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Versatile process efficiently converts biomass to liquid fuel

November 12, 2014 8:05 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process to convert all biomass into liquid fuel, and the method could make possible mobile processing plants. The researchers at Purdue Univ. filed a patent application on the concept in 2008 and have now demonstrated that it works in laboratory experiments.

Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes

November 12, 2014 6:58 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods. Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water.

A billion holes can make a battery

November 11, 2014 9:19 am | by Martha Heil, Univ. of Maryland | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Maryland have invented a single tiny structure that includes all the components of a battery that they say could bring about the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage components. The structure is called a nanopore: a tiny hole in a ceramic sheet that holds electrolyte to carry the electrical charge between nanotube electrodes at either end.

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Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night

November 10, 2014 11:05 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into chemical energy in the form of sugars and starches (as well as oils and proteins), and it involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen derived from water molecules.

Underperforming? Energy efficiency of HVAC equipment suffers due to poor installation

November 10, 2014 10:45 am | by NIST | News | Comments

The push for more efficient air conditioners and heat pumps aims to trim the 30% share of residential electrical energy use devoted to cooling and heating. But the benefits of improved energy-efficiency ratings can go for naught if the equipment is not installed properly, as verified in a recent study from NIST.

New materials yield record efficiency polymer solar cells

November 10, 2014 10:20 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semiconducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.

How to make mobile batteries last longer

November 7, 2014 9:42 am | by Univ. of Luxembourg | News | Comments

Electronic devices waste a lot of energy by producing useless heat. Researchers have made a leap forward in understanding how this happens and how this waste could be reduced by controlling energy flows at a molecular level.        

Wind energy reaches greater heights

November 6, 2014 3:14 pm | by Rob Matheson, MIT | News | Comments

Wind turbines across the globe are being made taller to capture more energy from the stronger winds that blow at greater heights. But it’s not easy, or sometimes even economically feasible, to build taller towers, with shipping constraints on tower diameters and the expense involved in construction.

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Petrochemical industry technique helps store solar energy

November 6, 2014 2:46 pm | by Dan Stober, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Chemical engineers have designed a catalyst that could help produce vast quantities of pure hydrogen through electrolysis – the process of passing electricity through water to break hydrogen loose from oxygen in H2O.         

Leading the charge for a panel-powered car

November 6, 2014 10:08 am | by Queensland Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

A car powered by its own body panels could soon be driving on our roads after a breakthrough in nanotechnology research by a Queensland Univ. of Technology team.                          

Novel sodium-conducting material could improve rechargeable batteries

November 5, 2014 9:23 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Rechargeable battery manufacturers may get a jolt from research performed at NIST and several other institutions, where a team of scientists has discovered a safe, inexpensive, sodium-conducting material that significantly outperforms all others in its class. The team's discovery is a sodium-based, complex metal hydride, a material with potential as a cheaper alternative to the lithium-based conductors used in many rechargeable batteries.

Combining “Tinkertoy” materials with solar cells for increased photovoltaic efficiency

November 5, 2014 8:42 am | by Mike Janes, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have received a $1.2 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to develop a technique that they believe will significantly improve the efficiencies of photovoltaic materials and help make solar electricity cost-competitive with other sources of energy.

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

November 5, 2014 8:31 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.

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Jet-fueled electricity at room temperature

November 5, 2014 7:41 am | by Aditi Risbud, Univ. of Utah Collee of Engineering | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah engineers developed the first room-temperature fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without needing to ignite the fuel. These new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors. A study of the new cells appears online in ACS Catalysis.

Microgrid could standardize small, self-sustaining electric grids

November 4, 2014 2:56 pm | by Katie Elyce Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yan Xu talks about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, she’s discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids—small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.

Mysterious drones seen over French nuclear sites

November 4, 2014 10:09 am | by Associated Press, Jamey Keaten | News | Comments

French security officials are investigating a spate of mysterious and illegal flights by drone aircraft over more than a dozen nuclear power stations in France, raising security concerns in a country that largely lives off atomic energy. In what environmental activists call a worrisome development, authorities have tallied at least 15 overflights of nuclear sites since early October, culminating Friday with five at separate sites.

New way to make batteries safer

November 3, 2014 4:51 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every year, nearly 4,000 children go to emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and many other devices. Ingesting these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract and, in some cases, even death.

Chemists gain edge in next-gen energy

November 3, 2014 1:37 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who want to gain an edge in energy production and storage report they have found it in molybdenum disulfide. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s 2-D form into a nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage.

Process transforms wood, crop waste into valuable chemicals

November 3, 2014 10:13 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Scientists disclosed a new method to convert lignin, a biomass waste product, into simple chemicals. The innovation is an important step toward replacing petroleum-based fuels and chemicals with biorenewable materials. Lignin is the substance that makes trees and cornstalks sturdy, and it accounts for nearly 30% of the organic carbon in the biosphere.

Self-driving vehicles generate enthusiasm, concerns worldwide

October 31, 2014 8:22 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Despite safety concerns about equipment failure, a majority of drivers on three continents have high expectations for autonomous vehicles. Building on an earlier study on public opinion regarding self-driving vehicles in the U.S., Great Britain and Australia, a team from the Univ. of Michigan Transportation Research Institute expanded their survey to include more than 1,700 respondents in India, China and Japan.

After Fukushima, Japan gets green boom … and glut

October 30, 2014 3:01 pm | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

Traumatized by the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and encouraged by the highest rates for renewable energy in the world, Japan has been undergoing a green boom. It's now rapidly turning into a fiasco as the cost proves prohibitive and utilities anticipate putting some nuclear reactors back online. The utilities say they can't accommodate the flood of newcomers to the green energy business.

IBM, Repsol launch world’s first cognitive technologies collaboration for the oil industry

October 30, 2014 11:46 am | Videos | Comments

Scientists at IBM and leading global energy company Repsol S.A. announced this week the world’s first research collaboration to leverage cognitive technologies that will help transform the oil and gas industry. IBM and Repsol are jointly developing two prototype cognitive applications specifically designed to augment Repsol’s strategic decision making in the optimization of oil reservoir production and in the acquisition of new oil fields.

Electric-car drivers trading gas for solar power

October 28, 2014 5:33 pm | by Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writer | News | Comments

Owners of electric vehicles have already gone gas-free. Now, a growing number are powering their cars with sunlight. Solar panels installed on the roof of a home or garage can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The approach is not cheap, but advocates say the investment pays off over time and is worth it for the thrill of fossil fuel-free driving.

Plasma switch to help GE upgrade the U.S. power grid

October 28, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

When researchers at General Electric Co. sought help in designing a plasma-based power switch, they turned to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which helped them develop a plasma-filled tube that would replace semiconductor switches used for changing direct current to alternating current. The proposed switch could contribute to a more advanced and reliable electric grid and help to lower utility bills.

Where did the Deepwater Horizon oil go?

October 28, 2014 11:23 am | News | Comments

Where's the remaining oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? The location of 2 million barrels of oil thought to be trapped in the deep ocean has remained a mystery. Until now: A national team of scientists has discovered the path the oil followed to its resting place on the Gulf of Mexico sea floor.

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