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Alternative Energy

An aluminum z-pinch target tube installed in the Z machine at Sandia Labs

Even with all the developments taking place in the areas of alternative energy such as solar and wind power, nuclear fusion still remains the holy grail of clean electricity generation. However, after decades of worldwide research costing billions of dollars, the goal of achieving “net-gain,” where more energy is produced than is required to trigger the fusion chain reaction, still remains elusive. Now researchers at Sandia Labs are claiming a breakthrough that could see break-even fusion reactions in as little as two to three years.  Read More

Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb

While rooftops are the obvious place to put solar cells to generate clean electricity for the home, we’ve seen a number of technologies aimed at expanding the potential solar collecting area to include windows using transparent solar cells. These include Octillion Corp’s NanoPower Window technology, RSi’s semi-transparent photovoltaic glass windows, and EnSol’s transparent thin film. In this latest development, U.S. scientists have fabricated a new type of self-assembling transparent thin film material that could boost the cost effectiveness and scalability of solar window production.  Read More

FUKAI's functional water generators (left) and a hydrogen-extraction demonstration (right)...

At least half of the world’s usable hydrogen is obtained through a process known as steam reforming, in which steam reacts with fossil fuels such as natural gas to produce hydrogen gas. On a smaller scale, hydrogen can also be obtained through the process of electrolysis, in which ordinary water is split into its oxygen and hydrogen components by running an electrical current through it – consumers can even buy their own electrolysis-based home hydrogen extraction kit, in the form of the HYDROFILL. Now, however, Japan’s FUKAI Environmental Research Institute has announced a new technology for obtaining hydrogen that it claims is less expensive and more efficient than anything that’s been tried so far.  Read More

The E-Fuel MicroFueler, used in conjunction with the MicroFusion Reactor

A lot of people try to lessen the load on the local landfill by putting their organic waste in a compost heap, but soon there may be something else they can do with it – feed it to an E-Fuel MicroFusion Reactor. The new device, so we’re told, takes cellulosic waste material and breaks it down to nothing but sugar water and lignin powder within two minutes. The lignin powder can be used by pharmaceutical manufacturers (although it’s not clear how you’d get it to them), while the sugar water can be distilled into ethanol fuel. That’s where one of E-Fuel’s other products, the MicroFueler, comes in.  Read More

'Hygroelectric' collectors could someday harness atmospheric electricity

Nikola Tesla once dreamed of being able to harness electricity from the air. Now, research being conducted at Brazil’s University of Campinas (UC) is indicating that such a scenario may indeed become a reality. Professor Fernando Galembeck, a UC chemist, is leading the study into the ways in which electricity builds up and spreads in the atmosphere, and how it could be collected. “Our research could pave the way for turning electricity from the atmosphere into an alternative energy source for the future," he stated. "Just as solar energy could free some households from paying electric bills, this promising new energy source could have a similar effect.”  Read More

Research teams have announced that the use of nickel and selenium in the production of sol...

In two just-released studies, scientists have announced new ways of making solar cells less expensive and more efficient. In one of the projects, researchers from the University of Toronto demonstrated that nickel can work just as well as gold for electrical contacts in colloidal quantum dot solar cells. In the other, a team from California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory added selenium to zinc oxide, dramatically increasing the oxide’s efficiency in absorbing solar light. Both developments could result in more practical, affordable solar technology.  Read More

Terra-Gen Power secures $1.2 billion for largest wind farm in U.S. (Pictured: Wind turbine...

New York-based alternative energy supplier Terra-Gen Power has secured $1.2 billion in financing for the construction of what it says will be the largest wind farm in the U.S. The funds will deliver four projects at the company's Alta Wind Energy Center in Kern County, California, with a capacity of 570 megawatts. A total of 190 3.0 MW Vestas-American Wind Technology turbines will be used in the new initiative. These will be added to the already underway 150 MW Alta Project I which uses GE turbines. Eventually it's envisioned that the Alta Wind Energy Center will deliver 3,000 MW of wind power.  Read More

WSU chemist Choong-Shik Yoo, seen here with students, has used super-high pressures to cre...

Using super-high pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth or on a giant planet, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) have created a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy. Described by one of the researchers as “the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy,” the material holds potential for creating a new class of energetic materials or fuels, an energy storage device, super-oxidizing materials for destroying chemical and biological agents, and high temperature superconductors.  Read More

The experimental setup used to measure the catalytic activity of the strontium-substituted...

Rechargeable batteries and fuel cells are seen as the two contenders to serve as a power source for the next generation of environmentally friendly vehicles. A significant barrier to achieving greater efficiency in the latter is the slow rate of oxygen production from the cathode, which limits the power output of the device. Now an unexpected find by MIT researchers regarding the behavior of incredibly thin sheets of material could lead to major improvements .  Read More

Members of Purdue University's hydrothermolysis research team (Prof. Varma at left)

Fuel cell cars have come one step closer to practicality with researchers from Indiana’s Purdue University announcing a new process for the generation and storage of hydrogen. The process is called hydrothermolysis, and is a combination of hydrolysis and thermolysis – the two prevalent methods of hydrogen generation that some scientists consider impractical for use in automobiles. The new process utilizes powdered ammonia borane, a chemical that has one of the highest hydrogen yields of any solid substance.  Read More

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