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New technique for growing high-efficiency perovskite solar cells

January 29, 2015 3:31 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

In Science, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers reveal a new solution-based hot-casting technique that allows growth of highly efficient and reproducible solar cells from large-area perovskite crystals. The researchers fabricated planar solar cells from pervoskite materials with large crystalline grains that had efficiencies approaching 18%.

Using ocean waves to monitor offshore oil and gas fields

January 29, 2015 7:54 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A technology developed by Stanford Univ. scientists for passively probing the seafloor using weak seismic waves generated by the ocean could revolutionize offshore oil and natural gas extraction by providing real-time monitoring of the subsurface while lessening the impact on marine life.

“Bulletproof” battery

January 28, 2015 9:55 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

New battery technology from the Univ. of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013. The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery. Made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, the tough material in bulletproof vests, the barrier stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.

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Carbon nanoballs can greatly contribute to sustainable energy supply

January 28, 2015 9:07 am | by Johanna Wilde, Chalmers Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers at Chalmers Univ. of Technology have discovered that the insulation plastic used in high-voltage cables can withstand a 26% higher voltage if nanometer-sized carbon balls are added. This could result in enormous efficiency gains in the power grids of the future, which are needed to achieve a sustainable energy system.

Researchers identify materials to improve biofuel, petroleum processing

January 26, 2015 10:57 am | by Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Using one of the largest supercomputers in the world, a team of researchers led by the Univ. of Minnesota has identified potential materials that could improve the production of ethanol and petroleum products. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost savings in these industries. The Univ. of Minnesota has two patents pending on the research and hopes to license these technologies.

New step towards future production of solar fuels

January 26, 2015 9:31 am | by Linda Koffmar, Uppsala Univ. | News | Comments

One way of storing solar energy is to transform the energy directly into a fuel. Researchers at Uppsala Univ. have shown a reaction which makes the process of creating fuel from solar energy more efficient and less energy demanding. Solar energy is abundant. In one hour, the Earth receives as much energy from the sun as humankind uses in a whole year.

Scientists shed new light on biomass breakdown

January 26, 2015 8:18 am | by David Garner, Senior Press Officer, Univ. of York | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of York are part of a research team which has found that a recently discovered family of enzymes can degrade resistant forms of starch. Earlier research established that the enzymes, lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), are able to degrade hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.

Calculating the future of solar-fuel refineries

January 23, 2015 2:01 pm | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

A team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison engineers has developed a new tool to help plot the future of solar fuels. In a paper recently published in Energy & Environmental Science, a team outlined a tool to help engineers better gauge the overall yield, efficiency and costs associated with scaling solar-fuel production processes up into large-scale refineries.

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Technique helps probe performance of organic solar cell materials

January 23, 2015 10:33 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

A research team has developed a new technique for determining the role that a material’s structure has on the efficiency of organic solar cells, which are candidates for low-cost, next-generation solar power. The researchers have used the technique to determine that materials with a highly organized structure at the nanoscale are not more efficient at creating free electrons than poorly organized structures.

New technique for producing cheaper solar energy

January 23, 2015 9:41 am | by Jo Bowler, Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

A team of experts from the Univ. of Exeter has examined new techniques for generating photovoltaic (PV) energy more cost efficiently. The global PV market has experienced rapid growth in recent years due to renewable energy targets and carbon dioxide emission controls. However, current, widely used commercial methods employed to generate PV energy, such as using silicon or thin-film-based technologies, are still expensive.

“Predicted” zeolites may fuel efficient processes

January 23, 2015 8:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have identified synthetic materials that may purify ethanol more efficiently and greatly improve the separation of long-chain hydrocarbons in petroleum refining. The results show that predictive modeling of synthetic zeolites is highly effective and can help solve some of the most challenging problems facing industries that require efficient ways to separate or catalyze materials.

Perovskites provide big boost in silicon solar cells

January 22, 2015 1:04 pm | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stacking perovskites, a crystalline material, onto a conventional silicon solar cell dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the cell, according to a new study led by Stanford Univ. scientists. The researchers describe their novel perovskite-silicon solar cell in Energy & Environmental Science.

Engineers use x-rays to illuminate catalysis, revise theories

January 21, 2015 9:11 am | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Many of today's most promising renewable energy technologies rely upon catalysts to expedite the chemical reactions at the heart of their potential. Catalysts are materials that enhance chemical reactions without being consumed in the process. For over a century, engineers across the world have engaged in a near-continual search for ways to improve catalysts for their devices and processes.

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Research aims to improve lithium-based batteries

January 21, 2015 8:31 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Research probing the complex science behind the formation of "dendrites" that cause lithium-ion batteries to fail could bring safer, longer-lasting batteries capable of being charged within minutes instead of hours. The dendrites form on anode electrodes and may continue to grow until causing an internal short circuit, which results in battery failure and possible fire.

Self-assembled nanotextures create antireflective surface on silicon solar cells

January 21, 2015 8:05 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Reducing the amount of sunlight that bounces off the surface of solar cells helps maximize the conversion of the sun's rays to electricity, so manufacturers use coatings to cut down on reflections. Now scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto the silicon material itself creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer coatings.

Sequestration on shaky ground

January 21, 2015 7:46 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Carbon sequestration promises to address greenhouse gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injecting it deep below the Earth’s surface, where it would permanently solidify into rock. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current carbon sequestration technologies may eliminate up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

How is oil cheap when we use so much?

January 16, 2015 12:16 pm | by Jonathan Fahey, Associated Press | News | Comments

The world burns enough oil-derived fuels to drain an Olympic-sized swimming pool four times every minute. Global consumption has never been higher—and is rising. Yet, the price of a barrel of oil has fallen by more than half over the past six months because the globe, experts say, is awash in oil.

Perovskites provide big boost to silicon solar cells

January 16, 2015 8:05 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stacking perovskites onto a conventional silicon solar cell dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the cell, according to a new study led by Stanford Univ. scientists. The researchers describe their novel perovskite-silicon solar cell in Energy & Environmental Science.

Model analyzes water footprint of biofuels

January 15, 2015 12:03 pm | by Greg Cunningham, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new version of an online tool created by Argonne National Laboratory will help biofuels developers gain a detailed understanding of water consumption of various types of feedstocks, aiding development of sustainable fuels that will reduce impact on limited water resources.

“Smart windows” have potential to keep heat our, save energy

January 15, 2015 9:53 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Windows allow brilliant natural light to stream into homes and buildings. Along with light comes heat that, in warm weather, we often counter with energy-consuming air conditioning. Now scientists are developing a new kind of "smart window" that can block out heat when the outside temperatures rise. The advance could one day help consumers better conserve energy on hot days and reduce electric bills.

New material, technique efficiently produce hydrogen, syngas fuel feedstock

January 15, 2015 8:00 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

A team of chemical engineering researchers has developed a technique that uses a new catalyst to convert methane and water into hydrogen and a fuel feedstock called syngas with the assistance of solar power. The catalytic material is more than three times more efficient at converting water into hydrogen gas than previous thermal water-splitting methods.

Self-driving cars: Lower-cost navigation system developed

January 14, 2015 11:31 am | by Gabe Cherry, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new software system developed at the Univ. of Michigan uses video game technology to help solve one of the most daunting hurdles facing self-driving and automated cars—the high cost of the laser scanners they use to determine their location. Ryan Wolcott, a U-M doctoral candidate in computer science and engineering, estimates that it could shave thousands of dollars from the cost of these vehicles.

Berkley Lab illuminates price premiums for U.S. solar home sales

January 14, 2015 8:14 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A multi-institutional research team of scientists led by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, universities and appraisers, found that home buyers consistently have been willing to pay more for homes with host-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems—averaging about $4/W of PV installed—across various states, housing and PV markets and home types.

Crush those clinkers while they’re hot

January 14, 2015 7:48 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Making cement is a centuries-old art that has yet to be perfected, according to researchers at Rice Univ. who believe it can be still more efficient. Former Rice graduate student Lu Chen and materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari calculated that fine-tuning the process by which round lumps of calcium silicate called clinkers are turned into cement can save a lot of energy.

Glass for battery electrodes

January 13, 2015 11:51 am | by ETH Zurich | News | Comments

For some time now, energy experts have been adamant that we will need much more clean energy in the future if we are to replace fossil fuel sources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. For example, electric cars will need to replace the petrol-powered cars driving on our roads.

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