New ORNL Solar Cell Technology Cranks Up Efficiency

With the creation of a 3-D nanocone-based solar cell platform, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Jun Xu has boosted the light-to-power conversion efficiency of photovoltaics by nearly 80 percent.

Green UV Sterilization: Switching on LEDs to Save Energy and the Environment

Ultraviolet light can safely sterilize food, water and medical equipment by disrupting the DNA and other reproductive molecules in harmful bacteria. Traditionally, mercury lamps have supplied this UV light, however mercury release from power generation and lamp disposal have generated discussion of harmful environmental impact. A potentially energy efficient and non-toxic alternative is the light-emitting diode, or LED, which can be made to emit at almost any desired wavelength.

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

A new polymer-based solar-thermal device is the first to generate power from both heat and visible sunlight - an advance that could shave the cost of heating a home by as much as 40 percent.

Solar Power without Solar Cells: a Hidden Magnetic Effect of Light Could Make It Possible

A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.

The Heat Is On: NIST Zeroes In On Energy Consumption of Ice Makers

In tests of four different refrigerators, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers found that ice makers increased rated energy consumption by 12 to 20 percent, with most of that additional energy cost due to the electric heaters used to release ice from molds.

Using Computers and Sensors to Curb Electricity Use in Buildings

To reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings, computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego have come up with a way to use real-time occupancy sensors and computer algorithms to create 'smart' heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Based on early test results, the software- and sensor-based solution produced electrical energy savings of between 9.54 and 15.73 percent on their test deployment on one floor of a 5-floor campus building.

Algae Could Replace 17% of U.S. Oil Imports

A new study shows that 17 percent of the United States' imported oil for transportation could be replaced by biofuel made from algae. Researchers also determined that the water needed to grow that algae could be substantially reduced by cultivating it in the nation's sunniest and most humid regions.

Methane Leaks Can Make Fracking Gas 'Dirtier' than Coal Or Oil

Extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale could do more to aggravate global warming than mining coal, according to a Cornell study. Ecologist Robert Howarth warns about methane leaking into the atmosphere during hydraulic fracturing.

Research Digs Deep into the Fracking Controversy

The turmoil in oil-producing nations is triggering turmoil at home, as rising oil prices force Americans to pay more at the pump. Meanwhile, there's a growing industry that's promising jobs and access to cheaper energy resources on American soil, but it's not without its controversy. Deborah Kittner, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student in geography, presents, "What's the Fracking Problem? Extraction Industry's Neglect of the Locals in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Region," at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Kittner will be presenting April 14 at the meeting in Seattle.

Researchers Resurrect Four-Billion-Year-Old Enzymes, Reveal Conditions of Early Life on Earth

A team of scientists from Columbia University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Granada in Spain have successfully reconstructed active enzymes from four-billion-year-old extinct organisms. By measuring the properties of these enzymes, they could examine the conditions in which the extinct organisms lived. The results shed new light on how life has adapted to changes in the environment from ancient to modern Earth.

Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge national Laboratory - April 2011

MILITARY -- H2O from diesel; ELECTRONICS -- Plasmonic sensors; SENSORS -- Thwarting tax evaders; CLIMATE -- Extreme cold still in forecast; ELECTRONICS -- Phase transitions breakthrough; VEHICLES -- "Just in time" .

Economics, Physics Are Roadblocks for Mass-Scale Algae Biodiesel Production

Companies looking to engineer an eco-friendly diesel fuel have more red lights in their path. According to Kansas State University researchers, making petroleum diesel completely green would not only bend the laws of physics, it would cost too much green.

Nanoparticles Improve Solar Collector Efficiency

Using minute graphite particles 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, mechanical engineers at Arizona State University hope to boost the efficiency--and profitability--of solar power plants.

Fast-Recharge, Lithium-Ion Battery Could be Perfect for Electric Cars

The next-generation battery, like next-generation TV, may be 3-D, scientists reported at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Anaheim, CA. They described a new fast-recharge lithium-ion (Li-on) battery, already available in a prototype version, with a three-dimensional interior architecture that could be perfect for the electric cars now appearing in auto dealer showrooms

Waste Ash from Coal Could Save Billions in Repairing U.S. Bridges & Roads

Coating concrete destined to rebuild America's crumbling bridges and roadways with millions of tons of underused flyash waste from burning coal could extend the life of the structures significantly, saving billions of dollars, scientists reported here.

First Practical Nanogenerator Produces Electricity with Pinch of the Fingers

Scientists are reporting development of the first commercially viable nanogenerator, a flexible chip that can use body movements -- a finger pinch now en route to a pulse beat in the future -- to generate electricity. Their study will be presented at the American Chemical Society's 241th National Meeting in Anaheim.

Key Plant Traits Yield More Sugar for Biofuels

New clues about plant structure are helping researchers from the DOE's BioEnergy Science Center narrow down a large collection of poplar tree candidates and identify winners for future use in biofuel production.

From Crankcase to Gas Tank: New Microwave Method Converts Used Motor Oil Into Fuel

Scientists are reporting development of a quick, efficient method for recycling automotive waste oil into fuel. The new method could help dispose of the estimated 24 million tons of waste oil produced each year worldwide and provide a supplemental fuel source for an energy-hungry world. Scientists will describe the new method, the first to use microwaves to convert waste oil to fuel, at the 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim.

"Green" Cars Could be Made from Pineapples and Bananas

Your next car hopefully won't be a lemon. But it could be a pineapple, banana, or some other tropical fruit. That's because scientists in Brazil are reporting an advance toward the long-awaited "bio-automobile" .... developed a convenient way to turn fruit fibers into nanoparticles to improve the performance and eco-friendliness of automobile plastics, including bumpers and dashboards. Scientists will describe the new method and materials at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif.

Debut of the First Practical "Artificial Leaf"

In a finding that could help meet the growing energy demands of billions of people worldwide in a simpler, more efficient and less-costly way, a noted scientist is reporting long-awaited development of the first practical "artificial leaf." The solar-powered device mimics the chemical process, called photosynthesis, that plants use to convert sunlight into fuel, said chemist Daniel Nocera. He will describe the device at the 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim.

Neutron Analysis Yields Insight Into Bacteria for Solar Energy

Structural studies of some of nature's most efficient light-harvesting systems are lighting the way for new generations of biologically inspired solar cell devices.

Discovery of Recycling Method to Advance Fuel Cell Practicality

The use of hydrogen as a practical, widespread alternative fuel to gasoline took another step today as researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and The University of Alabama announce a method for recycling a hydrogen fuel source.

Iodine 131 Greatest Threat in Japanese Nuclear Disaster

Bingham Cady is a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. He helped operate Cornell's now-closed on-campus nuclear reactor and has been a consultant for several nuclear energy companies.

BESC Scores a First with Isobutanol Directly from Cellulose

In the quest for inexpensive biofuels, cellulose proved no match for a bioprocessing strategy and genetically engineered microbe developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center.

Sandia Seeds Culture of Nuclear Energy Safety and Security

The growing interest among Middle Eastern nations in establishing nuclear power programs prompted a Sandia National Laboratories team to conceive and lead development of a new institute that will seed and cultivate a regional culture of responsible nuclear energy management.