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The Lead

Join the best of the best in innovation

October 1, 2014 8:57 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

The 52nd annual R&D 100 Awards event will present a series of panel discussions featuring today’s top technological minds revealing their secrets for innovation. Draw inspiration from these leading experts as they discuss technology-driven strategies for transforming your ideas into excellence.

Platinum meets its match in quantum dots from coal

October 1, 2014 8:31 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene quantum dots created at Rice Univ. grab onto graphene platelets like barnacles attach...

Cheap hydrogen fuel from the sun, without rare metals

September 30, 2014 1:27 pm | by Emmanuel Barraud, EPFL | Videos | Comments

Michael...

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How to make a “perfect” solar absorber

September 29, 2014 8:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material’s spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun—but not much of the rest of the spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is reradiated by the material, and thus lost to the conversion process.

Researcher works to predict electric power blackouts before they happen

September 26, 2014 8:34 am | by Katie Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

The largest power outage in U.S. history, the 2003 Northeast blackout, began with one power line in Ohio going offline and ended with more than 50 million people without power throughout the Northeast and the Canadian province of Ontario. Despite the apparent failure of the electric grid during such cascading events, blackouts aren’t necessarily grid failures.

On the road to artificial photosynthesis

September 26, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide that is driving global climate change could be harnessed into a renewable energy technology that would be a win for both the environment and the economy. That is the lure of artificial photosynthesis in which the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is used to produce clean, green and sustainable fuels. 

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How LIMS is Essential in the Biofuels Industry

September 25, 2014 10:26 am | by Colin Thurston, Director of Product Strategy, Thermo Fisher Scientific | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

As U.S. energy imports dramatically drop it would appear that renewables investment is in jeopardy, including the biofuels market. There’s some evidence to support this; but if declining or stalled investment is predicated on the limited potential of existing technology, much of which still relies on biomass, the biofuels industry may, in fact, be undergoing a natural transition instead of a decline.

GE to give Penn State $10M for gas drilling center

September 25, 2014 10:09 am | by Kevin Begos, Associated Press | News | Comments

Penn State Univ. said Wednesday that General Electric Co. will give the school up to $10 million to create a new center for natural gas industry research. GE said the money will support research projects, equipment, and undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowships at The Center for Collaborative Research on Intelligent Natural Gas Supply Systems. the money will be donated over the next five years and earmarked for different uses.

Building the framework for the future of biofuels

September 25, 2014 9:47 am | by Joe Kullman, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

For more than five years, Amy Landis, an engineering professor at Arizona State Univ.,  has led research that is revealing the potential rewards of developing large-scale biofuels production, as well as the potential drawbacks we would face in the effort. According to Landis, lands damaged by industrial waste or other pollutants could be restored sufficiently to support agriculture for growing bioenergy crops.

New tool predicts economic impacts of natural gas stations

September 25, 2014 8:47 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s Argonne National Laboratory announced a new tool for analyzing the economic impacts of building new compressed natural gas fueling stations. Called JOBS NG, the tool is freely available to the public. Mostly made up of methane, compressed natural gas is an alternative fuel for cars and trucks that can offer greenhouse gas benefits over gasoline.

Report quantifies financial impacts of customer-sited photovoltaics on electric utilities

September 25, 2014 8:39 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new report prepared by analysts from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines the potential impacts of customer-sited solar photovoltaics on electric utility profitability and rates. The report shows that these impacts can vary greatly depending upon the specific circumstances of the utility and may be reduced through a variety of regulatory and ratemaking measures.

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Search for better biofuels microbes leads to the human gut

September 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Their studyis the first to use biochemical approaches to confirm the hypothesis that microbes in the human gut can digest fiber.

Biochar alters water flow to improve sand, clay

September 25, 2014 8:00 am | by David Ruth, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

As more gardeners and farmers add ground charcoal, or biochar, to soil to both boost crop yields and counter global climate change, a new study by researchers at Rice Univ. and Colorado College could help settle the debate about one of biochar’s biggest benefits: the seemingly contradictory ability to make clay soils drain faster and sandy soils drain slower.

Wind energy proposal would light Los Angeles homes

September 24, 2014 10:59 am | by Michael R. Blood and Mead Gruver, Associated Press | News | Comments

Finding an economical way to store renewable energy from wind or the sun has proved challenging. An alliance of four companies say they have found an answer and are proposing an $8 billion power project that would start with turbines on a huge wind farm in Wyoming and end with enough electricity for over 1 million households in Southern California. The key link is an underground energy storage site carved out of a massive salt formation.

Study: Solar energy-driven process quickly reclaims tailings ponds

September 24, 2014 8:52 am | News | Comments

Cleaning up oil sands tailings has just gotten a lot greener thanks to a novel technique developed by Univ. of Alberta civil engineering professors that uses solar energy to accelerate tailings pond reclamation efforts by industry. Instead of using ultraviolet lamps as a light source to treat the water affected by oil sands processes, sunlight alone treats just as efficiently but at a much lower cost.

New formulation leads to improved liquid battery

September 23, 2014 2:07 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

Donald Sadoway and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already started a company to produce electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries, whose layers of molten material automatically separate due to their differing densities. But a newly developed formula substitutes different metals for the molten layers. The new formula allows the battery to work at a much lower temperature.

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Plant-based building materials may boost energy savings

September 23, 2014 2:04 pm | by Leslie Minton, Univ. of North Texas | News | Comments

Over a three-year period, Univ. of North Texas researchers developed and tested structured insulated panel building materials made from kenaf, a plant in the hibiscus family that is similar to bamboo. Kenaf fibers are an attractive prospect because they offer the same strength to weight ratio as glass fibers. The researchers found that the kenaf materials, including composite panels, provide up to 20% energy savings.

Termites evolved complex bioreactors 30 million years ago

September 23, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Achieving complete breakdown of plant biomass for energy conversion in industrialized bioreactors remains a complex challenge, but new research shows that termite fungus farmers solved this problem more than 30 million years ago. The new insight reveals that the great success of termite farmers as plant decomposers is due to division of labor.

Sandia magnetized fusion technique produces significant results

September 23, 2014 9:34 am | News | Comments

Inertial confinement fusion creates nanosecond bursts of neutrons, ideal for creating data to plug into supercomputer codes that test the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Down the road, it could be useful as a source of energy. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Z machine have produced a significant output of fusion neutrons, using a method fully functioning for only little more than a year.

Team improves solar cell efficiency with new polymer

September 19, 2014 4:49 pm | by Emily Conover, Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

A collaboration between scientists in the Univ. of Chicago’s chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular Engineering and Argonne National Laboratory has produced the highest-ever recorded efficiency for solar cells made of two types of polymers and fulllerene. Researchers identified a new polymer that improved the efficiency of solar cells and also determined the method by which the polymer improved the cells’ efficiency.

A nanosized hydrogen generator

September 19, 2014 1:54 pm | by Justin Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have created a small scale “hydrogen generator” that uses light and a 2-D graphene platform to boost production of the hard-to-make element. The research also unveiled a previously unknown property of graphene. The 2-D chain of carbon atoms not only gives and receives electrons, but can also transfer them into another substance.

Nuclear spins control current in plastic LED

September 19, 2014 10:42 am | by Lee J. Siegel, Science News Specialist, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah physicists read the subatomic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of hydrogen isotopes, and used the data to control current that powered light in a cheap, plastic LED—at room temperature and without strong magnetic fields. The study brings physics a step closer to practical machines that work “spintronically” as well as electronically.

Smart-material chinstrap harvests energy from chewing

September 19, 2014 10:10 am | by Institute of Physics | News | Comments

A chinstrap that can harvest energy from jaw movements has been created by a group of researchers in Canada. It’s hoped that the device will be able to generate electricity from eating, chewing and talking, and power a number of small-scale implantable or wearable electronic devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, electronic hearing protectors and communication devices.

Breaking “electrode barrier” creates a better low-cost organic solar cell

September 19, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

For decades, the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells was hampered by the drawbacks of commonly used metal electrodes, including their instability and susceptibility to oxidation. Now for the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a more efficient, easily processable and lightweight solar cell that can use virtually any metal for the electrode, effectively breaking the “electrode barrier.”

Engineer to build “hot” solar cells

September 19, 2014 8:12 am | by Rase McCry, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee has been awarded $2,540,000 to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 750 F. In addition to converting a portion of the sunlight directly into electricity, the solar cells will use the remainder of the light to heat high-temperature fluids that can drive a steam turbine or be stored for later use.

Sandia pioneers software for smart, sustainable institutions

September 18, 2014 8:13 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories’ Institutional Transformation (IX) model helps the federal laboratory reduce its energy consumption and could help other large institutions do the same. The IX model allows planners to experiment with energy conservation measures before making expensive changes. It also models operations-oriented conservation methods.

Team aims to improve plant-based battery with neutrons, simulation

September 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.

Studies find declines in price of rooftop and utility-scale solar

September 18, 2014 7:51 am | by Allen Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The price of solar energy in the U.S. continues to fall substantially, according to the latest editions of two annual reports produced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). A third Berkeley Lab report, written in collaboration with researchers at Yale Univ., the Univ. of Texas at Austin and the DOE, shows that local permitting and other regulatory procedures can significantly impact residential photovoltaic prices.

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