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The Lead

Energy breakthrough uses sun to create solar energy materials

April 4, 2014 3:32 pm | News | Comments

In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible.               

Nanostructures show promise for efficient LEDs

April 4, 2014 3:05 pm | News | Comments

Nanostructures half the breadth of a DNA strand could improve the efficiency of light emitting...

Recovering metals and minerals from waste

March 13, 2014 9:15 am | News | Comments

Scarcity of clean water is one of the most serious...

Huge U.S. thermal plant opens as industry grows

February 14, 2014 11:43 am | by Brian Skoloff and Michael R. Blood, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System,...

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Research reveals give-and-take of urban temperature mitigating technologies

February 13, 2014 1:41 pm | News | Comments

Greenhouse-gas induced warming and megapolitan expansion are both significant drivers of our warming planet, but how well adaptation technologies, such as cool roofs and green roofs, perform remains uncertain. Now, a team of researchers has begun exploring the relative effectiveness of some of the most common adaptation technologies aimed at reducing warming from urban expansion.

New catalytic converter could cut fuel consumption, car manufacturing costs

January 29, 2014 10:27 am | News | Comments

A new catalytic converter developed in the U.K. could cut fuel consumption and manufacturing costs significantly. Tests suggest that the new prototype, which uses up to 80% less rare metal than a conventional converter, could reduce fuel consumption in a standard vehicle by up to 3%. Metals such as platinum now account for 60 to 70% of the cost of the component.

Jet-propelled wastewater treatment

December 19, 2013 7:55 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have developed a new method for the active degradation of organic pollutants in solution by using swimming microengines. These tiny “engines” are made from platinum and iron and are highly efficient in removing organic pollutants from water using hydrogen peroxide.

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Burning biomass pellets in China could lower mercury emissions

December 19, 2013 7:32 pm | News | Comments

For millions of homes, plants, wood and other types of “biomass” serve as an essential source of fuel, especially in developing countries, but their mercury content has raised flags among environmentalists and researchers. Scientists are now reporting that among dozens of sources of biomass, processed pellets burned under realistic conditions in China emit relatively low levels of the potentially harmful substance.

Team developing new monitoring tools for hydropower generation

December 19, 2013 8:52 am | News | Comments

A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon Univ. is banking on the efficiency of an environmentally friendly alternative to large hydroelectric operations. Known as hydrokinetic or run-of-the-river power extraction, the new method harvests a small portion of kinetic energy in the river at multiple locations. They are building multi-scale hierarchical models for analyzing large-scale river networks, hydropower project placement, and control.

Food-tech startups aim to replace eggs and chicken

December 9, 2013 1:35 pm | by Terence Chea, Associated Press | News | Comments

Funded by prominent Silicon Valley investors and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hampton Creek Foods seeks to disrupt a global egg industry that backers say wastes energy, pollutes the environment, causes disease outbreaks and confines chickens to tiny spaces. The company, which just started selling a mayonnaise made without eggs, is part of a new generation of so-called food-tech ventures that aim to change the way we eat.

Next generation of biofuels is still years away

November 14, 2013 12:54 pm | by Jonathan Fahey, Associated Press | News | Comments

The first trickle of fuels made from agricultural waste is finally winding its way into the nation's energy supply. But the full benefits of this fuel source remain many years away, and ethanol, which was meant to be a stop-gap until non-food sources of fuel were found, has been far more damaging to the environment than the government predicted.

Prairies vanish in the U.S. push for green energy

November 13, 2013 11:15 am | by Chet Brokaw and Jack Gillum, Associated Press | News | Comments

Across the Dakotas and Nebraska, more than 1 million acres of the Great Plains are giving way to cornfields as farmers transform the wild expanse that once served as the backdrop for American pioneers. This expansion of the Corn Belt is fueled in part by America's green energy policy, which requires oil companies to blend billions of gallons of corn ethanol into their gasoline.

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Updating building energy codes: How much can your state save?

November 7, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

How much in energy and cost savings would your state realize if it updated its commercial building energy codes? You can find out in a new online publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The state-by-state reports were the product of a new building energy efficiency analysis tool developed by NIST.

Enhancing microalgae growth to boost green energy production

November 7, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

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.

Mobile DNA kit helps Haiti manage sanitation

October 30, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

What does the coastal community of Bolinas, Calif., have in common with the impoverished island nation of Haiti? The surprising answer is a fledgling sanitation strategy whereby human waste is composted into nutrient-rich fertilizer, all supported by research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Gary Andersen.

Technologies to characterize natural gas emissions tested in field experiments

October 29, 2013 8:08 am | News | Comments

A new collaborative science program is pioneering the development of ultra-sensitive methane-sensing technology. Methane, the principal component of natural gas, is one of many gases whose presence in the atmosphere contributes to global climate change. It is a goal of industry and scientists alike to better constrain the source flux of fugitive methane emissions from man-made activities.

Turning plastic bags into high-tech materials

September 25, 2013 12:08 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Australia have developed a process for turning waste plastic bags into a high-tech nanomaterial. The furnace-driven process uses non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags to produce carbon layers that line pores in nanoporous alumina membranes. The result is carbon nanotube membranes.

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Spinning CDs to clean sewage water

September 24, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

By coating compact disks in photocatalytic compounds and spinning them to clean water, scientists in Taiwan have found a potential new use for old music CDs. The disks, equipped with tiny zinc oxide nanorods, are able to break down more than 95% of the contaminants in methyl orange dye, a benchmark organic compound for testing photocatalytic reactions.

Artificial “lung” removes carbon dioxide from smokestack

September 9, 2013 10:42 am | News | Comments

The amazingly efficient lungs of birds and the swim bladders of fish have become the inspiration for a new filtering system to remove carbon dioxide from electric power station smokestacks before the main greenhouse gas can billow into the atmosphere and contribute to global climate change. A report on the new technology was presented Monday at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

How to get fresh water out of thin air

September 3, 2013 8:19 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In some of this planet’s driest regions, where rainfall is rare or even nonexistent, a few specialized plants and insects have devised ingenious strategies to provide themselves with the water necessary for life: They pull it right out of the air, from fog that drifts in from warm oceans nearby. Now researchers are seeking to mimic that trick on a much larger scale, potentially supplying significant quantities of clean, potable water.

New nanoparticles to make solar cells cheaper to manufacture

August 29, 2013 4:43 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Canada have found that abundant materials in the Earth's crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells. The team has designed nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. These are much more plentiful than scarce cadmium, and safer than lead.

Unique semiconductor-catalyst generates hydrogen fuel from sunlight

August 29, 2013 3:54 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

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.

Ice that burns helps make potable water from oil and gas production

August 29, 2013 9:13 am | News | Comments

In the midst of an intensifying global water crisis, scientists are reporting development of a more economical way to use one form of the “ice that burns” to turn very salty wastewater from fracking and other oil and gas production methods into water for drinking and irrigation. The method removes more than 90% of the salt.

Cleaner Drinking Water

August 28, 2013 11:08 am | Award Winners

The availability of fresh, clean water remains a significant challenge as the world’s population grows. Osmosis is an effective, proven way to accomplish this, but concentrated solutions have presented difficulty. Idaho National Laboratory’s Switchable Polarity Solvents Forward Osmosis (SPS FO) leverages the switching qualities of specialized thermolytic salts to purify water from extremely concentrated solutions.

International collaborations to design crops of the future

August 23, 2013 12:19 pm | News | Comments

Four teams of researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom recently were awarded more than $12 million to begin a program of novel research to revolutionize current farming methods by giving crops the ability to thrive without using costly, polluting artificial fertilizers.

Physicists develop new method of fabrication

August 22, 2013 1:24 pm | News | Comments

In the future, carbon nanomembranes are expected to be able to filter out very fine material or even gases. Right now, basic research is concentrating on methods for the production of these nanomembranes. Using a new process a research team in Germany has produced 12 different carbon nanomembranes from a variety of starting materials.

Old concrete can protect aquatic ecosystems

August 22, 2013 10:27 am | News | Comments

Lakes and streams are often receiving so much phosphorous that it can pose a threat to the local aquatic environment. Now, research in Denmark shows that an easy and inexpensive solution is available to prevent phosphorus from being discharged to aquatic environments: crushed concrete from demolition sites.

Plasma-treated nanofilters help purify world water supply

August 14, 2013 9:09 am | News | Comments

Access to safe drinking water is a step closer to being a reality for those in developing countries, thanks to newly published research. An international team of researchers showed that water purification membranes enhanced by plasma-treated carbon nanotubes are ideal for removing contaminants and brine from water.

Technology could enable all crops to take nitrogen from the air

July 26, 2013 9:20 am | News | Comments

All plants need nitrogen to convert into ammonia, but only a small number of plants can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. The rest are helped by synthetic fertilizers, which have been blamed for nitrogen pollution. A scientist in the U.K., Edward Cocking, has found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonize all major crop plants. The technology is being commercialized.

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