ARL: Army converts heat to electricity at record high rates, breakthrough research shows

ADELPHI, MD. (Aug. 10, 2018) – U.S. Army Research Laboratory-funded research at the University of Michigan has resulted in demonstrating a new approach for more effectively converting heat into electricity.

The research focused on fundamental improvements to an approach traditionally referred to as thermophotovoltaics, or TPV, and such technologies that are useful to Soldiers because they can enable generation of power from any heat source. Additionally they can be configured to work with sunlight in the day and with any combustible fuel in the night making them particularly useful for operation in the field.

The team of researchers accomplished this breakthrough, a 40-fold enhancement in comparison to traditional TPV, by employing new physical phenomena that arise at the nanoscale. The scientists said devices built using this approach can work far more effectively for remote power generation as well as in waste heat recovery.

These results are published in a recent edition of Nature Nanotechnology, authored by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows Dr. Anthony Fiorino, Dr. Linxiao Zhu, Dakotah Thompson, Rohith Mittapally and Professors Pramod Reddy and Edgar Meyhofer from the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Michigan. Read more

,

NPR: As Nuclear Struggles, A New Generation Of Engineers Is Motivated By Climate Change

from All Things Considered

by Jeff Brady

The number of people graduating with nuclear engineering degrees has more than tripled since a low point in 2001, and many are passionate about their motivation.

“I’m here because I think I can save the world with nuclear power,” Leslie Dewan told the crowd at a 2014 event as she pitched her company’s design for a new kind of reactor.

Dewan says climate change, and the fact that nuclear plants emit no greenhouse gases, are the big reason she became a nuclear engineer. And she is not the only one.

“The reason that almost all of our students come into this field is climate change,” says Dennis Whyte, head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read more

BRC Deal Tracker: Corporate Renewable Deals 2013-2018

The Business Renewables Center actively tracks new corporate renewable energy contracts as they are are announced. The chart below shows our analysis of all the public transactions during the past 6 years.

 

Nikkei: Japan is 2 years away from a solar power revolution

Cheap filmlike panels will be able to attach themselves to cars and walls

TAKURO KUSASHIO, Nikkei staff writer

With an ability to fit the contours of the surfaces they are applied to, perovskite solar cells will bring new opportunities to harvest power from the sun. (Photo courtesy of University of Tokyo)

TOKYO — A new type of solar cell that is thin like plastic film and cheap to produce is expected to hit the market within the next two years. The perovskite solar cell is expected to become a standard along with the silicon solar cells that are commonly used today.

Panasonic and Sekisui Chemical have developed technology to produce bigger and more durable solar cells than conventional ones. The result is a solar cell that can be attached to walls and curved surfaces. Conventional solar cells lack this usability.

The coming cells are already raising hopes that society can make greater use of the sun for its energy needs.

The cells’ development was announced in 2009 by professor Tsutomu Miyasaka at Toin University of Yokohama. The invention has since brought speculation that Miyasaka could be in the running for a Nobel Prize.

Silicon solar cells are thick and heavy. Their production process is complex and costly. Perovskite solar cells are coated with inklike material containing lead and can be combined with objects such as soft sheet metal. Production costs are expected to be half those of silicon cells.

Because they are thin, light and bendable, perovskite solar cells can be used in places conventional solar cells cannot, including in roofing materials, or on columns and car exteriors.

Panasonic has developed a 20cm by 20cm perovskite solar cell. Panels made of these cells can be joined together to create sheets large enough for commercial uses. The company hopes to increase the cells’ power generation efficiency to 20%; they are now slightly more than halfway there.

Silicon solar cells, meanwhile, convert about 25% of the sun’s energy that hits them.

Sekisui Chemical has coated the power generation part of its perovskite cell with film so as to prevent it from deteriorating. The cell will be made to last for about 10 years and weigh about 20% of conventional silicon cells, which can be used for 20 years.

Since the new type of cell is still not as durable as conventional cells, it cannot be adopted by large-scale solar farms. But it is expected to find its way into niche markets that conventional solar cells do not fit into. The new technology will help large buildings and commercial facilities cheaply supply their own electricity.

Read full article.

,

Nikkei: China eyes offshore reactors as next step in nuclear goals

New power source could have serious implications for South China Sea disputes

BEIJING — Chinese state-owned companies are taking major steps toward building floating nuclear reactors, with the first slated to come online as early as 2019, amid a national push to meet growing energy demands at offshore oil fields and remote islands.

But any attempt to set these facilities up in disputed waters in the South China Sea will likely be met by international condemnation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping hopes to boost his country’s capacity to produce nuclear power.

China National Nuclear Corp. is currently one stride ahead of the pack, launching a 1 billion yuan ($154 million) joint venture with other state-owned companies like China State Shipbuilding and Shanghai Electric Group. The new company formed will handle all aspects of power generation from constructing plants to selling electricity. It is currently developing a facility with the capacity to generate 100,000kW, roughly 10% of a standard nuclear power plant.

Local media quoted a CNNC official as saying that the goal is to complete the first floating plant this year and to bring it online in 2019. But sources in the industry say many technical challenges remain, and the facility may not start operating until the 2020s.

China General Nuclear Power, another key player, aims to start building its first offshore nuclear plant this year and to bring it online in 2023. Plants designed for use in offshore oil fields will have a capacity of 50,000kW, and those for islets a capacity of 200,000kW, according to the company.

China Shipbuilding Industry, on the other hand, is focusing on smaller facilities ranging from 25,000kW to 100,000kW in capacity, and is looking to begin operating plants around 2020.

Read more

,

Nikkei: Japan weighs exports of safer, next-gen nuclear reactors

Order from Poland, worth as much as $9bn, may be there for the taking

TOKYO — Japan’s government is mulling plans to export next-generation nuclear reactors that promise a greater degree of safety, with Poland lined up as the probable first destination.

The move, which would involve high temperature gas reactors, or HTGRs, is part of the government’s infrastructure export strategy. Poland, which is turning to nuclear power as a cleaner energy option, is looking at acquiring about 20 such reactors — equipment worth more than 1 trillion yen ($9 billion).

Tokyo will inform Poland of its intentions by the end of this month at the earliest — though it may face competition from China for the order.

The reactors in question use helium gas as a coolant, unlike conventional reactors that use water. This removes the risk of chemical reactions and vaporization — and thus the risk of hydrogen or steam explosions.

Read more

Building the next generation of lithium-ion batteries

Recently the Anthropocene Institute asked Cypress River Advisors to discuss the future of battery technology and venture capital investment.  In 2016, lithium-ion received the bulk of the industry’s applied research dollars – focused on driving incremental improvements. Venture capital, on the other hand, invested over a half billion dollars into exploring solutions which addressed lithium-ion’s challenges through new chemistries or new technology paths to solve our global energy storage problem.  Through these conversations with various investors, we noted an inconsistent understanding of battery technologies and the challenges that the industry faces.  

To help get the public and investors on the same page, Cypress River Advisors sat down with William Chueh, a leading material science and engineering researcher at Stanford University and his team of Ph.D.  He and his team are at the forefront of materials research into battery technology, tackling the question: “How to build a better battery?”  

While there are many different kinds of energy storage systems, the rise of mobile devices has made lithium-ion the incumbent technology for consumer electronics, electric vehicles and even the grid.  It serves as one of the major benchmarks for which all other battery technologies are compared to today. We hope that this article and its related videos will give industry observers an overall sense of the challenges for the market ahead.  – Jason Wang, Partner, Cypress River Advisors.

Read more