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The Lead

Japanese nuclear plant cleared to restart

May 28, 2015 12:50 pm | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Today, a nuclear plant in southern Japan obtained the final permit needed to restart its reactors, paving the way for it to become the first to go back online under new safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. All of Japan's more than 40 reactors are currently offline for repairs or safety inspections.

Glancing at greenery can boost concentration levels

May 26, 2015 11:20 am | by Univ. of Melbourne | News | Comments

A Univ. of Melbourne study shows that glancing at a grassy green roof for only 40 sec markedly...

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells

May 26, 2015 10:19 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

Polymer solar cells are a hot area of research due to both their strong future potential and the...

Turn that defect upside down

May 21, 2015 11:01 am | by Allison Mills, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Most people see defects as flaws. A few Michigan Technological Univ. researchers, however, see...

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New class of magnets could energize the world

May 21, 2015 10:30 am | by Temple Univ. | News | Comments

A new class of magnets that expand their volume when placed in a magnetic field and generate negligible amounts of wasteful heat during energy harvesting, has been discovered by researchers at Temple Univ. and the Univ. of Maryland. This transformative breakthrough has the potential to not only displace existing technologies but create altogether new applications due to the unusual combination of magnetic properties.

American energy use up slightly

May 21, 2015 8:00 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Americans' energy use continued to grow slowly in 2014, fueled by increases in the use of natural gas, wind and solar, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Each year, the LLNL releases charts that illustrate the nation's consumption and use of energy. Overall, Americans used 0.9 quads BTUs more in 2014 than the previous year, an increase of about 1%.

Tiny grains of lithium dramatically improve performance of fusion plasma

May 20, 2015 11:37 am | by DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered a phenomenon that helps them to improve fusion plasmas, a finding that may quicken the development of fusion energy. They found that when they injected tiny grains of lithium into a plasma undergoing a particular kind of turbulence then, under the right conditions, the temperature and pressure rose dramatically. High heat and pressure are crucial to fusion...

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Natural gas versus diesel

May 20, 2015 8:24 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Some major trucking companies are turning to natural gas to fuel their fleets, and to earn “green” credit among customers. But celebrating lower emissions could be premature. Researchers have found that converting heavy-duty trucks to run on natural gas could lead to negative climate impacts if steps are not taken to improve engine efficiency and reduce methane emissions from the fuel’s supply chain.

Once the turbines are built, their embedded sensors are connected and the data gathered from them is analyzed in real time, which allows operators to monitor performance from data across turbines, farms or even entire industry fleets. The data provides in

GE Launches the Next Evolution of Wind Energy Making Renewables More Efficient, Economic: the Digital Wind Farm

May 19, 2015 11:49 am | by GE | News | Comments

GE has announced the launch of its Digital Wind Farm, a dynamic, connected and adaptable wind energy ecosystem that pairs world-class turbines with the digital infrastructure for the wind industry. The technology boosts a wind farm’s energy production by up to 20 percent and could help generate up to an estimated $50 billion of value for the wind industry.

Electricity generation and distribution infrastructure in the Western United States must be “climate-proofed” to diminish the risk of future power shortages, according to research by two Arizona State University engineers.  Expected increases in extreme h

U.S. West's power grid must be prepared for effects of climate change

May 19, 2015 10:43 am | by Arizona State University | News | Comments

Electricity generation and distribution infrastructure in the Western United States must be “climate-proofed” to diminish the risk of future power shortages, according to research by two Arizona State University engineers. Expected increases in extreme heat and drought events will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity.

Electricity generating nano-wizards: Quantum dots are an ideal nanolab

May 19, 2015 10:20 am | by Springer | News | Comments

Just as alchemists always dreamed of turning common metal into gold, their 19th century physicist counterparts dreamed of efficiently turning heat into electricity, a field called thermoelectrics. Such scientists had long known that, in conducting materials, the flow of energy in the form of heat is accompanied by a flow of electrons.

Efficiency record for black silicon solar cells jumps

May 18, 2015 12:50 pm | by Aalto Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have obtained the record-breaking efficiency of 22.1% on nanostructured silicon solar cells as certified by Fraunhofer ISE CalLab. An almost 4% absolute increase to their previous record is achieved by applying a thin passivating film on the nanostructures by Atomic Layer Deposition, and by integrating all metal contacts on the back side of the cell.

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How microbes acquire electricity in making methane

May 18, 2015 10:57 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have solved a long-standing mystery about methanogens, unique microorganisms that transform electricity and carbon dioxide into methane. In a new study, the Stanford team demonstrates for the first time how methanogens obtain electrons from solid surfaces. The discovery could help scientists design electrodes for microbial "factories" that produce methane gas and other compounds sustainably.

New cost-effective, sustainable chemical catalysts

May 18, 2015 10:26 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. chemists have helped develop a family of new chemical catalysts that are expected to lower the cost and boost the sustainability of the production of chemical compounds used by a number of industries. The new catalysts are based on palladium, a rare and expensive metal. Palladium catalysts are used to form an array of chemical compounds in pharmaceuticals, plastics, agrochemicals and many other industries.

Wearables may get boost from boron-infused graphene

May 18, 2015 7:51 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A microsupercapacitor designed by scientists at Rice Univ. that may find its way into personal and even wearable electronics is getting an upgrade. The laser-induced graphene device benefits greatly when boron becomes part of the mix. The Rice lab of chemist James Tour uses commercial lasers to create thin, flexible supercapacitors by burning patterns into common polymers.

The measured plasma pressure profile and the particle dynamics relating to the loss of axial momentum loss.

Towards high performance electrodeless electric propulsion in space

May 15, 2015 12:07 pm | by Tohoku University | News | Comments

A part of the performance degradation mechanism of the advanced, electrodeless, helicon plasma thruster with a magnetic nozzle, has been revealed. An electric propulsion device is a main engine, and a key piece of technology for space development and exploration. Charged particles are produced by electric discharge and accelerated. Thrust force is equivalent to the momentum exhausted by the device, and spacecraft can thus be propelled.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

May 14, 2015 8:09 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and various industries could play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future. But current materials that can collect carbon dioxide have low capacities or require very high temperatures to work. Scientists are making progress toward a more efficient alternative, described in Chemistry of Materials, that could help make carbon capture less energy-intensive.

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NRC wants more research on earthquake risk at nuke plants

May 13, 2015 10:04 pm | by Michael R. Blood, Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal regulators Wednesday directed nuclear power plants in California and Washington state to conduct additional, in-depth research into earthquake risks by June 2017, part of a broad review of seismic threats following Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster.

New shortcut to solar cells

May 13, 2015 4:38 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have found a way to simplify the manufacture of solar cells by using the top electrode as the catalyst that turns plain silicon into valuable black silicon. Black silicon is silicon with a highly textured surface of nanoscale spikes or pores that are smaller than the wavelength of light. The texture allows the efficient collection of light from any angle, at any time of day.

Artificial photosynthesis: New, stable photocathode with potential

May 13, 2015 9:14 am | by Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin | News | Comments

Many of us are familiar with electrolytic splitting of water from their school days: If you hold two electrodes into an aqueous electrolyte and apply a sufficient voltage, gas bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen are formed. If this voltage is generated by sunlight in a solar cell, then you could store solar energy by generating hydrogen gas. This is because hydrogen is a versatile medium of storing and using "chemical energy".

3-D microbattery suitable for large-scale on-chip integration

May 12, 2015 8:18 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

By combining 3-D holographic lithography and 2-D photolithography, researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a high-performance 3-D microbattery suitable for large-scale on-chip integration with microelectronic devices.

Encouraging minerals to capture troubling radionuclides

May 8, 2015 8:28 am | by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Associated with contamination in certain spots around the world, pentavalent neptunium does not always behave the same as its stand-in when moving through the soil, according to scientists. The less studied pentavalent neptunium and the well-studied hexavalent uranium are incorporated at dramatically different levels in calcite and other carbonate minerals. Assimilation in minerals can limit the radionuclides migration.

Inkjet printing process for kesterite solar cells

May 6, 2015 11:33 am | by Antonia Rotger, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin | News | Comments

The drop-on-demand inkjet printing is a promising approach allowing patterning of materials with negligible materials waste; hence, significant reduction of raw materials cost can be achieved. Furthermore, inkjet printing can be easily adapted to a roll-to-roll process, which is suitable for large scale production.

Sustainable phosphorus recovery from wastewater

May 6, 2015 11:12 am | by Ken Doyle, American Society of Argonomy | News | Comments

A new approach to wastewater treatment may be key in efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Moreover, it can be profitable. Phosphorus is an essential element for human nutrition. It plays multiple roles in the human body, including the development of bones and teeth. Fertilizer with phosphorus, applied to crops or lawns, enables healthy growth. Without it, the basic cells of plants and animals, and life itself, would not exist.

Capturing sunlight for a rainy day

May 6, 2015 8:27 am | by Jes Andersen, Univ. of Copenhagen | News | Comments

The sun is a huge source of energy. In just one hour, Earth is hit by so much sunshine that humankind could cover its energy needs for an entire year, if only we knew how to harvest and save it. But storing sunshine is not trivial. Now a student at the Dept. of Chemistry at the Univ. of Copenhagen has made a breakthrough that may prove pivotal for technologies to capture the energy of the sun and save it for a rainy day.

Producing jet fuel compounds from fungus

May 6, 2015 7:36 am | by Tina Hilding, Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. researchers have found a way to make jet fuel from a common black fungus found in decaying leaves, soil and rotting fruit. The researchers hope the process leads to economically viable production of aviation biofuels in the next five years. The researchers used Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010 to create hydrocarbons, the chief component of petroleum, similar to those in aviation fuels.

A first for field-effect transistors

May 5, 2015 11:14 am | by Bonnie Davis, Office of Communications and External Relations, Wake Forest Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from Wake Forest Univ. and the Univ. of Utah are the first to successfully fabricate halide organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite field-effect transistors and measure their electrical characteristics at room temperature. The team designed the structure of these field-effect transistors to achieve electrostatic gating of these materials and determine directly their electrical properties.

For batteries, one material does it all

May 4, 2015 8:22 am | by Univ. of Maryland | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material, which can both move electricity and store it. Envision an Oreo cookie. Most batteries have at either end a layer of material for the electrodes like the chocolate cookies to help move ions though the creamy frosting (the electrolyte). The team made a single material that incorporates the properties of both the electrodes and electrolyte.

How metal contamination makes gasoline production inefficient

May 1, 2015 8:45 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists have identified key mechanisms of the aging process of catalyst particles that are used to refine crude oil into gasoline. This advance could lead to more efficient gasoline production. Their recent experiments studied so-called fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) particles that are used to break long-chain hydrocarbons in crude oil into smaller, more valuable hydrocarbons like gasoline.

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