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New assay tool characterizes plant sugar transporters

July 28, 2014 4:54 pm | News | Comments

A powerful new tool that could help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops bioenergy, has been developed by researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute. Their new, unique assay enabled them to analyze nucleotide sugar transporter activities in Arabidopsis, a promising source of plant biomass, and characterize a family of six nucleotide sugar transporters that has never before been described.

Cagey material acts as alcohol factory

July 28, 2014 2:37 pm | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Some chemical conversions are harder than others. Refining natural gas into an easy-to-transport, easy-to-store liquid alcohol has so far been a logistic and economic challenge. But now, a new material, designed and patented by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is making this process a little easier.

Understanding the source of extra-large capacities in promising Li-ion battery electrodes

July 28, 2014 8:15 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium (Li)-ion batteries power almost all of the portable electronic devices that we use every day, including smartphones, cameras, toys and even electric cars. Researchers across the globe are working to find materials that will lead to safe, cheap, long-lasting and powerful Li-ion batteries.

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Study shows how to power California with wind, water and sun

July 25, 2014 6:49 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

New Stanford Univ. research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices. Among other metrics, the plan calculates the number of new devices and jobs created, land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for infrastructure changes.

Study: Forward osmosis desalination not energy efficient

July 24, 2014 7:37 am | by Alissa Mallinson | MIT Dept. of Mechanical Engineering | News | Comments

In a recent study published in the Journal of Membrane Science, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team reported that, contrary to popular support, forward osmosis desalination of seawater is significantly less energy efficient, compared to reverse osmosis. In forward osmosis, water is drawn from the seawater into a concentrated salt solution, known as a draw solution.

Spinach could lead to alternative energy more powerful than Popeye

July 23, 2014 4:07 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.

NIST develops prototype meter test for hydrogen refueling stations

July 22, 2014 2:20 pm | News | Comments

Three automakers plan to begin selling hydrogen-fueled vehicles to consumers in 2015. To support the fair sale of gaseous hydrogen as a vehicle fuel, researchers at NIST have developed a prototype field test standard to test the accuracy of hydrogen fuel dispensers. Once the standard is field tested, it will serve as a model for constructing similar devices for state weights and measures inspectors to use.

Steam from the sun

July 21, 2014 7:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new material structure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure—a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam—is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam.

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Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

First ab initio method for characterizing hot carriers

July 18, 2014 8:19 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

One of the major road blocks to the design and development of new, more efficient solar cells may have been cleared. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed the first ab initio method for characterizing the properties of “hot carriers” in semiconductors. Hot carriers are electrical charge carriers with significantly higher energy than charge carriers at thermal equilibrium.

After hybrid success, Toyota gambles on fuel cell

July 17, 2014 8:55 am | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

Long dismissed as too impractical and expensive for everyday cars, fuel cell technology is getting a push into the mainstream by Toyota, the world's top-selling automaker. Buoyed by its success with electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles, Toyota is betting that drivers will embrace hydrogen fuel cells, an even cleaner technology. The company’s fuel cell car will go on sale before April next year.

Labs characterize carbon for batteries

July 15, 2014 8:04 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries could benefit from a theoretical model created at Rice Univ. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that predicts how carbon components will perform as electrodes. The model is based on intrinsic electronic characteristics of materials used as battery anodes. These include the material’s quantum capacitance and the material’s absolute Fermi level.

Getting a charge out of water droplets

July 15, 2014 7:53 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Now, the same team has demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices.

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Chemists develop technology to produce clean-burning hydrogen fuel

July 14, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Rutgers Univ. researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel. The new catalyst is based on carbon nanotubes and may rival cost-prohibitive platinum for reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Inventor pushes solar panels for roads, highways

July 11, 2014 11:33 am | by Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press | News | Comments

The solar panels that Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has built aren't meant for rooftops. They are meant for roads, driveways, parking lots, bike trails and, eventually, highways. Brusaw, an electrical engineer, says the hexagon-shaped panels can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity.

2014 R&D 100 Award winners announced

July 11, 2014 9:32 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Award Winners

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced the winners of the 52nd annual R&D 100 Awards, an international competition that recognizes the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year. The R&D 100 Awards recognize excellence across a wide range of industries...

Engineering a more efficient fuel cell

July 9, 2014 10:38 am | by Glen Martin, Stanford New Service | News | Comments

Using high-brilliance x-rays, Stanford Univ. researchers track the process that fuel cells use to produce electricity, knowledge that will help make large-scale alternative energy power systems more practical and reliable. Fuel cells use oxygen and hydrogen as fuel to create electricity; if the process were run in reverse, the fuel cells could be used to store electricity, as well.  

Chemists develop novel catalyst with two functions

July 9, 2014 8:47 am | by Dr. Julia Weiler, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

A new type of catalyst, based on carbon, can facilitate two opposite reactions: electrolysis of water and combustion of hydrogen with oxygen. This bi-functionality, developed by researchers in Germany, is made possible from its construction: manganese-oxide or cobalt-oxide nanoparticles which are embedded in specially modified carbon, then integrated with nitrogen atoms in specific positions.

Silicon sponge improves lithium-ion battery performance

July 8, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a porous material to replace the graphite traditionally used in a battery's electrodes. Made from silicon, which has more than 10 times the energy storage capacity of graphite, the sponge-like material can help lithium-ion batteries store more energy and run longer on a single charge.

Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel

July 2, 2014 9:40 am | by Tien Nguyen, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Princeton Univ. joined with experts at Liquid Light Inc. to devise an efficient method for harnessing sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into a potential alternative fuel known as formic acid. This type of acid is already being explored as an alternative in fuel cells. The new process takes place inside an electrochemical cell, which consists of metal plates the size of lunch-boxes that enclose liquid-carrying channels.

NIST test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

July 2, 2014 9:34 am | News | Comments

Despite five months of below-average temperatures and twice the normal amount of snowfall, NIST's Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in Washington, D.C. ended its one-year test run with 491 KW-h of extra energy. Instead of paying almost $4,400 for electricity, the experimental all-electric house actually earned a credit by exporting surplus energy to the local utility.

Scientists discover how plastic solar panels work

July 1, 2014 11:52 am | News | Comments

Experts don't fully understand how “plastic” solar panels work, which complicates the improvement of their cost efficiency and hinders wider use of the technology. However, an international team has now determined how light beams excite the chemicals in solar panels, enabling them to produce charge. Their findings were made possible with the use of femtosecond Raman spectroscopy.

More pores for more power

June 30, 2014 2:10 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have produced a new material the size of a sugar cube that has a surface area equivalent to more than seven tennis courts. This novel type of nanofiber has a highly ordered and porous structure gives it an extraordinarily high surface-to-volume ratio and could be a key enabling technology for lithium-sulfur batteries.

ARPA-E award recipient advancing solid oxide fuel cells

June 30, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

SiEnergy Systems, an Allied Minds company commercializing low temperature thin film solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology from Harvard University, has announced that it has been selected for $2.65 million in funding from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). SiEnergy has develop innovative and unique hybrid electrochemical system that performs as both fuel cell and battery.

Water-cleanup catalysts tackle biomass upgrading

June 26, 2014 12:33 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. chemical engineer Michael Wong has spent a decade amassing evidence that palladium-gold nanoparticles are excellent catalysts for cleaning polluted water, but even he was surprised at how well the particles converted biodiesel waste into valuable chemicals.

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