Plant Power Meets Solar Power

By combining green wall technology and solar panels, researchers have been able to generate renewable energy during both night and day.Image: University of Cambridge

By combining green wall technology and solar panels, researchers have been able to generate renewable energy during both night and day.
Image: University of Cambridge

Researchers from Cambridge University have developed what is being considered “the greenest bus shelter” by combining solar power and plant power.

The scope of this project is much more vast than simply powering a bus shelter. Researchers are looking at this development as a possible answer to affordable power generation solutions for developing countries.

“To address the world’s energy needs, we need a portfolio of many different technologies, and it’s even better if these technologies work in synergy,” said Dr. Paolo Bombelli of Cambridge University’s Department of Biochemistry.

The bus shelter has the potential to power itself during both night and day times by harvesting the natural electron by-product of photosynthesis and metabolic activity, thus creating electrical current.

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Is Solar Cheaper than Grid Electricity?

Q3_2014_Price_per_kilowatt_hour_by_RegionIf you haven’t embraced solar energy yet, it may be about time to do so. After all, it is cheaper than grid energy in 42 of the 50 largest cities in the United States.

According to the study “Going Solar in America: Ranking Solar’s Value in America’s Largest Cities,” a fully financed solar system costs less than residential grid energy purchased in over 80 percent of the largest U.S. cities. Additionally, 9.1 million single-family homeowners live in a place where their utility bill outpaces what solar would cost.

The falling cost of solar panels and solar fuel cells is largely driven by, in part, research into new materials and developments in the sciences. Check out a few interesting reads on solar energy from the ECS Digital Library:

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New Approach to Molecular Catalysts

Using a desktop computer, scientists can query the model about the thermodynamic properties needed to create the desired catalysts. They can use those parameters to inform experimentalists in their synthetic work.Image: Accounts of Chemical Research

Using a desktop computer, scientists can query the model about the thermodynamic properties needed to create the desired catalysts. They can use those parameters to inform experimentalists in their synthetic work.
Image: Accounts of Chemical Research

We’re one step closer to transitioning renewable energy sources from intermittent to sustainable with this new development from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Scientists are eliminating all of the unnecessary detours when dealing with molecular catalysts by elaborating on a strategy to map the catalytic route. With this strategy, researchers can modify just one part of a catalyst and see how that affects everything – including all the side reactions.

“We now know how catalysts with desired properties will behave in a given circumstance before we ever leave the computer. By working backwards, we can even ask which catalysts are the best performers for a set of conditions. We are on the verge of designing molecular electrocatalysts in silico — or conducting research by means of computer modeling,” said study co-leader, Dr. Simone Raugei.

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Controlling Car Pollution at the Quantum Level

Toyota Central R&D Labs in Japan have reviewed research that might be leading the way towards a new generation of automotive catalytic converters.Image: Bertel Schmitt/CC

Toyota Central R&D Labs in Japan have reviewed research that might be leading the way towards a new generation of automotive catalytic converters.
Image: Bertel Schmitt/CC

Soon we may be able to better control pollution created by cars at the quantum level.

Researchers from the Toyota Central R&D Labs are conducting research that may lead toward a new generation of automotive catalytic converters.

The new catalytic converters differ from the typical toxic fuel filtering systems due to the new catalyst’s focus on metal clusters, which allows it to be controlled at the quantum-level.

“We can expect an extreme reduction of precious metal using in automotive exhaust catalysts and/or fuel cells,” says Dr. Yoshihide Wantanabe, chief researcher at the Toyota Central R&D Labs in Japan.

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The Image at the Center of the Climate Debate

hockeystickFor the past several years, there has been one image that has been central to the climate change debate: the infamous “hockey stick” graph.

Since the graph appeared in the paper “Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitation,” Michael Mann has been hard at work defending his research.

“The hockey stick graph became a central icon in the climate wars,” Mann said at the Feb. 11 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The graph took on a life of its own.”

The graph gained notoriety when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the image and starting using it to drive home the message of climate change. The graph still remains an ever-present part of the climate debates.

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The Solar Breakthrough

wood_mackenzieCountries around the world have been embracing solar energy with open arms – just take a look at Germany or Switzerland. In the United States, however, solar energy has made its way into the mainstream, but has not gone as far as many environmentalists would like. With the advances in drilling technology in the U.S., one is left to wonder what the next big breakthrough in the nation’s energy supply will be.

The Wood Mackenzie consultant agency out of Scotland believes the next big thing in energy in the U.S. will be solar, and they’ve got some pretty solid reasons.

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Member Spotlight – Yossef Elabd

Dr. Yossef Elabd, professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has developed two fuel cell vehicle platforms for both present day enhancements and future innovation.Image: Texas A&M University

Dr. Yossef Elabd, professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has developed two fuel cell vehicle platforms for both present day enhancements and future innovation.
Image: Texas A&M University

The Electrochemical Society’s Yossef A. Elabd is using electrochemical science to work toward global sustainability with his new advancements in fuel cell car technology.

Elabd, an active member of ECS’s Battery Division, has developed two fuel cell vehicle platforms for both present day enhancements and future innovation – focusing not only on the science, but also the environment.

“I just want to drive my car with water vapor coming out the back of it,” Elabd said.

With this new technology and initiatives such as the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, Elabd’s statement may become an achievable reality for many people in the near future.

The idea of the fuel cell vehicle is every environmentalist’s dream, but the current issues deal with the sustainability of the vehicle. The current fuel cell car uses a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyte for its platinum-based electrodes.

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Chemical Sponge to Lessen Carbon Footprint

A new chemical sponge out of the University of Nottingham has the potential to lessen the carbon footprint of the oil industry.

Professor Martin Schröder and Dr. Sihai Yang of the University of Nottingham led a multi-disciplinary team from various institutions, which resulted in the discovery of this novel chemical sponge that separates a number of important gases from mixtures generated during crude oil refinement.

Crude oil has many uses – from fueling cars and heating homes to creating polymers and other useful materials. However, the existing process for producing this fuel has not been as efficient as it could possibly be.

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The ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology (JSS) is one of the newest peer-reviewed journals from ECS launched in 2012.

The ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology (JSS) is one of the newest peer-reviewed journals from ECS launched in 2012.

Printing technologies in an atmospheric environment offer the potential for low-cost and materials-efficient alternatives for manufacturing electronics and energy devices such as luminescent displays, thin film transistors, sensors, thin film photovoltaics, fuel cells, capacitors, and batteries.

This focus issue will cover state-of-the-art efforts that address a variety of approaches to printable functional materials and devices.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Printable functional materials: metals; organic conductors; organic and inorganic semiconductors; and more
  • Functional printed devices: RFID tags and antenna; thin film transistors; solar cells; and more
  • Advances in printing and conversion processes: ink chemistry; ink rheology; printing and drying process; and more
  • Advances in conventional and emerging printing techniques: inkjet printing; aerosol printing; flexographic printing; and more

Find out more!

Deadline for submission of manuscripts is November 30, 2014.

Please submit manuscripts here.

The new solar battery stores power by "breathing" air to decompose and re-form lithium peroxide.Credit: Yiying Wu/Ohio State University

The new solar battery stores power by “breathing” air to decompose and re-form lithium peroxide.
Credit: Yiying Wu/Ohio State University

Is it a solar cell? Is it a rechargeable battery? Well, technically it’s both.

The scientists at Ohio State University have developed the world’s first solar battery that can recharge itself using light and air. The findings from the patent-pending device were published in the October 3, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

This from Ohio State University:

Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.

Read the full article here.

The university plans to license the solar battery to industry.

“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” said Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State University. “We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.”

The device also tackles the issue of solar energy efficiency by eliminating the loss of electricity that normally occurs when electrons have to travel between a solar cell and an external battery. Where typically only 80 percent of electrons make it from the solar cell into the battery, the new solar battery saves nearly 100 percent of electrons.

Want to know more about what’s going on with solar batteries? Check out the latest research in ECS’s Digital Library and find out what our scientists think the future looks like.

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