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Collaboration aims to harness energy of 2,000 suns

April 23, 2013 8:54 am | News | Comments

On Monday, scientists with IBM Research, Airlight Energy, and ETH Zurich officially launched plans to develop an affordable photovoltaic system capable concentrating solar radiation 2,000 times and converting 80% of the incoming radiation into useful energy. The system is based on a low-cost, large dish-like concentrator and micro-channel cooled high performance photovoltaic chips suitable for mass-production.

IAEA: Japan nuke cleanup may take more than 40 yrs

April 22, 2013 11:59 am | by Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press | News | Comments

A U.N. nuclear watchdog team said Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant and urged its operator to improve plant stability. Damage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is so complex that it is "impossible" to predict how long the cleanup may last.

U.S. officials concerned about Japan's plan to reprocess nuclear fuel

April 22, 2013 11:56 am | News | Comments

Some U.S. government officials and experts have strong concerns about Japan's plan to operate a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori to retract plutonium while most of the nation's reactors remain shut down, a member of the government's Japan Atomic Energy Commission said Monday. Japan possesses a large amount of plutonium but prospects for consuming it remain unclear as most of Japan's nuclear reactors are idled.

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Researchers develop device to mitigate blackouts, prevent equipment damage

April 19, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

A local power failure in Ohio ten years ago caused a series of cascading power failures that resulted in a massive blackout. Such blackouts could be prevented in the future, thanks to a new piece of equipment developed by engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas. The device regulates or limits the amount of excess current that moves through the power grid when a surge occurs.

High temperature alloy may be perfect solder for well electronics

April 17, 2013 9:01 am | by Meg Marquardt, Materials 360 Online | News | Comments

Technology used in downhole applications—such as geothermal or oil-well monitoring—must endure punishing conditions, from very high temperatures to tremendous pressures. Finding a solder material that can perform in these harsh environments is a constant challenge. Researchers have recently repurposed a solder alloy once intended defense applications that has all the right properties for well tasks.

Better monitoring and diagnostics tackle algae biofuel pond crash problem

April 10, 2013 12:28 pm | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is developing a suite of complementary technologies to help the emerging algae industry detect and quickly recover from algal pond crashes, an obstacle to large-scale algae cultivation for future biofuels. The research draws upon Sandia's longstanding expertise in microfluidics technology, its strong bioscience research program and significant internal investments.

GE to acquire Lufkin Industries

April 9, 2013 3:44 am | News | Comments

GE and Lufkin Industries Inc. announced this week a joint agreement whereby GE will acquire Lufkin Industries Inc., a leading provider of artificial lift technologies for the oil and gas industry and a manufacturer of industrial gears, for approximately $3.3 billion. The move accelerates GE’s growth in artificial lift with solutions for a wider variety of well types.

Study: Microalgae produce more oil faster for energy, food, or products

April 8, 2013 4:09 am | News | Comments

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.

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A longer life for lithium-sulfur batteries

April 4, 2013 4:39 pm | News | Comments

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.

Fully renewable electricity could be competitive

April 3, 2013 9:21 am | News | Comments

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.

Global solar photovoltaic industry is likely now a net energy producer

April 3, 2013 8:12 am | News | Comments

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.

Milestone for new carbon capture and clean coal technology

March 20, 2013 9:52 am | News | Comments

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.

U.S. solar installations soared 76% in 2012

March 14, 2013 11:01 am | by JONATHAN FAHEY - AP Energy Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

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Researchers map out an alternative energy future for New York

March 12, 2013 2:39 pm | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment | News | Comments

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.

Nuclear chief: U.S. plants safer after Japan crisis

March 11, 2013 9:10 am | by Matthew Daly, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

Can seaweed be used as a building material?

March 8, 2013 10:22 am | News | Comments

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.

Agreement will lead to grid-friendly electric vehicle charging

March 7, 2013 3:16 pm | News | Comments

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.

New Fischer-Tropsch catalyst invented in Amsterdam

March 5, 2013 9:38 am | News | Comments

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.

Improved synchronicity: Preventive care for the power grid

March 4, 2013 10:17 am | News | Comments

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.

Avoiding virus dangers in “domesticating” wild plants for biofuel use

February 15, 2013 11:36 am | News | Comments

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.

Nanoantenna array could be vast improvement over silicon

February 5, 2013 12:01 pm | by Colin Poitras, University of Connecticut | News | Comments

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.

Energy industry develops nontoxic fracking fluids

February 3, 2013 12:23 pm | by KEVIN BEGOS - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

License will lead to faster-charging batteries

January 31, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

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.

Ethanol industry turns to plant residue, scraps

January 31, 2013 6:13 am | by DAVID PITT - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

Wind in the willows boosts biofuel production

January 21, 2013 9:43 am | News | Comments

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.

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