07 Oct 2016
** Special to the Washington Post
The batteries that power our high-tech lifestyle are built using materials extracted in dirty, often life-threatening conditions.
If you have a cell phone, laptop, a hybrid car, or an electric vehicle, you may want to sit down. This may hurt.
You have probably heard of blood diamonds and conflict minerals. Maybe you’ve even read up a bit on how big consumer tech companies are trying (and, in some cases, being forced by governments) to sort out where the materials that go into their gadgets come from. But stories about “supply chains,” “globalization,” and “poor working conditions” can seem a world away, or just plain academic.
In a sweeping, heartbreaking series, the Washington Post is making sure it hits home.
Take the example of Yu Yuan, a farmer who lives near a graphite factory in northeastern China. In a video, he swipes at shimmering grime accumulated in his window sill and points at a barren cornfield.
The crops turn black with graphite dust he says, and don’t grow properly. He and his wife worry about the air they’re breathing and their water is undrinkable, polluted by chemicals dumped from the graphite plant. “There is nothing here once the factory is done damaging this place,” he says.
Workers in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, tend to an oven that processes slag from the region’s cobalt and copper-rich ores.
Over two pieces so far, the Post has traced the path of first cobalt and then graphite as they make their way from mines to factories and ultimately into our hands as the cathodes and anodes, respectively, for lithium-ion batteries.
Each story is a remarkable blend of globe-spanning investigative journalism, business reporting, and an appeal to us to confront the consequences of owning the devices that power our high-tech lifestyles.
While graphite is mined and processed mostly in China, a huge amount of cobalt comes from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where “artisanal” miners sometimes dig through the floor of their own houses in search of ore. Mines collapse frequently. Injuries and death are commonplace.
Once extracted, the materials end up in Asia, where companies you’ve probably never heard of turn them into battery parts. The largest battery makers in the world, including Samsung SDI, LG Chem, and Panasonic, then purchase the components and turn them into batteries that go into phones, computers, and cars. (article continued below)
A “New Way” to Power Our World?
Read (Watch the YouTube Video Below) About a New Energy Storage Company ~ Making Energy Dense, Flexible Form, Rapid Charge/ Re-Charge Super Capacitors and Batteries for Medical Devices, Drone Batteries, Power Banks, Motorcycle and EV Batteries, developed from a Rice University Technology using ‘Nanoporous Nickle’ and ‘Si Nano Wires.
(article continued) Lithium batteries are prized for being light and having a high energy density compared to other battery chemistries. The modern smartphone would be difficult to imagine without a lithium battery as its power supply. They help power hybrid cars, and the small but fast-growing fleet of all-electric vehicles wouldn’t exist without them.
Interest in electric cars, in particular, is fueled by claims that the vehicles are clean and good for the environment. That may be true in the countries where they are mostly sold. But when we consider the bigger picture, the reality is something else altogether.
Read More: MIT Review – August 2016
Startups with novel chemistries tend to falter before they reach full production.
Earlier this year, Ellen Williams, the director of ARPA-E, the U.S. Department of Energy’s advanced research program for alternative energy, made headlines when she told the Guardiannewspaper that “We have reached some holy grails in batteries.”
Despite very promising results from the 75-odd energy-storage research projects that ARPA-E funds, however, the grail of compact, low-cost energy storage remains elusive.
A number of startups are closer to producing devices that are economical, safe, compact, and energy-dense enough to store energy at a cost of less than $100 a kilowatt-hour. Energy storage at that price would have a galvanic effect, overcoming the problem of powering a 24/7 grid with renewable energy that’s available only when the wind blows or the sun shines, and making electric vehicles lighter and less expensive.
But those batteries are not being commercialized at anywhere near the pace needed to hasten the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk, hardly one to underplay the promise of new technology, has been forced to admit that, for now, the electric-car maker is engaged in a gradual slog of enhancements to its existing lithium-ion batteries, not a big leap forward.
In fact, many researchers believe energy storage will have to take an entirely new chemistry and new physical form, beyond the lithium-ion batteries that over the last decade have shoved aside competing technologies in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-scale storage systems. In May the DOE held a symposium entitled “Beyond Lithium-Ion.” The fact that it was the ninth annual edition of the event underscored the technological challenges of making that step.
Qichao Hu, the founder of SolidEnergy Systems, has developed a lithium-metal battery (which has a metallic anode, rather than the graphite material used for the anode in traditional lithium-ion batteries) that offers dramatically improved energy density over today’s devices (see“Better Lithium Batteries to Get a Test Flight”). The decade-long process of developing the new system highlighted one of the main hurdles in battery advancement: “In terms of moving from an idea to a product,” says Hu, “it’s hard for batteries, because when you improve one aspect, you compromise other aspects.”
Added to this is the fact that energy storage research has a multiplicity problem: there are so many technologies, from foam batteries to flow batteries to exotic chemistries, that no one clear winner is attracting most of the funding and research activity.
According to a recent analysis of more than $4 billion in investments in energy storage by Lux Research, startups developing “next-generation” batteries—i.e., beyond lithium-ion—averaged just $40 million in funding over eight years. Tesla’s investment in its Gigafactory, which will produce lithium-ion batteries, will total around $5 billion. That huge investment gap is hard to overcome.
“It will cost you $500 million to set up a small manufacturing line and do all the minutiae of research you need to do to make the product,” says Gerd Ceder, a professor of materials science at the University of California, Berkeley, who heads a research group investigating novel battery chemistries. Automakers, he points out, may test new battery systems for years before making a purchase decision. It’s hard to invest $500 million in manufacturing when your company has $5 million in funding a year.
Even if new battery makers manage to bring novel technologies to market, they face a dangerous period of ramping up production and finding buyers. Both Leyden Energy and A123 Systems failed after developing promising new systems, as their cash needs climbed and demand failed to meet expectations. Two other startups, Seeo and Sakti3, were acquired before they reached mass production and significant revenues, for prices below what their early-stage investors probably expected.
Meanwhile, the Big Three battery producers, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic, are less interested in new chemistries and radical departures in battery technology than they are in gradual improvements to their existing products. And innovative battery startups face one major problem they don’t like to mention: lithium-ion batteries, first developed in the late 1970s, keep getting better.
Read more: Why We Still Don’t Have Better Batteries The Washington Post
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Batteries in smart phones and other portable electronics often die at inopportune times. Carrying a spare battery is one solution. As an alternative, researchers have tried to create fibers to incorporate in clothing that would power these devices. However, many of these fibers can’t withstand clothing manufacturing, especially weaving and cutting.
Now, in the journal ACS Nano, scientists report the first fibers suitable for weaving into tailorable textiles that can capture and release solar energy.
To collect solar power, Wenjie Mai, Xing Fan and colleagues created two different types of fibers. One contained titanium or a manganese-coated polymer along with zinc oxide, a dye and an electrolyte. These fibers were then interlaced with copper-coated polymer wires to create the solar cell section of the textile. To store power, the researchers developed a second type of fiber. This one was made of titanium, titanium nitride, a thin carbon shell to prevent oxidation and an electrolyte. These fibers were woven with cotton yarn.
When combined, the new materials formed a flexible textile that the team could cut and tailor into a “smart garment” that was fully charged by sunlight. The researchers say the clothing could potentially power small electronics including tablets and phones.(Article Continues Below – After Tenka Energy Story)
Read About (Watch the YouTube Video)
Tenka Energy, LLC is developing and commercializing the Next Generation of Super-Capacitors andBatteries, providing the High-Energy-Density,in Flexible-Thin-Form with Rapid Charge/ Recharge Cycles with Extended Life that is required and in high demand from a“power starved world”. The opportunity is based on a Nanoporous-Nickel Flexible Thin-form technology that is easily scaled, from Rice University. Applications: Powered Smart Cards, Wearable Electronics, Drone Batteries, Medical Devices, Motorcycle and EV Batteries – just to name a few!
(Article Continued) Explore further: New fabric uses sun and wind to power devices
More information: Zhisheng Chai et al. Tailorable and Wearable Textile Devices for Solar Energy Harvesting and Simultaneous Storage, ACS Nano(2016). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.6b05293
The pursuit of harmonic combination of technology and fashion intrinsically points to the development of smart garments. Herein, we present an all-solid tailorable energy textile possessing integrated function of simultaneous solar energy harvesting and storage, and we call it tailorable textile device. Our technique makes it possible to tailor the multifunctional textile into any designed shape without impairing its performance and produce stylish smart energy garments for wearable self-powering system with enhanced user experience and more room for fashion design.
The “threads” (fiber electrodes) featuring tailorability and knittability can be large-scale fabricated and then woven into energy textiles. The fiber supercapacitor with merits of tailorability, ultrafast charging capability, and ultrahigh bending-resistance is used as the energy storage module, while an all-solid dye-sensitized solar cell textile is used as the solar energy harvesting module. Our textile sample can be fully charged to 1.2 V in 17 s by self-harvesting solar energy and fully discharged in 78 s at a discharge current density of 0.1 mA.
Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. ~ “Great Things from Small Things”
07 Oct 2016
Equipment at a brewery. Credit: FTGallo / Wikipedia.
University of Colorado Boulder engineers have developed an innovative bio-manufacturing process that uses a biological organism cultivated in brewery wastewater to create the carbon-based materials needed to make energy storage cells.
This unique pairing of breweries and batteries could set up a win-win opportunity by reducing expensive wastewater treatment costs for beer makers while providing manufacturers with a more cost-effective means of creating renewable, naturally-derived fuel cell technologies.
“Breweries use about seven barrels of water for every barrel of beer produced,” said Tyler Huggins, a graduate student in CU Boulder’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and lead author of the new study. “And they can’t just dump it into the sewer because it requires extra filtration.”
The process of converting biological materials, or biomass, such as timber into carbon-based battery electrodes is currently used in some energy industry sectors. But, naturally-occurring biomass is inherently limited by its short supply, impact during extraction and intrinsic chemical makeup, rendering it expensive and difficult to optimize.
However, the CU Boulder researchers utilize the unsurpassed efficiency of biological systems to produce sophisticated structures and unique chemistries by cultivating a fast-growing fungus, Neurospora crassa, in the sugar-rich wastewater produced by a similarly fast-growing Colorado industry: breweries.
“The wastewater is ideal for our fungus to flourish in, so we are happy to take it,” said Huggins.
By cultivating their feedstock in wastewater, the researchers were able to better dictate the fungus’s chemical and physical processes from the start. They thereby created one of the most efficient naturally-derived lithium-ion battery electrodes known to date while cleaning the wastewater in the process.
The findings were published recently in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.
If the process were applied on a large scale, breweries could potentially reduce their municipal wastewater costs significantly while manufacturers would gain access to a cost-effective incubating medium for advanced battery technology components.
“The novelty of our process is changing the manufacturing process from top-down to bottom-up,” said Zhiyong Jason Ren, an associate professor in CU Boulder’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and a co-author of the new study. “We’re biodesigning the materials right from the start.”
Huggins and study co-author Justin Whiteley, also of CU Boulder, have filed a patent on the process and created Emergy, a Boulder-based company aimed at commercializing the technology.
“We see large potential for scaling because there’s nothing required in this process that isn’t already available,” said Huggins.
The researchers have partnered with Avery Brewing in Boulder in order to explore a larger pilot program for the technology. Huggins and Whiteley recently competed in the finals of a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored startup incubator competition at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois.
“This research speaks to the spirit of entrepreneurship at CU Boulder,” said Ren, who plans to continue experimenting with the mechanisms and properties of the fungus growth within the wastewater. “It’s great to see students succeeding and creating what has the potential to be a transformative technology. Energy storage represents a big opportunity for the state of Colorado and beyond.”
Explore further: Researchers use wastewater treatment to capture CO2, produce energy
More information: Tyler M. Huggins et al. Controlled Growth of Nanostructured Biotemplates with Cobalt and Nitrogen Codoping as a Binderless Lithium-Ion Battery Anode, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b09300
07 Oct 2016
Oil and gas operations in the United States produce about 21 billion barrels of wastewater per year. The saltiness of the water and the organic contaminants it contains have traditionally made treatment difficult and expensive.
Engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have invented a simpler process that can simultaneously remove both salts and organic contaminants from the wastewater, all while producing additional energy. The new technique, which relies on a microbe-powered battery, was recently published in thejournal Environmental Science Water Research & Technology as the cover story.
“The beauty of the technology is that it tackles two different problems in one single system,” said Zhiyong Jason Ren, a CU-Boulder associate professor of environmental and sustainability engineering and senior author of the paper. “The problems become mutually beneficial in our system—they complement each other—and the process produces energy rather than just consumes it.”
The new treatment technology, called microbial capacitive desalination, is like a battery in its basic form, said Casey Forrestal, a CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher who is the lead author of the paper and working to commercialize the technology. “Instead of the traditional battery, which uses chemicals to generate the electrical current, we use microbes to generate an electrical current that can then be used for desalination.”
This microbial electro-chemical approach takes advantage of the fact that the contaminants found in the wastewater contain energy-rich hydrocarbons, the same compounds that make up oil andnatural gas. The microbes used in the treatment process eat the hydrocarbons and release their embedded energy. The energy is then used to create a positively charged electrode on one side of the cell and a negatively charged electrode on the other, essentially setting up a battery.
Because salt dissolves into positively and negatively charged ions in water, the cell is then able to remove the salt in the wastewater by attracting the charged ions onto the high-surface-area electrodes, where they adhere.
Not only does the system allow the salt to be removed from the wastewater, but it also creates additional energy that could be used on site to run equipment, the researchers said.
“Right now oil and gas companies have to spend energy to treat the wastewater,” Ren said. “We are able to treat it without energy consumption; rather we extract energy out of it.”
Some oil and gas wastewater is currently being treated and reused in the field, but that treatment process typically requires multiple steps—sometimes up to a dozen—and an input of energy that may come from diesel generators.
Because of the difficulty and expense, wastewater is often disposed of by injecting it deep underground. The need to dispose of wastewater has increased in recent years as the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has boomed. Fracking refers to the process of injecting a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into wells to increase the amount of oil and natural gas produced by the well.
Injection wells that handle wastewater from fracking operations can cause earthquakes in the region, according to past research by CU-Boulder scientists and others.
The demand for water for fracking operations also has caused concern among people worried about scarce water resources, especially in arid regions of the country. Finding water to buy for fracking operations in the West, for example, has become increasingly challenging and expensive for oil and gas companies.
Ren and Forrestal’s microbial capacitive desalination cell offers the possibility that water could be more economically treated on site and reused for fracking.
To try to turn the technology into a commercial reality, Ren and Forrestal have co-founded a startup company called BioElectric Inc. In order to determine if the technology offers a viable solution for oil and gas companies, the pair first has to show they can scale up the work they’ve been doing in the lab to a size that would be useful in the field.
The cost to scale up the technology also needs to be competitive with what oil and gas companies are paying now to buy water to use for fracking, Forrestal said. There also is some movement in state legislatures to require oil and gas companies to reuse wastewater, which could make BioElectric’s product more appealing even at a higher price, the researchers said.
MIT spinout makes treating, recycling highly contaminated oilfield water more economical
Explore further: New contaminants found in oil and gas wastewater
More information: “Microbial capacitive desalination for integrated organic matter and salt removal and energy production from unconventional natural gas produced water.” Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2015,1, 47-55 DOI: 10.1039/C4EW00050A
Genesis Nanotechnology ~ “Great Things from Small Things”
YouTube Video: Genesis Nanotechnology Nano Enabled Water Treatment; Quantum Dots from Coal & More
24 Sep 2016
“I try to guide my research by … asking myself the question, ‘What can we do today that will have a lasting impact and be conducive to a sustainable human civilization?’” says Rohit Karnik, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Photo: Ken Richardson
Engineer’s designs may help purify water, diagnose disease in remote regions of world.
In Rohit Karnik’s lab, researchers are searching for tiny solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.
In one of his many projects, Karnik, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is developing a new microfluidic technology that can quickly and simply sorts cells from small samples of blood. The surface of a microfluidic channel is patterned to direct certain cells to roll toward a reservoir for further analysis, while allowing the rest of the blood sample to pass through. With this design, Karnik envisions developing portable, disposable devices that doctors may use, even in remote regions of the world, to quickly diagnose conditions ranging from malaria to sepsis.
Karnik’s group is also tackling issues of water purification. The researchers are designing filters from single layers of graphene, which are atom-thin sheets of carbon known for their exceptional strength. Karnik has devised a way to control the size and concentration of pores in graphene, and is tailoring single layers to filter out miniscule and otherwise evasive contaminants. The group has also successfully filtered salts using the technique and hopes to develop efficient graphene filters for water purification and other applications.
In looking for water-purifying solutions, Karnik’s group also identified a surprisingly low-tech option: the simple tree branch. Karnik found that the pores within a pine branch that normally help to transport water up the plant are ideal for filtering bacteria from water. The group has shown that a peeled pine branch can filter out up to 99.00 percent of E. coli from contaminated water. Karnik’s group is building up on this work to explore the potential for simple and affordable wood-based water purification systems. (continued below)
These Are the World’s Most ‘Sustainable’ Cities [From the World Economic Forum]
What does it mean to be a ‘sustainable city’, and which cities around the world are best at it? A new index sets out to find the most successful from a list of 100 cities.
The ranking from Arcadis, a design and consultancy firm, and the Centre for Economic and Business Research, assesses the sustainability of cities based on three dimensions. The ranking also highlights the pressure cities are under – from population growth to natural disasters.
“Balancing the immediate needs of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow is at the heart of being a sustainable city,” the authors write.
(continued from above) “I try to guide my research by long-term sustainability, in a specific sense, by asking myself the question, ‘What can we do today that will have a lasting impact and be conducive to a sustainable human civilization?’ Karnik says. “I try to align myself with that goal.”
From stargazer to tinkerer
Karnik was born and raised in Pune, India, which was then a relatively quiet city 100 miles east of Mumbai. Karnik describes himself while growing up as shy, yet curious about the way the world worked. He would often set up simple experiments in his backyard, seeing, for instance, how transplanting ants from one colony to another would change the ants’ behavior. (The short answer: They fought, sometimes to the death.) He developed an interest in astronomy early on and often explored the night sky with a small telescope, from the roof of his family’s home.
“I used to take my telescope up to the terrace in the middle of the night, which required three different trips up six or seven flights of stairs,” Karnik says. “I’d set the alarm for 3 a.m., go up, and do quite a bit of stargazing.”
That telescope would soon serve another use, as Karnik eventually found that, by inverting it and adding another lens, he could repurpose the telescope as a microscope.
“I built a little setup so I could look at different things, and I used to collect stuff from around the house, like onion peels or fungus growing on trees, to look at their cells,” Karnik says.
When it came time to decide on a path of study, Karnik was inspired by his uncle, a mechanical engineer who built custom machines “that did all kinds of things, from making concrete bricks, to winding up springs,” Karnik says. “What I saw in mechanical engineering was the ability to building something that integrates across different disciplines.”
Seeking balance and insight
As an entering student at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Karnik chose to study mechanical engineering over electrical engineering, which was the more popular choice among students at the time. For his thesis, he looked for new ways to model three-dimensional cracks in materials such as steel beams.
Casting around for a direction after graduating, Karnik landed on the fast-growing field of nanotechnology. Arun Majumdar, an IIT alum and professor at the University of California at Berkeley, was studying energy conversion and biosensing in nanoscale systems. Karnik joined the professor’s lab as a graduate student, moving to California in 2002. For his graduate work, Karnik helped to develop a microfluidic platform to rapidly mix the contents of and test reactions occurring within droplets. He followed this work up with a PhD thesis in which he explored how fluid, flowing through tiny, nanometer-sized channels, can be controlled to sense and direct ions and molecules.
Toward the end of his graduate work, Karnik interviewed for and ultimately accepted a faculty position at MIT. However, he was still completing his PhD thesis at Berkeley and had less than 4 years of experience beyond his bachelor’s degree. To help ease the transition, MIT offered Karnik an interim postdoc position in the lab of Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.
“It was an insightful experience,” Karnik remembers. “For a mechanical engineer who’s never been outside mechanical engineering, I basically had little experience how to do things in biology. It opened up possibilities for working with the biomedical community.”
When Karnik finally assumed his position as assistant professor of mechanical engineering in 2007, he experienced a tidal wave of deadlines, demands, and responsibilities — a common initiation for first-time faculty.
“By its nature the job is overwhelming,” Karnik says. “The trick is how to maintain balance and sanity and do the things you like, without being distracted by the busyness around you, in some sense.”
He says several things have helped him to handle and even do away with stress: walks, which he takes each day to work and around campus, as well as yoga and meditation.
“If you can see things the way they are, by clearing away the filters your mind puts in place, you can get a clear perspective, and there are a lot of insights that come through,” Karnik says.
24 Sep 2016
In a discovery that could have profound implications for future energy policy, Columbia scientists have demonstrated it is possible to manufacture solar cells that are far more efficient than existing silicon energy cells by using a new kind of material, a development that could help reduce fossil fuel consumption.
The team, led by Xiaoyang Zhu, a professor of Chemistry at Columbia University, focused its efforts on a new class of solar cell ingredients known as Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites (HOIPs).
Their results, reported in the prestigious journal Science, also explain why these new materials are so much more efficient than traditional solar cells—solving a mystery that will likely prompt scientists and engineers to begin inventing new solar materials with similar properties in the years ahead.
“The need for renewable energy has motivated extensive research into solar cell technologies that are economically competitive with burning fossil fuel,” Zhu says.
“Among the materials being explored for next generation solar cells, HOIPs have emerged a superstar. Until now no one has been able to explain why they work so well, and how much better we might make them. We now know it’s possible to make HOIP-based solar cells even more efficient than anyone thought possible.”
Solar cells are what turn sunlight into electricity. Also known as photovoltaic cells, these semiconductors are most frequently made from thin layers of silicon that transmit energy across its structure, turning it into DC current.
Silicon panels, which currently dominate the market for solar panels, must have a purity of 99.999 percent and are notoriously fragile and expensive to manufacture. Even a microscopic defect—such as misplaced, missing or extra ions—in this crystalline structure can exert a powerful pull on the charges the cells generate when they absorb sunlight, dissipating those charges before they can be transformed into electrical current.
In 2009, Japanese scientists demonstrated it was possible to build solar cells out of HOIPs, and that these cells could harvest energy from sunlight even when the crystals had a significant number of defects. Because they don’t need to be pristine, HOIPs can be produced on a large scale and at low cost. The Columbia team has been investigating HOIPs since 2014. Their findings could help boost the use of solar power, a priority in the age of global warming.
Over the last seven years, scientists have managed to increase the efficiency with which HOIPs can convert solar energy into electricity, to 22 percent from 4 percent. By contrast, it took researchers more than six decades to create silicon cells and bring them to their current level, and even now silicon cells can convert no more than about 25 percent of the sun’s energy into electrical current.
This discovery, Zhu said, meant that “scientists have only just begun to tap the potential of HOIPs to convert the sun’s energy into electricity.”
Theorists long ago demonstrated that the maximum efficiency silicon solar cells might ever reach— the percentage of energy in sunlight that might be converted to electricity we can use—is roughly 33 percent. It takes hundreds of nanoseconds for energized electrons to move from the part of a solar cell that infuses them with the sun’s energy, to the part of the cell that harvests the energy and converts it into electricity that can ultimately be fed into a power grid. During this migration across the solar cell, the energized electrons quickly dissipate their excess energy.
But those calculations assume a specific rate of energy loss.
The Columbia team discovered that the rate of energy loss is slowed down by over three-orders of magnitude in HOIPs – making it possible for the harvesting of excess electronic energy to increase the efficiency of solar cells.
“We’re talking about potentially doubling the efficiency of solar cells,” says Prakriti P. Joshi, a Ph.D. student in Zhu’s lab who is a coauthor on the paper. “That’s really exciting because it opens up a big, big field in engineering.” Adds Zhu, “This shows we can push the efficiencies of solar cells much higher than many people thought possible.”
After demonstrating this, the team then turned to the next question: what is it about the molecular structure of HOIPs that gives them their unique properties? How do electrons avoid defects? They discovered that the same mechanism that slows down the cooling of electron energy also protects the electrons from bumping into defects.
This “protection” makes the HOIPs turn a blind eye to the ubiquitous defects in a material developed from room-temperature and solution processing, thus allowing an imperfect material to behave like a perfect semiconductor.
HOIPs contain lead, and are also water soluble, meaning the solar cells could begin to dissolve and leach lead into the environment around them if not carefully protected from the elements.
With the explanation of the mysterious mechanisms that give HOIPs their remarkable efficiencies, Zhu knew, material scientists would likely be able to mimic them with more environmentally-friendly materials.
“Now we can go back and design materials which are environmentally benign and really solve this problem everybody is worried about,” Zhu says. “This principle will allow people to start to design new materials for solar energy.”
Explore further: New plastic solar cell minimizes loss of photon energy
More information: H. Zhu et al. Screening in crystalline liquids protects energetic carriers in hybrid perovskites, Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf9570
Journal reference: Science
Provided by: Columbia University
24 Sep 2016
Tesla has been selected to provide a 20 MW/80 MWh Powerpack energy storage system at Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation.
Tesla says that when completed, the installation will be the largest lithium ion battery storage project in the world.
“When fully charged, this system will hold enough energy to power more than 2,500 households for a day or charge 1,000 Tesla vehicles,” states the company.
One of the very attractive aspects of battery based energy storage is how fast it can be implemented. Tesla states it will have the utility scale solution operational by the end of the year.
The Powerpack system will be charged using electricity from the mains grid during off-peak hours.
During peak hours, it will provide electricity to help maintain the stability and reliability of Southern California Edison’s (SCE’s) electrical infrastructure. (Tesla Continued Below)
Also Read About: A New Nano-Enabled Energy Storage Company that Builds High Energy-Dense, Thin-Flexible- Form with Rapid Charge-Recharge … Super Capacitors and Batteries!
(Tesla Continued) The energy storage solution will reduce the need for gas-fired electricity generation and further SCE’s efforts in enhancing and modernising its grid.
SCE has previously worked with Tesla on two demonstration projects; one involving residential SCE customers and the other focusing on commercial and industrial customers..
As Powerwall did with home battery storage in Australia, the launch of Tesla Powerpack signified the beginning of Australia’s commercial energy storage revolution.
Tesla Powerpack installation
The Powerpack battery system can be used in a variety of commercial scenarios and is scalable; from 100kWh to 100MWh+ configurations in 250kWh increments.
Each Powerpack contains 16 individual battery pods, a thermal control system and a vast array of sensors monitoring and reporting on cell level performance.
Tesla Powerpack can help businesses exercise greater control over their energy costs and make the most of their commercial solar power system installations.
In related news and closer to home, ABC Rural reports Tesla’s Nick Carter told farmers at an Agribusiness Australia event in Melbourne yesterday that battery storage technology could help move them into the energy production business.
“If there is land available, then use it for essentially mining or growing energy and if you’re grid-connected you could end up in the future when the rules change, selling it back as another revenue stream,” said Mr Carter.
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24 Sep 2016
Scientists have shown they can teleport matter across a city, a development that has been hailed as “a technological breakthrough”.
However, do not expect to see something akin to the Star Trek crew beaming from the planet’s surface to the Starship Enterprise.
Instead, in the two studies, published today in Nature Photonics, separate research groups have used quantum teleportation to send photons to new locations using fibre-optic communications networks in the cities of Hefei in China and Calgary in Canada.
Quantum teleportation is the ability to transfer information such as the properties or the quantum state of an atom — its energy, spin, motion, magnetic field and other physical properties — to another location without travelling in the space between.
- Two experiments demonstrate teleportation of particles across real optical fibre networks for first time
- Chinese experiment transports two photons per hour across seven kilometres
- Canadian experiment transports 17 photons per minute across 6.2 kilometres
While it was first demonstrated in 1997, today’s studies are the first to show the process is technologically possible via a mainstream communications network.
The development could lead to future city-scale quantum technologies and communications networks, such as a quantum internet and improved security of internet-based information.
Dr. Ben Buchler, Associate Professor with the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the Australian National University, said the technical achievement of completing the experiments in a “non-ideal environment” was “pretty profound”.
“People have known how to do this experiment since the early 2000s, but until these papers it hasn’t been performed in fibre communication networks, in situ, in cities,” said Dr. Buchler, who was not involved in the research.
“It’s seriously difficult to do what they have done.”
Watch the YouTube Video: “The Metaphysics of Teleportation” – Dr. Michio Kaku
A cornerstone of quantum teleportation is quantum entanglement, where two particles are intimately linked to each other in such a way that a change in one will affect the other.
Dr. Buchler said quantum teleportation involved mixing a photon with one branch of the entanglement and this joint element was then measured. The other branch of the entanglement was sent to the receiving party or new location.
This original ‘joint’ measurement is sent to the receiver, who can then use that information to manipulate the other branch of the entanglement.
“The thing that pops out is the original photon, in a sense it has indistinguishable characteristics from the one you put in,” Dr Buchler said.
Overcoming technical barriers
He said both teams had successfully overcome technical barriers to ensure the precise timing of photon arrival and accurate polarisation within the fibres.
The Chinese team teleported single protons using the standard telecommunications wavelength across a distance of seven kilometres, whiled the Canadian team teleported single photons up to 6.2 kilometres.
But work remained to increase the speed of the system with the Chinese group teleporting just two photons per hour and the Canadians a faster rate of 17 photons per minute.
Dr. Buchler said the speeds meant the development had little immediate practical value, but “this kind of teleportation is part of the protocol people imagine will be able to extend the range of quantum key distribution” — a technique used to send secure encrypted messages.
In the future scientists envision the evolution of a quantum internet that would allow the communication of quantum information between quantum computers.
Quantum computers on their own would allow fast computation, but networked quantum computers would be more powerful still.
Dr. Buchler said today’s studies were a foundation stone toward that vision as it showed it was possible to move quantum information from one location to another within mainstream networks without destroying it.
Yes … a LOT more work has to be done however before we “Warp” and “Beam” … but to put it into the words of ‘The Good Doctor’ …
“Damit Jim, I’m ONLY a doctor!” (Highly Logical) “Live long and Prosper!”
Since 2010’s tragic events, which saw BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster desecrate the Gulf of Mexico, oil safety has been on the forefront of the environmental debate and media outrage.
In line with the mounting concerns continuing to pique public attention, at the end of this month, Hollywood will release its own biopic of the event. As can be expected, more questions will be raised about what exactly went wrong, in addition to fresh criticism aimed at the entire industry.
One question that is likely to emerge is how do we prevent such a calamity from ever happening again? Fortunately, some of the brightest minds in science have been preparing for such an answer.
One team that has been focusing on this dilemma is Alberta-based, multi-disciplinary research initiative Ingenuity Lab. The institution has just secured $1.7m in project funding for developing a highly advanced system for recovering oil from oil spills. This injection of capital will enable Ingenuity Lab to conduct new research and develop commercial production processes for recovering heavy oil spills in marine environments.
Oil is a common pollutant in our oceans; more than three million metric tonnes contaminate the sea each year. When crude oil is accidentally released into a body of water by an oil tanker, refinery, storage facility, underwater pipeline or offshore oil-drilling rig, it is an environmental emergency of the most urgent kind.
Depending on the location, oil spills can be highly hazardous, as well as environmentally destructive. Consequently, a timely clean up is absolutely crucial in order to protect the integrity of the water, the shoreline and the numerous creatures that depend on these habitats.
Due to increased scrutiny of the oil industry with regard to its unseemly environmental track record, attention must be focused on the development of new materials and technologies for removing organic contaminants from waterways. Simply put, existing methods are not sufficiently robust.
Fortuitously, however, nanotechnology has opened the door for the development of sophisticated new tools that use specifically designed materials with properties that are ideally suited to enable complex separations, including the separation of crude oil from water.
When the time comes for scale up production for this technology, Ingenuity Lab will work closely with industry trendsetters, Tortech Nanofibers.
Source: Ingenuity Lab
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“Great Things from Small Things”
Over the past few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been the white-hot center of a flurry of activity. Startups that create embedded sensors for physical things have been snapped up by larger companies at a rapid pace, with deals for IoT startups totaling more than $30 billion in the past four years.
The IoT may well be The Next Big Thing, but maybe the attention around sensors is misplaced…
What if we didn’t even need Pembedded sensors to allow things to gather data about their surrounding environment? What if material could be a sensor in and of itself?
Sentient materials might sound like the stuff of sci-fi, but it’s quickly becoming a reality. A new generation of materials is being developed that can sense temperature, pressure, impact and other variables — completely removing the need for sensors.
Not only can these materials capture and relay data to the cloud, they also can reconfigure themselves on-the-fly to react to changing environmental conditions.
It’s as if materials are becoming not just smart, but “alive” — and it will change the way things are designed and used in startling ways.
Out of the isotropic age
How did we arrive here? Design and engineering used to focus on materials that behaved isotropically — which is to say, uniformly and predictably. In the isotropic age, you would create a design and then assign a material to carry out a specific role in that design.
What if, however, you allowed materials to determine design, rather than vice versa? We see this in nature all the time. A seed, for example, works together with a specific environment to create a tree.
It’s as if materials are becoming not just smart, but “alive.”
This is an example of anisotropic materials in action. Unlike isotropic materials, their behavior isn’t predetermined, so their performance can be tailored to their environment.
Welcome to the anisotropic age of design. A transformation for transportation.
Imagine an airplane skin that self-heals to remove dings and dents, thereby maintaining optimal aerodynamics. In the isotropic age that’d be virtually impossible to design — but in the anisotropic age, it becomes a possibility.
Here’s how it would work: An airplane component (like the wing) is made out of a composite material that has been coated with a thin layer of nanosensors.
This coating serves as a “nervous system,” allowing the component to “sense” everything that is happening around it — pressure, temperature and so on.
When the wing’s nervous system senses damage, it sends a signal to microspheres of uncured material within the nanocrystal coating.
This signal instructs the microspheres to release their contents in the damaged area and then start curing, much like putting glue on a crack and letting it harden.
Airbus is already doing important research in this area at the University of Bristol’s National Composites Centre, moving us closer to an aviation industry shaped by smart materials.
The automotive industry, meanwhile, can use smart materials to manufacture cars that not only sense damage and self-heal, but also collect data about performance that can be fed back into the design and engineering process.
The Hack Rod project — which brings technology partners together with a team of automotive enthusiasts in Southern California — is out to design the first car in history built with smart materials and engineered using artificial intelligence.
These materials have an increasingly important role to play in shaping the world around us.
In another example, Paulo Gameiro, coordinator of the EU-funded HARKEN project and R&D manager for the Portuguese automotive textiles supplier Borgstena, is developing a prototype seat and seatbelt that uses smart textiles with built-in sensors to detect a driver’s heart and breathing rates, so it can alert drivers to tell-tale signs of drowsiness.
Infrastructure maintenance made easy
Beyond transportation, more opportunities await in the construction and civil engineering fields, where smart materials can greatly assist with structural health monitoring.
Today, the world has hundreds of roads, bridges and other pieces of infrastructure that are slowly falling apart because of wear and tear and exposure to the elements.
More often than not, we don’t even know which items need our attention most urgently.
But what if you could build these structures out of “smart concrete”?
The “nervous system” within the concrete could constantly monitor and assess the status of the infrastructure and initiate self-repair as soon as any damage was sustained.
There is a major project currently underway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), called ZERO+, that aims to reshape the construction industry with exactly these types of advanced composite materials.
The researchers at MIT are also hard at work at the newly formed Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Institute.
Their goal is to come up with a new generation of fabrics and fibers that will have the ability to see, hear and sense their surroundings; communicate; store and convert energy; monitor health; control temperature; and change their color.
This is no Hollywood movie — this is reality.
These functional fabrics mean that clothes won’t necessarily just be clothes anymore. They can be agents of health and well-being, serving as noninvasive ways to monitor body temperature or to analyze sweat for the presence of various elements.
They can be portable power sources, capturing energy from outside sources like the sun and retaining that energy. They even can be used by soldiers to adapt to different environments more quickly and efficiently. (Story Continued Below)
They build Super Capacitors and Batteries based on aNanoporous- Nickle Technology developed by Rice University that can:
- Double current “time aloft times” for Drones
- Become embedded into Wearable Electronics
- Enhance Flexible Functionality for Medical Devices and Sensors
- They are High-Density Energy; Flexible Thin-Form (33mm); Rapid Charge-Recharge Capability
(Continued) And if you accidentally rip a hole in your garment? Naturally, the nanosensors within the fabric will engage a self-repair process to patch things up — in the exact same way the airplane wing and the smart concrete healed themselves.
Living in the material world
This is no Hollywood movie — this is reality, and a clear indicator of how quickly smart materials are coming along.
These materials have an increasingly important role to play in shaping the world around us — whether that’s airplanes and infrastructure or the clothes on our backs.
By creating things that can not only capture data about their environment, but also adjust their performance based on that data, materials are starting to play an active role in design.
This is the potential of smart materials, and it’s one of the keys to creating a better-designed world around us.
Genesis Nanotechnology ~ “Great Things from Small Things”
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