The nuclear crisis in Japan has laid bare an ever-growing problem for the United States — the enormous amounts of still-hot radioactive waste accumulating at commercial nuclear reactors in more than 30 states. A state-by-state study of numbers obtained by the Associated Press finds that the U.S. has almost 71,862 tons of radioactive waste, now stored at power-plant sites.
Univ. of Minnesota researchers are a key step closer to making renewable petroleum fuels using bacteria, sunlight, and dioxide, a goal funded by a $2.2 million United States Department of Energy grant.
Last week, Pacific Northwest National Lab was the first to detect radioactive isotopes entering the continental United States. Though levels of the detected materials, xenon-133, were extremely low—less than one-millionth the daily dose of background radiation—the technology proved the sensitivity of two instruments originally developed to help enforce nuclear weapon testing bans. One of them won an R&D 100 Award in 1998.
Start-up technology firm Encryptor of Texas has licensed a technology that will help soften the blow for utilities during times of peak demand on the grid by temporarily shifting when smart appliances use power. Invented by Pacific Northwest National Lab in 2008 with funding from Battelle and the Dept. of Energy, the device is intended to be marketed within the next two to three years.
Purdue Univ. researchers have collaborated with scientists at General Atomics to create safe and efficient pellets to power hydrogen fuel cells that can run an array of portable electronic devices.
Researchers have revealed a new single-stage method for recharging the hydrogen storage compound ammonia borane. The breakthrough makes hydrogen a more attractive fuel for vehicles and other transportation modes.
Long term, it is clear radiation can induce cancer. But researchers can't just count cancer cases after a disaster and declare radiation responsible. Just how much or how long an exposure is risky is not clear, which is why, 25 years after the Chernobyl accident, there is still controversy over its effects.
Though considered a promising large-scale energy storage device, the vanadium redox battery's use has been limited by its inability to work well in a wide range of temperatures. But new research by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory indicates that modifying the battery's electrolyte solution improves its performance.
Those who have been evacuated from the site are considered safe, as are the 39 million people who live in the greater Tokyo region. But panic continues, as supermarkets in nearby China have run out of staples such as salt, and Russians have rushed to buy seaweed and red wine, a measure Soviet authorities recommended after the Chernobyl explosion.
Researchers at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a way to produce normal butanol from bacteria at rates significantly higher than those achieved using current production methods.
New York Univ. physicists have invented a new method to create extended and knotted optical traps in three dimensions. The method for producing these optical knots offers the potential to enable fusion energy as a practical power source.
Getting an energy audit of a home or a commercial building can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. But new techniques and technology developed by a team of MIT researchers have streamlined the process, allowing for scans of large groups of buildings and even entire cities.
Fundamental advances in rechargeable battery technology disclosed by Wildcat Discovery Technologies could result in battery performance improvements of 25% to 65% or more in electric cars, portable electronics, military, medical devices, and other demanding applications.
Converting large swaths of farmland to perennial grasses for biofuels could lower regional surface temperatures, according to a recent Stanford study.
Technophiles who have been dreaming of mobile devices that run longer on lighter, slimmer batteries may soon find their wish has been granted. Univ. of Illinois engineers have developed a form of ultra-low-power digital memory that is faster and uses 100 times less energy than similar available memory.
The Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has built a test lab, the SmartEnergyLab, to investigate how to network various electrical household appliances and operate them remotely. With a co-generation plant and photovoltaic simulator, researchers can analyze almost energy management system for controlling power and heat.
The Gulf Nuclear Energy Infrastructure Institute has recently opened in Abu Dhabi with mission of preparing Emirati nuclear professionals for the responsibility of handling potentially threatening materials. The institute, which is backed by experts from Sandia National Laboratories, will not train plant operators; instead it will train executives and policymakers in broad concepts.
Future batteries used by the energy grid to store power from the wind and sun must be reliable, durable, and safe, but affordability is really the key to widespread deployment, according to a new report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The report is one of the most comprehensive reviews of electrochemical energy storage to date.
Sandia National Laboratories researchers are moving into the demonstration phase of a gas turbine system for power generation, with the promise that thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency will be increased to as much as 50%.
Guojun Liu has discovered a way to use nanotechnology to reduce friction in automobile engines and machines. The team prepared miniscule polymer particles that were dispersed in automobile engine base oils. When tested under metal surface contact conditions that simulated conditions found in automobile engines, these tiny particles were discovered to have an unprecedented friction reduction capability.
Researchers at Arizona State University have shown that a conversion from annual to perennial bioenergy crops has broader implications than just the impacts on carbon. Regional climate can be influenced by large-scale modifications to the landscape, changing ground temperatures by a significant amount.
The new tagline could be: this microbe's for you. Cornell scientists took regular samples of bioreactor sludge from nine Budweiser brewing facilities over the course of a year and, using genome sequencing software, they analyzed gene sequences of the microbes in the sludge. Budweiser already harnesses these microbes for methane; researchers hope to re-purpose them for other fuels.
Conversion of biomass to fuel requires several steps: chemical pretreatment to break up the biomass, such as with dilute sulfuric acid; detoxification to remove the toxic chemicals; then microbial fermentation to convert the soluble sugars to fuels. Virginia Tech researchers have discovered an enzyme mixture that works in the presence of the toxin-infused liquid biomass, meaning that the detoxification step is unnecessary.
The estimated half-million garbage pickers in Brazil, known as catadores, turn trash into gold: they sort out recyclable items in the country’s dumps, then sell their findings to recycling companies. But the process of getting the recyclables to their final destination involves fleets of fuel-consuming vehicles. Now—with help from some MIT students—the catadores have a less-expensive and environmentally friendly fuel option: recycled cooking oil.
The sun provides more than enough energy for all our needs, if only we could harness it cheaply and efficiently. Solar energy could provide a clean alternative to fossil fuels, but the high cost of solar cells has been a major barrier to their widespread use. Stanford researchers have found that adding a single layer of organic molecules to a solar cell can increase its efficiency three-fold and could lead to cheaper, more efficient solar panels.