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A few “problem wells” source of greenhouse gas

April 15, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

High levels of the greenhouse gas methane were found above shale gas wells at a production point not thought to be an important emissions source, according to a study jointly led by Purdue and Cornell universities. The findings could have implications for the evaluation of the environmental impacts from natural gas production.

Shiny quantum dots brighten future of solar cells

April 14, 2014 10:42 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from Univ. of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. Their project demonstrates that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight.

A molecular approach to solar power

April 14, 2014 7:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s an obvious truism, but one that may soon be outdated: The problem with solar power is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. has come up with an ingenious workaround: a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.

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Sunlight generates hydrogen in new porous silicon

April 10, 2014 11:20 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Porous silicon manufactured in a bottom up procedure using solar energy can be used to generate hydrogen from water, according to a team of Penn State Univ. mechanical engineers, who also see applications for batteries, biosensors and optical electronics as outlets for this new material.

Scientists discover way to make ethanol without corn, other plants

April 10, 2014 9:00 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have found a new, highly efficient way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. This promising discovery could provide an eco-friendly alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops, say the scientists. Their results are published online in Nature.

Oak Ridge study pegs fuel economy costs of common practices

April 9, 2014 3:07 pm | News | Comments

People who pack their cars and drive like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s “Vacation” pay a steep penalty when it comes to fuel economy, according to a report by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Researchers tested vehicles at a variety of speeds with different configurations of load and tire inflation. While the findings were not unexpected, they serve as a reminder of how drivers can save money by taking simple measures.

Advanced warning systems increase safety at intersections, study shows

April 9, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

A major factor making driving difficult is hazards that are sudden and hard to predict. The wrong choice in this situation, known as the “dilemma zone,” may lead to crashes. Roadside and in-vehicle display warning systems may help drivers handle these hazards by predicting their occurrence and providing advanced warning to the driver, according to a new study.

Even thinner solar cells through use of nanoparticles

April 8, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

New research shows that nanostructures could enable more light to be directed into the active layer of solar cells, increasing their efficiency. Prof. Martina Schmid of Freie Univ. in Berlin has measured how irregularly distributed silver particles influence the absorption of light. Nanoparticles interact with one another via their electromagnetic near-fields, so that local “hot spots” arise where light is concentrated especially strongly.

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Scale model World War II craft takes flight with fuel from the sea

April 7, 2014 6:06 pm | News | Comments

Navy researchers have recently demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled P-51 fighter replica fueled by a new gas-to-liquid process that uses seawater as carbon feedstock. The fuel is made using an innovative and proprietary electrolytic cation exchange module that separates gases from water at 92% efficiency. Catalysis converts the gases to liquid hydrocarbons.

New findings to help extend high efficiency solar cells’ lifetime

April 7, 2014 1:27 pm | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

Solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells have shown their potential in achieving high efficiency with a low cost of fabrication. Degradation of these cells shortens lifespan dramatically, however, and the causes of this are not well understood. After a detailed analysis, researchers in Okinawa have determined which material in the cells was degrading, and why.

Trees go high-tech: Process turns cellulose into energy storage devices

April 7, 2014 1:19 pm | News | Comments

Chemists have found that cellulose, the most abundant organic polymer on Earth, can be heated in a furnace in the presence of ammonia and turned into the building blocks for supercapacitors. The new process produces nitrogen-doped, nanoporous carbon membranes, which act as the electrodes of a supercapacitor. The only byproduct is methane, which could be used immediately as a fuel or for other purposes.

Organic solar cells more efficient with molecules face-to-face

April 7, 2014 11:02 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

New research from North Carolina State Univ. and UNC-Chapel Hill reveals that energy is transferred more efficiently inside of complex, 3-D organic solar cells when the donor molecules align face-on, rather than edge-on, relative to the acceptor. This finding may aid in the design and manufacture of more efficient and economically viable organic solar cell technology.

Energy breakthrough uses sun to create solar energy materials

April 4, 2014 3:32 pm | News | Comments

In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible.               

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Nanostructures show promise for efficient LEDs

April 4, 2014 3:05 pm | News | Comments

Nanostructures half the breadth of a DNA strand could improve the efficiency of light emitting diodes (LEDs), especially in the “green gap,” a portion of the spectrum where LED efficiency plunges.               

'Unzipping' poplars' biofuel potential

April 4, 2014 2:26 pm | News | Comments

New research is focusing on enhancing poplar trees so they can break down easier and thus improving their viability as a biofuel. The long-term efforts and teamwork involved to find this solution can be described as a rare, top-down approach to engineering plants for digestibility.

Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce paper

April 4, 2014 9:43 am | by UBC | News | Comments

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.                 

Chemists settle debate about conversion of light

April 3, 2014 1:54 pm | News | Comments

Chemists have settled the debate about a fundamental question that is relevant to the conversion of one color into another and demonstrated how to influence the efficiency of this process by changing the refractive index around the material.  

Tiny power generator runs on saliva

April 3, 2014 1:02 pm | News | Comments

Saliva-powered micro-sized microbial fuel cells can produce minute amounts of energy sufficient to run on-chip applications, according to an international team of engineers.                      

Tiny crystals to boost solar cells

April 3, 2014 9:26 am | by David Bradley, International Union of Crystallography | News | Comments

A new approach to studying solar panel absorber materials has been developed by researchers in France. The technique could accelerate the development of non-toxic and readily available alternatives to current absorbers in thin film-based solar cells.

How electrodes charge and discharge

April 3, 2014 9:17 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

The electrochemical reactions inside the porous electrodes of batteries and fuel cells have been described by theorists, but never measured directly. Now, a team at MIT has figured out a way to measure the fundamental charge transfer rate — finding some significant surprises.

Americans used more energy in 2013

April 3, 2014 8:47 am | by Anne M. Stark, LLN | News | Comments

Americans used more renewable, fossil and even nuclear energy in 2013, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.                                   

Building better catalysts for splitting water

April 2, 2014 9:25 am | by Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

The dream of a hydrogen economy — a world run on H2gas, free from the pollution and politics of fossil fuels — may depend on developing an energy-efficient strategy for splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. The problem is that water bonds are very stable, requiring hefty energy inputs to break. Scientists are eagerly developing catalysts to lower the energy demands, and thus the cost.

Shape helps catalyst extract energy from biomass

April 2, 2014 6:06 am | News | Comments

Biomass is a good alternative for fossil fuels, but converting biomass into useful chemicals and fuels is difficult in practice. The metal oxide CeO2 can help the process by activating water, but until recent research in the Netherlands, it was not clear in which form the reactivity of this catalyst was highest.

Hybrid vehicles more fuel efficient in India, China than in U.S.

March 31, 2014 4:14 pm | News | Comments

What makes cities in India and China so frustrating to drive in makes them ideal for saving fuel with hybrid vehicles, according to new research by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Heavy traffic, aggressive driving style and few freeways allow hybrids in these countries to deliver as much as a 50% increase in fuel savings over conventional internal combustion vehicles.

Finding the mix: Solar cell efficiency a delicate balance

March 31, 2014 8:16 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Research from North Carolina State Univ. reveals that solar cell efficiency is based upon a delicate balance between the size and purity of the interior layers, or domains. These findings may lead to better designs and improved performance in organic solar cells.

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