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This scanning electron microscope image was taken of artificial “protocells” created at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, which have the ability to convert light to chemical energy through the use of a light-harvesting membrane. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)


Topics: Alternative Energy, Battery, Biology, Green Tech, Nanotechnology

By replicating biological machinery with non-biological components, scientists have found ways to create artificial cells that accomplish a key biological function of converting light into chemical energy.

In a study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, scientists created cell-like hollow capsule structures through the spontaneous self-assembly of hybrid gold-silver nanorods held together by weak interactions. By wrapping these capsules’ walls with a light-sensitive membrane protein called bacteriorhodopsin, the researchers were able to unidirectionally channel protons from the interior of the artificial cells to the external environment.

“Nature uses compartmentalization to accomplish biological functions because it brings in close vicinity the ingredients needed for chemical reactions,” said Argonne nanoscientist Elena Rozhkova, a corresponding author of the study. ​“Our goal was to replicate nature, yet use inanimate materials to probe how cells accomplish their biological tasks.”


Scientists harvest energy from light using bio-inspired artificial cells
Jared, Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory

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Argonne and Oak Ridge scientists plan to demonstrate sensors for concentrating solar power plants – like the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, shown here – that can monitor and safely maintain molten salt above 700 Celsius. (Image courtesy of SolarReserve and the U.S. Department of Energy.)


Topics: Alternative Energy, Green Energy, Green Technology, Solar Power

Scientists at Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories are drawing on decades of nuclear research on salts to advance a promising solar technology.

Nuclear power and solar power may seem like very different energy sources. Nuclear power stems from the energy released when neutrons crash into uranium atoms, splitting them apart. Solar power stems from the sunlight beaming down on earth. But some solar plants convert that light into heat, which can be used just like the heat of a nuclear reactor to generate steam to make electricity. And both energy sources often share a key ingredient: salt.

Engineers sometimes use molten salt to fuel and cool nuclear reactors. As nuclear fuel, salt is attractive because it withstands radiation and can operate at near-normal pressure and relatively low temperatures. Salt also remains fairly inert and stable within the nuclear fuel cycle. Now engineers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories are drawing on decades of nuclear research on salts to advance a solar technology called concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP).

In the heat of the light, Dave Bukey, Argonne National Laboratory

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The Caveat of Clean...

Data: Wood Mackenzie; Chart: Axios Visuals

Topics: Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Global Warming, Green Energy

I am proudly the owner of all battery-powered lawn equipment: lawn mower, hedger; weed edger and blower (a twofer). All require a few hours of charging to power and get me through a typical pruning in roughly two hours. I did it in a nod to the environment, but also so I wouldn't have to get gas for a mower or lug electrical extension cords around. The purchases admittedly were more pragmatic than progressive.

The unfortunate reality is batteries like anything else we use come from raw materials. The world is limited in volume, even though we're on it and these raw materials to construct the things we utilize and enjoy are not in unlimited supply.

Problems are never simple to solve, else they wouldn't be problems.



There could be a "supply crunch" for cobalt, lithium, and nickel used in batteries for electric vehicles and other applications as soon as the mid-2020s, the consultancy Wood Mackenzie said Wednesday.

The big picture: The chart above shows their projections of demand for materials used in EVs but also batteries needed for consumer electronics and energy storage.

What's next: Wood Mackenzie forecasts that pure electrics and plug-in hybrids combined will account for 7% of all passenger car sales by 2025, 14% by 2030 and 38% by 2040.

Of note: That's less bullish than BloombergNEF, which sees EVs accounting for 57% of passenger car sales in 2040.

The bottom line: "The electrification of transport is redefining a number of metals markets," Wood Mackenzie said in a release summarizing their analysis.


Troubles may loom for the battery supply chain for electric vehicles
Ben Geman, Axios

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