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Autonomous taxis would deliver significant environmental, economic benefits

July 6, 2015 3:30 pm | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Imagine a fleet of driverless taxis roaming your city, ready to pick you up and take you to your destination at a moment’s notice. While this may seem fantastical, it may be only a matter of time before it becomes reality. And according to a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, such a system would both be cost-effective and greatly reduce per-mile emissions of greenhouse gases.

Perennial biofuel crops’ water consumption similar to corn

July 6, 2015 3:08 pm | by Layne Cameron, Michigan State Univ. | News | Comments

Converting large tracts of the Midwest’s marginal farming land to perennial biofuel crops...

World first: Carbon capture and storage safety investigated

July 2, 2015 10:39 am | by National Oceanography Centre | News | Comments

A significant step has been made for potential Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) deployment, with...

Team develops new storage cell for solar energy storage, nighttime conversion

July 2, 2015 8:41 am | by UT Arlington | News | Comments

A University of Texas at Arlington materials science and engineering team has developed a new...

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Technologists John Kelton and Daniel Ray perform inspection of the Falling Particle Receiver during a cloud delay atop the National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia National Laboratories. Courtesy of Randy Montoya

Testing heats up at Sandia’s Solar Tower with high temperature falling particle receiver

July 1, 2015 1:56 pm | by Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are working to lower the cost of solar energy systems and improve efficiencies in a big way, thanks to a system of small particles. This month, engineers lifted Sandia’s continuously recirculating falling particle receiver to the top of the tower at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility, marking the start of first-of-its-kind testing that will continue through 2015.

Smaller is more stable. Smaller Mg nanoparticles display better mechanical performance that is good for structural stability during cycling and also hydrogen storage kinetics. Courtesy of Qian Yu/Zhejiang University

Physical study may give boost to hydrogen cars

July 1, 2015 12:21 pm | by Jason Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

A team of researchers describes the physics of magnesium hydride, one type of material that potentially could be used to store hydrogen fuel in future automobiles and other applications. Using a technique known as in situ transmission electron microscopy, the team tested different sized nanoparticles of magnesium hydride to gauge their mechanical properties and discovered how one might engineer the nanoparticles to make them better.

New method can make cheaper solar energy storage

July 1, 2015 7:46 am | by EPFL | News | Comments

Storing solar energy as hydrogen is a promising way for developing comprehensive renewable energy systems. EPFL scientists have now developed a simple, unconventional method to fabricate high-quality, efficient solar panels for direct solar hydrogen production with low cost.

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Water used for hydraulic fracturing varies widely across United States

July 1, 2015 7:00 am | by American Geophysical Union | News | Comments

The amount of water required to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells varies widely across the country, according to the first national-scale analysis and map of hydraulic fracturing water usage detailed in a new study.

 A new technique pioneered at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals atomic-scale changes during catalytic reactions in real time and under real operating conditions. A team of scientists used a newly developed reaction cha

X-Rays and electrons join forces to map catalytic reactions in real-time

June 30, 2015 11:03 am | by Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new technique reveals atomic-scale changes during catalytic reactions in real time and under real operating conditions. Scientists used a newly developed reaction chamber to combine x-ray absorption spectroscopy and electron microscopy for an unprecedented portrait of a common chemical reaction. The results demonstrate a powerful operando technique that may revolutionize research on catalysts, batteries, fuel cells...

The same plastic as in garbage bags makes an efficient heat exchanger in power plants by creating microchannels. Courtesy of Joshua Pearce

Better heat exchangers using garbage bags

June 29, 2015 10:21 am | by Michigan Technological University | News | Comments

The plastic used to make garbage bags also makes a good base for building low-temperature heat exchangers. Joshua Pearce's team helped design and make the plastic-based heat exchangers to be used in power plants. The key is expanded microchannel structures...

All-plastic solar cell could help power future flexible electronics

June 26, 2015 7:06 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

If you picture a solar panel, it’s most likely dark blue or black, and rigid and flat. Now imagine one that’s semi-transparent, ultra-thin and bendable. Scientists are closing in on making the latter version a reality. They report in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces the development of a see-through, bendable solar cell made entirely out of plastic. The device could help power the coming wave of flexible electronics.

Stretching a thin crystal to get better solar cells

June 26, 2015 6:59 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Nature loves crystals. Salt, snowflakes and quartz are three examples of crystals—materials characterized by the lattice-like arrangement of their atoms and molecules. Industry loves crystals, too. Electronics are based on a special family of crystals known as semiconductors, most famously silicon. To make semiconductors useful, engineers must tweak their crystalline lattice in subtle ways to start and stop the flow of electrons.

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Optimizing shale gas production from well to wire

June 26, 2015 6:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

“Hydraulic fracturing” (or fracking) and “environmentally friendly” often do not appear in the same sentence together. But as the U.S. teeters on the precipice of a shale gas boom, Northwestern professor Fengqi You is exploring ways to make the controversial activity easier on the environment and the wallet.

Unlocking fermentation secrets opens the door to new biofuels

June 24, 2015 4:30 pm | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have, for the first time, uncovered the complex interdependence and orchestration of metabolic reactions, gene regulation and environmental cues of clostridial metabolism, providing new insights for advanced biofuel development.

Home efficiency upgrades fall short

June 23, 2015 4:11 pm | by Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Home efficiency measures such as installing new windows or replacing insulation deliver such a small fraction of their promised energy savings that they may not save any money over the long run, according to the surprising conclusion of a Univ. of Chicago study.

New manufacturing approach slices lithium-ion battery cost in half

June 23, 2015 11:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

An advanced manufacturing approach for lithium-ion batteries, developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at a spinoff company called 24M, promises to significantly slash the cost of the most widely used type of rechargeable batteries while also improving their performance and making them easier to recycle.

Single-catalyst water splitter produces clean-burning hydrogen 24/7

June 23, 2015 10:45 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have invented a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas 24 hrs a day, seven days a week. The device, described in Nature Communications, could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry.

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Toward tiny, solar-powered sensors

June 23, 2015 8:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The latest buzz in the information technology industry regards “the Internet of things”, the idea that vehicles, appliances, civil-engineering structures, manufacturing equipment and even livestock would have their own embedded sensors that report information directly to networked servers, aiding with maintenance and the coordination of tasks.

New formula to speed development of modern materials

June 23, 2015 8:10 am | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Houston have devised a new formula for calculating the maximum efficiency of thermoelectric materials, the first new formula in more than a half-century, designed to speed up the development of new materials suitable for practical use.

Top doctors' prescription for feverish planet: Cut out coal

June 22, 2015 8:04 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Some top international doctors and public health experts have issued an urgent prescription for a feverish planet Earth: Get off coal as soon as possible. Substituting cleaner energy worldwide for coal will reduce air pollution and give Earth a better chance at avoiding dangerous climate change, recommended a global health commission.

Team fuses art, engineering to create stretchable batteries

June 22, 2015 10:10 am | by Joe Kullman, Arizona State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Origami, the centuries-old Japanese paper-folding art, has inspired recent designs for flexible energy-storage technology. But energy-storage device architecture based on origami patterns has so far been able to yield batteries that can change only from simple folded to unfolded positions. They can flex, but not actually stretch.

How owls could help make wind turbines, planes quieter

June 22, 2015 7:56 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

A newly designed material, which mimics the wing structure of owls, could help make wind turbines, computer fans and even planes much quieter. Early wind tunnel tests of the coating have shown a substantial reduction in noise without any noticeable effect on aerodynamics.

Mold unlocks new route to biofuels

June 19, 2015 10:38 am | by Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Scientists at The Univ. of Manchester have made an important discovery that forms the basis for the development of new applications in biofuels and the sustainable manufacturing of chemicals. Based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, researchers have identified the exact mechanism and structure of two key enzymes isolated from yeast molds that together provide a new, cleaner route to the production of hydrocarbons.

X-ray imaging reveals secrets in battery materials

June 19, 2015 8:47 am | by Liezel Labios, Univ. of California, San Diego | Videos | Comments

In a new study, researchers explain why one particular cathode material works well at high voltages, while most other cathodes do not. The insights, published in Science, could help battery developers design rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that operate at higher voltages.

Chemists devise technology that could transform solar energy storage

June 19, 2015 8:19 am | by Melody Pupols, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

The materials in most of today’s residential rooftop solar panels can store energy from the sun for only a few microseconds at a time. A new technology developed by chemists at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles is capable of storing solar energy for up to several weeks, an advance that could change the way scientists think about designing solar cells.

Preventing fires in next-generation lithium batteries

June 17, 2015 1:00 pm | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

In a study that could improve the safety of next-generation batteries, researchers discovered that adding two chemicals to the electrolyte of a lithium metal battery prevents the formation of dendrites—"fingers" of lithium that pierce the barrier between the battery's halves, causing it to short out, overheat and sometimes burst into flame.

Battery uses light to produce power

June 17, 2015 9:10 am | by American Chemical Society | Videos | Comments

To move the world toward sustainability, scientists are continuing to explore and improve ways to tap the vast power of sunlight to make fuels and generate electricity. Now they have come up with a new way to use light—solar or artificial—to drive battery power safely. Their “photo battery,” reported in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, uses light and titanium nitride for the anode.

n this illustration, silicon quantum dots are shown in various states of “blinking.” The “on” crystals emit light (represented by a white dot) as an excited electron sheds excess energy as a photon. The “off” crystals are dark, because their electrons (ye

What the blank makes quantum dots blink?

June 16, 2015 10:05 am | by NERSC | News | Comments

Quantum dots are nanoparticles of semiconductor that can be tuned to glow in a rainbow of colors. Since their discovery in the 1980s, these remarkable nanoparticles have held out tantalizing prospects for all kinds of new technologies, ranging from paint-on lighting materials and solar cells to quantum computer chips, biological markers, and even lasers and communications technologies. But there’s a problem: Quantum dots often blink.

Hematite “re-growth” smoothes rough edges for clean energy harvest

June 16, 2015 8:16 am | by Boston College | News | Comments

Finding an efficient solar water splitting method to mine electron-rich hydrogen for clean power has been thwarted by the poor performance of hematite. But by “re-growing” the mineral's surface, a smoother version of hematite doubled electrical yield, opening a new door to energy-harvesting artificial photosynthesis.

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