Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Energy

Natural vibrations caused by two surfaces with different work functions repelling and attr...

Electrical energy is normally generated through heat, motion, nuclear transformation, or chemical reactions, but now scientists at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland have devised a new method that involves mechanical vibrations. They figured out how to "harvest" the vibrational energy that occurs naturally when two surfaces with different work functions are connected via electrodes, and this energy could potentially be used to power wearables and other low-power electronics.  Read More

A top view of the nanopores, each of which is a separate battery in its own right

As electronic devices continue to get smaller, one question becomes increasingly pertinent – how will we power them? Well, smaller batteries would seem to be the most obvious answer. With that in mind, researchers at the University of Maryland have succeeded in creating a tiny battery that incorporates even smaller structures, known as nanopores.  Read More

Researchers out of Norway have developed a method that could bring down the amount of sili...

Most everyone not vested in oil and gas agrees that renewable energies such as solar are a more sustainable option, but cost remains an issue. To make solar more competitive by addressing the high cost of solar cell production, researchers out of Norway have developed a method that could bring down the amount of silicon used per unit area by as much as 90 percent. The price of silicon is a major driver in the cost of solar panels.  Read More

This large buoy has an array of advanced scientific instruments to measure offshore wind e...

Offshore wind power in the United States is nowhere close to meeting the potential this renewable energy form has to offer. There are a myriad of reasons why, including lack of information on energy-harnessing possibilities at specific sites. The US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is looking to change this, by dropping two very advanced data-collecting buoys into coastal waters.  Read More

Aerial Power's SolarBrush aimed at reducing the maintenance costs of a solar field by 70 p...

To maintain their effectiveness, solar panels need to be kept clean, but this can be a labor-intensive and costly process. Aerial Power is the latest to seek an automated solution – the London-based startup is developing brush-carrying drones that skim along the solar arrays and wipe their surfaces clean.  Read More

Waste water from fracking is over five times saltier than seawater (Photo: Christopher Hal...

Fracking is a highly controversial and divisive issue. Proponents argue that it could be the biggest energy boom since the Arabian oil fields were opened almost 80 years ago, but this comes at a serious cost to the environment. Among the detrimental effects of the process is that the waste water it produces is over five times saltier than seawater, which is, to put it mildly, not good. A research team led by MIT that has found an economical way of removing salt from fracking waste water that promises to not only reduce pollution, but conserve water as well.  Read More

The researchers behind the Ear-IT project say a city's acoustics can help reduce traffic c...

As the Internet of Things starts to take hold, we're seeing the emergence of gadgets equipped with all kinds of sensors to improve the world around us, from energy-saving climate control systems to smart locks for the front door. But have you ever thought about how sound might be measured and used to bring another level of automation? For the last two years, the Ear-IT project has been monitoring acoustics in the Spanish city of Santander, and says the results could improve the lives of its residents in ways ranging from improved traffic flow to energy savings in the home.  Read More

Lockheed sees its compact fusion reactor as ready in 10 years

Fusion reactors are a bit like buses; you wait forever for one, then two come along at once. No sooner does the University of Washington announce that it’s working on a breakthrough compact fusion reactor (CFR) than Lockheed Martin says that its Revolutionary Technology Programs unit, AKA the Skunk Works, in Palmdale, California has one that could be ready for market within ten years.  Read More

The prototype device utilizes paraffin contained within thin aluminum plates

Although solar panels are active while the sun is shining, they typically don't do much once the sun goes down. This is why some systems incorporate water tanks. The water is heated during the day via the panels, then that stored thermal energy (heat) is used to warm the home at night. While the tanks are effective, they also take up a lot of space, making them difficult to fit into peoples' homes. A newly-developed device, however, stores just as much heat in half the space – using paraffin instead of water.  Read More

The University of Washington's HIT-SI3 experimental reactor (Photo: University of Washingt...

In the 21st century, the world lives with two futures ahead of it – one of looming energy shortages, and another of godlike energy abundance. The key to this whether it’s possible to turn fusion reactor technology from a laboratory exercise into a real-world application. Engineers that the University of Washington are working on a fusion reactor that, when scaled up, could produce energy on a practical scale, yet at a cost rivaling that of a conventional coal-powered plant.  Read More

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