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Petrochemical industry technique helps store solar energy

November 6, 2014 2:46 pm | by Dan Stober, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Chemical engineers have designed a catalyst that could help produce vast quantities of pure hydrogen through electrolysis – the process of passing electricity through water to break hydrogen loose from oxygen in H2O.         

Leading the charge for a panel-powered car

November 6, 2014 10:08 am | by Queensland Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

A car powered by its own body panels could soon be driving on our roads after a breakthrough in nanotechnology research by a Queensland Univ. of Technology team.                          

Novel sodium-conducting material could improve rechargeable batteries

November 5, 2014 9:23 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Rechargeable battery manufacturers may get a jolt from research performed at NIST and several other institutions, where a team of scientists has discovered a safe, inexpensive, sodium-conducting material that significantly outperforms all others in its class. The team's discovery is a sodium-based, complex metal hydride, a material with potential as a cheaper alternative to the lithium-based conductors used in many rechargeable batteries.

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Combining “Tinkertoy” materials with solar cells for increased photovoltaic efficiency

November 5, 2014 8:42 am | by Mike Janes, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have received a $1.2 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to develop a technique that they believe will significantly improve the efficiencies of photovoltaic materials and help make solar electricity cost-competitive with other sources of energy.

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

November 5, 2014 8:31 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.

Jet-fueled electricity at room temperature

November 5, 2014 7:41 am | by Aditi Risbud, Univ. of Utah Collee of Engineering | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah engineers developed the first room-temperature fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without needing to ignite the fuel. These new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors. A study of the new cells appears online in ACS Catalysis.

Microgrid could standardize small, self-sustaining electric grids

November 4, 2014 2:56 pm | by Katie Elyce Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yan Xu talks about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, she’s discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids—small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.

Mysterious drones seen over French nuclear sites

November 4, 2014 10:09 am | by Associated Press, Jamey Keaten | News | Comments

French security officials are investigating a spate of mysterious and illegal flights by drone aircraft over more than a dozen nuclear power stations in France, raising security concerns in a country that largely lives off atomic energy. In what environmental activists call a worrisome development, authorities have tallied at least 15 overflights of nuclear sites since early October, culminating Friday with five at separate sites.

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New way to make batteries safer

November 3, 2014 4:51 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every year, nearly 4,000 children go to emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and many other devices. Ingesting these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract and, in some cases, even death.

Chemists gain edge in next-gen energy

November 3, 2014 1:37 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who want to gain an edge in energy production and storage report they have found it in molybdenum disulfide. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s 2-D form into a nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage.

Process transforms wood, crop waste into valuable chemicals

November 3, 2014 10:13 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Scientists disclosed a new method to convert lignin, a biomass waste product, into simple chemicals. The innovation is an important step toward replacing petroleum-based fuels and chemicals with biorenewable materials. Lignin is the substance that makes trees and cornstalks sturdy, and it accounts for nearly 30% of the organic carbon in the biosphere.

Self-driving vehicles generate enthusiasm, concerns worldwide

October 31, 2014 8:22 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Despite safety concerns about equipment failure, a majority of drivers on three continents have high expectations for autonomous vehicles. Building on an earlier study on public opinion regarding self-driving vehicles in the U.S., Great Britain and Australia, a team from the Univ. of Michigan Transportation Research Institute expanded their survey to include more than 1,700 respondents in India, China and Japan.

After Fukushima, Japan gets green boom … and glut

October 30, 2014 3:01 pm | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

Traumatized by the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and encouraged by the highest rates for renewable energy in the world, Japan has been undergoing a green boom. It's now rapidly turning into a fiasco as the cost proves prohibitive and utilities anticipate putting some nuclear reactors back online. The utilities say they can't accommodate the flood of newcomers to the green energy business.

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IBM, Repsol launch world’s first cognitive technologies collaboration for the oil industry

October 30, 2014 11:46 am | Videos | Comments

Scientists at IBM and leading global energy company Repsol S.A. announced this week the world’s first research collaboration to leverage cognitive technologies that will help transform the oil and gas industry. IBM and Repsol are jointly developing two prototype cognitive applications specifically designed to augment Repsol’s strategic decision making in the optimization of oil reservoir production and in the acquisition of new oil fields.

Electric-car drivers trading gas for solar power

October 28, 2014 5:33 pm | by Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writer | News | Comments

Owners of electric vehicles have already gone gas-free. Now, a growing number are powering their cars with sunlight. Solar panels installed on the roof of a home or garage can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The approach is not cheap, but advocates say the investment pays off over time and is worth it for the thrill of fossil fuel-free driving.

Plasma switch to help GE upgrade the U.S. power grid

October 28, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

When researchers at General Electric Co. sought help in designing a plasma-based power switch, they turned to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which helped them develop a plasma-filled tube that would replace semiconductor switches used for changing direct current to alternating current. The proposed switch could contribute to a more advanced and reliable electric grid and help to lower utility bills.

Where did the Deepwater Horizon oil go?

October 28, 2014 11:23 am | News | Comments

Where's the remaining oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? The location of 2 million barrels of oil thought to be trapped in the deep ocean has remained a mystery. Until now: A national team of scientists has discovered the path the oil followed to its resting place on the Gulf of Mexico sea floor.

Boosting biogasoline production in microbes

October 28, 2014 8:53 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the on-going effort to develop advanced biofuels as a clean, green and sustainable source of liquid transportation fuels, researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute have identified microbial genes that can improve both the tolerance and the production of biogasoline in engineered strains of Escherichia coli.

Shifting to higher octane

October 28, 2014 7:57 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If the majority of light-duty vehicles in the U.S. ran on higher-octane gasoline, the automotive industry as a whole would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tons per year, saving up to $6 billion in fuel costs, according to a new analysis by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers.

Fraunhofer develops economical process for micro energy harvesting

October 27, 2014 9:52 am | News | Comments

The trend toward energy self-sufficient probes and ever smaller mobile electronics systems continues, and are used to monitor the status of the engines on airplanes, or for medical implants. They gather the energy they need for this from their immediate environment, such as vibrations. Fraunhofer Institute researchers have developed a process for the economical production of piezoelectric materials that supply this type of energy.

Physicists find toxic halogens in Li-ion batteries

October 24, 2014 12:08 pm | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are superhalogens, and that the vast majority of these electrolytes contain toxic halogens. At the same time, the researchers also found that the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with halogen-free electrolytes that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

October 24, 2014 10:50 am | News | Comments

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global hydropower electricity production, it could reduce the number of remaining large free-flowing rivers by 20% and pose a threat to freshwater biodiversity. A new database has been developed in Denmark to support decision making on sustainable modes of electricity production.

Cooking up carbon: Sawdust and iron in the melting pot

October 24, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Researchers in the U.K. have found a new way to make nanostructured carbon using the waste product sawdust. By cooking sawdust with a thin coating of iron at 700 C, they have discovered that they can create carbon with a structure made up of many tiny tubes. These tubes are one thousand times smaller than an average human hair.

Evaluating powerful batteries for modular grid energy storage

October 24, 2014 8:31 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories has begun laboratory-based characterization of TransPower’s GridSaver, the largest grid energy storage system analyzed at Sandia’s Energy Storage Test Pad in Albuquerque. Sandia will evaluate the 1 MW, lithium-ion grid energy storage system for capacity, power, safety and reliability. The laboratory also will investigate the system’s frequency regulation.

An effective, cost-saving way to detect natural gas pipeline leaks

October 23, 2014 9:30 am | News | Comments

Major leaks from oil and gas pipelines have led to home evacuations, explosions, millions of dollars in lawsuit payouts and valuable natural resources escaping into the air, ground and water. But scientists say they have developed a new software-based method that finds leaks even when they’re small, which could help prevent serious incidents and save money for customers and industry.

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