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Study recommends better EPA labels on cost of electric cars

February 18, 2015 10:48 am | by George Diepenbrock, Univ. of Kansas | News | Comments

Redesigned Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy labels on cars for sale are likely ineffective in pointing out total savings of hybrid and electric plug-in cars over gasoline vehicles, according to new research involving two Univ. of Kansas professors. The researchers found that consumers for small to mid-sized cars would be more likely to choose a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle if they know the total cost of ownership.

Paper-like material could boost electric vehicle batteries

February 18, 2015 8:58 am | by Sean Nealon, University of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. It has the potential to boost by several times the specific energy, or amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery. This paper-like material is composed of sponge-like silicon nanofibers more than 100 times thinner than human hair.

U.S. natural gas market buffered against local policy intervention

February 17, 2015 7:02 pm | by David Ruth, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The depth and efficiency of the U.S. natural gas market would buffer it against potential local policy interventions aimed at limiting access to shale gas resources, according to a new paper by energy economists at Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

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Fiber-optic monitoring tools could help industry unlock geothermal energy

February 17, 2015 12:43 pm | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientists and engineers are working with industry partners and the U.S. Dept. of Energy to develop a highly detailed monitoring system for geothermal wells. Man-made geothermal systems that emulate natural ones could, by some conservative estimates, produce a total of 100 gigawatts of cost-competitive electricity over the next 50 years.

THERMal analysis aids in energy efficiency

February 17, 2015 10:08 am | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

It’s a well-known fact that labs consume four times more energy per square foot than a typical office building. And while ventilation and plug loads account for much of this energy use, proper design and detailing of building envelopes can have a significant impact on the energy demands of lab buildings.

Sustaining a Laboratory Environment

February 13, 2015 1:00 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

The design of laboratories for sustainable construction and operation has become a major driver in the A/E/C industry over the past 10 to 15 years. Most large academic, government and corporate laboratory clients are looking for sustainable design approaches at a minimum, and third-party certification, such as LEED, in many cases.

Limitless Photovoltaic Future

February 13, 2015 12:27 pm | by Tim Studt, Editor-in-Chief | Articles | Comments

Researchers working with photovoltaic (PV) technologies and production processes have made great strides over the past several years, such that PV systems are now considered a viable and cost-competitive energy alternative to traditional fossil fuel energy sources. The number of installations continues to increase, while panel and system costs continue to decline.

Oil Drilling Banned in Walrus-rich Area

February 12, 2015 7:00 am | by Associated Press, Dan Joling | News | Comments

A plateau on the Arctic Ocean floor, where thousands of Pacific walrus gather to feed and raise pups, has received new protections from the Obama administration that recognize it as a biological hot spot and mark it off-limits to future oil drilling. But the announcement triggered an uproar from Alaska leaders, angry that the federal government was making a decision that they said would harm the state's economy.

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Flipping the switch

February 10, 2015 10:11 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Inadequate insulation is one of the largest causes of wasted energy, quickly allowing comfortable heating or cooling to disperse air outside. That’s why researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are collaborating with industry to develop a high-performance material that nearly doubles the performance of traditional insulators without a high cost premium.

Battery startup promises safe lithium batteries

February 10, 2015 9:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory battery scientist Nitash Balsara has worked for many years trying to find a way to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries. Now he believes he has found the answer in a most unlikely material: a class of compounds that has mainly been used for industrial lubrication.

A ray of sunshine for bioenergy

February 10, 2015 8:55 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Even at historically low natural gas prices, bioenergy may not be out of the running: It just may need a little help from the sun. A new study from researchers at the Univ. of Minnesota examining the financial viability of solar-heated biomass gasification technologies that produce a natural gas substitute product concludes that combining these renewable resources can make economic sense.

Electricity from biomass with carbon capture could make western U.S. carbon negative

February 9, 2015 12:51 pm | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

Generating electricity from biomass, such as urban waste and sustainably sourced forest and crop residues, is one strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because it is carbon-neutral: It produces as much carbon as the plants suck out of the atmosphere.

Why “baking powder” increases efficiency of plastic solar cells

February 6, 2015 12:36 pm | by Barry van der Meer, Eindhoven Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

The efficiency of plastic solar cells can be doubled or tripled if an extra solvent is added during the production process, comparable with the role of baking powder in dough mixture. Exactly how this works has been unclear for the last 10 years. But now researchers at TU/e have come up with the answer in a publication in Nature Communications. This new understanding will now enable focused development of plastic solar cells.

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A closer look at flawed studies behind policies used to promote “low-carbon” biofuels

February 6, 2015 8:56 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

Nearly all studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels are flawed and need to be redone, according to a Univ. of Michigan researcher. Once the erroneous methodology is corrected, the results will likely show that policies used to promote biofuels actually make matters worse when it comes to limiting net emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas.

High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015 8:23 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Ultra-high-efficiency solar cells similar to those used in space may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar concentration technology. The falling cost of typical silicon solar cells is making them a smaller and smaller fraction of the overall cost of solar electricity, which also includes "soft" costs like permitting, wiring, installation and maintenance that have remained fixed over time.

Chances of saving with solar energy greater for Indiana farms than homes

February 6, 2015 8:14 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

The probability of saving money by using solar energy rather than standard grid electricity is 92% for Indiana farm businesses and about 50% for homes, Purdue Univ. energy economists find. While current energy policies play key roles in providing incentives for the use of solar energy in Indiana, businesses have an additional cost-saving option not available to residences: Businesses can deduct their investment in solar from their revenues.

Direct measurement of key molecule will increase accuracy of combustion models

February 6, 2015 7:50 am | by Patti Koning, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories researchers are the first to directly measure hydroperoxyalkyl radicals, a class of reactive molecules denoted as “QOOH”, that are key in the chain of reactions that controls the early stages of combustion. This breakthrough has generated data on QOOH reaction rates and outcomes that will improve the fidelity of models used by engine manufacturers to create cleaner and more efficient cars and trucks.

Supercapacitors poised to help boost vehicle fuel efficiency

February 5, 2015 8:47 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Unlike slow and steady batteries, supercapacitors gulp up energy rapidly and deliver it in fast, powerful jolts. A growing array of consumer products is benefiting from these energy-storage devices, reports Chemical & Engineering News, with cars and trucks, and their drivers, poised to be major beneficiaries.

Preventing greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere

February 5, 2015 7:41 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

A novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power plant emissions has been developed by a multi-institution team of researchers. The approach could be an important advance in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating

February 4, 2015 2:37 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As many places in the U.S. and Europe increasingly turn to biomass rather than fossil fuels for power and heat, scientists are focusing on what this trend might mean for air quality and people’s health. One study on wood-chip burners’ particulate emissions, which can cause heart and lung problems, appears in Energy & Fuels. The scientists say the findings could help manufacturers reduce the negative impact of this fuel in the future.

Biologists partner bacterium with nitrogen gas to produce more, cleaner bioethanol

February 3, 2015 7:56 am | by Stephen Chaplin, Indiana Univ. | News | Comments

Indiana Univ. biologists believe they have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase bioethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, in place of more costly industrial fertilizers. The discovery could save the industry millions of dollars and make cellulosic ethanol more competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline.

State drilling panel weighs disclosure of fracking chemicals

February 2, 2015 7:19 pm | by Dan Elliott, Associated Press | News | Comments

Gov. John Hickenlooper's task force on oil and gas discussed proposals Monday that would force energy companies to disclose all the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing and give local governments more of a say on where wells can be drilled. The task force is winnowing down a list of 56 suggestions from members before making its recommendations to Hickenlooper on ways to resolve disputes over local control and landowner rights.

Pinholes are pitfalls for high-performance solar cells

February 2, 2015 9:42 am | by Kaoru Natori, OIST | News | Comments

The most popular next-generation solar cells under development may have a problem: The top layer is full of tiny pinholes, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate Univ. in Japan have found. The majority of high-performance solar cells under development use a combination of materials including perovskite and spiro-MeOTAD.

The quest for efficiency in thermoelectric nanowires

February 2, 2015 8:58 am | by Sue Holmes, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Efficiency is big in the tiny world of thermoelectric nanowires. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories say better materials and manufacturing techniques for the nanowires could allow carmakers to harvest power from the heat wasted by exhaust systems or lead to more efficient devices to cool computer chips.

PNNL recognized for moving biofuel, chemical analysis innovations to market

February 2, 2015 7:24 am | by Eric Francavilla, PNNL | News | Comments

Developing renewable fuel from wet algae and enabling analysis of complex liquids are two of the latest innovations Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has successfully driven to the market with the help of commercial partners.

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