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The Lead

Pass the Mustard; Why Carinata is Taking Root as Biofuel

April 15, 2014 7:56 am | by Don Konantz, President/CEO, Calyx Bio-Ventures, Vancouver, British Columbia | Articles | Comments

Navigant Research forecasts that the “global biofuels production will reach 61 billion gallons by 2023, replacing nearly 6% of global transportation fuel production from fossil sources and generating $70 billion in new revenue over the next decade.” The demand for an appropriate crop that can provide biofuels, without competing for land use with food crops, is on.

A molecular approach to solar power

April 14, 2014 7:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s an obvious truism, but one that may soon be outdated: The problem with solar power is that...

Finding the mix: Solar cell efficiency a delicate balance

March 31, 2014 8:16 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Research from North Carolina State Univ. reveals that solar cell efficiency is based upon a...

Last call: Register for the 2014 Laboratory Design Conference

March 28, 2014 7:14 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

The Laboratory Design Conference is only a few days away, with registration ending on March 31st...

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R&D Chat: Sustainability Built In

March 27, 2014 11:34 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Videos | Comments

What research lab doesn’t care about a good return on investment for their spending? The last five years has marked an increase in the level of scrutiny applied to projects to assure maximum ROI. The early design process demands greater economic analysis of lifecycle costs to reduce operating and energy costs and optimize environmental performance.

Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel

March 27, 2014 8:17 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. With improvements in process efficiency, the biofuel could supplement limited supplies of petroleum-based JP-10, and might also facilitate development of a new generation of more powerful engines.

Materials experts create spintronic thermoelectric power generators

March 21, 2014 2:18 pm | News | Comments

Imagine a computer so efficient that it can recycle its own waste heat to produce electricity. While such an idea may seem far-fetched today, significant progress has already been made to realize these devices. Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have fabricated spintronics-based thin film devices which do just that, converting even minute waste heat into useful electricity.

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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.

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.

New algorithm improves the efficiency of small wind turbines

March 18, 2014 9:47 am | News | Comments

Small wind turbines tend to be located in areas where wind conditions are more unfavorable and control systems of current wind turbines cannot adapt. To address this problem, researchers in Spain have developed an adaptive algorithm that can contribute toward making these miniature turbines more efficient.

Innovative solar-powered toilet ready for India unveiling

March 14, 2014 11:54 am | News | Comments

A self-contained, waterless toilet, designed and built using a $777,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has the capability of heating human waste enough to sterilize the waste and create biochar, a highly porous charcoal. The toilet, fueled by the sun, is being developed to help some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation, and will be unveiled in India this month.

NIST zero-energy house gives back to the grid

March 14, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Over the first six months in their special, new, four-bedroom home in suburban Maryland, the Nisters, a prototypical family of four, earned about $40 by exporting 328 kW-h of electricity into the local grid, while meeting all of their varied energy needs. These virtual residents of the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) on the campus of NIST didn't have to skimp the creature comforts of 21st century living, either.

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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.

Submit your new lab projects to Laboratory Design Newsletter

March 10, 2014 4:47 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

Laboratory Design Newsletter features new laboratory construction, renovation and adaptive reuse projects in each issue and also online. The new projects section of the Website hosts a large variety of laboratory builds in academic, medical, private, commercial and government laboratories.

Driving down fuel usage

March 10, 2014 10:57 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Despite their potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption, electric and hybrid cars and trucks struggled for years to find a solid customer base. Much of the reason came down to cost and convenience: Electric car batteries are expensive, and charging them requires plug-in infrastructure that’s still sparse in the U.S.

Freudenberg Puts FEA Seal of Approval on Gasket

March 6, 2014 12:09 pm | by Nick O'Donohoe, Science and Technology Writer, Parker Group | Articles | Comments

The wind has long been used as a metaphor for constant change, wayward and capricious. Wind turbine engineers deal with that changeability every day, along with a host of other challenging factors. Their products must operate in desert sandstorms and in corrosive salt water. The ambient temperature at the turbine site can be blisteringly high or numbingly frigid.

New catalyst could lead to cleaner energy

March 6, 2014 8:20 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have devised a way to trap carbon dioxide and transform it into useful organic compounds, using a simple metal complex. More work is needed to understand and optimize the reaction, but one day this approach could offer an easy and inexpensive way to recapture some of the carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles and power plants.

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Biomass industry must prepare for water constraints

February 28, 2014 7:43 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The viability of the bioenergy crops industry could be strengthened by regulatory efforts to address nonpoint source pollution from agricultural sources. That, in turn, means that the industry should be strategic in developing metrics that measure the ability to enact positive changes in agricultural landscapes, particularly through second-generation perennial crops, according to a paper by a Univ. of Illinois expert in bioenergy law.

Noting tech needs, mining companies seek graphite

February 27, 2014 6:18 am | by Dan Joling - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Tear apart an electric car's rechargeable battery and you'll find a mineral normally associated with No. 2 pencils. It's graphite. And experts say the promise of expanded uses for "pencil lead" in lithium-ion batteries, as well as a decrease in supply from China, has helped touch off the largest wave of mining projects in decades.

MSU advances algae’s viability as a biofuel

February 26, 2014 10:05 am | News | Comments

Laboratory success doesn’t always translate to real-world success. A team of Michigan State Univ. scientists, however, has invented a new technology that increases the odds of helping algae-based biofuels cross that gap and come closer to reality. The environmental photobioreactor (ePBR) system is the world’s first standard algae growing platform, one that simulates dynamic natural environments.

Report: Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel

February 12, 2014 1:15 pm | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas and gasoline also can be obtained from shopping bags.

Waste from age-old paper industry becomes new source of solid fuel

February 12, 2014 9:47 am | News | Comments

In today’s search for renewable energy sources, researchers are turning to the high-tech, from solar and hydrogen fuel cells, and the very low-tech. The latest example of a low-tech alternative comes from an age-old industry: paper. A new study reveals a sustainable way to turn the huge amounts of waste from paper production into solid fuel with the added bonus of diverting the sludge from overflowing landfills.

Fire ants inspire new process for storing and dissipating energy

February 7, 2014 10:49 am | News | Comments

U.S. Army-sponsored researchers have discovered a process for simultaneously storing and dissipating energy within structures that could lead to design rules for new types of active, reconfigurable materials. The study method was derived from an examination of how a species of South American fire ant collectively entangle themselves to form an active structure capable of changing state from a liquid to a solid when subject to applied loads.

Technique makes “biogasoline” from plant waste

February 4, 2014 9:08 am | News | Comments

Gasoline-like fuels can be made from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process invented by chemists at the Univ. of California, Davis. The process could open up new markets for plant-based fuels, beyond existing diesel substitutes.

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.

Seafloor carpet catches waves to generate energy

January 29, 2014 7:37 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

What do champion surfers who gathered at last week’s Mavericks Invitational have in common with a Univ. of California, Berkeley engineer? They all are looking to harness the power of big ocean waves. But the similarities end there. For assistant professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave mechanics, the seafloor “carpet” he is proposing will convert ocean waves into usable energy.

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.

Solar cell technology captures high-energy photons more efficiently

January 24, 2014 8:38 am | News | Comments

Getting the blues is rarely a desirable experience—unless you’re a solar cell, that is. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and the Univ. of Texas at Austin have together developed a new, inexpensive material that has the potential to capture and convert solar energy—particularly from the bluer part of the spectrum—much more efficiently than ever before.

World’s first magma-enhanced geothermal system created in Iceland

January 23, 2014 1:54 pm | by Iqbal Pittalwala, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

In 2009, a borehole drilled at Krafla, northeast Iceland, as part of the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), unexpectedly penetrated into magma at only 2100 m depth, with a temperature of 900-1000 C. The borehole, called IDDP-1, essentially created the world’s first magma-enhanced geothermal system, and is now blowing superheated 450 C steam directly from a molten magma.

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