Yi Cui and team Devise a 10X Anode

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Batteries are complex things to design and make, with materials scientists and chemists facing unlimited numbers of options for materials choices, formulations and proportions, and manufacturing techniques that will make hoped-for performance attainable on a commercial level. Yi Cui and a distinguished array of undergraduate and graduate students at Stanford University have written 320 academic research papers since 2000, with the rate of publication seeming to increase every year. To put icing on that multi-layered cake, Dr. Cui has helped found his own battery company, Amprius, using his depth of knowledge to take batteries in directions interesting enough to draw the attention of well-known investors – including Stanford.  The only recent information on the web site today shows the firm …

Making Like a Canary in the Canaries

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Thomas Senkel has gained fame for flying an unlikely-looking multiple rotor helicopter with a Pilates exercise ball landing gear and helping drive through that design to a far more refined Volocopter VC200, which we reported has just become the first certified electric helicopter in Germany Knowing how to get the most out of very little, Senkel skipped the usual “crow-hops” performed by experimental test pilots and instead took a 46-minute ride over La Palma in the Canary Islands with his electric scooter/paraglider combination.  The six kilowatt (eight horsepower) hub motor took him up a long hill to the high launch point and the 13.5 kW (18 hp) FlyTech motor launched him into the air for a long flight to the …

Your Battery is on Fire – and That’s a Good Thing

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Mary Grady’s report at AvWeb alerted your editor to this exciting development. Imagine a battery capable of seven times the energy output of any lithium battery now in existence, made of non-toxic, easily recycled materials.  One aspect of this new energy source might give you pause, however.  You have to set fire to the battery to extract all that energy. With recalls of so-called “hoverboards” and still warm memories of Tesla and 787 Dreamliner battery fires, folks might be excused for wanting to avoid anything that combines fires with batteries.  The new approach, from MIT researchers, uses carbon nanotubes as its base, and these don’t self-ignite like their lithium cousins. Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs* Professor in Chemical Engineering …

Caging Silicon Anodes with Graphene

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Dr. Yi Cui of Stanford University has expanded the idea of “battery” to include conductive ink on paper, fruit-like clusters of energy-storing capsules, and now, nano-sized graphene cages in which the energy can romp like a hamster in a plastic ball.  He will be on hand at this year’s Sustainable Aviation Symposium on May 6, at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay hotel. His pioneering work with silicon as an electrode material goes back at least ten years, and has focused on overcoming silicon’s two major problems in battery use.  Silicon expands and begins breaking down during repeated charge-discharge cycles.  It reacts with battery electrolyte to form a coating that progressively destroys performance.  The combination of crumbling and coating finally makes the …

Superoxides May Be New Super Materials for Batteries

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A significantly large and geographically diverse group of researchers has invested a large amount of time and intellectual capital investigating superoxides, an innovative way to keep lithium-air batteries refreshed and ready for more. Groups at Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea; the University of Utah and the University of Kentucky all contributed to the ongoing project. While still serving as U. S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu called on academia and industry to develop a battery five times as powerful as then available lithium cells, at one-fifth the cost of then current batteries. We may not have arrived at that ambitious goal yet, but Argonne and UIC see a possible breakthrough …

Electric Jet Hybrids – Big and Small

Dean Sigler Batteries, Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

NASA’s Glenn Research Center reviews the prevalence of fossil fuels in keeping us flying for over a century. “Since the beginning, commercial planes have been powered by carbon-based fuels such as gasoline or kerosene. While these provide the energy to lift large commercial jets into the world’s airspace, electric power is now seen as a new frontier for providing thrust and power for flight.” Noting the use of hybrid and turboelectric power used to increase efficiency in cars, boats and trains, NASA has set a goal “to help the aircraft industry shift from relying solely on gas turbines to using hybrid electric and turboelectric propulsion in order to reduce energy consumption, emissions and noise.” This would require a large shift …

Rumpled Cathodes Benefit Lithium Sulfur Batteries

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We like to think of things inside batteries as neatly organized, but Pennsylvania State University researchers may have come up with a less tidy way of making cathodes. Researchers synthesized “highly crumpled” nitrogen-doped graphene (NG) sheets with “ultrahigh pore volume” and large surface area (1,158 square meters– 12,465 square feet or about one-third the area of a football field) per gram.  This large area and high porosity “enable strong polysulfide adsorption and high sulfur content for use as a cathode material in Li-sulfur batteries.”  Interwoven rather than stacked, the wrinkled material provides ample room for “nitrogen-containing active sites.” The batteries, according to the researchers, “achieved” a high capacity of 1,226 milliamp-hours per gram and 75-percent capacity retention after 300 cycles.  …

Deformable Flexible and Conductive – A Great Solid Electrolyte

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Reporting on a new material that doesn’t seem real, a joint research team from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Seoul National University in Korea says it has developed a “highly-conductive, highly deformable, and dry-air-stable glass electrolyte for solid-state lithium-ion batteries.  If those characteristics seem mutually exclusive, the electrical performance helps dispel skepticism. Assisted by colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Brookhaven National Lab, the researchers prepared the electrolyte using a “homogenous methanol solution,” and wetting exposed surfaces of the electrode active materials with the solidified electrolyte. Eureka Alert! quotes Professor Yoon Seok Jung  (UNIST, School of Energy and Chemical Engineering) , “The research team also developed a material for the solid electrolyte by adding the iodized lithium …

Pollutants into Clean Energy: Batteries into Solar Cells

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Editor’s Note: We will tackle some larger contexts for the blog, including not only the aeronautical uses of clean energy but the social, environmental and even economic implications of sustainable aviation.  This item appeals because it demonstrates the possibility of transforming materials otherwise hard to live with into products that enhance life and even give some hope for budget solar cells.  Angela Belcher has made battteries from viruses and works with biological solutions to energy production.  In this instance, she and her colleagues have shown a path to a sunnier future for all.  Her work combining quantum physics and biology in the example below highlights the potential in a true paradigm shift. Another, less exotic but no less exciting instance shows …

A Solar-Algae Hybrid for an Atlantic Crossing

Dean Sigler Batteries, Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Henri Mignet was never quite able to master an airplane with three-axis controls, and built at least seven flawed attempts at simplified controlled flight. His seminal try, the HM-8 Pou de Ciel (literally, Louse of the Sky, or more familiarly, Flying Flea) became first a matter of celebration for amateur aviators and then a cause of scandal, being banned in Britain following a series of fatal crashes. The “formula”, as proponents called Mignet’s tandem wing configuration, was sorted out after wind tunnel tests in England and America uncovered the flaw that caused the craft to pitch down in an unrecoverable dive. (For a well-illustrated history of Mignet’s design, see Henri Mignet and his Flying Fleas by Ken Ellis and Geoff …