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Preview: ScienceDaily: Energy and the Environment News
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: Mon, 24 Nov 2014 01:44:23 EST

Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2014 01:44:23 EST


Nuclear reactor fuel behavior during a severe event

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:34:36 EST

A new discovery about the atomic structure of uranium dioxide will help scientists select the best computational model to simulate severe nuclear reactor accidents.(image)

Lean times ahead: Preparing for an energy-constrained future

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:17:04 EST

Some time this century, the era of cheap and abundant energy will end, and Western industrial civilization will likely begin a long, slow descent toward a resource-limited future characterized by "involuntary simplicity."(image)

Clean energy 'bio batteries' a step closer

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 08:47:39 EST

Researchers are a step closer to enhancing the generation of clean energy from bacteria. A new report shows how electrons hop across otherwise electrically insulating areas of bacterial proteins, and that the rate of electrical transfer is dependent on the orientation and proximity of electrically conductive ‘stepping stones’. It is hoped that this natural process can be used to improve ‘bio batteries’ which could produce energy for portable technology such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops – powered by human or animal waste.(image)

Scientists get to the heart of fool's gold as a solar material

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 18:25:00 EST

As the installation of photovoltaic solar cells continues to accelerate, scientists are looking for inexpensive materials beyond the traditional silicon that can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Theoretically, iron pyrite could do the job, but when it works at all, the conversion efficiency remains frustratingly low. Now, a research team explains why that is, in a discovery that suggests how improvements in this promising material could lead to inexpensive yet efficient solar cells.(image)

Using sewage sludge to obtain bioenergy

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 09:16:11 EST

Researchers have found a way to increase biomass production by using sewage sludge as energy crop fertilizers. The usage of sewage sludge to fertilize energy crops could be an opportunity to release residues since these plantations are not intended for food industry.(image)

Revolutionary solar-friendly form of silicon shines

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:06:13 EST

Silicon is the second most-abundant element in the earth's crust. When purified, it takes on a diamond structure, which is essential to modern electronic devices -- carbon is to biology as silicon is to technology. Scientists have synthesized an entirely new form of silicon, one that promises even greater future applications.(image)

EPA's Clean Power Plan: Economic strengths, weaknesses

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:19:58 EST

Thirteen top economists analyze the Obama Administration's main climate policy in a new article. The analysis studied specific cost-effective actions that could be further supported.(image)

Switching on a dime: How plants function in shade, light

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 07:51:21 EST

Plants grow in environments where the availability of light fluctuates quickly and drastically, for example from the shade of clouds passing overhead or of leaves on overhanging trees blowing in the wind. Plants thus have to rapidly adjust photosynthesis to maximize energy capture while preventing excess energy from causing damage. So how do plants prevent these changes in light intensity from affecting their ability to harvest the energy they need to survive? The response has to be extremely swift.(image)

Detecting leaks in biogas plants by laser

Wed, 12 Nov 2014 08:41:24 EST

Servicing biogas plants is challenging. Leaks from which methane escapes are particularly problematic – from a security, a technical, an economic as well as an environmentally friendly perspective. Researchers are working on a technique that helps to better detect leaks. In this process, a laser discovers the leaks from several meters away.(image)

Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:07:20 EST

In low-oxygen conditions, some organisms such as the single-cell alga Chlamydomonas are able to generate cellular energy from the breakdown of sugars without taking up oxygen. They do this using a variety of fermentation pathways, similar to those used by yeast to create alcohol. Although critical to the survival of organisms that are found all over the planet, many of the details regarding this low-oxygen energy creation process were poorly understood.(image)

New materials yield record efficiency polymer solar cells

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:04:24 EST

Researchers have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semi-conducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply.(image)

Detroit's first comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory completed

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:01:02 EST

Energy use in buildings accounts for nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated in Detroit, while exhaust from cars, trucks and buses is responsible for about 30 percent of the total, according to a new citywide inventory compiled by student researchers.(image)

Southern fried fuel: Professor 'gases' up with animal fat for cross-country drive

Thu, 06 Nov 2014 10:19:05 EST

An alternative fuels researcher is taking another cross-country journey using no gasoline, this time using a process to turn waste animal fat and waste vegetable oil into fuel. On this trip, a team of researchers will take a 1981 pickup truck across the U.S.(image)

Engineered for tolerance, bacteria pump out higher quantity of renewable gasoline

Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:20:58 EST

An international team of bioengineers has boosted the ability of bacteria to produce isopentenol, a compound with desirable gasoline properties. The finding is a significant step toward developing a bacterial strain that can yield industrial quantities of renewable bio-gasoline.(image)

Renewable energy support programs: New studies examine how and when they work

Wed, 05 Nov 2014 11:23:51 EST

Scientists have quantitatively analyzed the effects of various schemes to support renewable energy generation and, consequently, to reduce carbon emissions and end fossil fuel dependence.(image)

Your own energy 'island'? Microgrid could standardize small, self-sustaining electric grids

Wed, 05 Nov 2014 10:11:00 EST

When researchers talk about "islanding," or isolating, from the grid, they are discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids -- small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.(image)

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:33:38 EST

A synthetic fish is helping existing hydroelectric dams and new, smaller hydro facilities become more fish-friendly. The latest version of the Sensor Fish – a small tubular device filled with sensors that analyze the physical stresses fish experience – measures more forces, costs about 80 percent less and can be used in more hydro structures than its predecessor, according to a new article.(image)

Arctic warming: Scientists identify new driver

Mon, 03 Nov 2014 16:19:29 EST

A mechanism that could turn out to be a big contributor to warming in the Arctic region and melting sea ice has been identified by scientists. They found that open oceans are much less efficient than sea ice when it comes to emitting in the far-infrared region of the spectrum, a previously unknown phenomenon that is likely contributing to the warming of the polar climate.(image)

A future of power outages: What happens when the lights go out?

Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:40:45 EST

It is impossible to imagine the modern world without electricity. We are dependent on an uninterrupted source of power and when it fails the consequences are devastating. Over the past decade there have been 50 significant power-outage events occurring in 26 countries, and the demand for electricity continues to grow stronger with rapid population growth, compact urban areas and an ‘addiction’ to electric appliances.(image)

Combining 'Tinkertoy' materials with solar cells for increased photovoltaic efficiency

Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:22:33 EST

Researchers are working to develop a technique that they believe will significantly improve the efficiencies of photovoltaic materials and help make solar electricity cost-competitive with other sources of energy.(image)

Wind of Change: European grid prepares for massive integration of renewables

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:12:18 EDT

Today, the ancient city of Rome welcomed an important new initiative for the large-scale integration of grids and of renewables sources into Europe’s energy mix, with nearly 40 leading organisations from research, industry, utilities, transmission systems operators announcing their united goal to find the BEST PATHS to deliver affordable, reliable power in Europe from “coast to coast”.(image)

Testing of filters to contain radioactive materials

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:39:41 EDT

If released in significant quantities, radioactive materials pose a potential threat to people and the environment. Now, new research is helping the nuclear industry ensure that radioactive materials continue to be safely contained and that standards of safety are continuously improved.(image)

New solar power material converts 90 percent of captured light into heat

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 09:54:54 EDT

A multidisciplinary engineering team developed a new nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants designed to absorb and convert to heat more than 90 percent of the sunlight it captures. The new material can also withstand temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius and survive many years outdoors in spite of exposure to air and humidity.(image)

Bringing offshore wind energy on shore to power industry, homes and businesses

Tue, 28 Oct 2014 21:38:17 EDT

Feeding the world’s energy appetite may take innovative approaches in the future. A new book examines methods to bring offshore wind energy on shore to power industry, homes and businesses.(image)

Boosting biogasoline production in microbes

Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:48:56 EDT

Microbial genes that can improve both the tolerance and the production of biogasoline in engineered strains of E. coli have been identified by researchers. "Our study demonstrates that microbial tolerance engineering using transcriptomics data can be used to identify target genes that improve fuel production," says the lead researcher. "Our targets include a regulator for amino acid biosynthesis, and an ABC transporter protein, the first native transporter that improves tolerance to a short-chain alcohol."(image)

Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:26:15 EDT

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global electricity production from hydropower, it could reduce the number of our last remaining large free-flowing rivers by about 20 percent and pose a serious threat to freshwater biodiversity.(image)

New policymaking tool for shift to renewable energy

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 09:19:54 EDT

Multiple pathways exist to a low greenhouse gas future, all involving increased efficiency and a dramatic shift in energy supply away from fossil fuels. A new tool, 'SWITCH,' enables policymakers and planners to assess the economic and environmental implications of different energy scenarios.(image)

Waste, an alternative source of energy to petroleum

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 09:10:07 EDT

The development of sustainable refineries is the focus of recent research, where it is possible to produce fuels and raw materials providing an alternative to petroleum by using biomass and other waste materials like plastics, tires, etc. Conical spouted beds are the key to the high energy efficiency of these refineries.(image)

Nanoparticle technology triples the production of biogas

Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:33:50 EDT

BiogàsPlus, a technology which allows increasing the production of biogas by 200% with a controlled introduction of iron oxide nanoparticles to the process of organic waste treatment, has been developed by scientists.(image)

Cheaper silicon means cheaper solar cells

Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:42:50 EDT

Researchers have pioneered a new approach to manufacturing solar cells that requires less silicon and can accommodate silicon with more impurities than is currently the standard. Those changes mean that solar cells can be made much more cheaply than at present.(image)

Getting the salt out: Electrodialysis can provide cost-effective treatment of salty water from fracked wells

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:14:09 EDT

The boom in oil and gas produced through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is seen as a boon for meeting U.S. energy needs. But one byproduct of the process is millions of gallons of water that's much saltier than seawater, after leaching salts from rocks deep below the surface. Now researchers say they have found an economical solution for removing the salt from this water.(image)

Improved electricity access has little impact on climate change

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:17:58 EDT

Expanding access to household electricity services accounts for only a small portion of total emission growth, shows a new study, shedding light on an ongoing debate on potential conflicts between climate and development.(image)

Impact of offshore wind farms on marine species

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:36:08 EDT

Offshore wind power is a valuable source of renewable energy that can help reduce carbon emissions. Technological advances are allowing higher capacity turbines to be installed in deeper water, but there is still much unknown about the effects on the environment. Scientists have now reviewed the potential impacts of offshore wind developments on marine species and make recommendations for future monitoring and assessment as interest in offshore wind energy grows around the world.(image)

Turning humble seaweed into biofuel

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 08:56:50 EDT

The sea has long been a source of Norway’s riches, whether from cod, farmed salmon or oil. Now one researcher hopes to add seaweed to this list as he refines a way to produce “biocrude” from common kelp. "What we are trying to do is to mimic natural processes to produce oil," he said. "However, while petroleum oil is produced naturally on a geologic time scale, we can do it in minutes."(image)

Global natural gas boom alone won't slow climate change

Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:28:29 EDT

A new analysis of global energy use, economics and the climate shows that expanding the current bounty of inexpensive natural gas alone would not slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Recent advances in gas production technology based on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing -- also known as fracking -- have led to bountiful, low-cost natural gas. Because gas emits far less carbon dioxide than coal, some researchers have linked the natural gas boom to recent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. But could these advanced technologies also have an impact on emissions beyond North America and decades into the future?(image)

Balancing renewable energy costs and optimizing energy mix

Mon, 13 Oct 2014 09:04:47 EDT

Increasing reliance on renewable energies is the way to achieve greater carbon dioxide emission sustainability and energy independence. As such energies are yet only available intermittently and energy cannot be stored easily, most countries aim to combine several energy sources. Scientists have now come up with an open source simulation method to calculate the actual cost of relying on a combination of electricity sources.(image)

Sustainable city concepts going into action

Fri, 10 Oct 2014 08:40:49 EDT

Researchers are starting work on a Smart Cities and Communities initiative. This project will transform designated urban districts into smart quarters in three forerunner cities and then transfer the concepts to three further cities.(image)

Environmental taxes encourage lower consumption

Thu, 09 Oct 2014 12:49:45 EDT

Tobacco taxation and environmental taxes on electricity and gasoline is the most effective way for politicians to get consumers to understand the problems of smoking and pollution. Expenditure on media campaigns from government and industry, and lobbying by the industry, most effectively influences consumers' consumption of tobacco and gasoline in the United States, one expert notes.(image)

A cost-effective and energy-efficient approach to carbon capture

Thu, 09 Oct 2014 09:19:39 EDT

Scientists have developed a slurry-based process that can revolutionize carbon capture. The slurry, consisting of a porous powder suspended in glycol, offers the efficient large-scale implementation of a liquid while maintaining the lower costs and energy efficiency of solid carbon-capturing materials.(image)

Fusion reactor concept could be cheaper than coal

Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:11:56 EDT

Engineers have designed a concept for a fusion reactor that, when scaled up to the size of a large electrical power plant, would rival costs for a new coal-fired plant with similar electrical output.(image)

Low-carbon energy future is clean, feasible

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 15:21:26 EDT

A future where electricity comes mostly from low-carbon sources is not only feasible in terms of material demand, but will significantly reduce air pollution, a study says.(image)

Observing the Birkeland currents

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 13:34:22 EDT

When the supersonic solar wind hits the Earth's magnetic field, a powerful electrical connection occurs with Earth's field, generating millions of amperes of current that drive the dazzling auroras. These so-called Birkeland currents connect the ionosphere to the magnetosphere and channel solar wind energy to Earth's uppermost atmosphere. Solar storms release torrential blasts of solar wind that cause much stronger currents and can overload power grids and disrupt communications and navigation.(image)

Making oxygen before life: Oxygen can form directly from carbon dioxide in upper atmosphere

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 09:22:59 EDT

About one fifth of the Earth's atmosphere is oxygen, pumped out by green plants as a result of photosynthesis and used by most living things on the planet to keep our metabolisms running. Scientists have now shown that oxygen can be formed directly from carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere, changing models of how the atmosphere evolved early in Earth's history.(image)

Batteries included: A solar cell that stores its own power

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 06:43:36 EDT

Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery? Actually, the patent-pending device is both: the world’s first solar battery. Scientists have succeeding in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device.(image)

How giant clams harness the sun by growing algae as a source of food

Thu, 02 Oct 2014 12:37:28 EDT

Beneath the waves, many creatures sport iridescent structures that rival what materials scientists can make in the laboratory. Researchers have now shown how giant clams use these structures to thrive, operating as exceedingly efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as a source of food. This understanding could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new types of solar panels.(image)

Blades of grass inspire advance in organic solar cells

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:42:58 EDT

Using a bio-mimicking analog of one of nature's most efficient light-harvesting structures, blades of grass, an international research team has taken a major step in developing long-sought polymer architecture to boost power-conversion efficiency of light to electricity for use in electronic devices.(image)

How to make a 'perfect' solar absorber

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:32:58 EDT

Researchers have developed a solar cell that can tap the sun's full radiation spectrum. The material is a two-dimensional metallic dielectric photonic crystal, and has the additional benefits of absorbing sunlight from a wide range of angles and withstanding extremely high temperatures. Perhaps most importantly, the material can also be made cheaply at large scales.(image)

New method to motivate students to reduce energy consumption

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:53:56 EDT

Energy consumption can be reduced significantly by students if they can see the amount of energy they are using in real-time and are motivated by their peers to save energy, a study has shown.(image)

Smart, eco-friendly new battery made of seeds and pine resin

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 09:40:39 EDT

Present-day lithium batteries are efficient but involve a range of resource and environmental problems. Using materials from alfalfa (lucerne seed) and pine resin and a clever recycling strategy, researchers have now come up with a highly interesting alternative.(image)

Key reaction for producing 'atmosphere's detergent' observed

Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:10:08 EDT

A rapid atmospheric reaction critical to breaking down pollution in the lab has been observed by chemists. They identify an important intermediate molecule and track its transformation to hydroxyl radicals, also demonstrating the amount of energy necessary for the reaction to take place.(image)

Efficiently harvesting hydrogen fuel from Sun using Earth-abundant materials

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 14:12:32 EDT

Scientists have a new efficient way of producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water. By combining a pair of solar cells made with a mineral called perovskite and low cost electrodes, scientists have obtained a 12.3 percent conversion efficiency from solar energy to hydrogen, a record using Earth-abundant materials as opposed to rare metals.(image)

Natural gas usage will have little effect on carbon dioxide emissions, researchers find

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:36:59 EDT

Abundant supplies of natural gas will do little to reduce harmful U.S. emissions causing climate change, according to researchers. They found that inexpensive gas boosts electricity consumption and hinders expansion of cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar.(image)

New mobile solar unit is designed to save lives when the power goes out

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:29:56 EDT

Brooke Ellison draws her own power from will, but the ventilator that keeps her alive requires uninterrupted electricity. Dr. Ellison is allowing scientists to field-test, at her home, the Nextek Power Systems STAR, a mobile solar generator.(image)

Solar cells cheap enough to quickly cover their cost: Could double as semi-transparent blinds for windows

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 08:48:51 EDT

One of the most common complaints about solar power is solar panels are still too expensive to be worth the investment. Many researchers have responded by making solar cells, the tile-like components of solar panels that absorb and transfer energy, more efficient and longer lasting. But even the longest living solar cells that most effectively convert sunlight to energy will not become common if they are prohibitively expensive.(image)

Solar energy-driven process could revolutionize oil sands tailings reclamation

Tue, 23 Sep 2014 18:21:40 EDT

A civil engineering research team has developed a new way to clean oil sands process affected water and reclaim tailings ponds in Alberta's oil sands industry. Using sunlight as a renewable energy source instead of UV lamps, and adding chlorine to the tailings, oil sands process affected water is decontaminated and detoxified -- immediately.(image)

State policies effective in reducing power plant emissions, study finds

Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:14:40 EDT

Different strategies used by states to reduce power plant emissions -- direct ones such as emission caps and indirect ones like encouraging renewable energy -- are both effective, a study has found. The study is the first analysis of its kind, the authors report.(image)

Solar explosions 'inside' a computer: Understanding solar flares to improve predictions

Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:22:31 EDT

Strong solar flares can bring down communications and power grids on Earth. By demonstrating how these gigantic eruptions are caused, physicists are laying the foundations for future predictions. The shorter the interval between two explosions in the solar atmosphere, the more likely it is that the second flare will be stronger than the first one.(image)

Smart meters could cause conflict for housemates

Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:15:36 EDT

Arguments about whose turn it is to do the washing up, negotiating rights to the TV remote control and disputes over noise -- as many students returning to university for the new academic year are about to learn the hard way, sharing a house can be a tricky business. And now research has revealed that new technology to allow people to monitor their energy usage in the home could be about to ratchet up the tension.(image)

Paraffins to cut energy consumption in homes

Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:00:23 EDT

Forty percent of the total consumption of energy in Europe takes place in buildings, so reducing this consumption is becoming increasingly important. Integrating renewables into the energy supply for buildings is a further step towards moving towards this aim. Scientist have now developed a modular device based on paraffins that allows thermal energy to be stored, thus reducing the total volume of the system by 50% with respect to storage by means of water, traditionally used in buildings.(image)

Fracking's environmental impacts scrutinized

Sun, 21 Sep 2014 09:29:38 EDT

Greenhouse gas emissions from the production and use of shale gas would be comparable to conventional natural gas, but the controversial energy source actually fared better than renewables on some environmental impacts, according to new research.(image)