The Department of Energy’s ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy) has just doled out its fourth round of funding, and $30 million is going toward the ambitious goal of trimming the cost of biofuels by 50 percent. PETRO, or Plants Engineered to Replace Oil, looks to breed or genetically modify plants that boost energy-per-acre by boosting their abilities to capture and convert solar energy.
The Extreme Light Infrastructure will be built in Eastern Europe
By Jennie WaltersPosted 04.26.2011 at 2:07 pm 22 Comments
Who knew it would take so long to approve a project to build the world’s most powerful lasers? Lasers are awesome. But after reconciling some paltry funding issues, the European Commission finally approved the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project, which plans to build three superlasers by 2015.
Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have created a new material that is lighter, less dense, harder, and stronger than steel. But this material isn’t one of those breakthroughs that only sounds good on paper. It is paper, and it could be a game-changer for materials science if it can live up to researchers’ hopes.
The spark plugs driving combustion in your car may soon be getting an optical upgrade, thanks to a team of Japanese researchers. Laser ignition systems, which are exactly what they sound like, could replace spark plugs as the primary means to ignite the fuel-air mix in engines, boosting fuel efficiency and cutting down on carbon emissions.
University of Pittsburgh researchers have assembled a key piece of tech that will help enable a future generation of extremely powerful quantum computers as well as advanced electronic materials and better computer memories. Their single-electron transistor is the first of its kind made entirely from oxide-based materials, an important aspect that allows it to work as a solid-state memory.
One of the major barriers between solar energy and solar-derived electricity is solar cells themselves--commercial solar cells aren’t very efficient at converting sunlight to electricity, but they are the best thing we’ve got. Now, a team of University of Michigan researchers have potentially devised a better way to convert solar energy into electricity: get rid of the semiconductor-based solar cells altogether and tap into the magnetic effects of light.
By Pierce HooverPosted 04.19.2011 at 1:03 pm 2 Comments
In just over a month, my son and I will set out from New York City on a 4,500-mile, summer-long road trip. We're not worried about rising gas prices, because we'll be making the trip in a vehicle that gets the equivalent of 1,000 mpg or better. It's a cart-sized two-seater that we built with the help of a few friends, and it runs off the electrical energy equivalent to that consumed by a single 100-watt light bulb.
Gases, as we all know, don’t generally offer a lot of resistance. That is, if you try to walk through a cloud of gas, you’ll pass right through it. The same is true for two clouds of gases that meet each other: they pass right through each other. But MIT physicists have observed the first exception to the rule by creating two clouds of ultra-cold gases that bounce right off each other like solids.
By Katherine TweedPosted 04.11.2011 at 10:09 am 1 Comment
It will probably be years until the electrical grid saves us money and power by telling our appliances to switch on during cheaper low-demand hours. But you don't need to wait—these intelligent devices make their own decisions right now.