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S Korea Graphene Sensors fibersensorx250Scientists in Korea have developed wearable, graphene-coated fabrics that can detect dangerous gases present in the air, alerting the wearer by turning on a light-emitting diode (LED) light.

The researchers, from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and Konkuk Univ. in the Republic of Korea, coated cotton and polyester yarn with a nanoglue called bovine serum albumin (BSA). The yarns were then wrapped in graphene oxide sheets.

Graphene is an incredibly strong one-atom-thick layer of carbon, and is known for its excellent conductive properties of heat and electricity. The graphene sheets stuck very well to the nanoglue—so much so that further testing showed the fabrics retained their electrical conducting properties after 1,000 consecutive cycles of bending and straightening and ten washing tests with various chemical detergents. Finally, the graphene oxide yarns were exposed to a chemical reduction process, which involves the gaining of electrons.

The reduced-graphene-oxide-coated materials were found to be particularly sensitive to detecting nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant gas commonly found in vehicle exhaust that also results from fossil fuel combustion. Prolonged exposure to nitrogen dioxide can be dangerous to human health, causing many respiratory-related illnesses. Exposure of these specially treated fabrics to nitrogen dioxide led to a change in the electrical resistance of the reduced graphene oxide.

The fabrics were so sensitive that 30 mins of exposure to 0.25 ppm of nitrogen dioxide (just under five times above the acceptable standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) elicited a response. The fabrics were three times as sensitive to nitrogen dioxide in air compared to another reduced graphene oxide sensor previously prepared on a flat material.

The new technology, according to the researchers, can be immediately adopted in related industries because the coating process is a simple one, making it suitable for mass production. It would allow outdoor wearers to receive relevant information about air quality. The materials could also be incorporated with air-purifying filters to act as “smart filters” that can both detect and filter harmful gas from air.

“This sensor can bring a significant change to our daily life since it was developed with flexible and widely used fibers, unlike the gas sensors invariably developed with the existing solid substrates,” says Dr. Hyung-Kun Lee, who led this research initiative. The study was published online in Scientific Reports.

Source: Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute

hydrogen-earth-150x150HyperSolar has achieved a major milestone with its hybrid technology

HyperSolar, a company that specializes in combining hydrogen fuel cells with solar energy, has reached a significant milestone in terms of hydrogen production. The company harnesses the power of the sun in order to generate the electrical power needed to produce hydrogen fuel. This is considered a more environmentally friendly way to generate hydrogen, as it is not reliant on fossil-fuels in any way. Using renewable energy to produce hydrogen is becoming a popular concept, especially as fuel cells become more popular in several industries.

Company reaches the 1.5 volt milestone needed for practical commercial hydrogen production

HyperSolar has successfully reached the point where it can produce 1.5 volts of electrical energy in order to produce hydrogen. This is considered a practical voltage when it comes to commercial hydrogen production, and reaching this milestone could have major implications for the future of fuel cell technology. As HyperSolar continues to improve its process of hydrogen production, the company may begin to play a larger role in the transportation sector, where fuel cell vehicles are expected to become more common in the coming years.

Better hydrogen production methods could make fuel cell vehicles more attractive

Commercial Hydrogen Fuel Production - MilestoneFuel cell vehicles consume hydrogen to produce the electrical power that they need to operate effectively. These vehicles are still quite rare, with only a small number of automakers having brought these vehicles to the market in a very limited supply. Fuel cell vehicles are heavily reliant on a hydrogen infrastructure that can support them. In most parts of the world, such an infrastructure does not exist in any significant capacity. Moreover, conventional methods of producing hydrogen require a significant amount of electrical power, which is generated through the use of fossil-fuels.

Solar energy could be an effective hydrogen production tool

Using solar energy to produce hydrogen fuel could lead to the development of a more environmentally friendly hydrogen infrastructure. This would make fuel cell vehicles cleaner as it would remove their reliance on energy generated through the use of fossil-fuels. HyperSolar is one of the few companies in the fuel cell industry that has invested a great deal of effort in using solar power in such a way.

Fuel Cell CArs Miraix250Image: Tiger Optics

Carbon dioxide, the gas most connected to recent global warming, represented about 82% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in 2013. Transportation accounted for 27% of those emissions, with more than 90% of U.S. transportation petroleum-based, according to the latest EPA report.

As world leaders strive to finalize a climate treaty in Paris this December, the push for carbon-free transportation gains ever-greater urgency. And President Barack Obama has pledged to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by 26 to 28% in 2025 from 2005 levels.

The state of California mandates a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions by 2020; to meet this goal, use of non-internal-combustion alternatives, including both hydrogen fuel cell and conventional electric vehicles, will be important. Currently, conventionally fueled cars and light trucks represent 62% of all GHG emissions in transportation, and control or capture of emissions on the vehicle isn’t yet technically feasible.

Use of clean-burning hydrogen can curb GHG emissions and reduce dependence on oil. With “zero tailpipe” emissions, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) emit only water vapor, warm air and some hydrogen, which don’t diminish air quality. “However, depending on the method, production of hydrogen and electricity emit varying quantities of GHGs, so those production emissions weigh in the calculus,” says Randy Bramston-Cook, Principal at Lotus Consulting, provider of instrumentation packages.

Steam-reforming natural gas is currently the most affordable way to produce hydrogen. “Utilizing fuel from that process, a FCEV represents less than half the GHG emissions of a gasoline-powered car,” says Jerry Riddle, President of Tiger Optics LLC. “However, hydrogen can also be produced from renewable energy sources, such as biomass, wind and solar, which could reduce ‘well-to-wheel’ emissions to near zero.”

The importance of testing hydrogen
Today, automobile manufacturers are shifting from the development stage of fuels cells into full commercial production. Toyota’s Mirai is now reaching California markets. And there are both legal and pragmatic reasons to monitor the quality of the fuel for these vehicles, as safety can never be compromised.

“California law, for example, requires its Div. of Measurement Standards to establish and enforce quality standards for alternative engine fuels sold there,” says Bramston-Cook.

Hydrogen purity is critical to maintaining performance of these fuel cells, as trace contaminants from the production process or from leaks in transport and storage can shorten the fuel cell’s life. “Certainly the manufacturers of FCEVs want reliable fuel, because vehicle reliability is crucial to winning consumer confidence,” says Bramston-Cook. “Indeed, FCEV manufacturers are required in California to warranty the power train for 100,000 miles, highlighting the critical need for fuel quality.”

In response to the need for pure hydrogen, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have placed stringent standards on hydrogen fuel purity. In fact, the SAE’s Fuel Cell Standards Committee has three Work Groups responsible for setting standards for safety, performance and interface requirements of fuel cell systems in motor vehicles. One resulting protocol is SAE J2719, the commodity standard for hydrogen fuel quality.

The standard was first issued in 2005, and it was revised in 2008 and 2011 to recognize the progress made by fuel cell and automotive industries to determine and verify acceptable levels of hydrogen contaminants. Today, California has adopted SAE J2719, as has ISO internationally.

In July 2014, SAE published J2601 “Fueling Protocols for Light Duty Gaseous Hydrogen Surface Vehicles” noting the protocol was developed and verified over 13 years, moving from the laboratory “to the field with automaker hydrogen storage under extreme conditions on three continents with test tanks and vehicles.”

SAE said its “J2601 standard fueling” method will enable hydrogen stations to refuel FCEVs within three to five minutes.

Analytical Equipment to promote fuel cell use
Fuel cells using a proton exchange membrane (PEM) have been widely used for many decades. The critical requirement for FCEVs is to ensure fuel cell longevity and reliability by preserving the catalysts by avoiding contamination of the hydrogen fuel.

“With the commercial introduction of hydrogen FCEVs in California, hydrogen fuel will be regularly monitored by the state’s Dept. of Food and Agriculture, Div. of Measurement Standards,” says Bramston-Cook. “They have the authority to sample the fuel at the dispenser, test it for impurities and, if required, shut down the fueling station if the fuel isn’t compliant.”

With the SAE’s fuel standards in place, they have identified many contaminants that must be monitored at very low levels, pushing the capabilities of traditional analytical equipment. “At least seven of the over-a-dozen contaminants are effectively monitored by Cavity Ring-down Spectrometers (CRDS) supplied by Tiger Optics LLC, with advantages of being very specific to the analyte, sensitive enough to measure below the mandated levels, with response time rapid enough to allow fast throughput of samples,” says Riddle.

An “absolute” technique, CRDS is drift-free, meaning it doesn’t require external calibration. “This further distinguished CRDS, as many other technologies do require calibration, often using gases that are fossil-fuel-based,” says Riddle.

The future hydrogen FCEV
The future is bright for FCEVs which are capable of traveling 300 miles on a tank of hydrogen and refueling in under five minutes. However, the public must find hydrogen fuel readily available and reliable. With suitable public-private funding, construction of hydrogen fueling stations are underway.

“Assuring the fuel’s integrity is crucial because contaminants can harm the fuel cell,” says Bramston-Cook. ”In California, state regulators are adding a second Lotus Consulting hydrogen fuel analyzer system to test hydrogen fuel samples for a dozen or more destructive contaminants.”

“To supplement such definitive tests at state laboratories, stakeholders debate the feasibility of adding analyzers at each station to test for fewer, but likely, contaminants,” says Bramston-Cook. “However, low-cost, on-site technology for measuring all required impurities isn’t currently feasible.”

The Canadian government is failing when it comes to reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and isn’t on track to meet reduction goals set for 2020 and 2050, according to professor and environmental analyst Mark Jaccard, of Simon Fraser Univ.

CanadaEmissionsx250“I find that in the nine years since its promise to reduce Canadian emissions 20% by 2020 and 65% by 2050, the Canadian government has implemented virtually no policies that would materially reduce emissions,” he writes in his climate policy report card. “The 2020 target is now unachievable without great harm to the Canadian economy.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in 2009, changed the 2020 target from 20% to 17% of 2005’s emissions, which was 749 Mt. In 2014, the country produced 726 Mt of carbon dioxide.

Emissions have been steadily increasing since 1990, fluctuated between 2005 and 2008 and notably declined in 2009, according to the Canadian government. Since then, emissions have been slightly rising.

Jaccard credits the global recession of 2008 and 2009 with the cause of temporary reductions in Canada’s emissions. Additionally, Ontario reduced its emissions by 80% after closing or converting its coal-fired power plants over a 10-year period, between 2004 and 2014. According to Jaccard, this was possible due to coal providing only 25% of Ontario’s electricity.

Speaking with The Globe and Mail, a spokesperson for Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Canada has a proven track record in reducing greenhouse emissions, including a major investment in clean energy in Ottawa.

“The Harper government did pass regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired power, but those won’t have an impact for the next 10 to 15 years,” the media outlet reports. “As well, Ottawa has matched U.S. moves to impose increasingly tough fuel efficiency standards on vehicle, but, again, those regulations will yield little result before 2020.”

Exploring reasons behind inactivity regarding regulations, Harper suggests the dynamic between immediate costs and long-term benefits may deter politicians from imposing regulations. Further, some may view the issue as to much for a single country to handle, and will stave off action until a near-universal global effort occurs.

For Canada, “a failing grade is obviously the result,” Jaccard writes.

Renewable Energy PixChina is pumping investment into wind power, which is more cost-competitive than solar energy and partly able to compete with coal and gas.
China is the world’s biggest producer of CO2 emissions, but is also the world’s leading generator of renewable electricity.

Environmental issues will be under the spotlight during a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will meet in Stockholm from September 23-26.

John Mathews and Hao Tan

Oct 1 2015

The narrative around renewable energy sources is typically framed almost entirely in terms of their contribution to reducing carbon emissions and thereby providing a means to tackle climate change. From this perspective, the drive for renewables is inseparably linked to international negotiations over reducing carbon emissions, which will come to a head at the United Nations summit in Paris towards the end of this year.
But this framing of the story struggles to explain the rise of China as the world’s renewables superpower. It is investing more in renewable energy production and manufacturing of renewable energy devices than any other country. Is China making these huge investments – not to mention launching a national emissions trading scheme – purely to accommodate the world’s desire to see carbon emissions reduced?
This is the question that we address in our new book, China’s Renewable Energy Revolution, published this month.
Our argument is that China is motivated by much more immediate concerns. Because of the dominant role played by coal in its rise as the world’s largest manufacturing economy, China suffers from catastrophic air pollution, particularly the toxic mix of tiny particulate matter that penetrates deep into the lungs of people breathing the air of Beijing, Tianjin, or other major industrial cities.

The issue has prompted anger and social agitation, with the public demanding that environmental laws be enforced. (See, for example, the explosive impact of the documentary Under the Dome, by investigative journalist Chai Jing.)
Yet the real problem for China in continuing on a “business as usual” pathway is that it would become increasingly dependent on imports of coal, oil and gas – and therefore grow more vulnerable to price fluctuations and sudden interruptions to supply.

More pointedly, as a relative newcomer to the global fossil fuel market, China is forced to locate supplies from more and more unstable parts of the world, putting it at financial risk from war, revolution and terrorism even in distant lands.
These concerns over energy security, and the immediate issue of air pollution, are in our view likely to be weighing more heavily on the Chinese leadership than concerns about climate change.

New paths to growth

Our view is that China is running into the limits of a predominantly fossil-fuelled expansion and now needs to find a new development pathway based on green growth and clean technology. This, we argue, is what lies behind its vast investments in renewables.

In per capita terms, China is of course not yet abreast of the developed countries in its overall energy consumption or its renewable energy use. But this is not evidence that China is going “light” on renewables; on the contrary, as a rising middle-level power, it still has plenty of room to grow its already large renewable energy industries.
Even though per capita use is still modest, the absolute size of the renewables investment in China allows new industries to scale up, which in turn leads to lower costs as efficiencies are captured. Through the principle of circular and cumulative causation, this leads to further market expansion and further cost reductions. The cost reductions then create opportunities for countries in the rest of the world to become involved in renewable energy as well.
China is already on the record in viewing its clean technology sectors as key drivers of future prosperity and export platforms. The 12th Five-Year Plan, which ends this year, set out the comprehensive goals for China’s economic development. It featured seven Strategic Emerging Industries (SEIs) that were earmarked for special promotion, including three industries closely related to the burgeoning energy transition: energy saving and environment protection; new energy sources; and new-energy-powered cars.
The plan laid out a target that production value-added from these seven SEIs should reach 8% of China’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015. This target has since been raised to reach 15% of GDP in 2020. There could be no clearer demonstration of how China views the link between building energy security, improving environmental protection and creating the export platforms of tomorrow.

As we see it, China has a lot more riding on its renewables revolution than (just) climate change concerns. Important as these are, it is a profoundly convenient truth that the more China builds its export platforms around renewables, smart energy grids, and clean transport technologies such as fast rail and electric vehicles, the more it drives down its own carbon emissions and the costs of these clean technologies for everyone else.
The lesson for industrialised countries such as Australia is that renewables do not have to be framed solely as an issue of climate change and its mitigation.

In keeping with the new emphasis of the Turnbull government on a 21st-century agenda, with the focus on tackling the challenges and seizing the opportunities created by industries of the future (such as renewables) rather than sticking with those of the past (coal), it is the business case that needs to be made.
China has shown very clearly that renewables make excellent business sense in the 21st century. Now it is up to Australian leaders, such as the new energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, and assistant innovation minister, Wyatt Roy, to act on the same understanding and help build – finally – a great renewables industry in Australia.The Conversation

Author: John Mathews is a Professor of Strategic Management at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management. Hao Tan is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle.
Posted by John Mathews and Hao Tan – 09:10

All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

2D Perovskite Berkeley Peidong-image-2Berkeley Lab Researchers Produce First Ultrathin Sheets of Perovskite Hybrids

To the growing list of two-dimensional semiconductors, such as graphene, boron nitride, and molybdenum disulfide, whose unique electronic properties make them potential successors to silicon in future devices, you can now add hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites. However, unlike the other contenders, which are covalent semiconductors, these 2D hybrid perovskites are ionic materials, which gives them special properties of their own.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have successfully grown atomically thin 2D sheets of organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites from solution. The ultrathin sheets are of high quality, large in area, and square-shaped. They also exhibited efficient photoluminescence, color-tunability, and a unique structural relaxation not found in covalent semiconductor sheets.
“We believe this is the first example of 2D atomically thin nanostructures made from ionic materials,” says Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and world authority on nanostructures, who first came up with the idea for this research some 20 years ago. “The results of our study open up opportunities for fundamental research on the synthesis and characterization of atomically thin 2D hybrid perovskites and introduces a new family of 2D solution-processed semiconductors for nanoscale optoelectronic devices, such as field effect transistors and photodetectors.”

(From left) Peidong Yang, Letian Dou, Andrew Wong and Yi Yu successfully followed up on research first proposed by Yang in 1994.

Yang, who also holds appointments with the University of California (UC) Berkeley and is a co-director of the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute (Kavli-ENSI), is the corresponding author of a paper describing this research in the journal Science. The paper is titled “Atomically thin two-dimensional organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites.” The lead authors are Letian Dou, Andrew Wong and Yi Yu, all members of Yang’s research group. Other authors are Minliang Lai, Nikolay Kornienko, Samuel Eaton, Anthony Fu, Connor Bischak, Jie Ma, Tina Ding, Naomi Ginsberg, Lin-Wang Wang and Paul Alivisatos.
Traditional perovskites are typically metal-oxide materials that display a wide range of fascinating electromagnetic properties, including ferroelectricity and piezoelectricity, superconductivity and colossal magnetoresistance. In the past couple of years, organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites have been solution-processed into thin films or bulk crystals for photovoltaic devices that have reached a 20-percent power conversion efficiency. Separating these hybrid materials into individual, free-standing 2D sheets through such techniques as spin-coating, chemical vapor deposition, and mechanical exfoliation has met with limited success.
In 1994, while a PhD student at Harvard University, Yang proposed a method for preparing 2D hybrid perovskite nanostructures and tuning their electronic properties but never acted upon it. This past year, while preparing to move his office, he came upon the proposal and passed it on to co-lead author Dou, a post-doctoral student in his research group. Dou, working mainly with the other lead authors Wong and Yu, used Yang’s proposal to synthesize free-standing 2D sheets of CH3NH3PbI3, a hybrid perovskite made from a blend of lead, bromine, nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Structural illustration of a single layer of a 2D hybrid perovskite (C4H9NH3)2PbBr4), an ionic material with different properties than 2D covalent semiconductors.

“Unlike exfoliation and chemical vapor deposition methods, which normally produce relatively thick perovskite plates, we were able to grow uniform square-shaped 2D crystals on a flat substrate with high yield and excellent reproducibility,” says Dou. “We characterized the structure and composition of individual 2D crystals using a variety of techniques and found they have a slightly shifted band-edge emission that could be attributed to structural relaxation. A preliminary photoluminescence study indicates a band-edge emission at 453 nanometers, which is red-shifted slightly as compared to bulk crystals. This suggests that color-tuning could be achieved in these 2D hybrid perovskites by changing sheet thickness as well as composition via the synthesis of related materials.”
The well-defined geometry of these square-shaped 2D crystals is the mark of high quality crystallinity, and their large size should facilitate their integration into future devices.
“With our technique, vertical and lateral heterostructures can also be achieved,” Yang says. “This opens up new possibilities for the design of materials/devices on an atomic/molecular scale with distinctive new properties.”
This research was supported by DOE’s Office of Science. The characterization work was carried out at the Molecular Foundry’s National Center for Electron Microscopy, and at beamline 7.3.3 of the Advanced Light Source. Both the Molecular Foundry and the Advanced Light Source are DOE Office of Science User Facilities hosted at Berkeley Lab.

1366 Solar untitled1366 Technologies today announced plans to build a state-of-the-art, commercial solar wafer manufacturing facility in Genesee County New York, strategically located between Buffalo and Rochester, that will eventually scale to 3 GW, house 400 Direct Wafer™ furnaces, and produce more than 600 million high-performance silicon wafers per year – enough to power 360,000 American homes.

1366 Technologies will become the anchor tenant at the high-tech Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) where the company will eventually create more than 1,000 new, full-time jobs in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.

“Today is an exciting day, the culmination of a lot of hard work by a talented group of people. From day one, we have taken a deliberate, highly-measured path to scaling. The facility in Bedford, Massachusetts was our proving ground. New York brings us to commercial scale. The technology is ready and 1366 is squarely positioned to lead in an industry undergoing rapid global growth,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies. “We are extremely proud to become part of the Upstate New York community and are committed to the region’s vibrant future.”

The site selection marks the start of a phased program to methodically scale 1366 Technologies Direct Wafer™ technology – a transformative manufacturing process that produces a uniformly better silicon solar wafer at half the cost – from 250 MW to 3 GW. 1366 Technologies will first construct a 250 MW facility that will produce more than 50 million standard silicon wafers per year. The facility will quickly ramp to 1 GW of production capacity and employ 300 people.

“Our goal has always been two-fold: deliver solar at the cost of coal and manufacture – at scale – in the United States,” continued van Mierlo. “Today’s announcement signifies that we’re on our way to achieving both.”

To encourage 1366 Technologies to invest and establish operations in New York, Governor Cuomo’s administration offered a competitive and attractive incentive package through various state and local resources including Empire State Development, New York’s chief economic development agency; New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR); New York Power Authority (NYPA); and Genesee County Industrial Development Agency. In September 2011, 1366 was also issued a $150 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to build a commercial-scale manufacturing facility.

Construction of the 130,000 square-foot facility is slated to begin no later than Q2 of 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2017.

“Today’s announcement is an example of how we are combining this region’s natural strengths with our vision to develop New York’s entrepreneurial future and make the Empire State a true leader in developing the clean energy technologies of tomorrow. I am proud to continue building on Upstate’s economic resurgence and I am pleased to have 1366 helping us lead the way forward,” said Governor Cuomo.

“STAMP, the site of this expansion, is strategically located between Buffalo and Rochester, which enables 1366 Technologies to draw on the highly-skilled and talented workforce available in our region,” said Mark S. Peterson, president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise. “1366 Technologies’ decision to expand its operations here not only marks the largest business attraction success story in our organization’s history, but it also brings two great cities even closer together, strengthening our efforts to make Upstate New York a hot-bed for high-tech development.”

“The strategy Governor Cuomo has developed to create a statewide high tech and advanced manufacturing corridor from Albany to Buffalo will change the economic fortunes for Upstate New York for generations to come,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). “We are very excited to welcome 1366 Technologies to Genesee County and stand ready to assist the company in any way we can as the first phase of the development of the STAMP site begins.”

“I want to congratulate 1366 Technologies and thank them for bringing this exciting project to upstate New York,” said Buffalo Niagara Enterprise President & CEO Thomas Kucharski. “1366 Technologies is bringing a revolutionary process to an industry that is transforming our regional economy. The very assets and partnerships that attracted 1366 to the STAMP site remain in place, and are well positioned to ensure the success of this company and industry well into the future.”

Source: http://www.1366tech.com/

Adam Weber and Jeffrey Urban at ALS SAXS/WAXS Beamline 7.3.3.New projects for hydrogen storage and fuel cell performance aim to bring down cost of fuel cell electric vehicles.

With commitments from leading car and stationary-power manufacturers to hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and the first ever fuel cell electric vehicle to go on sale later this year, interest is once again swelling in this carbon-free technology. Now, thanks to several new projects from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office, scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will have an important role in accelerating innovation and commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Berkeley Lab has been awarded $8 million for two new DOE research efforts, one to find new materials for hydrogen storage and another for optimizing fuel-cell performance and durability. In addition, Berkeley Lab is leading a range of other hydrogen and fuel cell research projects aimed at developing next-generation fuel cell and related energy-conversion technologies.

Adam Weber and Jeffrey Urban at ALS SAXS/WAXS Beamline 7.3.3.

“Berkeley Lab has had a strong fuel cell research program going back decades,” said scientist Adam Weber, who leads fuel cell research at Berkeley Lab. “With these new DOE consortiums, each national lab brings its core competences while synergistically leveraging each other. This way we’ll be able to push the state-of-the-art much faster and further than we could individually.”

Fuel cells are considered one of the most promising and fast-growing clean energy technologies. In 2014, about 50,000 fuel cell units were shipped worldwide, with a nearly 30 percent market growth every year since 2010. This year, Toyota’s Mirai will be the first fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) to be commercially available for sale in the U.S. Still, cost remains one of the biggest challenges to wider adoption.

The Fuel Cell—Consortium for Performance and Durability (FC-PAD) is led by Los Alamos National Laboratory and includes Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, with Weber serving as the consortium’s deputy director. Its goal is to improve and optimize polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which are used primarily for transportation, while reducing their cost. “If we can make individual cells more durable and perform better with less costly components or fewer of them, than you would drive down the cost of the vehicle,” Weber said.

Specifically one research focus of Weber’s work for FC-PAD will be trying to understand and optimize mass transport in the fuel cell, or the transport of reactants and products, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and water. Mass-transport issues can limit fuel-cell performance. “One of our core competences at Berkeley Lab is in mathematical modeling and advanced diagnostics, which we can use to study, explore, and describe the transport phenomena across length scales from the microstructural to macroscopic levels,” he said.

Like batteries, fuel cells use a chemical reaction to produce electricity. However fuel cells don’t need to be recharged; rather, they will produce electricity as long as fuel is supplied. In the case of a hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen is the fuel, and it’s stored in a tank connected to the fuel cell.

Safe and cost-effective hydrogen storage is another challenge for FCEVs, one that the other DOE consortium, Hydrogen Materials—Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC), seeks to address. HyMARC is led by Sandia National Laboratories and also includes Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Jeff Urban, the HyMARC lead scientist for Berkeley Lab, noted the Lab’s strengths: “Berkeley Lab brings to the consortium a combination of innovation in H2 storage materials, surface and interface science, controlled nanoscale synthesis, world-class user facilities for characterizing nanoscale materials, and predictive materials genome capabilities.”

Researchers have two goals for hydrogen storage—greater storage density at lower pressure. Greater density will allow for greater vehicle driving range while lower pressure improves safety as well as efficiency.

Urban and his group have come up with novel ways to synthesize nanoscale metal hydrides to achieve extremely high hydrogen storage capacity. Yet the kinetics, or rate of chemical reactions, is one of the main challenges with this material. “HyMARC will allow us to further probe solid-solid interfaces in metal hydrides and evaluate microstructural engineering as a pathway to improved kinetics,” he said. “The unique combination of expertise spanning these consortia gives us a peerless network of close collaboration to surmount the fundamental scientific barriers underpinning some of these sticky challenges.”

Both of these consortiums are funded by DOE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office, part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and follow a similar model, where the core team consisting of the national labs will serve as a resource to industry and later also collaborate on innovative projects with universities and companies.

Another research focus is in catalysts, the subject of a collaboration between Berkeley Lab materials scientist Peidong Yang and scientists at Argonne National Laboratory. Last year they reported discovery of a new class of bimetallic nanoframe catalysts using platinum and nickel that are significantly more efficient and far less expensive than the best platinum catalysts used in today’s fuel cells.

Finally Berkeley Lab last month joined several other national labs as well as dozens of companies and other institutions in signing onto H2USA, a public-private partnership whose mission is “is to address hurdles to establishing hydrogen fueling infrastructure, enabling the large scale adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles.” Infrastructure is one of the critical challenges to wider hydrogen technology adoption, and one in which California has made a strong commitment.

“I’m very bullish on hydrogen. It’s clean and carbon-free, and it’s definitely a very integral part of the future energy economy,” Weber said. “Is it a very near-term drop-in replacement technology? No, I think it’s a little bit longer term, although we have commercial products like the Mirai available today. Like any new technology we have to go down the cost and manufacturing curves. As we bring in new ideas, concepts, and materials, I think we can easily bring down the cost.”

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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9-disruptive-technologiesChange is pretty much a constant state of affairs in the 21st century, and in no area is this truer than that of technological development. Technology has swept aside vast, powerful established industries, transforming them fundamentally in just a few years. Take, for example, the way that music has changed, moving from LPs to CDs to music available in online files. This occurred in a very short time frame. Other organisations have found their industries transformed to a similar scale. All of this means that understanding upcoming disruptive technologies can help organisations to create new business models and adapt in good time. PreScouter developed a report which showed that there are nine disruptive technologies that promise to revolutionize the world as we know it. The nine are big data, automation/AI, Internet of Things, MEMs, nanomaterials, biotechnology, terahertz, advanced energy and 3D printing. Each of these is now described.

1. Big Data – PreScouter predicts that “Big Data will be a $50 billion industry by 2017”. This is no big news, as many have predicted how big data will shape the world and will impact industries and organizations.The volume of data that people are producing is increasing at a tremendous rate, and this is only likely to further grow as a result of technology like wearable devices. At the same time costs of storage of this data have declined and this will enable predictive relationships to be produced according to PreScouter.

Viegas user activity on wikipedia Image source: wikipedia

2. Automation and Artificial Intelligence – PreScouter believes that artificial intelligence is starting to get introduced into consumer goods and this is already a $20.5 billion industry. Pre-runners like Siri are thought to be outdated and too “gimmicky” to be useful. AI that is placed in the backend however provides websites the ability to present different information to consumers based on their own preferences. This clearly has considerable marketing implications. Another important issue is the impact of automation and robots on economy and labor. What some call the “robots economy” is revolutionizing what we know as work, and the trend promises to continue to develop.

Automation equipment

3. The Internet of Things – while so many devices are not yet connected to the Internet, by 2022 PreScouter believes that there will be a network of 50 billion connected objects. When this is paired with the technology for artificial intelligence it is believed that factories will be able to become smart, and that this could contribute a whopping $2 trillion to the global economy.

Internet of things

4. Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMs) – MEMs are reported by PreScouter to be sensors that transfer information between the worlds of the physical and the digital. It is argued by PreScouter that advances to make these devices more miniature have transformed the medical world as well as industrial diagnostics. An health revolution has been promised by many. An interesting report published by MIT´s technological review reports on the latest advancements on this important area that combine Big Data with MEMs.

MEMs Image source: shopage.fr

5. Nanomaterials – related to the MEMs detailed above, nanomaterials are explained by PreScouter to have driven miniaturisation. They are also able to be used to create new classes of materials, such as changing the colour, strengths, conductivities and other properties of traditional materials. The market is already thought to be worth more than $25 billion in this area.

6. Biotechnology – agricultural science is believed to be advancing to new boundaries beyond that of breeding and crossbreeding, according to PreScouter. Indeed, it is explained that biotechnology has advanced to such a point that crops are able to be developed that are drought-resistant and have better vitamin content and salinity tolerance. All of this has tremendous potential to get rid of the problem of hunger in the world. The market already exceeds $80 billion a year, argues PreScouter, and it is growing rapidly.

Plant done through biotechnology

7. Terahertz Imaging – PreScouter reports that the market for Terahertz devices is predicted to grow by 35% per year annually and to reach more than $500 million by 2021. But what is it?  Terahertz Imaging “extends sensory capabilities by moving beyond the realm of the human body”. This helps to create imaging devices that can penetrate structures, for example. They are being used to detect explosives that were previously considered to be invisible, as well as in path planning for self-driving cars (PreScouter).

terahertz

8. Advanced Energy Storage and Generation – the ever expanding population of the world has an equally ever expanding need for energy, and this is being made more challenging by legislation to deal with the challenges of climate change. There have been significant advances to battery technology according to PreScouter, and this alone is estimated to have an economic impact of $415 billion. Greener products are also much more incentivised and it is thought likely that cold fusion power could become viable, argues PreScouter. Solar Power has also developed considerably and is an area that promises to grow considerably and become a viable energetic alternative,  as its becoming increasingly cheaper.

Compressed air energy storage

9. 3D Printing – last but not least, 3D printers are making tremendous strides, and PreScouter points out that this is already a $3.1 billion industry that is growing by 35% each year. This will continue to transform industries as the prices of printers drops and more people can gain access to them. On the other hand the Maker´s mouvement is gaining momentum, which is producing a new generation of people interested and with the skills to do things.

Double-Dot Single-Electron transistorA single-electron transistor (SET) is an electrical device that takes advantage of a strange quantum phenomenon called tunneling to transport single electrons across a thin insulator. The device serves as an on/off switch on the tiniest scale and could play an important role in quantum computing.
A group of researchers in Japan is exploring the behavior of a certain type of SET made from two quantum dots, which are bits of material so small they start to exhibit quantum properties. The group has produced a detailed analysis of the electrical characteristics of the so-called double-quantum-dot SETs, which could help researchers design better devices to manipulate single electrons. They report their findings in the Journal of Applied Physics, from AIP Publishing (“Chemically assembled double-dot single-electron transistor analyzed by the orthodox model considering offset charge”).
Double-Dot Single-Electron transistor
Left to right: a scanning electrode microscopy shot of the series of double-dot single-electron transistor (bright spots correspond to the cores of the gold nanoparticles); a schematic of the device; an experimental stability diagram. (Image: Majima/Tokyo Institute of Technology)
The team began their work by fabricating the electrodes of the SET, which were separated by a nanometer scale gap, with an electroless gold-plating technique. They then synthesized size-controlled gold nanoparticles within the gap.
To do this, they “chemically assembled a series of double-dot SETs by anchoring two gold nanoparticles between the nanogap electrodes with alkanedithiol molecules to form a self-assembled monolayer,” explained Yutaka Majima, a professor in the Materials and Structures Laboratory at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
The team tested the electrical properties of the device and found that regions within the quantum dots exhibited zero conductance and a stable electron number — both highly desirable traits for quantum computing. Such regions are called Coulomb diamonds and their properties are “extraordinarily stable and coveted,” Majima said.
The same researchers had earlier found Coulomb diamonds in single-quantum-dot SETs.
The group — which also includes members from Kyoto University, the University of Tsukuba, and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) — was then able to determine, through both theoretical and experimental analysis, many additional important electrical parameters of the SETs. The team then linked these parameters to the geometry of the device.
“Thanks to [the Coloumb diamond] stability, we could determine the equivalent circuit parameters with accuracy by analyzing the device’s electrical characteristics,” said Majima. “Precise estimation of the circuit parameters results in the determination of double-dot structures, which can be critical for reproducible single-electron devices.”
Majima and colleagues found that the evaluated parameters “corresponded well to the geometrical structures of the device,” which they were able to observe via scanning electron microscopy.
In terms of applications, it’s quite possible that the team’s work with double-dot SETs will find future use within quantum electronics to manipulate a single electron and its spin.
The researchers’ next goal is “to manipulate and control a single electron and its spin on double-dot single-electron devices by using asymmetric side-gate electrodes to demonstrate spin qubits,” said Majima.
Qubits, aka quantum bits, can encode both a “zero” and a “one” at the same time within their relative spin, so they are being pursued for storing and manipulating information in quantum computers.
Source: American Institute of Physics

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