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Archive for the ‘energy’ category

Feb 11, 2018

Elon Musk’s record-breaking ‘virtual power plant’ will see 50,000 homes given free solar panels and Tesla batteries

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, energy, government, sustainability, transportation

Elon Musk has agreed to build what is being hailed the “world’s largest virtual power plant”, by rolling out solar panels and Tesla batteries to 50,000 homes in South Australia. The scheme, which will be completed over the next four years, will see any excess energy stored in each battery fed back into the grid to provide power to the rest of the state whenever required. The South Australian government claims participating households will generate a total of 250MW of electricity – about half as much energy produced by a typical coal-fired power station. Read more — Elon Musk about to launch…

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Feb 9, 2018

Nanoparticles Enable Non-Invasive Optogenetic Control of Brain Cell Activity With Near-Infrared Light

Posted by in categories: energy, genetics, nanotechnology, neuroscience

You can’t peer very far down into a well or below the surface of the ocean before things go dark—light does not penetrate to such depths. Though the brain is far from bottomless, neuroscientists face the same lack of light when they try to study living deep-brain structures. This is especially frustrating given that optogenetics, a method for manipulating genetically tagged brain cells with light, has exploded in popularity over the past decade. “Optogenetics has been a revolutionary tool for controlling neurons in the lab, and hopefully someday in the clinic,” says Thomas McHugh, research group leader at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan. “Unfortunately, delivering light within brain tissue requires invasive optical fibers.”

McHugh and colleagues now have a solution for sending light to new depths in the brain. As they report in Science on February 9, upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) can act as a conduit for laser light delivered from outside the skull. These nanoparticles absorb near-infrared laser light and in turn emit visible photons to areas that are inaccessible to standard optogenetics. This method was used to turn on neurons in various brain areas as well as silence seizure activity and evoke memory cells. “Nanoparticles effectively extend the reach of our lasers, enabling the ‘remote’ delivery of light and potentially leading to non-invasive therapies,” says McHugh.

In optogenetics, blue-green light is used to turn neurons on or off via light-responsive ion channels. Light at these wavelengths, however, scatters strongly and is at the other end of the spectrum from the near-infrared light that can penetrate deeper into brain tissue. UCNPs composed of elements from the lanthanide family can act as a bridge. Their ‘optogenetic actuation’ turns low-energy near-infrared laser light into blue or green wavelengths for control of specifically labeled cells. Though such bursts of light deliver considerable energy to a small area, temperature increases or cellular damage were not observed.

Continue reading “Nanoparticles Enable Non-Invasive Optogenetic Control of Brain Cell Activity With Near-Infrared Light” »

Feb 8, 2018

New process could make wood as strong as titanium alloys but lighter and cheaper

Posted by in categories: energy, engineering

Engineers at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) have found a way to make wood more than 10 times times stronger and tougher than before, creating a natural substance that is stronger than many titanium alloys.

“This new way to treat wood makes it 12 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher,” said Liangbing Hu of UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering and the leader of the team that did the research, to be published on February 8, 2018 in the journal Nature. “This could be a competitor to steel or even titanium alloys, it is so strong and durable. It’s also comparable to carbon fiber, but much less expensive.” Hu is an associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute.

“It is both strong and tough, which is a combination not usually found in nature,” said Teng Li, the co-leader of the team and Samuel P. Langley Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at UMD’s Clark School. His team measured the dense wood’s mechanical properties. “It is as strong as steel, but six times lighter. It takes 10 times more energy to fracture than natural wood. It can even be bent and molded at the beginning of the process.”

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Feb 4, 2018

European Utility Giant Says ‘No’ To Crypto Mining, Even With ‘Clean Energy’ — By Molly Jane Zuckerman | Cointelegraph

Posted by in categories: cryptocurrencies, energy, environmental

“In a brief statement to Reuters, the Italy-based company said that they had “no interest whatsoever in selling power”to a mining company”

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Feb 4, 2018

Tesla is installing Powerwalls and solar power on 50,000 homes to create biggest virtual power plant in the world

Posted by in categories: energy, habitats, sustainability

Tesla has been making big moves on the energy storage market in Australia, but they are now all being dwarfed by this new project that will see them install solar arrays and Powerwalls on 50,000 homes to create the biggest virtual power plant in the world. The company’s main project has been the 100MW/ 129MWh Powerpack project in South Australia, the largest in the world for now. But now instead of being a large centralized battery system using Tesla’s Powerpacks, the new project announced today is using Tesla’s residential battery system, the Powerwall, to create decentralized energy stora…

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Feb 4, 2018

All-electric ferry cuts emission

Posted by in categories: energy, transportation

The operators of the first all-electric ferry in Norway are starting to get some good data on the vehicle and it’s nothing short of impressive. They claim that the all-electric ferry cuts emission by 95% and costs by 80% compared to fuel-powered counterparts and the results are attracting customers. The ferry in question is called “Ampere” and it was put into operation back in May 2015 with the aim to reduce NOx and CO2 emissions, as well as noise pollution on the water. It was the result of an extensive partnership between Norled AS, a shipping company and ferry operator, Fjellstrand Shipy…

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Feb 3, 2018

Renewables Overtake Coal in Supplying European Electricity | UNFCCC

Posted by in categories: energy, environmental, governance

“A new analysis by Sandbag and Agora Energiewende shows that the European Union generated more electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass than coal in 2017, with renewables accounting for over 30% of Europe’s electricity for the first time.”

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Feb 2, 2018

How a hungry, hardy bacteria eats toxic metals and excretes gold nuggets

Posted by in categories: energy, food

If the goose that laid the golden egg had a real-life counterpart, it would be C. metallidurans. This hardy little bacterium consumes toxic metals and excretes tiny gold nuggets, but how and why it does so has never been fully understood. Now, German and Australian researchers have peered inside the microorganism and figured out that mechanism.

C. metallidurans has carved out a nice little niche for itself, usually living in soils full of heavy metals, which are toxic to most other microorganisms. But this bacteria has evolved a defense mechanism to help it not only survive but thrive under those conditions, and its ability to turn toxic compounds into gold is well known enough to once earn it a place in an alchemy art installation.

“Apart from the toxic heavy metals, living conditions in these soils are not bad,” says Dietrich H. Nies, an author on the new study. “There is enough hydrogen to conserve energy and nearly no competition. If an organism chooses to survive here, it has to find a way to protect itself from these toxic substances.”

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Jan 30, 2018

We Could Soon Get Lasers Powerful Enough to Literally Rip Emptiness Apart

Posted by in category: energy

Lasers powerful enough to tear the fabric of matter itself are being developed in a special laboratory in China, potentially giving scientists the chance to create and study experimental environments unlike anything we have on Earth.

The stats behind these lasers are impressive: One has already reached a peak of 5.3 million billion watts or petawatts (PW), which is around 500 times the power of all the world’s electrical grids combined. There are plans to double that figure before 2018 is out, and yet these intense bursts of light last less than one trillionth of a second.

Meanwhile a new 100-PW laser is on the drawing board that could produce a pulse of light capable of ripping electrons and positrons (the antimatter counterparts to electrons) right out of empty space, showing that matter and energy are interchangeable – as Einstein so famously proposed with E=mc^2.

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Jan 29, 2018

All living organisms on Earth owe a debt to these protein-based ‘Legos of life’

Posted by in category: energy

As an added bonus, these tiny building blocks could even be used to split water, creating a clean-burning and near infinite source of energy.

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