A new houseplant that can clean your home’s air

A new way to turn sunlight into fuel

Lithium-based battery could make use of greenhouse gas before it ever gets into the atmosphere

Solar-Powered Sea Slugs Shed Light on Search for Perpetual Green Energy

In an amazing achievement akin to adding solar panels to your body, a northeast sea slug sucks raw materials from algae to provide its lifetime supply of solar-powered energy, according to a study by Rutgers University-New Brunswick (RutUni) and other scientists. It’s a remarkable feat because it’s highly unusual for an animal to behave like a plant and survive solely on photosynthesis. The broader implication is in the field of artificial photosynthesis. That is, if the researchers can figure out how the slug maintains stolen, isolated plastids to fix carbon without the plant nucleus, then maybe the team can also harness isolated plastids for eternity as green machines to create bioproducts or energy. The existing paradigm is that to make green energy, we need the plant or alga to run the photosynthetic organelle, but the slug shows us that this does not have to be the case.

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22 days ago

New catalyst could make hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles more economical

The new catalyst, developed by Brown University (BrownUni) researchers, exceeds Department of Energy targets for performing the oxygen reduction reaction, a key step in generating an electric current in a hydrogen fuel cell. One factor holding back the widespread use of eco-friendly hydrogen fuel cells in cars, trucks and other vehicles is the cost of the platinum catalysts that make the cells work. One approach to using less precious platinum is to combine it with other cheaper metals, but those alloy catalysts tend to degrade quickly in fuel cell conditions. According to Junrui Li, a graduate student in chemistry at Brown and the study's lead author, the durability of alloy catalysts is a big issue in the field. It's been shown that alloys perform better than pure platinum initially, but in the conditions, inside a fuel cell the non-precious metal part of the catalyst gets oxidized and leached away very quickly.

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22 days ago

An effective way to remove excess carbon dioxide emissions from the air

Researchers at Berkeley Lab discover copper has potential as a catalyst for turning carbon dioxide into sustainable chemicals and fuels without any wasteful byproducts, creating a green alternative to present-day chemical manufacturing. When you take a piece of copper metal, it may feel smooth to the touch, but at the microscopic level, the surface is actually bumpy - and these bumps are what scientists call 'active sites'. These active sites are where the magic of electrocatalysis takes place: electrons from the copper surface interact with carbon dioxide and water in a sequence of steps that transforms them into products like ethanol fuel; ethylene, the precursor to plastic bags; and propanol, alcohol commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry.

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22 days ago

Innovative technologies to harness the power of solar energy

Artificial photosynthesis system generates hydrogen fuel and electricity

Converting wet biological waste to diesel-compatible fuel

Nanotubes may give the world better batteries

Rice University scientists are counting on films of carbon nanotubes to make high-powered, fast-charging lithium metal batteries a logical replacement for common lithium-ion batteries. The Rice lab of chemist James Tour showed thin nanotube films effectively stop dendrites that grow naturally from unprotected lithium metal anodes in batteries. Over time, these tentacle-like dendrites can pierce the battery’s electrolyte core and reach the cathode, causing the battery to fail. That problem has both dampened the use of lithium metal in commercial applications and encouraged researchers worldwide to solve it. Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes found in just about every electronic device, including cellphones and electric cars.

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22 days ago

A rooftop device can make solar power and cool buildings

Professor Shanhui Fan and his team at Stanford University (StanUni) have built a device that could have a dual purpose – generating electricity and cooling buildings. They have built the first device that one day could make energy and save energy, in the same place and at the same time, by controlling two very different properties of light. The sun-facing layer of the device is nothing new. It’s made of the same semiconductor materials that have long adorned rooftops to convert visible light into electricity. The novelty lies in the device’s bottom layer, which is based on materials that can beam heat away from the roof and into space through a process known as radiative cooling.

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22 days ago

'Sun in a box' would store renewable energy for the grid

MIT engineers have come up with a conceptual design for a system to store renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, and deliver that energy back into an electric grid on demand. The system may be designed to power a small city not just when the sun is up or the wind is high but around the clock. The new design stores excess electricity from solar or wind power as in large tanks of white-hot molten silicon and then converts the light from the glowing metal back into electricity when it’s needed. The researchers estimate that such a system would be vastly more affordable than lithium-ion batteries, which have been proposed as a viable yet, expensive, method to store renewable energy. 

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22 days ago

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