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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.

Doubling down on energy efficiency

January 18, 2013 11:15 am | by Allan Chen, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

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.

PNNL recognized for transferring innovations to the marketplace

December 21, 2012 9:21 am | News | Comments

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.

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Analysis of Marcellus flowback finds high levels of ancient brines

December 19, 2012 9:03 am | News | Comments

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.

AVEtec plans proof-of-concept to extract energy from tornado

December 13, 2012 9:52 pm | News | Comments

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.

Study: Wind, solar, and energy storage could power electric grid

December 11, 2012 9:49 am | by Teresa Messmore, University of Delaware | News | Comments

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.

Energy experts say drilling can be made cleaner

December 11, 2012 8:46 am | by Kevin Begos and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

Geoscientists cite need for basic research to unleash new energy sources

December 3, 2012 12:26 pm | News | Comments

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.

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Solar-powered storage could save crops

December 3, 2012 12:03 pm | by Judy Ashton, University of Cincinnati | News | Comments

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.

DOE, NASA demonstrate simple, robust fission reactor

November 27, 2012 11:18 am | News | Comments

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.

New study shows saltwater algae viable for biofuels

November 26, 2012 5:32 pm | News | Comments

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.

Nano insights could lead to improved nuclear reactors

November 16, 2012 11:41 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

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.

Official backs studying quake risks at nuke plants

November 9, 2012 4:51 pm | by Ray Henry, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

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Researchers develop new design for concentrator solar cell

November 8, 2012 9:02 am | News | Comments

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.

Dealing with power outages more efficiently

November 7, 2012 2:58 pm | News | Comments

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.

Biofuel breakthrough: Quick cook method turns algae into oil

November 5, 2012 9:55 am | News | Comments

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.

Jupiter Fuels licenses Louisiana Tech tech, establishes development office

October 30, 2012 1:45 pm | News | Comments

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.

Report: U.S. shale gas drives up coal exports

October 29, 2012 11:24 am | News | Comments

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.

Building a better battery for renewable energy storage

October 29, 2012 10:49 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC | News | Comments

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.

Reports: Marcellus reserves larger than expected

October 23, 2012 9:42 am | by Kevin Begos, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

New class of power inverter developed

October 18, 2012 12:20 pm | News | Comments

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.

Food vs. fuel: Is there surplus land for bioenergy?

October 18, 2012 8:37 am | News | Comments

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.

Engineers to design affordable carbon dioxide thickener to augment oil extraction

October 16, 2012 1:48 pm | News | Comments

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.

Evolving microbes help turn bio-oil into advanced biofuels

October 15, 2012 1:09 pm | News | Comments

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.

Laser pulses elevate efficiency of black silicon solar cells

October 9, 2012 11:49 am | News | Comments

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.

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