is created. It emits water vapor rather
than greenhouse gases when it is burned
for energy. The main issue addressed by
the study is the inefficiency of the catalysts used for the conversion.
While initially effective, the current
generation of catalysts allow carbon, a
byproduct of the process, to be deposited
in the catalyst, which reduces and ulti-
mately eliminates the utility.
Using a perovskite-type oxide, a component of ceramics, the researchers have
been able to develop a new type of highly
stable catalyst that removes the resulting
carbon as soon as it is formed. The strategy is based on the designs for a previous
generation of catalysts – those that help
reduce automotive emissions.
The new process allows the hydrogen
to be created reliably from landfills, without the previous disruptions of carbon
The researchers are optimistic that
their new catalyst would be an ideal commercialization option and are planning to
test it on a larger scale in the future.
Landfills are often used as
examples of decadent societies
awash in their own waste, but
a team of researchers presenting at this
year’s meeting of the American Chemi-
cal Society thinks differently. Their new
method uses ordinary landfill waste to
A renewable energy source not often
discussed, hydrogen fuel cells are attractive due to their scalability. However,
the most common hurdle has been the
strategy for reliably creating hydrogen
to fill the cells at a low price point. Enter
landfills, which contain microbes that
naturally produce both methane and
carbon dioxide gases: the building blocks
for hydrogen creation.
When the naturally occurring methane
and carbon dioxide gases react, hydrogen
Turning Landfill Gas into Clean Energy
A NE W METHOD will use landfill trash to create
hydrogen’s renewable energy treasure.
The study found that an increase in the
membrane’s area generally resulted in
more power. However, this is not true all
the time – up to 95% of a system’s maximum output could be generated with only
half or less of the maximum membrane
area. The study’s authors suggest that
reducing the necessary membrane areas
to maximize return on investment could
help reduce the initial costs associated
with the implementation of such a system.
The authors also mention that research
to reduce membrane size and area in relation to their power output potential is still
in its infancy.
The study went on to note that the salinity of the water streams being used can
vastly impact the energy production of
PRO facilities. As opposed to simply using
river water and seawater, the team found
that a mix of brine and treated wastewater
can produce twice as much power. Extrapolating from this idea, the researchers
posit that in the future, coastal wastewater treatment plants could generate all of
their electricity by combining the brine
byproduct of desalination with normal
Areas where river water and
seawater converge are not typi-
cally the first place one thinks
of as a renewable energy opportunity,
but researchers from MIT are assessing
hydroelectricity’s place in the burgeoning
renewable energy grid.
The team studied a new method of
power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), where water streams
with different salinity levels pass across a
barrier and create a flow that can be sent
through a turbine to produce power.
Research Finds Energy in Salt Water
Solar Energy You Can
For all its advantages, solar panel arrays
have one obvious drawback – even with their
reduced size, the space they occupy cannot
be used for other purposes. Researchers at
Michigan State University have developed
a solution: a luminescent solar concentrator placed over a window that produces
solar power while remaining transparent.
Previous generations of luminescent solar
concentrators are colored and can affect
the aesthetic of a room. The new design,
however, is as transparent as glass.
From smartphone screens to skyscrapers,
clear solar concentrators could be used
for a variety of applications and eliminate
the wasted space of a solar array.
The researchers say their concentrator will
need further development to produce enough
energy to be commercially viable, as its current
efficiency is around 1%. They are optimistic,
however, that when fully optimized the concentrator will reach similar efficiencies to today’s
best colored luminescent solar concentrators,
which operate around 5-7% efficiency.
BRINE AND TREATED WASTEWATER could one
day be used to produce clean energy through
the use of PRO systems.