Can Aviation Help the Environment?

by Tyler Hoyle

LeapTech, is NASA’s latest project geared towards testing a different approach to powering flight. It has the potential to pave the way for low-carbon aviation. Rather than using a fossil fuel burning engine, LeapTech is a truck-plane hybrid, with 18 electric motors along its leading edge, each containing a small propeller. The small propellers are used to test the distributed propulsion in order to analyze if it has the potential to lead to the creation of energy efficient aircraft designs that would ultimately produce less pollution. Continue reading

Department of Energy Invests in Advanced Nuclear Power Reactors

by Judy Li

On January 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy granted awards to two projects, X-energy and Southern Company, to further nuclear energy technology. Each company can get up to $40 million over many years, with initial investments of $6 million each to support their research and development of next generation nuclear reactors. Secretary Moniz emphasized that investments are important for developing nuclear power as a source of carbon free energy in the future. The Obama Administration wants to expand nuclear power as part of its plan to reduce emissions and fight climate change.

X-energy is working on a pebble bed reactor where the uranium fuel is encased in ceramic and graphite balls. According to their website, the pebbles help to prevent the release of radioactivity, maintain the individual integrity of particles and moderate reactions. The fuel cannot melt down in an accident and the reactor is smaller than traditional reactors, making the system safer and practical for more communities. Continue reading