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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: Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:43:41 EDT

Last Build Date: Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:43:41 EDT

 



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)



Exporting U.S. coal to Asia could drop emissions 21 percent

Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:30:50 EDT

Under the right scenario, exporting U.S. coal to power plants in South Korea could lead to a 21 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning it at less energy-efficient U.S. plants. Other emissions, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, could also drop. But this success, researchers say, depends on which fuel source the coal replaces in South Korea, and which fuel is used to replace it in the U.S.(image)



Economists: Shale oil 'dividend' could pay for smaller carbon footprint

Tue, 19 Aug 2014 09:40:55 EDT

Unanticipated economic benefits from the shale oil and gas boom could help offset the costs of substantially reducing the US's carbon footprint, agricultural economists say. Using an economic model, they found that "spending" part of this dividend on slashing the nation's carbon emissions by about 27 percent -- about the same amount set forth in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recently proposed Clean Power Plan -- would reduce the shale dividend by about half.(image)



Recycling old car batteries into solar cells: Environmental twofer could recycle lead batteries to make solar cells

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:34:28 EDT

This could be a classic win-win solution: A system proposed by researchers recycles materials from discarded car batteries -- a potential source of lead pollution -- into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power.(image)



Sustainable green alternatives to fertilizers could boost food, energy security

Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:38:46 EDT

Research is looking at formulating sustainable fertilizers from renewable energy waste. This new area of research aims to produce a sustainable, environmentally-friendlier source of soil conditioner and crop fertilizer that could also reduce costs to farmers and potentially, with wide-spread take-up, help to slow down rising food prices.(image)



Bats versus wind turbines

Wed, 13 Aug 2014 17:41:40 EDT

Wind turbines are responsible for the death of numerous bats. In a recent study, scientists determined the origin of these animals: they do not only come from local areas but many had been already on a long migratory journey. Who then bears responsibility not only for the protection of native bat populations, but also for the populations from other countries, a European study asks.(image)



Stinky gases emanating from landfills could transform into clean energy

Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:16:36 EDT

A new technique transforming stinky, air-polluting landfill gas could produce the sweet smell of success as it leads to development of a fuel cell generating clean electricity for homes, offices and hospitals, researchers say. The advance would convert methane gas into hydrogen, an efficient, clean form of energy.(image)



Carbon dioxide 'sponge' could ease transition to cleaner energy


Sun, 10 Aug 2014 12:42:00 EDT

A plastic sponge that sops up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide might ease our transition away from polluting fossil fuels to new energy sources like hydrogen. A relative of food container plastics could play a role in President Obama’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The material might also someday be integrated into power plant smokestacks.(image)



Gasification of oil palm biomass to produce clean producer gas for heat, power generation

Thu, 07 Aug 2014 21:55:25 EDT

A new technology can simultaneously remove impurities and produce clean gas for heat and power generation from waste biomass, researchers report. Currently available gasification technologies and processes produce gas with unusually high concentration of impurities such as tar, dust and acidic gases which render it difficult to be used widely.(image)



Fipronil, imidacloprid reduce honeybee mitochondrial activity

Wed, 06 Aug 2014 15:40:13 EDT

Scientists are urgently trying to determine the causes of colony collapse disorder and the alarming population declines of honeybees. The effects of fipronil and imidacloprid on honeybees has been addressed by a new study. While damage at sublethal levels may not be evident, low level exposure inhibits the ability to forage and return to the hive, which could result in declining bee populations.(image)



Simulation models optimize water power

Wed, 06 Aug 2014 09:47:10 EDT

The Columbia River basin in the Pacific Northwest offers great potential for water power; hydroelectric power stations there generate over 20,000 megawatts already. Now a simulation model will help optimize the operation of the extensive dam system.(image)



Enhancing biofuel yields from biomass with novel new method

Mon, 04 Aug 2014 13:43:02 EDT

A versatile, relatively non-toxic, and efficient way to convert raw agricultural and forestry residues and other plant matter -- known as lignocellulosic biomass, into biofuels and chemicals -- has been developed by researchers. The method brings researchers closer to solving the long elusive goal of producing fuels and chemicals from biomass at high enough yields and low enough costs to become a viable alternative or replacement for petroleum-based fuels and chemicals.(image)



Camelina used to build better biofuel

Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:29:09 EDT

A biochemist is improving biofuels with a promising crop: Camelina sativa. The research may help boost rural economies and provide farmers with a value-added product. "Camelina could give farmers an extra biofuel crop that wouldn't be competing with food production," one researcher said. "This research can add value to the local agricultural economy by creating an additional crop that could fit in with the crop rotation."(image)



Wildfires and other burns play bigger role in climate change

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:15:29 EDT

Research demonstrates that it isn't just the carbon dioxide from biomass burning that's the problem. Black carbon and brown carbon maximize the thermal impacts of such fires. They essentially allow biomass burning to cause much more global warming per unit weight than other human-associated carbon sources.(image)



Scientists shine bright new light on how living things capture energy from the sun

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:10:13 EDT

Scientists may have uncovered a new method of exploiting the power of sunlight by focusing on a naturally occurring combination of lipids that have been strikingly conserved throughout evolution.(image)



All-in-one energy system offers greener power for off–grid homes, farms and businesses

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:38:35 EDT

An innovative ‘trigeneration’ system fuelled entirely by raw plant oils could have great potential for isolated homes and businesses operating outside grid systems.(image)



Worldwide water shortage by 2040

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 09:31:12 EDT

Water is used around the world for the production of electricity, but new research results show that there will not be enough water in the world to meet demand by 2040 if the energy and power situation does not improve before then.(image)



How sweet it is: Bioenergy advanced by new tool

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:33:57 EDT

Researchers have developed a powerful new tool that can help advance the genetic engineering of 'fuel' crops for clean, green and renewable bioenergy -- an assay that enables scientists to identify and characterize the function of nucleotide sugar transporters, critical components in the biosynthesis of plant cell walls.(image)



Steam energy from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:39:57 EDT

A new material structure generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure -- a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam -- is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure's surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material's pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.(image)



How to power California with wind, water and sun

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:43:16 EDT

New research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices.(image)



Self-cooling solar cells boost power, last longer

Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:22:39 EDT

Scientists may have overcome one of the major hurdles in developing high-efficiency, long-lasting solar cells -- keeping them cool, even in the blistering heat of the noonday sun. By adding a specially patterned layer of silica glass to the surface of ordinary solar cells, a team of researchers has found a way to let solar cells cool themselves by shepherding away unwanted thermal radiation.(image)



Replacing coal, oil with natural gas will not help fight global warming, expert argues

Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:39:20 EDT

Both shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than do coal or oil, especially for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating. "While emissions of carbon dioxide are less from natural gas than from coal and oil, methane emissions are far greater. Methane is such a potent greenhouse gas that these emissions make natural gas a dangerous fuel from the standpoint of global warming over the next several decades," said the author of a new article.(image)



Fires are major cause of wind farm failure, according to new research

Wed, 16 Jul 2014 19:46:51 EDT

Fire is the second leading cause of accidents in wind turbines, after blade failure, according to research. Wind farming is one of the leading industries in the renewable energy sector. However, the industry faces a number of challenges, such as opposition by wind farm lobbyists. Today's research suggests that incidents of wind turbines catching fire are a big problem that is not currently being fully reported.(image)



Deep within spinach leaves, vibrations enhance efficiency of photosynthesis

Sun, 13 Jul 2014 15:55:02 EDT

Biophysics researchers have used short pulses of light to peer into the mechanics of photosynthesis and illuminate the role that molecule vibrations play in the energy conversion process that powers life on our planet.(image)