Teachers Fund to Aid Clean Energy
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System says it plans to increase its investments in clean energy and technology to $3.7 billion, from $1.4 billion, over the next five years.
CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes says the pension fund is seeing more opportunities in low-carbon projects and technologies. The fund is hoping also to help push for stronger policies aimed at fighting climate change, Ehnes says.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/teachers-fund-aid-clean-energy
The price of solar energy in the U.S. continues to fall substantially, according to the latest editions of two annual reports produced by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).,br />
A third Berkeley Lab report, written in collaboration with researchers at Yale Univ., the Univ. of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), shows that local permitting and other regulatory procedures can significantly impact residential photovoltaic (PV) prices.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/studies-see-significant-drop-rooftop-utility-scale-solar-prices
Light Source for Chips Can Be Tuned
Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power — and energy efficiency is a growing concern as chips’ transistor counts rise. Of the three chief components of optical circuits — light emitters, modulators and detectors — emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer. Other experimental on-chip light emitters have more-complex three-dimensional geometries and use rarer materials, which would make them more difficult and costly to manufacture.
In the next issue of the journal Nano Letters, researchers from MIT’s departments of Physics and of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will describe a new technique for building MoS2 light emitters tuned to different frequencies, an essential requirement for optoelectronic chips. Since thin films of material can also be patterned onto sheets of plastic, the same work could point toward thin, flexible, bright, color displays.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/light-source-chips-can-be-tuned
Chin Strap Harvests the Power of Chewing
A chin strap that can harvest energy from jaw movements has been created by a group of researchers in Canada.
It is hoped that the device can generate electricity from eating, chewing and talking, and power a number of small-scale implantable or wearable electronic devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, electronic hearing protectors and communication devices.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/chin-strap-harvests-power-chewing
Nuclear Plant Stays Open Despite Safety Recommendations
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a senior federal expert’s recommendation to shut down California’s last operating nuclear power plant until the agency can determine whether its twin reactors can withstand powerful shaking from nearby earthquake faults.
In a decision written by Executive Director for Operations Mark Satorius, the agency concluded there is no immediate or significant safety concern at the Diablo Canyon plant, which sits on a seaside bluff midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/nuclear-plant-stays-open-despite-safety-recommendations
Nanotech Cools Electrons Without External Sources
A team of researchers has discovered a way to cool electrons to -228 C without external means and at room temperature, an advancement that could enable electronic devices to function with very little energy. The process involves passing electrons through a quantum well to cool them and keep them from heating. The team details their research in a paper in Nature Communications.
“We are the first to effectively cool electrons at room temperature. Researchers have done electron cooling before, but only when the entire device is immersed into an extremely cold cooling bath,” said Seong Jin Koh, an associate professor at UT Arlington in the Materials Science & Engineering Department, who has led the research. “Obtaining cold electrons at room temperature has enormous technical benefits. For example, the requirement of using liquid helium or liquid nitrogen for cooling electrons in various electron systems can be lifted.”
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/nanotech-cools-electrons-without-external-sources
China’s Energy Plan Holds Climate Risks
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.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/chinas-energy-plan-holds-climate-risks
Photosynthesis Inspires Better Fuels
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.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/photosynthesis-inspires-better-fuels
Meeting of Rivers, Seas May Be Source of Power
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.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/meeting-rivers-seas-may-be-source-power
'Lightning Rods' Channel Electricity Through Air
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.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/lightning-rods-channel-electricity-through-air
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.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/bionic-liquid-paves-way-closed-loop-biofuel-refineries
Solar Plant Scorches Birds Midair
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.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/solar-plants-scorch-birds-midair
Salt Bolsters Lithium Battery Life
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.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/salt-bolsters-lithium-battery-life