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Battery startup promises safe lithium batteries

February 10, 2015 9:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory battery scientist Nitash Balsara has worked for many years trying to find a way to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries. Now he believes he has found the answer in a most unlikely material: a class of compounds that has mainly been used for industrial lubrication.

A ray of sunshine for bioenergy

February 10, 2015 8:55 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Even at historically low natural gas prices, bioenergy may not be out of the running: It just may need a little help from the sun. A new study from researchers at the Univ. of Minnesota examining the financial viability of solar-heated biomass gasification technologies that produce a natural gas substitute product concludes that combining these renewable resources can make economic sense.

Electricity from biomass with carbon capture could make western U.S. carbon negative

February 9, 2015 12:51 pm | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

Generating electricity from biomass, such as urban waste and sustainably sourced forest and crop residues, is one strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because it is carbon-neutral: It produces as much carbon as the plants suck out of the atmosphere.

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Why “baking powder” increases efficiency of plastic solar cells

February 6, 2015 12:36 pm | by Barry van der Meer, Eindhoven Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

The efficiency of plastic solar cells can be doubled or tripled if an extra solvent is added during the production process, comparable with the role of baking powder in dough mixture. Exactly how this works has been unclear for the last 10 years. But now researchers at TU/e have come up with the answer in a publication in Nature Communications. This new understanding will now enable focused development of plastic solar cells.

A closer look at flawed studies behind policies used to promote “low-carbon” biofuels

February 6, 2015 8:56 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

Nearly all studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels are flawed and need to be redone, according to a Univ. of Michigan researcher. Once the erroneous methodology is corrected, the results will likely show that policies used to promote biofuels actually make matters worse when it comes to limiting net emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas.

High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015 8:23 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Ultra-high-efficiency solar cells similar to those used in space may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar concentration technology. The falling cost of typical silicon solar cells is making them a smaller and smaller fraction of the overall cost of solar electricity, which also includes "soft" costs like permitting, wiring, installation and maintenance that have remained fixed over time.

Chances of saving with solar energy greater for Indiana farms than homes

February 6, 2015 8:14 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

The probability of saving money by using solar energy rather than standard grid electricity is 92% for Indiana farm businesses and about 50% for homes, Purdue Univ. energy economists find. While current energy policies play key roles in providing incentives for the use of solar energy in Indiana, businesses have an additional cost-saving option not available to residences: Businesses can deduct their investment in solar from their revenues.

Direct measurement of key molecule will increase accuracy of combustion models

February 6, 2015 7:50 am | by Patti Koning, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories researchers are the first to directly measure hydroperoxyalkyl radicals, a class of reactive molecules denoted as “QOOH”, that are key in the chain of reactions that controls the early stages of combustion. This breakthrough has generated data on QOOH reaction rates and outcomes that will improve the fidelity of models used by engine manufacturers to create cleaner and more efficient cars and trucks.

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Supercapacitors poised to help boost vehicle fuel efficiency

February 5, 2015 8:47 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Unlike slow and steady batteries, supercapacitors gulp up energy rapidly and deliver it in fast, powerful jolts. A growing array of consumer products is benefiting from these energy-storage devices, reports Chemical & Engineering News, with cars and trucks, and their drivers, poised to be major beneficiaries.

Preventing greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere

February 5, 2015 7:41 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

A novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power plant emissions has been developed by a multi-institution team of researchers. The approach could be an important advance in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating

February 4, 2015 2:37 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As many places in the U.S. and Europe increasingly turn to biomass rather than fossil fuels for power and heat, scientists are focusing on what this trend might mean for air quality and people’s health. One study on wood-chip burners’ particulate emissions, which can cause heart and lung problems, appears in Energy & Fuels. The scientists say the findings could help manufacturers reduce the negative impact of this fuel in the future.

Biologists partner bacterium with nitrogen gas to produce more, cleaner bioethanol

February 3, 2015 7:56 am | by Stephen Chaplin, Indiana Univ. | News | Comments

Indiana Univ. biologists believe they have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase bioethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, in place of more costly industrial fertilizers. The discovery could save the industry millions of dollars and make cellulosic ethanol more competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline.

State drilling panel weighs disclosure of fracking chemicals

February 2, 2015 7:19 pm | by Dan Elliott, Associated Press | News | Comments

Gov. John Hickenlooper's task force on oil and gas discussed proposals Monday that would force energy companies to disclose all the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing and give local governments more of a say on where wells can be drilled. The task force is winnowing down a list of 56 suggestions from members before making its recommendations to Hickenlooper on ways to resolve disputes over local control and landowner rights.

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Pinholes are pitfalls for high-performance solar cells

February 2, 2015 9:42 am | by Kaoru Natori, OIST | News | Comments

The most popular next-generation solar cells under development may have a problem: The top layer is full of tiny pinholes, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate Univ. in Japan have found. The majority of high-performance solar cells under development use a combination of materials including perovskite and spiro-MeOTAD.

The quest for efficiency in thermoelectric nanowires

February 2, 2015 8:58 am | by Sue Holmes, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Efficiency is big in the tiny world of thermoelectric nanowires. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories say better materials and manufacturing techniques for the nanowires could allow carmakers to harvest power from the heat wasted by exhaust systems or lead to more efficient devices to cool computer chips.

PNNL recognized for moving biofuel, chemical analysis innovations to market

February 2, 2015 7:24 am | by Eric Francavilla, PNNL | News | Comments

Developing renewable fuel from wet algae and enabling analysis of complex liquids are two of the latest innovations Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has successfully driven to the market with the help of commercial partners.

Light-converting materials point to cheaper, more efficient solar power, LEDs

January 30, 2015 7:50 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Engineers are shining new light on an emerging family of solar-absorbing materials that could clear the way for cheaper and more efficient solar panels and LEDs. The materials, called perovskites, are particularly good at absorbing visible light, but had never been studied in their purest form: as perfect single crystals.

New technique for growing high-efficiency perovskite solar cells

January 29, 2015 3:31 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

In Science, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers reveal a new solution-based hot-casting technique that allows growth of highly efficient and reproducible solar cells from large-area perovskite crystals. The researchers fabricated planar solar cells from pervoskite materials with large crystalline grains that had efficiencies approaching 18%.

Using ocean waves to monitor offshore oil and gas fields

January 29, 2015 7:54 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A technology developed by Stanford Univ. scientists for passively probing the seafloor using weak seismic waves generated by the ocean could revolutionize offshore oil and natural gas extraction by providing real-time monitoring of the subsurface while lessening the impact on marine life.

“Bulletproof” battery

January 28, 2015 9:55 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

New battery technology from the Univ. of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013. The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery. Made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, the tough material in bulletproof vests, the barrier stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.

Carbon nanoballs can greatly contribute to sustainable energy supply

January 28, 2015 9:07 am | by Johanna Wilde, Chalmers Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers at Chalmers Univ. of Technology have discovered that the insulation plastic used in high-voltage cables can withstand a 26% higher voltage if nanometer-sized carbon balls are added. This could result in enormous efficiency gains in the power grids of the future, which are needed to achieve a sustainable energy system.

Researchers identify materials to improve biofuel, petroleum processing

January 26, 2015 10:57 am | by Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Using one of the largest supercomputers in the world, a team of researchers led by the Univ. of Minnesota has identified potential materials that could improve the production of ethanol and petroleum products. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost savings in these industries. The Univ. of Minnesota has two patents pending on the research and hopes to license these technologies.

New step towards future production of solar fuels

January 26, 2015 9:31 am | by Linda Koffmar, Uppsala Univ. | News | Comments

One way of storing solar energy is to transform the energy directly into a fuel. Researchers at Uppsala Univ. have shown a reaction which makes the process of creating fuel from solar energy more efficient and less energy demanding. Solar energy is abundant. In one hour, the Earth receives as much energy from the sun as humankind uses in a whole year.

Scientists shed new light on biomass breakdown

January 26, 2015 8:18 am | by David Garner, Senior Press Officer, Univ. of York | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of York are part of a research team which has found that a recently discovered family of enzymes can degrade resistant forms of starch. Earlier research established that the enzymes, lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), are able to degrade hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.

Calculating the future of solar-fuel refineries

January 23, 2015 2:01 pm | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

A team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison engineers has developed a new tool to help plot the future of solar fuels. In a paper recently published in Energy & Environmental Science, a team outlined a tool to help engineers better gauge the overall yield, efficiency and costs associated with scaling solar-fuel production processes up into large-scale refineries.

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