Chemistry World recently published an article about a new technique which achieves atomic level dispersion of palladium on a titanium oxide surface. The dispersed catalyst was 55 times more active than other palladium catalysts for a specific hydrogenation reaction. The researchers at Xiamen University in China who developed this technique are working to extent it to other noble metal catalysts (e.g. platinum). It is not immediately obvious that this development has direct implications for energy production/storage but since PEM fuel cells/electrolyzers use noble metal catalysts useful application in this field might eventually be found.
ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) has developed a plasma process for the oxidation of polymer precursors used in the production of carbon fiber which reduces processing time by a factor of 3 and reduces carbon fiber production costs by 20 to 40%. Carbon fiber is used to create extremely strong, light weight materials for a variety of applications. Lowering costs would naturally widen the field of economically viable applications for this material. ORNL has licensed this plasma oxidation process to RMX Technologies. However, RMX is itself an R&D materials science company and is unlikely to become a commercial manufacturer of carbon fiber. Instead they will develop the process further in an effort to bring it to a stage where it will be adopted by large scale producers of carbon fiber. A tip of the hat to Green Car Congress for this story
The PVTECH website recently published an article about the rapid growth in shipment of single axis trackers for for utility scale solar PV installation. These trackers can increase the solar output from solar panels by 30%. This rapid growth is being spurred in part by US government ITC (investment tax credit). Anti-government types will instantly conclude that the growth in solar tracker shipments is a pure liberal boondoggle, but the hope of the ‘government can sometimes do good types’ is that increasing competition in a profitable market will drive down tracker costs in the same was that fixed tilt system costs have been driven down dramatically in recent years.