Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble of this power plant echoes across the ancient steppe, and its acrid stench travels dozens of miles away.
This is the first of more than 60 coal-to-gas plants China wants to build, mostly in remote parts of the country where ethnic minorities have farmed and herded for centuries. Fired up in December, the multibillion-dollar plant bombards millions of tons of coal with water and heat to produce methane, which is piped to Beijing to generate electricity.
It’s part of a controversial energy revolution China hopes will help it churn out desperately needed natural gas and electricity while cleaning up the toxic skies above the country’s eastern cities. However, the plants will also release vast amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, even as the world struggles to curb greenhouse gas emissions and stave off global warming.
Society’s energy supply problems could be solved in the future using a model adopted from nature. During photosynthesis, plants, algae and some species of bacteria produce sugars and other energy-rich substances (i.e. fuels) using solar energy. A team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion is currently developing experimental methods to ascertain how this process occur in nature.
The scientists are investigating a particularly important cofactor involved in photosysthesis, a manganese-calcium complex, which uses solar energy to split water into molecular oxygen. They have determined the exact structure of this complex at a crucial stage in this chemical reaction. This has led to a detailed suggestion as to how molecular oxygen, O2, is formed at this metal complex. Through these new insights into photosynthesis, the scientists have provided a blueprint for synthetic systems that could store sunlight energy in chemical energy carriers.
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 at MIT.
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.
A team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. has 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 clear surface.
By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere.
The technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 33 feet away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting electricity through air. It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.
Bionic Liquid Paves Way for Closed Loop Biofuel Refineries While the powerful solvents known as ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels, an even more promising candidate is on the horizon — bionic liquids.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed “bionic liquids” from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries. JBEI is a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) that was established by the DOE Office of Science to accelerate the development of advanced, next-generation biofuels.
Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.
Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.
Cornell Univ. chemical engineers have achieved a breakthrough in the race for safer, longer-lasting batteries to power the world’s automobiles, cell phones, computers and autonomous robots.
Adding certain halide salts to liquid electrolytes spontaneously creates nanostructured surface coatings on a lithium battery anode that hinder the development of detrimental dendritic structures that grow within the battery cell. The discovery opens the way potentially to extend the daily cycle life of a rechargeable lithium battery by up to a factor of 10.
The Asian Development Bank and two U.N. agencies launched a hub this week to mobilize investments and innovation to bring clean energy to the Asia Pacific region, where more than 600 million people lack electricity and 1.8 billion use firewood and charcoal at home.
Energy demand is soaring in the region on the back of economic and population growth, and the ADB says that by 2035 developing countries in the region will account for 56 percent of global energy use, up from 34 percent in 2010. They will need more than $200 billion in energy investments by 2030.
EPFL scientists have developed a mathematical model to minimize the infrastructure and operational costs of the TOSA ultra-rapid rechargeable electric bus system.
Are electric buses that recharge themselves at bus stops the future of public transportation? For now they’re part of the arsenal deployed in the name of sustainable mobility. In Geneva, ABB Sécheron and its partners — TPG, SIG and OPI — have just concluded a successful pilot operation of their electric bus system TOSA. Instead of using overhead lines, the buses power up in just 15 seconds at specific stops and at the terminus station. How can this technology that frees trolleybuses from electric wires be integrated into the public transport network? ,br />Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/videos/2014/06/math-helps-keep-cost-electric-buses-down
The energy world is not keeping up with Elon Musk, so he’s trying to take matters into his own hands. Musk, chairman of the solar installer SolarCity, has announced that the company would acquire a solar panel maker and build factories “an order of magnitude” bigger than the plants that currently churn out panels. “If we don’t do this we felt there was a risk of not being able to have the solar panels we need to expand the business in the long term,” Musk said in a conference call.
Musk is also a founder and the CEO of the electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, which is planning what it calls a “gigafactory” to supply batteries for its cars.In both cases, Musk’s goal is to make sure that the components critical to his vision of the future — electric cars and solar energy — are available and cheap enough to beat fossil fuels.
Washington State Univ. researchers have developed the first fuel cell that can directly convert fuels, such as jet fuel or gasoline, to electricity, providing a dramatically more energy-efficient way to create electric power for planes or cars.
Led by Profs. Su Ha and M. Norton in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, the researchers have published the results of their work in Energy Technology. A second paper on using their fuel cell with gasoline has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Power Sources. The researchers have made coin-sized fuel cells to prove the concept and plan to scale it up.
A new video shows a synthetic opal, which is made using polystyrene spheres surrounded by even tinier polystyrene spheres around 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Harry Beeson, from the Univ. of Cambridge, explains how it’s important to look at nanoscale structures like this to improve the efficiency of solar cells.
“Currently, solar panels are usually built from some form of crystalline silicon, and achieve reasonable power conversion efficiencies. However, this crystalline silicon is relatively expensive to make and is rigid and heavy, reducing the portability of the solar cells. Alternative materials could counter these problems, but for the moment cannot achieve the same efficiency as silicon.
Iberian Peninsula’s Geothermal Power Capable of 5x Current Capacity
The temperature increases by 30 C 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. Around 500 power stations around the world already use it to generate electricity, although there are yet to be any in Spain.
However, the subsoil of the Iberian Peninsula has the capacity to produce up to 700 gigawatts if this resource was exploited with enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) at a depth of between three and 10 kilometers, where the temperatures exceed 150 C. This is confirmed in a study that engineers from the Univ. of Valladolid (UVa) have published in the journal Renewable Energy.
Researchers at UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a three-dimensional, silicon-decorated, cone-shaped carbon-nanotube cluster architecture for lithium ion battery anodes that could enable charging of portable electronics in 10 minutes, instead of hours.
Lithium ion batteries are the rechargeable battery of choice for portable electronic devices and electric vehicles. But, they present problems. Batteries in electric vehicles are responsible for a significant portion of the vehicle mass. And the size of batteries in portable electronics limits the trend of down-sizing.