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News Article | December 28, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

The University of Chicago is out with a new study titled “The Local Economic and Welfare Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing,” which compares the costs and benefits of fracking in nine shale regions in the US. According to the school’s press release, the new study has some great news for the oil and gas industry. And yet, the oil and gas industry has so far responded with cricket chirps. Now, why is that? Part of the problem could have to do with timing. The results of the study were publicly announced in a press release issued on December 22 by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) with this headline… That looks like some serious pie on the windowsill for oil and gas fans, but so far no-one has bothered to swipe it. As of this writing, the American Petroleum Institute has not issued a statement of cheer for the findings, and a quick check of the Intertubes hasn’t turned up anything from other major stakeholders. Aside from media reports, if you can find any major stakeholder organization with something positive to say about  about the study and its findings, drop us a note in the comment thread. Otherwise, a good guess would be that everyone was just leaving for an extended holiday vacation when the news came out. And, that leads to the conclusion that the University of Chicago dropped an important study two days before Christmas Eve because everyone would be too busy to pay much attention to it. A couple of news organizations did cover the release shortly after it went out, and that’s where you can find another reason why the oil and gas industry has been pretty quiet about the good news: it’s not so good, after all. Our friends over at FuelFix ran with the press release on December 22, but they didn’t just repost it. Their headline was this… …and their lede (fancyspeak for first paragraph) was this: Hydraulic fracturing and the shale boom have provided  many benefits for communities around the country, but the boom has also driven up local crime rates and decreased residents’ quality of life, according to a University of Chicago study released Thursday. That’s much closer to the study’s actual content than the EPIC headline expresses. Here’s a snippet from the abstract for the full study: …estimated willingness- to-pay (WTP) for the decrease in local amenities (e.g., crime and noise) is roughly equal to -$1000 to -$1,600 per household annually (-1.9% to -3.1% of mean household in-come). Overall, we estimate that WTP for allowing fracking equals about $1,300 to $1,900 per household annually (2.5% to 3.7%), although there is substantial heterogeneity across shale regions. So, a couple of red flags there. One is that thing about crime and noise. The other is the “substantial” difference in impacts among the nine regions surveyed. The study authors provide some additional caveats in a convenient research summary. Here are the relevant snippets (emphasis added): This data indicates that the average local benefits from hydraulic fracturing outweigh the costs, though this may change as more information about the environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing is revealed. Average benefits likely also mask considerable variation in the costs and benefits that accrue to individuals within each community. The authors also note that natural gas is “the least carbon intensive fossil fuel,” but they caution that full-on exploitation of global reserves could “potentially have negative climate implications.” The other news organization that covered the press release was the Daily Caller. Predictably, that article downplayed the negative material and focused on the positives (not going to provide a link to the Daily Caller). If you’ve found some other news articles that discuss the press release rather than just reposting it, drop a note in the comment thread. There could be one other reason why the EPIC press release dropped into the media world with barely a ripple. One of the authors of the study is the Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which posted a slight variation of the EPIC press release on its website. CEEPR is supported in part by 20 or so energy stakeholders, including several with direct interest in the fracking industry: BP (which apparently has high hopes for its “innovative” new operation, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal), ConocoPhillips, and of course, ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil is of particular interest because of its high profile lobbying efforts on behalf of shale gas. The company has vastly increased its shale gas holdings in recent years, it has been aggressively moving to knock coal out of the power generating sector, and its CEO Rex Tillerson has just been tapped to lead US foreign policy for the next four years as Secretary of State for the incoming Trump Administration, pending confirmation. The natural gas transportation industry is also represented at CEEPR, with support from TransCanada. According to a report last summer, the company has been waiting out the blockage its notorious Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline project by expanding its pipeline network for shale gas. Other supporters include utilities and energy companies with a substantial interest in cheap, abundant natural gas. This group includes several US companies that have been transitioning out of coal fired power plants: Duke Energy, Exelon Corporation, PSEG, and Southern Company. Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store!   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.


News Article | November 20, 2016
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Many Chinese cities are suffering from deteriorating environmental quality -- particularly due to air pollution that contributes to fog and haze. Air pollutant levels now far exceed "safe" limits established by the European Union, and one of the main culprits behind it is the rapid increase in automobile ownership and usage. These rising environmental concerns are driving the development of new energy vehicles (NEVs) -- aka plug-in electric vehicles -- as a way to help mitigate the environmental problems associated with automobile usage. But sales of NEVs are still relatively low. In 2014, the 74,763 NEVs sold accounted for only 0.3 percent of total automobile sales in China that year. So, a group of researchers from the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at Beijing Institute of Technology, the Collaborative Innovation Center of Electric Vehicles in Beijing, and the Sustainable Development Research Institute for Economy and Society of Beijing set out to find out what motivates or influences consumer to purchase electric vehicles within seven cities in China. They report their findings this week in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, from AIP Publishing. "China has a responsibility to make efforts to reduce the pollution for fossil consumption," said Yu Hao, an associate professor in the School of Management and Economics at Beijing Institute of Technology. The group's work is based on "a carefully designed questionnaire and an empirical analysis of its data to determine the main factors influencing NEV purchases," explained Hao. To aid and speed the development of China's NEV industry, "it's essential to understand both the motives behind consumers' purchases and any existing barriers to the popularization of NEVs," Hao continued. "Our studies revealed that monthly income, the number of cars a family owns, sustainability, and vehicle comfort are the factors that most strongly influence customers' purchasing behavior." They also found that factors such as age, marital status and city of residence are playing a role in consumers' decision-making process. Based on the group's findings, "several suggestions are now being provided to help develop the Chinese NEV market," Hao said. Their primary recommendation is that the Chinese government should consider scaling up "effective targeting of financial support and subsidies, while improving the financial incentive system for NEVs." Beyond that, "companies within the NEV industry should also be encouraged to increase their research and development investments," Hao added. "Ultimately, the government ought to encourage citizens to raise their awareness of the environment and sustainable development." As far as the next step for their work, "low carbon economy and NEVs are both hot topics around the world, so governments are competing to regulate subsidy policies for NEVs," Hao said. "We're interested in further exploring how these differentiated policies may affect consumers' purchase intentions so we can make corresponding policy recommendations."


News Article | November 17, 2016
Site: www.marketwired.com

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - November 17, 2016) - The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) congratulates Geisha Williams for being elected as the new CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. She is the first woman to take such a position at the company, and will assume the role in March 2017. "We applaud Geisha Williams for breaking a glass ceiling in corporate America and being elected as CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. She is the first woman, who happens to be Hispanic, to be named to this position," said USHCC President & CEO Javier Palomarez. "This signals a new beginning for the utility industry. It shows that Latinas too can earn command of Fortune 200 companies. Geisha's lengthy track record of reliability and strategic leadership in the energy and utility industries, both at PG&E and Florida Power and Light, makes her incredibly qualified for the role. When you harness the power of women, you unleash success for your business. The USHCC is thrilled that PG&E Corporation has recognized this truth, and is proud of Geisha for this incredible achievement." "Geisha Williams has been at the forefront of promoting clean energy within PG&E, and will continue to promote this transformational goal," said USHCC Chairman Don Salazar. "She played a significant part in shifting the company to getting 30% of its energy from renewable resources. Additionally, Geisha's experience as President of Electric at PG&E will help guide her as she maintains the company's electrical grid, which serves Northern and Central California. We believe that her 21st century leadership is what will bring even greater success to PG&E Corporation. The USHCC commends PG&E Corporation for naming Geisha as CEO, and cannot wait to work with her in the future." Geisha Williams joined PG&E in 2007, and was named Executive Vice President, Electric Operations in 2011. In 2015, she was named President, Electric and a member of PG&E's board. Williams also took on additional responsibilities, taking charge of the enterprise-wide Customer Care organization, and playing a key role in handling the shutdown of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Before her tenure at PG&E, she held officer level positions leading electric distribution, as well as a variety of positions in the fields of customer service, marketing, external affairs, and electric operations at Florida Power and Light Company, the third-largest electric utility in the United States. Williams obtained a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from University of Miami, and a Master's degree in Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She also serves as the Board Chair for the Center for Energy and Workforce Development, as a trustee at the California Academy of Sciences, and as a Director at the Edison Electric Institute, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies. She is also a member of the University of Miami President's Council, and of Executive women in Energy. PG&E Corporation is a Fortune 200 energy-based holding company headquartered in San Francisco. It is the parent company of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, California's largest investor-owned utility. PG&E serves nearly 16 million Californians across a 70,000-square-mile service area in Northern and Central California. The USHCC actively promotes the economic growth, development and interests of more than 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses that, combined, contribute over $668 billion to the American economy every year. It also advocates on behalf of 260 major American corporations and serves as the umbrella organization for more than 200 local chambers and business associations nationwide. For more information, visit ushcc.com. Follow the USHCC on Twitter @USHCC.


News Article | October 3, 2016
Site: news.mit.edu

When one type of an oxide structure called perovskite is exposed to both water vapor and streams of electrons, it exhibits behavior that researchers had never anticipated: The material gives off oxygen and begins oscillating, almost resembling a living, breathing organism. The phenomenon was “totally unexpected” and may turn out to have some practical applications, says Yang Shao-Horn, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT. She is the senior author of a paper describing the research that is being published today in the journal Nature Materials. The paper’s lead author is Binghong Han PhD ’16, now a postdoc at Argonne National Laboratory. Perovskite oxides are promising candidates for a variety of applications, including solar cells, electrodes in rechargeable batteries, water-splitting devices to generate hydrogen and oxygen, fuel cells, and sensors. In many of these uses, the materials would be exposed to water vapor, so a better understanding of their behavior in such an environment is considered important for facilitating the development of many of their potential applications. A video taken from a transmission electron microscope shows a perovskite material oscillating as it is exposed to water vapor and a beam of electrons. Video has been sped up. (Courtesy of the researchers) When a particular kind of perovskite known as BSCF — after the chemical symbols for its constituents barium, strontium, cobalt, and iron — is placed in a vacuum in a transmission electron microscope (TEM) to observe its behavior, Shao-Horn says, “nothing happens, it’s very stable.” But then, “when you pump in low pressure water vapor, you begin to see the oxide oscillate.” The cause of that oscillation, clearly visible in the TEM images, is that “bubbles form and shrink in the oxide. It’s like cooking a polenta, where bubbles form and then shrink.” The behavior was so unexpected in part because the oxide is solid and was not expected to have the flexibility to form growing and shrinking bubbles. “This is incredible,” Shao-Horn says. “We think of oxides as brittle,” but in this case the bubbles expand and contract without any fracturing of the material. And in the process of bubble formation, “we are actually generating oxygen gas,” she says. What’s more, the exact frequency of the oscillations that are generated by the forming and bursting bubbles can be precisely tuned, which could be a useful feature for some potential applications. “The magnitude and frequency of the oscillations depend on the pressure” of the vapor in the system, Shao-Horn says. And since the phenomenon also depends on the presence of electron beams, the reaction can be switched on and off at will by controlling those beams. The effect is not just a surface reaction, she says. The water molecules, which become ionized (electrically charged) by the electron beam, actually penetrate deep into the perovskite. “These ions go inside the bulk material, so we see oscillations coming from very deep,” she says. This experiment used the unique capabilities of an “environmental” transmission electron microscope at Brookhaven National Laboratory, part of a U.S. Department of Energy-supported facility there. With this instrument, the researchers directly observed the interaction between the perovskite material, water vapor, and streams of electrons, all at the atomic scale. Despite all the pulsating motion and the penetration of ions in and out of the solid crystalline material, when the reaction stops, the material “still has its original perovskite structure,” Han says. Because this is such a new and intriguing finding, Shao-Horn says, “we still don’t understand in full detail” exactly how the reactions take place, so the research is continuing in order to clarify the mechanisms. “It’s an unexpected result that opens a lot of questions to address scientifically.” While the initial experiments used electron beams, Shao-Horn questions if such behavior could also be induced by shining a bright light, which could be a useful approach for water splitting and purification — for example, using sunlight to generate hydrogen fuel from water or remove toxins from water. While most catalysts promote reactions only at their surfaces, the fact that this reaction penetrates into the bulk of the material suggests that it could offer a new mechanism for catalyst designs, she says. In addition to mechanical engineering, Shao-Horn holds joint appointments with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the MIT Energy Initiative’s Center for Energy Storage. The research team also included Kelsey Stoerzinger PhD ’16; Vasili Tileli of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in Switzerland; and Andrew Gamalski and Eric Stach of Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Skoltech-MIT Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage, and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: news.mit.edu

Chemical reactions that release oxygen in the presence of a catalyst, known as oxygen-evolution reactions, are a crucial part of chemical energy storage processes, including water splitting, electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction, and ammonia production. The kinetics of this type of reaction are generally slow, but compounds called metal oxides can have catalytic activities that vary over several orders of magnitude, with some exhibiting the highest such rates reported to date. The physical origins of these observed catalytic activities is not well-understood. Now, a team at MIT has shown that in some of these catalysts oxygen doesn’t come only from the water molecules surrounding the catalyst material; some of it comes from within the crystal lattice of the catalyst material itself. The new findings are being reported this week in the journal Nature Chemistry, in a paper by recent MIT graduate Binghong Han PhD ’16, postdoc Alexis Grimaud, Yang Shao-Horn, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy, and six others. The research was aimed at studying how water molecules are split to generate oxygen molecules and what factors limit the reaction rate, Grimaud says. Increasing those reaction rates could lead to more efficient energy storage and retrieval, for example, so determining just where the bottlenecks may be in the reaction is an important step toward such improvements. The catalysts used to foster the reactions are typically metal oxides, and the team wanted “to be able to explain the activity of the sites [on the surface of the catalyst] that split the water,” Grimaud says. The question of whether some oxygen gets stored within the crystal structure of the catalyst and then contributes to the overall oxygen output has been debated before, but previous work had never been able to resolve the issue. Most researchers had assumed that only the active sites on the surface of the material were taking any part in the reaction. But this team found a way of directly quantifying the contribution that might be coming from within the bulk of the catalyst material, and showed clearly that this was an important part of the reaction. They used a special “labeled” form of oxygen, the isotope oxygen-18, which makes up only a tiny fraction of the oxygen in ordinary water. By collaborating with Oscar Diaz-Morales and Marc T. Koper at Leiden University in the Netherlands, they first exposed the catalyst to water made almost entirely of oxygen-18, and then placed the catalyst in normal water (which contains the more common oxygen-16). Upon testing the oxygen output from the reaction, using a mass spectrometer that can directly measure the different isotopes based on their atomic weight, they showed that a substantial amount of oxygen-18, which cannot be accounted for by a surface-only mechanism, was indeed being released. The measurements were tricky to carry out, so the work has taken some time to complete. Diaz-Morales “did many experiments using the mass spectrometer to detect the kind of oxygen that was evolved from the water,” says Shao-Horn, who has joint appointments in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, and is a co-director of the MIT Energy Initiative’s Center for Energy Storage. With that knowledge and with detailed theoretical calculations showing how the reaction takes place, the researchers say they can now explore ways of tuning the electronic structure of these metal-oxide materials to increase the reaction rate. The amount of oxygen contributed by the catalyst material varies considerably depending on the exact chemistry or electronic structure of the catalyst, the team found. Oxides of different metal ions on the perovskite structure showed greater or lesser effects, or even none at all. In terms of the amount of oxygen output that is coming from within the bulk of the catalyst, “you observe a well-defined signal of the labeled oxygen,” Shao-Horn says. One unexpected finding was that varying the acidity or alkalinity of the water made a big difference to the reaction kinetics. Increasing the water’s pH enhances the rate of oxygen evolution in the catalytic process, Han says. These two previously unidentified effects, the participation of the bulk material in the reaction, and the influence of the pH level on the reaction rate, which were found only for oxides with record high catalytic activity, “cannot be explained by the traditional mechanism” used to explain oxygen evolution reaction kinetics, Diaz-Morales says. “We have proposed different mechanisms to account for these effects, which requires further experimental and computational studies.” “I find it very interesting that the lattice oxygen can take part in the oxygen evolution reactions,” says Ib Chorkendorff, a professor of physics at the Technical University of Denmark, who was not involved in this work. “We used to think that all these basic electrochemical reactions, related to proton membrane fuel cells and electrolyzers, are all taking place at the surface,” but this work shows that “the oxygen sitting inside the catalyst is also taking part in the reaction.” These findings, he says, “challenge the common way of thinking and may lead us down new alleys, finding new and more efficient catalysts.” The team also included Wesley Hong PhD ’16, former postdoc Yueh-Lin Lee, research scientist Livia Giordano in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Kelsey Stoerzinger PhD ’16, and Marc Koper of the Leiden Institute of Chemistry, in the Netherlands. The work was supported by the Skoltech Center for Electrochemical Energy, the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, the Department of Energy, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.


News Article | August 22, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

It’s not easy working in the energy efficiency world — that wonky sphere focused on tweaking homes and appliances to get us to use less energy, and so, contribute less to climate change. It’s a place where you see constant successes — Obama’s administration has put in place dozens of new standards to make products more energy efficient — but can’t ever seem to get much credit for them. After all, who notices the energy that they never use? Who is acutely conscious of doing more with less? Energy efficiency takes a huge number of forms, ranging from weatherizing a house to upping the fuel efficiency of vehicles. A new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a prominent nonprofit that both researches and promotes energy efficiency, makes the case that it has truly been transformative, and in a way that is quantifiable, over the past several decades. Take, for instance, economic growth: Since 1980, the report finds, GDP in this country has grown 149 percent. And it has long been assumed that energy use, and economic productivity, increase in tandem. But the report finds that only went from using 78 to 98 quads (short for a quadrillion BTUs, or British thermal units) of energy annually between 1980 and 2014. The percentage increase — 26 percent — is vastly smaller. The report calculates that after adjusting for other factors, such as structural changes in the economy as it moved from manufacturing towards more dependence on services, we are basically seeing 58 quads of annual energy savings attributable to more efficiency — an enormous amount. Relatedly, the research also asserts that since about the year 1995, we have seen what is sometimes called a “decoupling” between the growth of GDP and that of electricity usage in the country: Such a decoupling occurred, the argument goes, not only because of the same structural changes mentioned above, but also due to less demand for energy amidst economic expansion. Finally, the document calculates that energy efficiency, if considered an electricity “resource,” is the third largest in the country, after coal and natural gas — meaning that it is bigger than nuclear power. The justification for this calculation is that if energy had not been conserved, the U.S. would need dramatically more electricity generation capacity — hundreds of power plants. “In 2015, we estimate that US electricity savings from efficiency is about the same as the amount of electricity needed to power Canada and Mexico combined,” said Patrick Kiker, ACEEE’s spokesman. And if you take the total electricity saved between 1990 and 2015 in the U.S., adds ACEEE’s Maggie Molina, who directs the group’s program on utilities, state and local policy, then it adds up to a third of all the globe’s electricity generation in a year. So is energy efficiency really this powerful? The Post asked several experts to comment critically on the report. And the general gist is that while there are some pitfalls in these types of analyses, and it is possible to overplay things, they agreed about the overall effectiveness of energy efficiency. One, Charles Goldman of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cautioned that “in some cases, the report tends to use sources that are often based on ACEEE research – rather than other more conservative sources.” Still, Goldman continued, “the policies that are enunciated — appliance and equipment efficiency standards, building energy codes, utility efficiency programs funded by utility customers, utility regulatory reform — are all solid and well-grounded and are cost-effective if done well. And for that part of the report, I would certainly agree that those policies have served US customers well if they are well-implemented and have the potential to continue producing cost-effective savings going forward to 2030.” “The overall message of the report is not really controversial, and has been strongly supported by excellent research over the years,” added Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University who has published on the decoupling of GDP from electricity consumption in the U.S., also noting that the change began around the mid-1990s. “There is great potential for efficiency and adopting it has multiple benefits, but to capture these benefits requires changes in policies, institutional structures, and human behaviors.” Koomey said it is very important, however, to separate energy efficiency gains from structural economic changes, which also contributed greatly to a decoupling of GDP and electricity consumption. He said the report had done this for its main findings related to GDP, but there were some figures that “do not appear to treat structural change explicitly.” ACEEE’s Molina, though, said that different approaches to this type of analysis — one that is “top down,” which looks at the energy intensity of the economy and factors out structural change, and one that is “bottom up,” which sums together all the different gains from energy efficiency programs — yield similar results. What is most important, though, is the role played by energy efficiency going forward. Assuming President Obama’s Clean Power Plan makes its way through legal challenges and comes into effect, energy efficiency — using less — could be one key way that U.S. states manage to lower their emissions as required by the plan. (Others include shifting to renewables, or shifting from coal to gas or coal to nuclear.) It’s not just the United States, either. In laying out a scenario to keep the world below 2 degrees of global warming, above pre-industrial levels, by 2050, the International Energy Agency focused on five necessary factors to get there. We’ll need vastly more renewable energy, more nuclear energy, and more carbon capture and storage. We’ll have to switch which fuels we use. But the fifth factor, once again, was doing much more with less.


News Article | December 12, 2016
Site: news.mit.edu

MIT professors Ahmed Ghoniem and Katherine “Kate” Kellogg have been selected as the most recent honorees of the student-driven “Committed to Caring” (C2C) program. Started in the spring of 2014, Committed to Caring seeks to recognize and celebrate MIT faculty members who go above and beyond to make an impact in the lives of graduate students. Students are the heart of the Committed to Caring program. Graduate students nominate faculty who have made a difference in their lives during their time at MIT. A panel composed of a majority of graduate students reviews the nominations and selects the faculty honorees. Graduate Community Fellow Jennifer Cherone, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology, takes the leads in producing creative visuals and articles to celebrate the faculty members’ mentoring achievements with guidance from Office of the Dean for Graduate Education Communication Officer Heather Konar. “We are delighted to be able to empower graduate students to honor the faculty members who have made a difference for them,” says Interim Dean for Graduate Education Blanche Staton. “This campaign allows us to feature stories of caring that inspire the MIT community, and highlight the ways that research supervisors value and champion students.” Says Konar, “Celebrating acts of caring is something that lifts up every person — not just students, but faculty and staff as well.” Ahmed Ghoniem, the Ronald C. Crane Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for Energy and Propulsion Research, is revered among his students for his understanding nature and support of their development as individuals. Encouraging his students to develop their own ideas and pursue their own research interests, he gives them “freedom to chart their own courses in grad school and develop into well-rounded researchers, as a result” in the words of one nominator. This applies to both their thesis projects as well as ventures and experiences outside of MIT, such as internships and forming new startups. Moreover, his students say Ghoniem “has created a very supportive, family-friendly culture” in his lab. He becomes a part of a graduate parent’s support system, allowing his students to still flourish academically and professionally. One student describes his incredible support during her pregnancy with twins and how “he instilled confidence in [her] to bounce back and become an even stronger researcher as a mother.” Members of Ghoniem’s lab lightheartedly refer to their group as “the most re-productive research team at MIT,” but jokes aside, say that they believe this kind of unwavering support should be truly celebrated. Ghoniem’s research covers computational engineering, combustion and thermochemistry, CO capture, and fuel production from renewable sources, and was recently elected as an American Physical Society Fellow. Katherine Kellogg: The little things and the big things Katherine "Kate" Kellogg, the Sloan Distinguished Professor in Management and a professor of business administration in the Work and Organization Studies Group, goes above and beyond to provide both professional and personal guidance to help her students find their own path forward. Her mentees feel that Kellogg is always watching out for them, regularly forwarding them articles and professional opportunities that fit their interests. One nominator explains that Kellogg “adds a human element to the research process” by sharing personal stories about her own experiences with challenges in her research. A student who faced serious health issues early in her studies relates how Kellogg did everything she could to help her get the resources and space to make a full recovery. This student largely credits her current success to Kellogg’s “belief in and support of me.” Her students say they feel “incredibly supported both as people and as students.” Kellogg has also been a valuable resource to young women and new mothers. She is open to having candid conversations about being a “professional woman and mother in academia,” female researchers say they greatly appreciate. She has helped her students navigate having children in graduate school, doing both the little things like sending a baby gift and asking to see pictures, and the big things like helping students to plan their research around their pregnancy and maternity leave. Kellogg teaches, researches, and writes about institutional change and new models of work and employment in health care. She is the author of the award-winning book "Challenging Operations: Medical Reform and Resistance in Surgery." More information and profiles on all past recipients are available on the Committed to Caring website.


News Article | November 9, 2016
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

As the European Union contemplates new policies aimed at meeting its emissions-reduction commitments under last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change, a new study by researchers at MIT and elsewhere could provide some valuable guidance on the most effective strategy. Rather than adopt a standard for automotive gas-mileage ratings, as the United States has done with its CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards for many years, the EU could achieve the same results for CO emission reduction, at far lower cost to the economy, by simply extending their existing emissions-trading system to encompass transportation rather than just electricity generation and energy intensive industry, the researchers found. Switching from the automotive standards to the trading scheme could save as much as 63 billion Euros, says the study’s lead author Sergey Paltsev, deputy director at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and senior research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative. The results have just been published in the journal Transportation, in a paper co-authored by Joint Program researchers Valerie Karplus, Henry Chen, Paul Kishimoto, and John Reilly, and three others. “There are many ways to do policies” to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Paltsev says, “and sometimes political reality doesn’t allow you to do things the best way.” But as the EU seeks ways to implement the 40 percent emissions reduction by 2030 that it agreed to at last year’s Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris, policymakers may be well-positioned to use this agreement as an impetus to adopt such an expansion of their emissions trading system. The existing emissions trading system in Europe has not worked well, Paltsev says, partly because its price on carbon is quite low, and partly because it does not encompass enough different emissions-producing sectors of the economy. However, “the system can be fixed, and this is a great opportunity to fix it,” he says. The new analysis, Paltsev says, clearly shows that instead of imposing mileage efficiency standards, “there is a much better way to achieve the relevant targets” for cutting emissions from the transportation sector. He points out that because of high fuel taxes and the resulting high cost of gasoline in Europe, the existing fleet of passenger cars there is already more efficient than the U.S. fleet, so implementing stringent fuel efficiency standards would be more costly for Europe. From an economic point of view, “emissions trading or a carbon tax is going to achieve their emissions goals at the lowest possible cost to society,” says Paltsev, who is an economist and an engineer by training. And the emissions trading system is already established in the EU, he says, even though in its present form the system is flawed because of over-allocation of emission permits and interaction with renewable energy requirements. In addition, it only addresses the most energy-intensive sectors, primarily power generation. However, the trading system could easily be expanded to encompass private vehicles as well, according to Paltsev. Since the goal is to achieve a given amount of reduction in the EU’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, expanding the program to include transportation could achieve the same amount of reduction, according to the new study, “and save money for taxpayers and the European economy — and those savings can be quite substantial,” Paltsev says. The team used a computer model developed at the Joint Program that encompasses the scenarios’ interactive effects on all aspects of the economy, rather than just the transportation sector as most analyses do. For example, the interactive model includes secondary effects such as how manufacturing or service industries may respond to policy changes that affect transportation costs, which can in turn influence the cost of goods. Using this model, the study found that using the emissions trading system instead of a mileage standard could save between 24 and 63 billion Euros in 2025, he says, and “achieve exactly the same goal.” He adds, “I’m an economist, and if I see 63 billion lying on the floor, I say pick it up!” The modeling team also benefited from having access to detailed data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the costs of meeting fuel standards in this country, whereas analysts in Europe who studied these tradeoffs “didn’t have that luxury,” he says. As a result, their studies were much simpler and “didn’t provide the richness of data the EPA has been able to achieve.” He says the team presented their findings to EU officials in Brussels, and the initial response there was “very receptive, and that’s a good sign.” The approach used by this team is one that they hope will be replicated in analyzing other proposed policy measures and other regions of the world. “It shows you need to have this kind of overarching view, to look at all sectors at the same time,” in order to derive useful policy recommendations. Andreas Schafer, Professor of Energy and Transport at University College London, who was not involved in the analysis, noted that “this study, for the first time, quantifies the vast economic costs of that policy using a general equilibrium framework. Although the figures should be considered with caution (as also suggested by the authors), the extra costs of separate emission standards between 2015 and 2020 compare to roughly half the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 [spending] of around 80 billion Euros over nearly the same period.” The research team also included Andreas Löschel of the University of Münster, in Germany; Kathrine von Graevenitz of the Center for European Economic Research, in Germany; and Simon Koesler of the Center for Energy Policy at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, U.K. The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other sponsors from government, industry, and foundations, through the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.


News Article | February 23, 2017
Site: www.materialstoday.com

Chemical reactions that release oxygen in the presence of a catalyst, known as oxygen-evolution reactions, are a crucial part of many chemical energy storage processes, including water splitting, electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction and ammonia production. The kinetics of this type of reaction are generally slow, but compounds called metal oxides can have catalytic activities that vary over several orders of magnitude, with some exhibiting the highest activities reported to date for this reaction. The physical origins of these observed catalytic activities are, however, not well-understood. Now, a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has shown that, in some of these catalysts, oxygen doesn't come only from the water molecules surrounding the catalyst material, but also comes from within the crystal lattice of the catalyst material itself. This finding is reported in a paper in Nature Chemistry by recent MIT graduate Binghong Han, postdoc Alexis Grimaud, professor of energy Yang Shao-Horn, and six others. Their research was aimed at studying how water molecules are split to generate oxygen molecules and what factors limit the reaction rate, Grimaud says. Increasing those reaction rates could lead to more efficient energy storage and retrieval, so determining just where the bottlenecks may be in the reaction is an important step toward making such improvements. The catalysts employed to promote water-splitting reactions are typically metal oxides, and the team wanted "to be able to explain the activity of the sites [on the surface of the catalyst] that split the water," Grimaud says. The question of whether some oxygen gets stored within the crystal structure of the catalyst and then contributes to the overall oxygen output has been debated before, but previous work had never been able to resolve the issue. Most researchers had assumed that only the active sites on the surface of the material were taking any part in the reaction. But the MIT-led team found a way of directly quantifying the contribution that might be coming from within the bulk of the catalyst material, and showed clearly that this was an important part of the reaction. They used a special ‘labeled’ form of oxygen, the isotope oxygen-18, which makes up only a tiny fraction of the oxygen in ordinary water. By collaborating with Oscar Diaz-Morales and Marc Koper at Leiden University in the Netherlands, they first exposed the catalyst to water made almost entirely of oxygen-18, and then placed the catalyst in normal water (which contains the more common oxygen-16). Upon testing the oxygen output from the reaction with a mass spectrometer that can directly measure different isotopes based on their atomic weight, they showed that a substantial amount of oxygen-18, which could not be accounted for by a surface-only mechanism, was indeed being released. The measurements were tricky to carry out, so the work has taken some time to complete. "[Diaz-Morales] did many experiments using the mass spectrometer to detect the kind of oxygen that was evolved from the water," says Shao-Horn, who has joint appointments in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, and is also a co-director of the MIT Energy Initiative's Center for Energy Storage. With that knowledge and with detailed theoretical calculations showing how the reaction takes place, the researchers say they can now explore ways of tuning the electronic structure of these metal oxide materials to increase the reaction rate. The amount of oxygen contributed by the catalyst material varies considerably depending on the exact chemistry or electronic structure of the catalyst, the team found. Oxides containing different metal ions showed greater or lesser effects, or even none at all. In terms of the amount of oxygen output that comes from within the bulk of the catalyst, "you observe a well-defined signal of the labeled oxygen," Shao-Horn says. One unexpected finding was that varying the acidity or alkalinity of the water made a big difference to the reaction kinetics. Increasing the water's pH enhances the rate of oxygen evolution in the catalytic process, Han says. These two previously unidentified effects – the participation of the bulk material in the reaction, and the influence of the pH level on the reaction rate – were found only for oxides with record high catalytic activity. "[They] cannot be explained by the traditional mechanism" used to explain oxygen evolution reaction kinetics, says Diaz-Morales. "We have proposed different mechanisms to account for these effects, which requires further experimental and computational studies." This story is adapted from material from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.


Graphene - Here's What You Should Know There is good news from Spain about an upcoming opportunity for printing human skin to support burn victims and others who will be requiring skin replacement at reasonable costs. This follows the feat of Spanish biologists in making a 3D bioprinter prototype for creating a functional human skin. The research was conducted at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and the Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research. The study has been published in the scientific journal Biofabrication. "3D bioprinting has emerged as a flexible tool in regenerative medicine," the authors wrote. They said the results have established that 3D bioprinting is a good technology in making bioengineered skin for therapeutical and industrial applications in an automatized manner. "It can be transplanted into patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses," said José Luis Jorcano, one of the researchers behind the project. "This method of bioprinting allows skin to be generated in a standardized, automated way, and the process is less expensive than manual production," Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group explained. Structure wise, the artificial skin is replicating the real human skin with an epidermis-like external layer for protection, where a thicker layer serves as the dermis and another layer of fibroblast cells for collagen production, which provides the protein required for the elasticity and mechanical strength of the skin. However, there is still a long way to go. Before selling the 3D printed skin to medical centers, there has to be approval from the European regulatory agencies in making sure that the 3D bio printed skin is fit for transplants on burn patients and others. But researchers are hopeful that the new skin printing technology will deliver a functionally safe product and bring relief to millions of patients. Bioprinting deploys printing devices that deposit biological materials to construct 3D artificial tissues using computer devices. They artificially construct living tissue by generating living cells layer-upon-layer. Developed by Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri in the U.S., bio-printers can print complex 3D structures by combining "bio ink" and "bio paper." Still at the nascent stage but in the long run can create organs for replacement and develop human tissues from raw biological materials.The leading player in bio-printing industry is Organovo. An insight into how bio-printing works can be useful. For bioprinting, an organ is cut horizontally to see the array of cells on the surface for making the bioInk, which changes into spheroids. When the BioInk is placed inside, the bio-printer spheroids are dropped into the hydrogel, which is the placeholder. By repeated action, layers of spheroids form a 3D tissue. Experimental bioprinters had a starting point from the efforts of Makoto Nakamura, who in 2002 postulated that the droplets of ink in a standard inkjet printer are similar to the size of human cells. The synergy made him adapt the technology and made a bioprinter that can print out biotubing akin to a blood vessel. The benefits include replacing human tissue with full body transplant, cutting the wait list of organ transplants. Printed cells can also offer higher survival rate. At the flip side, the uncertainty whether the replacement cells within the reconstructed organ can be really functional. Large-scale construction also increases the complexity associated with transplantation. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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