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National Science Foundation
The Energy Revolution
Photo of pond scum and the words Turning Pond Scum Into FuelTurning Pond Scum Into Fuel
Corn ethanol has become the ubiquitous biofuel in the U.S. But first-generation biofuels like ethanol are problematic. For one thing, they divert land from food crops. They're also chemically different than gasoline, so you can only blend them in limited amounts. But waiting in the wings is the second generation of biofuels--made from non-food material, like algae. And most amazingly, researchers think they'll be able to make an algae fuel you could put straight into the car you drive today.
 
Photo of electrical grid and the words Note to Smart Grid: Heal ThyselfNote to Smart Grid: Heal Thyself
The future electricity grid may well be a "smart grid," where electricity lines provide not just power, but communication. Now, some researchers are taking that idea a step further. They call their plan the "energy internet," and it would make energy distribution as participatory as sharing photos with friends. It would also pave the way for widespread electric vehicles and distributed energy generation.
 
Photo of red LED light bulbs and the words What Can We Do to End LED DroopWhat Can We Do to End LED "Droop"?
You've seen them light up computers and electronic displays, and they're now making their way into flashlights, indoor lighting and televisions. They're LEDs--ten times as efficient as incandescent bulbs, and twice as efficient as compact fluorescents. With new materials, LEDs are overcoming past problems with color and "droop." And with new manufacturing methods, LEDs are being produced by major lighting companies. As they become more affordable, they'll likely become the light of the future.
 
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