A team lead by Kwanyong Seo from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea has figured out a way to turn solar panels transparent. The trick is to punch holes into the silicon cells that are 100 micrometres in diameter, around the size of a human hair. This process allows 100 percent of the light through.
This new method has two distinct advantages, the first is the process makes use of crystalline silicon wafers which is very common and found in about 90 percent of solar cells worldwide. The second is, previous transparent cells would give off a red or blue hue when light passed through them, the new method doesn’t have that issue.
In the coming years, Seo and his team hope to increase the efficiency of the cells, as well as, develop a transparent electrode.
An Oregon energy startup has reengineered the nuclear power reactor. They have created a modular reactor called the “Nuscale reactor” that is 1/100th the size of a conventional reactor and far safer. Nuclear energy accounts for two-thirds of the United States’s total renewable power output, the bad news is that many of them are outdated and need to be upgraded, or are reaching the end of life.
Since the Nuscale reactor is so small, many of them can be installed in clusters to accommodate specific areas power needs. It’s also easier to encase in safety devices and content in the event of an emergency. Each Nuscale reactor is capable of outputting 60 megawatts.
When it comes to cooling, the Nuscale reactor is cooled using normal freshwater just like a traditional reactor. The way the Nuscale reactor differs is that it uses gravity and buoyancy to naturally circulate the cooling water which is why it has such a small footprint.
Although modular reactor technology like the Nuscale reactor still has a ways to go as far as getting approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the technology promises clean plentiful energy just as good as wind and solar without the pitfalls.
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have figured out a new way of removing carbon dioxide from a stream of air. The new system can work on the gas at virtually any concentration level, even down to the roughly 400 parts per million currently found in the atmosphere.
This new system uses a device which is essentially a large battery that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air passing over its electrodes as it is being charged up, and then releases the gas as it is being discharged. The whole system operates at room temperature and normal air pressure.
In their testing, the team has proven the system can withstand at least 7,000 charging-discharging cycles, with a 30 percent loss in efficiency over that time. The engineers believe they can get that number to 20,000 to 50,000 cycles with some tweaking.
When it comes to energy consumption this new system is very efficient using one gigajoule of energy per ton of carbon dioxide captured versus up to 10 gigajoules per ton using conventional systems and methods.
The engineers have set up a company called Verdox to commercialize the process, and hope to develop a pilot-scale plant within the next few years.
The University of Cambridge demonstrated that it can directly produce the gas—called syngas—sustainably and simply. They used an ‘artificial leaf’ (a silicon-based device that uses solar energy to split hydrogen and oxygen in water) powered by sunlight to accomplish this.
Inspired by photosynthesis two light absorbers, on the artificial leaf, act as molecules in plants that harvest sunlight is combined with a catalyst made from the naturally abundant element cobalt. When the artificial leaf is submerged in water, one light absorber uses the catalyst to produce oxygen. The other carries out the chemical reaction that reduces carbon dioxide and water into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, forming the syngas mixture.
Syngas is commonly used in fuels, pharmaceuticals, plastics and fertilisers. As an added bonus, the researchers discovered that their light absorbers work even under the low levels of sunlight on a rainy or overcast day. This opens up the technology to anywhere in the world and can be used from dawn to dusk.
Professor Erwin Reisner from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry says the development of synthetic petrol is vital, as electricity can currently only satisfy about 25% of our total global energy demand. “There is a major demand for liquid fuels to power heavy transport, shipping and aviation sustainably”.
A Swiss company called Energy Vault has a unique and daring way to store energy. The plan is to use concrete blocks. What sets this system apart from other energy storage solution is that this system uses kinetic energy to provide electricity.
Energy Vault’s consists of an almost 400-foot tall, six-armed crane with custom-built concrete blocks that weight a little over 77,000 pounds each. The way the system works is, energy is siphoned from a renewable source such as wind or solar into an Energy Vault tower, then an A.I. system directs the concrete blocks to rise up. At night for example, when the energy is needed the blocks are returned to the ground and the kinetic energy generated from the falling blocks is turned back into electricity.
That kinetic energy then turns a motor, which passes through an inverter, sending the energy back into the grid with an efficiency of 80-90 percent. According to the company’s website, the Energy Vault comes in storage capacities up to 80MWh and can continuously discharge between 4 to 8 MW of power for 8 to 16 hours.
As of right now, the company doesn’t have a full-scale prototype built yet, however, in August the Japanese multinational holding firm SoftBank invested $110 million into the company. With that kind of backing, we may be seeing an Energy Vault very soon.
Many of us as kids flew kites and felt the force of wind when it catches the kite. A company founded in 2013 TwingTec plans to harness that power into electricity. The main principle behind the project is simple, at a height of 500 meters wind power is up to 8x stronger than at a height of 120 meters-which is the height of modern wind turbines. TwingTec’s kite device will use a rope and pulley system to connect it to a ground station. A generator that produces electricity is connected to the axis of the rope pulley.
The company has already tested a prototype device known as the T28 in Autumn 2018. With a wingspan of three meters, the T28 started from its base vehicle, climbed up into the air, circled autonomously for 30 minutes, produced electrical energy and finally landed safely on the launch platform.
The next phase is planned for November 2019 with there new T29 prototype. T29 will not only automatically take off and land, but will also generate up to 10 kW of electrical power and feed it into the grid.
Once the T29 launch is complete and successful, Twingtec plans to take the findings and use it to build the first series product, the TT100. This TT100 energy kite will have a wingspan of 15 meters, be able to take off and land automatically, and generate up to 100kW of electrical power—which would be sufficient for 60 single-family homes.
Looking ahead CEO Rolf Luchsinger says “he plans to build floating wind farms on the sea with his energy kites. There is plenty of space and wind, and energy-kites won’t bother anyone. This is precisely what wind energy needs to speed up the energy revolution.”
The Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Fujitsu Limited, and the Tokyo Metropolitan University announced that they developed a diode, that can convert low-power microwaves into electricity.
The new technology is expected to play a role in harvesting energy from radio waves in the environment, in which electricity is generated from ambient radio waves, such as those emitted from cellphone base stations. Read the full article to learn more.
Radiative sky cooling occurs wherever there are ground and a sky. A surface facing the sky will eventually eject some of its heat, and that rejection takes the form of thermal radiation. A UCLA team has figured out a way to take the temperatures differences from this process and turn it into electricity.
Using parts purchased at a hardware store, the team built a proof-of-concept device for under $30. In their testing, the team was able to generate 25 milliwatts per square meter, which could power a single LED light bulb. The researchers think that with better equipment they could generate 0.5 watts per square meter, this would be enough to charge a smartphone or a whole room filled with LED lights.
Although these devices output modest levels of electricity, it’s an intriguing renewable energy resource that works at night.
Scientist lead by Haotian Wang from Rice University have invented an electrocatalysis reactor that turns carbon dioxide into pure liquid fuel. The reactor produces formic acid, which is an energy carrier. According to Wang, “It’s a fuel-cell fuel that can generate electricity and emit carbon dioxide — which you can grab and recycle again.” Currently, the reactor energy conversion efficiency is about 42%, meaning almost half of the energy can be stored in formic acid as a liquid fuel. Depending on the situation Wang suggested the reactor could be easily retooled to produce acetic acid, ethanol or propanol fuels. Read the full article to learn more.
Renewable energy is currently the biggest thing in energy production. With our energy needs growing every year, we will need to look at more options than just solar and wind. An option that is controversial but can produce high levels of power is nuclear. Today’s nuclear plants are far more advanced than the plants of the 1980s, however, many people still remember the incidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and most recently Fukushima.
A Thorium plant would be a different type of nuclear plant than what people are familiar with.
“Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium. Soil contains an average of around 6 parts per million (ppm) of thorium. Thorium is very insoluble, which is why it is plentiful in sands but not in seawater, in contrast to uranium…”
Aside from being plentiful at least 3 times more availability than uranium, thorium has some distinct advantages. Thorium reactors can produce efficiency levels as high as 98%. Current nuclear technologies can achieve an efficiency rate of about 5% with its fuel. When it comes to safety, thorium reactors can self-regulate their temperature levels. Should the reactor overheat for some reason, then the reaction that is generated begins to slow down on its own. Compared to traditional nuclear reactors, thorium reactors would eliminate the need for large scale storage of spent fuel.