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  • richardmitnick 9:57 am on December 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Understanding bacteria’s metabolism could improve biofuel production", , , , , Clean Energy, , One of the barriers to creating biofuels that are cost competitive with petroleum is the inefficiency of converting plant material into ethanol., The authors describe mathematical and computational modeling; artificial intelligence; algorithms; and experiments showing that cells have failsafe mechanisms.,   

    From UC Riverside: “Understanding bacteria’s metabolism could improve biofuel production” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    December 3, 2020
    Jules Bernstein
    (951) 827-4580


    A new study reveals how bacteria control the chemicals produced from consuming ‘food.’ The insight could lead to organisms that are more efficient at converting plants into biofuels.

    The study, authored by scientists at UC Riverside and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

    Colorized scanning electron micrograph of E. coli, bacteria commonly used in the production of biofuels. Credit: NIAID.

    In the article, the authors describe mathematical and computational modeling, artificial intelligence algorithms and experiments showing that cells have failsafe mechanisms preventing them from producing too many metabolic intermediates.

    Metabolic intermediates are the chemicals that couple each reaction to one another in metabolism. Key to these control mechanisms are enzymes, which speed up chemical reactions involved in biological functions like growth and energy production.

    “Cellular metabolism consists of a bunch of enzymes. When the cell encounters food, an enzyme breaks it down into a molecule that can be used by the next enzyme and the next, ultimately generating energy,” explained study co-author, UCR adjunct math professor and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory computational scientist William Cannon.

    The enzymes cannot produce an excessive amount of metabolic intermediates. They produce an amount that is controlled by how much of that product is already present in the cell.

    “This way the metabolite concentrations don’t get so high that the liquid inside the cell becomes thick and gooey like molasses, which could cause cell death,” Cannon said.

    One of the barriers to creating biofuels that are cost competitive with petroleum is the inefficiency of converting plant material into ethanol. Typically, E. coli bacteria are engineered to break down lignin, the tough part of plant cell walls, so it can be fermented into fuel.

    Mark Alber, study co-author and UCR distinguished math professor, said that the study is a part of the project to understand the ways bacteria and fungi work together to affect the roots of plants grown for biofuels.

    “One of the problems with engineering bacteria for biofuels is that most of the time the process just makes the bacteria sick,” Cannon said. “We push them to overproduce proteins, and it becomes uncomfortable — they could die. What we learned in this research could help us engineer them more intelligently.”

    Knowing which enzymes need to be prevented from overproducing can help scientists design cells that produce more of what they want and less of what they don’t.

    The research employed mathematical control theory, which learns how systems control themselves, as well as machine learning to predict which enzymes needed to be controlled to prevent excessive buildup of metabolites.

    While this study examined central metabolism, which generates the cell’s energy, going forward, Cannon said the research team would like to study other aspects of a cell’s metabolism, including secondary metabolism — how proteins and DNA are made — and interactions between cells.

    “I’ve worked in a lab that did this kind of thing manually, and it took months to understand how one particular enzyme is regulated,” Cannon said. “Now, using these new methods, this can be done in a few days, which is extremely exciting.”

    The U.S. Department of Energy, seeking to diversify the nation’s energy sources, funded this three-year research project with a $2.1 million grant.

    The project is also a part of the broader initiatives under way in the newly established UCR Interdisciplinary Center for Quantitative Modeling in Biology.

    Though this project focused on bacterial metabolism, the ability to learn how cells regulate and control themselves could also help develop new strategies for combatting diseases.

    “We’re focused on bacteria, but these same biological mechanisms and modeling methods apply to human cells that have become dysregulated, which is what happens when a person has cancer,” Alber said. “If we really want to understand why a cell behaves the way it does, we have to understand this regulation.”

    See the full article here .


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    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

  • richardmitnick 10:26 am on December 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Turning Straw into Gold", , , Canadian Light Source synchrotron – CCRS (CA), , Clean Energy, Photobiorefinery uses solar energy to break down biomass., Using the power of the sun to convert biomass like wheat straw into hydrogen fuel and value-added biochemicals.   

    From Canadian Light Source synchrotron – CCRS (CA): “Turning Straw into Gold” 

    From Canadian Light Source synchrotron – CCRS (CA)

    02 Dec, 2020
    Colleen MacPherson

    A more profitable and eco-friendly method for turning biomass into biochemicals and green hydrogen.

    The UCalgary team is observing a photo-reactor that is being used for photoreforming reaction with wheat straw. Left to right: Prof. Md Golam Kibria, Dr. Adnan Khan (Research Associate), Dr. Heng Zhao (Post doctoral fellow), Prof. Jinguang Hu. Credit: Prof. Hu and Kibria group.

    Many have dreamed of being able to turn straw into gold like the fabled Rumpelstiltskin. While this may not be possible in the literal sense, scientists are using sunlight to turn straw into something more valuable.

    With the aid of technology from the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan, Canadian researchers have made important advances to use the power of the sun to convert biomass like wheat straw into hydrogen fuel and value-added biochemicals. This method is more efficient, eco-friendly and lucrative.

    Producing energy from biomass, or plant material, has been studied for more than four decades, said Dr. Jinguang Hu, assistant professor at the University of Calgary (UCalgary). The two most common processes are thermo-chemical and biological, but these are still carbon intensive and are not economically feasible.

    Dr. Hu and Dr. Md Golam Kibria, an assistant professor at UCalgary, have been focusing their recent research on an alternative approach to commonly used petro-refinery. Their novel and environmentally friendly approach called photobiorefinery uses solar energy to break down biomass, in this case wheat straw, to make green hydrogen and a high value biochemical. Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) has been supporting this research and their recent findings were published by the American Chemical Society.

    One of the key aspects of an effective biomass photorefinery approach is pre-treatment of the wheat straw. Hu explained plant cell walls are made of complex and highly organized cellulose structures, a major building block of biomass. Pre-treatment of the biomass destroys those structures and exposes more of the material to the sun-driven process. Kibria added the goal was to identify a pre-treatment that does not require non-renewable resources, thereby “saving a lot of carbon and cost.”

    Using the CLS’s Hard X-ray Micro-analysis beamline, the researchers compared how raw wheat straw and straw pre-treated in a number of ways reacted in the photorefinery. Their findings showed a phosphoric acid pre-treatment resulted in the highest production of green hydrogen and lactic acid, which is typically used for bioplastics and in food, chemical, and medical industries.

    “The CLS facility allowed us to see how stable the material was at the start, during and after photorefining of wheat straw. And, we could see that in real time, which is a big advantage,” said Kibria.

    Another critical factor was to find an inexpensive, readily available catalyst to drive the photorefinery. The study found the best results using a low-cost photocatalyst, made from carbon and nitrogen, that is designed for visible light driven cellulose photoreforming.

    “Because all biomass has a similar chemical composition, what we’ve shown is that you can tailor the pre-treatment and the catalyst to valorize any renewable organic material,” said Hu. This finding opens up opportunities for turning straw and other plant materials into value-added green hydrogen and biochemicals.

    Kibria said the next steps in the research will be to “tune the catalyst to capture more of the visible light spectrum,” and then to scale up the photorefinery with an eye to eventual commercialization.

    “Because biomass captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we can use this process to take care of the environment and produce green hydrogen and chemicals that are economically viable,” he said.

    See the full article here.


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    Canadian Light Source, located on the grounds of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

    Canadian Light Source synchrotron , Centre canadien de rayonnement synchrotron– CCRS (CA) is Canada’s national synchrotron light source facility, located on the grounds of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The CLS has a third-generation 2.9 GeV storage ring, and the building occupies a footprint the size of a football field. It opened in 2004 after a 30-year campaign by the Canadian scientific community to establish a synchrotron radiation facility in Canada. It has expanded both its complement of beamlines and its building in two phases since opening, and its official visitors have included Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. As a national synchrotron facility with over 1000 individual users, it hosts scientists from all regions of Canada and around 20 other countries. Research at the CLS has ranged from viruses to superconductors to dinosaurs, and it has also been noted for its industrial science and its high school education programs.

  • richardmitnick 2:28 pm on October 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clean Energy, Nuclear reactors, , University of Regina (CA)   

    From University of Regina (CA) via phys.org: “Assessing the viability of small modular nuclear reactors” 

    From University of Regina (CA)



    October 29, 2020

    Small Modular Power reactors could provide an alternative to larger nuclear fission plants like Sizewell in the UK. Credit: Ivor Branton, Wikimedia / CC by SA 2.0.

    Small modular nuclear reactors could provide nuclear power to small communities and rural areas currently served by environmentally damaging fossil fuel energy-sources. Assessing the potential of these reactors means keeping one eye on the past, with another fixed firmly in thefuture.

    Small modular nuclear power reactors (SMRs) could overcome the cost overruns and construction problems that have dogged a nuclear industry dominated by larger reactors. A timely new Physics Open paper by Esam Hussein, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Regina, Canada, reviews the current status of SMRs and the benefits they present.

    The world’s energy economy has become heavily dependent on nuclear power, with sales of electricity generated by nuclear power accounting for $40-$50 billion in sales each year and over 100,000 workers contributing to production in the United States alone. Yet, despite being much ‘cleaner’ in terms of greenhouse emissions than fossil fuels, generating electricity without burning carbon, nuclear power is far from perfect. One of the problems is that fission nuclear power plants are expensive to build and require a great deal of space. This leaves some communities and rural areas poorly served by nuclear power and potentially by any low-carbon energy. SMRs could provide a solution.

    “Small modular reactors can support sustainable development by economically providing reliable base-load electricity, curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and enabling social justice by supplying energy to isolated and deprived communities and those with limited financial means,” says Hussein. “This critical review shows that those developing the emerging small modular reactor technology can benefit greatly from earlier small reactors and can learn from the challenges that have faced modular design, manufacturing and construction in the shipbuilding industry.”

    As well as these advantages, Hussein points out that SMRs can play a significant role in the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, burning it to provide sustainable nuclear fuel production. The researcher continues: “Many jurisdictions are considering small modular reactors as an effective means to combat climate change, taking advantage of their flexibility and the expected reduction in construction time and cost, in comparison to conventional; large nuclear reactors.”

    In order to assess the viability of SMRs, Hussein focuses on the design of more than 100 reactors to assess their smallness –  in terms of both size and power—unsurprisingly, an important defining factor of reactors. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determines ‘small reactors’ to be any reactors with power up to 300 MW-electric (MWe).

    Hussein also assesses the modularity of such reactors, an aspect most easily defined as possessing independent or loosely coupled components that have self-contained functionality and can be replaced or exchanged with similar systems. “Most emerging small modular reactors incorporate safety and operational features that were tried and tested during the pioneering years of nuclear power, but the concept of modularity is still ambiguous,” he says. “As this was a critical review, all aspects of the technology had to be considered and analyzed.”

    The main conclusion reached in the review paper was that whilst SMRs offer a number of advantages over larger reactors, including allowing a power plant to incrementally build up its capacity without committing and risking large capital upfront, much more knowledge is needed to perfect such devices. Fortunately, this knowledge can be garnered from the design, testing and operation of earlier small reactors.

    What is more ambiguous and harder to assess is the evolving concept of modularity, a somewhat controversial area that needs further research and investigation. This means that SMRs present something of a dichotomy in the nuclear field—possessing a tried and tested element and a more experimental aspect. As Hussein succinctly concludes: “What is new and old at the same time? A small modular reactor!”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The University of Regina is a public research university located in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Founded in 1911 as a private denominational high school of the Methodist Church of Canada, it began an association with the University of Saskatchewan as a junior college in 1925, and was disaffiliated by the Church and fully ceded to the University in 1934; in 1961 it attained degree-granting status as the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan. It became an autonomous university in 1974. The University of Regina has an enrollment of over 15,000 full and part-time students. The university’s student newspaper, The Carillon, is a member of CUP.

    The University of Regina is well-reputed for having a focus on experiential learning and offers internships, professional placements and practicums in addition to cooperative education placements in 41 programs. This experiential learning and career-preparation focus was further highlighted when, in 2009 the University of Regina launched the UR Guarantee Program, a unique program guaranteeing participating students a successful career launch after graduation by supplementing education with experience to achieve specific educational, career and life goals. Partnership agreements with provincial crown corporations, government departments and private corporations have helped the University of Regina both place students in work experience opportunities and help gain employment post-study.

  • richardmitnick 9:08 am on October 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Yogesh Surendranath wants to decarbonize our energy systems", , , Clean Energy, ,   

    From MIT: “Yogesh Surendranath wants to decarbonize our energy systems” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    October 23, 2020
    Anne Trafton

    MIT chemistry professor Yogesh Surendranath joined the MIT faculty in 2013. “One of the most attractive features of the department is its balanced composition of early career and senior faculty. This has created a nurturing and vibrant atmosphere that is highly collaborative,” he says. “But more than anything else, it was the phenomenal students at MIT that drew me back. Their intensity and enthusiasm is what drives the science.” Credit: Gretchen Ertl.

    By developing novel electrochemical reactions, he hopes to find new ways to generate energy and reduce greenhouse gases.

    Electricity plays many roles in our lives, from lighting our homes to powering the technology and appliances we rely on every day. Electricity can also have a major impact at the molecular scale, by powering chemical reactions that generate useful products.

    Working at that molecular level, MIT chemistry professor Yogesh Surendranath harnesses electricity to rearrange chemical bonds. The electrochemical reactions he is developing hold potential for processes such as splitting water into hydrogen fuel, creating more efficient fuel cells, and converting waste products like carbon dioxide into useful fuels.

    “All of our research is about decarbonizing the energy ecosystem,” says Surendranath, who recently earned tenure in MIT’s Department of Chemistry and serves as the associate director of the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Center, one of the Low-Carbon Energy Centers run by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI).

    Although his work has many applications in improving energy efficiency, most of the research projects in Surendranath’s group have grown out of the lab’s fundamental interest in exploring, at a molecular level, the chemical reactions that occur between the surface of an electrode and a liquid.

    “Our goal is to uncover the key rate-limiting processes and the key steps in the reaction mechanism that give rise to one product over another, so that we can, in a rational way, control a material’s properties so that it can most selectively and efficiently carry out the overall reaction,” he says.

    Energy conversion

    Born in Bangalore, India, Surendranath moved to Kent, Ohio, with his parents when he was 3 years old. Bangalore and Kent happen to have the world’s leading centers for studying liquid crystal materials, the field that Surendranath’s father, an organic chemist, specialized in.

    “My dad would often take me to the laboratory, and although my parents encouraged me to pursue medicine, I think my interest in science and chemistry probably was sparked at an early age, by those experiences,” Surendranath recalls.

    Although he was interested in all of the sciences, he narrowed his focus after taking his first college chemistry class at the University of Virginia, with a professor named Dean Harman. He decided on a double major in chemistry and physics and ended up doing research in Harman’s inorganic chemistry lab.

    After graduating from UVA, Surendranath came to MIT for graduate school, where his thesis advisor was then-MIT professor Daniel Nocera. With Nocera, he explored using electricity to split water as a way of renewably generating hydrogen. Surendranath’s PhD research focused on developing methods to catalyze the half of the reaction that extracts oxygen gas from water.

    He got even more involved in catalyst development while doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley. There, he became interested in nanomaterials and the reactions that occur at the interfaces between solid catalysts and liquids.

    “That interface is where a lot of the key processes that are involved in energy conversion occur in electrochemical technologies like batteries, electrolyzers, and fuel cells,” he says.

    In 2013, Surendranath returned to MIT to join the faculty, at a time when many other junior faculty members were being hired.

    “One of the most attractive features of the department is its balanced composition of early career and senior faculty. This has created a nurturing and vibrant atmosphere that is highly collaborative,” he says. “But more than anything else, it was the phenomenal students at MIT that drew me back. Their intensity and enthusiasm is what drives the science.”

    Fuel decarbonization

    Among the many electrochemical reactions that Surendranath’s lab is trying to optimize is the conversion of carbon dioxide to simple chemical fuels such as carbon monoxide, ethylene, or other hydrocarbons. Another project focuses on converting methane that is burned off from oil wells into liquid fuels such as methanol.

    “For both of those areas, the idea is to convert carbon dioxide and low-carbon feedstocks into commodity chemicals and fuels. These technologies are essential for decarbonizing the chemistry and fuels sector,” Surendranath says.

    Other projects include improving the efficiency of catalysts used for water electrolysis and fuel cells, and for producing hydrogen peroxide (a versatile disinfectant). Many of those projects have grown out of his students’ eagerness to chase after difficult problems and follow up on unexpected findings, Surendranath says.

    “The true joy of my time here, in addition to the science, has been about seeing students that I’ve mentored grow and mature to become independent scientists and thought leaders, and then to go off and launch their own independent careers, whether it be in industry or in academia,” he says. “That role as a mentor to the next generation of scientists in my field has been extraordinarily rewarding.”

    Although they take their work seriously, Surendranath and his students like to keep the mood light in their lab. He often brings mangoes, coconuts, and other exotic fruits in to share, and enjoys flying stunt kites — a type of kite that has multiple lines, allowing them to perform acrobatic maneuvers such as figure eights. He can also occasionally be seen making balloon animals or blowing extremely large soap bubbles.

    “My group has really cultivated an extraordinarily positive, collaborative, uplifting environment where we go after really hard problems, and we have a lot of fun along the way,” Surendranath says. “I feel blessed to work with people who have invested so much in the research effort and have built a culture that is such a pleasure to work in every day.”

    See the full article here .

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    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 10:39 am on October 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "World's Largest Solar Farm to Be Built in Australia - But They Won't Get The Power", , Australia–ASEAN Power Link, Clean Energy, , , Sun Cable   

    From Science Alert (AU): “World’s Largest Solar Farm to Be Built in Australia – But They Won’t Get The Power” 


    From Science Alert (AU)

    22 OCTOBER 2020

    A rendering of the solar farm. Credit: Sun Cable.

    A major renewable energy project in Australia billed as the world’s largest solar farm in development has had its proposed location revealed.

    The AUD$20 billion facility – the heart of an ambitious electricity network called the Australia–ASEAN Power Link – will be built at a remote cattle station in the Northern Territory, roughly halfway between Darwin and Alice Springs.

    The gargantuan 10-gigawatt array – spread out across some 20,000 football fields’ worth of photovoltaic panels – might be situated close to the heart of the Australian outback, but the energy reaped from the plant will ultimately be transported far, far away from the sunburnt country.

    That’s because the Power Link doesn’t just involve building the world’s largest solar farm, which will be easily visible from space. The project also anticipates construction of what will be the world’s longest submarine power cable, which will export electricity all the way from outback Australia to Singapore via a 4,500-kilometre (2,800 miles) high-voltage direct current (HVDC) network.

    Credit: Solar Farm.

    For this transmission system to work, the PowerLink, being developed by Singaporean company Sun Cable, will also need to build the world’s largest battery, which will be stationed near Darwin on the northern coast of Australia.

    The idea is that the network will transport current from the array at Newcastle Waters roughly 750 kilometres north, where it will be stored at the Darwin battery.

    Some of the current will enter the local Darwin grid, but the majority will be exported internationally via over 3,700 kilometres of undersea cables laid along the ocean bed, first through Indonesian waters, before eventually making it all the way to Singapore.

    Once the electricity reaches its ultimate destination, it’s expected to provide power for over 1 million Singaporeans – about 20 percent of the sovereign island’s population – and ultimately there are plans to provide power to Indonesians also.

    Of course, for this hugely ambitious multi-year renewables project to be pulled off, lots of things have to go right.

    Once all the approvals are secured – including environmental assessments for a project expected to take up around 120 square kilometres (almost 50 square miles) of land – construction is expected to begin in 2023, with energy production commencing in 2026, and the first exported electricity could be flowing in 2027.

    If all goes as planned, the Power Link could be a watershed moment not only for solar power but for the clean energy industry as a whole, illustrating how renewable energy can be shared and relayed across international networks, spanning vast distances and even oceans.

    “It is extraordinary technology that is going to change the flow of energy between countries. It is going to have profound implications and the extent of those implications hasn’t been widely identified,” Sun Cable CEO David Griffin told The Guardian in 2019.

    “If you have the transmission of electricity over very large distances between countries, then the flow of energy changes from liquid fuels – oil and LNG – to electrons. Ultimately, that’s a vastly more efficient way to transport energy. The incumbents just won’t be able to compete.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on September 30, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Scientists Capture Candid Snapshots of Electrons Harvesting Light at the Atomic Scale", , Clean Energy, , , The electrons’ role in the harvesting of light for solar fuels., TRXPS-picosecond time-resolved X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy   

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: “Scientists Capture Candid Snapshots of Electrons Harvesting Light at the Atomic Scale” 

    September 30, 2020
    Theresa Duque
    (510) 424-2866

    A research team led by Berkeley Lab has gained important new insight into electrons’ role in the harvesting of light for solar fuels. (Credit: Surat Sangwato/Shutterstock)

    A research team led by Berkeley Lab has gained important new insight into electrons’ role in the harvesting of light for solar fuels. (Credit: Surat Sangwato/Shutterstock)

    In the search for clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels, one promising solution relies on photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells – water-splitting, artificial-photosynthesis devices that turn sunlight and water into solar fuels such as hydrogen.

    In just a decade, researchers in the field have achieved great progress in the development of PEC systems made of light-absorbing gold nanoparticles – tiny spheres just billionths of a meter in diameter – attached to a semiconductor film of titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2 NP). But despite these advancements, researchers still struggle to make a device that can produce solar fuels on a commercial scale.

    Now, a team of scientists led by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has gained important new insight into electrons’ role in the harvesting of light in gold/TiO2 NP PEC systems. The scientists say that their study, recently published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, can help researchers develop more efficient material combinations for the design of high-performance solar fuels devices.

    “By quantifying how electrons do their work on the nanoscale and in real time, our study can help to explain why some water-splitting PEC devices did not work as well as hoped,” said senior author Oliver Gessner, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division.

    And by tracing the movement of electrons in these complex systems with chemical specificity and picosecond (trillionths of a second) time resolution, the research team members believe they have developed a new tool that can more accurately calculate the solar fuels conversion efficiency of future devices.

    Electron-hole pairs: A productive pairing comes to light

    Researchers studying water-splitting PEC systems have been interested in gold nanoparticles’ superior light absorption due to their “plasmonic resonance” – the ability of electrons in gold nanoparticles to move in sync with the electric field of sunlight.

    “The trick is to transfer electrons between two different types of materials – from the light-absorbing gold nanoparticles to the titanium-dioxide semiconductor,” Gessner explained.

    Illustration of a PEC model system with 20-nanometer gold nanoparticles attached to titanium dioxide.Credit: Berkeley Lab.

    When electrons are transferred from the gold nanoparticles into the titanium dioxide semiconductor, they leave behind “holes.” The combination of an electron injected into titanium dioxide and the hole the electron left behind is called an electron-hole pair. “And we know that electron-hole pairs are critical ingredients to enabling the chemical reaction for the production of solar fuels,” he added.

    But if you want to know how well a plasmonic PEC device is working, you need to learn how many electrons moved from the gold nanoparticles to the semiconductor, how many electron-hole pairs are formed, and how long these electron-hole pairs last before the electron returns to a hole in the gold nanoparticle. “The longer the electrons are separated from the holes in the gold nanoparticles – that is, the longer the lifetime of the electron-hole pairs – the more time you have for the chemical reaction for fuels production to take place,” Gessner explained.

    To answer these questions, Gessner and his team used a technique called “picosecond time-resolved X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (TRXPS)” at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) to count how many electrons transfer between the gold nanoparticles and the titanium-dioxide film, and to measure how long the electrons stay in the other material.

    LBNL ALS .

    Gessner said his team is the first to apply the X-ray technique for studying this transfer of electrons in plasmonic systems such as the nanoparticles and the film. “This information is crucial to develop more efficient material combinations.”

    An electronic ‘count’-down with TRXPS

    Using TRXPS at the ALS, the team shone pulses of laser light to excite electrons in 20-nanometer (20 billionths of a meter) gold nanoparticles (AuNP) attached to a semiconducting film made of nanoporous titanium dioxide (TiO2).

    The team then used short X-ray pulses to measure how many of these electrons “traveled” from the AuNP to the TiO2 to form electron-hole pairs, and then back “home” to the holes in the AuNP.

    “When you want to take a picture of someone moving very fast, you do it with a short flash of light – for our study, we used short flashes of X-ray light,” Gessner said. “And our camera is the photoelectron spectrometer that takes short ‘snapshots’ at a time resolution of 70 picoseconds.”

    The TRXPS measurement revealed a few surprises: They observed two electrons transfer from gold to titanium dioxide – a far smaller number than they had expected based on previous studies. They also learned that only one in 1,000 photons (particles of light) generated an electron-hole pair, and that it takes just a billionth of a second for an electron to recombine with a hole in the gold nanoparticle.

    Altogether, these findings and methods described in the current study could help researchers better estimate the optimal time needed to trigger solar fuels production at the nanoscale.

    “Although X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy is a common technique used at universities and research institutions around the world, the way we expanded it for time-resolved studies and used it here is very unique and can only be done at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source,” said Monika Blum, a co-author of the study and research scientist at the ALS.

    “Monika’s and Oliver’s unique use of TRXPS made it possible to identify how many electrons on gold are activated to become charge carriers – and to locate and track their movement throughout the surface region of a nanomaterial – with unprecedented chemical specificity and picosecond time resolution,” said co-author Francesca Toma, a staff scientist at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) in Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division. “These findings will be key to gaining a better understanding of how plasmonic materials can advance solar fuels.”

    The team next plans to push their measurements to even faster time scales with a free-electron laser, and to capture even finer nanoscale snapshots of electrons at work in a PEC device when water is added to the mix.

    Co-authors with Berkeley Lab’s Gessner, Blum, and Toma include lead author Mario Borgwardt, Guiji Liu, Johannes Mahl, Friedrich Roth, Lukas Wenthaus, Felix Brauße, and Klaus Schwarsburg.

    Researchers from the Institute of Experimental Physics, TU Bergakademie Freiberg; Deutsches Electronen Synchrotron/DESY; and the Institute for Solar Fuels, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie GmbH, Germany, also contributed to the study.

    This work was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

    The Advanced Light Source is a DOE Office of Science user facility located at Berkeley Lab.

    The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) is a DOE Energy Innovation Hub supported through the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA), a solar-fuels Hub led by Caltech in partnership with Berkeley Lab, will continue to build on JCAP’s work to advance solar fuels.

    See the full article here .


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    LBNL Molecular Foundry

    Bringing Science Solutions to the World
    In the world of science, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is synonymous with “excellence.” Thirteen Nobel prizes are associated with Berkeley Lab. Seventy Lab scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Thirteen of our scientists have won the National Medal of Science, our nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research. Eighteen of our engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and three of our scientists have been elected into the Institute of Medicine. In addition, Berkeley Lab has trained thousands of university science and engineering students who are advancing technological innovations across the nation and around the world.

    Berkeley Lab is a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science. It is managed by the University of California (UC) and is charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Located on a 202-acre site in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus that offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley Lab employs approximately 3,232 scientists, engineers and support staff. The Lab’s total costs for FY 2014 were $785 million. A recent study estimates the Laboratory’s overall economic impact through direct, indirect and induced spending on the nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area to be nearly $700 million annually. The Lab was also responsible for creating 5,600 jobs locally and 12,000 nationally. The overall economic impact on the national economy is estimated at $1.6 billion a year. Technologies developed at Berkeley Lab have generated billions of dollars in revenues, and thousands of jobs. Savings as a result of Berkeley Lab developments in lighting and windows, and other energy-efficient technologies, have also been in the billions of dollars.

    Berkeley Lab was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a UC Berkeley physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. It was Lawrence’s belief that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals with different fields of expertise, working together. His teamwork concept is a Berkeley Lab legacy that continues today.

    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California.

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  • richardmitnick 10:15 am on September 14, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Collective quantum effect: When electrons keep together", , Clean Energy, , , Uni Kiel, WDM-warm dense matter   

    From Uni Kiel: “Collective quantum effect: When electrons keep together” 


    From Uni Kiel


    Dr. Tobias Dornheim
    Center for Advanced Systems Understanding (CASUS)
    Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)
    +49 3581 375 2351

    Julia Siekmann
    Science Communication Officer, Research area Kiel Nano Surface and Interface Sciences
    +49 (0)431/880-4855

    Nonlinear reactions of warm dense matter described for the first time.

    Simulation of a disturbance of a warm dense matter system by a laser beam. © Jan Vorberger.

    Many celestial objects such as stars or planets contain matter that is exposed to high temperatures and pressure – experts call it warm dense matter (WDM). Although this state of matter on earth only occurs in the earth’s core, research on WDM is fundamental for various future areas such as clean energy, harder materials or a better understanding of solar systems. In a study recently published in Physical Review Letters, a team led by physicist Dr. Tobias Dornheim of the Center for Advanced Systems Understanding (CASUS) at Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and alumnus of Kiel University (CAU), now reveals that warm dense matter behaves significantly differently than assumed, which calls into question its previous description.

    To study the exotic state of warm dense matter on earth, scientists create it artificially in laboratories. This can be realized by compression through powerful lasers for example at the European XFEL in Schenefeld near Hamburg. “A sample, such as a plastic or aluminum foil, is illuminated with a laser beam, it heats up very strongly and is then compressed by a generated shock wave. The resulting spectra – that means how the sample behaves under these conditions – is recorded on detectors and in a scope of 10-10 m (1 angstrom) we can determine its material properties,” explains Dr. Jan Vorberger from HZDR, adding: “However, important parameters such as temperature or density cannot be measured directly. Therefore, theoretical models are of central importance for the evaluation of the WDM experiments”.

    System reacts weaker the more it is perturbed

    Tobias Dornheim develops such simulation models for the theoretical description of warm dense matter. From what scientists knew until now, calculations have been based exclusively on the assumption of a “linear reaction”. That means, the more the samples – so called targets – are hit by laser irradiation, thus the more strongly the electrons are excited in these materials, the more strongly they react. In their new publication, however, Dr. Tobias Dornheim of CASUS, Dr. Jan Vorberger of HZDR and Prof. Dr. Michael Bonitz of CAU now show that under strong excitation the reaction is weaker than expected. They conclude that it is crucial to take into account nonlinear effects. The results have far-reaching implications for the interpretation of experiments with warm dense matter. “With this study we have laid the foundation for many new developments in the warm dense matter theory”, Dornheim estimates, “and a lot of research on the nonlinear electronic density response of WDM will be done within the next years.”

    Their results are based on extensive computer simulations using the quantum statistical path-integral Monte Carlo method (PIMC). Richard Feynman laid the foundations of the method back in the 1950s. In recent years, Dr. Dornheim has successfully improved the algorithms to make calculations more efficient and faster. Nevertheless, for the mentioned study, supercomputers calculated on more than 10,000 CPU cores for more than 400 days. The calculations were carried out at the high performance clusters Hypnos and Hemera of the HZDR, the Taurus cluster at the Center for Information Services and High Performance Computing (ZIH) of the Technical University of Dresden, computers at the North German Association for High Performance Computing (HLRN) and at the computer center of the CAU.

    WDM could play an important role for the energy industry

    Research on warm dense matter is not only important for understanding the structure of planets such as Jupiter and Saturn or our solar system and its evolution, but is also applied in materials science, for example in the development of super-hard materials. However, it could play the most important role in the energy industry by contributing to the realization of inertial fusion – an almost inexhaustible and clean energy source with future potential.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 1:51 pm on August 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Solar Panels Are Starting to Die Leaving Behind Toxic Trash", , Clean Energy, ,   

    From WIRED: “Solar Panels Are Starting to Die, Leaving Behind Toxic Trash” 

    From WIRED

    Maddie Stone

    Photovoltaic panels are a boon for clean energy but are tricky to recycle. As the oldest ones expire, get ready for a solar e-waste glut.

    Photograph: Richard Newstead/Getty Images.

    Solar panels are an increasingly important source of renewable power that will play an essential role in fighting climate change. They are also complex pieces of technology that become big, bulky sheets of electronic waste at the end of their lives—and right now, most of the world doesn’t have a plan for dealing with that.

    But we’ll need to develop one soon, because the solar e-waste glut is coming. By 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life, and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually. While the latter number is a small fraction of the total e-waste humanity produces each year, standard electronics recycling methods don’t cut it for solar panels. Recovering the most valuable materials from one, including silver and silicon, requires bespoke recycling solutions. And if we fail to develop those solutions along with policies that support their widespread adoption, we already know what will happen.

    “If we don’t mandate recycling, many of the modules will go to landfill,” said Arizona State University solar researcher Meng Tao, who recently authored a review paper [Progress in Voltaics] on recycling silicon solar panels, which comprise 95 percent of the solar market.

    Solar panels are composed of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight to electricity. When these panels enter landfills, valuable resources go to waste. And because solar panels contain toxic materials like lead that can leach out as they break down, landfilling also creates new environmental hazards.

    Most solar manufacturers claim their panels will last for about 25 years, and the world didn’t start deploying solar widely until the early 2000s. As a result, a fairly small number of panels are being decommissioned today. PV Cycle, a nonprofit dedicated to solar panel take-back and recycling, collects several thousand tons of solar e-waste across the European Union each year, according to director Jan Clyncke. That figure includes solar panels that have reached the end of their life but also those that were decommissioned early because they were damaged during a storm, had some sort of manufacturing defect, or got replaced with a newer, more efficient model.

    When solar panels reach their end of their life today, they face a few possible fates. Under EU law, producers are required to ensure their solar panels are recycled properly. In Japan, India, and Australia, recycling requirements are in the works. In the United States, it’s the Wild West: With the exception of a state law in Washington, the US has no solar recycling mandates whatsoever. Voluntary, industry-led recycling efforts are limited in scope. “Right now, we’re pretty confident the number is around 10 percent of solar panels recycled,” said Sam Vanderhoof, the CEO of Recycle PV Solar, one of the only US companies dedicated to PV recycling. The rest, he says, go to landfills or are exported overseas for reuse in developing countries with weak environmental protections.

    Even when recycling happens, there’s a lot of room for improvement. A solar panel is essentially an electronic sandwich. The filling is a thin layer of crystalline silicon cells, which are insulated and protected from the elements on both sides by sheets of polymers and glass. It’s all held together in an aluminum frame. On the back of the panel, a junction box contains copper wiring that channels electricity away as it’s being generated.

    At a typical e-waste facility, this high-tech sandwich will be treated crudely. Recyclers often take off the panel’s frame and its junction box to recover the aluminum and copper, then shred the rest of the module, including the glass, polymers, and silicon cells, which get coated in a silver electrode and soldered using tin and lead. (Because the vast majority of that mixture by weight is glass, the resultant product is considered an impure, crushed glass.) Tao and his colleagues estimate that a recycler taking apart a standard 60-cell silicon panel can get about $3 for the recovered aluminum, copper, and glass. Vanderhoof, meanwhile, says that the cost of recycling that panel in the US is between $12 and $25—after transportation costs, which “oftentimes equal the cost to recycle.” At the same time, in states that allow it, it typically costs less than a dollar to dump a solar panel in a solid-waste landfill.

    “We believe the big blind spot in the US for recycling is that the cost far exceeds the revenue,” Meng said. “It’s on the order of a 10-to-1 ratio.”

    If a solar panel’s more valuable components—namely, the silicon and silver—could be separated and purified efficiently, that could improve that cost-to-revenue ratio. A small number of dedicated solar PV recyclers are trying to do this. Veolia, which runs the world’s only commercial-scale silicon PV recycling plant in France, shreds and grinds up panels and then uses an optical technique to recover low-purity silicon. According to Vanderhoof, Recycle PV Solar initially used a “heat process and a ball mill process” that could recapture more than 90 percent of the materials present in a panel, including low-purity silver and silicon. But the company recently received some new equipment from its European partners that can do “95 plus percent recapture,” he said, while separating the recaptured materials much better.

    Some PV researchers want to do even better than that. In another recent review paper, a team led by National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientists calls for the development of new recycling processes in which all metals and minerals are recovered at high purity, with the goal of making recycling as economically viable and as environmentally beneficial as possible. As lead study author Garvin Heath explains, such processes might include using heat or chemical treatments to separate the glass from the silicon cells, followed by the application of other chemical or electrical techniques to separate and purify the silicon and various trace metals.

    “What we call for is what we name a high-value, integrated recycling system,” Heath told Grist. “High-value means we want to recover all the constituent materials that have value from these modules. Integrated refers to a recycling process that can go after all of these materials, and not have to cascade from one recycler to the next.”

    In addition to developing better recycling methods, the solar industry should be thinking about how to repurpose panels whenever possible, since used solar panels are likely to fetch a higher price than the metals and minerals inside them (and since reuse generally requires less energy than recycling). As is the case with recycling, the EU is out in front on this: Through its Circular Business Models for the Solar Power Industry program, the European Commission is funding a range of demonstration projects showing how solar panels from rooftops and solar farms can be repurposed, including for powering ebike charging stations in Berlin and housing complexes in Belgium.

    Recycle PV Solar also recertifies and resells good-condition panels it receives, which Vanderhoof says helps offset the cost of recycling. However, both he and Tao are concerned that various US recyclers are selling second-hand solar panels with low quality control overseas to developing countries. “And those countries typically don’t have regulations for electronics waste,” Tao said. “So eventually, you’re dumping your problem on a poor country.”

    For the solar recycling industry to grow sustainably, it will ultimately need supportive policies and regulations. The EU model of having producers finance the take-back and recycling of solar panels might be a good one for the U.S. to emulate. But before that’s going to happen, US lawmakers need to recognize that the problem exists and is only getting bigger, which is why Vanderhoof spends a great deal of time educating them.

    “We need to face the fact that solar panels do fail over time, and there’s a lot of them out there,” he said. “And what do we do when they start to fail? It’s not right throwing that responsibility on the consumer, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 11:53 am on August 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Storing energy in red bricks", A coating of the conducting polymer PEDOT which is comprised of nanofibers that penetrate the inner porous network of a brick., A polymer coating remains trapped in a brick and serves as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity., Advantageously a brick wall serving as a supercapacitor can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour., , Clean Energy, , How to convert red bricks into a type of energy storage device called a supercapacitor., If you connect a couple of bricks microelectronics sensors would be easily powered., The red pigment in bricks — iron oxide- or rust — is essential for triggering the polymerisation reaction.,   

    From Washington University in St.Louis: “Storing energy in red bricks” 

    Wash U Bloc

    From Washington University in St.Louis

    August 11, 2020
    Talia Ogliore

    Red brick device developed by chemists at Washington University in St. Louis lights up a green light-emitting diode. The photo shows the core-shell architecture of a nanofibrillar PEDOT-coated brick electrode. Credit: D’Arcy laboratory, Department of Chemistry, Washington University in St. Louis.

    Imagine plugging in to your brick house.

    Red bricks — some of the world’s cheapest and most familiar building materials — can be converted into energy storage units that can be charged to hold electricity, like a battery, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

    Brick has been used in walls and buildings for thousands of years, but rarely has been found fit for any other use. Now, chemists in Arts & Sciences have developed a method to make or modify “smart bricks” that can store energy until required for powering devices. A proof-of-concept published Aug. 11 in Nature Communications (and pictured above) shows a brick directly powering a green LED light.

    “Our method works with regular brick or recycled bricks, and we can make our own bricks as well,” said Julio D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry. “As a matter of fact, the work that we have published in Nature Communications stems from bricks that we bought at Home Depot right here in Brentwood (Missouri); each brick was 65 cents.”

    Walls and buildings made of bricks already occupy large amounts of space, which could be better utilized if given an additional purpose for electrical storage. While some architects and designers have recognized the humble brick’s ability to absorb and store the sun’s heat, this is the first time anyone has tried using bricks as anything more than thermal mass for heating and cooling.

    D’Arcy and colleagues, including Washington University graduate student Hongmin Wang, first author of the new study, showed how to convert red bricks into a type of energy storage device called a supercapacitor.

    “In this work, we have developed a coating of the conducting polymer PEDOT, which is comprised of nanofibers that penetrate the inner porous network of a brick; a polymer coating remains trapped in a brick and serves as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity,” D’Arcy said.

    The red pigment in bricks — iron oxide, or rust — is essential for triggering the polymerisation reaction. The authors’ calculations suggest that walls made of these energy-storing bricks could store a substantial amount of energy.

    “PEDOT-coated bricks are ideal building blocks that can provide power to emergency lighting,” D’Arcy said. “We envision that this could be a reality when you connect our bricks with solar cells — this could take 50 bricks in close proximity to the load. These 50 bricks would enable powering emergency lighting for five hours.

    “Advantageously, a brick wall serving as a supercapacitor can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour. If you connect a couple of bricks, microelectronics sensors would be easily powered.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Wash U campus

    Washington University’s mission is to discover and disseminate knowledge, and protect the freedom of inquiry through research, teaching, and learning.

    Washington University creates an environment to encourage and support an ethos of wide-ranging exploration. Washington University’s faculty and staff strive to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of the greater St. Louis community, the country, and the world.

  • richardmitnick 1:58 pm on August 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Assessing the value of battery energy storage in future power grids", , Clean Energy, , Implications for the low-carbon energy transition, , , Relevance to policymakers, Study’s key findings   

    From MIT News and Princeton University: “Assessing the value of battery energy storage in future power grids” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News


    Princeton University
    Princeton University

    August 12, 2020
    Kathryn Luu | MIT Energy Initiative

    MIT and Princeton University researchers find that the economic value of storage increases as variable renewable energy generation (from sources such as wind and solar) supplies an increasing share of electricity supply, but storage cost declines are needed to realize full potential.

    Storage value increases as variable renewable energy supplies an increasing share of electricity, but storage cost declines are needed to realize full potential.

    In the transition to a decarbonized electric power system, variable renewable energy (VRE) resources such as wind and solar photovoltaics play a vital role due to their availability, scalability, and affordability. However, the degree to which VRE resources can be successfully deployed to decarbonize the electric power system hinges on the future availability and cost of energy storage technologies.

    In a paper recently published in Applied Energy, researchers from MIT and Princeton University examine battery storage to determine the key drivers that impact its economic value, how that value might change with increasing deployment over time, and the implications for the long-term cost-effectiveness of storage.

    “Battery storage helps make better use of electricity system assets, including wind and solar farms, natural gas power plants, and transmission lines, and that can defer or eliminate unnecessary investment in these capital-intensive assets,” says Dharik Mallapragada, the paper’s lead author. “Our paper demonstrates that this ‘capacity deferral,’ or substitution of batteries for generation or transmission capacity, is the primary source of storage value.”

    Other sources of storage value include providing operating reserves to electricity system operators, avoiding fuel cost and wear and tear incurred by cycling on and off gas-fired power plants, and shifting energy from low price periods to high value periods — but the paper showed that these sources are secondary in importance to value from avoiding capacity investments.

    For their study, the researchers — Mallapragada, a research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative; Nestor Sepulveda SM’16, PhD ’20, a postdoc at MIT who was a MITEI researcher and nuclear science and engineering student at the time of the study; and fellow former MITEI researcher Jesse Jenkins SM ’14, PhD ’18, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University — use a capacity expansion model called GenX to find the least expensive ways of integrating battery storage in a hypothetical low-carbon power system. They studied the role for storage for two variants of the power system, populated with load and VRE availability profiles consistent with the U.S. Northeast (North) and Texas (South) regions. The paper found that in both regions, the value of battery energy storage generally declines with increasing storage penetration.

    “As more and more storage is deployed, the value of additional storage steadily falls,” explains Jenkins. “That creates a race between the declining cost of batteries and their declining value, and our paper demonstrates that the cost of batteries must continue to fall if storage is to play a major role in electricity systems.”

    The study’s key findings include:

    The economic value of storage rises as VRE generation provides an increasing share of the electricity supply.
    The economic value of storage declines as storage penetration increases, due to competition between storage resources for the same set of grid services.
    As storage penetration increases, most of its economic value is tied to its ability to displace the need for investing in both renewable and natural gas-based energy generation and transmission capacity.
    Without further cost reductions, a relatively small magnitude (4 percent of peak demand) of short-duration (energy capacity of two to four hours of operation at peak power) storage is cost-effective in grids with 50-60 percent of electricity supply that comes from VRE generation. “The picture is more favorable to storage adoption if future cost projections ($150 per kilowatt-hour for four-hour storage) are realized,” notes Mallapragada.

    Relevance to policymakers

    The results of the study highlight the importance of reforming electricity market structures or contracting practices to enable storage developers to monetize the value from substituting generation and transmission capacity — a central component of their economic viability.

    “In practice, there are few direct markets to monetize the capacity substitution value that is provided by storage,” says Mallapragada. “Depending on their administrative design and market rules, capacity markets may or may not adequately compensate storage for providing energy during peak load periods.”

    In addition, Mallapragada notes that developers and integrated utilities in regulated markets can implicitly capture capacity substitution value through integrated development of wind, solar, and energy storage projects. Recent project announcements support the observation that this may be a preferred method for capturing storage value.

    Implications for the low-carbon energy transition

    The economic value of energy storage is closely tied to other major trends impacting today’s power system, most notably the increasing penetration of wind and solar generation. However, in some cases, the continued decline of wind and solar costs could negatively impact storage value, which could create pressure to reduce storage costs in order to remain cost-effective.

    “It is a common perception that battery storage and wind and solar power are complementary,” says Sepulveda. “Our results show that is true, and that all else equal, more solar and wind means greater storage value. That said, as wind and solar get cheaper over time, that can reduce the value storage derives from lowering renewable energy curtailment and avoiding wind and solar capacity investments. Given the long-term cost declines projected for wind and solar, I think this is an important consideration for storage technology developers.”

    The relationship between wind and solar cost and storage value is even more complex, the study found.

    “Since storage derives much of its value from capacity deferral, going into this research, my expectation was that the cheaper wind and solar gets, the lower the value of energy storage will become, but our paper shows that is not always the case,” explains Mallapragada. “There are some scenarios where other factors that contribute to storage value, such as increases in transmission capacity deferral, outweigh the reduction in wind and solar deferral value, resulting in higher overall storage value.”

    Battery storage is increasingly competing with natural gas-fired power plants to provide reliable capacity for peak demand periods, but the researchers also find that adding 1 megawatt (MW) of storage power capacity displaces less than 1 MW of natural gas generation. The reason: To shut down 1 MW of gas capacity, storage must not only provide 1 MW of power output, but also be capable of sustaining production for as many hours in a row as the gas capacity operates. That means you need many hours of energy storage capacity (megawatt-hours) as well. The study also finds that this capacity substitution ratio declines as storage tries to displace more gas capacity.

    “The first gas plant knocked offline by storage may only run for a couple of hours, one or two times per year,” explains Jenkins. “But the 10th or 20th gas plant might run 12 or 16 hours at a stretch, and that requires deploying a large energy storage capacity for batteries to reliably replace gas capacity.”

    Given the importance of energy storage duration to gas capacity substitution, the study finds that longer storage durations (the amount of hours storage can operate at peak capacity) of eight hours generally have greater marginal gas displacement than storage with two hours of duration. However, the additional system value from longer durations does not outweigh the additional cost of the storage capacity, the study finds.

    “From the perspective of power system decarbonization, this suggests the need to develop cheaper energy storage technologies that can be cost-effectively deployed for much longer durations, in order to displace dispatchable fossil fuel generation,” says Mallapragada.

    To address this need, the team is preparing to publish a followup paper that provides the most extensive evaluation of the potential role and value of long-duration energy storage technologies to date.

    “We are developing novel insights that can guide the development of a variety of different long-duration energy storage technologies and help academics, private-sector companies and investors, and public policy stakeholders understand the role of these technologies in a low-carbon future,” says Sepulveda.

    This research was supported by General Electric through the MIT Energy Initiative’s Electric Power Systems Low-Carbon Energy Center.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About Princeton: Overview

    Princeton University is a vibrant community of scholarship and learning that stands in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

    As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

    Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students. The University’s generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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