|Justin McCurry||June 21st 2015|
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The operator of Japanâ€™s ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was aware of the need to improve the facilityâ€™s defences against tsunami more than two years before the March 2011 disaster but failed to take action, according to an internal company document.
The revelation casts doubt on claims by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) that it had done everything possible to protect the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown after being struck by a towering tsunami.
The nuclear accident, the worldâ€™s worst since Chernobyl 25 years earlier, caused massive radiation leaks and forced the evacuation of more than 150,000 people, most of whom have yet to return to their homes.
The Race for EVs
|Paul Buckley||June 9th 2015|
GM has unveiled a concept version of the Bolt at this week's Detroit automotive show. The Chevy Bolt features a battery manufactured by South Koreaâ€™s LG Chem Ltd. and is targeting the company's rival EV maker, Tesla Motors' Model 3, which is a $35,000 electric car also scheduled to debut in 2017. The Bolt will be capable of driving four times farther than a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid on a single charge.
â€œThe Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity,â€ said General Motors CEO Mary Barra. â€œChevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers.â€
Bolt drivers will be able to select operating modes designed around preferred driving styles such as daily commuting and spirited weekend cruising, for uncompromising electric driving. The modes adjust accelerator pedal mapping, vehicle ride height and suspension tuning. The Bolt EV concept is also designed to support DC fast charging. Read more ..
The Race for Biogas
|Abigail Klein Leichman ||May 21st 2015|
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the sukkah of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during the Jewish harvest holiday last October, he was treated to a demo of a machine the government has given to Bedouin families to convert organic waste into clean biogas for cooking, heating and lighting, as well as organic liquid crop fertilizer.
"He got very excited and told us, 'Millions of women and children die each year due to indoor smoke from open fires. This is just the thing they need. The UN should be purchasing these units!' recalls Ami Amir of HomeBioGas, which develops and manufactures a new class of anaerobic biodigesters to convert organic waste to clean renewable energy. He asked us to be in touch with the UNâ€™s Food and Agriculture Organization to see where and when our systems could be deployed.â€ Read more ..
Energy and Security
In 2014, the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C. based think-tank, hosted a panel discussion, â€œPetrocaribe, Central America, and the Caribbean: Who Will Subsidize the Future?â€ regarding the Venezuelan-backed energy initiative and the corresponding potential for the United States to regain some of its reduced influence in the region. The event was in conjunction with the Atlantic Councilâ€™s recent report, â€œUncertain Energy: The Caribbeanâ€™s Gamble with Venezuela.â€ Speakers included David Goldwyn, who co-authored the report; Jorge PiÃ±Ã³n, Director of the Center of International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin; and Jed Bailey, who authored a pre-feasibility study that considered transitioning the region to liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Petrocaribe provides Venezuelan oil and oil products at preferential financing terms to 17 member states across the Caribbean and Central America. While the program has not experienced major problems since it was first created in 2005, its future is uncertain as Venezuela grapples with its own economic challenges, including high inflation and commodity shortages. The discussion centered largely on possible scenarios for the future and Washingtonâ€™s potential role should Petrocaribe weaken. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
Engineers at the University of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material and claims to be capable of both moving electricity and storing it.
â€œTo my knowledge, there has never been any similar work reported,â€ explained Dr. Kang Xu of the Army Research Laboratory, a researcher only peripherally related to the study. â€œIt could lead to revolutionary progress in area of solid state batteries.â€
Most batteries have at either end a layer of material for the electrodes which can help move ions through the electrolyte. Chunsheng Wang, a professor in the University of Marylandâ€™s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and his team have made a single material that incorporates the properties of both the electrodes and electrolyte.
â€œOur battery is 600 microns thick, about the size of a dime, whereas conventional solid state batteries are thin films - forty times thinner. This means that more energy can be stored in our battery,â€ said Fudong Han, the first author of the paper and a graduate student in Wangâ€™s group. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Christoph Hammerschmidt||April 27th 2015|
Though the sales figures of electric vehicles fall short of vendorâ€™s expectations, the number of available models will continue to climb, Predicts market researcher Frost & Sullivan. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) are rapidly gaining market share over battery electric vehicles â€“ driving range continues to be the decisive factor for customers.
Currently, 70 % of all available electric vehicles are battery-electric vehicles (BEVs); 25% are PHEVs. Frost & Sullivan Automotive and Transportation analyst Prajot Sathe believes that within the next three to four years the share of PHEVs will grow which translates into a faster market growth for this category compared to BEVs. The reason Sathe sees a higher demand for vehicles with high driving range. As an example, the analyst quotes BMWâ€™s i3 which is available as a pure BEV and with an optional range extender. The latter achieves clearly higher sales figures, the release suggests. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Paul Buckley||April 22nd 2015|
Researchers the University of Wisconsinâ€“Madison and Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a novel X-ray imaging technique to study the electrochemical reactions in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries containing iron fluoride which can store three times the energy of existing batteries.
â€œIron fluoride has the potential to triple the amount of energy a conventional lithium-ion battery can store,â€ explained Song Jin, a UWâ€“Madison professor of chemistry and Wisconsin Energy Institute affiliate. â€œHowever, we have yet to tap its true potential.â€
Graduate student Linsen Li worked with Jin and other collaborators to perform experiments with a state-of-the-art transmission X-ray microscope at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven. The researchers collected chemical maps from actual coin cell batteries filled with iron fluoride during battery cycling to determine how well they perform. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Jean-Pierre Joosting||April 13th 2015|
Market research predicts that solid state thin film battery markets at $9 million in 2014 are forecast to reach $1.3 billion by 2021. Rapid growth toward the end of the forecast period is anticipated as technology improves the cost structure of the manufacturing. Solid state thin film batteries are ideal for powering energy harvesting applications. According the study, "Solid state electronics brings the same advantages to batteries as it has brought to all other industry segments it touches. Printed circuit board manufacturers are finding that they can achieve a rapid return on investment from substantially decreasing the energy costs associated with using storage by wave soldering the storage onto the boards during the manufacturing process."
The quality of energy storage is better with solid state thin film batteries. Data for thin film batteries using very thin substrates illustrate the longer cycle life that can be achieved. Applications include power bridging, permanent power, and wireless sensor networks. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|David Biello||April 12th 2015|
Gas likes to escape. That's bad news for the atmosphere when the gas in question is methane, the primary component in natural gas that is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. But burning natural gas results in half the greenhouse gas pollution than coal, making it appealing as fuel in an era of combating climate change.
Thanks to a bonanza of natural gas liberated from deep shales by new techniques, the U.S. is burning more and more of the fuelâ€”and considering using more natural gas in more places, such as fuel for trucking. But if the amount of methane escaping is too high, such widespread use might prove a disaster for climate change. And that's why a group of scientists set out to better estimate how much methane is escaping in the U.S. To do that, they surveyed more than 200 sets of field measurements and scientific papers from the past 20 years to learn whether increasing use of natural gas could prove a climate boon or bane. Read more ..
The Edge of Solar
|Paul Buckley||April 8th 2015|
Heliatek GmbH is claiming a new record in the efficiency of transparent solar cells. The latest development allows transparency levels up to 40% with an efficiency of more than 7%. The company already holds the world record of 12% cell efficiency for opaque (non-transparent) organic solar cells.
The latest generation of organic solar cells with a 40% light transparency have reached an efficiency record of 7.2%. The measurement follows standard testing conditions using a white background. Heliatek has succeeded in generating an optimal energy conversion for transparent HeliaFilm. Currently, its opaque cells achieve 12% efficiency. The 7.2% cells mirror the same efficiency, since the partial transparency allows the usage of 60% of the light for the energy harvesting. Depending on the application, the balance between light let through and electricity generated can be adjusted. The production of transparent HeliaFilm is possible with the introduction of transparent conductive layers at the front- and back-side of the solar cells. Read more ..
The Edge of Solar
|Paul Buckley||April 1st 2015|
China's Trina Solar has collaborated the Australian National University's (ANU) Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems on the joint development of a new high efficiency solar cell which has achieved an efficiency of 24.4%.
Independently tested by Germanyâ€™s Fraunhofer CalLab the laboratory scale Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) solar cell is now one of the most efficient solar cells ever tested.
Trina Solar funded the two-year research project, which involved contributions from Australian consultancy PV Lighthouse, and the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS).
The Chinese company is now developing a commercial version of the IBC cell, as well as an IBC PV module. In testing, Trina Solarâ€™s commercial IBC cell has already achieved efficiency greater than 22% at laboratory scale. The company hopes to match the 24.4% level soon, ready in time for industrialized mass production. Read more ..
|Paul Buckley||March 13th 2015|
Boeing Co has declared that high-density packages of lithium batteries pose fire risks and should not be carried on passenger planes until safer methods for carrying them are developed. Boeing adds another voice to the growing clamour to stop bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger aircraft. This week Reuters quoted a Boeing statement as saying that the risk is "continually increasing (and) requires action to be taken".
Boeing is part of an industry group including other plane makers such as Bombardier Inc and Airbus Group NV , that found current firefighting systems on airliners cannot "suppress or extinguish a fire involving significant quantities of lithium batteries" thereby posing an "unacceptable risk" for the industry. Read more ..
The Race for Fusion
|David Biello||February 15th 2015|
The power of the sun has edged a little closer to Earth. Under x-ray assault, the rapid implosion of a plastic shell onto icy isotopes of hydrogen has produced fusion and, for the first time, 170 micrograms of this superheated fusion fuel released more energy than it absorbed. Experimental shots of the 192 lasers at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have reproduced such fusion
at least four times since September 2013. The advance offers hope that someday in the far future scientists might reliably replicate the power source of the sun and stars.
"This is closer than anyone's gotten before, and it's really unique to get out of the fuel as much energy as put in," says Livermore physicist Omar Hurricane, lead author of the paper. "We got more fusion energy out of the DT fuel than we put in to the DT fuel." Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Paul Buckley||February 13th 2015|
Tesla Motors Inc., is planning to use the company's lithium-ion battery technology to position itself as a frontrunner in the emerging energy-storage market. Tesla's Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said: â€œWe are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that would be for use in peopleâ€™s houses or businesses fairly soonâ€. Musk said the product unveiling would occur within the next month or two.
â€œWe have the design done, and it should start going into production in about six months or so,â€ explained Musk. Residential energy-storage units are already being offered by SolarCity Corp., a solar-power company which also lists Musk as its chairman and biggest shareholder. Teslaâ€™s factory in Fremont, California, USA, also makes larger stationary storage systems for businesses and utility clients. Read more ..
The Race for BioFuels
|Jim Erickson||February 9th 2015|
Nearly all of the studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels are flawed and need to be redone, according to a University of Michigan researcher who reviewed more than 100 papers published over more than two decades.
Once the erroneous methodology is corrected, the results will likely show that policies used to promote biofuelsâ€”such as the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard and California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standardâ€”actually make matters worse when it comes to limiting net emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas.
The main problem with existing studies is that they fail to correctly account for the carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere when corn, soybeans and sugarcane are grown to make biofuels, said John DeCicco, a research professor at U-M's Energy Institute. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Nicole Casal Moore||February 1st 2015|
New battery technology from the University of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013.
The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery.
Made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, the tough material in bulletproof vests, the barrier stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.
A U-M team of researchers also founded Ann Arbor-based Elegus Technologies to bring this research from the lab to market. Mass production is expected to begin in the fourth quarter 2016. Read more ..
|Christoph Hammerschmidt||January 30th 2015|
Researchers of the JÃ¼lich research centre are developing a new type of fuel cells. Running on diesel fuel, it will be robust enough to serve as auxiliary power supply in large trucks. The research also represents a new type of collaboration between German and Austrian entities. With a power consumption of several kilowatts, large trucks consume as much electric energy as a multi-flat house. To supply HVAC, refrigeration plant, auxiliary heating or the driver's coffee machine the vehicles often let their engines idle on motorway stations or over night. Electric generators based on fuel cell, so called Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) could help saving energy and avoid noise and harmful exhaust fumes.
High-temperature fuel cells with solid electrolyte (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell or SOFC) could be commercially interesting, since they do not need platinum. By means of a reformer interposed between fuel tank and fuel cell, SOFCs can turn usual diesel fuel into electricity. Full-ceramics cell types are already quite mature, but they suffer from a critical drawback - their brittleness prevents their usage vehicles; they simply do not survive vibrations and shocks in their location in the vehicle floor for a very long time. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Paul Buckley||January 29th 2015|
University of Michigan researchers have used nanofibers extracted from Kevlar to develop a barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery that is capable of preventing the type of fires linked with the grounding of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
Kevlar, which is the material commonly used in bulletproof vests, was used to create the barrier that stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current and a potential source of runaway fires in lithium-ion batteries.
The University of Michigan team of researchers also founded Ann Arbor-based Elegus Technologies to bring the research work from the lab to market. Mass production is expected to begin in the fourth quarter 2016. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Paul Buckley||January 14th 2015|
Chemistry Professor Linda Nazar and her research team at the Faculty of Science at the University of Waterloo claim to have discovered a material that maintains a rechargeable sulphur cathode which overcomes a hurdle to building a lithium-sulphur (Li-S) battery. The proposed lithium-sulphur battery technology, which is reported in recent issue of Nature Communications, can theoretically power an electric car three times further than current lithium-ion batteries for the same weight â€“ at much lower cost.
â€œThis is a major step forward and brings the lithium-sulphur battery one step closer to reality,â€ said Nazar, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Solid State
Energy Materials. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Christoph Hammerschmidt||January 7th 2015|
In a move aiming at boosting acceptance of the fuel-cell technology for electric vehicles, carmaker Toyota has announced to release more than 5.600 patents related to this technology and allow interested parties to use them without charge.
Hydrogen-based fuel cells can serve as energy source for electrically driven vehicles. Like battery-driven cars, these vehicles are not emitting any exhaust gases locally; instead of CO2 and other gases all they emit is H2O - pure water. But unlike their battery-driven counterparts, fuel cell vehicles offer driving ranges comparable to conventional cars with gasoline engines. Many OEMs including Daimler and GM are investing heavily into fuel cell development and have plans to bring the technology to series maturity. Read more ..
|Nan Broadbent||January 6th 2015|
A new study links the March 2014 earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio to hydraulic fracturing that activated a previously unknown fault. The induced seismic sequence included a rare felt earthquake of magnitude 3.0, according to research published online by the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).
In March 2014, a series of five recorded earthquakes, ranging from magnitude 2.1 to 3.0, occurred within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of a group of oil and gas wells operated by Hilcorp Energy, which was conducting active hydraulic fracturing operations at the time. Due to the proximity of a magnitude 3.0 event near a well, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) halted operations at the Hilcorp well on March 10, 2014. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Paul Buckley||January 2nd 2015|
Japan's civil aviation authority (JCAB) has called for Boeing to redesign the lithium ion batteries aboard the company's 787 aircraft. The JCAB advised Boeing to adopt proposed design changes and â€œimplement them as soon as possibleâ€. The JCABs call for a second battery redesign goes beyond the recommendations from two previous investigations about the 2013 battery incidents by the Japan Transportation Safety Board (JTSB) and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The JCABs latest report calls for more action from Boeing.
Lithium ion batteries used on board 787s have been shown to be responsible for three reported cell venting events since January 2013.
The JCAB is calling for the battery redesign despite finding that two of the three protective layers from a May 2013 battery redesign worked as intended, and the safety of the aircraft was never at risk during the incident on 14 January 2014. Read more ..
The Race for LEDs
|Scott Elder||January 1st 2015|
I've had it with LED lamps. The world has been told that LEDs are the future, in part because they are economically the right form of long-term lighting, and there are environmental benefits as a great aside. Well, maybe the environmental argument is true, but the economical one is not.
My wife has converted a substantial amount of our home lighting, as well as our holiday decoration lighting, to LED bulbs. Despite all this investment, I have yet to experience the primary benefit of long life. This made me sit down recently and ask myself why.
As it turns out, the answer is quite simple. The lifetime is not a function of the LED, but rather the total circuit solution.
Figure 1 shows the schematic for an incandescent light bulb. As I once read in a college textbook, the analysis of this circuit is left to the reader.
Contrast the Figure 1 schematic with the Figure 2 schematic that shows an offline LED lamp schematic minus the LEDs. As I'll show soon, there is no need to analyze the Figure 2 circuit operation. Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear
|Julia Harte||December 18th 2014|
Center for Public Integrity
Read more ..
When nuclear engineer Donna Busche was fired in February from her job managing safety at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, she complained that it was a reprisal for her repeated warnings that the government and its contractors were ignoring serious safety risks there.
Energy Department inspector general Gregory Friedman took the allegations seriously enough to open an investigation after the department asked him to in March. But on Monday, his office announced in an exceptionally brief report that it had been blocked from conducting its work by the refusal of primary Hanford contractor Bechtel National Inc., as well as Bechtel subcontractor and Buscheâ€™s employer, URS Energy and Construction Inc., to turn over 4,540 documents.
Those documents included emails that referenced Ms. Busche during the period just before her firing, according to Tara Porter, a spokeswoman for the inspector general.
|Gal Luft||December 13th 2014|
Journal of Energy Security
The recent slump in oil prices has sent gasoline prices below $3 a gallon, leading many Americans to believe that our energy predicament is a vestige of the past. Decades of anxiety over our dependency on Middle Eastern oil with all its economic and geopolitical trappings are giving way to a new era of complacency in our energy discourse. This growing exuberance might diminish public appetite for the newly elected Congress and the Obama Administration to pursue energy policies aimed at breaking oil's stronghold over our transportation sector. After all, if it ain't broke, why fix it? But such a euphoric mindset could lead to painful consequences down the road.
In the life of every commodity there are periods of ups and downs. Oil is no different. Just like a combination of circumstances â€“ a stronger dollar, increased supply from the U.S. and Libya, and tapering demand in the developed world - have brought about the recent price drop, a different set of drivers can lead to the exact opposite outcome. A cut in OPEC production, trouble in one or more major oil exporting countries, or a slowdown in North American production due to lower prices could reverse the recent trend, sending oil prices back to the three digit level. Predicting future prices is a loser's game but even optimists would concur that any one of these three scenarios has a good chance of materializing in the foreseeable future. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Ry Crozier||December 8th 2014|
Solar researchers at Australia's New South Wales University have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported.
The record efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at their outdoor test facility in the United States.
The work was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and supported by the Australia-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAPV).
"This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity," UNSW Scientia Professor and Director of the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) Professor Martin Green said. Read more ..
|Sarah Reed||December 4th 2014|
Taking inspiration from nature, researchers in the United Kingdom have created a versatile model to predict how stalagmite-like structures form in nuclear processing plants â€“ as well as how lime scale builds up in kettles.
â€œItâ€™s a wonderful example of how complex mathematical models can have everyday applications,â€ said Dr Duncan Borman, from the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Leeds, a co-author of the study.
The main aim of the research, which is published in print today in the journal Computers & Chemical Engineering, is to reduce the number of potentially harmful manual inspections of nuclear waste containers.
â€œWe were approached by the National Nuclear Laboratory and Sellafield Ltd to solve the problem of predicting the shapes that precipitates from nuclear process solutions can form in containment chambers,â€ said Dr Borman.
Study co-author Professor Daniel Lesnic from the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds, added: â€œOur first thought was to find a suitable analogy in nature. At first we looked at how lava flows from a volcano to the ocean, but the formation of stalagmites in caves mimics the process much more closely.
â€œGeologists have well-established models for the formation of stalagmites. So we are taking models from one field of science and applying them to a completely different discipline.â€ Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Paul Buckley||November 29th 2014|
A Korean research team has developed a technology which produces highly-efficient inverted colloidal quantum dot solar cells and could pave the way to a new generation of cheaper solar cells. The solar cells claim an optical conversion efficiency of 4.31 percent, which is a 1.7-fold increase from the 2.47 percent efficiency of conventional quantum dot solar batteries.
The research team, which comprised Professor Kim Jin-young, Professor Park Jong-nam from the Interdisciplinary School of Green Energy at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and student Kim Gi-hwan, claims to have manufactured highly-efficient solar cells by synthesizing zinc oxide in liquid state, and coating the synthesized material at the top of a quantum dot. The new solar cells should have a high energy conversion efficiency and be less expensive to make than conventional inorganic solar cells. Read more ..
The Problem with Coal
|David Biello||November 28th 2014|
According to Hu Tao, an ecologist and environmental economist who directs the China program at the World Wildlife Fund, not much has changed. On his recent visit to a coal-fired power plant, the scrubber was turned off for â€œinspection,â€ he explained at a talk at the Woodrow Wilson Centerâ€™s China Environment Forum on November 24. How often were such machines inspected, Tao inquired? Well, if no one from the government was visiting, the plant manager told him, the machine is turned off every day.
That is the current context for Chinaâ€™s recent decree that the country will never consume more than 4.2 billion metric tons of coal per year, the action following a historic agreement with the U.S. to begin to combat climate change. Already, caps on the amount of coal a given locality can burn seem to have dropped coalâ€™s share of total energy in China for the first time in the 21st century, though overall it has tripled since 2000. â€œThe vast majority of Chinaâ€™s CO2 emissions are a result of coal combustion,â€ said Jake Schmidt, director of the Natural Resources Defense Councilâ€™s international program at the CEF event. Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear
|Angela Hardin||November 24th 2014|
A new discovery about the atomic structure of uranium dioxide will help scientists select the best computational model to simulate severe nuclear reactor accidents.
Using the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility, researchers from DOEâ€™s Argonne National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory, along with Materials Development, Inc., Stony Brook University, and Carnegie Institution of Washington, found that the atomic structure of uranium dioxide (UO2) changes significantly when it melts.
UO2 is the primary fuel component in the majority of existing nuclear reactors, but little is known about the molten state because of its extremely high melting point. Until now, the extremely high temperature and chemical reactivity of the melt have hindered studies of molten UO2. This lack of fundamental information has made it difficult to evaluate issues associated with the interaction of molten UO2 with a reactor's zirconium cladding and steel containment vessel. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|David Ruth||November 18th 2014|
Rice University scientists have invented a novel cathode that may make cheap, flexible dye-sensitized solar cells practical.
The Rice lab of materials scientist Jun Lou created the new cathode, one of the two electrodes in batteries, from nanotubes that are seamlessly bonded to graphene and replaces the expensive and brittle platinum-based materials often used in earlier versions.
The discovery was reported online in the Royal Society of Chemistryâ€™s Journal of Materials Chemistry A.
Dye-sensitized solar cells have been in development since 1988 and have been the subject of countless high school chemistry class experiments. They employ cheap organic dyes, drawn from the likes of raspberries, which cover conductive titanium dioxide particles. Read more ..
Edge of Microtechnology
|Matt Shipman||November 13th 2014|
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new way to transfer thin semiconductor films, which are only one atom thick, onto arbitrary substrates, paving the way for flexible computing or photonic devices. The technique is much faster than existing methods and can perfectly transfer the atomic scale thin films from one substrate to others, without causing any cracks.
At issue are molybdenum sulfide (MoS2) thin films that are only one atom thick, first developed by Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State. MoS2 is an inexpensive semiconductor material with electronic and optical properties similar to materials already used in the semiconductor industry. Read more ..
|Kelly Morrison||November 2nd 2014|
In July, the Mexican Congress is set to pass secondary legislation to further transform Mexicoâ€™s energy division. For the first time in the 76 years since President LÃ¡zaro CÃ¡rdenas nationalized the industry, the private sector will be able to share in the wealth of Mexicoâ€™s oil. Though the international community is eagerly awaiting the chance to partake in the riches of Mexican oil, the domestic community is more skeptical of the pending changes. The Mexican Constitution guarantees state control over Mexicoâ€™s natural resources, and profits from state-owned oil company PetrÃ³leos Mexicanos (Pemex) make up a third of the countryâ€™s tax revenues.
Therefore, the countryâ€™s oil has special significance for most Mexicans. To many, control of this vital natural resource is equated with national sovereignty and the self-sufficiency of the Mexican state. Accordingly, it seems that the countryâ€™s energy policy may prove to be the most contentious of Mexican President Enrique PeÃ±a Nietoâ€™s reform initiatives. Read more ..
|Jennifer Chu||November 1st 2014|
If the majority of light-duty vehicles in the United States ran on higher-octane gasoline, the automotive industry as a whole would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tons per year, saving up to $6 billion in fuel costs, according to a new analysis by MIT researchers.
In a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team considered a scenario in which fuel is manufactured under a redefined octane rating â€” the measure of a gasolineâ€™s ability to resist engine knocking during combustion.
Currently in the United States, a carâ€™s octane rating is based on the antiknock index (AKI) â€” a specification for fuel composition that is determined by a standard research octane number (RON) and a motor octane number (MON). The resulting octane ratings for todayâ€™s car engines typically range from 87 (regular fuel) to 93 (premium, or high-octane, fuel) â€” numbers that are commonly displayed at the pump. The higher the octane rating, the more resistant the fuel is to knocking. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Catherine Hockmuth||October 29th 2014|
A multidisciplinary engineering team at the University of California, San Diego 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. Their work, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot program, was published recently in two separate articles in the journal Nano Energy.
By contrast, current solar absorber material functions at lower temperatures and needs to be overhauled almost every year for high temperature operations.
"We wanted to create a material that absorbs sunlight that doesn't let any of it escape. We want the black hole of sunlight," said Sungho Jin, a professor in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Jean-Pierre Joosting||October 26th 2014|
Gesture control for electronics could soon become an alternative to touchscreens and sensing technologies that consume a lot of power and only work when users can see their smartphones and tablets. University of Washington computer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system, called "AllSee," that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. It uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user's gesture command.
"This is the first gesture recognition system that can be implemented for less than a dollar and doesn't require a battery," said Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. "You can leverage TV signals both as a source of power and as a source of gesture recognition." Read more ..
The Race for Biofuel
|Laura Barron-Lopez||October 23rd 2014|
A watchdog group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to release communications with the oil industry over the 2014 renewable fuel mandate.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit on Wednesday over the agencyâ€™s response to a Freedom of Information Act request for records relating to the mandate, which sets the amount of biofuels refiners must blend into the nationâ€™s fuel supply.
CREW cited a Reuters report that The Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended for 2014. The EPA denied a request for expedited review and has been slow to release the documents, CREW says. Read more ..
Ukraine on Edge
|Thekla Hritz||October 19th 2014|
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says his country will have natural gas from Russia this winter. Poroshenko said in an interview on Ukrainian television on October 18 that Russia and Ukraine must only agree on the price for that gas. He said the two sides have agreed that Ukraine will pay $385 per 1,000cubic meters for gas that was delivered through March 31.
Poroshenko -- who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin three times in Milan on October 17 -- said Kyiv had proposed to pay $325 per 1,000 cubic meters for gas used by Ukraine in May and June and to pay $385 for gas in the winter. He said Russia was insisting on the $385 per 1,000 cubic meters for all parts of the year. Read more ..
The Race for LEDs
|Paul Buckley||October 17th 2014|
Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan have developed a new type of energy-efficient flat light source based on carbon nanotubes with a low power consumption of around 0.1 Watt for every hour's operation which is about a hundred times lower than that of an LED. The researchers have detailed the fabrication and optimization of the device in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, from AIP publishing. The device is based on a phosphor screen and single-walled carbon nanotubes as electrodes in a diode structure. You can think of it as a field of tungsten filaments shrunk to microscopic proportions.
The scientists assembled the device from a mixture liquid containing highly crystalline single-walled carbon nanotubes dispersed in an organic solvent mixed with a soap-like chemical known as a surfactant. Then, the researchers 'painted' the mixture onto the positive electrode or cathode, and scratched the surface with sandpaper to form a light panel capable of producing a large, stable and homogenous emission current with low energy consumption. Read more ..
|George Friedman||October 16th 2014|
Oil prices dropped steeply Oct. 14, with crude oil futures falling 4.6 percent to $81.84 per barrel -- the biggest decrease in more than two years. Brent crude dropped by more than $4 a barrel at one stage in the day, dipping below $85 for the first time since 2010. While these are relatively substantial drops, they are just one part of a continuing trend Stratfor has been tracking over the past few months. Factors behind the slump include weak demand, a surfeit of supply and the fact that many large Middle Eastern producers are reluctant to reduce their output.
In light of today's developments, we are republishing the following diary from Oct. 2, which details the reasons behind the falling prices and how the drops could affect oil-dependent countries around the world.
The global oil benchmark, Brent crude, fell Thursday to about $92 per barrel before rebounding to finish the day at around $94 per barrel, the lowest price since mid-2012. The latest sell-off follows one of the sharpest declines in a quarter in recent years, in which the price of oil slid about 16 percent. It may be premature to forecast sustained international oil prices lower than $90 per barrel, but if the price of oil remains close to where it is now, many oil exporting countries will feel the pain after basing their budgets on previous price expectations. Read more ..
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