August 11/18, 2008

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"A Tier 5 electricity customer in California, presently paying 37 cents a unit (and going up) would not agree that grid electricity is cheap. Photovoltaics is already a cheaper option in situations like this."
-Martin Green, UNSW



Cheap catalyst boosts solar hydrogen prospects

An inexpensive catalyst that extracts oxygen from water is a key step toward making solar water splitting an economically viable way to mass-produce hydrogen for fuel. [more]


Materials dramatically drop fuel cell temps

Force a pair of dissimilar materials together and you can lower the operating temperature of solid oxide fuel cells to near room temperature, potentially lowering the cost of utility-scale fuel cells that can run on renewable fuels. [more]


Plastic-Goretex combo drives fuel cell

Coat Goretex with a thin layer of electrically conducting plastic and you get an efficient, inexpensive cathode that could make vehicle fuel cells economically viable. [more]


Miscanthus beats switchgrass for ethanol

Corn is not an efficient feedstock for making ethanol because it takes a lot of energy and chemicals to produce. Researchers have been looking at switchgrass as a more efficient alternative. It turns out that another plant, miscanthus, is even better. [more]


Biomass-to-biofuel simplified

The main challenge to using cellulosic biomass -- agricultural waste, wood, etc. -- to make biofuels is coming up with efficient ways to break down cellulose. A new approach sidesteps the problem and converts cellulose directly to a biofuel precursor. [more]


Caltech-MIT solar hydrogen project lands $20m

The National Science Foundation has kicked the Caltech-MIT Powering the Planet solar fuel project into high gear with $20 million in phase II funding over the next five years. [more]


UK funds hydrogen storage project

The UK government's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded Gavin Walker and David Grant of the University of Nottingham £442,190 (about $845,000)... [more]


NSF funds solar fuels, solar cell projects

The National Science Foundation has funded an international plastic solar cell project and awarded $1.2 million for four solar fuels projects. [more]



Special Report
Energy in transition: researchers talk about Obama and our future

The return of science, the enormous task, the Apollo-like effort required, and ideas for remaking the nation's energy infrastructure.

Eric on Energy


Costs and markets

The recurring theme in this issue of ERN is lowering the cost of renewable energy: cheaper catalysts for water splitting and fuel cells, more biofuel per acre of biomass, and simpler chemistry for turning biomass into biofuel. [more]



Special Report
Energy in transition: researchers talk about Obama and our future


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