Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Daniele Faieta/Flickr Biology Environment 

Fecal Fungi May Lead to Cheaper Biofuel

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore Fecal Fungi May Lead to Cheaper Biofuel Manure may be a good fertilizer, but there’s more to manure than you think. Scientists have harnessed gut fungi from herbivore feces that can easily digest tough plant components in wood, algae, and grasses into sugars, which can then be fermented to produce biofuel and other bio-based products. Biofuel producers are faced with a problem: They are unable to fully break down plant materials into sugars because of the tough-to-digest components of plant cell walls. Herbivores, however, have been…

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Batteries: Image: MotorBlog.com Engineering Physics Technology 

Small Step for Batteries, Giant Leap for Electric Cars

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic Solving the Silicon Swelling Problem in Batteries The dream of an electric transportation revolution—recharging stations dotting rural highways, noiseless sedans gliding across pavement—lives in the minds of many who hope to move beyond oil dependence. But the reality of this transformation will elude us until battery technology improves. Expensive and overweight, current lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology cannot support long car trips and would require lower costs to be commercially viable. Now, the ignition for such a revolution may be arriving in the form of silicon. New…

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The UT Arlington team developed a new solar cell that is more efficient and can store solar energy even at night. (UT Arlington) Engineering Technology 

New Solar Energy Storage Works at Night

By Kate S. Most solar energy systems rely on using sunlight as an immediate power source, but can’t function at night or in cloudy weather. So, what if a solar cell could store solar energy and release it for use after the sun goes down? That’s the technology a materials science and engineering team from the University of Texas at Arlington has developed. They have successfully built a new energy cell that can store large-scale solar energy, even when it’s dark. The prototype is an “all-vanadium photo-electrochemical flow cell” that…

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Clean Hydrogen: Stanford graduate student Haotian Wang and colleagues have developed a novel water splitter that produces clean-burning hydrogen from water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Photo Courtesy of L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service) Engineering Technology 

Clean Hydrogen Production for 200 Hours

By Kate S. Scientists at Stanford University have just built a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas. This is an invention that could pave the way for a boom in production of clean-burning cars. The scientists say that their device, which can run nonstop for an unprecedented period of time, could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry. The team used lithium-ion battery technology to create one low-cost catalyst that is capable of driving the entire…

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Iridescent giant clam (Alison Sweeney) Animals Biology Environment Technology 

Giant Clams May Inspire Alternative Energy

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Santa Barbara have found out how giant clams are operating as super-efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as food. This discovery could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new types of solar panels or improved reactors for growing biofuel. “Many mollusks, like squid, octopuses, snails and cuttlefish have iridescent structures, but almost all use them for camouflage or for signaling to mates. We knew giant clams weren’t doing either of those things, so we…

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