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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.  

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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.

Technique makes “biogasoline” from plant waste

February 4, 2014 9:08 am | News | Comments

Gasoline-like fuels can be made from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process invented by chemists at the Univ. of California, Davis. The process could open up new markets for plant-based fuels, beyond existing diesel substitutes.

Gummy material addresses safety of lithium-ion batteries

February 4, 2014 8:39 am | by Tina Hilding, College of Engineering and Architecture | News | Comments

A group of Washington State Univ. researchers has developed a chewing gum-like battery material that could dramatically improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries. High-performance lithium batteries are popular in everything from computers to airplanes because they are able to store a large amount of energy compared to other batteries. Their biggest potential risk, however, comes from the electrolyte in the battery.

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Modeling buildings by the millions: Building codes in China tested for energy savings

January 31, 2014 8:50 am | News | Comments

According to a study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, China can build its way to a more energy efficient future by improving the rules regulating these structures like houses, apartments and retail stores. The scientists created a unique model that projects how much energy can be saved with changes to China's building energy codes, and those savings were significant.

New energy research lab coming to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

January 30, 2014 8:50 am | News | Comments

Construction on a new energy research facility at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will start this April. The project, valued at approximately $10 million, will build a facility that will house a broad variety of energy research and PNNL's campus sustainability program. Research there will focus on power grid reliability and resiliency, integration of renewable energy onto the grid and reducing energy use in buildings.

Identifying chemical, physical traits of fallout

January 30, 2014 7:55 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have begun to develop a technique that provides a practical approach for looking into the complex physical and chemical processes that occur during fallout formation following a nuclear detonation. Post-detonation nuclear forensics relies on advanced analytical techniques and an understanding of the physio-chemical processes associated with a nuclear detonation to identify the device type.

Commercialization license to advance batteries for renewable energy storage

January 29, 2014 7:56 am | News | Comments

A Massachusetts startup has signed a license agreement with Battelle to commercialize battery technology that can help store large amounts of renewable energy and improve the reliability of the nation's power grid. The license with Lowell, Mass.-based WattJoule Corp. is expected to advance the commercial use of redox flow battery technology.

Seafloor carpet catches waves to generate energy

January 29, 2014 7:37 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

What do champion surfers who gathered at last week’s Mavericks Invitational have in common with a Univ. of California, Berkeley engineer? They all are looking to harness the power of big ocean waves. But the similarities end there. For assistant professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave mechanics, the seafloor “carpet” he is proposing will convert ocean waves into usable energy.

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Study: Active power control of wind turbines can improve power grid reliability

January 28, 2014 1:51 pm | News | Comments

Wind energy experts have completed a comprehensive study to understand how wind power technology can assist the power grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system. They find that wind power can do this by adjusting its power output to enhance system reliability, using forms of active power control such as synthetic inertial control, primary frequency control and automatic generation control regulation.

Computer power clicks with geochemistry

January 28, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is developing computer models that show how radioactive waste interacts with soil and sediments, shedding light on waste disposal and how to keep contamination away from drinking water. Researchers have studied the geochemistry of contaminants such as radioactive materials and toxic heavy metals, including lead, arsenic and cadmium. But laboratory testing of soils is difficult.

Getting a charge from changes in humidity

January 27, 2014 11:15 am | News | Comments

A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to research conducted at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.

Getting carbon out of your portfolio is tricky

January 24, 2014 4:08 pm | by Jonathan Fahey - AP Energy Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

If you are like millions of Americans and own a broad stock index fund, you own parts of Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy and other companies that earn money selling oil, coal and other fossil fuels. For some, that's great. Fossil fuels give us light, keep us warm, help grow our food, deliver our products and jet us around the planet. Some companies are stable and profitable and offer consistent dividends that pad retirement accounts nicely.

Solar cell technology captures high-energy photons more efficiently

January 24, 2014 8:38 am | News | Comments

Getting the blues is rarely a desirable experience—unless you’re a solar cell, that is. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and the Univ. of Texas at Austin have together developed a new, inexpensive material that has the potential to capture and convert solar energy—particularly from the bluer part of the spectrum—much more efficiently than ever before.

World’s first magma-enhanced geothermal system created in Iceland

January 23, 2014 1:54 pm | by Iqbal Pittalwala, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

In 2009, a borehole drilled at Krafla, northeast Iceland, as part of the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), unexpectedly penetrated into magma at only 2100 m depth, with a temperature of 900-1000 C. The borehole, called IDDP-1, essentially created the world’s first magma-enhanced geothermal system, and is now blowing superheated 450 C steam directly from a molten magma.

Natural gas locomotives may prove cheaper, cleaner

January 23, 2014 2:07 am | by Josh Funk - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The diesel-burning locomotive, the workhorse of American railroads since World War II, will soon begin burning natural gas—a potentially historic shift that could cut fuel costs, reduce pollution and strengthen the advantage railroads hold over trucks in long-haul shipping. Rail companies want to take advantage of booming natural gas production that has cut the price of the fuel by as much as 50%.

Maximizing solar cells

January 22, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

As part of his PhD, postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Daniel Tune in Australia has designed a computer modelling system that shows which combination of carbon nanotubes absorb the most sunlight, therefore providing the most energy. In 2011, researchers in the U.S. successfully fabricated a solar cell using carbon nanotubes, but there are more than 70 different types of carbon nanotube that could be used in such solar cells.

From a carpet of nanorods to a thin film solar cell absorber within seconds

January 22, 2014 11:14 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Ireland and Germany have discovered a novel solid state reaction which lets kesterite grains grow within a few seconds and at relatively low temperatures. The work points towards a new pathway for the fabrication of thin microcrystalline semiconductor films without the need of expensive vacuum technology.

Understanding perovskite-based solar cells

January 22, 2014 9:18 am | News | Comments

In only a few years, the efficiency of perovskite-based solar cells has increased from 3% to more than 16%. However, a detailed explanation of the mechanisms of operation within this photovoltaic system is still lacking. in recent work, scientists have now uncovered the mechanism by which these novel light-absorbing semiconductors transfer electrons along their surface.

Engineer converts yeast cells into “sweet crude” biofuel

January 22, 2014 9:13 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a new source of renewable energy, a biofuel, from genetically engineered yeast cells and ordinary table sugar. This yeast produces oils and fats, known as lipids, that can be used in place of petroleum-derived products.

Atomic-scale catalysts may produce cheap hydrogen

January 22, 2014 8:13 am | News | Comments

Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have shown that a one-atom thick film of molybdenum sulfide (MoS2) may work as an effective catalyst for creating hydrogen. The work opens a new door for the production of cheap hydrogen. Hydrogen holds great promise as an energy source, but the production of hydrogen from water electrolysis currently relies in large part on the use of expensive platinum catalysts.

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