Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

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.

Concepts: Laser, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Nuclear power, Energy development, Alternative energy, Fusion power, Inertial confinement fusion


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.

Concepts: Energy, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Organic solar cell, Energy conversion, Förster resonance energy transfer, Photovoltaic module, Alternative energy


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.

Concepts: Nanotechnology, Polystyrene, Relative humidity, Thermal conductivity, Insulation, Alternative energy, Building insulation materials, Building insulation


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.

Concepts: Natural gas, Fossil fuel, Nuclear power, Wind power, Energy development, Alternative energy, World energy resources and consumption, Energy security


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.

Concepts: Energy, Light, Sun, Renewable energy, Nuclear power, Alternative energy, Sustainable energy, World energy resources and consumption


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.

Concepts: Energy, Lightning, Renewable energy, Peak oil, Wind power, Alternative energy, Electric power transmission, Electricity market


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.

Concepts: Sustainability, Fossil fuel, Habitat conservation, Renewable energy, Wind power, Greenhouse gas, Alternative energy, World energy resources and consumption


(Red, green and brown) macroalgal biomass is a propitious candidate towards covenant alternative energy resources to be converted into biofuels i.e. hydrogen. The application of macroalgae for hydrogen fermentation (promising route in advancing the biohydrogen generation process) could be accomplished by the transformation of carbohydrates, which is a topic receiving broad attention in recent years. This article overviews the variety of marine algal biomass available in the coastal system, followed by the analyses of their pretreatment methods, inhibitor formation and possible detoxification, which are key-aspects to achieve subsequent H2 fermentation in a proper way.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Hydrogen, Ethanol, Biofuel, Alternative energy, Algaculture, Dark fermentation, Biohydrogen


As a result of great increases in CO2 emissions in the last few decades, many papers have examined the relationship between renewable energy and CO2 emissions in the energy economics literature, because as a clean energy source, renewable energy can reduce CO2 emissions and solve environmental problems stemming from increases in CO2 emissions. When one analyses these papers, he/she will observe that they employ fixed parameter estimation methods, and time-varying effects of non-renewable and renewable energy consumption/production on greenhouse gas emissions are ignored. In order to fulfil this gap in the literature, this paper examines the effects of non-renewable and renewable energy on CO2 emissions in Turkey over the period 1970-2013 by employing fixed parameter and time-varying parameter estimation methods. Estimation methods reveal that CO2 emissions are positively related to non-renewable energy and renewable energy in Turkey. Since policy makers expect renewable energy to decrease CO2 emissions, this paper argues that renewable energy is not able to satisfy the expectations of policy makers though fewer CO2 emissions arise through production of electricity using renewable sources. In conclusion, the paper argues that policy makers should implement long-term energy policies in Turkey.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Policy, Natural gas, Renewable energy, Greenhouse gas, Alternative energy, World energy resources and consumption, Renewable resource


Long-range exciton transport is a key challenge in achieving efficient solar energy harvesting in both organic solar cells and photosynthetic systems. Self-assembled molecular aggregates provide the potential for attaining long-range exciton transport through strong intermolecular coupling. However, there currently lacks an experimental tool to directly characterize exciton transport in space and in time to elucidate mechanisms. Here we report a direct visualization of exciton diffusion in tubular molecular aggregates by transient absorption microscopy with ~ 200 fs time resolution and ~ 50 nm spatial precision. These direct measurements provide exciton diffusion constants of 3-6 cm2s-1 for the tubular molecular aggregates, which are 3-5 times higher than a theoretical lower bound obtained by assuming incoherent hopping. These results suggest that coherent effects play a role; despite the fact that exciton states near the band bottom crucial for transport are only weakly delocalized (over < 10 molecules). The methods presented here establish a direct approach for unraveling the mechanisms and main parameters underlying exciton transport in large molecular assemblies.

Concepts: Time, Oxygen, Space, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Solar power, Alternative energy