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The town of Bad Essen in Northern Germany has long been the home of salt works facilities, where in the early 1900's it was discovered that the salt in the surrounding air proved to be a natural remedy for many respiratory illnesses. Located in the town is Solepark, a health resort devoted entirely to the contemplation of the five senses. One of the highlights of the resort is its unique Sole Arena. Read More
Researchers at the Ningpo, China campus of the University of Nottingham (UNNC) have created a new heat-regulating material that could be used to cut the heating and cooling costs of buildings. The non-deformed storage phase change material (PCM) can be fixed so that it starts absorbing any excess heat above a pre-determined temperature and releasing stored heat when the ambient temperature drops below the set point. The researchers say the material can be manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes, even small enough so that it can be sprayed as a microscopic film to surfaces in existing buildings. Read More
One of the biggest problems with solar energy is that the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day. This means that unless users are only planning on using electricity when the sun is shining, some form of energy storage system is required. Since storing excess electricity in rechargeable batteries isn’t really practical for large-scale solar power plants, another storage system is needed. U.S. utility-scale solar project developer SolarReserve has now received approval for the first solar power plant in California that uses molten salt technology to store the sun’s thermal energy as heat so it can generate electricity when needed, at any time of the day or night. Read More
Fujitsu Laboratories today announced a two-in-one energy harvesting device that can convert both light and heat into electricity. With no electrical wiring or batteries to replace, Fujitsu says that this sort of device can be manufactured from organic materials keeping costs to a minimum. Read More
Although electrical devices have evolved rapidly over the last few decades, the plants used to generate the electricity that power these devices are still dominated by the use of steam turbines that convert thermal energy, usually from the burning of fossil fuels, into mechanical energy. Even newer solar thermal power plants concentrate the sun’s rays to heat water into high-pressure steam to drive a turbine. But with water not always readily available in locations suited to harnessing solar energy, such as deserts, a new type of solar thermal field, tower and research facility is being built in Australia that requires only air and the sun, making it ideal for parts of the world that receive minimal rainfall. Read More
In figuring out how a molecule called fulvalene diruthenium works to store and release heat, researchers at MIT may have paved the way for a rechargeable battery that stores heat instead of electricity. Although the molecule was discovered in 1996, ruthenium’s rarity and cost has ruled out it’s widespread use but the researchers say understanding the fundamental mechanism of how the molecule works should make it possible to find similar chemicals based on more abundant, less expensive materials. Read More
The first complete microwave image of the Moon taken by Chinese lunar satellite Chang'E-1 has been revealed. Chang’E-1 is China’s first scientific mission to explore planetary bodies beyond Earth and the on-board Lunar Microwave Radiometer has made it possible for the first time to globally map the Moon in microwave frequencies. Radar observations of the Moon are unable to provide thermal information, and microwave observations taken from Earth cannot reach the far side of the moon. So Chang'E-1's (CE-1) orbit was conducted at an altitude of 200km (124 miles) and allowed it to observe every location of the moon with a nadir view and at high spatial resolution. Read More
One of the downsides of the lithium-ion battery systems used in electric vehicles is that their performance, reliability, safety and durability can be negatively affected by extreme temperatures. When the all-new Ford Focus Electric debuts later this year in the U.S. it will be powered by a lithium-ion battery – no news there. What is interesting, however, is that the battery system will use cooled and heated liquid to regulate battery temperature, which should extend battery life and maximize driving range. Read More
LED lamps may soon be able to go much longer between fixture replacements thanks to a new graphite foam cooling system developed at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The graphite foam works by passively wicking heat away from the lamp via its lightly-packed, open skeletal structure – and given that a ten-degree decrease in operating temperature can double the lifespan of LED lighting components, the benefits of keeping them cool are clear. Read More
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) involves placing a heat engine between warm water collected at the ocean’s surface and cold water pumped from the deep ocean. Like a ball rolling downhill, heat flows from the warm reservoir to the cool one. The greater the temperature difference, the stronger the flow of heat that can be used to do useful work such as spinning a turbine and generating electricity. Researchers say that the temperature differential is around one degree Celcius greater on the leeward side of Hawaiian islands it is better suited for future ocean-based OTEC energy plants. Read More