Volume 1 Issue 1 January 2016

Volume 1 Issue 1

Fuel for the future

Our energy systems are undergoing large-scale changes as we try to overcome many societal and environmental challenges. Doing this successfully requires the efforts of many different researchers across a range of technologies and systems, each of which faces their own issues and concerns for the future.

See Armstrong et al. 1, 15020 (2016).

IMAGE: poliki/iStock/Thinkstock COVER DESIGN: Alex Wing

Editorial

  • Editorial |

    Energy systems around the globe are changing in response to new technological developments and environmental and social pressures. Making the most of these changes requires a concerted effort from academia, industry and government — an effort Nature Energy intends to support.

Comment

  • Comment |

    Energy storage will play a key role in increasing the use of variable energy sources. Nonetheless, storage is not the only balancing option and the overall design of power systems will incorporate a range of flexible generation, storage and grid-balancing options of different types and scales.

    • David Elliott
  • Comment |

    Climate change mitigation requires gigatonne-scale CO2 removal technologies, yet few examples exist beyond niche markets. The flexibility of thermochemical conversion of biomass and fossil energy, coupled with carbon capture and storage, offers a route to commercializing carbon-negative energy.

    • Daniel L. Sanchez
    •  & Daniel M. Kammen
  • Comment |

    The past five years have seen substantial cost reductions and greatly increased uptake of photovoltaics. Growth is being driven by ongoing improvements in both silicon solar cell costs and performance, making the commercialization of new technologies increasingly difficult.

    • Martin A. Green

Features

  • Feature |

    Meeting the world's energy needs requires the collective efforts of many different actors across a range of technologies and approaches. In this Feature, ten leading experts in energy research share their vision of the challenges their respective fields must address in the coming decades.

    • Robert C. Armstrong
    • , Catherine Wolfram
    • , Krijn P. de Jong
    • , Robert Gross
    • , Nathan S. Lewis
    • , Brenda Boardman
    • , Arthur J. Ragauskas
    • , Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez
    • , George Crabtree
    •  & M. V. Ramana

Research Highlights

News & Views

  • News and Views |

    The open-circuit voltage is one of the parameters determining the efficiency of solar cells in converting solar radiation to electricity. Reducing the structural disorder in fullerene electron-transport layers is now shown to significantly improve the open-circuit voltage of perovskite solar cells.

    • Yanfa Yan
  • News and Views |

    Household energy conservation can help to significantly lower energy consumption. Visual cues provided by thermal imaging of heat loss in buildings are now shown to increase energy conserving behaviours and implementations among homeowners more effectively than just performing carbon footprint audits.

    • Linda Steg
  • News and Views |

    Ensuring safety during operation is a major issue in the development of lithium-ion batteries. Coating the electrode current collector with thermoresponsive polymer composites is now shown to rapidly shut the battery down when it overheats, and to quickly resume its function when normal operating conditions return.

    • Khalil Amine
  • News and Views |

    The sustainable production of hydrogen is key to the delivery of clean energy in a hydrogen economy; however, lower-cost alternatives to platinum electrocatalysts are needed. Now, isolated, earth-abundant cobalt atoms dispersed over nitrogen-doped graphene are shown to efficiently electrolyse water to generate hydrogen.

    • Aiqin Wang
    •  & Tao Zhang

Review & Perspective

  • Review Article |

    The performance of solid-oxide fuel cells and electrolyser cells is largely governed by the electrochemical interface. The authors review the evolution of the interface under operation, highlighting approaches to control and improve interfacial architectures and cell performance.

    • John T. S. Irvine
    • , Dragos Neagu
    • , Maarten C. Verbraeken
    • , Christodoulos Chatzichristodoulou
    • , Christopher Graves
    •  & Mogens B. Mogensen

Research

  • Article |

    Advanced batteries require careful control over the interfacial properties of their constituent materials. This study designs hierarchically structured cathode materials that are resistant to surface reconstruction, leading to improved cycling performance.

    • Feng Lin
    • , Dennis Nordlund
    • , Yuyi Li
    • , Matthew K. Quan
    • , Lei Cheng
    • , Tsu-Chien Weng
    • , Yijin Liu
    • , Huolin L. Xin
    •  & Marca M. Doeff
  • Article |

    Biofuels offer a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels but may need large land-use changes. This study combines ecosystem and economic models to explore land-use allocation and greenhouse gas emissions for a 32-billion-gallon Renewable Fuel Standard in the US.

    • Tara W. Hudiburg
    • , WeiWei Wang
    • , Madhu Khanna
    • , Stephen P. Long
    • , Puneet Dwivedi
    • , William J. Parton
    • , Melannie Hartman
    •  & Evan H. DeLucia
  • Article |

    Precious metals are efficient oxygen electrocatalysts but suffer from poor stability and high cost. Now, nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes derived from metal–organic frameworks are shown to have activity and durability comparable to that of Pt/C catalysts.

    • Bao Yu Xia
    • , Ya Yan
    • , Nan Li
    • , Hao Bin Wu
    • , Xiong Wen (David) Lou
    •  & Xin Wang
  • Article |

    There is an intensive research effort in suppressing the first-cycle lithium loss in lithium-ion batteries. Now, a cathode prelithiation method with nanocomposites of conversion materials is demonstrated to compensate the initial lithium loss and improve the battery performance.

    • Yongming Sun
    • , Hyun-Wook Lee
    • , Zhi Wei Seh
    • , Nian Liu
    • , Jie Sun
    • , Yuzhang Li
    •  & Yi Cui
  • Article |

    Safety is a major issue in the development of lithium-ion batteries. Now, a thermoresponsive polymer composite embedded into electrodes is shown to rapidly shut down batteries at overheating but quickly resume function at normal conditions.

    • Zheng Chen
    • , Po-Chun Hsu
    • , Jeffrey Lopez
    • , Yuzhang Li
    • , John W. F. To
    • , Nan Liu
    • , Chao Wang
    • , Sean C. Andrews
    • , Jia Liu
    • , Yi Cui
    •  & Zhenan Bao
  • Article |

    Many people globally still use solid fuels for cooking and heating, leading to programmes designed to subsidize cleaner alternatives. This study analyses possible effects of climate mitigation policies on fuel costs and hence the effectiveness of such schemes.

    • Colin Cameron
    • , Shonali Pachauri
    • , Narasimha D. Rao
    • , David McCollum
    • , Joeri Rogelj
    •  & Keywan Riahi