A new water-based air-conditioning system cools air to as low as 18 degrees Celsius (about 64 degrees Fahrenheit) without using energy-intensive compressors and environmentally harmful chemical refrigerants.

This technology could potentially replace the century-old air-cooling principle that is still used in modern-day air-conditioners. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the new system is portable and can be customized for all types of weather conditions.

The team’s novel air-conditioning system is cost-effective to produce, and it is also more eco-friendly and sustainable.

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Carbon dioxideA team of researchers from the University of Toronto is looking to give wasted materials new value by developing a new catalyst that could help recycle carbon dioxide into plastic.

According to a new study, the researchers have successfully used a new technique to efficiently convert carbon dioxide to ethylene, which can then be processed to make polyethylene, the most common plastic used in making packaging, bottles, and toys.

By using a copper catalyst, the team was able to achieve the desired result of ethylene production. However, controlling the catalyst was one of the technological challenges the team had to overcome.

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Li-ion fuel cell

Superior high-voltage performance of Li-ion full cell with Li-rich layered oxide cathode prepared with fluorinated polyimide (FPI) binder, compared to the cell with conventional binder PVdF. (Click to enlarge.)
Image: Seung Wan Song

In order to increase the driving range of electric vehicles, researchers across the globe are working to develop lithium-ion batteries with higher energy storage. Now, scientists at Chungnam National University and Kumoh National Institute of Technology in Korea are taking a step toward that goal with their development of the first high-voltage cathode binder for higher energy Li-ion batteries.

Today’s Li-ion batteries are limited to charge to 4.2V due to the electrochemical instability of the liquid electrolyte and cathode-electrolyte interface, and loosening of conventional binder, polyvinylidenefluoride (PVdF), particularly at elevated temperatures. The fabrication of Li-rich layered oxide cathode with a novel high-voltage binder, as the research team demonstrated, can overcome these limitations.

Charging the batteries with Li-rich layered oxide cathode (xLi2MnO3∙(1−x)LiMO2, M = Mn, Ni, Co) to higher than 4.5V produces approximately doubled capacity than those with LiCoO2 cathode, so that doubled energy density batteries can be achieved.

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SolarOne year ago, the Chinese government’s energy agency made a long-term commitment to the development of renewable energy sources, investing more than $360 billion in an effort to shift away from coal-powered energy. Now, the country is following through on those promises, paving the way to becoming the global leader in the overall development of clean energy technology.

According to a new report from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), China has continued to grow its clean energy sector in 2017, installing over 50 GW of solar-powered generation.

“The clean energy market is growing at a rapid pace and China is setting itself up as a global technology leader while the U.S. government looks the other way,” said Tim Buckley, co-author of the report. “Although China isn’t necessarily intending to fill the climate leadership void left by the U.S. withdrawal from Paris, it will certainly be very comfortable providing technology leadership and financial capacity so as to dominate fast-growing sectors such as solar energy, electric vehicles, and batteries.”

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BatteryWater-based rechargeable batteries could be one step closer to commercial viability, thanks to research from Empa. According to a new report, a team of researchers has successfully doubled the electrochemical stability of water with a special saline solution.

Energy storage is the backbone of many technological innovations. As researchers explore new ways to develop low-cost, safe batteries, the research team from Empa is looking to water to function as a battery electrolyte.

While a water-electrolyte offers many potential benefits such as low cost and high availability, it does have at least one major drawback: low chemical stability. At a voltage of 1.23 volts, a water cell supplies three times less voltage than a typical lithium-ion cell. While water-based batteries may not see an application in such technologies as electric vehicles, the team of researchers at Empa believe they could be utilized for stationary electricity storage applications.

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Fuel CellNitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes or modified graphene nanoribbons could be effective, less costly replacements for expensive platinum in fuel cells, according to a new study.

In fuel cells, platinum is used for fast oxygen reduction, the key reaction that transforms chemical energy into electricity.

The findings come from computer simulations scientists created to see how carbon nanomaterials could be improved for fuel-cell cathodes. Their study reveals the atom-level mechanisms by which doped nanomaterials catalyze oxygen reduction reactions (ORR).

Doping with nitrogen

Boris Yakobson, a professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry at Rice University, and his colleagues are among many researchers looking for a way to speed up ORR for fuel cells, which were discovered in the 19th century but not widely used until the latter part of the 20th. Fuel cells have since powered transportation modes ranging from cars and buses to spacecraft.

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Many areas of the United States are at risk for nitrate and nitrite contamination of drinking water due to overuse of agricultural fertilizers. Click to enlarge.
Image: USGS

Researchers have found a catalyst that can clean toxic nitrates from drinking water by converting them into air and water.

“Nitrates come mainly from agricultural runoff, which affects farming communities all over the world,” says lead study scientist Michael Wong, a chemical engineer at Rice University.

“Nitrates are both an environmental problem and health problem because they’re toxic. There are ion-exchange filters that can remove them from water, but these need to be flushed every few months to reuse them, and when that happens, the flushed water just returns a concentrated dose of nitrates right back into the water supply,” he explains.

Wong’s lab specializes in developing nanoparticle-based catalysts, submicroscopic bits of metal that speed up chemical reactions. In 2013, his group showed that tiny gold spheres dotted with specks of palladium could break apart nitrites, the more toxic chemical cousins of nitrates.

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Chemical Heritage FoundationECS members M. Stanley Whittingham and Yury Gogotsi will be panelists at the upcoming “Electrical Energy Storage Technologies That Enable the Future” symposium, hosted by the Chemical Heritage Foundation. The event will take place on January 11, 2018 in Philadelphia, PA. Read the full program below.

Moderator
Daryl Boudreaux, Principal, Boudreaux & Associates

Panelists
M. Stanley Whittingham, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering, SUNY Binghamton

Yury Gogotsi, Distinguished University Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University

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Fuel CellApplying a tiny coating of costly platinum just 1 nanometer thick—about 1/100,000th the width of a human hair—to a core of much cheaper cobalt could bring down the cost of fuel cells.

This microscopic marriage could become a crucial catalyst in new fuel cells that use generate electricity from hydrogen fuel to power cars and other machines. The new fuel cell design would require far less platinum, a very rare metal that sold for almost $900 an ounce the day this article was produced.

“This technique could accelerate our launch out of the fossil-fuel era,” says Chao Wang, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University and senior author of a study published in the journal Nano Letters.

“It will not only reduce the cost of fuel cells,” Wang says. “It will also improve the energy efficiency and power performance of clean electric vehicles powered by hydrogen.”

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A new flexible, transparent electrical device inspired by electric eels could lead to body-friendly power sources for implanted health monitors and medication dispensers, augmented-reality contact lenses, and countless other applications, researchers report.

The soft cells—made of hydrogel and salt—form the first potentially biocompatible artificial electric organ that generates more than 100 volts. It produces a steady buzz of electricity at high voltage but low current, a bit like an extremely low-volume but high-pressure jet of water. It could be enough to power a small medical device like a pacemaker.

While the technology is preliminary, Michael Mayer, a professor of biophysics at the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and the paper’s corresponding author, believes it may one day be useful for powering implantable or wearable devices without the toxicity, bulk, or frequent recharging that come with batteries.

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