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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: Thu, 30 Oct 2014 06:43:41 EDT

Last Build Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2014 06:43:41 EDT

 



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)



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)



Unique waste cleanup for rural areas developed

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:01:36 EDT

A unique method has been developed to use microbes buried in pond sediment to power waste cleanup in rural areas. The first microbe-powered, self-sustaining wastewater treatment system could lead to an inexpensive and quick way to clean up waste from large farming operations and rural sewage treatment plants while reducing pollution.(image)



A more efficient, lightweight and low-cost organic solar cell: Researchers broke the 'electrode barrier'

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:14:52 EDT

For decades, polymer scientists and synthetic chemists working to improve the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells were hampered by the inherent drawbacks of commonly used metal electrodes, including their instability and susceptibility to oxidation. Now for the first time, researchers have developed a more efficient, easily processable and lightweight solar cell that can use virtually any metal for the electrode, effectively breaking the 'electrode barrier.'(image)



American-made wind turbine blades

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:29:07 EDT

New research is helping makers of wind turbine blades improve the labor productivity associated with blade fabrication and finishing. This improved productivity makes US blades more cost competitive with blades from countries that pay workers lower wages.(image)



Ahoy, offshore wind: Advanced buoys bring vital data to untapped energy resource

Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:48:02 EDT

Two large buoys that are decked out with advanced scientific instruments will help more accurately predict offshore wind’s power-producing potential.(image)



Environmental costs, health risks, and benefits of fracking examined

Fri, 12 Sep 2014 11:25:22 EDT

Rising supplies of natural gas could benefit the environment by replacing coal as a fuel for electricity, but hydraulic fracturing poses dangers for people living near the wells, a new analysis finds.(image)



Cutting the cloud computing carbon cost

Fri, 12 Sep 2014 11:24:11 EDT

Researchers have investigated how cloud computing systems might be optimized for energy use and to reduce their carbon footprint.(image)



The biomethane market needs clear frame conditions for further growth, experts urge

Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:50:43 EDT

Biomethane as a substitute for the fossil energy carrier natural gas offers a variety of options and applications for a sustainable energy supply. Nevertheless, a consequent market penetration is still pending because of a lack of standardized and transnational frame conditions. Scientists have now summarized how the biomethane market developed in the IEA (International Energy Agency) member states and which factors are necessary for further growing.(image)



A Mexican plant could lend the perfume industry more green credibility

Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:04:28 EDT

The mere whiff of a dreamy perfume can help conjure new feelings or stir a longing for the past. But the creation of these alluring scents, from the high-end to the commonplace, can also incur an environmental toll. That could change as scientists examine a more sustainable way to produce a key perfume ingredient and supply it to fragrance makers around the world.(image)



Geomagnetic storm mystery solved: How magnetic energy turns into particle energy

Wed, 10 Sep 2014 08:38:34 EDT

Magnetic reconnection can trigger geomagnetic storms that disrupt cell phone service, damage satellites and black out power grids. But how reconnection, in which the magnetic field lines in plasma snap apart and violently reconnect, transforms magnetic energy into explosive particle energy remains a major unsolved problem in plasma astrophysics.(image)



New 'green growth' report shows how U.S. can cut carbon pollution by 40 percent while creating 2.7 million new jobs

Mon, 08 Sep 2014 20:43:08 EDT

The United States can cut its carbon pollution by 40 percent from 2005 levels and create a net increase of 2.7 million clean energy jobs in the process, reducing the unemployment rate by 1.5 percentage points, a recent report suggests.(image)



Sun-powered desalination for villages in India

Mon, 08 Sep 2014 09:37:49 EDT

Around the world, there is more salty groundwater than fresh, drinkable groundwater. For example, 60 percent of India is underlain by salty water -- and much of that area is not served by an electric grid that could run conventional reverse-osmosis desalination plants. Sun-powered desalination could deliver clean water for off-grid villages.(image)



Wind energy cuts the electricity bill

Wed, 03 Sep 2014 10:56:44 EDT

The promoting of renewable energy is at the heart of the current debate on energy policy. From an economic perspective, the question focuses on determining the cost of the feed-in tariff systems. A new study tackles this question empirically, and concludes that wind energy continues to produce greater savings than what its incentives amount to, while photovoltaic solar technologies are still in the development phase.(image)



Scientists create renewable fossil fuel alternative using bacteria

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:44:14 EDT

Researchers have engineered the harmless gut bacteria E.coli to generate renewable propane. The development is a step towards commercial production of a source of fuel that could one day provide an alternative to fossil fuels. Propane is an appealing source of cleaner fuel because it has an existing global market.(image)



Hydrogen powers important nitrogen-transforming bacteria

Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:59:13 EDT

Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria can use hydrogen as an alternative source of energy, an international team of researchers has found. The oxidation of hydrogen with oxygen enables their growth independent of nitrite and a lifestyle outside the nitrogen cycle.(image)



Rubber meets the road with new carbon, battery technologies

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:16:54 EDT

Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in electric vehicles and store energy produced by wind and solar, say researchers. By modifying the microstructural characteristics of carbon black, a substance recovered from discarded tires, a team is developing a better anode for lithium-ion batteries.(image)



Existing power plants will spew 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 14:24:43 EDT

Existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas, according to scientists.(image)



Lignin: New process helps overcome obstacles to produce renewable fuels and chemicals

Mon, 25 Aug 2014 18:58:42 EDT

There's an old saying in the biofuels industry: 'You can make anything from lignin except money.' But now, a new study may pave the way to challenging that adage. The study demonstrates a concept that provides opportunities for the successful conversion of lignin into a variety of renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials for a sustainable energy economy.(image)



Cutting emissions pays for itself, study concludes

Sun, 24 Aug 2014 15:23:39 EDT

Health care savings can greatly defray costs of carbon-reduction policies, experts report. But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? Researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the U.S., and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big -- in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.(image)



Water splitter runs on an ordinary AAA battery

Fri, 22 Aug 2014 08:40:34 EDT

Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most fuel cell vehicle run on hydrogen made from natural gas. Now scientists have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis. Unlike other water splitters that use precious-metal catalysts, the electrodes in this device are made of inexpensive and abundant nickel and iron.(image)



Water leads to chemical that gunks up biofuels production

Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:43:19 EDT

Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions.(image)



The power of salt: Power generation from where river water and seawater meet

Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:05:50 EDT

Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a team of mechanical engineers. The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy. In principle, a PRO system would take in river water and seawater on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Through osmosis, water from the less-salty stream would cross the membrane to a pre-pressurized saltier side, creating a flow that can be sent through a turbine to recover power.(image)



Solar energy that doesn't block the view

Tue, 19 Aug 2014 20:02:19 EDT

Researchers have developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window. It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a flat, clear surface.(image)