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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, 20 Aug 2014 00:13:21 EDT

Last Build Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2014 00:13:21 EDT


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)

Asian inventions dominate energy storage systems

Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:53:18 EDT

In recent years, the number of patent applications for electrochemical energy storage technologies has soared. According to a study, the largest volume of applications is submitted by developers of lithium batteries. The study offers a first differentiated analysis of which technologies will be viable in the exit from fossil-fuel energy. European and US companies are falling behind economically, as Asian companies apply for a substantially higher number of patents.(image)

Exporting US coal to Asia could drop emissions 21 percent

Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:30:50 EDT

Under the right scenario, exporting US 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 US 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 US.(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)

Solar energy gets a boost: 'Singlet fission' can increase solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent

Tue, 08 Jul 2014 13:21:46 EDT

Scientists have reviewed chemists' work on "singlet fission," a process in which a single photon generates a pair of excited states. This conversion process has the potential to boost solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent.(image)

Water bonus flows from climate change measures

Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:27:03 EDT

The equivalent of one-third of Melbourne's water use could be saved each year through the implementation of efficiency measures that deal with climate change, according to a new study. Researchers analyzed the water-saving potential of 74 options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions identified in ClimateWorks Australia's award-winning Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia.(image)

Consider water use in climate change policies: Energy efficient technologies can also save water at the same time

Thu, 03 Jul 2014 10:26:05 EDT

There’s more to trying to slow down climate change than just cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Technology, policies or plans that aim to do so should also take environmental factors such as water usage into account. A more integrated approach might make some options considerably more attractive than others, especially when implemented in arid countries such as Australia.(image)

Putting a price tag on the 2 degree Celsius climate target

Wed, 02 Jul 2014 11:10:03 EDT

Addressing climate change will require substantial new investment in low-carbon energy and energy efficiency -- but no more than what is currently spent on today's fossil-dominated energy system, according to new research. To limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius, low-carbon energy options will need additional investments of about US $800 billion a year globally from now to mid-century, according to a new study.(image)

Net-zero energy test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

Tue, 01 Jul 2014 18:38:18 EDT

The NIST net-zero energy test house in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.(image)

Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel

Tue, 01 Jul 2014 17:01:58 EDT

Researchers have devised an efficient method for harnessing sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into a potential alternative fuel known as formic acid. The transformation from carbon dioxide and water to formic acid was powered by a commercial solar panel.(image)

Capturing carbon dioxide emissions needed to meet climate targets

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:20:06 EDT

Technologies that are discussed controversially today may be needed to keep the future risks and costs of climate change in check. Combining the production of energy from fossil fuels and biomass with capturing and storing the carbon dioxide they emit can be key to achieving current climate policy objectives such as limiting the rise of the global mean temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius.(image)

Packing hundreds of sensors into a single optical fiber for use in harsh environments

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:20:00 EDT

By fusing together the concepts of active fiber sensors and high-temperature fiber sensors, a team of researchers has created an all-optical high-temperature sensor for gas flow measurements that operates at record-setting temperatures above 800 degrees Celsius. It's expected to find industrial sensing applications in harsh environments, such as deep geothermal drill cores or space missions.(image)

Cheap and enviromentally friendly: Tofu ingredient could revolutionize solar panel manufacture

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:18:52 EDT

The chemical used to make tofu and bath salts could also replace a highly toxic and expensive substance used to make solar cells, a new study has revealed. Cadmium chloride is currently a key ingredient in solar cell technology used in millions of solar panels around the world. This soluble compound is highly toxic and expensive to produce, requiring elaborate safety measures to protect workers during manufacture and then specialist disposal when panels are no longer needed.(image)

Scientists create new battery that's cheap, clean, rechargeable ... and organic

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:26:27 EDT

Scientists have developed a rechargeable battery that is all organic and could be scaled up easily for use in power plants where it can make the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating a large-scale means to store energy for use as needed. The batteries could pave the way for renewable energy sources to make up a greater share of the nation's energy generation.(image)

Alternative energy evaluation: Net energy analysis should become a standard policy tool, scientists say

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 10:16:49 EDT

To be viable, wind farms, power plants and other energy technologies should deliver more energy than they consume. Net energy analysis allows researchers to evaluate the long-term sustainability of a technology by comparing how much energy it produces over its lifetime with the energy required to build and maintain it, say scientists.(image)

NOAA GOES-R satellite black wing ready for flight

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 17:23:03 EDT

The solar array that will provide power to NOAA's GOES-R satellite has been tested, approved and shipped to a facility where it will be incorporated on the spacecraft. The five sections of the solar array come together as one to resemble a giant black wing.(image)

New study uses blizzard to measure wind turbine airflow

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:24:03 EDT

A first-of-its-kind study using snow during a Minnesota blizzard is giving researchers new insight into the airflow around large wind turbines. This research is essential to improving wind energy efficiency, especially in wind farms where airflows from many large wind turbines interact with each other.(image)

Concentrating solar power: Study shows greater potential

Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:22:34 EDT

Concentrating solar power could supply a large fraction of the power supply in a decarbonized energy system, shows a new study of the technology and its potential practical application.(image)

Safe water for the people in Tanzania

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 10:23:10 EDT

Hydraulic engineers and photovoltaics experts have developed a solar filtration system to produce high-quality drinking water from polluted brackish water and tested it successfully in Tanzania. The test results are currently being analyzed. The filter effectively separates undesired substances, bacteria, and viruses.(image)

Winds of change for the shipping sector

Wed, 18 Jun 2014 22:06:16 EDT

Wind propulsion such as kites and Flettner rotors could offer a viable route to help cut carbon dioxide emissions in the shipping sector, according to researchers.(image)

Finland to become a model country for sustainable transport by 2020

Wed, 18 Jun 2014 07:17:29 EDT

Roads in Finland in 2020 will hum to the sound of low-emission vehicles running on renewable energy, electricity, hydrogen and sustainable biofuels. The share of public transport and car pooling in densely populated urban areas will increase. Mobility arranged through easy-to-use services will become a viable alternative to buying a private car.(image)

Geothermal: Hunting for heat energy, deep within Earth

Tue, 17 Jun 2014 09:37:21 EDT

Capturing green energy from deep in the Earth will bring competitive electricity and district heating – with help from Norway. Ever since Jules Verne’s 1864 novel “ A Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, people have dreamt of capturing the heat of planet Earth. It exists in huge amounts, is completely renewable and emits no CO2.(image)

Quantum biology: Algae evolved to switch quantum coherence on and off

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 15:15:09 EDT

Scientists have discovered how algae that survive in very low levels of light are able to switch on and off a weird quantum phenomenon that occurs during photosynthesis. The function in the algae of this quantum effect, known as coherence, remains a mystery, but it is thought it could help them harvest energy from the sun much more efficiently. Working out its role in a living organism could lead to advances such as better organic solar cells.(image)

U.S. housing policies increase carbon output

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:03:45 EDT

Land use policies and preferential tax treatment for housing – in the form of federal income tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes – have increased carbon emissions in the United States by about 2.7 percent, almost 6 percent annually in new home construction, according to a new study.(image)

Wind turbine payback: Environmental lifecycle assessment of 2-megawatt wind turbines

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 09:33:17 EDT

Researchers have carried out an environmental lifecycle assessment of 2-megawatt wind turbines mooted for a large wind farm in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. They conclude that in terms of cumulative energy payback, or the time to produce the amount of energy required of production and installation, a wind turbine with a working life of 20 years will offer a net benefit within five to eight months of being brought online.(image)

Iberian Peninsula’s geothermal power can generate current electrical capacity five times over

Fri, 13 Jun 2014 08:44:23 EDT

About 500 power stations around the world use geothermal power to generate electricity, although there are yet to be any in Spain. The temperature increases by 30 ºC for every kilometer further underground. This thermal gradient, generated by the flow of heat from the inside of the Earth and the breakdown of radioactive elements in the crust, produces geothermal power.(image)

Costs and benefits of compliance with renewable portfolio standards estimated

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 20:55:22 EDT

A new report reviews estimates of the costs and benefits of compliance with Renewable Portfolio Standards in the United States and explores how costs and benefits may evolve over time. Based on a review and analysis of data from state compliance filings and other sources, the report finds that the estimated incremental RPS cost over the 2010-2012 period -- the cost above and beyond what would have been incurred absent the RPS -- was less than 1 percent of retail electricity rates on average.(image)

Up to 6-cent per kilowatt-hour extra value with concentrated solar power

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 20:55:20 EDT

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) projects would add additional value of 5 or 6 cents per kilowatt hour to utility-scale solar energy in California where 33 percent renewables will be mandated in six years, a new report has found.(image)

How solar wind can break through Earth's magnetic field

Mon, 09 Jun 2014 12:20:25 EDT

Space is not empty. A wind of charged particles blows outwards from the Sun, carrying a magnetic field with it. Sometimes this solar wind can break through the Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers now have an answer to one of the questions about how this actually occurs. When two areas with plasma (electrically charged gas) and magnetic fields with different orientations collide, the magnetic fields can be “clipped off” and “reconnected” so that the topology of the magnetic field is changed, they explain.(image)

Drastic cut in electricity bill for supermarket in Norway

Fri, 06 Jun 2014 09:15:39 EDT

A newly built mini-supermarket was opened last autumn in Norway by a government minister to the sound of a brass band. Throughout the winter, it used 30 per cent less electricity than four comparable stores in the capital of mid-Norway, where of course the outdoor temperature was the same for all of them.(image)

Current trends for forest biomass for energy in EU

Wed, 04 Jun 2014 09:35:39 EDT

The EU aims to get 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Renewables include wind, solar, hydro-electric and tidal power as well as geothermal energy and biomass. These ambitious targets set in the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) have led to concerns about the levels of woody biomass from forests which would need to be mobilized to meet them.(image)

Carbon-capture breakthrough: Recyclable material absorbs 82 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide

Tue, 03 Jun 2014 11:43:19 EDT

Scientists invent a porous material to capture carbon dioxide at natural gas wellheads. The recyclable material absorbs 82 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide and releases it as gas when the wellhead pressure is relieved.(image)

New look at old forests: Future growth of U.S. forests expected to decline

Tue, 03 Jun 2014 09:26:04 EDT

As forests age, their ability to grow decreases, because energy production (photosynthesis) and energy consumption (respiration) decrease with age, a new study has determined. Since most US forests are maturing from regeneration that began about 100 years ago when extensive clear-cutting occurred, the study suggests the future growth of US forests will decline.(image)

Supply of woody biomass for energy from privately owned forests in Europe overestimated

Tue, 03 Jun 2014 09:22:10 EDT

The European Commission expects the use of biomass for energy in the EU to increase significantly to meet a legally binding target of at least 20% of the EU’s total energy use from renewable sources in 2020. In response to the increased demand, the EU member states have estimated the direct supply of biomass from their forests to increase by 45% on a volume basis between 2006 and 2020. A new study shows for the first time that European private forest owners are not as ready to increase the supply of woody biomass for energy as assumed.(image)

Enhancing safety of domestic solar power storage

Tue, 03 Jun 2014 09:22:06 EDT

Lithium-ion battery-based energy storage systems have already demonstrated efficiency and reliability in commercial electric vehicles. These high standards now also have to be transferred to battery-based storage systems for private photovoltaics facilities.(image)

Microbes engineered for direct conversion of biomass to fuel

Mon, 02 Jun 2014 15:58:55 EDT

The promise of affordable transportation fuels from biomass -- a sustainable, carbon neutral route to American energy independence -- has been left perpetually on hold by the economics of the conversion process. Researchers have overcome this hurdle allowing the direct conversion of switchgrass to fuel. The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, documents the direct conversion of biomass to biofuel without pre-treatment, using the engineered bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii.(image)

Rare chemical phenomenon that could be harnessed to harvest solar energy demonstrated by researchers

Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:01:46 EDT

The chemical reaction responsible for propelling microscopic crystals to leap distances up to hundreds of times their own size when they are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light has been successfully unraveled by a team of international scientists. This popping effect, akin to the bursting of popcorn kernels at high temperatures, demonstrates the conversion of light into mechanical motion. It is the first instance of a “photosalient effect” driven by a photochemical reaction in solids to be reported.(image)

First real-time movies of the light-to-current conversion in an organic solar cell

Fri, 30 May 2014 12:44:31 EDT

Scientists have reported the first real-time movies of the light-to-current conversion process in an organic solar cell. Researchers show that the quantum-mechanical, wavelike nature of electrons and their coupling to the nuclei is of fundamental importance for the charge transfer in an organic photovoltaic device.(image)

Solar panel manufacturing is greener in Europe than China, study says

Thu, 29 May 2014 15:41:51 EDT

Solar panels made in China have a higher overall carbon footprint and are likely to use substantially more energy during manufacturing than those made in Europe, said a new study. The team performed a type of systematic evaluation called life cycle analysis to come up with these hard data. Life cycle analysis tallies up all the energy used to make a product -- energy to mine raw materials, fuel to transport the materials and products, electricity to power the processing factory, and so forth.(image)

Engineering professor hopes to improve carbon-capture with patented technology

Thu, 29 May 2014 14:22:18 EDT

Less than a year after patenting a process that could improve stripping greenhouse gasses from industrial emissions, a professor was recently granted another patent with a different solvent to accomplish the same goal. The newest method uses a form of liquid salt that could be swapped with chemicals currently used to scrub harmful emissions, such as carbon dioxide, or CO2, from industrial emissions.(image)