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Krafla geothermal power station

Researchers develop technique to exploit geothermal energy in a sustainable manner

The way we fuel our power production has been significantly changed by the demand to limit emissions and ascent of renewables, from wind to solar to biomass. Those technologies are the world’s most appealing, energizing and emerging technologies which aim at producing energy. However, there is a massive, permanent and unused energy resource which is existing literally under our noses. We are referring to geothermal energy. Generation of geothermal energy is possible through the devices to make use of heat inside the Earth’s crust.

Researchers from Tokyo Tech have made major progress in understanding and advancement of sensitized thermal cells (STCs) which is a type of battery that can produce electric power at 100-degree Celsius or less. The study has been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Before this, they have proposed the use of STCs as a new method for converting heat directly into electric power using dye-sensitized solar cells. They likewise replaced the dye with a semiconductor to enable the system to work using heat rather than light.

In the new cell, an electron transport layer (ETM), a semiconductor layer (germanium), and a solid electrolyte layer (copper ions) are sandwiched between the electrodes of the battery where electrons get thermally excited while going from a low-energy state to a high-energy state in the semiconductor and finally shifting naturally to the ETM.

Oxidation and reduction reaction involving copper ions take place at the interconnection of both electrolytes while electrons travel from the electrode through an external circuit, pass through the counter electrode, and then reach the electrolyte. This completes an electric circuit shifting low-energy electrons to the semiconductor layer. Scientists during the experiment found out that after a certain time, the electricity stopped flowing instead of working as a perpetual machine. This is due to the completion of redox reactions at the electrolyte end owing to the shifting of different types of copper ions.

Existence of heat simply opens up the external circuit for a short time reverting the situation. Dr Sachiko Matsushita, study leader said that heat which is considered as low-grade energy, would become a great renewable energy source with such design. Scientists are excited about the model as it is nature-friendly and has the possibility to solve the global energy crisis.

Moreover, he added that there is no fear of costly oil, radiation or instability of power generation when done with the help of sun or wind. The goal of future research will be the enhancement of battery with the belief of solving mankind energy needs without harming the earth.

Journal Reference: Journal of Materials Chemistry A

magnetic levitation superconductivity

Scientists successfully demonstrate superconductivity at highest temperature till date

A group of researchers from the University of Chicago has observed superconductivity at the highest temperature recorded till date. With the help of highly developed technology at the Argonne National Laboratory, affiliated to UChicago, the team observed and studied a group of materials in which superconductivity was detected at a temperature of  -23 degrees Celsius (minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit, 250 K). This is an increase of almost 50 degrees from the previous record.

Although the superconductivity was observed at very high pressure, this observation is a huge step in achieving superconductivity at room temperatures. This is the ultimate goal of researchers using the technologies. The study has been published in the Nature journal. It has been authored by Vitali Prakapenka and Eran Greenberg, researchers at the University of Chicago.

Superconductivity was discovered in 1911 by a Dutch scientist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. Materials which display superconductivity have two main characteristics, they do not offer any resistance to electricity and magnetic field lines cannot penetrate them. There are a wide range of applications of superconductivity such as high-speed supercomputers and train based on magnetic levitation.

Earlier researchers could only create superconducting materials at very low temperatures such as -240 degrees Celsius and -73 degrees Celsius very recently. It is quite expensive to achieve this level of cooling and thus it limits the application in the real world. Recently, theoretical studies have shown that a new group of materials, the superconducting hydrides can allow for superconductivity at higher temperatures.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and researchers at the University of Chicago collaborated to create such a material, the lanthanum superhydrides and then determined its composition. However for this to be achieved the material had to be placed under high pressures – within 150 and 170 gigapascals which is one and half million times larger than the sea level pressure. Under this large pressure, the material showed superconductivity.

In the experiment, three out of four characteristics to prove superconductivity were exhibited by the material. There was a drop in the electrical resistance and in the critical temperature under the influence of an external magnetic field. It also displayed a change in the temperature when some of the elements were replaced with isotopes. However, it did not show the Meissner effect as the size of the object is very small.

For the experiment, a very small sample of the object was inserted between two diamonds for the needed pressure to be exerted. After that, high energy X-rays from the Advanced Photon Source were used to determine the structure of the material. Scientists are looking for more efficient ways to achieve superconductivity at regular conditions.

Baltic Servers data center

Scientists set to replace electricity with light pulses for superfast computing

The 21st century is the century which is at the peak of technological revolution. This age revolves around the need for data and analyzing data for the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Multinational companies around the globe are building data centres across continents which have the ability to store and transfer the huge amount of data which the companies receive every day.

Traditionally, data was transferred using electricity but a new method is created by scientists which enable data to be transferred using light pulses. Data centres require a lot of electricity and are hungry for more power, however, the scientists have now developed a technique that uses magnets to control and record computer data which consumes no electricity.

Data centres account for 2-5% of the global power consumption as they need to be maintained at an optimum temperature. Microsoft has already submerged its data centres below in the sea in efforts to reduce power consumption. Originally in hard drives, the data is encoded in 1s and 0s, by the spin of the magnetic hard drives. The magnetic head uses electricity to decode it back which uses a lot of electricity.

An international team have published in Nature that they have replaced electricity by short pulses of light, the duration of these pulses are close to one trillionth of a second. The new method is super efficient and at the same time reduces power consumption to very little. It involves pulsing a magnet at ultra short light bursts at frequencies in the infrared range. It is called the tetra hertz but even the strongest source of tetra hertz light did not provide strong enough pulses to switch the orientation of light. It was made possible due to the coupling between the spins and the tetra hertz electric field.

Scientists put up antennas on top of the magnets to concentrate and enhance the effect of light, a strong electric field was applied which navigated the magnetization in one trillionth of a second to the new orientation which is optimum. This process does not lead to an increase in temperature and thus saves a lot of energy that is spent on the cooling of data centres.

Lancaster University intends to carry out more research using the new ultrafast laser and accelerators which are able to generate intense pulses of light to allow switching magnets. The main significance of this method is the drastic reduction in the cost of operation due to lower energy consumption. It is expected that future energy storage devices are predicted to heavily use and depend on this remarkable breakthrough in technology.

Mohave Generating Station

Scientists demonstrate generation of electricity from coldness of universe

Conventional resources of energy have been providing and powering our needs since electricity was made in the late 1800s. The conventional resources of energy are polluting as well as a temporary solution for providing electricity. They are going to get over in the next couple of years after which we humans have to look out and seek other alternative resources, in the recent decade we have seen a good rise in the dependency on renewable sources of energy as we found out ways to develop electricity from water, wind, thermal and pressure differences.

Solar panels are currently the sector in boom however there are disadvantages to it. The drawbacks are that it cannot produce electricity in the absence of sunlight. Many regions of the Earth have a frigid zone where the chilling outflow can be harvested using thermal differences using the same kind of physics we use for solar panels. Scientists have demonstrated a way to generate a measurable amount of electricity, directly from the coldness of the universe. The semiconductor device faces the infrared rays of the sun and uses temperature difference of the Earth and the space to produce electricity.

In optoelectronic physics, there is a vast symmetry between incoming and outgoing radiations. In comparison to the leveraging energy (incoming), the negative illumination effect allows electricity to be harvested as the heat is transferred. The technology today is unable to capture the negative temperature difference very efficiently. The temperature in space is absolute zero and thus devices can be used to generate electricity.

The group found that negative illumination diode has the ability to generate 64 nanowatts of electricity per square meter,  this is very less than the theoretical standard. However Dr.Mashashi Ono, the author on this paper published in Applied Physics Letters, said that through increasing the optoelectronic efficiency and the material used, the power generated per square meter can be increased hugely. But when calculations are made and when atmospheric factors are taken into consideration we see that it has the ability to generate a power of 4 watts per square feet theoretically, which is enough to run power machinery during night time.

A typical solar panel can, however, produce close to 100-200 watts per square feet. Shanhui Fan, an author of a similar paper said that same principle could be used to recover waste heat from machines. From now onwards, however, he and his group are focusing on increasing the efficiency of the panels which if succeeds will be a breakthrough for mankind in its thirst to develop non-conventional resources of energy. Fan also comments that the vastness of the universe is a thermodynamic resource.