Traversing Australia on Sunshine

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, GFC, Solar Power 0 Comments

Australia supplies 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) of smooth road and abundant sunshine every year for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge that bisects the country north to south.  Growing in numbers annually, this year’s five-day race drew 47 teams from 25 countries, with two teams from the Netherlands,  one from the University of Michigan in the United States and one from Tokai University in Japan trading the lead almost daily and battling it out for the first four places in the Challenger Class with daily consistency. University of Delft students had their second win in two years, while rivals from the University of Twente (the Netherlands) achieved a very strong second place overall.  The University of Michigan’s team was a consistent third-place …

Bulletproof Batteries?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Researchers announce that a “New battery technology from the University of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013.”  The use of the word “should” is instructive, since scientist usually couch such announcements in more guarded terms. Battery separator materials are usually not the glamorous part of cell development, most headlines given to electrode and electrolyte breakthroughs.  Kevlar may be a way, within batteries, of preventing a breakthrough.  Nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, that impenetrable material in bullet-proof vests, “stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current,” according to a University of Michigan report. Separator material stands between layers of other battery materials and ideally allows …

Sakti 3 Announces Significant Battery Breakthrough

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3, Inc. of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been quietly working on a high-energy-density battery that would use mass production platforms with “fully scalable equipment” that would take us to the next level of development. Sakti announced this week that its new battery can store over 1,100 Watt hours per liter (Wh/l) in volumetric energy density, about two to four times that for conventional cells.  Scientific American reports 1,143 Wh/l.  According to Sakti’s release, “This translates to more than double the usage time in a wearable device like a smartwatch, from 3.5 hours to more than 9 hours. It also translates to almost double the range in an EV like the Tesla Model S, from …

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, …

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 …

Lifting Yourself by a Disappearing Thread

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The University of Maryland announced the successful 11.4 second flight of an American human-powered helicopter with a female pilot – now the National record holder and successor to the first female flight on such a machine – 17 years ago. In 1994, your editor attended a human-powered aircraft symposium in Seattle at the Boeing Museum of Flight. Paul MacCready signed my copy of Gossamer Odyssey and I was official observer (for Chris Roper of the Royal Aeronautical Society) of the first female-powered helicopter flight.  Ward Griffiths, a svelte young thing from a local bike shop, cranked the very similar (to Gamera) thing into the air for 8.6 seconds – a first and a female record at that time.  A Japanese gentleman had …