People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming. Ethanol isn't so green, either. The study examines environmental costs for cars' entire lifecycle, including where power comes from and the environmental effects of building batteries.
Scientists are developing a new kind of “smart...
The use of renewable energy in the U.S. could take a significant leap forward with improved...
When Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yan Xu talks about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, she’s discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids—small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.
When researchers at General Electric Co. sought help in designing a plasma-based power switch, they turned to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which helped them develop a plasma-filled tube that would replace semiconductor switches used for changing direct current to alternating current. The proposed switch could contribute to a more advanced and reliable electric grid and help to lower utility bills.
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.
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.
Sandia National Laboratories has begun laboratory-based characterization of TransPower’s GridSaver, the largest grid energy storage system analyzed at Sandia’s Energy Storage Test Pad in Albuquerque. Sandia will evaluate the 1 MW, lithium-ion grid energy storage system for capacity, power, safety and reliability. The laboratory also will investigate the system’s frequency regulation.
American electrical utilities do a pretty fantastic job of getting us electricity when we need it. In 2006, the power was out on average for just 0.03% of the year in the U.S. But right now, this system depends on getting most of its power from coal, nuclear and gas plants: big, dependable power plants that can be turned on and off when needed.
The largest power outage in U.S. history, the 2003 Northeast blackout, began with one power line in Ohio going offline and ended with more than 50 million people without power throughout the Northeast and the Canadian province of Ontario. Despite the apparent failure of the electric grid during such cascading events, blackouts aren’t necessarily grid failures.
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.
Univ. of Utah physicists read the subatomic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of hydrogen isotopes, and used the data to control current that powered light in a cheap, plastic LED—at room temperature and without strong magnetic fields. The study brings physics a step closer to practical machines that work “spintronically” as well as electronically.
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.
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.
Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. Engineers in California are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company. Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.
When moving through a conductive material in an electric field, electrons tend to follow the path of least resistance—which runs in the direction of that field. But now physicists have found an unexpectedly different behavior under very specialized conditions—one that might lead to new types of transistors and electronic circuits that could prove highly energy efficient.
Coming to Nevada's high desert: A massive, $5 billion factory that will pump out high-tech batteries for hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles. That's assuming state leaders deliver on the economic incentives they packaged to entice Tesla Motors to Nevada rather than four other states competing for the factory and the economic jolt it promises to bring.
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.
It’s estimated that more than half of U.S. energy is wasted as heat. Mostly, this waste heat simply escapes into the air. But that’s beginning to change, thanks to thermoelectric innovators such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Gang Chen. Thermoelectric materials convert temperature differences into electric voltage.
Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory and the Illinois Institute of Technology were awarded $2 million over the course of two years to fund studies on hybrid fuel cells from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. The research seeks to create a fuel cell that would both produce electricity and convert methane gas to ethane or ethylene that could then be converted to a liquid fuel or valuable chemicals.
We already charge our toothbrushes and cellphones using contactless technology. Researchers in Germany have developed a particularly efficient and cost-effective inductive method that could allow electric cars to soon follow suit. The new design places the charging coils close to the car’s undercarriage without actually touching it. The charging station is also robust enough to be driven over.
Developed in the U.K., an innovative “trigeneration” system fuelled entirely by raw plant oils could have great potential for isolated homes and businesses operating outside grid systems. the small-scale combined cooling, heat and power system has been designed to utilize its waste heating by storing it through measures such as batteries and supercapacitors.
Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Now, the same team has demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices.
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.
Despite five months of below-average temperatures and twice the normal amount of snowfall, NIST's Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in Washington, D.C. ended its one-year test run with 491 KW-h of extra energy. Instead of paying almost $4,400 for electricity, the experimental all-electric house actually earned a credit by exporting surplus energy to the local utility.
Concentrating solar power (CSP) could supply a large fraction of the power supply in a decarbonized energy system, according to a new study of the technology and its potential practical application. For this research, scientists simulated the construction and operation of CSP systems in four regions around the world, taking into account weather variations, plant locations, electricity demand, and costs.
Rice Univ. scientists have created a one-step process for producing highly efficient materials that let the maximum amount of sunlight reach a solar cell. The Rice laboratory of chemist Andrew Barron found a simple way to etch nanoscale spikes into silicon that allows more than 99% of sunlight to reach the cells’ active elements, where it can be turned into electricity.
Researchers in Europe have designed a new type of fuel cell that is much simpler and can be mounted on a wall and used in a home. Designed with heater manufacturer Vaillant, the compact and safe system is based on solid fuel cell technology and generates electricity and heat from natural gas. With an output of 1 kW, it provides the average current consumption for a four-person household.
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