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The Lead

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.

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...

Termites evolved complex bioreactors 30 million years ago

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

New algorithms lets owners swap, recharge battery modules in electric cars

September 17, 2014 1:51 pm | News | Comments

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. Engineers in California are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company. Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.

Novel capability enables first test of real turbine engine conditions

September 17, 2014 7:46 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Manufactures of turbine engines for airplanes, automobiles and electric generation plants could expedite the development of more durable, energy-efficient turbine blades thanks to a partnership between Argonne National Laboratory, the German Aerospace Center and the universities of Central Florida and Cleveland State. The ability to operate turbine blades at higher temperatures improves efficiency and reduces energy costs.

First water-based nuclear battery can be used to generate electrical energy

September 16, 2014 6:51 pm | News | Comments

Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s. Now, for the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the Univ. of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight.

Advanced buoys bring vital data to untapped energy resource

September 15, 2014 8:30 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Two massive, 20,000-lb buoys decked out with the latest in meteorological and oceanographic equipment will enable more accurate predictions of the power-producing potential of winds that blow off U.S. shores. The bright yellow buoys are being commissioned by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state's Sequim Bay.

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Study sheds new light on why batteries go bad

September 15, 2014 7:34 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

A comprehensive look at how tiny particles in a lithium-ion battery electrode behave shows that rapid-charging the battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought—and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated.

Engineers describe key mechanism in energy and information storage

September 12, 2014 8:48 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | News | Comments

The ideal energy or information storage system is one that can charge and discharge quickly, has a high capacity and can last forever. Nanomaterials are promising to achieve these criteria, but scientists are just beginning to understand their challenging mechanisms. Now, a team from Stanford Univ. has provided new insight into the storage mechanism of nanomaterials that could facilitate development of improved batteries and memory devices.

Physicists find new way to push electrons around

September 12, 2014 7:49 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

When moving through a conductive material in an electric field, electrons tend to follow the path of least resistance—which runs in the direction of that field. But now physicists have found an unexpectedly different behavior under very specialized conditions—one that might lead to new types of transistors and electronic circuits that could prove highly energy efficient.

Angling chromium to let oxygen through

September 10, 2014 6:03 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Researchers have been trying to increase the efficiency of solid oxide fuel cells by lowering the temperatures at which they run. In a serendipitous finding at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers have created a new form of strontium-chromium oxide that performs as a semiconductor and also allows oxygen to diffuse easily, a requirement for a solid oxide fuel cell.

Nanotechnology to provide cleaner diesel engines

September 9, 2014 8:32 am | by Bertel Henning Jensen, Technical Univ. of Denmark | News | Comments

When it comes to diesel engine catalysts, which are responsible for cleansing exhaust fumes, platinum has unfortunately proved to be the only viable option. This has resulted in material costs alone accounting for half of the price of a diesel catalyst. Researchers in Denmark say they have developed a new way to manufacture catalysts that may result in a 25% reduction in the use of platinum.

SAP Conference for Enterprise Portfolio & Project Management

September 5, 2014 2:26 pm | Events

Join T.A. Cook and SAP, at the annual SAP Conference for Enterprise Portfolio and Project Management (PPM), taking place in Coral Gables on November 11-13, 2014. At this event you will hear the very latest news, innovation, and best practices for enterprise portfolio and project management that will empower businesses to make better informed decisions.

Tesla selects Nevada for battery plant

September 4, 2014 8:55 am | by Justin Pritchard and Scott Sonner, Associated Press | News | Comments

Coming to Nevada's high desert: A massive, $5 billion factory that will pump out high-tech batteries for hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles. That's assuming state leaders deliver on the economic incentives they packaged to entice Tesla Motors to Nevada rather than four other states competing for the factory and the economic jolt it promises to bring.

Scientists shed light on organic photovoltaic characteristics

September 3, 2014 4:05 pm | News | Comments

The most familiar photovoltaic (PV) designs use rigid layers of silicon crystal, but recently inexpensive organic semiconductor materials have also been used successfully. At this time, organic PV devices are hindered by low efficiency, in part because quantifying their electrical properties is a challenge. Researchers have now developed a method that allows the prediction of the current density-voltage curve of a photovoltaic device.

Breakthrough for carbon nanotube solar cells

September 3, 2014 11:47 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Lighter, more flexible and cheaper than conventional solar-cell materials, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have long shown promise for photovoltaics. But research stalled when CNTs proved to be inefficient, converting far less sunlight into power than other methods. Now a research team has created a new type of CNT solar cell that is twice as efficient as its predecessors.  

Researchers observe the phenomenon of "lithium plating" during the charging process

September 3, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

When metallic lithium forms and deposits during the charging process in a lithium-ion battery, it can lead to a reduced battery lifespan and even short circuits. Using neutron beams, scientists have now peered into the inner workings of a functioning battery without destroying it. In the process, they have resolved this so-called lithium plating mystery.

Going to extremes for enzymes

September 2, 2014 8:08 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the age-old nature versus nurture debate, Douglas Clark, a faculty scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Berkeley, is not taking sides. In the search for enzymes that can break lignocellulose down into biofuel sugars under the extreme conditions of a refinery, he has prospected for extremophilic microbes and engineered his own cellulases.

Scientists learn to control reactions with rare-earth catalyst

August 28, 2014 9:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered they can control chemical reactions in a new way by creating different shapes of cerium oxide, a rare-earth-based catalyst. Their finding holds potential for refining fuels, decreasing vehicle emissions, producing commodity chemicals and advancing fuel cells and chemical sensors.

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