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The Lead

Advancements in battery technology shaping the future of electronic vehicles

November 21, 2014 9:57 am | by Canadian Light Source | News | Comments

Scientists at the Canadian Light Source are on the forefront of battery technology using cheaper materials with higher energy and better recharging rates that make them ideal for electric vehicles (EVs). The switch from conventional internal combustion engines to EVs is well underway. However, limited mileage of current EVs due to the confined energy storage capability of available battery systems is why these vehicles aren't more common.

Discovery sheds light on nuclear reactor fuel behavior during a severe event

November 21, 2014 7:43 am | by Anglea Hardin, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new discovery about the atomic structure of uranium dioxide will help scientists select the...

Center Stage: The High Rollers of S&T Industry Honored at 2014 R&D 100 Awards

November 20, 2014 12:06 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Award Winners

The R&D 100 Awards have a 50+ year history of recognizing excellence in innovation, earning...

Could hydrogen vehicles take over as the “green” car of choice?

November 20, 2014 7:59 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Now that car makers have demonstrated through hybrid vehicle success that consumers want less-...

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Fool’s gold as a solar material?

November 19, 2014 7:47 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

As the installation of photovoltaic solar cells continues to accelerate, scientists are looking for inexpensive materials beyond the traditional silicon that can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Theoretically, iron pyrite could do the job, but when it works at all, the conversion efficiency remains frustratingly low. Now, a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison research team explains why that is.

Graphene/nanotube hybrid benefits flexible solar cells

November 17, 2014 3:37 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have invented a novel cathode that may make cheap, flexible dye-sensitized solar cells practical. The Rice laboratory of materials scientist Jun Lou created the new cathode, one of the two electrodes in batteries, from nanotubes that are seamlessly bonded to graphene and replaces the expensive and brittle platinum-based materials often used in earlier versions.

Huge solar plant lags in early production

November 17, 2014 3:01 pm | by Michael R. Blood - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The largest solar power plant of its type in the world isn't producing as much energy as planned. One of the reasons is as basic as it gets: The sun isn't shining as much as expected. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System opened in February, with operators saying it would produce enough electricity to power a city of 140,000 people.

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Solar-friendly form of silicon shines

November 17, 2014 11:16 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Silicon is the second-most-abundant element in the Earth's crust. When purified, it takes on a diamond structure, which is essential to modern electronic devices—carbon is to biology as silicon is to technology. A team of Carnegie scientists has synthesized an entirely new form of silicon, one that promises even greater future applications.

New method for methanol processing could reduce carbon dioxide emissions

November 17, 2014 8:33 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, and that would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Methanol, which is a product of natural gas, is well-known as a common “feedstock” chemical.

Smartphone app to cut risk of power outages

November 14, 2014 10:45 am | by Carl Blesch, Rutgers Univ. | News | Comments

An easy-to-use smartphone app developed by Rutgers Univ. engineers will help keep the lights on in a heavily wooded New Jersey suburb that suffered widespread power outages during Superstorm Sandy. The smartphone app walks users through documenting hazards, such as branches dangling perilously close to wires or poles cracking and leaning.

2015 R&D 100 Awards entries now open

November 13, 2014 11:27 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced the opening of the 2015 R&D 100 Awards entry process. The R&D 100 Awards have a 50 plus year history of awarding the 100 most technologically significant products of the year. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items, high-energy physics and more.

Versatile process efficiently converts biomass to liquid fuel

November 12, 2014 8:05 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process to convert all biomass into liquid fuel, and the method could make possible mobile processing plants. The researchers at Purdue Univ. filed a patent application on the concept in 2008 and have now demonstrated that it works in laboratory experiments.

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Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes

November 12, 2014 6:58 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods. Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water.

A billion holes can make a battery

November 11, 2014 9:19 am | by Martha Heil, Univ. of Maryland | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Maryland have invented a single tiny structure that includes all the components of a battery that they say could bring about the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage components. The structure is called a nanopore: a tiny hole in a ceramic sheet that holds electrolyte to carry the electrical charge between nanotube electrodes at either end.

Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night

November 10, 2014 11:05 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into chemical energy in the form of sugars and starches (as well as oils and proteins), and it involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen derived from water molecules.

Underperforming? Energy efficiency of HVAC equipment suffers due to poor installation

November 10, 2014 10:45 am | by NIST | News | Comments

The push for more efficient air conditioners and heat pumps aims to trim the 30% share of residential electrical energy use devoted to cooling and heating. But the benefits of improved energy-efficiency ratings can go for naught if the equipment is not installed properly, as verified in a recent study from NIST.

New materials yield record efficiency polymer solar cells

November 10, 2014 10:20 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semiconducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.

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How to make mobile batteries last longer

November 7, 2014 9:42 am | by Univ. of Luxembourg | News | Comments

Electronic devices waste a lot of energy by producing useless heat. Researchers have made a leap forward in understanding how this happens and how this waste could be reduced by controlling energy flows at a molecular level.        

Wind energy reaches greater heights

November 6, 2014 3:14 pm | by Rob Matheson, MIT | News | Comments

Wind turbines across the globe are being made taller to capture more energy from the stronger winds that blow at greater heights. But it’s not easy, or sometimes even economically feasible, to build taller towers, with shipping constraints on tower diameters and the expense involved in construction.

Petrochemical industry technique helps store solar energy

November 6, 2014 2:46 pm | by Dan Stober, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Chemical engineers have designed a catalyst that could help produce vast quantities of pure hydrogen through electrolysis – the process of passing electricity through water to break hydrogen loose from oxygen in H2O.         

Leading the charge for a panel-powered car

November 6, 2014 10:08 am | by Queensland Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

A car powered by its own body panels could soon be driving on our roads after a breakthrough in nanotechnology research by a Queensland Univ. of Technology team.                          

Novel sodium-conducting material could improve rechargeable batteries

November 5, 2014 9:23 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Rechargeable battery manufacturers may get a jolt from research performed at NIST and several other institutions, where a team of scientists has discovered a safe, inexpensive, sodium-conducting material that significantly outperforms all others in its class. The team's discovery is a sodium-based, complex metal hydride, a material with potential as a cheaper alternative to the lithium-based conductors used in many rechargeable batteries.

Combining “Tinkertoy” materials with solar cells for increased photovoltaic efficiency

November 5, 2014 8:42 am | by Mike Janes, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have received a $1.2 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to develop a technique that they believe will significantly improve the efficiencies of photovoltaic materials and help make solar electricity cost-competitive with other sources of energy.

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

November 5, 2014 8:31 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.

Jet-fueled electricity at room temperature

November 5, 2014 7:41 am | by Aditi Risbud, Univ. of Utah Collee of Engineering | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah engineers developed the first room-temperature fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without needing to ignite the fuel. These new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors. A study of the new cells appears online in ACS Catalysis.

Microgrid could standardize small, self-sustaining electric grids

November 4, 2014 2:56 pm | by Katie Elyce Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yan Xu talks about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, she’s discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids—small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.

Mysterious drones seen over French nuclear sites

November 4, 2014 10:09 am | by Associated Press, Jamey Keaten | News | Comments

French security officials are investigating a spate of mysterious and illegal flights by drone aircraft over more than a dozen nuclear power stations in France, raising security concerns in a country that largely lives off atomic energy. In what environmental activists call a worrisome development, authorities have tallied at least 15 overflights of nuclear sites since early October, culminating Friday with five at separate sites.

New way to make batteries safer

November 3, 2014 4:51 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every year, nearly 4,000 children go to emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and many other devices. Ingesting these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract and, in some cases, even death.

Chemists gain edge in next-gen energy

November 3, 2014 1:37 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who want to gain an edge in energy production and storage report they have found it in molybdenum disulfide. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s 2-D form into a nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage.

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