New discoveries about photosynthesis may lead to solar cells of the future
July 18, 2016 11:01 AM - Lund University via EurekAlert!
For the first time, researchers have successfully measured in detail the flow of solar energy, in and between different parts of a photosynthetic organism. The result is a first step in research that could ultimately contribute to the development of technologies that use solar energy far more efficiently than what is currently possible.
For about 80 years, researchers have known that photochemical reactions inside an organism do not occur in the same place as where it absorbs sunlight. What has not been known, however, is how and along what routes the solar energy is transported into the photosynthetic organism -- until now.
"Not even the best solar cells that we as humans are capable of producing can be compared to what nature performs in the first stages of energy conversion. That is why new knowledge about photosynthesis will become useful for the development of future solar technologies", says Donatas Zigmantas, Faculty of Science at Lund University, Sweden.
Solar on the best UK sites is competitive with cheap coal
July 15, 2016 02:18 PM - Chris Goodall, The Ecologist
Last week a massive 350-hectare open cast coal mine at Druridge Bay won planning permission. This got Chris Goodall wondering: what if the land was turned into a solar farm instead? His surprise discovery: solar power on England's south coast already costs no more than coal - and it's only getting cheaper.
A week ago Northumberland council gave planning permission to a new open-cast coal mine at Druridge on the coastline just north of Newcastle.
About 3 million tonnes of coal will be extracted over a five to seven-year period from an area of around 350 hectares, including storage space. (350 hectares is about 1.4 square miles)
The environmental objections to the plan are striking. For example, the owners predict about 170 HGV movements a day along local roads during the whole lifetime of the project. The landscape impact is also severe although the developers say they will ensure that the local sandy beaches are unaffected.
Genetically improving sorghum for production of biofuel
July 13, 2016 03:15 PM - Genetics Society of America via EurekAlert!
The bioenergy crop sorghum holds great promise as a raw material for making environmentally friendly fuels and chemicals that offer alternatives to petroleum-based products. Sorghum can potentially yield more energy per area of land than other crops while requiring much less input in terms of fertilizer or chemicals. New research examines how genetic improvement of specific sorghum traits, with an eye toward sustainability, could help maximize the usefulness of sorghum as a bioenergy crop.
The work was conducted by researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Washington State University in Pullman, the USDA-ARS in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the University of Missouri, Columbia. They highlight disease resistance, flooding tolerance and cell wall composition as key targets for genetically improving sorghum for sustainable production of renewable fuels and chemicals.
Electricity generated with water, salt and a 3-atoms-thick membrane
July 13, 2016 02:16 PM - Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne via EurekAlert!
EPFL researchers have developed a system that generates electricity from osmosis with unparalleled efficiency. Their work, featured in Nature, uses seawater, fresh water, and a new type of membrane just 3 atoms thick
Proponents of clean energy will soon have a new source to add to their existing array of solar, wind, and hydropower: osmotic power. Or more specifically, energy generated by a natural phenomenon occurring when fresh water comes into contact with seawater through a membrane.
Researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Nanoscale Biology have developed an osmotic power generation system that delivers never-before-seen yields. Their innovation lies in a three atoms thick membrane used to separate the two fluids. The results of their research have been published in Nature.
Solar panels study reveals impact on Earth
July 13, 2016 01:55 PM - Lancaster University via ScienceDaily
Researchers have produced the first detailed study of the impact of solar parks on the environment, opening the door to smarter forms of farming and better land management.
Environmental Scientists at Lancaster University and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology monitored a large solar park, near Swindon, for a year.
They found that solar parks altered the local climate, measuring cooling of as much as 5 degrees Centigrade under the panels during the summer but the effects varied depending on the time of year and the time of day.
As climate controls biological processes, such as plant growth rates, this is really important information and can help understand how best to manage solar parks so they have environmental benefits in addition to supplying low carbon energy.
The Antarctic Ozone Hole May Be Closing
July 7, 2016 07:21 AM - s.e. smith
There’s good news from Antarctica, where researchers with tools like ozonesondes — pictured above — have been following the infamous ozone hole as it waxes and wanes over the seasons. The ozone hole has shrunk by 1.5 million square miles – around 4 million square kilometers — and this “healing” trend appears to be continuing.
A major ecological catastrophe has been averted, and we can cite human intervention as the reason. When the globe swept into action with 1987′s Montreal Protocol, which banned a number of substances known to contribute to ozone depletion, it apparently worked.
When scientists first began to observe a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, it was a cause for grave concern. Though ozone levels actually fluctuate throughout the year, they perform an important function by blocking the sun’s harmful UV radiation.
Expanding Antarctic sea ice linked to natural variability
July 4, 2016 04:21 PM - NCAR/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research via ScienceDaily
The recent trend of increasing Antarctic sea ice extent -- seemingly at odds with climate model projections -- can largely be explained by a natural climate fluctuation, according to a new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
The study offers evidence that the negative phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), which is characterized by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific, has created favorable conditions for additional Antarctic sea ice growth since 2000.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, may resolve a longstanding mystery: Why is Antarctic sea ice expanding when climate change is causing the world to warm?
Discovery could dramatically boost efficiency of perovskite solar cells
July 4, 2016 01:26 PM - Doe/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory via EurekAlert!
Scientists from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered a possible secret to dramatically boosting the efficiency of perovskite solar cells hidden in the nanoscale peaks and valleys of the crystalline material.
Solar cells made from compounds that have the crystal structure of the mineral perovskite have captured scientists' imaginations. They're inexpensive and easy to fabricate, like organic solar cells. Even more intriguing, the efficiency at which perovskite solar cells convert photons to electricity has increased more rapidly than any other material to date, starting at three percent in 2009 -- when researchers first began exploring the material's photovoltaic capabilities -- to 22 percent today. This is in the ballpark of the efficiency of silicon solar cells.
The Future of Cities is Bright
July 4, 2016 10:46 AM - Tim Fleming, Triple Pundit
What does the “city of the future” look like?
In an era of rapid technological advancement and increasing urbanization, it’s a fair question. Eighty percent of the U.S. population already lives in large cities* – each with a smartphone, wearable or other device in hand.
As such, city officials are beginning to piece together how those bits of technology can connect with assets like energy meters, garbage cans, street lights, traffic lights, water pipes and more. But, how do we make it all work together? By building a truly smart city.
A truly smart city is one with seamless connectivity that solves local problems and provides its inhabitants with safety, cleanliness and the most efficient ways to get from Point A to Point B. It’s a city that optimizes how we use valuable resources to help improve quality of life, positively impact our planet and open new economic opportunities. A truly smart city provides tremendous opportunities for its citizens and beyond.
New technology could improve use of small-scale hydropower in developing nations
July 1, 2016 07:10 AM - Oregon State University via EurekAlert!
Engineers at Oregon State University have created a new computer modeling package that people anywhere in the world could use to assess the potential of a stream for small-scale, “run of river” hydropower, an option to produce electricity that’s of special importance in the developing world.
The system is easy to use; does not require data that is often unavailable in foreign countries or remote locations; and can consider hydropower potential not only now, but in the future as projected changes in climate and stream runoff occur.