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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, 21 Dec 2014 16:43:14 EST

Last Build Date: Sun, 21 Dec 2014 16:43:14 EST

 



Glimpsing pathway of sunlight to electricity

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:45:48 EST

Four pulses of laser light on nanoparticle photocells in a spectroscopy experiment has opened a window on how captured sunlight can be converted into electricity. The work, which potentially could inspire devices with improved efficiency in solar energy conversion, was performed on photocells that used lead-sulfide quantum dots as photoactive semiconductor material.(image)



Getting bot responders into shape

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:09:29 EST

Scientists are tackling one of the biggest barriers to the use of robots in emergency response: energy efficiency. They are developing technology that will dramatically improve the endurance of legged robots, helping them operate for long periods while performing the types of locomotion most relevant to disaster response scenarios.(image)



New conversion process turns biomass 'waste' into lucrative chemical products

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:40:23 EST

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel for racecars and jets. A team of researchers has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities.(image)



Researchers' recipe: Cook farm waste into energy

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:36:52 EST

Researchers are studying how to make biofuels from farm waste, especially 'wet' waste, such as corn husks, tomato vines and manure, that is typically difficult to use. They have developed a fairly simple procedure, pressure cooking, to transport waste and produce energy from it. Cooking farm waste yields compact, easily transportable material that will not degrade and can be used in energy-producing plants, they say.(image)



Global carbon dioxide emissions increase to new all-time record, but growth is slowing down

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 07:44:42 EST

2013 saw global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production reach a new all-time high. This was mainly due to the continuing steady increase in energy use in emerging economies over the past ten years.  However, emissions increased at a notably slower rate (2%) than on average in the last ten years (3.8% per year since 2003, excluding the credit crunch years).(image)



Comparing state solar policies to determine equation for solar market success

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 11:30:29 EST

Scientists have used statistical analyses and detailed case studies to better understand why solar market policies in certain states are more successful. Their findings indicate that while no standard formula for solar implementation exists, a combination of foundational policies and localized strategies can increase solar photovoltaic installations in any state.(image)



Cost of cloud brightening for cooler planet revealed

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:30:29 EST

Scientists have identified the most energy-efficient way to make clouds more reflective to the sun in a bid to combat climate change. Marine Cloud Brightening is a reversible geoengineering method proposed to mitigate rising global temperatures. It relies on propelling a fine mist of salt particles high into the atmosphere to increase the albedo of clouds -- the amount of sunlight they reflect back into space.(image)



Switching to vehicles powered by electricity from renewables could save lives

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 18:53:56 EST

Driving vehicles that use electricity from renewable energy instead of gasoline could reduce the resulting deaths due to air pollution by 70 percent. This finding comes from a new life cycle analysis of conventional and alternative vehicles and their air pollution-related public health impacts. The study also shows that switching to vehicles powered by electricity made using natural gas yields large health benefits.(image)



Techniques for minimizing environmental impacts of fracking

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 10:16:57 EST

Natural gas power plants emit less carbon dioxide than coal power plants, but must be carefully managed to prevent air and water pollution.(image)



Neighborhood designs can cut carbon emissions, electric costs

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 10:15:44 EST

Researchers find that by clustering trees and homes on smaller lots, homeowners and developers can save money and improvement the environment.(image)



Nuclear should be in the energy mix for biodiversity

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 09:41:55 EST

Leading conservation scientists from around the world have called for a substantial role for nuclear power in future energy-generating scenarios in order to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity.(image)



Energy efficient homes linked to asthma

Thu, 11 Dec 2014 10:20:18 EST

The drive for energy efficient homes could increase asthma risks, according to new research that has found that a failure by residents to heat and ventilate retrofitted properties could lead to more people developing the respiratory condition.(image)



New technique could harvest more of the sun's energy

Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:18:55 EST

As solar panels become less expensive and capable of generating more power, solar energy is becoming a more commercially viable alternative source of electricity. However, the photovoltaic cells now used to turn sunlight into electricity can only absorb and use a small fraction of that light, and that means a significant amount of solar energy goes untapped. A new technology represents a first step toward harnessing that lost energy.(image)



Storing hydrogen underground could boost transportation, energy security

Tue, 09 Dec 2014 09:18:54 EST

Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent study.(image)



Is natural gas a 'bridge' to a hotter future?

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:57:10 EST

Natural gas power plants produce substantial amounts of gases that lead to global warming. Replacing old coal-fired power plants with new natural gas plants could cause climate damage to increase over the next decades, unless their methane leakage rates are very low and the new power plants are very efficient.(image)



Wind farms to do not affect property values, study finds

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:56:14 EST

Wind turbine developments have no effect on property values of nearby homes and farms, according to new Canadian research. Researchers analyzed more than 7,000 home and farm sales in Melancthon Township and 10 surrounding townships in Dufferin, Grey, Simcoe and Wellington counties. Melancthon, located about 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto, is home to one of Ontario's first and largest wind farms; 133 wind turbines were erected between 2005 and 2008.(image)



In world first, researchers convert sunlight to electricity with over 40 percent efficiency

Sun, 07 Dec 2014 09:16:48 EST

Australia's solar researchers have converted over 40 percent of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. A key part of the prototype's design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves ever could.(image)



China agrees to enhance its role in global climate change mitigation: Turning the massive 'coal ship' around won’t be easy, experts say

Thu, 04 Dec 2014 07:40:28 EST

A rapid process of urbanization and an expanding middle class with increasingly western tastes will keep energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in China at high levels over the next 20 years. However, changes are unfolding in China that offer promise and opportunities for cutting emissions and for promoting sustainable energy and climate policies.(image)



Toward a low-cost 'artificial leaf' that produces clean hydrogen fuel

Wed, 03 Dec 2014 11:11:34 EST

For years, scientists have been pursuing 'artificial leaf' technology, a green approach to making hydrogen fuel that copies plants' ability to convert sunlight into a form of energy they can use. Now, one team reports progress toward a stand-alone system that lends itself to large-scale, low-cost production. They created a nanowire mesh design.(image)



Atmospheric carbon dioxide used for energy storage products

Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:06:39 EST

Researchers have discovered a fascinating new way to take some of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that's causing the greenhouse effect and use it to make an advanced, high-value material for use in energy storage products.(image)



Missing ingredient in energy-efficient buildings: Trained people

Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:24:03 EST

More than one-third of new commercial building space includes energy-saving features, but without training or an operator's manual many occupants are in the dark about how to use them.(image)



Matched 'hybrid' systems may hold key to wider use of renewable energy

Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:42:43 EST

The use of renewable energy in the United States could take a significant leap forward with improved storage technologies or more efforts to 'match' different forms of alternative energy systems that provide an overall more steady flow of electricity, researchers say in a new report.(image)



High-tech mirror beams heat away from buildings into space

Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:38:21 EST

Engineers have invented a material designed to help cool buildings. The material reflects incoming sunlight, and it sends heat from inside the structure directly into space as infrared radiation.(image)



Researchers find way to turn sawdust into gasoline

Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:11:12 EST

Researchers have successfully converted sawdust into building blocks for gasoline. Using a new chemical process, they were able to convert the cellulose in sawdust into hydrocarbon chains. These hydrocarbons can be used as an additive in gasoline, or as a component in plastics.(image)



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)