The best of 2014

Energy

The Energy Tower is a new waste-to-power incinerator in Roskilde, Denmark

Incinerators can't often be described as beautiful, but a newly inaugurated incinerator in Roskilde, Denmark, is just that. The main purpose of the Energy Tower is to generate electricity and heat. At night-time, though, glowing lights can be seen beneath its perforated façade.  Read More

Dr Niraj Lal says that the way Buddhist singing bowls interact with light mimics the way t...

While the unique shape of Buddhist singing bowls is vital to the creation of their signature sound, a researcher from Australia National University (ANU) has used their design as the inspiration for a new breed of solar cells. In completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge, Dr Niraj Lal found that just as the bowls cause sound to resonate, miniaturized versions can be made to interact with light in much the same way, inspiring solar cells better able to capture sunlight.  Read More

MIT hopes to turn old lead batteries into new solar cells (Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT)

The world of modern technology is one of out with the old, in with the new. For battery technology, that means the expected demise of lead-acid batteries and replacement by a more efficient, cheaper, and environmentally-friendly alternative. This is good news, but leaves the problem of what to do with all the lead in the batteries currently in use when the time comes to dispose of them? Researchers at MIT have an answer – use it to make solar cells.  Read More

Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay would be the world’s first man-made energy-generating lagoon

Energy trade association RenewableUK calls the UK "the undisputed global leader in marine energy." If plans for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay go ahead, that claim will be reinforced. Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay would be the world’s first man-made energy-generating lagoon and could power over 155,000 homes.  Read More

The proposals are intended to produce new power sources, such as the fuel cell used in thi...

Once upon a time, energy systems for space missions were simple. You used batteries for very short missions, solar panels in the inner Solar System, nuclear power generators if you were beyond Mars or needed a lot of power, and fuel cells for manned spacecraft. However, as space exploration starts looking into lunar polar craters, comets, and the icy moons of Jupiter, new energy systems will be needed. To anticipate that need, NASA has made awards to four proposals to develop advanced energy storage technology for future manned and unmanned space missions..  Read More

Research from the Seoul National University suggests that discarded cigarette butts could ...

Billions of cigarette butts are discarded around the world each year and, even when disposed of properly, pose a threat to the environment by leaching arsenic, lead and other nasty chemicals into land and waterways. New research shows these butts could be set for a new lease on life, with a team of Korean scientists demonstrating that used cigarette filters could actually double as a highly-effective energy storage material.  Read More

Newcastle University prototype system provides cooling, heating, and electrical power usin...

A team of researchers led by Newcastle University has produced an all-in-one Biofuel Micro Trigeneration (BMT) prototype system fueled entirely by unprocessed plant oils that provides combined cooling, heating, and electrical power. This first-generation system is designed for use in homes, with the potential for up-scaling for larger commercial and industrial applications.  Read More

Researchers are using hydrogen created as a by-product in sodium chlorate production to po...

By-products are common to most industries. Some are harmless, some dangerous and others useless. Others are simply under-utilized. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is using hydrogen generated as a by-product of the sodium chlorate production process in its pilot-scale power plant to produce electricity.  Read More

A composite of graphite flakes and carbon foam is claimed to convert 85 percent of solar e...

Researchers working at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering claim to have produced a sponge-like substance that helps convert water to steam using sunlight one-hundredth as bright as that required by conventional steam-producing solar generators. A composite of graphite flakes layered on a bed of carbon foam, the new material is reported to convert as much as 85 percent of received solar energy into steam.  Read More

Illustration of the 'moth eye' solar cell (Illustration: Empa)

As nocturnal creatures, moths need to maximize how well they can see in the dark whilst remaining less visible to avoid predators. This ability to collect as much of the available light as possible and at the same time reflect as little as possible, has inspired Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) to design a new type of photoelectrochemical cell using relatively low cost materials.  Read More

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