Energy

Hack a virus, win a prize: Scientist recognized for ‘useful’ germ modding

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 4, 2013   View Article

The inventor of a viral technology behind tomorrow’s electric car batteries, flexible touchscreen computers, and non-invasive cancer screening was awarded a $500,000 prize Tuesday.

Angela Belcher, a materials chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, alters the genetic code of viruses to build things that are useful to humans. The technique is already being harnessed to produce touchscreen gadgets and convert methane gas to gasoline, jet fuel, and plastics.

She received the 2013 Lemelson-MIT Prize, which honors mid-career inventors who are dedicated to making the world a better place through technology.

Photosynthesis interrupted: Plant parts used to generate electricity

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 13, 2013   View Article

A decade from now, a recorder powered by plant parts and stashed in the woods may answer the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

That’s one potential application for an energy conversion technology inspired by photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert sunlight into food.

Bank of 1,440 lithium-ion batteries to make power grid smarter

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 31, 2013   View Article

A bank of lithium-ion batteries big enough to supply about 500 U.S. homes with electricity during a power outage went online today to demonstrate the future of smart grid technologies.

The 5-megawatt battery is a piece of a larger, government-backed $178 million research project in the Pacific Northwest to make the electric grid more efficient and friendly to additional loads of renewable energy such as wind and solar, which fluctuate depending on the weather and time of day.

Shoes could help charge artificial heart pumps

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 22, 2013   View Article

Cellphones, MP3 players and — one day — artificial heart pumps may get charged up as their owners walk or run around in a pair of electricity-generating shoes designed by college kids.

The shoes join a growing list of wearable energy-harvesting devices from a knee brace, and backpack to other shoes envisioned as a way to keep gadgets carried by everyone from soldiers in the field to kids on the go supplied with electricity.

Energy future may be swamped in fracking wastewater, scientists warn

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 16, 2013   View Article

The current boom in U.S. natural gas production from glassy shale rock formations is poised to usher in an era of energy independence and could bridge the gap between today’s fossil-fuel age and a clean-energy future. But that future may be swamped in a legacy of wastewater, a new study suggests.

Natural gas production is soaring thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that shoots several million gallons of water laced with chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart chunks of the glassy rock, freeing trapped gas to escape through cracks and fissures into wells.

An average of 10 percent of this water flows back to the surface within a few weeks of the frack job. The rest is absorbed by the surrounding rock and mixes with briny groundwater, explained Radisav Vidic, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh.

Seeking gamers: Document power plants, fight climate change

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 12, 2013   View Article

Sometimes, drinking a few beers after class can save the planet. A just-launched online “game” dreamed up during one such beer-drinking session aims to do that by encouraging people around the world to supply much needed data about the world’s power plants that burn fossil fuels.

While the general whereabouts of these plants is known, in much of the world details are fuzzy on the kind of fuel they burn and how much electricity they produce, explained Kevin Gurney, a senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University.

To fight climate change, don’t mention it, study suggests

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 29, 2013   View Article

Shhh! Widespread adoption of energy-efficient technologies such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and electric cars promises to curb the pace of global climate change. But if widespread adoption is the goal, don’t mention the environmental benefits, a new paper suggests.

“There is likely to be a significantly sized group that may not like these environmental messages,” Dena Gromet, a researcher at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the paper’s lead author, told NBC News.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach