Researchers have pioneered a new approach to manufacturing solar cells that requires less silicon and can accommodate silicon with more impurities than is currently the standard. Those changes mean that solar cells can be made much more cheaply than at present.
Scientists combined hydrogen with its heavier sibling deuterium and created a novel, disordered, 'Phase IV'-material. The molecules interact differently than have been observed before, which could be valuable for controlling superconducting and thermoelectric properties of new materials.
Sscientists have developed geochemical tracers to identify hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that have been spilled or released into the environment. The tracers have been field-tested at two sites and can distinguish fracking fluids from wastewater versus conventional wells or other sources. They give scientists new forensic tools to detect if fracking fluids are escaping into water supplies and what risks, if any, they might pose.
Researchers have developed innovative new materials and contactless techniques for applying ultrafine, homogeneous contact fingers to solar cells. This 'dispensing' technology can be easily integrated into conventional silicon solar cell production lines where it replaces screen printing as the method of applying front side metallization.
A Norwegian researcher has been able to achieve bio-oil yields of 79% from a common kelp. Other researchers working with the same species have yields closer to 20%. The secret is to heat the kelp very quickly and bring it to the right temperature within seconds.
The recent natural gas boom due to the use of technologies such as fracking will not lead to a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions. Burning natural gas produces only half the CO2 emissions as coal per unit of energy. However, as natural gas becomes abundant and therefore cheap, it adds to the total energy supply and only partially replaces coal.
The phase-out of traditional incandescent bulbs in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as a growing interest in energy efficiency, has given light-emitting diode lighting a sales boost. However, that trend could be short-lived as key materials known as rare earth elements become more expensive. Scientists have now designed new materials for making household light-emitting diode bulbs without using these ingredients.
Researchers are questioning the received wisdom regarding the promotion of electric vehicles in towns and cities. They suggest that the evidence of benefits in terms of energy usage and emissions points to electric vehicle use in sub-urban and rural settings as being much stronger.
In the race to secure clean energy in the future, engineers are reinventing a piece of technology which has so far only been used in labs to diagnose cancer, detect explosives, and even analyse grand artistic masterpieces.