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The same plastic as in garbage bags makes an efficient heat exchanger in power plants by creating microchannels. Courtesy of Joshua Pearce

Better heat exchangers using garbage bags

June 29, 2015 10:21 am | by Michigan Technological University | News | Comments

The plastic used to make garbage bags also makes a good base for building low-temperature heat exchangers. Joshua Pearce's team helped design and make the plastic-based heat exchangers to be used in power plants. The key is expanded microchannel structures...

All-plastic solar cell could help power future flexible electronics

June 26, 2015 7:06 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

If you picture a solar panel, it’s most likely dark blue or black, and rigid and flat. Now...

Stretching a thin crystal to get better solar cells

June 26, 2015 6:59 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Nature loves crystals. Salt, snowflakes and quartz are three examples of crystals—materials...

Optimizing shale gas production from well to wire

June 26, 2015 6:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

“Hydraulic fracturing” (or fracking) and “environmentally friendly” often do not appear in the...

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Home efficiency upgrades fall short

June 23, 2015 4:11 pm | by Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Home efficiency measures such as installing new windows or replacing insulation deliver such a small fraction of their promised energy savings that they may not save any money over the long run, according to the surprising conclusion of a Univ. of Chicago study.

Single-catalyst water splitter produces clean-burning hydrogen 24/7

June 23, 2015 10:45 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have invented a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas 24 hrs a day, seven days a week. The device, described in Nature Communications, could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry.

Toward tiny, solar-powered sensors

June 23, 2015 8:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The latest buzz in the information technology industry regards “the Internet of things”, the idea that vehicles, appliances, civil-engineering structures, manufacturing equipment and even livestock would have their own embedded sensors that report information directly to networked servers, aiding with maintenance and the coordination of tasks.

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New formula to speed development of modern materials

June 23, 2015 8:10 am | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Houston have devised a new formula for calculating the maximum efficiency of thermoelectric materials, the first new formula in more than a half-century, designed to speed up the development of new materials suitable for practical use.

Team fuses art, engineering to create stretchable batteries

June 22, 2015 10:10 am | by Joe Kullman, Arizona State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Origami, the centuries-old Japanese paper-folding art, has inspired recent designs for flexible energy-storage technology. But energy-storage device architecture based on origami patterns has so far been able to yield batteries that can change only from simple folded to unfolded positions. They can flex, but not actually stretch.

How owls could help make wind turbines, planes quieter

June 22, 2015 7:56 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

A newly designed material, which mimics the wing structure of owls, could help make wind turbines, computer fans and even planes much quieter. Early wind tunnel tests of the coating have shown a substantial reduction in noise without any noticeable effect on aerodynamics.

The image on the left shows the general shape of a cubic cerium dioxide nanoparticle. The images on the right show edge-on views of three exposed surfaces at atomic resolution. The atomic models are overlaid on the simulated images to illustrate atom posi

One nanocrystal, many faces

June 12, 2015 12:46 pm | by Department of Energy | News | Comments

When it comes to reducing the toxins released by burning gasoline, coal, or other such fuels, the catalyst needs to be reliable. Yet, a promising catalyst, cerium dioxide, seemed erratic. The catalyst’s three different surfaces behaved differently. For the first time, researchers got an atomically resolved view of the three structures, including the placement of previously difficult-to-visualize oxygen atoms.

State-by-state plan to convert US to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050

June 9, 2015 10:14 am | News | Comments

One potential way to combat ongoing climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs and stabilize energy prices involves converting the world's entire energy infrastructure to run on clean, renewable energy.

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A Sustainable Environment

June 8, 2015 1:30 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

On September 19, 2014, the Smithsonian Institution opened the doors of its greenest building to date: The Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory on the campus of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Md. Designed to be the first LEED-Platinum building for the institution, the Mathias Lab demonstrates a renewed commitment by the Smithsonian and the U.S. Congress to invest in crucial environmental research.

Monitoring Lab Energy Usage

June 4, 2015 9:21 am | by Chuck McKinney, VP, Strategic Accounts, Aircuity Inc., Newton, Mass. | Articles | Comments

Laboratories are notorious for their extraordinary energy consumption, often using six to 10 times the amount of energy of a normal office facility. As more and more attention is given to reduce lab energy use, it becomes increasingly more important to understand the energy drivers in labs to better target energy-conservation measures and improve occupant behaviors.

Glancing at greenery can boost concentration levels

May 26, 2015 11:20 am | by Univ. of Melbourne | News | Comments

A Univ. of Melbourne study shows that glancing at a grassy green roof for only 40 sec markedly boosts concentration. The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, gave 150 students a boring, attention-sapping task. The students were asked to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed on a computer screen, unless that number was three.

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells

May 26, 2015 10:19 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

Polymer solar cells are a hot area of research due to both their strong future potential and the significant challenges they pose. It is believed that thanks to lower production costs, they could become a viable alternative to conventional solar cells with silicon substrates when they achieve a power conversion efficiency of between 10 and 15%.

American energy use up slightly

May 21, 2015 8:00 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Americans' energy use continued to grow slowly in 2014, fueled by increases in the use of natural gas, wind and solar, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Each year, the LLNL releases charts that illustrate the nation's consumption and use of energy. Overall, Americans used 0.9 quads BTUs more in 2014 than the previous year, an increase of about 1%.

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New cost-effective, sustainable chemical catalysts

May 18, 2015 10:26 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. chemists have helped develop a family of new chemical catalysts that are expected to lower the cost and boost the sustainability of the production of chemical compounds used by a number of industries. The new catalysts are based on palladium, a rare and expensive metal. Palladium catalysts are used to form an array of chemical compounds in pharmaceuticals, plastics, agrochemicals and many other industries.

Artificial photosynthesis: New, stable photocathode with potential

May 13, 2015 9:14 am | by Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin | News | Comments

Many of us are familiar with electrolytic splitting of water from their school days: If you hold two electrodes into an aqueous electrolyte and apply a sufficient voltage, gas bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen are formed. If this voltage is generated by sunlight in a solar cell, then you could store solar energy by generating hydrogen gas. This is because hydrogen is a versatile medium of storing and using "chemical energy".

Sustainable phosphorus recovery from wastewater

May 6, 2015 11:12 am | by Ken Doyle, American Society of Argonomy | News | Comments

A new approach to wastewater treatment may be key in efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Moreover, it can be profitable. Phosphorus is an essential element for human nutrition. It plays multiple roles in the human body, including the development of bones and teeth. Fertilizer with phosphorus, applied to crops or lawns, enables healthy growth. Without it, the basic cells of plants and animals, and life itself, would not exist.

The 2014 Hydropower Market Report provides comprehensive data and trends useful for industry and policymakers.

ORNL scientists generate landmark DOE hydropower report

April 30, 2015 2:26 pm | by Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For the first time, industry and policymakers have a comprehensive report detailing the U.S. hydropower fleet’s 2,198 plants that provide about 7 percent of the nation’s electricity. The report is a resource that describes key features of the nation’s hydro resources and systematically tracks trends that have influenced the industry in recent years.

The electric sail is a new space propulsion concept which uses the solar wind momentum for producing thrust. Courtesy of space artist Antigravite/Szames

Electric solar wind sail could make bidirectional manned Mars flights economically feasible

April 28, 2015 11:39 am | by Finnish Meteorological Institute | News | Comments

By opening up the possibility of economical asteroid water mining, the electric solar wind sail (E-sail) enables frequent and affordable manned Mars flights. The E-sail is a novel propellantless technology that was invented in Finland in 2006. The E-sail utilizes long, charged tethers to convert natural solar wind momentum flux into spacecraft thrust.

Converter Accepts Different Power Sources

April 28, 2015 7:00 am | by Univ. of Arkansas | News | Comments

Engineering researchers have invented a novel electrical power converter system that simultaneously accepts power from a variety of energy sources and converts it for use in the electrical grid system. Innovations in this field are critical as the U.S. moves toward integration of renewable energy sources to the national power grid.

Cooling System Could Save U.S. $6.3B Per Year

April 28, 2015 7:00 am | by The Univ. of Alabama in Huntsville | News | Comments

A patented passive cooling system for computer processors that's undergoing optimization could save U.S. consumers more than $6.3 billion per year in energy costs associated with running their computer cooling fans. Imagine what it could do if in global use.  

Using the photoactive zinc oxide material, scientists studied the formation and migration of so-called polarons. Courtesy of Patrick Rinke/Aalto University

Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material

April 23, 2015 10:59 am | by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers ohave unveiled an important step in the conversion of light into storable energy: They studied the formation of so-called polarons in zinc oxide. The pseudoparticles travel through the photoactive material until they are converted into electrical or chemical energy at an interface.

Microalgae used for green asphalt

April 21, 2015 10:25 am | by CNRS | News | Comments

Microalgae offer a highly promising alternative to petroleum products without competing for resources used in the food industry. They have now been used, for the first time, to make asphalt. Researchers have recently proved the viability of bioasphalt, demonstrating its close similarity to the "real" asphalt used to pave roads.

Science Connect: Positive Energy: Sustaining a Great Lab Environment

April 17, 2015 1:33 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Videos | Comments

The design of laboratories for sustainable construction and operation has become a major driver in the A/E/C industry over the past 10 to 15 years. These days, most lab clients are looking for sustainable design approaches at a minimum—and third-party certification, such as LEED, in many cases.

Major advance in artificial photosynthesis poses win-win for the environment

April 16, 2015 12:43 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products, including biodegradable plastics, pharmaceutical drugs and even liquid fuels.

Cobalt film a clean-fuel find

April 16, 2015 7:51 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A cobalt-based thin film serves double duty as a new catalyst that produces both hydrogen and oxygen from water to feed fuel cells, according to scientists at Rice Univ. The inexpensive, highly porous material may have advantages as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen via water electrolysis. A single film far thinner than a hair can be used as both the anode and cathode in an electrolysis device.

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