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Alternative Energy


— Environment

Metal makes for a promising alternative to fossil fuels

Clean fuels come in many forms, but burning iron or aluminum seems to be stretching the definition – unless you ask a team of scientists led by McGill University, who see a low-carbon future that runs on metal. The team is studying the combustion characteristics of metal powders to determine whether such powders could provide a cleaner, more viable alternative to fossil fuels than hydrogen, biofuels, or electric batteries.

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— Energy

"Fool's gold" nanocrystals present cheap, abundant alternative to lithium in batteries

As energy production moves towards solar and wind-powered alternatives, battery systems to store intermittently-produced electricity have never been more important. Unfortunately, many of the materials needed to make high-performance batteries for this purpose are rapidly diminishing and becoming increasingly expensive as a result. Now researchers have created a new type of storage battery that is made from a range of cheap and abundant materials and shows promise for high-efficiency performance.

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— Good Thinking

Rail power could light up rural crossings

While city dwellers may be used to railway crossings marked with flashing red lights, the easier-to-miss warnings at rural crossings often just consist of a sign. That's because there's no easy way of providing electricity to such isolated locations. While solar panels could provide part of the solution, a team of engineering students and faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln believe that photovoltaics alone can't consistently provide enough power. Instead, they devised several systems that harness power from the rails themselves.

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Azura wave energy system deployed in Hawaii

Although wave energy-harvesting systems are often just presented as concepts that may someday see actual use, one was recently deployed in Hawaii to provide power to the municipal grid. Built by Northwest Energy Innovations, the Azura device will remain in operation for a 12-month assessment period, with an eye toward eventual commercialization.

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— Environment

Kepler Energy reveals plans for tidal energy scheme in Bristol Channel

With its large tidal range, Britain's Bristol Channel has a huge potential for generating tidal electric power. The problem is that, until now, schemes for tapping that power have required building dams and barrages so gigantic they would have given even the most wild-eyed Victorian engineer pause. As a more economical alternative, Kepler Energy has announced plans for a 30 MW tidal energy fence to be built in the Channel. With an estimated cost of £143 million (US$223 million), the underwater fence would be built in the water somewhere along the line between Aberthaw and Minehead and could be operational by 2021.

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— Environment

Vortex bladeless turbines wobble to generate energy

Looking somewhat like a giant reed gently swaying in the wind, the new Vortex bladeless wind-driven generator prototype produces electricity with very few moving parts, on a very small footprint, and in almost complete silence. Designed to reduce the visual and aural impact of traditional spinning-blade turbines, this new device takes advantage of the power contained in swirling vortices of air. Read More
— Environment

Audi just created diesel fuel from air and water

Audi is looking to fuel the future without fossil fuels. One of the company's pilot plants in Germany has just produced the first batches of a synthetic diesel made using only water and air. The company's pilot plant, which is operated by German startup Sunfire, produced its first batches of the "e-diesel" this month. German Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka put a few liters of the fuel in her work car, an Audi A8, to commemorate the accomplishment. Read More
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