Anticipation Builds for the World Solar Challenge

tokai_challenger

The World Solar Challenge is a competition that tests the skills of both solar and non-solar electric powered cars. Taking place every other year, participants from around the globe partake in a race, with a 3000-kilometer route descending from Australia’s northern territory to its southern city of Adelaide. Beyond the excitement this event fosters, the route serves as a fertile testing ground where these energy-efficient trailblazers can endure real to life driving conditions. This year’s race will mark the introduction of four separate vehicle classes for which a car may qualify. Different classes will be evaluated on their speed, external… read more

MIT Solar Breakthrough Could Boost PV Efficiency by 25%

Photovoltaic Panels

A breakthrough at the labs of researchers at MIT may give a huge boost to photovoltaic panel technology by increasing their efficiency by as much as 25%. A current theory of the limit to the efficiency of solar cells, known as the Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit, states that for a single optimized semiconductor junction, the conversion efficiency can never go beyond 34%. But this latest discovery might retire that theory, as the new system is said to be able to double the amount of electrons produced for each photon that hits the cells. “In a standard photovoltaic (PV) cell, each photon… read more

Microbial Fuel Cells Produce Electricity and Clean Water

fuelcellwastewater

Researchers at Penn State University have developed a system called a microbial reverse electrolysis cell (MRC), which is capable of not only producing clean energy, but also clean water. Currently, microbial fuel cells are not efficient enough to generate significant amounts of energy from wastewater, but reverse-electrodialysis systems (RED) can, yet require costly materials to produce power. The team of researchers combined the best of both systems to develop the MRC, which is said to generate “surprising” levels of electricity. Although right now, the MRC system still requires expensive membranes to operate, the research could spur on further innovation in… read more

NASA’s Algae Cultivators Could Clean Wastewater, Produce Fuel

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A small-scale version of an algae cultivation system developed by NASA may pave the way for larger systems that could not only clean up wastewater, but also produce biomass for fuels and feed. The Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae, or OMEGA system, was originally developed in seawater tanks at a California Fish and Game lab, and most recently scaled up to 450 gallon freshwater system now in use at a wastewater treatment plant in San Francisco. Growing algae in these photobioreactors could be a solution to a number of environmental issues, from reducing land use for biofuel production to… read more

Polycrack Process Turns Waste Plastic into Fuel

Ways With Waste

In a factory in Mumbai, India, a prototype reactor is using a new process to turn waste plastic into fuel, which could potentially solve two problems at once. Plastic waste is a menace to the environment, but it could be used in the near future as the feedstock for fuel production, along with just about any other kind of waste, including motor oil, tires, and municipal solid waste. Nitin Bondal and Raghuvendra Rao, at Sustainable Technologies & Environmental Projects (STEP), have developed a reactor and process that heats waste materials in the presence of a catalyst, which breaks down the… read more

There’s Power Beneath The Waves

Power Beneath the Waves

Deep ocean currents are powerful and constant movements of ocean water more than 400m below the surface. They occur due to density driven forces acting upon them including gravity. A new type of ocean power generator is being considered that could harvest this steady, reliable energy of the deep ocean currents, and a group of companies is working together to place the first 1 megawatt system on the seafloor. Companies are currently raising funds for the demonstration project, and they are looking into R&D funding from the U.S. Navy and the Department of Energy. The grid connections and system software used… read more

Water Heaters Can Act as Battery Storage for Grid

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A new study by energy consultants Ecofys shows that home water heaters can help the power grid to accommodate the variable nature of wind energy, and thereby help integrate wind into regional power grids. The project, funded by Bonneville Power Administration and Northwest Power and Conservation Council, demonstrated that residential electric water heaters, furnaces, and refrigerated warehouses can all help provide energy storage at a much lower cost than other alternatives, such as batteries. “Water heaters can act as battery storage for the power grid.” – Gary Huhta, Cowlitz County Public Utility District Power Resources Manager Wind power generation is… read more

Perform Your Own Energy Audit

Perform Your Own Energy Audit

Performing an energy audit at home or the office can locate possible sources of energy deficiency as well as save money once problems are addressed. Professional energy audits can be helpful resources and are sometimes needed, but inspecting the basics yourself can uncover easily fixable issues. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, approximately 5%-30% can be saved on energy bills if detected problems are fixed. Doing an audit any time of year can increase efficiency but many energy experts recommend doing them when the weather changes seasons, preferably in the summer and winter. In the summer warmer air may… read more

Are Rechargeable Batteries Worth It?

Rechargeable Battery

When it comes to batteries, one can never tell how much juice is left in the tank before it dies, which usually occurs at crucial moments. Our usual solution is to take a trip to Walmart and pick up a pack of rechargeable batteries. However, without careful research you might not realize that some of these supposed “energy-saving” batteries are barely a step up from the traditional kind. Whatever type of battery you need, there is most likely a rechargeable alternative, which saves you money and headaches, not to mention lightens the burden on our nation’s landfills. Some of them… read more

Self-cooling Thermoelectric System Uses No Electricity

transformer

A prototype thermoelectric device that can provide free cooling for any device that gives off heat (over 30ºC) has been developed by researchers at the UPNA/NUP-Public University of Navarre. Many types of devices generate excess heat, which then needs to be dissipated, requiring external power. This new innovation, however, could allow power converters and transformers to produce enough power to cool themselves, without any external energy costs. “When these devices are functioning, they heat up and need to be cooled down.In many cases, heat exchangers with fans are used which naturally need to be powered externally and consume a certain… read more