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The Lead

Possible avenue to better electrolyte for lithium ion batteries

December 22, 2014 10:04 am | News | Comments

The lithium-ion batteries that mobilize our electronic devices need to be improved if they are to power electric vehicles or store electrical energy for the grid. Berkeley Lab researchers looking for a better understanding of liquid electrolyte may have found a pathway forward.

Research aims to improve rechargeable batteries by focusing on graphene oxide paper

December 19, 2014 8:19 am | News | Comments

A Kansas State University engineering team has...

Rice study fuels hope for natural gas cars

December 19, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Cars that run on natural gas are touted as efficient and environmentally friendly, but...

Computational clues into the structure of a promising energy conversion catalyst

December 19, 2014 8:08 am | News | Comments

Hydrogen fuel is a promising source of clean energy that can be produced by splitting water into...

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Researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity

December 19, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Four pulses of laser light on nanoparticle photocells in a spectroscopy experiment has opened a window on how captured sunlight can be converted into electricity. The work, which potentially could inspire devices with improved efficiency in solar energy conversion, was performed on photocells that used lead-sulfide quantum dots as photoactive semiconductor material. 

Website highlights renewable energy resources

December 18, 2014 3:11 pm | News | Comments

A team from the University of Arizona and eight Southwestern electric utility companies has built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the region’s electricity grid.                         

Electron spin could be key to high-temperature superconductivity

December 18, 2014 3:00 pm | News | Comments

EPFL scientists take a significant step in our understanding of superconductivity by studying the strange quantum events in a unique superconducting material.                 

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New conversion process turns biomass “waste” into lucrative chemical products

December 17, 2014 2:58 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | Videos | Comments

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel. A team of researchers from Purdue Univ.'s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities.

A Zero-Net-Energy Teaching Laboratory

December 16, 2014 2:01 pm | by Jacob Knowles, LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design, BR+A Consulting Engineers and James Moses, AIA, LEED AP, Director, Sasaki Associates | Articles | Comments

The 50,000-sf New Technology and Learning Center for Bristol Community College, Fall River, Mass., brings together disparate programs—chemistry, biology, medical and dental education—holding energy-dense uses, including 18 fume hoods, high plug loads and specific ventilation and lighting requirements.

Steps Toward Sustainable High-Containment Laboratories

December 16, 2014 12:24 pm | by Jeff Serle, SVP and GM Germfree Laboratories Inc., Ormond Beach, Fla. | Articles | Comments

With the recent news about Ebola, MERS, extremely drug-resistant TB and other emerging and re-emerging diseases, the world-wide need for high-containment laboratories is at an all-time high. These laboratories are highly complex buildings that serve as a barrier between the dangerous pathogens handled in the laboratory and the surrounding environment.

Carbon-trapping “sponges” can cut greenhouse gases

December 16, 2014 8:56 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell Univ. materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology.

All-electric cars may be worse for environment

December 16, 2014 8:02 am | by Associated Press, Seth Borenstein | News | Comments

People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming. Ethanol isn't so green, either. The study examines environmental costs for cars' entire lifecycle, including where power comes from and the environmental effects of building batteries.

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The Next Big Things

December 15, 2014 3:38 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

The Internet is a massive place, linking billions of devices which share data that should exceed the zettabyte mark by 2016. Even as data transfer grows, the number of devices connected to the Internet will soon experience a geometric rise as well.

Local market conditions, policies strongly influence solar PV pricing

December 15, 2014 2:03 pm | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Differences in local market conditions and policies, and other factors, particularly the size of the system, can lead to wide disparities in what consumers across the U.S. pay to install solar energy systems on their homes or small businesses, according to a recent study published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This translates into thousands of dollars difference in the price of comparable solar energy systems around the U.S.

Neutron CT helps solve battery fire puzzle

December 12, 2014 10:43 am | by Daniel Hussey, NIST | News | Comments

Earlier this month, the NTSB released its Aircraft Incident Report on a fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787, concluding that the fire was probably caused by an internal short circuit within a cell of the lithium-ion battery.       

Seed grants awarded for innovative energy research

December 12, 2014 10:37 am | by Mark Shwartz and Mark Golden, Stanford University | News | Comments

Stanford University's Precourt Institute for Energy, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy have awarded eight seed grants totaling about $1.5 million for promising new research in clean technology and energy efficiency.

New form of ice could explore avenues for energy production and storage

December 11, 2014 8:01 am | News | Comments

The discovery of a new form of ice could lead to an improved understanding of our planet’s geology, potentially helping to unlock new solutions in the production, transportation and storage of energy. Ice XVI, the least dense of all known forms of ice, has a highly symmetric cage-like structure that can trap gaseous molecules to form compounds known as clathrates or gas hydrates.

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‘Smart windows’ have potential to keep heat out, save energy

December 10, 2014 2:07 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Scientists are developing a new kind of “smart window” that can block out heat when the outside temperatures rise. The advance could one day help consumers better conserve energy on hot days and reduce electric bills.       

Moving toward a cheaper, better catalyst for hydrogen production

December 9, 2014 5:23 pm | News | Comments

Hydrogen could be an important source of clean energy, and the cleanest way to produce hydrogen gas is to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. But the catalyst currently used to facilitate this water-splitting reaction is platinum. And that’s a problem.

Powering space craft of the future

December 9, 2014 12:31 pm | by Lancaster University | News | Comments

Engineers at Lancaster University are working on powering future giant leaps for mankind. They are major partners of a consortium working on a new project to maximize "energy harvesting" on a space craft of the future.         

Storing hydrogen underground could boost transportation, energy security

December 9, 2014 10:55 am | by Sandia Labs | News | Comments

Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent Sandia National Laboratories study.

Revving Up Energy Solutions Innovation

December 8, 2014 5:02 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

During the 2014 R&D 100 Awards event, R&D Magazine expanded the banquet to hold four technology panels during the day. The last panel of the day focused on energy/environmental solutions and the innovation behind four R&D 100-winning technologies and the complexity of bringing such technologies to the market.

Is natural gas a “bridge” to a hotter future?

December 8, 2014 3:47 pm | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Natural gas power plants produce substantial amounts of gases that lead to global warming. Replacing old coal-fired power plants with new natural gas plants could cause climate damage to increase over the next decades, unless their methane leakage rates are very low and the new power plants are very efficient.

Researchers set world record in solar energy efficiency

December 8, 2014 8:27 am | by Univ. of New South Wales | News | Comments

Univ. of New South Wales' solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. The world-beating efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at their outdoor test facility in the U.S.

Technique offers spray-on solar power

December 8, 2014 8:18 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | Videos | Comments

Pretty soon, powering your tablet could be as simple as wrapping it in cling wrap. A Univ. of Toronto team has invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture.

Researchers to use algae to clean up mine water

December 5, 2014 10:04 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A groundbreaking research project by the GW4 Alliance aims to clean up water from a Cornish tin mine, using algae to harvest the precious heavy metals and produce biofuel at the same time. GW4 brings together the South West and Wales’ four leading, research-intensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

Small engine packs a punch

December 5, 2014 8:15 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Noise, excessive vibration and relative inefficiency are drawbacks of the piston-based internal combustion engines (ICE) that power today’s lawn and garden equipment, such as leaf blowers and lawn trimmers. But now Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup LiquidPiston has developed a rotary ICE that it says is significantly smaller, lighter and quieter, as well as 20% more fuel-efficient than the ICEs used in small-engine devices.

NIR Drills Into the Energy Industry

December 4, 2014 2:16 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Hydrocarbon exploration by definition is the search by geologists or geophysicists for hydrocarbon deposits beneath the Earth’s surface, such as oil (petroleum) and natural gas. In such exploration, the oil and gas industry drills holes into the Earth’s surface to extract the petroleum or natural gas. However, such exploration is expensive, not to mention a high-risk operation.

Research could improve nuclear power plant safety

December 4, 2014 11:08 am | by Univ. of Leeds | News | Comments

Taking inspiration from nature, researchers have created a versatile model to predict how stalagmite-like structures form in nuclear processing plants, as well as how lime scale builds up in kettles. The main aim of the research, which is published in Computers & Chemical Engineering, is to reduce the number of potentially harmful manual inspections of nuclear waste containers.

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