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Technology

New thin-film solar cell design increases solar absorption while decreasing cost

A “superabsorbing” design, that can decrease the thickness of the semiconductor materials in thin film solar cells, has been developed by researchers at North Carolina State University. On average, a silicon-based thin film solar cell needs a layer of semiconductor material that is about 100 nanometers thick. This is already a marked decrease in thickness and material use from conventional photo...

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Three-dimensional catalyst developed for cheaper fuel cells

A new, three-dimensional catalyst developed at the United States Department of Energy’s national laboratories is outperforming the best commercial catalysts used in today’s fuel cells and electrolyzers.Fuel cells and electrolyzers can help provide clean, emission-free energy, but they are currently very expensive pieces of technology. This is because they depend on electocatalysts to trigger the chemical reactions needed for them to release...

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Breaking up charging periods for E.V.s to keep grid from crashing

Coordination between the growing network of smart meters and the growing fleet of electric vehicles is the key to ensuring that the energy demands of E.V.’s do not tax the aging electrical distribution system. A team of scientists from the University of Vermont are recommending that electric cars use the information communicated between a smart meter and utilities to ensure that the car only charges when demand is...

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Nanoscale pillars improve materials ability to convert heat to energy

Building an array of tiny pillars on top of a sheet of thermoelectric material can improve the rate in which they convert heat into energy. According to researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, nanoscale pillars can improve thermoelectric materials and lead to the development of improved solar panels and more energy efficient cooling materials as well as new sources of power. Materials...

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New algae growing platform developed at M.S.U.

A new algae growing platform, which simulates dynamic natural environments, has been developed by scientists at Michigan State University for the algae-biofuel sector. The M.S.U. scientists believe that their new platform, the environmental photobioreactor, or ePBR system, will help bring algae biofuels close to commercial viability. While many scientists around the world are already working with promising lab-raised...

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Paired oxide materials key to creating hydrogen using the power of the sun

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a system made from cheap, oxide-based materials that can create hydrogen using the power of the sun. One of the major obstacles to producing hydrogen using sunlight is that the most efficient catalysts tend to be far too expensive to produce enough hydrogen at a cost that can compete with fossil based fuels...

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Under the snow, heat – Icelandic project produces geothermal power using magma

In 2012, a borehole drilled in Krafla, northeast Iceland became the first geothermal system to use magma – the molten rock located deep within the earth – to increase its power output. According to Wilfred Elders, a professor emeritus of geology at the University of California, Riverside, the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project or I.D.D.P. was the first successful example of a magma-enhanced...

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Tiny fungi play huge role in carbon storage in soil

Tiny fungi living in the roots of plants make a huge difference in the soil’s ability to store carbon. Soil contains more carbon than both the atmosphere and vegetation combined, this mean even a minor change in how much carbon the soil can store could have major implications for the climate. "Natural fluxes of carbon between the land and atmosphere are enormous and play a crucial role...

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Flow battery using organic molecules key for affordable renewable energy storage

A new battery model developed by a team of Harvard scientist and engineers could provide the answer to the question of how we can use renewable energy for our power needs even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. One of the biggest problems with incorporating energy from renewable resources into the grid is the mismatch between the times of availability of this power and peak...

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Inexpensive pretreatment liquid removes lignin, leaves behind sugars for biofuels

By mixing in inexpensive liquid salts into biomass materials being processed for biofuels, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed an easy way to remove lignin from the material. Lignin, the tough substance that makes up a plant’s cell wall, is an obstacle in the biofuel production process as it needs to be broken down in order to extract cellulosic sugars from biomass which...

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