Hot Towns, Urban Heat Islands. Sunlight: Solar as Equitable Energy Source. Environment Technology 

Sunlight: Equitable Energy Source

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic Solar energy is touted for a variety of reasons: it is renewable, clean, and quiet, and can be used as a decentralized form of electricity generation. But while doing some reading I came across a figure that reveals a less-discussed benefit of using solar energy that may be most important—depending on your priorities when it comes to global issues. Below is the figure, reproduced from a recent 2015 paper in Energy and Environmental Science that reviewed all that we know about the solar resource and the…

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Chilean Solar Farm: Cheapest Power Project Ever Environment Science Policy Technology 

Chilean Solar Farm: Cheapest Power Project Ever

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic For a long time, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has been looking for some sort of magic to ignite her country’s sluggish economy. The spell may finally be cast in the form of solar energy. Chilean Solar Farm Bloomberg reports that a host of electricity supply contracts decreasing the average price for customers by 40 percent have been auctioned off. Among these contracts is one deal with Solarpack Corporación Tecnológica to sell power from a 120-megawatt (MW) solar farm for only $29.10 per megawatt hour (MWh). That…

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Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Daniele Faieta/Flickr Biology Environment 

Fecal Fungi May Lead to Cheaper Biofuel

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore Fecal Fungi May Lead to Cheaper Biofuel Manure may be a good fertilizer, but there’s more to manure than you think. Scientists have harnessed gut fungi from herbivore feces that can easily digest tough plant components in wood, algae, and grasses into sugars, which can then be fermented to produce biofuel and other bio-based products. Biofuel producers are faced with a problem: They are unable to fully break down plant materials into sugars because of the tough-to-digest components of plant cell walls. Herbivores, however, have been…

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Lens Flare, Steven Spence Environment Physics Technology 

Spying on the Atomic Structure of Perovskites

By Jonathan Trinastic, @jptrinastic Spying on the Atomic Structure of Perovskites Perovskites are darling materials in the world of solar cells but still somewhat of a mystery to scientists. Perovskite-based photovoltaics boast a combination of high performance and cheap production that makes them an ideal candidate to lead the next solar energy revolution. Like many young and talented upstarts, however, they don’t always perform consistently, and they burn out quickly. Scientists do not yet completely understand why, but they have taken an important step by creating the first images of individual…

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Kirigami-inspired solar cell courtesy of Lamoureux A et al. Physics Science & Art Technology 

New Solar Cells Inspired by 400-year-old Art

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic Artists in  seventeenth century Japan probably never expected their unique paper-cutting artwork, known as kirigami, to inspire leading-edge technology four hundred years later.  But the traditional art and new science have been recently well-paired to improve renewable energy technology, according to a recent paper1 in Nature Communications that details a creative design for a lightweight solar cell that tracks the Sun’s position throughout the day. Kirigami is the art of cutting paper to create elaborately textured, three-dimensional works of art.  Kirigami artists generally begin by cutting…

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Truly transparent solar energy Engineering Environment Featured Physics Technology 

Solar Energy that Doesn’t Block the View

By Kate Stone In 2014, a team of researchers at Michigan State University developed a new type of solar concentrator that, when placed over a window, creates solar energy while still allowing people to see through the window. It is called a “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” and it can be used on buildings, cell phones, and anything else that has a clear surface. According to Richard Lunt of MSU’s College of Engineering, the operative word in this story is “transparent.” One year ago, researchers predicted that, while the technology was at an early…

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The UT Arlington team developed a new solar cell that is more efficient and can store solar energy even at night. (UT Arlington) Engineering Technology 

New Solar Energy Storage Works at Night

By Kate S. Most solar energy systems rely on using sunlight as an immediate power source, but can’t function at night or in cloudy weather. So, what if a solar cell could store solar energy and release it for use after the sun goes down? That’s the technology a materials science and engineering team from the University of Texas at Arlington has developed. They have successfully built a new energy cell that can store large-scale solar energy, even when it’s dark. The prototype is an “all-vanadium photo-electrochemical flow cell” that…

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Clean Hydrogen: Stanford graduate student Haotian Wang and colleagues have developed a novel water splitter that produces clean-burning hydrogen from water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Photo Courtesy of L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service) Engineering Technology 

Clean Hydrogen Production for 200 Hours

By Kate S. Scientists at Stanford University have just built a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas. This is an invention that could pave the way for a boom in production of clean-burning cars. The scientists say that their device, which can run nonstop for an unprecedented period of time, could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry. The team used lithium-ion battery technology to create one low-cost catalyst that is capable of driving the entire…

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Eva, the first evaporation-powered vehicle, has a turbine engine that rotates as water evaporates from the walls of the engine (Photo by Xi Chen, Columbia University) Engineering Environment Physics Technology Videos 

Turning Evaporation into Electricity

By Kate S. The power of water has long been harnessed by humanity, but one part of the water cycle — evaporation — has been overlooked until now. Many scientists are experimenting with improved solar cells and biofuels, but Columbia University scientists have a new, noteworthy idea. They have announced the development of a novel device that turns evaporation into electricity. In fact, the small prototype generates enough electricity to power a lightbulb and the rotary engine that drives a miniature car. Energy from Evaporation When evaporation energy is scaled…

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Biofuel: Inforgraphic courtesy of Eric Taylor, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Biology Engineering Environment Oceanography 

Fish Food Turned into Two New Biofuels

By Kate S. A common algae commercially grown to make fish food could become a future source of biofuel, according to a new study. The research team, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has pioneered a technique that uses a single species of algae called Isochrysis to make both biodiesel and jet fuel. The scientists believe that the ability to produce two types of biofuel from one algae holds some promise for future commercialization. They stress that this is only…

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