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'Unzipping' poplars' biofuel potential

April 4, 2014 2:26 pm | News | Comments

New research is focusing on enhancing poplar trees so they can break down easier and thus improving their viability as a biofuel. The long-term efforts and teamwork involved to find this solution can be described as a rare, top-down approach to engineering plants for digestibility.

Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce paper

April 4, 2014 9:43 am | by UBC | News | Comments

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.                 

Chemists settle debate about conversion of light

April 3, 2014 1:54 pm | News | Comments

Chemists have settled the debate about a fundamental question that is relevant to the conversion of one color into another and demonstrated how to influence the efficiency of this process by changing the refractive index around the material.  

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Tiny power generator runs on saliva

April 3, 2014 1:02 pm | News | Comments

Saliva-powered micro-sized microbial fuel cells can produce minute amounts of energy sufficient to run on-chip applications, according to an international team of engineers.                      

Tiny crystals to boost solar cells

April 3, 2014 9:26 am | by David Bradley, International Union of Crystallography | News | Comments

A new approach to studying solar panel absorber materials has been developed by researchers in France. The technique could accelerate the development of non-toxic and readily available alternatives to current absorbers in thin film-based solar cells.

How electrodes charge and discharge

April 3, 2014 9:17 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

The electrochemical reactions inside the porous electrodes of batteries and fuel cells have been described by theorists, but never measured directly. Now, a team at MIT has figured out a way to measure the fundamental charge transfer rate — finding some significant surprises.

Americans used more energy in 2013

April 3, 2014 8:47 am | by Anne M. Stark, LLN | News | Comments

Americans used more renewable, fossil and even nuclear energy in 2013, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.                                   

Building better catalysts for splitting water

April 2, 2014 9:25 am | by Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

The dream of a hydrogen economy — a world run on H2gas, free from the pollution and politics of fossil fuels — may depend on developing an energy-efficient strategy for splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. The problem is that water bonds are very stable, requiring hefty energy inputs to break. Scientists are eagerly developing catalysts to lower the energy demands, and thus the cost.

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Shape helps catalyst extract energy from biomass

April 2, 2014 6:06 am | News | Comments

Biomass is a good alternative for fossil fuels, but converting biomass into useful chemicals and fuels is difficult in practice. The metal oxide CeO2 can help the process by activating water, but until recent research in the Netherlands, it was not clear in which form the reactivity of this catalyst was highest.

Hybrid vehicles more fuel efficient in India, China than in U.S.

March 31, 2014 4:14 pm | News | Comments

What makes cities in India and China so frustrating to drive in makes them ideal for saving fuel with hybrid vehicles, according to new research by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Heavy traffic, aggressive driving style and few freeways allow hybrids in these countries to deliver as much as a 50% increase in fuel savings over conventional internal combustion vehicles.

Finding the mix: Solar cell efficiency a delicate balance

March 31, 2014 8:16 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Research from North Carolina State Univ. reveals that solar cell efficiency is based upon a delicate balance between the size and purity of the interior layers, or domains. These findings may lead to better designs and improved performance in organic solar cells.

Study: Perovskite solar cells can double as lasers

March 28, 2014 10:50 am | News | Comments

New research on perovskite-based solar cells pioneered in the U.K. suggests that they can double up as a laser as well as photovoltaic device. By sandwiching a thin layer of the lead halide perovskite between two mirrors, the Univ. of Cambridge team produced an optically driven laser which proves these cells “show very efficient luminescence”, with up to 70% of absorbed light re-emitted.

Last call: Register for the 2014 Laboratory Design Conference

March 28, 2014 7:14 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

The Laboratory Design Conference is only a few days away, with registration ending on March 31st. Your opportunity to learn, network and participate in discussion about hot-button trends in laboratory design is coming to Boston, April 2-4th. The conference brings together recognized experts in the field with high-level users and lab facility owners, offering up-to-the-minute information that's vital in an evolving environment.

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R&D Chat: Sustainability Built In

March 27, 2014 11:34 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Videos | Comments

What research lab doesn’t care about a good return on investment for their spending? The last five years has marked an increase in the level of scrutiny applied to projects to assure maximum ROI. The early design process demands greater economic analysis of lifecycle costs to reduce operating and energy costs and optimize environmental performance.

Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel

March 27, 2014 8:17 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. With improvements in process efficiency, the biofuel could supplement limited supplies of petroleum-based JP-10, and might also facilitate development of a new generation of more powerful engines.

Researchers engineer resistance to ionic liquids in biofuel microbes

March 26, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

Joint BioEnergy Institute scientists have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels. The ionic liquid resistance is based on a pair of genes discovered in a bacterium native to a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico.

New battery technology employs sticky composites

March 26, 2014 9:20 am | by Diane Kukich, Univ. of Delaware | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries power a vast array of modern devices, from cell phones, laptops, and laser pointers to thermometers, hearing aids, and pacemakers. The electrodes in these batteries typically comprise three components: active materials, conductive additives, and binders. Now, a team of researchers at the Univ. of Delaware has discovered a “sticky” conductive material that may eliminate the need for binders.

Scientists track 3-D nanoscale changes in rechargeable battery material during operation

March 26, 2014 8:03 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have made the first 3-D observations of how the structure of a lithium-ion battery anode evolves at the nanoscale in a real battery cell as it discharges and recharges. The details of this research, described in a paper published in Angewandte Chemie, could point to new ways to engineer battery materials to increase the capacity and lifetime of rechargeable batteries.

Scientists discover material that can be solar cell by day, light panel by night

March 25, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

In what was almost a chance discovery, researchers in Singapore have developed a solar cell material which can emit light in addition to converting light to electricity. This solar cell is developed from perovskite, a promising material that could hold the key to creating high-efficiency, inexpensive solar cells. The new cells not only glow when electricity passes through them, they can also be customized to emit different colours.

Materials experts create spintronic thermoelectric power generators

March 21, 2014 2:18 pm | News | Comments

Imagine a computer so efficient that it can recycle its own waste heat to produce electricity. While such an idea may seem far-fetched today, significant progress has already been made to realize these devices. Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have fabricated spintronics-based thin film devices which do just that, converting even minute waste heat into useful electricity.

Lessons offered by emerging carbon trading markets

March 21, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in U.S. federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn't work.

Study: Wind farms can provide a surplus of reliable clean energy to society

March 21, 2014 8:33 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

The demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40% a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled. The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.

Researchers model spent nuclear fuels for potential energy

March 21, 2014 8:11 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have modeled actinide-based alloys, such as spent nuclear fuel, in an effort to predict the impact of evolving fuel chemistry on material performance. This work could have direct implications for the use of spent nuclear fuel as another source of energy.

Algae may be a potential source of biofuels, biochemicals even in cool climate

March 20, 2014 12:22 pm | News | Comments

They need warmth to grow, but algae don’t necessarily need light. Experts in Finland, where warmer weather is rare, say it makes sense to link algae cultivation to industrial operations where residual heat is available to heat algae cultivation ponds or reactors. Recent research there shows that such an approach could be profitably implemented.

New technique makes LEDs brighter, more resilient

March 19, 2014 8:24 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new processing technique that makes light-emitting diodes (LEDs) brighter and more resilient by coating the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) with a layer of phosphorus-derived acid.

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