Just as alchemists always dreamed of turning common metal into gold, their 19th century physicist counterparts dreamed of efficiently turning heat into electricity, a field called thermoelectrics. Such scientists had long known that, in conducting materials, the flow of energy in the form of heat is accompanied by a flow of electrons.
Researchers have obtained the record-breaking efficiency of 22.1% on nanostructured silicon solar cells as certified by Fraunhofer ISE CalLab. An almost 4% absolute increase to their previous record is achieved by applying a thin passivating film on the nanostructures by Atomic Layer Deposition, and by integrating all metal contacts on the back side of the cell.
Stanford Univ. scientists have solved a long-standing mystery about methanogens, unique microorganisms that transform electricity and carbon dioxide into methane. In a new study, the Stanford team demonstrates for the first time how methanogens obtain electrons from solid surfaces. The discovery could help scientists design electrodes for microbial "factories" that produce methane gas and other compounds sustainably.
Yale Univ. chemists have helped develop a family of new chemical catalysts that are expected to lower the cost and boost the sustainability of the production of chemical compounds used by a number of industries. The new catalysts are based on palladium, a rare and expensive metal. Palladium catalysts are used to form an array of chemical compounds in pharmaceuticals, plastics, agrochemicals and many other industries.
A microsupercapacitor designed by scientists at Rice Univ. that may find its way into personal and even wearable electronics is getting an upgrade. The laser-induced graphene device benefits greatly when boron becomes part of the mix. The Rice lab of chemist James Tour uses commercial lasers to create thin, flexible supercapacitors by burning patterns into common polymers.
A part of the performance degradation mechanism of the advanced, electrodeless, helicon plasma thruster with a magnetic nozzle, has been revealed. An electric propulsion device is a main engine, and a key piece of technology for space development and exploration. Charged particles are produced by electric discharge and accelerated. Thrust force is equivalent to the momentum exhausted by the device, and spacecraft can thus be propelled.
Trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and various industries could play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future. But current materials that can collect carbon dioxide have low capacities or require very high temperatures to work. Scientists are making progress toward a more efficient alternative, described in Chemistry of Materials, that could help make carbon capture less energy-intensive.
Federal regulators Wednesday directed nuclear power plants in California and Washington state to conduct additional, in-depth research into earthquake risks by June 2017, part of a broad review of seismic threats following Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster.
Rice Univ. scientists have found a way to simplify the manufacture of solar cells by using the top electrode as the catalyst that turns plain silicon into valuable black silicon. Black silicon is silicon with a highly textured surface of nanoscale spikes or pores that are smaller than the wavelength of light. The texture allows the efficient collection of light from any angle, at any time of day.
Many of us are familiar with electrolytic splitting of water from their school days: If you hold two electrodes into an aqueous electrolyte and apply a sufficient voltage, gas bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen are formed. If this voltage is generated by sunlight in a solar cell, then you could store solar energy by generating hydrogen gas. This is because hydrogen is a versatile medium of storing and using "chemical energy".
By combining 3-D holographic lithography and 2-D photolithography, researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a high-performance 3-D microbattery suitable for large-scale on-chip integration with microelectronic devices.
Associated with contamination in certain spots around the world, pentavalent neptunium does not always behave the same as its stand-in when moving through the soil, according to scientists. The less studied pentavalent neptunium and the well-studied hexavalent uranium are incorporated at dramatically different levels in calcite and other carbonate minerals. Assimilation in minerals can limit the radionuclides migration.
The drop-on-demand inkjet printing is a promising approach allowing patterning of materials with negligible materials waste; hence, significant reduction of raw materials cost can be achieved. Furthermore, inkjet printing can be easily adapted to a roll-to-roll process, which is suitable for large scale production.
A new approach to wastewater treatment may be key in efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Moreover, it can be profitable. Phosphorus is an essential element for human nutrition. It plays multiple roles in the human body, including the development of bones and teeth. Fertilizer with phosphorus, applied to crops or lawns, enables healthy growth. Without it, the basic cells of plants and animals, and life itself, would not exist.
The sun is a huge source of energy. In just one hour, Earth is hit by so much sunshine that humankind could cover its energy needs for an entire year, if only we knew how to harvest and save it. But storing sunshine is not trivial. Now a student at the Dept. of Chemistry at the Univ. of Copenhagen has made a breakthrough that may prove pivotal for technologies to capture the energy of the sun and save it for a rainy day.
Washington State Univ. researchers have found a way to make jet fuel from a common black fungus found in decaying leaves, soil and rotting fruit. The researchers hope the process leads to economically viable production of aviation biofuels in the next five years. The researchers used Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010 to create hydrocarbons, the chief component of petroleum, similar to those in aviation fuels.
Researchers from Wake Forest Univ. and the Univ. of Utah are the first to successfully fabricate halide organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite field-effect transistors and measure their electrical characteristics at room temperature. The team designed the structure of these field-effect transistors to achieve electrostatic gating of these materials and determine directly their electrical properties.
Engineers at the Univ. of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material, which can both move electricity and store it. Envision an Oreo cookie. Most batteries have at either end a layer of material for the electrodes like the chocolate cookies to help move ions though the creamy frosting (the electrolyte). The team made a single material that incorporates the properties of both the electrodes and electrolyte.
Scientists have identified key mechanisms of the aging process of catalyst particles that are used to refine crude oil into gasoline. This advance could lead to more efficient gasoline production. Their recent experiments studied so-called fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) particles that are used to break long-chain hydrocarbons in crude oil into smaller, more valuable hydrocarbons like gasoline.
One of the fastest-growing areas of solar energy research is with materials called perovskites. These promising light harvesters could revolutionize the solar and electronics industries because they show potential to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently and less expensively than today’s silicon-based semiconductors.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is trying to steer his electric car company's battery technology into homes and businesses as part of an elaborate plan to reshape the power grid with millions of small power plants made of solar panels on roofs and batteries in garages. Musk announced Tesla's expansion into the home battery market amid a party atmosphere at the company's design studio near Los Angeles International Airport.
The gold standard for modeling the behavior of fusion plasmas may have just gotten better. Mario Podestà has updated the worldwide computer program known as TRANSP to better simulate the interaction between energetic particles and instabilities—disturbances in plasma that can halt fusion reactions. The updates could lead to improved capability for predicting the effects of some types of instabilities in future facilities.
For the first time, industry and policymakers have a comprehensive report detailing the U.S. hydropower fleet’s 2,198 plants that provide about 7 percent of the nation’s electricity. The report is a resource that describes key features of the nation’s hydro resources and systematically tracks trends that have influenced the industry in recent years.
The global industrial sector accounts for more than half of the total energy used every year. Now scientists are inventing a new artificial photosynthetic system that could one day reduce industry’s dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy by powering part of the sector with solar energy and bacteria.
By opening up the possibility of economical asteroid water mining, the electric solar wind sail (E-sail) enables frequent and affordable manned Mars flights. The E-sail is a novel propellantless technology that was invented in Finland in 2006. The E-sail utilizes long, charged tethers to convert natural solar wind momentum flux into spacecraft thrust.