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Technology

Tsunami-proof nuclear power plants to float on water

A new design for nuclear power plants – which finds them built on floating platforms similar to those used for offshore oil drilling – could protect them from the consequences of tsunamis. In 2011, when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the damage that caused the plants shutdown was mostly due to the lack of cooling for its reactor cores. A new design from the Massach...

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Combining algae cultivation with industrial processes in cold climates

To bring algae biofuels to countries with cold climates, you have to link algae cultivation to industrial operations. A project by the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland is looking into ways to profitably cultivate algae for energy production purposes in Finland. The profitable cultivation of algae in Finland is challenging because of its cool climate and long winters. Algae need warmth...

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Transparent solar cell achieves 7.2 percent efficiency

Heliatek GmbH has reached a new record in the efficiency of transparent organic solar cells. They have developed an organic solar cell which has achieved transparency levels of up to 40 percent with a solar conversion efficiency of 7.2 percent. Heliatek already holds the world record for opaque organic solar cells with 12 percent efficiency. This latest development will widen their market potential...

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Future L.E.D.’s: Thinner, stronger, brighter and even more energy efficient

The next generation of lighting technologies will not just be more energy efficient, but also thinner, lighter, and stronger. Scientists are currently working with light emitting diodes to create the next generation of optical technologies. L.E.D.s are based off of semiconductors that emit light with the movement of electrons. They have many applications in modern electronics; from flat-screen TVs, smartphones, computer...

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New thin-film solar cell design increases solar absorption while decreasing cost

A “superabsorbing” design, that can decrease the thickness of the semiconductor materials in thin film solar cells, has been developed by researchers at North Carolina State University. On average, a silicon-based thin film solar cell needs a layer of semiconductor material that is about 100 nanometers thick. This is already a marked decrease in thickness and material use from conventional photo...

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Three-dimensional catalyst developed for cheaper fuel cells

A new, three-dimensional catalyst developed at the United States Department of Energy’s national laboratories is outperforming the best commercial catalysts used in today’s fuel cells and electrolyzers.Fuel cells and electrolyzers can help provide clean, emission-free energy, but they are currently very expensive pieces of technology. This is because they depend on electocatalysts to trigger the chemical reactions needed for them to release...

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Breaking up charging periods for E.V.s to keep grid from crashing

Coordination between the growing network of smart meters and the growing fleet of electric vehicles is the key to ensuring that the energy demands of E.V.’s do not tax the aging electrical distribution system. A team of scientists from the University of Vermont are recommending that electric cars use the information communicated between a smart meter and utilities to ensure that the car only charges when demand is...

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Nanoscale pillars improve materials ability to convert heat to energy

Building an array of tiny pillars on top of a sheet of thermoelectric material can improve the rate in which they convert heat into energy. According to researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, nanoscale pillars can improve thermoelectric materials and lead to the development of improved solar panels and more energy efficient cooling materials as well as new sources of power. Materials...

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New algae growing platform developed at M.S.U.

A new algae growing platform, which simulates dynamic natural environments, has been developed by scientists at Michigan State University for the algae-biofuel sector. The M.S.U. scientists believe that their new platform, the environmental photobioreactor, or ePBR system, will help bring algae biofuels close to commercial viability. While many scientists around the world are already working with promising lab-raised...

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Paired oxide materials key to creating hydrogen using the power of the sun

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a system made from cheap, oxide-based materials that can create hydrogen using the power of the sun. One of the major obstacles to producing hydrogen using sunlight is that the most efficient catalysts tend to be far too expensive to produce enough hydrogen at a cost that can compete with fossil based fuels...

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