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Low-grade waste heat regenerates ammonia battery

December 3, 2014 3:49 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

An efficient method to harvest low-grade waste heat as electricity may be possible using reversible ammonia batteries, according to Penn State Univ. engineers. Low-grade waste heat is an artifact of many energy-generating methods. In automobiles, waste heat generated in winter is diverted to run the vehicle heating system, but in the summer, that same waste heat must be dissipated to the environment.

Progress in low-cost “artificial leaf” that produces clean hydrogen fuel

December 3, 2014 9:23 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

For years, scientists have been pursuing “artificial leaf” technology, a green approach to making hydrogen fuel that copies plants’ ability to convert sunlight into a form of energy they can use. Now, one team reports progress toward a stand-alone system that lends itself to large-scale, low-cost production. They describe their nanowire mesh design in ACS Nano.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide used for energy storage products

December 2, 2014 4:28 pm | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Chemists and engineers at Oregon State Univ. have discovered a fascinating new way to take some of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that’s causing the greenhouse effect and use it to make an advanced, high-value material for use in energy storage products. This innovation in nanotechnology won’t soak up enough carbon to solve global warming, but it will provide a low-cost way to make nanoporous graphene for use in supercapacitors.

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Lengthening the life of high-capacity silicon electrodes in rechargeable lithium batteries

December 2, 2014 4:14 pm | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study will help researchers create longer-lasting, higher-capacity lithium rechargeable batteries, which are commonly used in consumer electronics. In a study published in ACS Nano, researchers showed how a coating that makes high-capacity silicon electrodes more durable could lead to a replacement for lower-capacity graphite electrodes.

Detecting defects in solar cells

December 2, 2014 11:06 am | by National Physical Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory have developed a new method for detecting defects in solar cells using a technique called compressed sensing. Solar panels are being rapidly deployed across the world as costs fall and the need for sustainable, low-carbon energy grows. Being able to effectively characterize solar cells is a key factor in quality control during manufacturing and understanding their long-term behavior.

Sweet smell of success

December 2, 2014 8:37 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Two years ago, researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute engineered E. coli bacteria to convert glucose into significant quantities of methyl ketones, a class of chemical compounds primarily used for fragrances and flavors, but highly promising as clean, green and renewable blending agents for diesel fuel. Now, after further genetic modifications, they have managed to dramatically boost the E.coli’s methyl ketone production 160-fold.

NTSB points to battery defect in Boeing 787 fire

December 1, 2014 3:01 pm | by By Joan Lowy - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

A short circuit likely due to a manufacturing defect in a Boeing 787 airliner battery caused a fire last year that grounded the planes for more than three months, federal accident investigators said Monday. They also faulted the plane's maker and the Federal Aviation Administration for designing and approving a battery design that didn't protect against such a failure.

High-tech mirror to beam heat away from buildings into space

December 1, 2014 10:24 am | by Chris Cesare, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space. The heart of the invention is an ultra-thin, multi-layered material that deals with light, both invisible and visible, in a new way.

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New technique could harvest more of the sun’s energy

December 1, 2014 8:32 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

As solar panels become less expensive and capable of generating more power, solar energy is becoming a more commercially viable alternative source of electricity. However, the photovoltaic cells now used to turn sunlight into electricity can only absorb and use a small fraction of that light, and that means a significant amount of solar energy goes untapped. A new technology epresents a first step toward harnessing that lost energy.

Matched hybrid systems may hold key to wider use of renewable energy

December 1, 2014 8:09 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

The use of renewable energy in the U.S. could take a significant leap forward with improved storage technologies or more efforts to “match” different forms of alternative energy systems that provide an overall more steady flow of electricity. Historically, a major drawback to the use and cost-effectiveness of alternative energy systems has been that they are too variable. This lack of dependability is costly and inefficient.

Protons fuel graphene prospects

November 26, 2014 9:11 am | by Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Graphene, impermeable to all gases and liquids, can easily allow protons to pass through it, Univ. of Manchester researchers have found. Published in Nature, the discovery could revolutionize fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies as they require a barrier that only allow protons to pass through.

Gasoline from sawdust

November 26, 2014 8:45 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers at KU Leuven’s Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis have successfully converted sawdust into building blocks for gasoline. Using a new chemical process, they were able to convert the cellulose in sawdust into hydrocarbon chains. These hydrocarbons can be used as an additive in gasoline, or as a component in plastics.

Blu-ray disc can be used to improve solar cell performance

November 25, 2014 8:23 pm | by Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Who knew Blu-ray discs were so useful? Already one of the best ways to store high-definition movies and television shows because of their high-density data storage, Blu-ray discs also improve the performance of solar cells, according to new research from Northwestern Univ.

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Model evaluates where bioenergy crops grow best

November 24, 2014 7:59 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect. Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have published a study identifying yield zones for three major bioenergy crops.

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 best computational model to simulate severe nuclear reactor accidents. Using the Advanced Photon Source, a team of researchers found that the atomic structure of uranium dioxide (UO2) changes significantly when it melts.

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 the name the “Oscars of Invention." And at the annual event, the high rollers of the science and technology industry were honored on stage for their innovative, high-tech products and processes that are, or will, make a difference in our everyday lives.

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-polluting tailpipes, they are shifting even greener. In 2015, Toyota will roll out the first hydrogen fuel-cell car for personal use that emits only water. An article in Chemical & Engineering Newsexplains how hydrogen could supplant hybrid and electric car technology.

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.

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.

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