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Study: Solar and wind energy may stabilize the power grid

September 14, 2012 8:49 am | News | Comments

If increasing numbers of wind turbines and photovoltaic systems feed electrical energy into the energy grid, it becomes denser—and more distributed. Researchers in Germany, using model simulations, have discovered that consumers and decentralized generators can easily self-synchronize. Their results indicate that a failure of an individual supply line in the decentralized grid less likely implies an outage in the network as a whole. But care must be taken when adding new lines.

Physicists patent nuclear waste-burning technology

September 14, 2012 5:50 am | News | Comments

University of Texas at Austin physicists have been awarded a U.S. patent for an invention that could someday be used to turn nuclear waste into fuel, thus removing the most dangerous forms of waste from the fuel cycle. The researchers have patented the concept for a novel fusion-fission hybrid nuclear reactor that would use nuclear fusion and fission together to incinerate nuclear waste.

U.S. research and development most prevalent in small number of regions

September 13, 2012 4:29 am | News | Comments

According to data from a 2008 Business R&D and Innovation Survey by the National Science Foundation, businesses perform the lion's share of their R&D activity in just a small number of geographic areas, particularly the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland area and the New York-Newark-Bridgeport area.

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Computerized house to generate as much energy as it uses

September 13, 2012 4:11 am | News | Comments

NIST unveiled a new laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. Following an initial year-long experiment, the facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills.

Two-faced materials boost hydrogen production

September 12, 2012 9:48 am | News | Comments

Though costly to produce, hydrogen is crucial for the oil-refining industry and the production of essential chemicals such as the ammonia used in fertilizers. The recent invention of a new photocatalyst may help the efficiency of this process. Nanometer-scale “Janus” structures consisting of cheap metal and oxide spheres were recently demonstrated as an excellent catalyst for a hydrogen-production reaction powered only by sunlight.

Gulf bacteria consumed a majority of the Deepwater oil spill

September 11, 2012 10:06 am | News | Comments

According to a new study that measured the rate at which bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico ate the oil and gas discharged by the broken Deepwater Horizon well, at least 200,000 tons of hydrocarbons were consumed by gulf bacteria over a five month period.

Predicting wave power could double marine-based energy

September 10, 2012 10:36 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers has developed a control algorithm that, when used in conjunction with previously developed wave prediction technology, helps wave energy converters calculate the correct amount of force needed to collect the maximum energy possible, allowing the device to respond to each wave individually.

Enough wind to power global energy demand

September 10, 2012 4:03 am | News | Comments

There is enough energy available in winds to meet all of the world's demand. Atmospheric turbines that convert steadier and faster high-altitude winds into energy could generate even more power than ground- and ocean-based units, according to a Carnegie Institution of Science study.

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LEDs winning light race to save energy, the environment

September 5, 2012 10:23 am | News | Comments

Today's light-emitting diode light bulbs have a slight environmental edge over compact fluorescent lamps. And that gap is expected to grow significantly as technology and manufacturing methods improve in the next five years, according to a new report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and U.K.-based N14 Energy Ltd.

Waste silicon gets new life in lithium-ion batteries

September 5, 2012 4:58 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice University and from Belgium have developed a way to make flexible components for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries from discarded silicon. The researchers created forests of nanowires from high-value but hard-to-recycle silicon. Silicon absorbs 10 time more lithium than the carbon commonly used in lithium-ion batteries.

Spinach power gets a major boost

September 4, 2012 9:17 am | News | Comments

Spinach power has just gotten a big boost. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed a way to combine the photosynthetic protein that converts light into electrochemical energy in spinach with silicon, the material used in solar cells, in a fashion that produces substantially more electrical current than has been reported by previous "biohybrid" solar cells.

Simulating the sun for photovoltaic research

September 4, 2012 6:10 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST's Physical Measurement Laboratory have devised a novel source of portable sunlight that may fill an urgent need in renewable energy research—namely, light sources that generate a near-perfect solar spectrum to be used in testing the performance and efficiency of photovoltaic materials.

Showing the way to improved water-splitting catalysts

September 4, 2012 5:05 am | News | Comments

Scientists and engineers are working to find a way to power the planet using solar-powered fuel cells. Such green systems would split water during daylight hours, generating hydrogen that could then be stored and used later to produce water and electricity. But robust catalysts are needed to drive the water-splitting reaction. Chemists at Caltech have determined the dominant mechanism for cobalt catalysts, a cheaper alternative to platinum catalysts.

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Soaking up the sun

August 29, 2012 8:50 am | News | Comments

Solar panels, like those commonly perched atop house roofs or in sun-drenched fields, quietly harvesting the sun's radiant energy, are one of the standard-bearers of the green energy movement. But could they be better—more efficient, durable, and affordable? That's what engineers from Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania are trying to find out, with the aid of a little nanotechnology and a lot of mathematical modeling.

Discovery of plant gene lays groundwork for improved biofuel processing

August 28, 2012 5:43 am | News | Comments

Since 2007, researchers at the BioEnergy Science Center have partnered to figure out how to break down plants so that they easily release the simple sugars that can be processed into biofuels. It's a breakthrough that could make biofuels cost competitive with gasoline. Now, University of Georgia researchers who are part of the team have taken an important step toward that goal by identifying a previously uncharacterized gene that plays a major role in cell wall development of Arabidopsis plants.

Microgrids: So much more than backup energy

August 27, 2012 12:12 pm | News | Comments

Most Americans don't have to think much about energy reliability. We plug in a computer and it powers up; we flip a switch and the lights come on. While very reliable today. the U.S. electricity grid is old and has gone at least five decades without a significant technological upgrade. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is working with industry on one solution to help maintain a secure, reliable flow of energy: microgrids.

Grants send engineers after flexible circuitry, self-assembly, and photosynthesis

August 27, 2012 4:02 am | News | Comments

During the next four years, research teams who have been the recipients of 15 innovation grants totalling $30 million from the National Science Foundation will pursue transformative, fundamental research in three emerging areas: flexible electronic systems that can interface with the body; self-folding materials and structures; and large-scale chemical production from photosynthesis.

Microwave ovens may help produce lower-cost solar energy technology

August 24, 2012 10:31 am | News | Comments

The same type of microwave oven technology that most people use to heat up leftover food has found an important application in the solar energy industry, providing a new way to make thin-film photovoltaic products with less energy. Engineers at Oregon State University have, for the first time, developed a way to use microwave heating in the synthesis of copper zinc tin sulfide, a promising solar cell compound.

Scientists produce hydrogen for fuel cells using inexpensive catalyst

August 23, 2012 7:01 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have produced hydrogen, a renewable energy source, from water using an inexpensive catalyst under industrially relevant conditions—using pH neutral water, surrounded by atmospheric oxygen, and at room temperature.

Engineers examine water-based methods for electricity generation

August 23, 2012 5:40 am | News | Comments

As the world's energy demands increase, Yale University researchers are examining alternative and sustainable power generation techniques. The researchers have published extensively on using engineered osmosis to address the growing demand for energy, and a recent paper in Nature examines three water-based methods for electricity generation and the challenges that must be met before they can be used for widespread application.

Researchers probe invisible vacancies in fuel cell materials

August 22, 2012 11:34 am | News | Comments

Knowing the position of missing oxygen atoms could be the key to cheaper solid oxide fuel cells with longer lifetimes. New microscopy research from Oak Ridge National Laboratory is enabling scientists to map these vacancies at an atomic scale.

Researchers discover new uses for high-tech alloy

August 22, 2012 8:30 am | News | Comments

Materials scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, Etrema Products Inc., and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division have developed new ways to form a high-tech metal alloy which promise new advances in sensing and energy harvesting technologies.

Engineering students build U.K.'s first hydrogen-powered locomotive

August 22, 2012 5:06 am | News | Comments

Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed and built a prototype hydrogen-powered locomotive, the first of its kind to operate in the U.K. The narrow gauge locomotive is a hybrid design, combining a hydrogen fuel cell and lead acid batteries similar to the ones used in cars.

Self-charging power cell converts, stores energy in single unit

August 22, 2012 3:39 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a self-charging power cell that directly converts mechanical energy to chemical energy, storing the power until it is released as electrical current. By eliminating the need to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy for charging a battery, the new hybrid generator-storage cell uses mechanical energy more efficiently than systems using separate generators and batteries.

Teaching a microbe to make fuel

August 21, 2012 3:23 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A humble soil bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha has a natural tendency, whenever it is stressed, to stop growing and put all its energy into making complex carbon compounds. Now scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taught this microbe a new trick: They've tinkered with its genes to persuade it to make fuel—specifically, a kind of alcohol called isobutanol that can be directly substituted for, or blended with, gasoline.

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