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 …

Beating Plants at Their Own Game

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Going to medical school to learn how to use bacteria to make gasoline may seem like a complicated process, but the developers of a new way of extracting biofuels from sunlight say it’s not.  You may remember Dr. Daniel Nocera’s efforts a few years ago to create a bionic leaf, a simple way to extract oxygen and hydrogen from water when the leaf in water was exposed to sunlight.  Several other such “water splitters” have achieved newsworthiness in the last few years, but each has the impediment of not delivering hydrogen in a readily useable way. Usually, any H2 produced has to be compressed, stored in hydrides, or encapsulated in some way to make it a viable fuel.  There is …

Unzipped Nanotubes Show Energetic Promise

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Rice University, supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), has demonstrated “a way to boost the efficiency of the ubiquitous lithium ion (LI) battery by employing ribbons of graphene that start as carbon nanotubes.” The AFOSR explains, “Four years ago, [Rice chemist James] Tour’s research team demonstrated that they could chemically unzip cylindrical shaped carbon nanotubes into soluble graphene nanoribbons (GNR) without compromising the electronic properties of the graphitic structure. A recent paper by the Tour team, published in IEEE Spectrum and partially funded by AFOSR, showed that GNR can significantly increase the storage capacity of lithium ion (Li-ion) by combining graphene nanoribbons with tin oxide. “By producing GNR in bulk, a necessary requirement for making this …