Deep-space probes and scientific devices in Antarctica could soon get a new form of insulation based on synthetic crystals that stop and reflect heat. Such material could eventually lead to the best insulation ever created, even at room temperatures.
Looking for new energy solutions, scientists are increasingly embracing the idea of cold fusion, once considered a junk science along the lines of alchemy. "Cold fusion" describes the nuclear fusion of atoms at close to room temperatures, as opposed to the epic temperatures at which nuclei fuse inside stars. If realized on a practical scale, it could provide the world with a virtually limitless source of energy.
At 3.5 Teraelectronvolts, LHC Sets All-Time Energy Record
This morning in Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider successfully ramped its twin proton beams up to 3.5 TeV for the first time. This is the highest energy a particle accelerator has ever achieved. The next step: collide the two beams, at a combined energy of 7 TeV.
The future of community bike systems may not require much pedaling at all; Sanyo has just installed two "Solar Parking Lots" that serve as solar charging stations for 100 Eneloop electric hybrid bicycles in Setagaya, Tokyo.
Chinese rail passengers already zip between cities on trains traveling three times faster than the average train in the States, and a 217-mph line linking Wuhan and Guangzhou will soon be the fastest train on Earth. But not content with screaming-fast trains linking cities within its borders, China now plans to extend its high-speed network all the way to London with a rail line that will fly through 17 countries at speeds reaching 200 miles per hour.
When methane and freezing cold water fuse under tremendous pressure, they create a substance as paradoxical as it coveted: burning ice. Earlier in the year, a report from the National Research Council identified the combustible water, also known as methane hydrate, as a potential source of natural gas.
They don't exactly look like the saviors of our energy economy, but that's exactly what some researchers think they could be. Gribbles -- tiny crustacean pests with a knack for digesting wood -- have long been considered a marine parasite for the destruction they cause to wooden hulls and piers. But the enzymes gribbles use in to break wood fibers down into sugars could make them the next biofuels breakthrough.
Polymers are generally put to work as insulators, but a team of researchers at MIT has devised a way to turn polyethylene -- the most commonly used polymer -- into a conductor that transfers heat better than many pure metals. But the conversion of insulator to conductor is only half of the breakthrough; by coaxing all the polymer molecules into precise alignment, the researchers have created a polyethylene that conducts heat in only one direction.
Johnny Cash can't have known about carbon nanotubes when he sang about that burning ring of fire, but MIT scientists have shown how the tiny tubes can channel a ring of heat that creates electrical current -- about 100 times as much energy per unit of weight when compared with a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.
One of the interesting side effects of last year's stimulus bill was $400 million in funding for ARPA-E, the civilian, energy-focused cousin of DARPA. And in this week's first ever ARPA-E conference, MIT chemist Dan Nocera showed how well he put that stimulus money to use by highlighting his new photosynthetic process. Using a special catalyst, the process splits water into oxygen and hydrogen fuel efficiently enough to power a home using only sunlight and a bottle of water.
Those of us who can plug directly into the grid likely don’t think much about where our power comes from, but for people living in remote regions of the world or militaries operating far from the nearest three-prong outlet, being able to pack power with you is a priority. With that in mind, California-based Bourne Energy has devised a hydroelectric generator that breaks down to backpack size, making green energy as portable as any standard rucksack.
If you fall into the niche category of eco-conscious boating enthusiast with a desire to circumnavigate the globe on a 100-feet-long catamaran, your long wait is finally over. PlanetSolar – the dream of skipper Roaphael Domjan since 2004 and under construction since 2008 – was unveiled yesterday in Germany.
What would you do with $25 million? If you answered "create a center to research the development of programmable, highly sophisticated biological machines," we regret to inform you the National Science Foundation and MIT have beaten you to the punch. The Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems Center (EBICS), will not only advance research in the emerging experimental discipline of engineered biological systems, but will lay an extensive educational groundwork for research in the field going forward.
A boxy power plant that could one day produce efficient, inexpensive, clean energy in every home might sound like a pipe dream, but it's the very real product of a Silicon Valley startup called Bloom Energy. Twenty large corporations that include Google, FedEx, Walmart and eBay have already purchased and begun testing the Bloom Boxes. 60 Minutes recently got a sneak peek at this possibly game-changing energy device.
There are plenty of reasons to disagree with President Obama and Bill Gates, but there's no denying that both men are profoundly smart. And when they start agreeing on something, lesser minds like us should probably take notice. In his recent TED talk, the former Microsoft chairman sided with the president in identifying nuclear power as the only economically viable option for providing a growing world with power, while stopping the CO2 emissions that cause global warming.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.