12 Years to Limit Climate Change

Twelve. That’s how many years scientists predict are left to further prevent the consequences of climate change, before each half degree leads to worsening conditions, including risks of drought, floods, and extreme heat, according to UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Devastating hurricanes in the U.S., record droughts in Cape Town, and forest fires in the Arctic are already revealing the current effects of global warming, the IPCC report says,  warning that every fraction of additional warming could worsen the impact.

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Wind turbines, the ideal alternative to burning fossil fuels: plentiful, renewable, clean energy. Or is it?

A recent study is forcing us to take a closer look at this green energy alternative, according to ScienceDaily. Extracting energy from large-scale wind farms has the potential to warm the Continental United States by 0.24 degrees Celsius, due to the wind turbine’s redistribution of heat in the atmosphere.

At the end of the day really, all large-scale energy systems have environmental impacts. But, the ability to compare the impacts of renewable energy sources is an important step in planning a future. Extracting energy from the wind causes climatic impacts that are small compared to current projections of 21st century warming, but large compared to the effect of reducing U.S. electricity emissions to zero with solar. (more…)

Hydrogen-Powered Trains Hit Tracks

 

Photo Credit: René Frampe, Alstrom

Last week, we told you about California’s commitment to go 100 percent carbon-free by 2045. Well, it turns out the Golden State is in good company. Germany has welcomed two of their first, state-of-the-art hydrogen-powered trains, according to Ars Technica.

The trains are built to run a total of 62-miles throughout the windswept hills of Northern Germany before refueling. These cutting-edge trains, known as  Coradia iLint trains, are the first of its kind — with 14 more hydrogen-powered trains expected to be delivered before 2021 by the French train-building company Alstom. A big step towards Germany’s goal to lower transportation-related emission. (more…)

Solar Panels: Dirty Air, Low Energy

According to Science News for Students, air pollution is taking a toll on solar energy.

Air contaminants are sticking to the surfaces of solar panels, preventing light from reaching the solar cells below, and reducing the production of electricity. Not only are these consequences costly environmentally, they’re also quite costly economically.

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A Carbon-Free California

According to The Conversation, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law committing to make the Golden State the state 100 percent carbon-free by 2045.

The new law is comprised of multiple targets, committing California to draw half its electricity from renewable sources by 2026, and then to 60 percent by 2030.

California’s mission to stop relying on fossil fuels for energy has been a longtime goal in the making. Since 2010, utility-scale solar and wind electricity in California increased from 3 percent to 18 percent in 2017, exceeding expected targets, due to solar prices drop in recent years. In 2011, Brown signed a law committing the state to derive a third of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2020. And in 2017, about 56 percent of the power California generated came from non-carbon emitting sources, placing state over halfway to their goal for 2045.

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UCLA's dual-layer solar cell

Photo Credit: UCLA Samueli Engineering

Materials scientists from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering have developed a powerful thin-film solar cell that generates more energy from sunlight than average solar panels, as a result of its double-layer design, according to UCLA.

The device is made of an inexpensive compound of lead and iodine, known as perovskite, that has proven to be very efficient at capturing energy from sunlight. A thin layer of the perovskite is sprayed onto a commercially available solar cell, while the solar cell that forms the bottom layer of the device is made of a compound of copper, indium, gallium and selenide, or CIGS, creating a new cell that successfully converts 22.4 percent of the incoming energy from the sun, versus the previous record of 10.9 percent by a group at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in 2015.

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Liquid Blue Dye in Liquid Batteries

Most take the world around them for granted, never expecting anything extraordinary out of what’s always proven to be, well, extra ordinary. According to Futurism, that’s what many felt about a methylene blue dye used to dye fabric in textile mills. Its remnants even considered a nuisance and a hazard, often making its way from the mill and into the environment, where it’s no easy task to clean up.

So researchers from the University at Buffalo began experimenting with the industrial dye, in an attempt to reuse the wasted material, turning the methylene blue wastewater into an environmentally safe material – in batteries.

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Electric VehicleIn 1888, German inventor Andreas Flocken created what is widely considered the world’s first electric car. According to The Battery Issue, recently published by The Verge, the 900-pound vehicle drove at the top speed of nine miles per hour, coming to a halt after a two and a half hour test ride. Although it was considered a success, it wasn’t entirely. The car’s battery, sustainably charged with water power, had died.

Today, nearly 130 years, German carmakers are still having trouble with their batteries – specifically with battery cells. As a result, car companies are relying on suppliers from China, Korea, and Japan for the highly needed component.

“Cells can be a major technology differentiator and cells are the by far most costly part of the battery pack,” says Martin Winter, a professor of materials science, energy, and electrochemistry at the University of Münster and ECS Battery Division and Europe Section member. Winter says a large scale production of battery cells by European or German companies will be crucial in order to take part in the “enormous and rapidly growing market.”

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Eric Wachsman

(Eric Wachsman will be presenting Safe, High-Energy-Density, Solid-State Li Batteries at AiMES 2018 in Cancun, Mexico on October 1, 2018.)

Behind the wheel of a ’68 Dodge Charger, Eric Wachsman discovered his passion for clean energy technology. He was a teenage boy in high school, and the open road was calling out to him.

“I just lived for cars,” says Wachsman, who serves on the ECS board of directors. “I could not wait to get my first car.”

So when he hit the road in his $1,500 hot rod, loaded with a holley double pumper carburetor, headers. “You name it.” He was thrilled. “That thing was the fastest thing around.”

However, life on the road soon came to a screeching halt.

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HydrogenResearchers at KTH have successfully tested a new material that can be used for cheap and large-scale production of hydrogen – a promising alternative to fossil fuel.

Precious metals are the standard catalyst material used for extracting hydrogen from water. The problem is these materials – such as platinum, ruthenium and iridium – are too costly to make the process viable. A team from KTH Royal Institute of Technology recently announced a breakthrough that could change the economics of a hydrogen economy.

Led by Licheng Sun, professor of molecular electronics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the researchers concluded that precious metals can be replaced by a much cheaper combination of nickel, iron and copper (NiFeCu).

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