improve the efficiency of light emitting...

Americans used more energy in 2013

April 3, 2014 8:47 am | by Anne M. Stark, LLN | News | Comments

Americans used more renewable, fossil and even nuclear energy in 2013, according to the most...

Study: Wind farms can provide a surplus of reliable clean energy to society

March 21, 2014 8:33 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

The demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar...

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New technique makes LEDs brighter, more resilient

March 19, 2014 8:24 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new processing technique that makes light-emitting diodes (LEDs) brighter and more resilient by coating the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) with a layer of phosphorus-derived acid.

Clearing up cloudy understanding on solar power plant output

March 19, 2014 8:15 am | by Stephanie Hobby, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories engineers have been studying the most effective ways to use solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays—a clean, affordable and renewable way to keep the power on. Systems are relatively easy to install and have relatively small maintenance costs. They begin working immediately and can run unassisted for decades.

Small biomass power plants could help rural economies, stabilize national power grid

March 11, 2014 8:44 am | by Nathan Hurst, Univ. of Missouri | News | Comments

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.

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New, inexpensive production materials boost promise of hydrogen fuel

February 24, 2014 8:36 am | by Chris Barncard, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

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.

Nanopillars could improve conversion of heat to electricity

February 21, 2014 7:36 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Colorado Boulder scientists have found a creative way to radically improve thermoelectric materials, a finding that could one day lead to the development of improved solar panels and more energy-efficient cooling equipment. The technique, building an array of tiny pillars on top of a sheet of thermoelectric material, represents an entirely new way of attacking a century-old problem.

Study: Renewable energy won’t fix Abu Dhabi’s consumption problem

February 13, 2014 1:15 pm | News | Comments

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.

New energy research lab coming to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

January 30, 2014 8:50 am | News | Comments

Construction on a new energy research facility at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will start this April. The project, valued at approximately $10 million, will build a facility that will house a broad variety of energy research and PNNL's campus sustainability program. Research there will focus on power grid reliability and resiliency, integration of renewable energy onto the grid and reducing energy use in buildings.

Study: Active power control of wind turbines can improve power grid reliability

January 28, 2014 1:51 pm | News | Comments

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.

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Getting a charge from changes in humidity

January 27, 2014 11:15 am | News | Comments

A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to research conducted at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.

Silicon Valley sees shortage of EV charge stations

January 20, 2014 6:59 pm | News | Comments

Installation of electric vehicle charging ports at some companies has not kept pace with soaring demand, creating thorny etiquette issues in the workplace. The shortage has created incidents of "charge rage" among drivers, with vehicles being unplugged while charging. But adding chargers is expensive.

Harvesting electricity: Triboelectric generators capture wasted power

December 10, 2013 7:46 am | Videos | Comments

With one stomp of his foot, Zhong Lin Wang illuminates a thousand light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, with no batteries or power cord. The current comes from essentially the same source as that tiny spark that jumps from a fingertip to a doorknob when you walk across carpet on a cold, dry day. Wang and his research team have learned to harvest this power and put it to work.

Researchers in Germany build bio-based solar cell

November 21, 2013 12:46 pm | News | Comments

In leaves, two proteins are responsible for photosynthesis, and they perform the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen and biomass very efficiently. Scientists have now harnessed this capability by embedding these proteins into complex molecules developed in the laboratory. Their bio-based solar cell creates electron current instead of biomass.

Study could lead to paradigm shift in organic solar cell research

November 20, 2013 8:19 am | by Mike Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Organic solar cells have long been touted as lightweight, low-cost alternatives to rigid solar panels made of silicon. Dramatic improvements in the efficiency of organic photovoltaics have been made in recent years, yet the fundamental question of how these devices convert sunlight into electricity is still hotly debated. Now a Stanford Univ. research team is weighing in on the controversy.

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How do we balance needs of energy, water and climate?

November 15, 2013 7:26 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In deciding how best to meet the world’s growing needs for energy, the answers depend crucially on how the question is framed. Looking for the most cost-effective path provides one set of answers; including the need to curtail greenhouse gas emissions gives a different picture. Adding the need to address looming shortages of fresh water, it turns out, leads to a very different set of choices.

New approach advances wireless power transfer for vehicles

November 14, 2013 10:41 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed new technology and techniques for transmitting power wirelessly from a stationary source to a mobile receiver—moving engineers closer to their goal of creating highway “stations” that can recharge electric vehicles wirelessly as the vehicles drive by.

Triboelectric generator harvests energy from vibration of walking

November 12, 2013 8:44 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have recently demonstrated an integrated rhombic gridding based triboelectric nanogenerator, or “TENG”, that has been proven to be a cost-effective and robust approach for harvesting ambient environmental energy.

Hybrid nuclear plants could make a dent in carbon emissions

November 5, 2013 7:31 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many efforts to smooth out the variability of renewable energy sources have focused on batteries, which could fill gaps lasting hours or days. But Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Charles Forsberg has come up with a much more ambitious idea: He proposes marrying a nuclear power plant with another energy system, which he argues could add up to much more than the sum of its parts.

Illuminating the way to brighter, more efficiently produced solid-state lighting

October 31, 2013 9:23 am | News | Comments

By determining simple guidelines, researchers at the Univ. of California, Santa Barbara's Solid State Lighting & Energy Center have made it possible to optimize phosphors—a key component in white LED lighting—allowing for brighter, more efficient lights. LED lighting has been a major topic of research due to the many benefits it offers over traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting.

Bioelectrochemical systems: Electricity generators of the future?

October 28, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

Billions of euros are spent treating trillions of liters of wastewater every year, consuming substantial amounts of energy. However, this wastewater could act as a renewable resource, saving significant quantities of energy and money, as it contains organic pollutants which can be used to produce electricity, hydrogen and high-value chemicals, such as caustic soda.

Forest waste used to develop cheaper, greener supercapacitors

October 24, 2013 7:42 am | News | Comments

Researchers report that wood-biochar supercapacitors can produce as much power as today’s activated-carbon supercapacitors at a fraction of the cost, and with environmentally friendly byproducts. In wood-biochar supercapacitors, the wood’s natural pore structure serves as the electrode surface, eliminating the need for advanced techniques to fabricate an elaborate pore structure. Wood biochar is produced by heating wood in low oxygen.

New heat-resistant materials could improve solar cell efficiency

October 16, 2013 7:30 am | News | Comments

Scientists have created a heat-resistant thermal emitter that could significantly improve the efficiency of solar cells. The novel component is designed to convert heat from the sun into infrared light, which can then be absorbed by solar cells to make electricity. Unlike earlier prototypes that fell apart at temperatures below 1,200 C, the new thermal emitter remains stable at temperatures as high as 1,400 C.

New device harnesses sun and sewage to produce hydrogen fuel

October 11, 2013 7:47 am | News | Comments

A research team, led by the Univ. of California, Santa Cruz, developed a solar-microbial device that combines a microbial fuel cell (MFC) and a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC). In the MFC component, bacteria degrade organic matter in the wastewater, generating electricity. The biologically generated electricity is delivered to the PEC component to assist the solar-powered splitting of water that generates hydrogen and oxygen.

Working together: Bacteria join forces to produce electricity

October 8, 2013 9:28 am | by Richard Harth, Science Writer, Biodesign Institute | News | Comments

Bacterial cells use an impressive range of strategies to grow, develop and sustain themselves. Despite their tiny size, these specialized machines interact with one another in intricate ways. In new research conducted at Arizona State Univ.’s Biodesign Institute, researchers explore the relationships of two important bacterial forms, demonstrating their ability to produce electricity by coordinating their metabolic activities.

Droplets get a charge out of jumping

October 2, 2013 7:53 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In a completely unexpected finding, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have discovered that tiny water droplets that form on a superhydrophobic surface, and then “jump” away from that surface, carry an electric charge. The finding could lead to more efficient power plants and a new way of drawing power from the atmosphere, they say.

Wagon-wheel pasta shape for better LED

September 30, 2013 7:51 am | News | Comments

One problem in developing more efficient OLED light bulbs and displays for televisions and phones is that much of the light is polarized in one direction and thus trapped within the LED. Univ. of Utah physicists believe they have solved the problem by creating a new organic molecule that is shaped like rotelle—wagon-wheel pasta—rather than spaghetti.

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