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NIST test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

July 2, 2014 9:34 am | News | Comments

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.

Seeing how a lithium-ion battery works

June 9, 2014 7:44 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New observations by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed the inner...

Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction

June 5, 2014 1:31 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

Over the past decade, it has become readily apparent that the global environment is increasingly...

Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction: Sustainability Basics and Design

June 5, 2014 1:13 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

Over the past decade, it has become readily apparent that the global environment is increasingly...

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Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction: LEED

June 5, 2014 12:12 pm | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

LEED is a sustainability certification rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is a private, membership-based non-profit organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. The USGBC partners with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), offering a suite of LEED professional credentials that identify expertise in the field of green building.

Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction: Changes and Trends

June 5, 2014 9:18 am | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

The latest update seen in LEED v4 provides a small glimpse of the expected changes in where sustainability efforts will be focused over the next several years. While some of the LEED certification changes are a little bit more of the same, just reworded and retitled, changes such as the holistic approach to materials analyses, lifecycle considerations and multiple metering (monitoring) requirements establish new challenges for submitters.

Sustianable Laboratory Design and Construction: Resources

June 4, 2014 4:06 pm | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

Over the past decade, it has become readily apparent that the global environment is increasingly sensitive to human activity. The effects of global warming, increasing energy costs, dramatic climate changes and shortages of raw materials, potable water and food strain the global community. Here are some sustainable design resources.

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Rice produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:47 am | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created an Earth-friendly way to separate carbon dioxide from natural gas at wellheads. A porous material invented by the Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

Countdown to net zero

June 3, 2014 9:27 am | by Mark Bello, NIST | News | Comments

Heading into the final stretch of a year-long trial run, the experimental net-zero energy house at NIST in Gaithersburg, Md., must overcome an energy deficit of 154 kWhr—equivalent to about $20—during the month of June. The facility was designed to produce at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year.

Improving a new breed of solar cells

May 28, 2014 7:42 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Solar cell technology has advanced rapidly, as hundreds of groups around the world pursue more than two dozen approaches using different materials, technologies and approaches to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has set a new record for the most efficient quantum-dot cells.

New concept to improve power production of wind turbines

May 23, 2014 12:46 pm | News | Comments

In a typical wind farm, the wind turbine located in the wakes of upstream turbines would experience a much different surface wind compared to the ones located upwind due to wake interferences. Scientists at Iowa State Univ. have completed a study on the effects of these relative rotation directions, using two tandem wind turbines as a model. They found a big difference in performance between co-rotating and counter-rotating turbines.

New fossil-fuel-free process makes biodiesel sustainable

May 21, 2014 1:58 pm | News | Comments

A new fuel-cell concept from Michigan State Univ. allows biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, should give producers the opportunity to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process.

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Roadmap shows how to improve lignocellulosic biofuel biorefining

May 16, 2014 8:00 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money. A new review article in Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics.

Ames Lab creates multifunctional nanoparticles for cheaper, cleaner biofuel

May 13, 2014 7:31 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Ames Laboratory have developed a nanoparticle that is able to perform two processing functions at once for the production of green diesel, an alternative fuel created from the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks like algae. The method is a departure from the established process of producing biodiesel, which is accomplished by reacting fats and oils with alcohols.

Getting more electricity out of solar cells

May 8, 2014 8:00 am | by Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative | News | Comments

When sunlight shines on today’s solar cells, much of the incoming energy is given off as waste heat rather than electrical current. In a few materials, however, extra energy produces extra electrons—behavior that could significantly increase solar-cell efficiency. A team has now identified the mechanism by which that phenomenon happens, yielding new design guidelines for using those special materials to make high-efficiency solar cells.

Energy-subsidy reform can be achieved with proper preparation, outside pressure

May 6, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Reform of energy subsidies in oil-exporting countries can reduce carbon emissions and add years to oil exports, according to a new paper from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The paper reviews the record of energy-subsidy reforms and argues that big exporters should reduce energy demand by raising prices, and that this can be done without undermining legitimacy of governments that depend on subsidies for political support.

Johnson Controls, UW-Madison join forces to test new battery technology

May 5, 2014 12:27 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

A new laboratory at the Wisconsin Energy Institute on the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison campus will strengthen Johnson Controls' innovation capabilities as the company researches and develops next-generation technology. The partnership represents the kind of innovation Johnson Controls is developing to craft the next generation of market-leading energy storage technology.

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Students’ energy invention is really out there

May 1, 2014 8:26 am | Videos | Comments

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.

Flexible battery, no lithium required

April 28, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

A Rice Univ. laboratory has flexible, portable and wearable electronics in its sights with the creation of a thin film for energy storage. The laboratory developed a flexible material with nanoporous nickel-fluoride electrodes layered around a solid electrolyte to deliver battery-like supercapacitor performance that combines the best qualities of a high-energy battery and a high-powered supercapacitor without lithium.

Double-duty electrolyte enables new chemistry for longer-lived batteries

April 24, 2014 11:44 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new and unconventional battery chemistry aimed at producing batteries that last longer than previously thought possible. In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, ORNL researchers challenged a long-held assumption that a battery’s three main components can play only one role in the device.

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

April 17, 2014 3:11 pm | News | Comments

The solar lamp developed by a start-up in Switzerland is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people in the world. Designed to be made by anyone, these solar-powered light-emitting diode lamps require nothing more than locally-found equipment. Only the solar panels are ordered from abroad.

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 sometimes the sun doesn’t shine. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. has come up with an ingenious workaround: a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.

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 delicate balance between the size and purity of the interior layers, or domains. These findings may lead to better designs and improved performance in organic solar cells.

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. Your opportunity to learn, network and participate in discussion about hot-button trends in laboratory design is coming to Boston, April 2-4th. The conference brings together recognized experts in the field with high-level users and lab facility owners, offering up-to-the-minute information that's vital in an evolving environment.

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.

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.

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