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.
Spoilage of harvests on their way to market is a major contribution to food shortages in India. A university-industry partnership has produced an innovative solar chiller container and distribution plan to change that. The SolerCool container and business venture has been developed as a solar generator that can store energy.
A team of researchers have built a new type of nuclear reactor that is reliable enough to be used on space flights. The prototype, which has been used to generate 24 W of electricity, relies on heat pipe technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1983. The fluid-based cooling system requires no moving parts and the reactor itself is based on a simply closed-loop Stirling engine.
The Algae Biomass Organization, the trade association for the U.S. algae industry, this week hailed a new University of California San Diego study showing saltwater algae is just as capable as freshwater algae in producing biofuels. The findings may mean that algae production will no longer be tied to constraints placed on the use of freshwater. They also suggest potential use of up to 10 million acres of land otherwise unsuitable for agriculture.
In order to build the next generation of nuclear reactors, materials scientists are trying to unlock the secrets of certain materials that are radiation-damage tolerant. Now researchers at the California Institute of Technology have brought new understanding to one of those secrets—how the interfaces between two carefully selected metals can absorb, or heal, radiation damage.
In March, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission instructed power companies to re-evaluate the seismic and flooding hazards that their power plants face. Recent earthquakes in the eastern U.S., coupled with evidence of the results of the 2011 earthquake in Japan, have highlighted the importance of this effort in order to implement new design measures.
Engineers in Israel have created a radically new design for a concentrator solar cell that, when irradiated from the side, generates solar conversion efficiencies which rival, and may eventually surpass, the most efficient photovoltaics. The design, the developers say, can exceed 40% conversion efficiency at intensities of 10,000 suns.
The recent hurricane that struck the Northeast of the U.S. forced utility companies, public officials, and emergency services to work together quickly. But we aren’t alone in suffering widespread outages. Researchers in Germany have created a new planning software product that they believe will enable all participants responding to outages in that country be better prepared for emergency situations.
Mother Nature requires a multimillion-year process to produce crude oil. Is she wasting her time? Researchers in Michigan can "pressure-cook" algae for as little as a minute and transform an unprecedented 65% of the green slime into biocrude. The process closely emulates the natural production of crude oil.
In an effort to continue working closely with faculty and researchers at Louisiana Tech, Jupiter Fuels, which has licensed natural gas-to-liquid fuel conversion technology from the university, announced this week the establishment of a Jupiter Fuels development office located in Louisiana Tech's Humana Enterprise Center.
U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from domestic energy have declined by 8.6% since a peak in 2005, the equivalent of 1.4% per year. However, researchers warn that more than half of the recent emissions reductions in the power sector may be displaced overseas by the trade in coal.
Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources reduce consumption of fossil fuels but also pose challenges to the electrical grid because their power generation fluctuates. A team of researchers at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a mix of materials that shows promise as a cost-effective alternative to standard batteries—able to quickly and efficiently charge and discharge their energy over thousands of charges, with no energy loss after 1,000 charges.
There's been plenty of debate over the Marcellus Shale natural gas field, but new research adds a twist that could impact political and environmental battles. Two independent financial firms say the Marcellus isn't just the biggest natural gas field in the country—it's the cheapest place for energy companies to drill.
With a laboratory breakthrough once thought impossible, an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis assistant professor has invented a new class of power inverter that could put cheaper and more efficient renewable energy products on the market.
Increasing demand for bioenergy feedstock is generating land-use conflicts and food vs. fuel controversies. An team of 11 scientists from seven European countries and the United States have recently published a study that gives scientific background to the debate. It supports a reassessment of the land available for bioenergy feedstock production.
Crude oil extraction could be improved significantly and accessible domestic oil reserves could be expanded with an economical carbon dioxide thickener being developed by University of Pittsburgh engineers, thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The bacteria and microalgae typically used to ferment biofuels don’t react well to bio-oil produced by fast pyrolysis. The result of this thermochemical process is a thick, molasses-like oil that is toxic to the microbes. Researchers at Iowa State University, however, have adopted a hybrid approach that incorporates a biochemical conversion path to improve the microbes’ tolerance to contaminants.
Because conventional solar cells lose all of the energy available from the infrared portion of the solar spectrum, researchers have been investigating photovoltaics that can convert this lost energy. Black silicon is one material which can do this, researchers in Germany have recently managed to double the efficiency of black silicon solar cells by modifying the shape of the laser pulse used to irradiate the silicon.
A center based at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has won a highly competitive $12.25 million grant to develop computer codes to simulate a key component of the plasma that fuels fusion energy. The five-year U.S. Department of Energy award could produce software that helps researchers design and operate facilities to create fusion as a clean and abundant source of energy for generating electricity.
Exactly what goes inside advanced lithium-air batteries as they charge and discharge has always been impossible to observe directly. Now, a new technique developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers promises to change that, allowing study of this electrochemical activity as it happens.
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new technique that allows users to better determine the amount of charge remaining in a battery in real time. Using the researchers' new technique, models are able to estimate remaining charge within 5%.
A one-of-a-kind, high-tech modeling tool designed to simulate different situations on the electric power grid will be on display at the White House. The result of a multi-year funding effort, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers will joining Energy Secretary Steven Chu to demonstrate how GridLAB-D can help power system operators, industry, innovators, and entrepreneurs understand how making a change to one part of the power system impacts other parts on the grid.