Silicone Wrinkles Can Be Beautiful

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

 Hanqing Jiang, a professor in ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, has come up with a clever and inexpensive way to fight dendrites in lithium batteries.  Since these spiky little outbreaks can lead to battery fires, his team’s findings might lead to safer batteries.  The approach involves silicone. Many of us put up a (usually futile) fight against wrinkles, our youth culture spending fortunes to avoid the inevitable.  Scientists at Arizona State University, however, are encouraging wrinkles in their lithium-metal batteries, and pouring cheap silicone goo over their anodes to discourage dendrites from popping up. This novel approach to crafting lithium metal anodes for batteries is something Arizona State University scientists are working on, with surprising results.  …

Mixing It Up With MXene

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Over the years reporting on battery developments, we’ve seen paper batteries, spray-on batteries, structural batteries and many types of material mixes.  Drexel University has tossed all the above intone big hopper and come up with MXene, a potentially dynamic way of making batteries, supercapacitors, antennas, and structural elements that can be conductors, semiconductors, and insulators, among myriad applications. Going Through a Phase MXenes are formed from layered MAX phases, defined by Drexel as forming, “A large family of ternary(composed of three) carbides with the general formula Mn+1AXn, where n = 1–3, M is an early transition metal, A is an A-group element (mostly IIIA and IVA), and X is C and/or N:”  That level of chemistry is two quantum leaps above your editor’s pay grade, so you’ll have …

Is Ionic Propulsion Plausible?

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Ethan Krauss responds to MIT’s Ionic Flyer Coverage There seems to be great interest in ionic propulsion.  After we published “MIT’s Ionic Flyer – Solid State All the Way,” our editorial offices (otherwise known as your editor’s kitchen) received a comment from Ethan Krauss, who corrected the historical record.  He explains, “MIT was NOT “the first ion propelled aircraft of any kind to carry their power supply, as their video and paper say.  They don’t use less voltage, they are not more efficient, they are not the largest. Size was not the limit in the past.” Click on image to see video of MIT’s first flights. “They are the second in the world to be able to claim that they …

Two Different Carbon Batteries

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With lithium-ion batteries seeming to have topped out in their capabilities, battery researchers are looking at new ways of storing energy.  Zap&Go in England and Graphenano in Spain are exploiting a more common element  to good effect, crafting carbon batteries that charge quickly and last thousands of charge-discharge cycles.  Both attack their goals in very different ways. Zap&Go Carbon-ion Battery According to Microbattery.com, the Oxford-based organization Zap&Go has created and delivered a carbon-particle battery consolidating the superfast charging capacities of a supercapacitor to gain rapid charging and long cycle life.  Unfortunately, as far as electric vehicles go, it’s not quite ready for prime time.  The good news is that it’s on a well-structured timeline that will bring it to the vehicular world …

Making Structural Batteries More Sinewy

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Multitudes of researchers have exercised their mental muscles trying to make man-made products mimic naturally-occurring structures.  According to University of Michigan researchers, the cartilage in your knees might provide the inspiration for a “structural battery” prototype that would be durable and easy to shape. This blog has long promoted the idea of structural batteries, energy storage systems that could double as strengthening elements in the aircraft shell.  Storing energy in car bumpers or airplane wings has some risk elements.  What will happen to a battery cracked by collisions on the ground or excessive loads in the air, for instance.  Nicking or puncturing existing batteries can cause flaming catastrophes. As U of M researchers note, “[Structural batteries] been a long-term goal …

Look What Fred To Started!

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forty years ago today, Fred To’s Solar One flew the length of the runway at Lasham Airfield in Hampshire, England, solely on the energy derived from the weak winter illumination and stored in a small set of ni-cad batteries.. With his partner David Williams, he had built the wooden, model-aircraft-like structure in a farm building, visited by the farm’s horses and pigs. The airplane went on to be displayed at various airshows, and Fred went on to build an inflatable 100-foot-span flying wing that was the first to use “fly-by-wire” technology.  His inventiveness and design skills have informed many projects, as we reported in our November 2018 report on the award ceremony Fred recently attended. In short form, much has …

MIT’s Ionic Flyer – Solid State All the Way

Dean Sigler Announcements, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Aircraft Materials, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

This week, a kerfuffle tsunami has swept through the aeronautical press, with the announcement by Steven Barret of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that he has flown an ion-powered airplane that “doesn’t depend on fossil fuels or batteries.”*  (A minor point – the airplane does have a battery that gets its output voltage ramped up by a custom power supply.) Five years ago, your editor reported on ionic thrusters, several of which were being tested by Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. These little devices have great promise for moving vehicles in space, where the vacuum presents no aerodynamic drag to overcome. Even a small nudge from a thruster in space will cause a vehicle to accelerate. They …

Aurora’s Odysseus – Large Enough for Its Mythic Name

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

Named for a mythical hero like its evolutionary predecessors, Aurora Flight Science’s Odysseus is a huge, but ephemeral thing. A wingspan larger than the largest 747’s and a weight no greater than a Smart Car’s (around 1,500 pounds) means this airplane will be slow and frail.  A carbon fiber tube structure covered by lightweight Tedlar™ resembles the construction of Solar Impulse, but without the bulk of carrying a pilot. Since its antecedent was the world record holding distance champion in human-powered aircraft, the manner of flight is no surprise.  Its intended altitude is.  Odysseus takes it to the stratosphere. It’s the latest revelation in a thirty-year exploration of low-powered, extreme-endurance aircraft.  Before he founded Aurora, John Langford led a group of …

Rice Defeats Dendrites

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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 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.  …