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.
Univ. of Colorado Boulder scientists have found a creative way to radically improve...
Abu Dhabi’s recent expensive renewable energy venture will neither allow the United Arab...
Construction on a new energy research facility at...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has quantified the potential impacts of increasing wind and solar power generation on operators of fossil-fueled power plants in the West. To accommodate higher amounts of wind and solar power on the electric grid, utilities must ramp down and ramp up or stop and start conventional generators more frequently to provide reliable power for their customers—a practice called cycling.
By inserting platinum atoms into an organic semiconductor, Univ. of Utah physicists were able to “tune” the plastic-like polymer to emit light of different colors—a step toward more efficient, less expensive and truly white organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) for light bulbs of the future.
Researchers from the Univ. of Pennsylvania have demonstrated a new mechanism for extracting energy from light, a finding that could improve technologies for generating electricity from solar energy and lead to more efficient optoelectronic devices used in communications.
Bionic leaves that could produce fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, with no byproducts other than oxygen, represent an ideal alternative to fossil fuels but also pose numerous scientific challenges. In a major advance, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a method by which molecular hydrogen-producing catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light.
The worldwide market for portable electronic devices is quickly growing. These devices are predominantly battery-driven, and a challenge looms for maintaining, charging and disposing of these millions of batteries. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Bacteriophage Power Generator offers a potential alternative.
Currently, electric grids have limited ability to store excess energy, so electricity must constantly be generated to perfectly match demand. Hence, power generation, transmission and distribution must accommodate the maximum demand of conditions and must include significant standby generation capacity. This adds capital expense, and forces power plants to idle or operate at non-efficient conditions. United Technologies Research Center has developed a flow-battery technology—called PureStorage—that provides affordable, safe, energy-efficient and readily deployable electrical energy storage.
In recent years, thermoelectric materials have enabled the re-use of otherwise wasted thermal energy as electrical power. But this ability is limited to materials, typically complex crystals, exhibiting high electrical conductivity and low thermal conductivity. Scientists have now discovered a way of suppressing thermal conductivity in sodium cobaltate, opening new paths for energy scavenging.
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