There's so little good news about energy, this technology breakthrough is heartening.
Maybe in 50 years or so "clean coal" could become a reality, since the CO2 waste stream would facilitate carbon capture.
A new approach to dramatically increase goods transportation efficiency has be proposed.
The Physical Internet -- a concept in which goods are handled, stored and transported in a shared network of manufacturers, retailers and the transportation industry -- would benefit the U.S. economy and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study by engineers at the University of Arkansas and Virginia Tech University. If 25 percent of the U.S. supply chain operated with such an interconnected system, profits for participating firms would increase by $100 billion, carbon dioxide emissions from road-based freight would decrease by at least 33 percent and consumers would pay less for goods.
A new tool maps the best roofs for solar power installation.
In this image, the bright yellow parts of roofs give the best return for photovoltaic solar panels, and the brown areas are totally useless. The article shows 6 images of a sample area as it's being processed.
... the model they’ve developed could potentially give us the same information about every surface on the planet.
"When an owner uses the map, they get a very good evaluation of how good the solar potential of their roof is,” says Christoph Reinhart, an MIT associate professor working on the project. Modern Development Studio’s web platform can even translate that solar potential into a financial cost, a payback period, a carbon emissions reduction and equivalent calculations for how many trees you’d have to plant or fewer miles you’d have to drive to achieve the same effect.
MIT came up with all of this leveraging a couple of giant datasets with fine-tuned algorithms. The model relies upon hourly solar radiation data collected at nearby Logan International Airport (data that measures, in effect, how much sun the city gets in this climate), as well as on Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data previously collected in an aerial flyover of the city. LIDAR data, which captures how far each treetop or roof is from the ground, is commonly used to make three-dimensional models of cities (or to measure things like tree cover).
Saphon Energy has developed a bladeless wind turbine. The prototype was for 300-500 watts. It's supposed to move back and forth, driving a piston. There were no videos of this motion.
"Used" chevy Volt batteries still have ten years of useful function as part of a community energy storage unit. Such units will help integrate highly variable solar and wind energy sources into the grid.
... the device features five lithium-ion battery packs from plug-in hybrid Volts, strung together in a new arrangement and cooled by air instead of the liquid used in their former lives on the road. The batteries are degraded below acceptable performance levels for cars, but the companies say the batteries have enough life to serve the grid for at least ten years in this device, a community energy storageunit.
Deployed on the grid, community energy storage devices could help utilities integrate highly variable, and sometimes unpredictable, renewables like solar and wind into the power supply, while absorbing spikes in demand from electric-car charging.
GM isn't the only automaker looking to help build a secondary market for its electric car batteries. In January, Nissan North America joined with ABB, 4R Energy, and Sumitomo Corporation of America to announce plans to build a prototype of a grid storage system using Nissan Leaf batteries.
Spent car batteries face tough competition from new lithium-ion batteries designed specifically for a given grid application, said See, as well as alternative technologies like flow batteries and molten salt batteries, which have the potential to cost less.
At last, a practical energy breakthrough!
Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water. The technology's inventors said they expect it will first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world.
The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency around 15 percent.
"This is about a lot more than electricity," said LANP Director Naomi Halas, the lead scientist on the project. "With this technology, we are beginning to think about solar thermal power in a completely different way."
The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam.
Most industrial steam is produced in large boilers, and Halas said solar steam's efficiency could allow steam to become economical on a much smaller scale.
People in developing countries will be among the first to see the benefits of solar steam. Rice engineering undergraduates have already created a solar steam-powered autoclave that's capable of sterilizing medical and dental instruments at clinics that lack electricity.
Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today's electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.
A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, the scientists found.
"These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive," said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. "The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage -- which we did by an exhaustive search -- and to calculate costs correctly."
The Atmospheric Vortex Engine sounds too good to be practical.
The idea is to use waste heat or warm tropical seawater to drive a vortex from the earth to the troposphere with enough efficiency to also drive turbines.
A new tool for last ditch climate rescue, get rid of cirrus clouds with bismuth triiodide.
Is it toxic? So far this is just a computer model.
... it seems that, by destroying cirrus, we could reverse all the warming Earth has experienced so far.
In 2009, David Mitchell of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, proposed a radical way to stop climate change: get rid of some cirrus. Now Trude Storelvmo of Yale University and colleagues have used a climate model to test the idea.
Storelvmo added powdered bismuth triiodide into the model's troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere in which these clouds form.
The technique, done on a global scale, created a powerful cooling effect, enough to counteract the 0.8 °C of warming caused by all the greenhouse gases released by humans.
A new spin on solar: V3Solar Spin Cell
A promising breakthrough in flow battery design comes from Professor Yi Cui . It uses inexpensive materials and promises to scale up quickly.
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid.
... molecules mostly consist of the relatively inexpensive elements lithium and sulfur ... interact with a piece of lithium metal coated with a barrier that permits electrons to pass without degrading the metal. When discharging, the molecules, called lithium polysulfides, absorb lithium ions; when charging, they lose them back into the liquid. The entire molecular stream is dissolved in an organic solvent, which doesn't have the corrosion issues of water-based flow batteries.
"In initial lab tests, the new battery also retained excellent energy-storage performance through more than 2,000 charges and discharges, equivalent to more than 5.5 years of daily cycles," Cui said.
To demonstrate their concept, the researchers created a miniature system using simple glassware.
Another breakthrough in energy storage, this time using a cheaper catalyst for more efficient electrolysis.
... a team of Canadian scientists may have solved the problem of cost, which could revolutionize the storage of renewable energy. Curtis Berlinguette, a professor of chemistry at the University of Calgary, said this could be a game-changer for helping best utilize the electricity generated by solar cells and wind turbines.
The big innovation is in changing the material used as a catalyst. In the past, catalysts have been crystals, while his research has focused on developing an amorphous catalyst material.
Berlinguette said his new process uses iron oxide, which is rust, augmented with cobalt and nickel. These widely available metals, are much cheaper than what’s being used today, like iridium and ruthenium.
"If we’re able to match performance of ruthenium, which costs thousands times more than iron, then it’s certainly a big discovery," he said.
There are some indications that Berlinguette's innovation could be 20 percent more efficient than what's being used today, along with being a thousand times cheaper. But there's still work to do to prove that out.
"We’re currently in the testing phase with a large scale electrolyzer with a current player on the market," Berlinguette said. "These could be out there as early as 2014. [emphasis mine]
This electrochemical cell contains an electrode coated with an iron oxide catalyst film and a counter-electrode to produce oxygen and hydrogen fuel. (Photo courtesy of Curtis Berlinguette/University of Calgary.)
Research suggests that as permafrost soils gradually warm, they will continue to store the same amount of carbon, despite increased decomposition.
Twenty years of experiment at the U.S. Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site at Toolik Lake in northern Alaska (pictured below) shows northern soils resilient.
What they initially found was typical of Arctic warming: low-lying, shallow-rooted vegetation giving way to taller plants with deeper roots; greater wood shrub dominance; and increased thaw depth. What they weren't expecting was that two decades of slow and steady warming had not changed the amounts of carbon in the soil, despite changes in vegetation and even the soil food web.
The answer to that mystery, according to Sistla, might be found in the finer workings of the ecosystem: Increased plant growth appears to have facilitated stabilizing feedbacks to soil carbon loss.
"We hypothesize that net soil carbon hasn't changed after 20 years because warming-accelerated decomposition has been offset by increased carbon inputs to the soil due to a combination of increased plant growth and changing soil conditions," Sistla said.
The increased plant productivity, caused by the warmer temperatures -- on average 2 degrees Celsius in the air and 1 degree in the soil to the permafrost -- has increased plant litter inputs to the soil. Unexpectedly, the soils in the greenhouse experiment developed higher winter temperatures, while the summer warming effect declined.
"These changes reflect a complicated feedback," Sistla said.
However, whether or not this phenomenon -- no net loss of soil carbon despite long-term warming -- is a transient phase that will eventually give way to increased decomposition activity and more carbon release, is not yet known.