Vanadium Oxide/Lithium Batteries Offer Promise of High Power, Long Life

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Henry Ford once brought a French metallurgist to Detroit, part of his plan to build cars with lighter, stronger steel.  Vanadium, which the French used in their automobiles, offered him the chance to make the Model T lighter and stronger, and its part in the car’s alloyed steel gave the Model T the longevity which followed it through one of the longest production runs in history. Now battery researchers are looking at another quality of this mineral, its ability to form a superior cathode for batteries that “could supply both high energy density and significant power density.   Combined with graphene, the wonder material du jour, vanadium oxide (VO2) could couple longevity echoing the Model T’s with charge and discharge rapidity …

New “Leaf” Turns Over More Energy

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Scientists have been working on imitating nature’s ability to photosynthesize the sun’s energy, much as plants turn that energy into food for their health and growth.  Daniel Nocera, for instance, created an artificial leaf that split water into oxygen and hydrogen that could fire up a small fuel cell and run an electric light.  According to a Science Pub lecture your editor recently attended, an eight-ounce glass of water can power a 60-Watt bulb for 20 hours.  Nocera, in a Pop! Tech talk, claims an Olympic-size swimming pool could supply all the world’s energy needs. Nocera now works at Harvard, but researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), his former home, are taking his work further, detailing all the limitations …

A Layer of Graphene, A Layer of Nanowires…

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Combine nano-anything with graphene, and that seems to describe most of what’s driving physics and chemistry laboratories at our major universities.  The blog reported last week on Princeton researchers who’ve created a thin, flexible solar cell that absorbs 96-percent of received light and draws energy from off-axis and varied wavelengths of light. MIT researchers, too, have created a thin, flexible solar cell, but one based on layers of flexible graphene sheets, each coated with a layer of nanowires.  Besides flexibility, these sheets offer transparency, enabling their use on windows as well as other surfaces. David Chandler, reporting for MIT states that the new cells may prove to be far less expensive than today’s silicon equivalents, which require high-purity silicon that undergoes crystallization …

Fast Food for an Energy-Hungry Economy

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Phil Savage, an Arthur F. Thurnau professor and a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, with Julia Faeth, a doctoral student in Savage’s University of Michigan laboratory, have unveiled a fast-cooking process that converts 65-percent of wet algae feedstock into biocrude in one minute. Considering that nature takes millennia to convert ancient flora and fauna into the raw materials of our energy economy, this decidedly quicker process might capture even the shortest of attention spans. The team investigated the hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of wet Nannochloropsis species algae, something like pressure cooking your vegetables, for a mere minute. This was enough to create a form of at least a biofuel precursor. The video exposes Dr. Savage’s skeptical view …

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 …