H2, Where Are You?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Elon Musk publicly disdains hydrogen-powered automobiles, but then he has $5 billion riding on his battery megafactories and continued success with his Tesla line of automobiles.  Others with a more disinterested point of view discuss H2’s difficulties – and its promise as a vehicle fuel. America, for instance, has a mere 128 hydrogen fueling stations, and the European Union only 143 as of February 2012.  Even with planned expansion of this infrastructure (California is spending $180 million in private and public funds on a planned 46 stations), the landscape might not be ready for large numbers of fuel cell vehicles for a decade or more. For comparison, there are about 29,000 battery-charging stations in the U. S., with both government and private enterprise offering …

3D Printed Power Inverter Meets, Beats DOE 2020 Targets

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Reduced weight and component volumes are important for both cars and aircraft, allowing lighter overall construction and greater flexibility in fitting those components into compact spaces.  The U. S. Department of Energy has set 2020 targets for things like batteries and power inverters – the device that turns direct current from batteries into alternating current to run electric motors.  Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)used 3D printing and “novel silicon carbide (SiC) wide band gap (WBG) semiconductors to craft a prototype power inverter for electric vehicles that is lighter and can handle more power than current units.  It nearly meets the DOE’s power density and specific power targets and exceeds the efficiency target handily. Metric …

I’ll Take Manhattan

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

While much of battery research goes into crafting the ultimate anode, cathode or electrolyte, there seem to be few efforts, at least to outside observers, of integrated approaches to making a better total battery.  That may change soon, with the Department of Energy announcing formation of a new Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (J-CESR, or J-Caesar).   Dr. Steven Chu, U. S. Secretary of Energy, has established the Center at Argonne National Laboratory with a budget of $120 million over five years to create a battery five times more powerful and five times cheaper than today’s norms – all within five years. For those of us who’ve grown wary of those “breakthough” announcements that almost always include the line, …

Going Over to the Dark Side

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The University of Texas at Austin’s press release spells out the quantum-like behavior of photons striking solar cells, and provides some insight into why obtaining higher efficiencies so far has perplexed researchers. “AUSTIN, Texas — The efficiency of conventional solar cells could be significantly increased, according to new research on the mechanisms of solar energy conversion led by chemist Xiaoyang Zhu at The University of Texas at Austin. “Zhu and his team have discovered that it’s possible to double the number of electrons harvested from one photon of sunlight using an organic plastic semiconductor material. “’Plastic semiconductor solar cell production has great advantages, one of which is low cost,’ said Zhu, a professor of chemistry. ‘Combined with the vast capabilities …

An American ReVolt

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

ReVolt Technologies LLC, a Swiss battery company founded in 2004 as a spin-off of SINTEF, Norway, is moving its headquarters to Portland, Oregon. Initially targeting the consumer electronics market with their zinc/air battery (compare to the lithium/air batteries IBM is researching – see “Big Blue and Blue Sky Thinking” October 25, 2009) in a grant request to the U. S. Department of Energy for $30 million for research on making large format versions of the battery for vehicles.  The company has an alliance with chemical giant BASF. ReVolt claims the following advantages over lithium batteries: A theoretical potential of up to 4 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries at a comparable or lower production cost. Extended battery life due …