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Getting more electricity out of solar cells

May 8, 2014 8:00 am | by Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative | News | Comments

When sunlight shines on today’s solar cells, much of the incoming energy is given off as waste heat rather than electrical current. In a few materials, however, extra energy produces extra electrons—behavior that could significantly increase solar-cell efficiency. A team has now identified the mechanism by which that phenomenon happens, yielding new design guidelines for using those special materials to make high-efficiency solar cells.

Driverless car test site gets industry partners

May 6, 2014 10:21 am | by David Runk, Associated Press | News | Comments

General Motors, Ford and Toyota are joining the Univ. of Michigan in establishing a testing site for driverless cars that will simulate a cityscape, and will work with the school to help make such vehicles commercially viable, officials announced Tuesday. The Michigan Mobility Transformation Center's 32-acre testing site near the Ann Arbor school's North Campus is scheduled to be completed this fall.

Energy-subsidy reform can be achieved with proper preparation, outside pressure

May 6, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Reform of energy subsidies in oil-exporting countries can reduce carbon emissions and add years to oil exports, according to a new paper from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The paper reviews the record of energy-subsidy reforms and argues that big exporters should reduce energy demand by raising prices, and that this can be done without undermining legitimacy of governments that depend on subsidies for political support.

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Taking the lead out of a promising solar cell

May 6, 2014 7:32 am | News | Comments

Northwestern Univ. researchers are the first to develop a new solar cell with good efficiency that uses tin instead of lead perovskite as the harvester of light. The low-cost, environmentally friendly solar cell can be made easily using "bench" chemistry, with no fancy equipment or hazardous materials.

Johnson Controls, UW-Madison join forces to test new battery technology

May 5, 2014 12:27 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

A new laboratory at the Wisconsin Energy Institute on the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison campus will strengthen Johnson Controls' innovation capabilities as the company researches and develops next-generation technology. The partnership represents the kind of innovation Johnson Controls is developing to craft the next generation of market-leading energy storage technology.

Experts question ice wall at Japan nuclear plant

May 2, 2014 7:24 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Experts on Friday expressed skepticism about a plan to build a costly underground frozen wall at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, a development that could delay the start of construction on the project. The experts and Japanese nuclear regulatory officials said during a meeting in Tokyo that they weren't convinced the project can resolve a serious contaminated water problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Students’ energy invention is really out there

May 1, 2014 8:26 am | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. engineering students think it’s a shame to waste energy, especially in space. So a team of seniors invented a device that turns excess heat into electricity. Heat created by electronics onboard the International Space Station (ISS) now gets tossed overboard into the void. But new technology to turn heat into power would make it possible to put it back to work to run the myriad systems onboard.

Ozone levels drop 20% with switch from ethanol to gasoline

April 29, 2014 9:35 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ. study by an economist and a chemist reports that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to mostly switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.

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Fukushima residents unsure of return to no-go zone

April 29, 2014 3:22 am | by Yuri Kageyama - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Whenever Kazuhiro Onuki goes home, to his real home that is, the 66-year-old former librarian dons protective gear from head to toe and hangs a dosimeter around his neck. Grass grows wild in the backyard. The ceiling leaks. Thieves have ransacked the shelves, leaving papers and clothing all over the floor so there is barely room to walk. Mouse dung is scattered like raisins. There is no running water or electricity.

Flexible battery, no lithium required

April 28, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

A Rice Univ. laboratory has flexible, portable and wearable electronics in its sights with the creation of a thin film for energy storage. The laboratory developed a flexible material with nanoporous nickel-fluoride electrodes layered around a solid electrolyte to deliver battery-like supercapacitor performance that combines the best qualities of a high-energy battery and a high-powered supercapacitor without lithium.

The magic of molybdenite: solar cells and light-emitting diodes

April 28, 2014 7:30 am | by Sarah Perrin | News | Comments

Molybdenite has been instrumental in research at the Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland (EPFL), where scientists have used it to develop a computer chip, flash memory device and a photographic sensor. Now, they have again tapped into the electronic potential of MoS2 by creating diodes that can emit light or absorb it to produce electricity.

Double-duty electrolyte enables new chemistry for longer-lived batteries

April 24, 2014 11:44 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new and unconventional battery chemistry aimed at producing batteries that last longer than previously thought possible. In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, ORNL researchers challenged a long-held assumption that a battery’s three main components can play only one role in the device.

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery

April 24, 2014 7:55 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials’ photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment.

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Halving hydrogen

April 23, 2014 11:13 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Like a hungry diner ripping open a dinner roll, a fuel cell catalyst that converts hydrogen into electricity must tear open a hydrogen molecule. Now researchers have captured a view of such a catalyst holding onto the two halves of its hydrogen feast. The view confirms previous hypotheses and provides insight into how to make the catalyst work better for alternative energy uses.

SUNY college may partner with Solar Frontier on thin-film R&D, production

April 23, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Solar Frontier and the State Univ. of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering have signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a technical and economic feasibility study for potential joint R&D and manufacturing of CIS thin-film modules in Buffalo, New York. This move is part of Solar Frontier’s plans to establish production bases for its proprietary technology outside of Japan, the company’s home market.

Like a hall of mirrors, nanostructures trap photons inside ultra-thin solar cells

April 23, 2014 8:13 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultra-thin solar cells that cut material costs. At the same time, they’re keeping these thin cells efficient by sculpting their surfaces with photovoltaic nanostructures that behave like a molecular hall of mirrors.

Tesla delivers first China cars, plans expansion

April 22, 2014 11:19 am | by Joe McDonald, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

Tesla Motors Inc. delivered its first eight electric sedans to customers in China on Tuesday and CEO Elon Musk said the company will build a nationwide network of charging stations and service centers as fast as it can. Customers received the first Model S sedans this week at a brief ceremony at Tesla's office in a Beijing industrial park, also the site of its first Chinese charging station.

Trace Degradation Analysis of Lithium-Ion Battery Components

April 22, 2014 10:37 am | by Paul Voelker, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Sunnyvale, Calif. | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are key components for portable electronics, medical devices, industrial equipment and automobiles. They are light weight, provide high energy density and recharge without memory effects. Much research has been spent on improving product safety, lifecycle and power output over a range of high and low temperatures, yet understanding fundamental processes and degradation mechanism remains a challenge.

Under some LED bulbs whites aren’t “whiter than white”

April 21, 2014 12:03 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different degrees of whites may all look the same, according to experts in lighting.

Study casts doubt on climate benefit of biofuels from corn residue

April 21, 2014 11:53 am | by Leslie Reed, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications | News | Comments

Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings by a Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Surprising material could play role in saving energy

April 18, 2014 7:56 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

April 17, 2014 3:11 pm | News | Comments

The solar lamp developed by a start-up in Switzerland is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people in the world. Designed to be made by anyone, these solar-powered light-emitting diode lamps require nothing more than locally-found equipment. Only the solar panels are ordered from abroad.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

April 17, 2014 7:50 am | by Eric Gershon, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Yale Univ. have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. High-quality quantum switches are essential for the development of quantum computers and the quantum Internet.

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

April 16, 2014 11:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station—that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms could help avoid such consequences in the future.

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries

April 16, 2014 8:15 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Electric vehicles could travel farther and more renewable energy could be stored with lithium-sulfur batteries that use a unique powdery nanomaterial. Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery's cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.

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