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The Lead

Analysis shows ion slowdown in fuel cell material

March 2, 2015 11:01 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Dislocations in oxides such as cerium dioxide, a solid electrolyte for fuel cells, turn out to have a property that is the opposite of what researchers had expected, according to a new analysis. Researchers had thought that a certain kind of strain would speed the transport of oxygen ions through the material, potentially leading to the much faster diffusion that is necessary in high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells.

How to best harness solar power

March 2, 2015 10:48 am | by Dawn Fuller, Univ. of Cincinnati | News | Comments

A research partnership is reporting advances on how to make solar cells stronger, lighter, more...

Supersonic electrons could produce future solar fuel

March 2, 2015 10:38 am | by Lund Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from institutions including Lund Univ. have taken a step closer to producing solar...

Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells

March 2, 2015 7:54 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene nanoribbons formed into a 3-D aerogel and enhanced with boron and nitrogen are...

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Electrochemical “fingers” unlock battery’s inner potential

February 27, 2015 8:18 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries unleash electricity as electrochemical reactions spread through active materials. Manipulating this complex process and driving the reactions into the energy-rich heart of each part of these active materials is crucial to optimizing the power output and ultimate energy capacity of these batteries. Now, scientists have mapped these atomic-scale reaction pathways and linked them to the battery’s rate of discharge.

“Ecosystem services” help assess ocean energy development

February 27, 2015 7:47 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

With many projects under development in coastal regions such as New England, tidal power seems poised to join other U.S. commercial power sources. A new study finds that little is known of the impacts that tidal power projects may have on coastal environments and the people who depend on them, but that the perspective of “ecosystem services” could provide a promising framework for evaluating impacts.

Economic models provide insights into global sustainability challenges

February 27, 2015 7:40 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Using models that blend global economics, geography, ecology and environmental sciences is essential to understanding how changes in trade and natural systems in one part of the world affect those in another, a review concludes. An interdisciplinary team of experts determined how systems integration could shed insights on how activities in one part of the world can have significant impacts on distant regions.

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Using “fuzzy logic” to optimize hybrid solar/battery systems

February 26, 2015 11:11 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

How did fuzzy logic help a group of researchers in Tunisia and Algeria create an ideal photovoltaic system that obeys the supply-and-demand principle and its delicate balance? In the Journal of Renewable & Sustainable Energy, the group describes a new sizing system of a solar array and a battery in a standalone photovoltaic system that is based on fuzzy logic.

New technology could make treatment of oil and gas wastewater simpler, cheaper

February 26, 2015 9:05 am | by Univ. of Colorado at Boulder | News | Comments

Oil and gas operations in the U.S. produce about 21 billion barrels of wastewater per year. The saltiness of the water and the organic contaminants it contains have traditionally made treatment difficult and expensive. Engineers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder have invented a simpler process that can simultaneously remove both salts and organic contaminants from the wastewater, all while producing additional energy.

ORNL, Whirlpool to develop new energy-efficient refrigerator

February 26, 2015 8:20 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Whirlpool Corp. are collaborating to design a refrigerator that could cut energy use by up to 40% compared with current models. The goal of the CRADA is to make a next-generation household refrigerator more energy efficient by using WISEMOTION, an innovative linear compressor manufactured by Embraco, and other novel technologies and materials.

Electric car driving range, emissions depend on where you live

February 25, 2015 10:35 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Many car buyers weighing whether they should go all electric to help the planet have at least one new factor to consider before making the switch: geography. Based on a study of a commercially available electric car, scientists report in Environmental Science & Technology that emissions and driving range can vary greatly depending on regional energy sources and climate.

New flow battery to keep big cities lit, green and safe

February 25, 2015 10:27 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Videos | Comments

Ensuring the power grid keeps the lights on in large cities could be easier with a new battery design that packs far more energy than any other battery of its kind and size. The new zinc-polyiodide redox flow battery, described in Nature Communications, uses an electrolyte that has more than two times the energy density of the next-best flow battery used to store renewable energy and support the power grid.

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Seven reasons to attend the Lab Design Conference

February 25, 2015 9:38 am | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | News | Comments

The 2015 Laboratory Design Conference is open for registration. Your opportunity to learn, network and participate in discussions about current and future trends in lab design is coming to Atlanta, April 27-29th. The countdown to the conference has begun, and here’s a countdown of reasons why you should be there.

Enabling solar cells to use more sunlight

February 25, 2015 9:21 am | by Britta Schlüter, Univ. of Luxembourg | News | Comments

Scientists of the Univ. of Luxembourg and of the Japanese electronics company TDK report progress in photovoltaic research: They have improved a component that will enable solar cells to use more energy of the sun and thus create a higher current. The improvement concerns a conductive oxide film which now has more transparency in the infrared region.

Boosting carbon’s stability for better lithium-air batteries

February 25, 2015 9:15 am | by Ed Hayward, Boston College | News | Comments

To power a car so it can travel hundreds of miles at a time, lithium-ion batteries of the future are going to have to hold more energy without growing too big in size. That's one of the dilemmas confronting efforts to power cars through rechargeable battery technologies. In order to hold enough energy to enable a car trip of 300 to 500 miles before recharging, current lithium-ion batteries become too big or too expensive.

Pretreatment could cut biofuel costs by 30% or more

February 24, 2015 2:43 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30% or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

Electrolyte rids batteries of short-circuiting fibers

February 24, 2015 2:31 pm | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Dendrites create fire hazards and can limit the ability of batteries to power our smart phones and store renewable energy for a rainy day. Now a new electrolyte for lithium batteries that's described in Nature Communications eliminates dendrites while also enabling batteries to be highly efficient and carry a large amount of electric current.

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Renewable energy obtained from wastewater

February 24, 2015 10:41 am | by Univ. Autonoma de Barcelona | News | Comments

Currently, there are treatments in which wastewater can flow out to the river or sea without causing any environmental problems. These technologies however entail high energy costs, mainly in aeration and pumping, and an elevated economic cost in treating the sludge left over from the treatment process.

Asphaltene analysis takes a giant step

February 24, 2015 7:46 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have developed an easy and accurate technique to detect and quantify the amount of asphaltene precipitated from crude oils, which bedevils the oil industry by clogging wells and flow lines. Asphaltene is a complex of hydrocarbon molecules found in crude. As the name suggests, it has uses as the source of asphalt for road construction and can also be made into waterproofing and roofing materials and other products.

Researchers identify keys to improved polymer solar cells

February 23, 2015 8:38 am | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Paving the way for lighter and more flexible solar devices, Univ. of California, Los Angeles researchers have identified the key principles for developing high-efficiency polymer solar cells. Today’s commercially produced solar panels use silicon cells to efficiently convert sunlight to energy. But silicon panels are too heavy to be used for energy-producing coatings for buildings and cars, or flexible and portable power supplies.

New catalyst to create chemical building blocks from biomass

February 23, 2015 7:36 am | by Univ. of Tokyo | News | Comments

Univ. of Tokyo researchers have developed a novel selective catalyst that allows the creation of several basic chemicals from biomass instead of petroleum. This discovery may lead to the use of plant biomass as a basic feedstock for the chemical industry. The new catalyst enables selective cleaving (hydrogenolysis) of carbon-oxygen (C-O) single bonds in phenols and aryl methyl ethers, two of the main components of lignin.

A123: Apple Poached Engineers

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Battery maker A123 Systems is suing Apple, claiming it aggressively poached some key staff members in violation of their nondisclosure and non-compete agreements when they left A123.  

Air Filter Could Help Beijing Breathe Easily

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A professor and his students have turned a material commonly used in surgical gloves into a low-cost, highly efficient air filter. It could be used to improve facemasks and window screens, and maybe even scrub the exhaust from power plants.  

Cheap solar cells made from shrimp shells

February 19, 2015 8:48 am | by Queen Mary, Univ. of London | News | Comments

Researchers have successfully created electricity-generating solar-cells with chemicals found the shells of shrimps and other crustaceans for the first time.

Study recommends better EPA labels on cost of electric cars

February 18, 2015 10:48 am | by George Diepenbrock, Univ. of Kansas | News | Comments

Redesigned Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy labels on cars for sale are likely ineffective in pointing out total savings of hybrid and electric plug-in cars over gasoline vehicles, according to new research involving two Univ. of Kansas professors. The researchers found that consumers for small to mid-sized cars would be more likely to choose a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle if they know the total cost of ownership.

Paper-like material could boost electric vehicle batteries

February 18, 2015 8:58 am | by Sean Nealon, University of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. It has the potential to boost by several times the specific energy, or amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery. This paper-like material is composed of sponge-like silicon nanofibers more than 100 times thinner than human hair.

U.S. natural gas market buffered against local policy intervention

February 17, 2015 7:02 pm | by David Ruth, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The depth and efficiency of the U.S. natural gas market would buffer it against potential local policy interventions aimed at limiting access to shale gas resources, according to a new paper by energy economists at Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Fiber-optic monitoring tools could help industry unlock geothermal energy

February 17, 2015 12:43 pm | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientists and engineers are working with industry partners and the U.S. Dept. of Energy to develop a highly detailed monitoring system for geothermal wells. Man-made geothermal systems that emulate natural ones could, by some conservative estimates, produce a total of 100 gigawatts of cost-competitive electricity over the next 50 years.

THERMal analysis aids in energy efficiency

February 17, 2015 10:08 am | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

It’s a well-known fact that labs consume four times more energy per square foot than a typical office building. And while ventilation and plug loads account for much of this energy use, proper design and detailing of building envelopes can have a significant impact on the energy demands of lab buildings.

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