Concept: Alternative energy
Ignition is needed to make fusion energy a viable alternative energy source, but has yet to be achieved. A key step on the way to ignition is to have the energy generated through fusion reactions in an inertially confined fusion plasma exceed the amount of energy deposited into the deuterium-tritium fusion fuel and hotspot during the implosion process, resulting in a fuel gain greater than unity. Here we report the achievement of fusion fuel gains exceeding unity on the US National Ignition Facility using a ‘high-foot’ implosion method, which is a manipulation of the laser pulse shape in a way that reduces instability in the implosion. These experiments show an order-of-magnitude improvement in yield performance over past deuterium-tritium implosion experiments. We also see a significant contribution to the yield from α-particle self-heating and evidence for the ‘bootstrapping’ required to accelerate the deuterium-tritium fusion burn to eventually ‘run away’ and ignite.
Organic solar cells have the potential to become a low-cost sustainable energy source. Understanding the photoconversion mechanism is key to the design of efficient organic solar cells. In this review, we discuss the processes involved in the photo-electron conversion mechanism, which may be subdivided into exciton harvesting, exciton transport, exciton dissociation, charge transport and extraction stages. In particular, we focus on the role of energy transfer as described by F¨orster resonance energy transfer (FRET) theory in the photoconversion mechanism. FRET plays a major role in exciton transport, harvesting and dissociation. The spectral absorption range of organic solar cells may be extended using sensitizers that efficiently transfer absorbed energy to the photoactive materials. The limitations of F¨orster theory to accurately calculate energy transfer rates are discussed. Energy transfer is the first step of an efficient two-step exciton dissociation process and may also be used to preferentially transport excitons to the heterointerface, where efficient exciton dissociation may occur. However, FRET also competes with charge transfer at the heterointerface turning it in a potential loss mechanism. An energy cascade comprising both energy transfer and charge transfer may aid in separating charges and is briefly discussed. Considering the extent to which the photo-electron conversion efficiency is governed by energy transfer, optimisation of this process offers the prospect of improved organic photovoltaic performance and thus aids in realising the potential of organic solar cells.
High-performance thermally insulating materials from renewable resources are needed to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Traditional fossil-fuel-derived insulation materials such as expanded polystyrene and polyurethane have thermal conductivities that are too high for retrofitting or for building new, surface-efficient passive houses. Tailored materials such as aerogels and vacuum insulating panels are fragile and susceptible to perforation. Here, we show that freeze-casting suspensions of cellulose nanofibres, graphene oxide and sepiolite nanorods produces super-insulating, fire-retardant and strong anisotropic foams that perform better than traditional polymer-based insulating materials. The foams are ultralight, show excellent combustion resistance and exhibit a thermal conductivity of 15 mW m(-1) K(-1), which is about half that of expanded polystyrene. At 30 °C and 85% relative humidity, the foams retained more than half of their initial strength. Our results show that nanoscale engineering is a promising strategy for producing foams with excellent properties using cellulose and other renewable nanosized fibrous materials.
The heavy dependence on petroleum-derived fuel has raised concerns about energy sustainability and climate change, which have prompted researchers to explore fuel production from renewable sources. 1-Butanol and isobutanol are promising biofuels that have favorable properties and can also serve as solvents or chemical feedstocks. Microbial production of these alcohols provides great opportunities to access a wide spectrum of renewable resources. In recent years, research has improved the native 1-butanol production and has engineered isobutanol production in various organisms to explore metabolic diversity and a broad range of substrates. This review focuses on progress in metabolic engineering for the production of these two compounds using various resources.
- Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology
- Published over 5 years ago
Modern society uses massive amounts of energy. Usage rises as population and affluence increase, and energy production and use often have an impact on biodiversity or natural areas. To avoid a business-as-usual dependence on coal, oil, and gas over the coming decades, society must map out a future energy mix that incorporates alternative sources. This exercise can lead to radically different opinions on what a sustainable energy portfolio might entail, so an objective assessment of the relative costs and benefits of different energy sources is required. We evaluated the land use, emissions, climate, and cost implications of 3 published but divergent storylines for future energy production, none of which was optimal for all environmental and economic indicators. Using multicriteria decision-making analysis, we ranked 7 major electricity-generation sources (coal, gas, nuclear, biomass, hydro, wind, and solar) based on costs and benefits and tested the sensitivity of the rankings to biases stemming from contrasting philosophical ideals. Irrespective of weightings, nuclear and wind energy had the highest benefit-to-cost ratio. Although the environmental movement has historically rejected the nuclear energy option, new-generation reactor technologies that fully recycle waste and incorporate passive safety systems might resolve their concerns and ought to be more widely understood. Because there is no perfect energy source however, conservation professionals ultimately need to take an evidence-based approach to consider carefully the integrated effects of energy mixes on biodiversity conservation. Trade-offs and compromises are inevitable and require advocating energy mixes that minimize net environmental damage. Society cannot afford to risk wholesale failure to address energy-related biodiversity impacts because of preconceived notions and ideals.
With a projection of nearly doubling up the world population by 2050, we need wide variety of renewable and clean energy sources to meet the increased energy demand. Solar energy is considered as the leading promising alternate energy source with the pertinent challenge of off sunshine period and uneven worldwide distribution of usable sun light. Although thermoelectricity is considered as a reasonable renewable energy from wasted heat, its mass scale usage is yet to be developed. Here we show, large scale integration of nano-manufactured pellets of thermoelectric nano-materials, embedded into window glasses to generate thermoelectricity using the temperature difference between hot outside and cool inside. For the first time, this work offers an opportunity to potentially generate 304 watts of usable power from 9 m(2) window at a 20°C temperature gradient. If a natural temperature gradient exists, this can serve as a sustainable energy source for green building technology.
Photocatalytic reforming of lignocellulosic biomass is an emerging approach to produce renewable H2. This process combines photo-oxidation of aqueous biomass with photocatalytic hydrogen evolution at ambient temperature and pressure. Biomass conversion is less energy demanding than water splitting and generates high-purity H2 without O2 production. Direct photoreforming of raw, unprocessed biomass has the potential to provide affordable, clean energy across the globe from locally sourced materials.
The increasing attention to environmental issues is forcing the implementation of novel energy models based on renewable sources. This is fundamentally changing the configuration of energy management and is introducing new problems that are only partly understood. In particular, renewable energies introduce fluctuations which cause an increased request for conventional energy sources to balance energy requests at short notice. In order to develop an effective usage of low-carbon sources, such fluctuations must be understood and tamed. In this paper we present a microscopic model for the description and for the forecast of short time fluctuations related to renewable sources in order to estimate their effects on the electricity market. To account for the inter-dependencies in the energy market and the physical power dispatch network, we use a statistical mechanics approach to sample stochastic perturbations in the power system and an agent based approach for the prediction of the market players' behavior. Our model is data-driven; it builds on one-day-ahead real market transactions in order to train agents' behaviour and allows us to deduce the market share of different energy sources. We benchmarked our approach on the Italian market, finding a good accordance with real data.
The rapid pace of climate change poses a major threat to biodiversity. Utility-scale renewable energy development (>1 MW capacity) is a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but development of those facilities also can have adverse effects on biodiversity. Here, we examine the synergy between renewable energy generation goals and those for biodiversity conservation in the 13 M ha Mojave Desert of the southwestern USA. We integrated spatial data on biodiversity conservation value, solar energy potential, and land surface slope angle (a key determinant of development feasibility) and found there to be sufficient area to meet renewable energy goals without developing on lands of relatively high conservation value. Indeed, we found nearly 200,000 ha of lower conservation value land below the most restrictive slope angle (<1%); that area could meet the state of California's current 33% renewable energy goal 1.8 times over. We found over 740,000 ha below the highest slope angle (<5%)--an area that can meet California's renewable energy goal seven times over. Our analysis also suggests that the supply of high quality habitat on private land may be insufficient to mitigate impacts from future solar projects, so enhancing public land management may need to be considered among the options to offset such impacts. Using the approach presented here, planners could reduce development impacts on areas of higher conservation value, and so reduce trade-offs between converting to a green energy economy and conserving biodiversity.
Ever-growing energy needs and depleting fossil-fuel resources demand the pursuit of sustainable energy alternatives, including both renewable energy sources and sustainable storage technologies. It is therefore essential to incorporate material abundance, eco-efficient synthetic processes and life-cycle analysis into the design of new electrochemical storage systems. At present, a few existing technologies address these issues, but in each case, fundamental and technological hurdles remain to be overcome. Here we provide an overview of the current state of energy storage from a sustainability perspective. We introduce the notion of sustainability through discussion of the energy and environmental costs of state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries, considering elemental abundance, toxicity, synthetic methods and scalability. With the same themes in mind, we also highlight current and future electrochemical storage systems beyond lithium-ion batteries. The complexity and importance of recycling battery materials is also discussed.