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Higher-density batteries, more efficient thin-film solar cells, and better catalysts may all soon be possible, thanks to a new technique that allows nanowires to be “decorated” with nanoparticles. Using the novel technology, scientists from Stanford University have been able to festoon the outside surfaces of nanowires with intricate chains of metal oxide or noble metal nanoparticles, thereby drastically boosting the effective surface area of the nanowires. Other researchers have previously tried to achieve the same end result, but apparently never with such success. “You can think of it like a tree. The nanowires are the trunk, very good at transporting electrons, like sap, but limited in surface area,” said assistant professor of mechanical engineering Xiaolin Zheng, who led the research.
Of the world's nearly 45,000 cargo ships, many burn a low-grade bunker fuel in their engines and produce pollution equivalent to millions of automobiles. To help reduce that toxic load and keep the price of shipping freight reasonable, engineers at the University of Tokyo (UT) and a group of collaborators have designed a system of large, retractable sails measuring 64 feet (20 m) wide by 164 feet (50 m) high, which studies indicate can reduce annual fuel use on ships equipped with them by up to 30%. "Using today's technology, it's possible to make big sails, and to control them automatically," UT professor Kiyoshi Uzawa told DigInfo.
Passive House Bulgaria recently announced the winner of its international competition to design a low-energy domicile to be built in Lozen, a village very close to Sofia. The winning entry, from Bulgarian outfit dontDIY, is not only eye-catching, but also fully compliant with the rigorous, though voluntary, Passive house standard. Buildings that qualify for the accolade of Passive house (it's not limited to residencies) have been described as "ultra-low energy," as they must fall within strict performance criteria per unit area of the building in respect of heating, cooling and energy consumption. This typically results in drastic energy savings when compared to buildings built to meet (though not exceed) national building codes . Oh, and they must leak no more than 0.6 of the house's total volume in air over the course of an hour.
Its idea may be simple, but that did not stop Radiator Labs winning the MIT Clean Energy Prize with its controllable box that can be retrofitted to radiators to boost the efficiency of hot water and steam heating systems. The heavily insulated housings physically cover the radiator, trapping heat in the system, and strictly controlling the amount that is let into the room. This prevents homes becoming over-heated, and wasteful heat loss as people open windows to compensate.