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Alternative Energy

Wind farm near Wadena, Indiana (Image: John Schanlaub via Flickr)

Torque vectoring is a relatively new technology that has been employed in automobile differentials, most commonly all-wheel-drive vehicles, that allows the amount of power sent to each wheel to be varied. Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have now adapted this technology to wind turbines, to eliminate the need for converting the alternating current produced by the turbines into direct current and back again before it is fed into the grid.  Read More

Quantum dot solar cells could offer a cheaper, more efficient alternative to conventional ...

Developing solar cells that are cheaper to produce and can harness the sun’s energy more efficiently are both important factors in ensuring the widespread use of solar energy to provide a clean alternative to fossil fuels in the future. Stanford researchers have found that adding a single layer of organic molecules can achieve both these goals by increasing three-fold the efficiency of quantum dot solar cells, which are cheaper to produce than traditional solar cells.  Read More

A wind tunnel on the Homewood campus the researchers used to experiment with variables suc...

While there are increasing numbers of wind farms being built around the world, many of these projects are underperforming and not producing as much power as expected. New research suggests the reason could be that the wind turbines are being placed too close together. The researchers say that spreading the turbines out will result in a more cost-efficient for wind farms and they’ve come up with a formula through which the optimal spacing for a large array of turbines can be obtained.  Read More

Researchers at the University of Buffalo have announced a breakthrough that promises to im...

Researchers have made a two-fold breakthrough in advancing renewable energies with the development of a light sensitive dye which transfers electrons more efficiently than conventional technologies. The new dyes stand to be used in solar electricity generation and in creating hydrogen fuel, which in the past has proven expensive and energy hungry.  Read More

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

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