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Copper foam turns CO2 into useful chemicals

August 13, 2014 8:21 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A catalyst made from a foamy form of copper has vastly different electrochemical properties from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide, a new study shows. The research, by scientists in Brown Univ.’s Center for the Capture and Conversion of CO2, suggests that copper foams could provide a new way of converting excess CO2 into useful industrial chemicals.

NC State partners with Bio2Electric on new catalyst technology

August 13, 2014 8:11 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

North Carolina State Univ. is part of a project team that is researching and developing new catalyst technology to produce the commercially important chemicals ethylene and propylene from natural gas. The project lead, Bio2Electric, LLC, dba EcoCatalytic Technologies, is collaborating with North Carolina State Univ., among other industry partners, to develop the new catalyst technologies.

Could hemp nanosheets topple graphene for making the ideal supercapacitor?

August 12, 2014 12:34 pm | News | Comments

As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors. A team has figured out how to make electrodes from certain hemp fibers, and the breakthrough came from figuring out how to process them.

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Running on waste heat

August 11, 2014 7:36 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s estimated that more than half of U.S. energy is wasted as heat. Mostly, this waste heat simply escapes into the air. But that’s beginning to change, thanks to thermoelectric innovators such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Gang Chen. Thermoelectric materials convert temperature differences into electric voltage.

Turning methane into usable liquid fuel

August 5, 2014 8:48 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory and the Illinois Institute of Technology were awarded $2 million over the course of two years to fund studies on hybrid fuel cells from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. The research seeks to create a fuel cell that would both produce electricity and convert methane gas to ethane or ethylene that could then be converted to a liquid fuel or valuable chemicals.

“Wetting” a battery’s appetite for renewable energy storage

August 4, 2014 9:22 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Videos | Comments

Sun, wind and other renewable energy sources could make up a larger portion of the electricity America consumes if better batteries could be built to store the intermittent energy for cloudy, windless days. Now a new material could allow more utilities to store large amounts of renewable energy and make the nation's power system more reliable and resilient.

NASA to test making rocket fuel on Mars

August 4, 2014 8:16 am | News | Comments

Taking fuel to Mars for return flights is heavy and expensive. The $1.9 billion Mars 2020 rover that NASA announced on Friday will include an experiment that will turn carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. It could then be used to make rocket fuel and for future astronauts to breathe. The device, named MOXIE, will make about three-quarters of an ounce of oxygen an hour.

Method provides nanoscale details of electrochemical reactions in EV battery materials

August 4, 2014 7:33 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. 

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Researchers close in on pure lithium anode

July 31, 2014 4:15 pm | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

In a recent paper, a team at Stanford Univ. which includes materials science expert Yi Cui and 2011 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year Steven Chu report that they have taken a big step toward accomplishing what battery designers have been trying to do for decades: design a pure lithium anode.

Charging electric cars efficiently…and inductively

July 31, 2014 10:25 am | News | Comments

We already charge our toothbrushes and cellphones using contactless technology. Researchers in Germany have developed a particularly efficient and cost-effective inductive method that could allow electric cars to soon follow suit. The new design places the charging coils close to the car’s undercarriage without actually touching it. The charging station is also robust enough to be driven over.

Panasonic, Tesla to build big U.S. battery plant

July 31, 2014 4:23 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

American electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is teaming up with Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. to build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. expected to create 6,500 jobs. The companies announced the deal Thursday, but they did not say where in the U.S. the so-called "gigafactory," or large-scale plant, will be built.

All-in-one energy system offers greener power for off-grid buildings

July 30, 2014 11:49 am | News | Comments

Developed in the U.K., an innovative “trigeneration” system fuelled entirely by raw plant oils could have great potential for isolated homes and businesses operating outside grid systems. the small-scale combined cooling, heat and power system has been designed to utilize its waste heating by storing it through measures such as batteries and supercapacitors.

NIST corrosion lab tests suggest need for underground gas tank retrofits

July 30, 2014 7:40 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

A hidden hazard lurks beneath many of the roughly 156,000 gas stations across the U.S. The hazard is corrosion in parts of underground gas storage tanks. In recent years, field inspectors in nine states have reported many rapidly corroding gas storage tank components such as sump pumps.

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New tool for characterizing plant sugar transporters

July 29, 2014 8:28 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful new tool that can help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops for clean, green and renewable bioenergy, has been developed by researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The researchers have developed an assay that enables scientists to identify and characterize the function of nucleotide sugar transporters.

New assay tool characterizes plant sugar transporters

July 28, 2014 4:54 pm | News | Comments

A powerful new tool that could help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops bioenergy, has been developed by researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute. Their new, unique assay enabled them to analyze nucleotide sugar transporter activities in Arabidopsis, a promising source of plant biomass, and characterize a family of six nucleotide sugar transporters that has never before been described.

Cagey material acts as alcohol factory

July 28, 2014 2:37 pm | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Some chemical conversions are harder than others. Refining natural gas into an easy-to-transport, easy-to-store liquid alcohol has so far been a logistic and economic challenge. But now, a new material, designed and patented by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is making this process a little easier.

Understanding the source of extra-large capacities in promising Li-ion battery electrodes

July 28, 2014 8:15 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium (Li)-ion batteries power almost all of the portable electronic devices that we use every day, including smartphones, cameras, toys and even electric cars. Researchers across the globe are working to find materials that will lead to safe, cheap, long-lasting and powerful Li-ion batteries.

Study shows how to power California with wind, water and sun

July 25, 2014 6:49 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

New Stanford Univ. research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices. Among other metrics, the plan calculates the number of new devices and jobs created, land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for infrastructure changes.

Study: Forward osmosis desalination not energy efficient

July 24, 2014 7:37 am | by Alissa Mallinson | MIT Dept. of Mechanical Engineering | News | Comments

In a recent study published in the Journal of Membrane Science, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team reported that, contrary to popular support, forward osmosis desalination of seawater is significantly less energy efficient, compared to reverse osmosis. In forward osmosis, water is drawn from the seawater into a concentrated salt solution, known as a draw solution.

Spinach could lead to alternative energy more powerful than Popeye

July 23, 2014 4:07 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.

NIST develops prototype meter test for hydrogen refueling stations

July 22, 2014 2:20 pm | News | Comments

Three automakers plan to begin selling hydrogen-fueled vehicles to consumers in 2015. To support the fair sale of gaseous hydrogen as a vehicle fuel, researchers at NIST have developed a prototype field test standard to test the accuracy of hydrogen fuel dispensers. Once the standard is field tested, it will serve as a model for constructing similar devices for state weights and measures inspectors to use.

Steam from the sun

July 21, 2014 7:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new material structure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure—a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam—is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam.

Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

First ab initio method for characterizing hot carriers

July 18, 2014 8:19 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

One of the major road blocks to the design and development of new, more efficient solar cells may have been cleared. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed the first ab initio method for characterizing the properties of “hot carriers” in semiconductors. Hot carriers are electrical charge carriers with significantly higher energy than charge carriers at thermal equilibrium.

After hybrid success, Toyota gambles on fuel cell

July 17, 2014 8:55 am | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

Long dismissed as too impractical and expensive for everyday cars, fuel cell technology is getting a push into the mainstream by Toyota, the world's top-selling automaker. Buoyed by its success with electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles, Toyota is betting that drivers will embrace hydrogen fuel cells, an even cleaner technology. The company’s fuel cell car will go on sale before April next year.

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