Capturing Carbon and Making Airplanes from It

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Materials, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Climate scientists have tracked the growing percentage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, and noted a correlation between that rise and global warming.  Scientists from Michael Mann to Benjamin Santer have measured the changes in CO2 levels against climate change, with 97 out of 100 climate scientists accepting that human activities and rises in CO2 (and other greenhouse gases such as methane) are affecting our overall climate. Not to start an argument about this matter, this entry looks at a novel method of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and using it to make possible carbon materials that would be used in aerospace and other components.  The question of carbon removal usually includes some method of storing it.  Futurism.com has …

Corncobs as a Source of Supercapacitors?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Researchers at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois report, “that wood-biochar supercapacitors can produce as much power as today’s activated-carbon supercapacitors at a fraction of the cost – and with environmentally friendly byproducts.” Junhua Jiang, senior research engineer at the Center, has been reducing wood and cellulose products such as corncobs to biochar by heating the fibers in a reduced oxygen environment.  This pyrolysis process creates a  porous, black substance that can be used as electrodes in supercapacitors.  While other researchers use carbon black or more advanced forms of carbon such as nanotubes, this more humble approach yields equal or better performance at a fraction of the cost of the more labor-intensive methods.  Many of the alternatives obtain …

Taking Paper Batteries to the Next Level – Origami

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Almost four years ago, this blog reported on Dr. Yi Cui’s “painted battery,” a method of coating even paper with carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires, with the coated paper being able to store energy. Adding origami to the concept, Arizona State University researchers have folded a paper-based lithium-ion battery and managed to demonstrate a 14-fold increase in areal energy, or energy density per unit of area.  This has serious implications for batteries that can be printed on roll paper and which have the requisite flexibility.  More rigid batteries might crack under the strain, for instance, and achieve negative results from being folded. “’Foldable batteries may be useful for powering devices that have limited space on board,’ coauthor Candace Chan, Assistant …

Getting Batteries in Line

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

In another bid to create the much-hoped-for 10X batteries, researchers at North Carolina State University are rolling their own. As noted in many articles, lithium batteries infused with silicon have a bad habit of swelling and contracting as they charge and discharge, pulverizing the silicon eventually.  Depending on the surrounding materials, the destruction can take place fairly quickly, leading to reduced cycle life for the battery. North Carolina scientists are fighting to extend battery life, though, with what they call “A Novel Nano-architecture for Flexible Lithium Ion Battery Electrodes,” part of the title of their paper in the journal Advanced Materials. Many battery electrodes are some form of graphite composite, and the impetus to wrap these anodes or cathodes in …

Making Graphene and Carbon Fibers Even Lighter and Stronger

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

While scientists at Columbia University have used chemical vapor deposition (CVD) to create large sheets of stronger-than-average graphene, a research team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found ways to weave stronger carbon nanotubes. James Hone and Jeffrey Kysar, professors of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, learned that the enormous strength of graphene is usually achieved in only small patches.  The “grain boundaries” for larger sheets were often far weaker than the theoretical strengths of which the material is capable. That strength is phenomenal.  Hone explains, “It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.” Results of their study were published in the journal Science. The paper’s …

Imperfect Carbon as Good as Pricy Platinum

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The expense of platinum catalysts has been an impediment to the development of fuel cells and metal-air batteries.  Scientists at Stanford University may have found an inexpensive, higher-performance alternative in “unzipped” carbon nanotubes that show an imperfect face to the world. Findings published in the May 27 online version of the journal Nature Nanotechnology quote chemistry professor Hongjie Dai, co-author of the paper.  “Platinum is very expensive and thus impractical for large-scale commercialization. Developing a low-cost alternative has been a major research goal for several decades.” With platinum ranging from almost $800 to over $2,200 an ounce, carbon nanotubes, with their conductivity and inexpensive production costs provide a desirable combination of performance and price. Nanotubes are rolled-up sheets of graphene, …

Dipping and Coating for Better Batteries

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Could dipping electrodes in a secret sauce improve supercapacitor and battery endurance and power?  Could coating cell internals be the flavor of the month?  These recipes for better batteries may improve things at a better than normal rate, if California researchers have anything to say about it. Working with his compatriot Dr. Jaephil Cho in South Korean, Dr. Cui of Stanford University has been a leader in developing improved battery technology, even developing a painted paper battery.  In an appearance at the 2009 Electric Aircraft Symposium, Cui explained a basic truth of battery development – that improvements generally created about eight percent greater power or endurance in cells every year, leading to a doubling of battery capabilities every seven and one-half …

Taking it to eXtremes

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 6 Comments

“If I were to make a prediction, I’d think there’s a good chance that it is not batteries. But capacitors.”  Karl Young, CEO of eXtreme Capacitor, Inc. started his presentation at the fifth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium with these words from Tesla Motor’s Elon Musk.  The reference to capacitors superseding batteries as an energy source for electric cars came from Musk’s address at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco on 16 March 2011. Young’s talk before the April 29 gathering in Santa Rosa, California detailed the double-layer supercapacitors his company produces, and what Young feels are the advantages these have over “traditional” lithium and other batteries.  He is “trying to overcome the issues of batteries,” including, according to Young, their …

The Happiest Materials Scientist

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

According to his NASA biography, “Dr. Ajay Misra, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is Chief of the Structures and Materials Division in the Research & Technology Directorate at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  In this position, Dr. Misra has the responsibility for planning, advocating, coordinating, organizing, directing and supervising all phases of Division research and business activities.”  At the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium in Rohnert Park, California in April 2010, Dr. Misra was among the most charming and happiest of presenters – probably because he had so many happy things to talk about.  Much of the joy comes from the continuing revelations about the characteristics of carbon and boron nanotubes.  They turn out to …

Thin, Light, Strong, and Energy Dense

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

 2010’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who extracted graphene from a piece of graphite when they stuck a piece of adhesive tape to it and peeled away a single atom-thick layer of the thinnest, strongest material in the world. The Nobel Prize web site explains other remarkable properties of this new material.  “As a conductor of electricity it performs as well as copper. As a conductor of heat it outperforms all other known materials. It is almost completely transparent, yet so dense that not even helium, the smallest gas atom, can pass through it. Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again.” With studies in quantum physics and …