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OSTIblog Articles in the OSTI collections Topic

Plasmas - The Greatest Show on Earth

Perhaps the most beautiful and eerie displays of light in our sky are a phenomenon known as the auroras. This natural glow of light in the sky in high latitude regions usually displays ribbons of colors from a fluorescent green to brilliant purple to a vivid crimson somewhat like an unexpected beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Observers often call it the greatest show on Earth.

Auroras are triggered by geomagnetic storms when gusts of solar plasma wind strike the Earth’s magnetic field; charged particles rain down over the north and south magnetic poles, lighting up the atmosphere and causing the air to glow. In the northern latitude, this display is known as the aurora borealis or northern lights and in the southern latitude, it is known as aurora australis or southern lights.  Like lightening, auroras are one of the few naturally-occurring plasmas found here on Earth.

Plasma science involving both natural and artificially produced plasma encompasses a variety of science disciplines ranging from plasma physics, atomic and molecular physics, chemistry, energy security, advanced space propulsion, and material science.  Plasma’s unique behaviors and characteristics make them useful in a large and growing number of scientific and industrial applications important to our universe.  

DOE researchers are making significant progress in this amazing field.  For example, researchers at the...

Related Topics: ambient-gas, auroras, geomagnetic storms, microwave thrusters, nanomaterials, OSTI collections, plasma, SciTech Connect, spaceship propulsion, William Watson


Energy in the Forecast

If you can accurately predict the weather, you may be able to predict how much energy can be generated from wind turbines.  That was one objective of the “Great Plains Wind Energy Transmission Development Project,” completed in 2011, to “develop a wind energy forecast system, and demonstrate its efficacy in scheduling power output from wind farms in the Great Plains.”  The forecasting system described in the report was comprised of three elements, a software component using various weather prediction models, a wind energy output model, and a graphical user interface.

Detailed wind resource maps, provided by the Wind Powering America Initiative, are another tool for demonstrating wind resource potential and removing some of the guesswork from wind energy prediction. 

You can read more about the wind, weather, and turbine dynamics in OSTI Collections: Wind Power, and link to many other research reports delving deeper into a range of topics related to wind energy.

Daphne Evans, OSTI Staff

Related Topics: energy, maps, OSTI collections, weather, wind, wind collection


Fine tuning fuel cells

Researchers are finding ways to fine tune fuel cells to make them affordable, reliable, efficient and commercially competitive. DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) researchers have discovered ways to improve the fuel cell terminal surface area of solid oxide fuel cells and found novel methods to synthesize large batches of nanotubes to increase fuel cells’ output.

A NETL supported 2011 Alkaline Membrane Fuel Cell Workshop reports significant research advances made in fuel cells such as the availability of advanced membranes and ionomers and progress in producing alkaline membrane cells that don’t require precious metals. Perhaps most encouraging is the report of the significant acceleration of interest and the amount of research in fuel cell technology. Fine tuning fuel cell technology is an exciting and growing field of scientific study. Read more from the DOE Office of Science.

Related Topics: alkaline membrane cells, fuel cells, nanotubes, OSTI collections, oxide


Perfecting the fuel improves the cell…


Perfecting the fuel improves the cell…

A large portion of DOE fuel cell research is about improving the fuel.  Many fuels contain contaminants that can damage the cell and impede the processes involved.  Developing methods for removing impurities from fuels may help improve their efficiency and environmental impact, thereby increasing their marketability.

In Fuel Quality Issues in Stationary Fuel Cell Systems, from the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory,   researchers point out contaminants of particular concern because of their effects on the functionality and resilience of fuel cell systems, and suggest strategies for clean-up.

DOE fuel cell research is not limited to the exploration of fuel enhancement.  You can find reports, patents, presentations, and other research documents related to multiple aspects of fuel cell research, including fuel cell refinement, environmental effects of fuel cells, and fuel-cell market needs, in OSTI collections: fuel cells.

Related Topics: OSTI collections