Scientists this week described technology that accelerates microalgae’s ability to produce many different types of renewable oils for fuels, chemicals, foods and personal-care products within days using standard industrial fermentation. On highlight was Solazyme, which has achieved more than 80% oil within each individual cell of microalgae at the commercial scale.
Electric cars are still an iffy proposition for most consumers because of the limited range offered by lithium-ion battery. A promising avenue of research is the lithium-sulfur battery, which is significantly more powerful and less expensive than the better-known lithium-ion battery. Although their short lifespan has made them unsuitable before now, this may be about to change if development work in Germany is successful.
A carbon price of between $50 and $100 per ton of carbon dioxide would make coal-fired and gas-fired power less economical than renewable electricity, a University of New South Wales study shows. The study shows that fossil-fueled power stations in Australia’s National Electricity Market could be phased out and replaced economically and reliably with commercially available renewable energy technologies by increasing the carbon price to this “medium” level.
The construction of the photovoltaic power industry since 2000 has required an enormous amount of energy, mostly from fossil fuels. The good news is that the clean electricity from all the installed solar panels has likely just surpassed the energy going into the industry's continued growth, Stanford University researchers find.
An innovative new process that releases the energy in coal without burning—while capturing carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas—has passed a milestone on the route to possible commercial use, scientists are reporting. Their study in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels describes results of a successful 200-hour test on a sub-pilot scale version of the technology using two inexpensive but highly polluting forms of coal.
Solar panel installations in the U.S. grew 76 percent in 2012 as the cost of panels and the surrounding equipment continued to fall, according to an annual report by a solar trade group. The U.S. installed panels capable of producing 3,313 megawatts of peak electricity, up from 1,887 megawatts in 2011, the report said.
Hydraulic fracturing may soon be approved for the state of New York. However, a new study finds that it is technically and economically feasible to convert New York's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by wind, water, and sunlight. The authors say that overall switch would reduce New York's end-use power demand by about 37% and stabilize energy prices.
Two years after the nuclear crisis in Japan, the top U.S. regulator says American nuclear power plants are safer than ever, though not trouble-free. A watchdog group calls that assessment overly rosy and has issued a scathing report saying nearly one in six U.S. nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches last year, due in part to weak oversight.
For many coastal dwellers, seaweed washed up on the shore is nothing but a nuisance. But this raw material has proven itself capable of keeping buildings well insulated. Washed up on shore, it is generally regarded as a waste product and ends up as landfill. Together with industry partners, researchers in Germany have succeeded in turning it into insulation.
A technology that will allow widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles without negatively impacting the electrical grid is the subject of a commercial license agreement between Battelle and AeroVironment, Inc., of Monrovia, Calif. The technology may also ultimately result in lower costs for plug-in electric vehicle owners.
The Fischer-Tropsch process is used for producing fuels from synthesis gas, which in turn is made from natural gas, biomass, or coal. Large reserves of shale or natural gas now changing the world energy market have raised interest in this technology, but prior reactors have been too bulky. Inspired by patents from the 1960s audio cassette recording industry, University of Amsterdam chemists have recently developed a new Fischer-Tropsch catalyst that is significantly cheaper and more scalable.
President Obama in this year's State of the Union address talked about the future of energy and mentioned "self-healing power grids"—a grid that is able to keep itself stable and self-recover even in severe weather. But as the national power-grid network becomes larger and more complex achieving reliability across the network is increasingly difficult. Scientists have now identified conditions and properties that power companies can consider using to keep power generators in the desired synchronized state and help make a self-healing power grid a reality.
According to Michigan State University plant biologist Carolyn Malmstrom, when we start combining the qualities of different types of plants into one, there can be unanticipated results. In the domestication of wild plants for bioenergy, for example, long-lived plants are being selected for fast growth like annuals. In contrast, perennial plants in nature grow slower, but are usually better equipped to fight off invading viruses. When wild-growing perennials do get infected they can serve as reservoirs for viruses.
For years, scientists have studied the potential benefits of a new branch of solar energy technology that relies on incredibly small nanosized antenna arrays that are theoretically capable of harvesting more than 70% of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation and simultaneously converting it into usable electric power. A new fabrication technique developed by University of Connecticut engineering professor Brian Willis could provide the breakthrough for this technology.
The oil and gas industry is trying to ease environmental concerns by developing nontoxic fluids for the drilling process known as fracking, but it's not clear whether the new product will be widely embraced by drilling companies. Houston-based energy giant Halliburton Inc. has developed a product called CleanStim, which uses only food-industry ingredients. Other companies have developed nontoxic fluids as well.
An enhanced battery technology that can potentially reduce the time it takes to charge cell phones, electric vehicles, and other battery-powered devices from hours to minutes is the subject of a commercial license agreement between Battelle and Vorbeck Materials Corp. The agreement will allow Vorbeck to bring lithium batteries incorporating Vor-X graphene technology to market for use in consumer portable electronic and medical devices, tools, and electric vehicles.
After decades of talk, the ethanol industry is building multimillion dollar refineries in several states that will use corn plant residue, wood scraps and even garbage to produce the fuel additive. The breakthrough comes at a key time for the industry, after the drought heightened criticism about the vast amount of corn used to brew up ethanol rather than be transformed into animal feed or other foods.
A curious characteristic of willows is that when they are cultivated for green energy they can yield five times more biofuel if they grow diagonally, compared with those that grow naturally straight up. Scientists were previously unable to explain why some willows produced more biofuel than others, but researchers have now identified a genetic trait that causes this effect and is activated in some trees when they sense they are at an angle, such as where they are blown sideways in windy conditions.
Recent research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds utility customer-funded energy efficiency programs expanding across the United States. Spending on these programs, which are funded by mandatory charges on utility bills, will double to nearly $10 billion per year by 2025. Drivers for this growth include energy efficiency resource standards required of utilities.
The Federal Laboratory Consortium announced this week that the Department of Energy national laboratory in Richland is receiving three 2013 Excellence in Technology Transfer awards in recognition for creating technologies or processes that can store large amounts of renewable energy until it's needed, fight cancer and detect explosives, and then moving the innovations to the marketplace.
According to a recent study, brine water that flows back from gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region after hydraulic fracturing is many times more salty than seawater, with high contents of various elements, including radium and barium. The findings show that these elements, found in high levels in the late stages of hydraulic fracturing, come from the ancient brines rather than from salts dissolved by the water and chemicals used as part of the fracking process.
The Thiel Foundation this week announced three new grants awarded through Breakout Labs, a revolving fund to promote innovation in science and technology. The most recent award takes the program into clean energy, with a bold new proposal from Canadian company AVEtec to harness the power of atmospheric vortexes.
According to new research by the University of Delaware, renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9% of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses. The study’s authors developed a computer model to consider 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage mechanisms, each tested over four years of historical hourly weather data and electricity demands.
In the Colorado mountains, a spike in air pollution has been linked to a boom in oil and gas drilling. About 800 miles away on the plains of north Texas, there's a drilling boom, too, but some air pollution levels have declined. Opponents of drilling point to Colorado and say it's dangerous. Companies point to Texas and say drilling is safe.
Geological and environmental challenges facing developers of renewable energy and shale gas resources will be a dominant at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union this week in San Francisco. Experts on shale gas and hydraulic fracturing will be speaking about enhanced geothermal technology, which takes advantage of fracking techniques to access deep well thermal energy, delivered as steam.