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.
When moving through a conductive material in an electric field, electrons tend to follow the...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 renewable, fossil and even nuclear energy in 2013, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
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.
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.
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.
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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