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Research: U.K. failing to harness its bioenergy potential

February 19, 2014 10:26 am | by Aeron Haworth, Media Relations, The Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

The U.K. could generate almost half its energy needs from biomass sources, including household waste, agricultural residues and home-grown biofuels by 2050, new research suggests. Scientists from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at The Univ. of Manchester found that the U.K. could produce up to 44% of its energy by these means without the need to import.

CASL, Westinghouse simulate neutron behavior in AP1000 reactor core

February 19, 2014 8:06 am | News | Comments

Scientists and engineers developing more accurate approaches to analyzing nuclear power reactors have successfully tested a new suite of computer codes that closely model neutronics, the behavior of neutrons in a reactor core. A team from Westinghouse used the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications core simulator (VERA-CS) to analyze its AP1000 advanced pressurized water reactor (PWR).

Solar-induced hybrid fuel cell produces electricity directly from biomass

February 19, 2014 7:45 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Although low-temperature fuel cells powered by methanol or hydrogen have been well studied, existing low-temperature fuel cell technologies can’t directly use biomass as a fuel because of the lack of an effective catalyst system for polymeric materials. Now, researchers have developed a new type of low-temperature fuel cell that directly converts biomass to electricity with assistance from a catalyst activated by solar or thermal energy.

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Study indicates improvements needed in handling methane emissions

February 19, 2014 7:23 am | News | Comments

A new study led by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis says that the total impact of switching to natural gas depends heavily on leakage of methane during the natural gas life cycle, and suggests that more can be done to reduce methane emissions and to improve measurement tools which help inform policy choices.

Artificial leaf jumps developmental hurdle

February 18, 2014 11:00 am | News | Comments

In a recent early online edition of Nature Chemistry, Arizona State Univ. scientists, along with colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory, have reported advances toward perfecting a functional artificial leaf. Designing an artificial leaf that uses solar energy to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen and oxygen is one of the goals of BISfuel.

Pomegranate-inspired design solves problems for lithium-ion batteries

February 18, 2014 8:46 am | News | Comments

An electrode designed like a pomegranate—with silicon nanoparticles clustered like seeds in a tough carbon rind—overcomes several remaining obstacles to using silicon for a new generation of lithium-ion batteries, say its inventors at Stanford Univ. and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

A battery small enough to be injected, energetic enough to track salmon

February 18, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Scientists have created a microbattery that packs twice the energy compared to current microbatteries used to monitor the movements of salmon through rivers in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. The battery, a cylinder just slightly larger than a long grain of rice, is certainly not the world's smallest battery, as engineers have created batteries far tinier than the width of a human hair. 

Huge U.S. thermal plant opens as industry grows

February 14, 2014 11:43 am | by Brian Skoloff and Michael R. Blood, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which sprawls across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened on Feb. 13 after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants. The plant, the world’s largest of its type, will test a balance between conservation and green energy growth.

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Study: America's natural gas system is leaky and in need of a fix

February 14, 2014 8:05 am | by Mark Golden, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

The first thorough comparison of evidence for natural gas system leaks confirms that organizations including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have underestimated U.S. methane emissions generally, as well as those from the natural gas industry specifically.

Research reveals give-and-take of urban temperature mitigating technologies

February 13, 2014 1:41 pm | News | Comments

Greenhouse-gas induced warming and megapolitan expansion are both significant drivers of our warming planet, but how well adaptation technologies, such as cool roofs and green roofs, perform remains uncertain. Now, a team of researchers has begun exploring the relative effectiveness of some of the most common adaptation technologies aimed at reducing warming from urban expansion.

Study: Renewable energy won’t fix Abu Dhabi’s consumption problem

February 13, 2014 1:15 pm | News | Comments

Abu Dhabi’s recent expensive renewable energy venture will neither allow the United Arab Emirates to forgo construction of conventional energy generation, nor will it provide more than a token reduction in carbon-emissions growth, according to a new paper from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Possible explanation for light-degradation silicon solar cells

February 13, 2014 10:19 am | by Ralf Butscher, Helmholtz Center | News | Comments

An undesired effect in thin film amorphous silicon solar cells has puzzled the scientific community for the last 40 years. This effect, known as light-induced degradation, is responsible for reducing solar cell efficiency over time. Researchers in Germany have recently demonstrated that tiny voids within the silicon network are partly responsible for 10 to 15% efficiency loss as soon as they are used.

NIF experiments show initial gain in fusion fuel

February 12, 2014 1:28 pm | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Ignition has long been considered the "holy grail" of inertial confinement fusion science. A key step along the path to ignition is to have "fuel gains" greater than unity, where the energy generated through fusion reactions exceeds the amount of energy deposited into the fusion fuel. Though ignition remains the ultimate goal, the milestone of achieving fuel gains greater than one has been reached for the first time ever on any facility.

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Report: Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel

February 12, 2014 1:15 pm | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas and gasoline also can be obtained from shopping bags.

NREL report finds similar value in two concentrating solar technologies

February 12, 2014 10:04 am | News | Comments

Parabolic troughs and dry-cooled towers deliver similar value for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, despite different solar profiles, a new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found. The report found that the value of delivered energy of dry-cooled tower and parabolic trough CSP plants, integrated with thermal energy storage, are quite similar.

Waste from age-old paper industry becomes new source of solid fuel

February 12, 2014 9:47 am | News | Comments

In today’s search for renewable energy sources, researchers are turning to the high-tech, from solar and hydrogen fuel cells, and the very low-tech. The latest example of a low-tech alternative comes from an age-old industry: paper. A new study reveals a sustainable way to turn the huge amounts of waste from paper production into solid fuel with the added bonus of diverting the sludge from overflowing landfills.

Roots to shoots: Hormone transport in plants deciphered

February 11, 2014 8:32 am | News | Comments

Plant growth is orchestrated by a spectrum of signals from hormones within a plant. A major group of plant hormones called cytokinins originate in the roots of plants, and their journey to growth areas on the stem and in leaves stimulates plant development. Though these phytohormones have been identified in the past, the molecular mechanism responsible for their transportation within plants was previously poorly understood. Until now.

Is natural gas a solution to mitigating climate change?

February 11, 2014 8:18 am | by Cynthia Eller, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Methane, a key greenhouse gas, has more than doubled in volume in Earth's atmosphere since 1750. Its increase is believed to be a leading contributor to climate change. But where is the methane coming from? Research by a California Institute of Technology atmospheric chemist suggests that losses of natural gas—our "cleanest" fossil fuel—into the atmosphere may be a larger source than previously recognized.

Researchers make breakthrough in battery technology

February 10, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

Materials experts in Ireland have developed a new germanium nanowire-based anode that has the ability to greatly increase the capacity and lifetimes of lithium-ion batteries. The typical lithium-ion battery on the market today is based on graphite, which has a relatively low capacity for energy storage. Restructuring the germanium replacement material into nanowires produces a stable, porous battery material.

Fire ants inspire new process for storing and dissipating energy

February 7, 2014 10:49 am | News | Comments

U.S. Army-sponsored researchers have discovered a process for simultaneously storing and dissipating energy within structures that could lead to design rules for new types of active, reconfigurable materials. The study method was derived from an examination of how a species of South American fire ant collectively entangle themselves to form an active structure capable of changing state from a liquid to a solid when subject to applied loads.

FEI acquires oil and gas imaging specialist Lithicon

February 7, 2014 8:34 am | News | Comments

Instrumentation company FEI has acquired Lithicon AS of Trondheim, Norway, and Canberra, Australia. Lithicon provides digital rock technology services and pore-scale micro computed tomography (µCT, or microCT) equipment to oil and gas companies worldwide. In conjunction with the acquisition, FEI has obtained the helical scan microCT product and associated software from the Australia National Univ.

The clean, green gas of home

February 7, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. synthetic biologist Ramon Gonzalez sees a near future in which Americans get enough clean transportation fuel from natural gas to help make the nation energy independent. As a program director with the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, he’s in a position to help make it happen.  

Simulating Subsidence from Oil and Gas Extraction

February 6, 2014 10:33 am | by S. Monaco, G. Capasso, S. Mantica, Eni E&P D and Datye, R. Vitali, Dassault Systemes | Articles | Comments

Oil and gas remain primary power sources for both personal and industrial use worldwide. Extraction of these fuel resources from underground reservoirs involves complex geomechanical processes, and can result in subsidence of the ground over a reservoir. Since this occurrence can have an impact on the environment and affect the operability of extraction equipment, it needs to be accurately predicted and kept within safe limits.

Researchers improve process for manufacturing efficient solar cells

February 6, 2014 9:04 am | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Working on the cutting edge of a newly emerging area of solar-cell research, Univ. of California, Los Angeles engineers have invented a new process for manufacturing highly efficient photovoltaic materials that shows promise for low-cost industrial production. The new process uses so-called perovskite materials, which in the past few years have significantly advanced scientists' efforts to create the next generation of solar cells.

Approach helps identify new biofuel sources that don’t require farmland

February 5, 2014 12:41 pm | News | Comments

While the debate over using crops for fuel continues, scientists are now reporting a new, fast approach to develop biofuel in a way that doesn’t require removing valuable farmland from the food production chain. Their method, which could be employed for other targets, uses atomic force microscopy and a tunable laser source to examine the fuel-producing potential of a soil bacterium known for making antibiotics.

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