Category Archives: Energy

Could Poop Power Our Cars?

Is brown the new green? UCLA researchers are using waste matter (yes, including poop) to make a new generation of advanced biofuels.

The U.S. alone annually produces over 1 billion tons of manure from agriculture, which produces nitrous oxide methane emissions, greenhouse gases 325 times more potent than carbon dioxide. But what if all this poop could have another use – one that could stimulate a sustainable biofuel movement?

Graduate researcher David Wernick talks about ongoing work at UCLA to turn manure, sewage, plant waste and even carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere into feed stocks for producing biofuels, and for making the process of manufacturing biofuels clean and sustainable.

Learn more about David Wernick’s work to turn poop (and other waste streams) into sustainable fuel sources:  Will Cars Of The Future Run On Poop?

The research highlighted in this video was supported in part by the UCLA-DOE Institute of Genomics and Proteomics and a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Powering the world from space

The limitations of using solar power on earth can be anything from bad weather to just the fact that it needs to be daytime.  What if power could be collected both day and night, rain or shine? National Lab researchers at Lawrence Livermore are studying this possibility by launching solar satellites into space.

These orbiting power plants could always be positioned on the day side of earth high above any type of stormy weather.  One of the ways this could work is to have a string of geostationary satellites 35,000km above the earth’s surface that would transmit power back down to earth via microwaves.  Just one of these satellites could power a major US city.

The challenge comes with both the size and the cost.  A single satellite could be as big as 3-10km in diameter and need around 40 rocket launches to get all the materials into space.

Read more about this technology here 

Microscopic Nanolasers

From an electrical engineering researcher at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego:

“It resembles a mushroom cloud, but in fact, it’s one of our microscopic nanolasers, imaged under an electron microscope.  These lasers are among the smallest in the world, so small you could fit a billion of them on an iPhone home button, small enough to one day fit easily on a computer chip to help computers send data using light.

Here, you see the laser partway through our fabrication process, a process that can take a week or more.  In the previous step, the laser was coated with a puffy layer of glassy material, used to keep the laser light from leaking away and to keep the laser’s two electrical contacts separated. At the center beneath this smooth white layer lies the actual laser core.  When my labmate Qing gets to this step, it comes with a sense of relief, since the glassy layer helps strengthen the laser, keeping it from snapping in half.  When this laser’s eventually finished, it will be encapsulated in a thin shell of metal, and emit light through its base.”

The hope is that this technology will one day produce much faster computer chips.

Clean burner technology produces whiter chicken meat in food

Picture 2013-01-24 at 3.55.45 PMLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists invented “ultraclean low swirl combustion.” Their commercialized burners are cheaper than the traditional kind and they don’t cause pollution.

“Companies are able to find a market for this burner in places that does not require low emissions burner because in the absence of pollutants, for example they sell the burner to commercial baking.  So without any pollution all the chicken meat comes out whiter”  – Robert Cheng, Scientist at LBNL

How nanotechnology can boost energy efficiency

windowResearchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a nanocrystal material that could add a critical energy-saving dimension to “smart window” coatings.

“We’re really excited about our technology using a solution-based process because that has the potential to really bring the costs down to the point where it can be deployed broadly in the market.”  – Delia Milliron, researcher at LBNL