How Green Is My Plug-In?

The carbon impact of the millions of electric vehicles soon to hit the road will depend on the grids that supply them

12 min read
Opening illustration for this feature article.
Illustration: Holly Lindem

“Our goal is to remove the car from the environmental debate,” says Larry Burns, vice president for R&D and strategic planning at General Motors. His vision is that one day cars will emit no harmful pollutants from their tailpipes—or perhaps they’ll have no tailpipes at all. And if the beleaguered automaker survives that long, GM may be able to achieve that goal.

But no company can ever remove cars from the environmental equation. Public impressions are fleeting and malleable, but the laws of physics and chemistry are immutable. Cars require energy to move, and that energy—even if it’s stored in a battery pack rather than in fuel sloshing around in a tank—has to come from somewhere.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Converting Coal Power Plants to Nuclear Gains Steam

A U.S. Department of Energy report identifies over 300 coal plants that could be swapped over

3 min read
illustration of a building concept

This illustration shows TerraPower’s Wyoming project, which aims to retrofit an existing coal plant with a sodium fast reactor.

TerraPower

On a planet aspiring to become carbon neutral, the once-stalwart coal power plant is an emerging anachronism.

It is true that, in much of the developing world, coal-fired capacity continues to grow. But in every corner of the globe, political and financial pressures are mounting to bury coal in the past. In the United States, coal’s share of electricity generation has plummeted since its early 2000s peak; 28 percent of U.S. coal plants are planned to shutter by 2035.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Strange Topological Physics Could Help Enable 6G Tech

Topological chips can enable on-chip data rates of 160 gigabits per second

3 min read
A pattern of red triangles with some that are yellow

A new silicon device can help control terahertz communications on chips.

Nanyang Technological University/Nature Communications

The next generation of wireless communications, 6G, will likely rely on terahertz rays to help reach unprecedented speeds. Now research suggests that unusual topological physics may help control terahertz radiation on chips for 6G applications.

Terahertz waves (also called submillimeter radiation or far-infrared light) fall between optical waves and microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum. Ranging in frequency from 0.1 to 10 terahertz, these waves could be key to future 6G wireless networks.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Exploring the Value of Power Modules

Learn how power modules can reduce power supply size, EMI, design time, and solution cost

1 min read
Texas Instruments

In this training series, we will discuss the high level of integration of DC/DC power modules and the significant implications that this has on power supply design.

Watch this free webinar now!

In addition to high power density and small solution size, modules can also simplify EMI mitigation and reduce power supply design time. And thanks to improved process and packaging technology, a power module may even provide all of these benefits with a lower overall solution cost as well.

Keep Reading ↓Show less