And Now For Something Completely Different

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Tolstoy, in War and Peace, wrote that, “Among the innumerable subdivisions that can be made in the phenomena of life, one can subdivide them all into those in which content predominates and those in which form predominates.” One group attempting to meld form and function is the Land Art Generator Initiative, a group attempting to “bring together artists, architects, scientists, and engineers in a first of its kind collaboration. The goal of the Land Art Generator Initiative is to design and construct a series of land art installations across the UAE that uniquely combine aesthetic intrigue with clean energy generation. The LAGI viewing platforms will be tourist destinations that draw people from around the world to experience the beauty of …

Half a World Apart, United in Their Research

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Dr. Yi Cui, a winner of the 2004 MIT Technology Review World Top 100 Young Innovator Award (among other notable awards), and Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University, was a distinguished presenter at the CAFE Foundation’s Third Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium last April. He talked about the structure and manufacturing of lithium-ion cells, and the material limitations placed on the performance of those cells. His breakthrough in using nanowires in the cathode promises an 80-percent gain in the cell’s charge-holding ability, equivalent to ten years of the normal cell improvement of eight percent per year. The good news was somewhat of a letdown for many, who were hoping to hear of a total …

Electric Trike Flight 13 Years Ago

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Our article on “The Three Pauls” (November 15, 2009) assumed that Paul Crocker and Paul Dewhurst were the first to fly electrically in Britain.  David Bremner, who had taken the pictures of the flights, set us straight, pointing out that Nigel Beale had been the first to fly with electric power in the UK – in 1996!  Doing a little Internet surfing, I found a great web site, The Battery Vehicle Society.  A post by Kelvin in their June 20, 2007 blog  gives the correct acknowledgement of  Nigel’s accomplishment.  Kelvin wrote this when Randall Fishman had successfully levitated his electrically powered trike in the US. “Just to let you know though us Brits had an electric microlight in the air a long …

Many Happy Hours in Sunny Skies

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 1 Comment

Eric Raymond, over the last 20 years, has accumulated more solar-powered flying hours than any other pilot. And what hours these have been. Having met Gunther Rochelt and flown Rochelt’s Musculair human-powered airplane in 1986, Eric was inspired to apply the light construction techniques to the building of a solar-powered airplane. In 1990, he flew Sunseeker I across the United State in 21 hops totaling 121 hours in the air, going from California to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the birthplace of powered flight. He upgraded Sunseeker over the years, improving the powerplant and aerodynamics of the amazingly light aircraft. Even with solar cells, batteries, and a 2.5 kW motor, the airplane weighed little more than a legal ultralight. Sunseeker II …

An American ReVolt

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

ReVolt Technologies LLC, a Swiss battery company founded in 2004 as a spin-off of SINTEF, Norway, is moving its headquarters to Portland, Oregon. Initially targeting the consumer electronics market with their zinc/air battery (compare to the lithium/air batteries IBM is researching – see “Big Blue and Blue Sky Thinking” October 25, 2009) in a grant request to the U. S. Department of Energy for $30 million for research on making large format versions of the battery for vehicles.  The company has an alliance with chemical giant BASF. ReVolt claims the following advantages over lithium batteries: A theoretical potential of up to 4 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries at a comparable or lower production cost. Extended battery life due …

The Prodigious and the Petite

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

We are endlessly fascinated by the largest, most powerful, or smallest and most infinitesimal of anything. Here we look at two extremes in electric propulsion. The Prodigious American Superconductor produces superconducting wires, and from those, winds a very large motor, that if not the biggest thing to power ships, is the most powerful for its size, and the most powerful to be used in a Navy ship. The company promotes the following benefits for its 36.5 MW (49,000 horsepower) HTS (high temperature superconductor) motor: high power density (compared to traditional copper-wound motors), high partial load efficiency, low noise, harmonic-free voltage, low synchronous reactance, cyclic load insensitivity, and low maintenance. The Petite Lad, living in St. Petersburg, Russia, has constructed the …

Growing Your Own Battery

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While Dr. Cui at Stanford works on perfecting his painted paper battery, reseachers in Sweden are growing algae that does well as a paper battery. Maria Stomme of the University of Uppsala says that the growth of Cladophora, an otherwise stinky beach slime, “Creates new possibilities for large-scale production of environmentally friendly, cost-effective, lightweight energy storage systems.” The algae, according to LiveScience.com, “makes an unusual kind of cellulose typified by a very large surface area, 100 times that of the cellulose found in paper. This allowed researchers to dramatically increase the amount of conducting polymer available for use in the new device, enabling it to better recharge, hold and discharge electricity. Despite the relative ease of making this rechargeable paper, …

The Painted Battery

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Dr. Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University, is a battery scientist extraordinaire, and a presenter at last April’s Third Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium. His paper was well received, one in which he discussed how breakthroughs in his lab could lead to an 80-percent improvement in battery capacity for the same weight as current units. He has topped himself with an extraordinary approach to manufacturing batteries. Imagine painting an ordinary piece of paper with a coating of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires, and ending up with a very thin battery or supercapacitor. This video, courtesy of Stanford University, shows that process, and includes Dr. Cui lighting an LED with a small square of paper. He and his …

Largest-Battery Powered Airplane Takes Flight

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Two weeks ahead of the 106th anniversary of controlled powered flight by the Wright Brothers, the Solar Impulse, HB-SIA broke its earthly bounds and flew 350 meters (about a quarter mile) at a height of about one meter.  Because the airplane does not yet have its solar panels mounted, the flight was made on battery power. Graphic © Solar Impulse/EPFL Claudio Leonardi The project’s press release leaves no doubt as to the importance, and the thrill, of the flight. “The results of the ground tests conducted these last few weeks to verify numerous parameters (the prototype’s controllability, acceleration, braking paths and, engine power) had been overwhelming positive, thereby leading the team to give the go-ahead to Markus Scherdel, the test pilot, to take the …

Isn’t It Ionic?

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Only a few months after the first heavier-than-air hydrogen-fueled crossing of the English Channel (See Man of La Manche, October 29), the Naval Research Laboratory flew its hydrogen fuel cell-powered Ion Tiger for an endurance record of 26 hours and one minute.  The flight took place on November 16th through November 17th. The Navy press release claims, “Fuel cells create an electrical current when they convert hydrogen and oxygen into water and heat.  The 550 Watt (0.75 horsepower) fuel cell onboard the Ion Tiger has about four times the efficiency of a comparable internal combustion engine and the system provides seven times the energy in the equivalent weight of batteries. The Ion Tiger weighs approximately 37 pounds and carries a …