Frontiers in Energy Research: September 2013

September 2013

Emulating Biology on the Nanoscale to Meet the Fourth Grand Challenge

Kara Manke thumb

As scientific methods to characterize and fabricate nanostructures mature, many of the processes that were previously in the domain of living systems are now within our grasp. The U.S. Department of Energy's Fourth Grand Challenge calls for scientists to use these abilities to create new technologies that rival or exceed those of living things.

Moving Protons at the Speed of Life

Samantha Horvath thumb

How does a particle that's one million-millionth the size of a marble change how we treat an English garden? A Ferrari? Well at first glance, probably very little. But looking deeper, the key to making both free of fossil fuels is how protons, tiny positively charged particles, are used. A garden often needs fertilizer, which is produced from ammonia, which itself is derived from fossil fuels. A car needs gasoline, and the hope is to, one day, replace the common combustion engine with renewable fuels. These ideas and others are the lofty goals of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis.

Ten Hundred and One Word Challenge

Tyler Josephson and Ralph House thumb

Could you describe cutting-edge research in nanotechnology, solar power, or biofuels processing using only the simplest, most common words? This was the task set before the Energy Frontier Research Centers, or EFRCs, in the Ten Hundred and One Word Challenge, where posters were submitted by 31 teams and presented at the 2013 Principal Investigators' Meeting in Washington, D.C. Each team's poster describes their center's research using any pictures, photos, or cartoons they wanted, but they were limited to the 1000 most common English words plus one: energy.

Connecting the Dots

Adam Wise thumb

For two intense days, hundreds of scientists descended on the Energy Frontier Research Centers Principal Investigators' Meeting to discuss, late into the night, their work pushing the frontiers of energy research. The schedule was packed with presentations and posters that allowed the attendees to quickly make connections between their work and others.

Research Highlights

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    Path Is Clear for More Efficient Light-Emitting Diodes

    Dennis M. Callahan Light-emitting diodes, commonly called LEDs, are potentially more energy efficient than traditional lighting sources, such as incandescent bulbs, that waste about 90% of the input energy as heat...
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    Powering the People with Paper

    Brian Doyle Could you imagine a day when you print out an extra paper battery before heading on a road trip? Researchers at the Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES) have used paper to create a template for a device that combines the properties of a battery...
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    Not All Catalyst Morphologies Are Created Equal

    Paul Giokas From cell phones to automobiles, batteries are crucial to everyday life. Emerging technologies require batteries or fuel cells that are compact, yet efficient. To be effective at reasonable temperatures, these systems require catalysts that enable reactions to proceed quickly...
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    Understanding Surface Chemistry in Catalysts Atom-by-Atom

    Kjell Schroder Everyone is on the hunt for a bargain, and scientists and engineers are no different. Catalysts are the chemist's way of getting more product while paying less energy. Chemicals, referred to as reactants, are adsorbed from a gas or liquid onto an active catalyst that is coated on a support structure...
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    Real-Time Imaging of Nanomaterials with High Energy X-Rays

    Laila Jaber-Ansari When materials are constrained to nanoscale dimensions, they exhibit interesting properties that are different from their bulk counterparts. The reason for this difference is known as the nano-size effect. For example, gold nanocrystals with an average size of 30 nanometers, about 200 times smaller than a typical red blood cell, are 60 percent stiffer than bulk gold...
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    Experiments Make Missing Materials Predicted by Theory

    Vladan Stevanović Browsing the standard databases of known inorganic solids shows that a relatively large number of chemically reasonable compounds are missing. In the case of compounds composed of three or more chemical elements, this number can exceed 50 percent...
Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.