Aluminum Yolks and Titanium Shells

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

A new “yolk-and-shell” nanoparticle could boost the capacity and power of lithium-ion batteries. MIT’s press release gives a graphic overview of what damages electrodes and shortens battery life.  “One big problem faced by electrodes in rechargeable batteries, as they go through repeated cycles of charging and discharging, is that they must expand and shrink during each cycle — sometimes doubling in volume, and then shrinking back. This can lead to repeated shedding and reformation of its “skin” layer that consumes lithium irreversibly, degrading the battery’s performance over time.” Dr. Yi Cui and teams at  Stanford’s National Accelerator Laboratory (Formerly the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center), and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory all published papers on a similar  joint …

MSCs Could be AOK

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Of late, your editor has noticed several press releases concerning scientific findings that don’t read in a scientific way.  You know that objective kind of writing: the use of words and phrases such as “tend to,” “suggesting,” or “of potential interest,” and the ever-popular, “further study is required.”  An announcement from the Center for Integrated Nanostructure Physics at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) and Department of Energy Science at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea tells a hopeful story of a new discovery mimicking nature and “displaying electrical properties about five orders of magnitude higher than similar lithium batteries, and even claiming, “stunning test results.”   These sound more like PR than simple declarative statements. Before running to your broker to see if …

High-capacity, Soft Batteries From Trees

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

This is not pulp fiction, but pulp fact, trees being converted into squishy new nerf-like batteries. Researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stanford University have made elastic, high-capacity batteries from wood pulp.  The foam-like battery material can withstand shock and stress, according to the schools.  Max Hamedi, a researcher at KTH and Harvard University, says, “It is possible to make incredible materials from trees and cellulose.” The wood-based aerogel material can be used for three-dimensional structures, important for overcoming certain restrictions imposed by two-dimensional approaches.  Hamedi explains, “There are limits to how thin a battery can be, but that becomes less relevant in 3D.  We are no longer restricted to two dimensions. We can build in three …

Designer Carbon: High Surface Area and Porosity

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Stanford researchers, working with scientists at Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and China’s National Laboratory of Microstructures (Nanjing), School of Electronic Science and Engineering, at Nanjing University, have squeezed carbon as flat (if not flatter than) as graphene and poked lots of well-sized holes in it to make designer battery and supercapacitor components.  Professor  Zhenan Bao led the efforts at Stanford. The combined teams’ paper, “Ultrahigh Surface Area Three-Dimensional Porous Graphitic Carbon from Conjugated Polymeric Molecular Framework,” appeared as a cover article in the May 18 edition of the journal ACS Central Science. The paper explains, “High surface area porous carbon materials are of great technological importance due to their diverse functionalities and excellent physical/chemical robustness. Their …

All-Electron Battery – Stanford Strikes Again

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With recent news of a solid-state battery coming for the labs of Yi Cui, a second solid-state solution seems to follow from another Stanford Laboratory.  The All-Electron Battery, funded at least partly by an ARPA-E grant that underwrote the program from 2010 to 2012, has fostered a startup, QuantumScape. Starting from the stated need for a battery “with twice the energy storage of today’s state-of-the-art Li-Ion battery at 30% of the cost,” ARPA-E worked with the premise that Stanford was “developing an all-electron battery that would create a completely new class of energy storage devices for EVs. Stanford’s all-electron battery stores energy by moving electrons rather than ions. Electrons are lighter and faster than the ion charge carriers in conventional …

H2 – Many Benefits, Many Challenges

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The benefits of hydrogen are fairly obvious.  It would almost necessarily be a domestically produced material with few environmental shortcomings if made by clean processes.  The challenges to be overcome are many and varied, though – with the biggest obstacle to wide-spread use being in the distribution of the fuel. The U. S. Department of Energy, on its Fuel Economy.gov web site, concedes, “The current infrastructure for producing, delivering, and dispensing hydrogen to consumers cannot yet support the widespread adoption of FCVs (fuel cell vehicles).”  As different strategies are tested and adopted, this is likely to change, as are the costs for fuel cells and their longevity. Auto makers, working to bring FCVs to market, have dropped prices from the …

Audi Drives Hockenheim with “Bobby”

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“Bobby” is Audi’s computerized “driver” for their RS 7, which they demonstrated before thousands of spectators in the grandstands at the 4.574 kilometer (2.842 mile) Hockenheim race track in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany on October 19. The video, despite the somewhat sometimes annoying narration, gives a good impression of the run, showing the acceleration, braking and cornering through all 17 turns from both inside and outside the car.  The inside views belie the speed the car attains, looking a bit unearthly by the precise, smooth lines the car takes, the envy of any “real” race car driver. Green Car Congress reports, “The Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept car drove a clean racing line at the Hockenheimring—full throttle on the straights, full …

Cheap Hydrogen, Anyone?

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Researchers in Glasgow and at Stanford University have devised ways to decouple oxygen and hydrogen from water without resort to expensive extraction or storage techniques.  Both breakthroughs involve low-cost materials, low-energy requirements, and the production of clean hydrogen through what should be renewable energy resources. The latter overcomes one major objection to hydrogen production.  As Professor Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry explains, “Around 95% of the world’s hydrogen supply is currently obtained from fossil fuels, a finite resource which we know harms the environment and speeds climate change. Some of this hydrogen is used to make ammonia fertilizer and as such, fossil hydrogen helps feed more than half of the world’s population. “The potential for …

EAS VIII: Sebastian Thrun Updates Us

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Sebastian Thrun is best known for his leadership in the “Google Cars” program, fielding self-driving Priuses in the San Francisco Bay area and having the cars demonstrate a spotless accident record (except for those caused by other drivers running into them.)  He shared the current status of that project with attendees at the eighth annual CAFE Foundation Electric Aircraft Symposium in late April. He’s also been responsible for Google Glass, those controversial mega-spectacles that have furnished stand-up comics with new realms of material, although the last laugh may be on scoffers as these ingenious devices point the way toward wearable computers.  Thrun’s also created a new type of open university – one that takes advantage of the online experience. “Udacity …

Copper Catalyst Makes Room Temperature Ethanol

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

We’ve written a great deal about ways of making so-called “bio-fuels,” those ethanol, methanol and even diesel substitutes that avoid the high toxicity and environmental harm of fossil fuels.  Often though, these substitutes require the diversion of foodstocks or the use of exotic catalysts and high energy inputs to trigger the appropriate mechanisms. Scientists as Stanford University may have found a way to use copper, though, to make ethanol without corn or other plants.  They’ve “created a copper-based catalyst that produces large quantities of ethanol from carbon monoxide gas at room temperature.” Matthew W. Kanan, Assistant Professor at Stanford, has been working toward this kind of biofuel production for many years.  His University profile contains the following: “The ability to …