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Battery lithium could come from geothermal waste water - tech - 10 December 2009 - New Scientist

A geothermal plant in California may be able to generate more than just geothermal energy. The geothermal water used in the process is also rich in lithium so may provide a new source of lithium for battery production. The company is examining the possibility of pulling other metals from the water.

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Black Hole Drive Could Power Future Starships | Universe Today

In an earlier post, I mentioned two physicists who had worked out the operating parameters of a black-hole power source. The article linked in this post provides more details, including how someone would propel a miniature black hole. They postulate that particle beams could be used to simultaneously feed the black hole and propel it in the desired direction. They also note that black holes would make highly efficient energy sources, turning any matter into energy. In fact, a black hole with a radius of 0.9 attometres would generate 160 petawatts of energy. The only problem? Creating a single black hole of up to a few attometres in diameter would be a massive undertaking.

A PDF document of the original research is also available.
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Generating electricity from air flow

Researchers at the City College of New York are designing piezoelectric devices that would vibrate in the turbulent air around cars and aircraft, generating a small amount of electricity, possibly enough to recharge batteries for small electronic devices.

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Cornell Chronicle: Carbon nanotubes could make efficient solar cells

Researchers at Cornell University have created a photodiode that is able to convert light into electricity with little or no waste heat. The system consists of a carbon nanotube between two electrical contacts and near a positive and negative gate. Electrons move through the tube are excited by laser light and create new electrons that join the flow. The device is highly experimental so possible commercialization of the device is not expected for some time, if the technical problems of going from lab-to-plant can even be surmounted in a cost-effective manner.
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Prototype Nokia phone recharges without wires - Blogs - Yahoo! Canada Tech

Ok, the title is a bit misleading, but the tech is still cool. Nokia has a prototype phone that is able to scavenge about 5 milliwatts of energy from ambient radio waves. While not enough to power a phone under normal use, it might be enough to keep it from dying completely. They hope to eventually be able to collect as much as 50 milliwatts from ambient radio energy.
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Bioelectricity better than biofuels for transport : Nature News

A recent study comparing the efficiency of crop-based ethanol versus electricity generated from burning biomass determined that biomass-fired electricity is more efficient when then entire supply chain is taken into account. The study specifically looked at the efficiency of powering automobiles using two metrics: kilometres vehicular travel per hectare and emissions per hectare. They determined that a vehicle powered by biomass-fired electricity would travel 81% farther with half the greenhouse-gas emissions compared to an ethanol-based vehicle.
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EETimes.com - Diatoms could triple solar cell efficiency

Joint research by Oregon State and Portland State universities has demonstrated a possible tripling of electrical output by dye-sensitized solar cells by employing diatoms, a type of microscopic algae, to create the coating. Diatoms were placed on a substrate and were fed titanium dioxide so that they would build photovoltaic shells. Once the organic material was removed and the shells mixed with a dye, the shells were able to capture light with three times the efficiency of traditionally-designed dye-sensitized solar cells. Dye-sensitized solar cells work well in low-light conditions where silicon-based solar cells operate poorly, but tend to be half as efficient as silicon-based solar cells.

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Low-tech Magazine: Small windmills put to the test

A year-long Dutch study of 12 popular small windmills determined that 47 of any one type of windmill would be required to power the average Dutch household (which uses 1/3 the energy of an American household), and that rotor diameter was the primary determining factor in how much energy the windmill could generate. Rotor diameters among the models tested (3 broke so the results only list 9 of the windmills tested) varied from 1 meter to 5 meters with energy generation increasing with rotor diameter. Meanwhile, a nearby windmill with an 18 meter diameter rotor cost 17% more than the total cost of all 12 windmills in the test but generated almost 20 times as much energy. The conclusion drawn from this study that it was more cost-effective to invest in a few large windmills than many small ones.
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Wind turbines causing health problems, some Ont. residents say

Some Ontario residents are claiming that noise generated by wind turbines are causing a variety of health issues including dizziness, sleep disturbances, queasiness, weight changes, and increased blood pressure. The Canadian Wind Energy Association counters that there are no peer-reviewed studies indicating the presence (or absence) of a problem, but concedes that the technology is new so there are a lot of things we don't know yet.
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Batteries grown from 'armour-plated' viruses - tech - 08 April 2009 - New Scientist

Scientists have built a miniature rechargeable battery in which the electrodes were assembled using genetically-modified viruses. According to the developers, the process is much safer and cleaner than contemporary approaches to making electrodes for lithium ion batteries because the process takes place at room temperature and requires no harsh solvents. As a bonus, the deposited materials are nanostructured so can store and release power more quickly.

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Yeast-powered fuel cell feeds on human blood - tech - 01 April 2009 - New Scientist

UBC Researchers have developed a prototype fuel cell that is powered by blood plasma. The fuel cell consists of a strain of baker's yeast that is encapsulated in silicone. The yeast consumes glucose found in the blood plasma, generating electrons in the process. Methyl blue is used to strip the electrons out of the cells and transports them to the anode. The circuit is complete when hydrogen ions diffuse out of the yeast cells and onyl the cathode. The resulting system only generates about 40 nanowatts but the researchers are hopeful that this output can be increased. The greatest concern at the moment is how to safely dispose of the waste products of metabolism out of the fuel cell.
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Biostream is a device that generates energy from the oscillatory motion of an artificial tailfin. The 15 metre tall devices can generate between 250 and 1000 kW depending on the design and local conditions.

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Ice that burns could be a green fossil fuel - environment - 26 March 2009 - New Scientist

Scientists may have come up with a way to make extracting methane from clathrate hydrate, found in arctic permafrost and on the sea floor, carbon neutral. Clathrate hydrates "prefer" carbon dioxide, and experiments have shown that pumping carbon dioxide in clathrates releases the stored methane. The result: carbon dioxide is sequestered and we have methane for use.
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Neutron tracks revive hopes for cold fusion - physics-math - 23 March 2009 - New Scientist

Just when thought it was safe to go back to the lab... cold fusion is back again. A researcher at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command believes that the have found evidence of nuclear fusion in a palladium salt solution. The researchers discovered a small number of "triple tracks" in a plastic material used as a detector when a charge was applied to a solution of palladium chloride, lithium chloride, and deuterium oxide. Triple tracks typically indicate the presence of high-energy neutrons, such as would be produced by nuclear fusion.
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From AC to DC: Going green with supergrids - environment - 11 March 2009 - New Scientist

The idea of using DC rather than AC for conventional power grids is being seriously considered for the first time since the Edison-Tesla feud. At that time, Edison favoured the mathematically and conceptually simpler DC despite the complexity of the equipment needed to drop voltages from transmission levels to those required for household use. This conversion problem limited the voltage that could be used in for transmission and, as a result, made the approach practical only for transmission over short distances.

Enter HVDC (High-Voltage Direct Current), currently being considered by both Europe and the US as a replacement for their current grid because, unlike the current AC-based grid highly variable energy sources like solar and wind would not affect the grid significantly. In AC systems, adding energy to the grid requires load-balancing to ensure that the power cycles are maintained. HVDC is currently used in situations where large amounts of power need to transmitted for unusually long distances, such as between New Zealand and the North and South islands. In these cases DC was favoured because DC, in fact, has much lower transmission loss over long distances, provided the voltages are sufficiently high.

All that being said, there are a number of technical challenges that need to be overcome before HVDC grids can be moved from specialty to general-purpose applications. Also, it is uncertain how much transforming our current system to HVDC would cost, despite optimistic studies that state the costs are not excessively high.

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Salt solution: Cheap power from the river's mouth - environment - 25 February 2009 - New Scientist

In the Netherlands, and experiment is underway to determine if energy derived from the mixing of salt ocean water and fresh inland water at can be commercially viable. The approach, known as salinity power, would take salt water from the North Sea and run it beside fresh water from the Rhine, separating them with a semi-permeable membrane. Osmosis draws fresh water (dilute solution) into the salt water (concentrated solution), raising the pressure of the salt water side in the process which is then run through a turbine to generate power. Unlike other forms of green energy, this one can run 24/7. Plants could be situated any where that fresh-water rivers meet the ocean. In the proposed experimental system, the developers hope to generate about 1 gigawatt of electricity, or enough to meet the needs of 650,000 homes.
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Roll-Up Solar Cells Printed Like Money

Australian researchers are using a printing press formerly used to print Australian currency (which is plastic, not paper) to make flexible solar cells. The solar cells are currently only 3% efficient but they hope to reach 10% efficiency eventually. The long-term goal is to integrate solar cells into construction material so that the very materials used to build a house are used to generate electricity. Current,y, solar energy requires additional support structures so can substantially increase the construction cost.

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Technology Review: A Cheaper Solar Concentrator

The new approach does away with complex and expensive mirrors and chemical traps by relying on intelligently-designed optics to focus light from any direction into the centre of the concentrator, increasing the light recieved by a solar cell by about 1000 times. The system is entirely self-contained so is fairly robust to different environments.

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Sun-powered device converts CO2 into fuel - tech - 18 February 2009 - New Scientist

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have developed a device composed of titanium dioxide nanotubes coated with copper and platinum that is able to convert carbon dioxide and water into methane using only solar energy. The conversion rate is still far too low to make the process commercializable, but is a 20 faster higher than previous approaches. They expect that they can increase the conversion rate by up to 2 orders of magnitude by tweaking the process.
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MIT Team Creates Shock That Recharges Your Car

As the title says. The shock they developed draws energy from bumps in the road that are used to recharge the battery. Experiments showed that a 6-shock heavy truck could generate an average of 1 kW on a standard road.

January 2010

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