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.
Highly insulating triple-pane windows keep a house snug and cozy, but it takes two decades or...
Converting solar energy into storable fuel remains...
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.
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated in the laboratory a lithium-sulfur battery that has more than twice the specific energy of lithium-ion batteries, and that lasts for more than 1,500 cycles of charge-discharge with minimal decay of the battery’s capacity. This is the longest cycle life reported so far for any lithium-sulfur battery.
Researchers studying more effective ways to convert woody plant matter into biofuels have identified fundamental forces that change plant structures during pretreatment processes used in the production of bioenergy. Experimental techniques including neutron scattering and x-ray analysis with supercomputer simulations revealed unexpected findings about what happens to water molecules trapped between cellulose fibers.
A groundbreaking nanoparticle system which stimulates the growth of microalgae has been developed by a team of Australian scientists. The technique creates an optical nanofilter that enhances the formation and yield of algae photopigments, namely chlorophyll, by altering the wavelengths of light absorbed by the algae.
A set of new building technologies introduced by an alliance of Swiss companies makes it possible to heat and cool buildings without the emission of carbon dioxide. One initial key element of the system is a hybrid collector, built into the roof construction, that serves as a photovoltaic system delivering both solar power and heat that is fed to an underground accumulator.
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.
Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers working at the intersection of basic and applied science focus on key factors like cost, environmental impacts and sometimes, color. Take, for example, asst. chemistry prof. Trisha Andrew: Researchers in her laboratory are developing next-generation solar cells using chromophores or, in lay terms, dyes.
The newest catalytic converters in diesel engines blast away a pollutant from combustion with the help of ammonia. Common in European cars, the engines exhaust harmless nitrogen and water. How they do this hasn't been entirely clear. Now, new research shows that the catalyst attacks its target pollutant in an unusual way, providing insight into how to make the best catalytic converters.
A formal partnership agreement to encourage collaborative research, build educational and workforce development programs and inform policy endeavors regarding renewable energy efforts has been signed by Sandia National Laboratories and Arizona State Univ. The move will facilitate multidisciplinary collaborations and help them secure research funding.
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.
In the latest advance in efforts to find an inexpensive way to make hydrogen from ordinary water, scientists are reporting that powder from high-grade charcoal and other forms of carbon can free hydrogen from water illuminated with laser pulses.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Universal Smart Window (USW) Coating, constructed from an advance nanocrystal conducting oxide-base electrochromatic material embedded in a transition-metal-oxide matrix, is the first window coating to maximize thermal glare that enables dynamic control over heat-producing near-infrared radiation (NIR) and visible light from the sun independent of each other.
Lithium-ion battery separators prevent the anode and cathode layers from contacting each other, allowing cell potential to be maintained and safe operation of the battery. The SYMMETRIX HPX-F polymer-ceramic composite separator, developed by Porous Power Technologies and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, achieves this functionality while improving safety over conventional polyolefin membranes.
A new Department of Energy study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that by 2025 wind and solar power electricity generation in the western U.S. could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies, if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive locations. The report is now available.
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.
Computer models are used to inform policy decisions about energy, but existing models are generally “black boxes” that don’t show how they work, making it impossible for anyone to replicate their findings. Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new open-source model and are sharing the data they put into it, to allow anyone to check their work.
Tennessee scientists are using one of Earth’s smallest creatures to solve some of the government’s biggest bioenergy problems. For the next three years, a $2.1 million grant is allowing researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to use a process called microbial electrolysis to transform plant biomass into hydrogen to produce energy-rich biofuel for use in combustion engines.
A fungus and E. coli bacteria have joined forces to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol, a biofuel that matches gasoline's properties better than ethanol. Univ. of Michigan research team members said the principle also could be used to produce other valuable chemicals such as plastics.
Lignin is a waste material that is produced when paper is manufactured from wood. Instead of disposing of the lignin, a research team at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has learned how to take the material and convert it into powering a green battery.
As demand climbs for more fuel-efficient vehicles, knowledge compiled over several years about diesel engines and a new strategy known as “low-temperature combustion” (LTC) might soon lead auto manufacturers and consumers to broader use of cleaner diesel engines in the U.S.
The advantages of the one-stop shop have long been recognized in the retailing and services industries. Similar advantages would also be realized for the biofuels industry with the development of a “one-pot” processing system in which sugars could be extracted from biomass and turned into fuels in a single vat. A major step forward in this goal has now been achieved by Joint BioEnergy Institute researchers.
Americans are increasingly installing wind turbines near their homes, farms and businesses to generate their own energy, concludes a new report released by the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE). The 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications is the first comprehensive analysis on a growing field called distributed wind.
Ethylene, now produced from petroleum, is one of the most important raw materials for everyday products. Researchers in China say they have identified a promising alternative to petroleum. Their proposal, a fluidized bed reactor, works by suspending the chemicals needed to make ethylene inside the walls of a chamber. Newly produced ethylene exits through a pipe, while the rest of the material remains to continue production.
Sun-drenched rooms make for happy residents, but large glass windows also bring higher air-conditioning bills. Now a bioinspired microfluidic circulatory system for windows developed by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University could save energy and cut cooling costs dramatically—while letting in just as much sunlight.
Taking inspiration from trees, scientists have developed a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin that shows promise for becoming a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly energy source. The device, developed at the Univ. of Maryland, is 1,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper.
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