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The Lead

New conversion process turns biomass “waste” into lucrative chemical products

December 17, 2014 2:58 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | Videos | Comments

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel. A team of researchers from Purdue Univ.'s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities.

A Zero-Net-Energy Teaching Laboratory

December 16, 2014 2:01 pm | by Jacob Knowles, LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design, BR+A Consulting Engineers and James Moses, AIA, LEED AP, Director, Sasaki Associates | Articles | Comments

The 50,000-sf New Technology and Learning Center for Bristol Community College, Fall River, Mass...

Steps Toward Sustainable High-Containment Laboratories

December 16, 2014 12:24 pm | by Jeff Serle, SVP and GM Germfree Laboratories Inc., Ormond Beach, Fla. | Articles | Comments

With the recent news about Ebola, MERS, extremely drug-resistant TB and other emerging and re-...

Carbon-trapping “sponges” can cut greenhouse gases

December 16, 2014 8:56 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture is gaining momentum, but standard methods...

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All-electric cars may be worse for environment

December 16, 2014 8:02 am | by Associated Press, Seth Borenstein | News | Comments

People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming. Ethanol isn't so green, either. The study examines environmental costs for cars' entire lifecycle, including where power comes from and the environmental effects of building batteries.

The Next Big Things

December 15, 2014 3:38 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

The Internet is a massive place, linking billions of devices which share data that should exceed the zettabyte mark by 2016. Even as data transfer grows, the number of devices connected to the Internet will soon experience a geometric rise as well.

Local market conditions, policies strongly influence solar PV pricing

December 15, 2014 2:03 pm | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Differences in local market conditions and policies, and other factors, particularly the size of the system, can lead to wide disparities in what consumers across the U.S. pay to install solar energy systems on their homes or small businesses, according to a recent study published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This translates into thousands of dollars difference in the price of comparable solar energy systems around the U.S.

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Seed grants awarded for innovative energy research

December 12, 2014 10:37 am | by Mark Shwartz and Mark Golden, Stanford University | News | Comments

Stanford University's Precourt Institute for Energy, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy have awarded eight seed grants totaling about $1.5 million for promising new research in clean technology and energy efficiency.

New form of ice could explore avenues for energy production and storage

December 11, 2014 8:01 am | News | Comments

The discovery of a new form of ice could lead to an improved understanding of our planet’s geology, potentially helping to unlock new solutions in the production, transportation and storage of energy. Ice XVI, the least dense of all known forms of ice, has a highly symmetric cage-like structure that can trap gaseous molecules to form compounds known as clathrates or gas hydrates.

‘Smart windows’ have potential to keep heat out, save energy

December 10, 2014 2:07 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Scientists are developing a new kind of “smart window” that can block out heat when the outside temperatures rise. The advance could one day help consumers better conserve energy on hot days and reduce electric bills.       

Revving Up Energy Solutions Innovation

December 8, 2014 5:02 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

During the 2014 R&D 100 Awards event, R&D Magazine expanded the banquet to hold four technology panels during the day. The last panel of the day focused on energy/environmental solutions and the innovation behind four R&D 100-winning technologies and the complexity of bringing such technologies to the market.

Researchers to use algae to clean up mine water

December 5, 2014 10:04 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A groundbreaking research project by the GW4 Alliance aims to clean up water from a Cornish tin mine, using algae to harvest the precious heavy metals and produce biofuel at the same time. GW4 brings together the South West and Wales’ four leading, research-intensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

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Nanoparticle network could bring fast-charging batteries

December 4, 2014 7:46 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A new electrode design for lithium-ion batteries has been shown to potentially reduce the charging time from hours to minutes by replacing the conventional graphite electrode with a network of tin-oxide nanoparticles. Batteries have two electrodes, called an anode and a cathode. The anodes in most of today's lithium-ion batteries are made of graphite.

Low-grade waste heat regenerates ammonia battery

December 3, 2014 3:49 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

An efficient method to harvest low-grade waste heat as electricity may be possible using reversible ammonia batteries, according to Penn State Univ. engineers. Low-grade waste heat is an artifact of many energy-generating methods. In automobiles, waste heat generated in winter is diverted to run the vehicle heating system, but in the summer, that same waste heat must be dissipated to the environment.

High-tech mirror to beam heat away from buildings into space

December 1, 2014 10:24 am | by Chris Cesare, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space. The heart of the invention is an ultra-thin, multi-layered material that deals with light, both invisible and visible, in a new way.

New technique could harvest more of the sun’s energy

December 1, 2014 8:32 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

As solar panels become less expensive and capable of generating more power, solar energy is becoming a more commercially viable alternative source of electricity. However, the photovoltaic cells now used to turn sunlight into electricity can only absorb and use a small fraction of that light, and that means a significant amount of solar energy goes untapped. A new technology epresents a first step toward harnessing that lost energy.

Matched hybrid systems may hold key to wider use of renewable energy

December 1, 2014 8:09 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

The use of renewable energy in the U.S. could take a significant leap forward with improved storage technologies or more efforts to “match” different forms of alternative energy systems that provide an overall more steady flow of electricity. Historically, a major drawback to the use and cost-effectiveness of alternative energy systems has been that they are too variable. This lack of dependability is costly and inefficient.

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Gasoline from sawdust

November 26, 2014 8:45 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers at KU Leuven’s Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis have successfully converted sawdust into building blocks for gasoline. Using a new chemical process, they were able to convert the cellulose in sawdust into hydrocarbon chains. These hydrocarbons can be used as an additive in gasoline, or as a component in plastics.

Blu-ray disc can be used to improve solar cell performance

November 25, 2014 8:23 pm | by Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Who knew Blu-ray discs were so useful? Already one of the best ways to store high-definition movies and television shows because of their high-density data storage, Blu-ray discs also improve the performance of solar cells, according to new research from Northwestern Univ.

Graphene/nanotube hybrid benefits flexible solar cells

November 17, 2014 3:37 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have invented a novel cathode that may make cheap, flexible dye-sensitized solar cells practical. The Rice laboratory of materials scientist Jun Lou created the new cathode, one of the two electrodes in batteries, from nanotubes that are seamlessly bonded to graphene and replaces the expensive and brittle platinum-based materials often used in earlier versions.

Smartphone app to cut risk of power outages

November 14, 2014 10:45 am | by Carl Blesch, Rutgers Univ. | News | Comments

An easy-to-use smartphone app developed by Rutgers Univ. engineers will help keep the lights on in a heavily wooded New Jersey suburb that suffered widespread power outages during Superstorm Sandy. The smartphone app walks users through documenting hazards, such as branches dangling perilously close to wires or poles cracking and leaning.

Versatile process efficiently converts biomass to liquid fuel

November 12, 2014 8:05 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process to convert all biomass into liquid fuel, and the method could make possible mobile processing plants. The researchers at Purdue Univ. filed a patent application on the concept in 2008 and have now demonstrated that it works in laboratory experiments.

A billion holes can make a battery

November 11, 2014 9:19 am | by Martha Heil, Univ. of Maryland | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Maryland have invented a single tiny structure that includes all the components of a battery that they say could bring about the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage components. The structure is called a nanopore: a tiny hole in a ceramic sheet that holds electrolyte to carry the electrical charge between nanotube electrodes at either end.

Underperforming? Energy efficiency of HVAC equipment suffers due to poor installation

November 10, 2014 10:45 am | by NIST | News | Comments

The push for more efficient air conditioners and heat pumps aims to trim the 30% share of residential electrical energy use devoted to cooling and heating. But the benefits of improved energy-efficiency ratings can go for naught if the equipment is not installed properly, as verified in a recent study from NIST.

New materials yield record efficiency polymer solar cells

November 10, 2014 10:20 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semiconducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.

Jet-fueled electricity at room temperature

November 5, 2014 7:41 am | by Aditi Risbud, Univ. of Utah Collee of Engineering | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah engineers developed the first room-temperature fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without needing to ignite the fuel. These new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors. A study of the new cells appears online in ACS Catalysis.

Microgrid could standardize small, self-sustaining electric grids

November 4, 2014 2:56 pm | by Katie Elyce Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yan Xu talks about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, she’s discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids—small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.

Physicists find toxic halogens in Li-ion batteries

October 24, 2014 12:08 pm | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are superhalogens, and that the vast majority of these electrolytes contain toxic halogens. At the same time, the researchers also found that the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with halogen-free electrolytes that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

Cooking up carbon: Sawdust and iron in the melting pot

October 24, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Researchers in the U.K. have found a new way to make nanostructured carbon using the waste product sawdust. By cooking sawdust with a thin coating of iron at 700 C, they have discovered that they can create carbon with a structure made up of many tiny tubes. These tubes are one thousand times smaller than an average human hair.

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