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Designing ion “highway systems” for batteries

June 10, 2014 2:19 pm | News | Comments

Since the early 1970s, lithium has been the most popular element for batteries because of it’s low weight and good electrochemical potential. But it is also highly flammable. Researchers have recently married two traditional theories in materials science that can explain how the charge dictates the structure of the material. And using this they may be able to move to other materials, such as block copolymers, for use in batteries.

New nanoparticles bring cheaper, lighter solar cells outdoors

June 9, 2014 11:37 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Think those flat, glassy solar panels on your neighbor’s roof are the pinnacle of solar technology? Think again. Researchers at Univ. of Toronto have designed and tested a new class of solar-sensitive nanoparticle that outshines the current state of the art employing this new class of technology.

Seeing how a lithium-ion battery works

June 9, 2014 7:44 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New observations by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed the inner workings of a type of electrode widely used in lithium-ion batteries. The new findings explain the unexpectedly high power and long cycle life of such batteries, the researchers say.

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Ionic liquid boosts efficiency of carbon dioxide reduction catalyst

June 6, 2014 7:50 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Wouldn’t it be nice to use solar- or wind-generated electricity to turn excess carbon dioxide into fuels and other useful chemicals? The process would store up the intermittent solar or wind energy in a form that could be used when and where it was needed, including in transportation applications, all while getting rid of some greenhouse gas.

Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction

June 5, 2014 1:31 pm | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

Over the past decade, it has become readily apparent that the global environment is increasingly sensitive to human activity. The effects of global warming, increasing energy costs, dramatic climate changes and shortages of raw materials, potable water and food strain the global community.

Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction: Sustainability Basics and Design

June 5, 2014 1:13 pm | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

Over the past decade, it has become readily apparent that the global environment is increasingly sensitive to human activity. The effects of global warming, increasing energy costs, dramatic climate changes and shortages of raw materials, potable water and food strain the global community.

Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction: LEED

June 5, 2014 12:12 pm | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

LEED is a sustainability certification rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is a private, membership-based non-profit organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. The USGBC partners with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), offering a suite of LEED professional credentials that identify expertise in the field of green building.

A battery revolution on the cheap?

June 5, 2014 11:14 am | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

Whip together an industrial waste product and a bit of plastic and you might have the recipe for the next revolution in battery technology. Scientists have combined common ingredients to make an inexpensive, high-capacity lithium-sulfur battery that can be cycled hundreds of times without losing function.

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Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction: Changes and Trends

June 5, 2014 9:18 am | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

The latest update seen in LEED v4 provides a small glimpse of the expected changes in where sustainability efforts will be focused over the next several years. While some of the LEED certification changes are a little bit more of the same, just reworded and retitled, changes such as the holistic approach to materials analyses, lifecycle considerations and multiple metering (monitoring) requirements establish new challenges for submitters.

Sustianable Laboratory Design and Construction: Resources

June 4, 2014 4:06 pm | by Tim Studt | Siemens Industry, Inc. | Articles | Comments

Over the past decade, it has become readily apparent that the global environment is increasingly sensitive to human activity. The effects of global warming, increasing energy costs, dramatic climate changes and shortages of raw materials, potable water and food strain the global community. Here are some sustainable design resources.

Integration Realized

June 4, 2014 3:43 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Today’s smartphone is a complicated power device, using a small lithium-ion battery of about 1,400-mAh capacity to power a variety of electronic systems, including a touchscreen display, a central processing unit, antennas, speakers and a microphone. All of its components, including the materials used to build it, are optimized to perform as efficiently as possible to extend battery life.

Fullerene-Free Organic Solar

June 4, 2014 2:39 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Investigated heavily since the 1970s, solar cells have been the great unfulfilled promise for unlimited, almost free energy to power the world. The reasoning is solid: The Earth absorbs almost as much energy per hour than the entire human race uses in a single year.

Safety Is Key When Planning for U.S. High-speed Rail Lines

June 4, 2014 11:46 am | by Xavier Fornari, Product Marketing Manager, ANSYS, Elancourt, France | Articles | Comments

High-speed rail is a frequently discussed topic, but one that has yet to become a reality in the U.S. A number of states and regions in the U.S. including Texas, California, the Pacific Northwest and Minnesota, to name a few, have planned projects to bring high-speed rail to fruition.

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Rice produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:47 am | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created an Earth-friendly way to separate carbon dioxide from natural gas at wellheads. A porous material invented by the Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

Controlling thermal conductivities can improve energy storage

June 4, 2014 7:30 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Materials that control heat flow are available with both high and low conductivities, but materials with variable and reversible thermal conductivities are rare. For the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have experimentally shown that the thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide, an important material for electrochemical energy storage, can be reversibly electrochemically modulated over a considerable range.

Countdown to net zero

June 3, 2014 9:27 am | by Mark Bello, NIST | News | Comments

Heading into the final stretch of a year-long trial run, the experimental net-zero energy house at NIST in Gaithersburg, Md., must overcome an energy deficit of 154 kWhr—equivalent to about $20—during the month of June. The facility was designed to produce at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year.

A fuel cell for the home

June 3, 2014 6:58 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Europe have designed a new type of fuel cell that is much simpler and can be mounted on a wall and used in a home. Designed with heater manufacturer Vaillant, the compact and safe system is based on solid fuel cell technology and generates electricity and heat from natural gas. With an output of 1 kW, it provides the average current consumption for a four-person household.

Solar Impulse 2 makes maiden flight

June 2, 2014 9:20 am | Videos | Comments

A Swiss-made solar-powered aircraft has made a successful inaugural flight as its makers prepare for what they hope will be the first round-the-world solar flight. The aircraft spent 2 hours and 17 minutes in the air above western Switzerland early Monday. The Solar Impulse 2 is a bigger and better version of a single-seat prototype that first took flight five years ago and can theoretically stay airborne indefinitely.

Study: Solar panel manufacturing is greener in Europe than China

May 30, 2014 8:42 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Solar panels made in China have a higher overall carbon footprint and are likely to use substantially more energy during manufacturing than those made in Europe, said a new study from Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory. The report compared energy and greenhouse gas emissions that go into the manufacturing process of solar panels in Europe and China.

Stabilizing common semiconductors for solar fuels generation

May 30, 2014 8:17 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Researchers are trying to develop solar-driven generators that can split water, yielding hydrogen gas that could be used as clean fuel. Such a device requires efficient light-absorbing materials that attract and hold sunlight to drive the chemical reactions involved in water splitting. Semiconductors are excellent light absorbers. However, these materials rust when submerged in the type of water solutions found in such systems.

Scientists pinpoint the creeping nanocrystals behind lithium-ion battery degradation

May 29, 2014 8:20 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Batteries don’t age gracefully. The lithium ions that power portable electronics cause lingering structural damage with each cycle of charge and discharge, making devices from smartphones to tablets tick toward zero faster and faster over time. To stop or slow this steady degradation, scientists must track and tweak the imperfect chemistry of lithium-ion batteries with nanoscale precision.

Laser system mimics sunlight to test solar cell efficiency

May 28, 2014 10:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have developed a laser-based instrument that generates artificial sunlight to help test solar cell properties and find ways to boost their efficiency. The novel NIST system simulates sunlight well across a broad spectrum of visible to infrared light. More flexible than conventional solar simulators, the laser instrument can be focused down to a small beam spot and shaped to match any desired spectral profile.

Improving a new breed of solar cells

May 28, 2014 7:42 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Solar cell technology has advanced rapidly, as hundreds of groups around the world pursue more than two dozen approaches using different materials, technologies and approaches to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has set a new record for the most efficient quantum-dot cells.

Graphene may make large scale electricity storage a reality

May 27, 2014 9:35 am | News | Comments

Soon after graphene’s isolation, early research already showed that lithium batteries with graphene in their electrodes had a greater capacity and lifespan than standard designs. At the Univ. of Manchester, U.K., where graphene was first isolated, researchers are working with more than 30 companies to advance technology in graphene-enabled energy storage, particularly in the area of lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors.

Electricity use slashed with efficiency controls for heating, cooling

May 23, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling electricity use by an average of 57% with advanced energy-efficiency controls, according to a year-long trial of the controls at malls, grocery stores and other buildings across the country. The study demonstrated higher energy savings than what was predicted in earlier computer simulations by the same researchers.

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