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NIST zero-energy house gives back to the grid

March 14, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Over the first six months in their special, new, four-bedroom home in suburban Maryland, the Nisters, a prototypical family of four, earned about $40 by exporting 328 kW-h of electricity into the local grid, while meeting all of their varied energy needs. These virtual residents of the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) on the campus of NIST didn't have to skimp the creature comforts of 21st century living, either.

Imec achieves record 8.4% efficiency in fullerene-free organic solar cells

March 11, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

Organic solar cells are a compelling thin-film photovoltaic technology in part because of their compatibility with flexible substrates and tunable absorption window. Belgium-based chipmaker imec has set a new conversion efficiency record of 8.4% for this type of cell by developing fullerene-free acceptor materials and a new multilayer semiconductor device structure.

Small biomass power plants could help rural economies, stabilize national power grid

March 11, 2014 8:44 am | by Nathan Hurst, Univ. of Missouri | News | Comments

As energy costs rise, more Americans are turning to bioenergy to provide power to their homes and workplaces. Bioenergy is renewable energy made from organic sources, such as biomass. Technology has advanced enough that biomass power plants small enough to fit on a farm can be built at relatively low costs. Now, researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas.

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Submit your new lab projects to Laboratory Design Newsletter

March 10, 2014 4:47 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

Laboratory Design Newsletter features new laboratory construction, renovation and adaptive reuse projects in each issue and also online. The new projects section of the Website hosts a large variety of laboratory builds in academic, medical, private, commercial and government laboratories.

Atomically thin solar cells

March 10, 2014 12:56 pm | News | Comments

Graphene is not the only ultrathin material that exhibits special electronic properties. Ultrathin layers made of tungsten and selenium have recently been created in Austria that show a high internal efficiency when used to gather sunlight. More than 95% of light passes straight through, but a tenth of what is stopped is converted to electricity.

Driving down fuel usage

March 10, 2014 10:57 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Despite their potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption, electric and hybrid cars and trucks struggled for years to find a solid customer base. Much of the reason came down to cost and convenience: Electric car batteries are expensive, and charging them requires plug-in infrastructure that’s still sparse in the U.S.

Contaminated water still troubles Japan nuke plant

March 10, 2014 8:20 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The radioactive water that has accumulated at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant remains the biggest problem hampering the cleanup process three years after the disaster. The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has stabilized substantially since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed its power and cooling system, triggering meltdowns.

New hybrid material promising for solar fuels

March 9, 2014 11:42 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers shows that nearly 90% of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules. Interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a cobaloxime catalyst provides an inexpensive photocathode for bionic leaves that produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

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Galactic gas stations

March 7, 2014 1:31 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Future lunar missions may be fueled by gas stations in space, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers: A spacecraft might dock at a propellant depot, somewhere between the Earth and the moon, and pick up extra rocket fuel before making its way to the lunar surface.

Freudenberg Puts FEA Seal of Approval on Gasket

March 6, 2014 12:09 pm | by Nick O'Donohoe, Science and Technology Writer, Parker Group | Articles | Comments

The wind has long been used as a metaphor for constant change, wayward and capricious. Wind turbine engineers deal with that changeability every day, along with a host of other challenging factors. Their products must operate in desert sandstorms and in corrosive salt water. The ambient temperature at the turbine site can be blisteringly high or numbingly frigid.

Team discovers unexpected effect of heavy hydrogen in organic solar cells

March 6, 2014 10:55 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Photovoltaic spray paint could coat the windows and walls of the future if scientists are successful in developing low-cost, flexible solar cells based on organic polymers. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently discovered an unanticipated factor in the performance of polymer-based solar devices that gives new insight on how these materials form and function.

Researchers identify key intermediate steps in artificial photosynthesis reaction

March 6, 2014 9:11 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Artificial photosynthesis, in which we emulate the process used by nature to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electrochemical energy, is expected to be a major asset in any sustainable energy portfolio for the future. Artificial photosynthesis offers the promise of producing liquid fuels that are renewable and can be used without exacerbating global climate change.

New catalyst could lead to cleaner energy

March 6, 2014 8:20 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have devised a way to trap carbon dioxide and transform it into useful organic compounds, using a simple metal complex. More work is needed to understand and optimize the reaction, but one day this approach could offer an easy and inexpensive way to recapture some of the carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles and power plants.

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Obama admin drives ahead with new cleaner gas rule

March 3, 2014 2:22 pm | by Josh Lederman - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The Obama administration is driving ahead with a dramatic reduction in sulfur in gasoline and tailpipe emissions, declaring that cleaner air will save thousands of lives per year at little cost to consumers. Public health groups and automakers cheered the new rules.

Biomass industry must prepare for water constraints

February 28, 2014 7:43 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The viability of the bioenergy crops industry could be strengthened by regulatory efforts to address nonpoint source pollution from agricultural sources. That, in turn, means that the industry should be strategic in developing metrics that measure the ability to enact positive changes in agricultural landscapes, particularly through second-generation perennial crops, according to a paper by a Univ. of Illinois expert in bioenergy law.

Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes

February 27, 2014 1:26 pm | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

For the past 24 years, Mark Z. Jacobson, a prof. of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford Univ., has been developing a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather and climate. A recent application of the model has been to simulate the development of hurricanes. Another has been to determine how much energy wind turbines can extract from global wind currents.

2nd Annual Chromatography Community Mixer

February 27, 2014 11:12 am | Events

This event will bring together scientist from chromatography discussion groups throughout North America for discussion, refreshments and music. Tickets, which are required for entry to this free event, are available from local and regional chromatography discussion groups and from chromatography equipment and media vendors.

Noting tech needs, mining companies seek graphite

February 27, 2014 6:18 am | by Dan Joling - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Tear apart an electric car's rechargeable battery and you'll find a mineral normally associated with No. 2 pencils. It's graphite. And experts say the promise of expanded uses for "pencil lead" in lithium-ion batteries, as well as a decrease in supply from China, has helped touch off the largest wave of mining projects in decades.

MSU advances algae’s viability as a biofuel

February 26, 2014 10:05 am | News | Comments

Laboratory success doesn’t always translate to real-world success. A team of Michigan State Univ. scientists, however, has invented a new technology that increases the odds of helping algae-based biofuels cross that gap and come closer to reality. The environmental photobioreactor (ePBR) system is the world’s first standard algae growing platform, one that simulates dynamic natural environments.

Superabsorbing design may lower manufacturing cost of thin-film solar cells

February 26, 2014 7:42 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a superabsorbing design that may significantly improve the light absorption efficiency of thin-film solar cells and drive down manufacturing costs. The superabsorbing design could decrease the thickness of the semiconductor materials used in thin-film solar cells by more than one order of magnitude without compromising the capability of solar light absorption.

Nanotechnology may be key to solar energy and energy storage

February 25, 2014 1:40 pm | News | Comments

A new study from the International Electrotechnical Commission and the Fraunhofer Institute in Europe has found that nanotechnology will bring significant benefits to the energy sector, especially to energy storage and solar energy. Improved materials efficiency and reduced manufacturing costs are just two of the real economic benefits that nanotechnology already brings these fields and that’s only the beginning.

Team converts sugarcane to a cold-tolerant, oil-producing crop

February 24, 2014 11:23 am | by Diana Yates, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A multi-institutional team reports that it can increase sugarcane’s geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30% and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. These are only the first steps in a bigger initiative that will turn the highly productive sugarcane and sorghum crop plants into even more productive, oil-generating plants.

New, inexpensive production materials boost promise of hydrogen fuel

February 24, 2014 8:36 am | by Chris Barncard, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Generating electricity is not the only way to turn sunlight into energy we can use on demand. The sun can also drive reactions to create chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, that can in turn power cars and trains. The trouble with solar fuel production is the cost of producing the sun-capturing semiconductors and the catalysts to generate fuel.

Sun powers complex cancer test for remote regions

February 21, 2014 8:19 am | by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

From the sun, a solution: Cornell Univ. and Weill Cornell Medical College researchers have remodeled an energy-intensive medical test, designed to detect a deadly skin cancer related to HIV infections, to create a quick diagnostic assay perfect for remote regions of the world. By harnessing the sun’s power and employing a smartphone application, medical technicians may now handily administer reliable assays for Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Nanopillars could improve conversion of heat to electricity

February 21, 2014 7:36 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Colorado Boulder scientists have found a creative way to radically improve thermoelectric materials, a finding that could one day lead to the development of improved solar panels and more energy-efficient cooling equipment. The technique, building an array of tiny pillars on top of a sheet of thermoelectric material, represents an entirely new way of attacking a century-old problem.

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