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Energy and the Environment News -- ScienceDaily

Energy and the Environment News -- ScienceDaily

Energy Sources. News and Research. Articles on everything from hydrogen powered cars and solar energy systems to nuclear reactors and fossil fuels.

Published: Sun, 03 May 2015 18:13:34 EDT

Last Build Date: Sun, 03 May 2015 18:13:34 EDT


Engineering a better solar cell: Defects in popular perovskites pinpointed

Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:50:53 EDT

A new study demonstrates that perovskite materials - superefficient crystal structures that have recently taken the scientific community by storm - contain flaws that can be engineered to improve solar cells and other devices even further.(image)

Energy consumption rises with automated bill payment

Wed, 29 Apr 2015 12:56:59 EDT

The adage 'out of sight, out of mind' applies to utility consumption, according to new research. A study of 16 years of billing records from one South Carolina electric utility found that residential customers using automated bill payment consumed 4 to 6 percent more power than those who did not. Commercial electricity customers used 8 percent more.(image)

New solar telescope peers deep into the sun to track the origins of space weather

Tue, 28 Apr 2015 17:17:36 EDT

Scientists have captured the first high-resolution images of the flaring magnetic structures known as solar flux ropes at their point of origin in the sun's chromosphere.(image)

Megacity metabolism: What cities are the worst energy hogs?

Tue, 28 Apr 2015 12:53:53 EDT

New York is an energy hog, London and Paris use relatively less resources and Tokyo conserves water like a pro. These are just a few of the findings from a new study on 'megacity metabolism' -- the world's first comprehensive survey of resources used and removed in each of the world's 27 largest metropolitan areas.(image)

Climate change: How Brits feel about 'smart' energy

Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:28:15 EDT

Reluctance to share data about personal energy use is likely to be a major obstacle when implementing 'smart' technologies designed to monitor use and support energy efficient behaviors, according to new research.(image)

Electrical power converter allows grid to easily accept power from renewable energy

Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:13:17 EDT

Engineering researchers have invented a novel electrical power converter system that simultaneously accepts power from a variety of energy sources and converts it for use in the electrical grid system.(image)

Vehicle cost, lack of consumer information hinder purchases of plug-in electric vehicles

Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:20:07 EDT

Vehicle cost, current battery technology, and inadequate consumer knowledge are some of the barriers preventing widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles, says a new congressionally mandated report.(image)

Are gas hydrates a source of environmentally friendly energy?

Wed, 22 Apr 2015 10:41:30 EDT

Gas hydrate is also known as the ice that burns. And all that burns releases energy. And a lot of energy is stored in hydrates and there are gigatons of it stored in the sediments of the oceans. (image)

'MyEarth' energy-tracking app encourages sustainable behaviors

Mon, 20 Apr 2015 18:24:13 EDT

For a generation motivated by technology and fast-moving information, a professor has created an energy-tracking app to make reducing day-to-day energy usage more accessible.(image)

How radiative fluxes are affected by cloud and particle characteristics

Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:34:29 EDT

Climate models calculate a changing mix of clouds and emissions that interact with solar energy. To narrow the broad range of possible answers from a climate model, researchers analyzed the effect of several proven numerical stand-ins for atmospheric processes on the energy flux at the top of the atmosphere. They found that the flux is the main driver of surface temperature change.(image)

Major advance in artificial photosynthesis poses win/win for the environment

Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:26:38 EDT

By combining biocompatible light-capturing nanowire arrays with select bacterial populations, a potentially game-changing new artificial photosynthesis system offers a win/win situation for the environment: solar-powered green chemistry using sequestered carbon dioxide.(image)

Packing heat: New fluid makes untapped geothermal energy cleaner

Wed, 15 Apr 2015 15:54:00 EDT

More American homes could be powered by the Earth's natural underground heat with a nontoxic fluid that could cut in half the amount of water needed for a new power generation method called enhanced geothermal systems.(image)

New 'cool roof time machine' will accelerate cool roof deployment

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:43:05 EDT

Scientists have established a method to simulate in the lab the soiling and weathering of roofing materials, reproducing in only a few days the solar reflectance of roofing products naturally aged for three years. Now this protocol has been approved by ASTM International, a widely referenced standards body, as a standard practice for the industry.(image)

New technique could slash energy used to produce many plastics

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 09:41:15 EDT

A new material could radically reduce the energy needed to produce a wide variety of plastic products, from grocery bags and cling wrap to replacement hips and bulletproof vests.(image)

Burying the climate change problem

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:26:07 EDT

Burying the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, has been mooted as one geoengineering approach to ameliorating climate change. Now, a team of researchers has reviewed the risk assessments for this technology and suggests a lack of knowledge means we should be cautious of turning to this method rather than finding sustainable ways to reduce emissions at their source.(image)

Tobacco plants may boost biofuel and biorefining industries

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:25:27 EDT

Researchers will genetically modify tobacco plants to produce enzymes that can break down biomass from forest raw materials. This may lead to a more effective, economic and sustainable production of biofuels, they say.(image)

Big data technology finds ideal river locations to generate hydro-power

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 07:51:44 EDT

A new software app will improve sourcing of renewable energy from rivers. Researchers say hydropower is a cut-above solar and wind, as they provide a constant and reliable energy source with rivers available 24/7, 365 days a year.(image)

Scientists a step closer to developing renewable propane

Fri, 10 Apr 2015 08:35:12 EDT

Researchers have made a significant breakthrough in the development of synthetic pathways that will enable renewable biosynthesis of the gas propane. This research is part of a program of work aimed at developing the next generation of biofuels.(image)

Plant cell structure discovery could lead to improved renewable materials

Fri, 10 Apr 2015 08:33:08 EDT

Major steps forward in the use of plants for renewable materials, energy and for building construction could soon arise, thanks to a key advance in understanding the structure of wood. The step forward follows the unexpected discovery of a previously unknown arrangement of molecules in plant cell walls.(image)

Shifts in electricity generation spur net job growth, but coal jobs decline

Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:41:20 EDT

In four years following the 2008 recession, the US coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs, while the natural gas, solar, and wind industries together created nearly four times that amount, according to a new. Few of the new jobs were added in states hardest hit by coal's decline, particularly West Virginia and Kentucky.(image)

Discovery may be breakthrough for hydrogen cars

Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:29:55 EDT

Unlike other hydrogen fuel production methods that rely on highly processed sugars, the team used dirty biomass -- the husks and stalks of corn plants -- to create their fuel. This not only reduces the initial expense of creating the fuel, it enables the use of a fuel source readily available near the processing plants, making the creation of the fuel a local enterprise.(image)

Solar cooling system keeps water at 9 degrees Celsius for up to three months

Thu, 02 Apr 2015 08:17:56 EDT

Maintaining food in places where high temperatures prevail, using little energy at a low cost,  it is now possible with new technology, thanks to the creation of a solar cooling system.(image)

How to make a profit from rotting garbage

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:08:59 EDT

Landfills can make a profit from all their rotting waste and a new patent explains exactly how to make the most out of the stinky garbage sites. Decomposing trash produces methane, a landfill gas that can be used to produce electricity or heat. Since methane is a greenhouse gas and most landfills don't produce enough of it to make energy production worthwhile, many dumpsites burn, or flare, the methane away so that the harmful gas does not escape into the atmosphere. But a new process shows how landfills can up their methane production to turn a profit.(image)

Stormy weather ahead for wind farms?

Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:24:17 EDT

Researchers will study the vibrations of wind turbines at a large Chilean wind farm along with health impacts on nearby residents. The goal is to make wind turbines more acceptable. Currently, scientists lack sufficient understanding of wind turbines' noise and best ways to mitigate the effects, they say.(image)

Do biofuel policies seek to cut emissions by cutting food?

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:17:10 EDT

A new study found that government biofuel policies rely on reductions in food consumption to generate greenhouse gas savings.(image)

Green roofs: Passive cooling for buildings

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:07:53 EDT

Researchers have found that green roofs with high vegetation density are 60% more efficient than non-green roofs.(image)

New kind of 'tandem' solar cell: Two types of photovoltaic material combined to make a cell that harnesses more sunlight

Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:08:24 EDT

Researchers have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun's energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say. The new cell uses a layer of silicon -- which forms the basis for most of today's solar panels -- but adds a semi-transparent layer of a material called perovskite, which can absorb higher-energy particles of light. Unlike an earlier "tandem" solar cell reported by members of the same team earlier this year -- in which the two layers were physically stacked, but each had its own separate electrical connections -- the new version has both layers connected together as a single device that needs only one control circuit.(image)

Engineers develop new yeast strain to enhance biofuel and biochemical production

Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:48:12 EDT

Researchers use metabolic engineering and directed evolution to develop a new, mutant yeast strain that could lead to a more efficient biofuel production process.(image)

Discovery could yield more efficient portable electronics, solar cells

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:21:57 EDT

A team of chemists has set the stage for more efficient and sturdier portable electronic devices and possibly a new generation of solar cells based on organic materials.(image)

Geoengineering proposal may backfire: Ocean pipes 'not cool,' would end up warming climate

Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:33:37 EDT

There are a variety of proposals that involve using vertical ocean pipes to move seawater to the surface from the depths in order to reap different potential climate benefits. One idea involves using ocean pipes to facilitate direct physical cooling of the surface ocean by replacing warm surface ocean waters with colder, deeper waters. New research shows that these pipes could actually increase global warming quite drastically.(image)

Electronic waste has energy value

Wed, 18 Mar 2015 13:44:46 EDT

Using discarded electronic boards, researchers have developed a system for obtaining clean hydrogen that can be used as fuel. The researchers have already registered the patent of the process in Japan.(image)

Towards 'printed' organic solar cells and LEDs

Wed, 18 Mar 2015 10:08:20 EDT

Flexible optoelectronic devices that can be produced roll-to-roll -- much like newspapers are printed -- are a highly promising path to cheaper devices such as solar cells and LED lighting panels. Scientists have now created prototype flexible solar cell modules as well as novel silver-based transparent electrodes that outperform currently used materials.(image)

Substitute for natural gas generated from waste

Tue, 17 Mar 2015 16:22:18 EDT

Scientists have managed to obtain biogas from "garbage or organic waste", having replaced part of the natural gas used by the Pilgrim's company in the state of Querétaro, which produces chicken, and in Xaquixe, a company dedicated to the development of glass art in the state of Oaxaca.(image)

Clean energy future: New cheap and efficient electrode for splitting water

Tue, 17 Mar 2015 09:31:48 EDT

Scientists have developed a highly efficient oxygen-producing electrode for splitting water that has the potential to be scaled up for industrial production of the clean energy fuel, hydrogen. The new technology is based on an inexpensive, specially coated foam material that lets the bubbles of oxygen escape quickly. Unlike other water electrolyzers that use precious metals as catalysts, the electrode is made entirely from two non-precious and abundant metals -- nickel and iron.(image)

A new method for making perovskite solar cells

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:56:02 EDT

Researchers have come up with a new way of making thin perovskite films for solar cells. The method forms perovskite crystals at room temperature, which could be helpful in mass production settings. The technique is especially well suited to make ultra-thin, semitransparent films, which could be used in photovoltaic windows.(image)

Scientists move closer to 'two for one deal' on solar cell efficiency

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:54:42 EDT

The underlying mechanism behind an enigmatic process called 'singlet exciton fission,' which could enable the development of significantly more powerful solar cells, has been identified by scientists in a new study.(image)

Solar could meet California energy demand three to five times over

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:51:52 EDT

In the face of global climate change, increasing the use of renewable energy resources is one of the most urgent challenges facing the world. New work finds that the amount of energy that could be generated from solar equipment constructed on and around existing infrastructure in California would exceed the state's demand by up to five times.(image)

Unique proteins found in heat-loving organisms attach to plant matter

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 15:41:39 EDT

Unique proteins newly discovered in heat-loving bacteria are more than capable of attaching themselves to plant cellulose, possibly paving the way for more efficient methods of converting plant matter into biofuels.(image)

Solar cells: Increased pressure creates a happy union

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 14:25:24 EDT

By tailoring the interface between the two sections of a solar cell, researchers have produced a high-performance solar cell from the abundant and cheap materials of copper (II) oxide and silicon.(image)

When it comes to nuclear disaster, safety really is in numbers

Wed, 11 Mar 2015 12:43:42 EDT

The safety of nuclear plants, as well as the medical management of acute radiation syndrome, could soon be dramatically improved thanks to a new mathematical equation.(image)

New approach combines biomass conversion, solar energy conversion

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 12:30:10 EDT

A new approach to combine solar energy conversion and biomass conversion has been presented by researchers. These are two important research areas for renewable energy, they say.(image)

Benefits of adding a second, smaller rotor to wind turbines

Mon, 09 Mar 2015 17:45:13 EDT

Aerospace engineers are developing dual-rotor technology to improve the energy harvest of wind turbines. The idea to look for better performance by adding a second rotor to wind turbines came from a previous study. The researchers used wind tunnel tests to see how hills, valleys and the placement of turbines affected the productivity of onshore wind farms.(image)

Biofuel proteomics: Researchers use proteomics to profile switchgrass

Mon, 09 Mar 2015 14:57:29 EDT

Researchers used an advanced proteomic techniques to identify 1,750 unique proteins in shoots of switchgrass, a native prairie grass viewed as one of the most promising of all the plants that could be used to produce advanced biofuels.(image)

Tsunami on demand: Nanoscale rogue waves research sheds light on power to harness catastrophic events

Mon, 09 Mar 2015 12:41:19 EDT

A new study features a nano-optical chip that makes possible generating and controlling nanoscale rogue waves. The innovative chip was developed by an international team of physicists and is expected to have significant applications for energy research and environmental safety.(image)

Urine power to light camps in disaster zones

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 11:19:05 EST

A toilet, conveniently situated near the Student Union Bar at the University of the West of England, is proving that urine can generate electricity.(image)

Miscanthus-based ethanol boasts bigger environmental benefits, higher profits

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:00:15 EST

A recent study simulated a side-by-side comparison of the yields and costs of producing ethanol using miscanthus, switchgrass, and corn residue. The fast-growing energy grass miscanthus was the clear winner. Models predict that miscanthus will have higher yield and profit, particularly when grown in poor-quality soil. It also outperformed corn residue and switchgrass in its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.(image)

Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 15:26:43 EST

Researchers have found a way to increase the production of fuels and other chemicals from biomass fermented by yeast without the need of environmentally harsh pre-treatments or expensive enzyme cocktails.(image)

New models yield clearer picture of emissions' true costs

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 11:04:02 EST

New models calculate and compare the true costs of various fuels to health, climate and the environment. Viewed this way, a gallon of gas costs $3.80 more than the pump price. The social cost of a gallon of diesel is about $4.80 more than the pump price; the price of natural gas more than doubles; and coal-fired electricity more than quadruples. Solar and wind power, on the other hand, become cheaper than they initially seem.(image)

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions with a more effective carbon capture method

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 11:03:54 EST

Trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and various industries could play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future. But current materials that can collect CO2 -- from smokestacks, for example -- have low capacities or require very high temperatures to work. Scientists are making progress toward a more efficient alternative that could help make carbon capture less energy intensive.(image)

Where you live could mean 'greener' alternatives do more harm than good

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 10:43:54 EST

Engineers propose a new 600-ton threshold that could indicate when switching to 'low carbon' alternatives may actually increase emissions. Although regions may welcome "green" technology like electric vehicles, high-speed rail and geothermal heating, they aren't green if the electricity to power them creates even more carbon emissions than their oil-driven counterparts, researchers say.(image)

Solar cells to get growth boost, price cut

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 07:52:14 EST

Researchers have found that growing a type of film used to manufacture solar cells in ambient air gives it a growth boost. The finding could make manufacturing solar cells significantly cheaper.(image)

What happens if we all drive electrical vehicles?

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 07:52:12 EST

The technology behind the design of electric vehicles is ever improving and the EU predicts that these vehicles could be in mass production by 2020. By developing a completely new way of using information from GPS and location data shown by GSM, the EU DATA SIM project simulated the consequences of a massive switch to electric vehicles, and studied the impact on mobility and electricity distribution networks.(image)

New tech could significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions

Tue, 03 Mar 2015 18:33:27 EST

A provisionally patented technology could revolutionize carbon dioxide capture and help significantly reduce pollution worldwide.(image)

Researchers discover new material to produce clean energy

Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:17:38 EST

Researchers have created a new thermoelectric material, intended to generate electric power from waste heat -- from a vehicle tailpipe, for example, or an industrial smokestack -- with greater efficiency and higher output power than currently available materials.(image)

First in-depth look at solar project completion timelines

Tue, 03 Mar 2015 12:39:19 EST

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has gathered and analyzed data for more than 30,000 solar photovoltaic installations across the United States to better understand how interconnection regulations align with actual project completion timelines. The findings indicate that interconnection process delays are common, and can range from several days to months. Streamlining the application review and final authorization processes can ultimately benefit utilities and solar consumers by reducing the time and cost associated with going solar.(image)

Advancing solar power in Hawaii

Tue, 03 Mar 2015 12:39:17 EST

Inverter load rejection overvoltage tests have proven so successful in Hawaii that a testing partner, Hawaiian Electric Companies, has proposed to double its hosting capacity for solar energy.(image)

Blend of polymers could one day make solar power lighter, cheaper and more efficient

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:52:01 EST

Scientists are reporting advances on how to one day make solar cells stronger, lighter, more flexible and less expensive when compared with the current silicon or germanium technology on the market.(image)

The biobattery: Turning sewage sludge into electricity and engine oil

Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:25:39 EST

Sewage sludge, green waste, production residue from the food industry, straw or animal excrement – with the biobattery‘s modular concept a much larger range of biomass can be utilized for energy recovery than previously. Researchers show that they can convert organic residues into electricity, heat, purified gas, engine oil and high quality biochar using this process.(image)

Wind-powered freighters

Fri, 27 Feb 2015 08:45:59 EST

To make ships more eco-efficient, engineers have been working with alternative fuels. A Norwegian engineer is currently pursuing a new approach: With VindskipTM, he has designed a cargo ship that is powered by wind and gas. Software will ensure an optimum use of the available wind energy at any time.(image)

'Ecosystem services' help assess ocean energy development

Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:49:30 EST

Environmental scientists suggest that the way to fill vast gaps in knowledge about the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of ocean energy development is to consider how the benefits provided by ocean ecosystems change before and after the placement of ocean energy infrastructure.(image)