Rice Defeats Dendrites

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Materials, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Dr. James Tour of Rice University makes news regularly with different ways of making better batteries.  His latest, a thin-film coating of carbon nanotubes, will enable lithium metal batteries to potentially achieve their full potential. According to the Tour Laboratory, that potential is worth considering.  “Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes found in just about every electronic device, including cellphones and electric cars.”  This promise is offset by problems with dendrite growth, the intrusion of tooth-like projections from the surface of the anode metal.  If these growths expand far enough, they poke through the battery’s electrolyte and severely limit battery life.  Worst of all, if the dendrites reach …

The Diamond/Siemens Hybrid Test Bed

Dean Sigler Batteries, Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

One should follow Dr. Frank Anton’s Twitter account – or at least check it occasionally.  Dr. Anton is head of Siemen’s Electric Aviation Division and posts new developments regularly.  Siemens is supplying motors to Diamond Aircraft’s prototype hybrid, a tidy tri-motor if you count the engine/generator in the nose of the formerly single-engine airplane. Partnered with Austria’s Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH, Siemens motors powered an adaptation of their DA40 four-seat airplane.  A Diesel engine/generator in the nose of the formerly single-engine machine charges two 12-kilowatt batteries behind the passenger compartment and provides power to the two Siemens motors on the canard.  The whole thing looks a bit like a large economy-size Cri-Cri. Started in 2013, the project is under the …

Richard Glassock, Jeff Zaltman and Air Race E

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Richard Glassock and Beacons of Excellence Richard Glassock is an Australian scholar and designer currently living in Nottingham, England, working as a Professor at the University of Nottingnam.  One if the founding lights in the Outback Joe competions, in which teams launched autonomuous aircraft into remote parts of Australia to find the eponymous character and deliver aid, he was on the forefront of things to come. Later, he designed a twin-motored sailplane to take parties of six or eight to cloudbase, a perfect outing for kid’s parties or adult’s anniversary celebrations.  He was part of a team that designed a modern hybrid parachute jump plane, optimized for rapid turnarounds.  His motorcycle range extender would enable a pilot to ride to …

The C4V Battery – Solid-State in Production?

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Jeffrey Engler of Wright Electric posted an item about Charge CCCV, LLC (C4V) which “demonstrated a prototype of its new Solid State Battery (SSB) at the NY BEST 2018 Fall Conference in New York.  The Company’s SSB solution delivers higher performance, higher density, lower cost batteries that promise to require significantly less charging time than others.”  The startup announced a 380 Watt-hour-per-kilogram battery already in production.  Since your editor tends to become a bit snarky about the usual two-to-five-year period of anticipation before these numbers become reality, he rushed to check out the claims. Plausible Numbers, but Uncertain Time Frame The firm’s numbers are not wildly excessive, and they seem to be getting funding and finding partnerships with established companies.  …

Terrafugia’s TF-2

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Terrafugia, unabashedly calling its vehicles “flying cars” in many of its public pronouncements, has floated a concept that is a serious departure from their two previous designs.  The TF-2 will be the equivalent of a shuttle bus, but with an aerial means of making a longer haul than mere in-town hops. Started by MIT graduates, many of them members of the rocketry club, Terrafugia has managed to garner an enormous number of media hits.  It even became a possible Christmas gift in the 2010 Hammacher Schlemmer Christmas catalog. It flew its Transition before the crowds at AirVenture in 2013, and was able to obtain certification as a Light Sport Aircraft since then, but with a slightly higher than original LSA …

The 17X Aluminum-Air Battery?

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Jaephil Cho has a surprise for us – an aluminum-air battery that is potentially (no pun intended) more energetic than gasoline.  Director of the Research Center for Innovative Battery Technologies and Professor in the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering, at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Cho and his students have released over 350 papers, including one titled, “Seed-mediated atomic-scale reconstruction of silver manganate nanoplates for oxygen reduction towards high-energy aluminum-air flow batteries.” While such titles might not get him on the NY Times best-seller list, Cho is widely respected, UNIST reporting he has been named to the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers List in materials science, a second such honor for him. Professor Cho’ Surprise Professor Cho’s …

Carbon Fiber and the Grand Unified Airplane

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Aircraft Materials, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Your editor has long held the belief that we are on the threshold of creating a Grand Unified Airplane, a craft that would draw all its energy from solar cells, the flexing of its wings, the air passing over its form, and the very act of flight itself.  It seems to become less of a science fiction ideal and more of real-world possibility every day.  Carbon fiber could be part of that possibility. What if your airplane were its own battery?  Think of the weight savings and potential endurance and range.  Your editor became fascinated with 2010 research done by Dr. Emile Greenhalgh of Imperial University in London, who developed a structural sandwich with carbon fiber outer layers and a …

Promising 3D Printed Microlattice Battery

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The three biggest words in battery structures are “Area, Area, Area.”  The more anode and cathode area a battery can expose to the electrolyte that carries ions and electrons between the positive and negative ends of the battery, the better.  Most battery configurations, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Missouri University of Science and Technology, block a great deal of interaction between these elements.  Their solution is to go porous in a microlattice battery, thanks to 3D printing. Electrodes present some surface area to the electrolyte, which can only interact with the surface area presented.  Rahul Panat at Carnegie Mellon and Jonghyun Park at Missouri S & T have created a cube-shaped battery composed of microlattice electrodes which …

Oxis Energy Hits a Lithium-Sulfur Battery High

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That near-mythical 10X  (of current lithium cells’ energy density) battery hangs out there on the distant horizon, promising automobiles that can exceed 1,000 miles range, or light aircraft that can carry four at Cessna-like distances.  Right now, we have two-place trainers good for an hour’s laps around the circuit, and the hope for improvements soon.  OXIS Energy, a UK-based company, has achieved 425 Watt-hours per kilogram at the cell level, and looks to go higher in the near future. Lithium-Sulfur – A Worthy Alternative? Promoters of lithium-sulfur batteries suggest their products have several desirable characteristics and performance boosts that may transcend the limits of lithium-ion cells.  Sion Power, for instance, claims availability of their Licerion battery with an even better …

SmartFlyer is Looking Smart

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Only a design concept just a few years ago, the SmartFlyer hybrid aircraft is swiftly approaching full-fledged reality.  CEO Rolf Stuber started the project and has been joined by Daniel Wenger, who shares design honors with him; and eleven others with a dazzling array of skills and degrees.  Every member of the team has built, flies or has flown in everything from gliders to “heavy” airliners. The team’s goal is to craft a “proof of concept” airplane which will fly by 2021. Facebook Updates Recent Facebook photographs show a nose section with a Rotax 914 engine driving a special generator, yards of orange cable connecting the big pieces, and a set of formers for what will probably be the fuselage …