Story Tip From the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory December 2009

Titanium dioxide can be converted into a material that absorbs sunlight and greatly increase the efficiency of solar energy cells. Coated particle fuel fabricated at ORNL, in cooperation with INL, General Atomics, and the Babcock & Wilcox Company, has set a world record for advanced high temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel. Electronic devices of the future may benefit from a fundamental discovery that allows researchers to customize the electronic properties of complex materials.

Wind Farm Design Borrows Strategy from Schooling Fish

Last year, the United States overtook Germany to become the largest producer of wind energy in the world. This capped a five year expansion of U.S. wind power during which capacity increased by about a third every year.

Switchgrass Produces Biomass Efficiently

A recent study concluded that 50 million U.S. acres of cropland and pasture could be used for the production of perennial grasses, such as switchgrass, for biofuel feedstock. Economically viable production of a perennial grass monoculture from which substantial quantities of biomass are removed annually is expected to require nitrogen fertilizer.

Amaizing: Corn Genome Decoded

In recent years, scientists have decoded the DNA of humans and a menagerie of creatures but none with genes as complex as a stalk of corn, the latest genome to be unraveled. A team of scientists led by The Genome Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published the completed corn genome in the Nov. 20 journal Science, an accomplishment that will speed efforts to develop better crop varieties to meet the world's growing demands for food, livestock feed and fuel.

Toward Home-brewed Electricity with "Personalized Solar Energy"

New scientific discoveries are moving society toward the era of "personalized solar energy," in which the focus of electricity production shifts from huge central generating stations to individuals in their own homes and communities. That's the topic of a report by an international expert on solar energy scheduled for the November 2 issue of ACS' Inorganic Chemistry...

New Evidence Supports 19th Century Idea on Formation of Oil and Gas

Scientists in Washington, D.C. are reporting laboratory evidence supporting the possibility that some of Earth's oil and natural gas may have formed in a way much different than the traditional process described in science textbooks. Their study is scheduled for Nov./Dec. issue of ACS' Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly publication. Anurag Sharma and colleagues note that the traditional process...

Story Tips From the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory November 2009

1) Fuel economy ratings for the new 2010 model year automobiles are posted at, which ORNL maintains for the U.S. DOE and the U.S. EPA; 2) A team led by ORNL's Nina Balke has moved closer to developing more rugged memory and logic devices; 3) Heavy trucks are less heavy but just as safe and rugged because of steel rail frames; 4) A new approach to crunching massive volumes of data uses neural networks like an artificial brain.

Proven Method Available to Significantly Reduce Energy Consumption in Street Lighting

Experts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC) estimate that about half of the approximately 13 million streetlights in America have the opportunity to significantly reduce energy consumption by as much as 50 percent, translating to an annual savings of 1 billion kWh, and a reduction in power plant CO2 emissions of 546,000 tons per year.

Nanostructures on Optical Fiber Make "Hidden" PV Cells

Converting sunlight to electricity might no longer mean large panels of photovoltaic cells atop flat surfaces like roofs.

Silicon-Air Battery: Non-stop Power for Thousands of Hours

Technion scientists have created an environmentally friendly silicon-oxygen battery capable of supplying non-stop power for 1000s of hours. Used like batteries already in use today, they would be lightweight, have an unlimited shelf life, and have a high tolerance for both humid and extremely dry conditions.

Solving Hydrogen Storage Limit to Power Green Cars

Hydrogen fuel, with steam as its only byproduct, would be the ultimate clean, green fuel. But it has failed to deliver on this promise due to one enormous stumbling block: storage capacity. Now UMass Amherst chemical engineers propose a computational model showing carbon nanotubes offer a solution.

Researchers Make Key Step Towards Turning Methane Gas Into Liquid Fuel

Scientists take an important step in converting methane gas to a liquid, giving the potential of making it more useful as a fuel and as a source for making other chemicals.

Costs of Plug-in Cars Key to Broad Consumer Acceptance

A University of Michigan survey released today shows widespread consumer interest in buying plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). But the cost of the cars is much more influential than environmental and other non-economic factors as a predictor of purchase probabilities.

Synthetic Cells Shed Biological Insights While Delivering Battery Power

A simplified model cell not only sheds light on the way certain real cells generate electric voltages, but also acts as a tiny battery that could offer a practical alternative to conventional solid-state energy-generating devices.

Turning Algae Into Energy

Project converts dairy wastes to energy, other products.

Silver Nanoparticles Give Polymer Solar Cells A Boost

Small bits of metal may play a new role in solar power. Researchers are experimenting with polymer semiconductors that absorb the sun's energy and generate electricity. The goal: lighter, cheaper, and more-flexible solar cells.

New Material May Expand Uses for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

A new ceramic material described in this week's issue of the journal Science could help expand the applications for solid oxide fuel cells - devices that generate electricity directly from a wide range of liquid or gaseous fuels without the need to separate hydrogen.

Coal Mining Hazard Resembles Explosive Volcanic Eruption

Worldwide, thousands of workers die every year from mining accidents, and instantaneous coal outbursts in underground mines are among the major killers. But although scientists have been investigating coal outbursts for more than 150 years, the precise mechanism is still unknown.

In Search of Wildlife-friendly Biofuels: Could Native Prairie Plants Be the Answer

An unintended consequence of crop-based biofuels may be the loss of wildlife habitat, particularly that of the birds that call this country's grasslands home.

Delaware "Paying" Electric Car Owners

A newly signed law makes Delaware the first entity in the world to reward owners of electric cars with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology for plugging in.

Smaller Isn't Always Better: Catalyst Simulations Could Lower Fuel Cell Cost

Imagine a car that runs on hydrogen from solar power and produces water instead of carbon emissions. While vehicles like this won't be on the market anytime soon, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are making incremental but important strides in the fuel cell technology that could make clean cars a reality.

Carbon Nanotubes Could Make Efficient Solar Cells

Using a carbon nanotube instead of traditional silicon, Cornell researchers have created the basic elements of a solar cell that hopefully will lead to much more efficient ways of converting light to electricity than now used in calculators and on rooftops.

U.S. Energy Demand on the Decline Due to Population Migration

As Congress and the White House explore ways to encourage Americans to conserve energy, a new study by the University of Michigan shows that the average individual energy demand for heating and cooling has decreased over the past 50 years.

Electrical Circuit Runs Entirely Off Power in Trees

For the first time researchers have run an electrical circuit entirely off power in trees. The findings suggest a new power source for wireless sensors.

Marine Viruses May Contribute to Ocean Energy

New research on marine viruses could change calculations of how energy is generated in the oceans, and might someday inspire new designs for better batteries and other photoelectric energy sources.