Energy

Wind turbines may have beneficial effects for crops
December 9, 2016 05:15 PM - Iowa State University

A multi-year study led by an Iowa State University scientist suggests the turbines commonly used in the state to capture wind energy may have a positive effect on crops.

Gene Takle, a Distinguished Professor of agronomy and geological and atmospheric sciences, said tall wind turbines disbursed throughout a field create air turbulence that may help plants by affecting variables such as temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations.

Sandia Labs, Singapore join forces to develop energy storage
December 6, 2016 09:30 AM - Sandia Labs

Sandia National Laboratories has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the government of Singapore’s Energy Market Authority (EMA) that will tap into the labs’ expertise in energy storage.

EMA is the statutory body in Singapore responsible for ensuring a reliable and secure energy supply, promoting competition in the energy market and developing a dynamic energy sector. Last year, EMA invited Sandia to organize a workshop on the latest developments in storage technologies. The two-day event in the Southeast Asian island city-state led to a CRADA under which Sandia will help set up Singapore’s first grid energy storage test-bed.

“Sandia will collaboratively develop an energy storage test-bed to better understand the feasibility of deploying energy storage systems [ESS] in Singapore,” said Dan Borneo, Sandia team lead on the project.

 

Game Changer for Organic Solar Cells
December 5, 2016 03:13 PM - Julie Cohen via University of California - Santa Barbara

With a new technique for manufacturing single-layer organic polymer solar cells, scientists at UC Santa Barbara and three other universities might very well move organic photovoltaics into a whole new generation of wearable devices and enable small-scale distributed power generation.

The simple doping solution-based process involves briefly immersing organic semiconductor films in a solution at room temperature. This technique, which could replace a more complex approach that requires vacuum processing, has the potential to affect many device platforms, including organic printed electronics, sensors, photodetectors and light-emitting diodes. The researchers’ findings appear in the journal Nature Materials.

How Solar power is bringing food security to Africa
November 25, 2016 11:54 AM - Joe Ware , The Ecologist

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Ninety per cent of Malawians live in rural areas; agriculture makes up 80 per cent of the labour force and 80 per cent of its exports. With so many people reliant on growing things from the ground, disruptions to the climate threatens the wellbeing of an entire nation.

For centuries Malawian farmers have learned the patterns of the seasons - when to plant their seeds in order to capture the rains that watered the ground and brought forth food to eat and sell. But this life-saving knowledge is becoming worthless, as rainfall patterns are distorted by a changing climate and the El Nino weather event, which this year created the worst food crisis in 25 years.

For platinum catalysts, a tiny squeeze gives a big boost in performance, Stanford study finds
November 24, 2016 02:31 PM - Mark Shwartz via Stanford University

A nanosize squeeze can significantly boost the performance of platinum catalysts that help generate energy in fuel cells, according to a new study by Stanford scientists.

The team bonded a platinum catalyst to a thin material that expands and contracts as electrons move in and out, and found that squeezing the platinum a fraction of a nanometer nearly doubled its catalytic activity. The findings are published in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Science.

A New Way to Image Solar Cells in 3-D
November 15, 2016 11:48 AM - Dan Krotz via Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Next-generation solar cells made of super-thin films of semiconducting material hold promise because they’re relatively inexpensive and flexible enough to be applied just about anywhere.

Researchers are working to dramatically increase the efficiency at which thin-film solar cells convert sunlight to electricity. But it’s a tough challenge, partly because a solar cell’s subsurface realm—where much of the energy-conversion action happens—is inaccessible to real-time, nondestructive imaging. It’s difficult to improve processes you can’t see.

Now, scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to use optical microscopy to map thin-film solar cells in 3-D as they absorb photons.

30% of Global Electricity Already Prepping For Rapid Decarbonization
November 14, 2016 09:04 AM - Tina Casey , Triple Pundit

A full 30 percent of the world’s electricity generation comes under the umbrella of just nine energy companies, and they have just joined forces to ramp up technology investments aimed at decarbonization. The global, collaborative effort was announced earlier this week by the companies’ nonprofit organization, the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership.

To be clear, the decarbonization announcement leaves plenty of wiggle room for “clean” coal and natural gas, at least in the near future. However, a look at the group’s sole U.S. member, American Electric Power, demonstrates that a Republican administration cannot stop the global transition to low and zero-carbon electricity.

Solar Cells Get Boost with Integration of Water-Splitting Catalyst onto Semiconductor
November 10, 2016 09:50 AM - Sarah Yang via Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Scientists have found a way to engineer the atomic-scale chemical properties of a water-splitting catalyst for integration with a solar cell, and the result is a big boost to the stability and efficiency of artificial photosynthesis.

Led by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the project is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Materials.

Human health risks from hydroelectric projects
November 9, 2016 09:25 AM - Leah Burrows via Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

In a new study, Harvard University researchers find over 90 percent of potential new Canadian hydroelectric projects are likely to increase concentrations of the neurotoxin methylmercury in food webs near indigenous communities. 

The research forecasts potential human health impacts of hydroelectric projects and identifies areas where mitigation efforts, such as removing the top layer of soil before flooding, would be most helpful. The works uses factors such as soil carbon and reservoir design to forecast methylmercury increases for 22 hydroelectric reservoirs under consideration or construction in Canada.

Major advance in solar cells made from cheap, easy-to-use perovskite
November 8, 2016 10:38 AM - University of California, Berkeley

Solar cells made from an inexpensive and increasingly popular material called perovskite can more efficiently turn sunlight into electricity using a new technique to sandwich two types of perovskite into a single photovoltaic cell.

Perovskite solar cells are made of a mix of organic molecules and inorganic elements that together capture light and convert it into electricity, just like today’s more common silicon-based solar cells. Perovskite photovoltaic devices, however, can be made more easily and cheaply than silicon and on a flexible rather than rigid substrate. The first perovskite solar cells could go on the market next year, and some have been reported to capture 20 percent of the sun’s energy.

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