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The Lead

Getting a charge out of water droplets

July 15, 2014 7:53 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Engineering a more efficient fuel cell

July 9, 2014 10:38 am | by Glen Martin, Stanford New Service | News | Comments

Using high-brilliance x-rays, Stanford Univ. researchers track the process that fuel cells use...

NIST test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

July 2, 2014 9:34 am | News | Comments

Despite five months of below-average temperatures...

Study shows greater potential for solar power

June 23, 2014 9:43 am | News | Comments

Concentrating solar power (CSP) could supply a...

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One step to solar cell efficiency

June 19, 2014 12:42 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

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.

A fuel cell for the home

June 3, 2014 6:58 am | News | Comments

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.

Stabilizing common semiconductors for solar fuels generation

May 30, 2014 8:17 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Researchers are trying to develop solar-driven generators that can split water, yielding hydrogen gas that could be used as clean fuel. Such a device requires efficient light-absorbing materials that attract and hold sunlight to drive the chemical reactions involved in water splitting. Semiconductors are excellent light absorbers. However, these materials rust when submerged in the type of water solutions found in such systems.

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Electricity use slashed with efficiency controls for heating, cooling

May 23, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling electricity use by an average of 57% with advanced energy-efficiency controls, according to a year-long trial of the controls at malls, grocery stores and other buildings across the country. The study demonstrated higher energy savings than what was predicted in earlier computer simulations by the same researchers.

A new way to harness waste heat

May 21, 2014 7:55 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials.

Scientists unleash highest-energy beam ever at Jefferson Lab

May 14, 2014 2:22 pm | News | Comments

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has achieved the final two accelerator commissioning milestones needed for approval to start experimental operations following its first major upgrade. In the early hours of May 7, the machine delivered its highest-energy beams ever, 10.5 billion electron-volts through the entire accelerator.

Students’ energy invention is really out there

May 1, 2014 8:26 am | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. engineering students think it’s a shame to waste energy, especially in space. So a team of seniors invented a device that turns excess heat into electricity. Heat created by electronics onboard the International Space Station (ISS) now gets tossed overboard into the void. But new technology to turn heat into power would make it possible to put it back to work to run the myriad systems onboard.

Under some LED bulbs whites aren’t “whiter than white”

April 21, 2014 12:03 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different degrees of whites may all look the same, according to experts in lighting.

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Surprising material could play role in saving energy

April 18, 2014 7:56 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.

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 diodes (LEDs), especially in the “green gap,” a portion of the spectrum where LED efficiency plunges.               

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 recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.                                   

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 photovoltaic installations have increased about 40% a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled. The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.

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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.

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.

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.

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