Step Towards Better ‘Beyond Lithium’ Batteries: University of Bath

beyond Lio Batts batteriesA step towards new “beyond lithium” rechargeable batteries with superior performance has been made by researchers at the University of Bath.

We increasingly rely on rechargeable batteries for a host of essential uses; from mobile phones and electric cars to electrical grid storage. At present this demand is taken up by lithium-ion batteries. As we continue to transition from fossil fuels to low emission energy sources, new battery technologies will be needed for new applications and more efficient energy storage.

One approach to develop batteries that store more energy is to use “multivalent” metals instead of lithium. In lithium-ion batteries, charging and discharging transfers lithium ions inside the battery. For every lithium ion transferred, one electron is also transferred, producing electric current. In multivalent batteries, lithium would be replaced by a different metal that transfers more than one electron per ion. For batteries of equal size, this would give multivalent batteries better energy storage capacity and performance.

The team showed that titanium dioxide can be modified to allow it to be used as an electrode in multivalent batteries, providing a valuable proof of concept in their development.

The scientists, an international team from the University of Bath, France, Germany, Holland, and the USA, deliberately introduced defects in titanium dioxide to form high concentrations of microscopic holes, and showed these can be reversibly occupied by magnesium and aluminium; which carry more than one electron per ion.

The team also describes a new chemical strategy for designing materials that can be used in future multivalent batteries.

The research is published in the journal Nature Materials.

Dr Benjamin Morgan, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, said: “Multivalent batteries are a really exciting direction for battery technology, potentially offering higher charge densities and better performance. New battery technologies are going to be more and more important as we wean ourselves off fossil fuels and adopt greener energy sources.

“There are quite a few technical hurdles to overcome, including finding materials that are good electrodes for multivalent ions. We’ve shown a way to modify titanium dioxide to turn it into a multivalent electrode.

“In the long term, this proof of concept is a possible step towards “beyond lithium” batteries with superior performance.”


Eco-Friendly Desalination using MOF’s could Supply the Lithium needed to Manufacture Batteries required to Mainstream EV’s

A new water purification (desalination) technology could be the key to more electric cars. How?

“Eco-Friendly Mining” of world’s the oceans for the vast amounts of lithium required for EV batteries, could “mainstream” our acceptance (affordability and accessibility) of Electric Vehicles and provide clean water – forecast to be in precious short supply in many parts of the World in the not so distant future.

energy_storage_2013-042216-_11-13-1Humanity is going to need a lot of lithium batteries if electric cars are going to take over, and that presents a problem when there’s only so much lithium available from conventional mines.

A potential solution is being researched that turns the world’s oceans into eco-friendly “Lithium supply mines.”

Scientists have outlined a desalination technique that would use metal-organic frameworks (sponge-like structures with very high surface areas) with sub-nanometer pores to catch lithium ions while purifying ocean water.

The approach mimics the tendency of cell membranes to selectively dehydrate and carry ions, leaving the lithium behind while producing water you can drink.


While the concept of extracting lithium from our oceans certainly isn’t new, this new technology method would be much more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Instead of tearing up the landscape to find mineral deposits, battery makers would simply have to deploy enough filters.

It could even be used to make the most of water when pollution does take place — recovering lithium from the waste water at shale gas fields.

This method will require more research and development before it’s ready for real-world use.

However, the implications are already clear. If this desalination approach reaches sufficient scale, the world would have much more lithium available for electric vehicles, phones and other battery-based devices. It would also reduce the environmental impact of those devices. storedot-ev-battery-21-889x592 (1)

While some say current lithium mining practices negates some of the eco-friendliness of an EV, this “purification for Lithium” approach could let you drive relatively guilt-free

Reposted from Jonathan Fingas – Engadget

“And Now for Something Completely Different” – Australian Physicists Have Proved That Time Travel is Possible

Scientists from the University of Queensland have used photons (single particles of light) to simulate quantum particles travelling through time. The research is cutting edge and the results could be dramatic!

Their research, entitled “Experimental simulation of closed timelike curves “, is published in the latest issue of NatureCommunications.

The grandfather paradox states that if a time traveler were to go back in time, he could accidentally prevent his grandparents from meeting, and thus prevent his own birth. However, if he had never been born, he could never have traveled back in time, in the first place. The paradoxes are largely caused by Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the solution to it, the Gödel metric.

How relativity works

Einstein’s theory of relativity is made up of two parts – general relativity and special relativity. Special relativity posits that space and time are aspects of the same thing, known as the space-time continuum, and that time can slow down or speed up, depending on how fast you are moving, relative to something else.

Gravity can also bend time, and Einstein’s theory of general relativity suggests that it would be possible to travel backwards in time by following a space-time path, i.e. a closed timeline curve that returns to the starting point in space, but arrives at an earlier time.

It was predicted in 1991 that quantum mechanics could avoid some of the paradoxes caused by Einstein’s theory of relativity, as quantum particles behave almost outside the realm of physics.

Read More: Parallel Worlds Exist And Interact With Our World, Say Physicists

“The question of time travel features at the interface between two of our most successful yet incompatible physical theories – Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics. Einstein’s theory describes the world at the very large scale of stars and galaxies, while quantum mechanics is an excellent description of the world at the very small scale of atoms and molecules.” said Martin Ringbauer, a PhD student at UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics and a lead author of the paper.

Simulating time travel

The scientists simulated the behavior of two photons interacting with each other in two different cases. In the first case, one photon passed through a wormhole and then interacted with its older self. In the second case, when a photon travels through normal space-time and interacts with another photon trapped inside a closed timeline curve forever.

“The properties of quantum particles are ‘fuzzy’ or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations,” said co-author Professor Timothy Ralph.

“Our study provides insights into where and how nature might behave differently from what our theories predict.”

Although it has been possible to simulate time travel with tiny quantum particles, the same might not be possible for larger particles or atoms, which are groups of particles.

America’s National Laboratories – 75 Breakthroughs We’ve Made that You May Not have Read About


America’s National Laboratories have been changing and improving the lives of millions of people for more than 75 years. Born at a time when the world faced a dire threat, the laboratories came together to advance science, safeguard the nation and protect our freedoms for generations to come. This network of Department of Energy Laboratories has grown into 17 facilities, working together as engines of prosperity and invention. As this list of breakthroughs attests, Laboratory discoveries have spawned industries, saved lives, generated new products, fired the imagination and helped to reveal the secrets of the universe. Rooted in the need to serve the public good and support the global community, the National Laboratories have put an American stamp on the last century of science. With equal ingenuity and tenacity, they are now engaged in innovating the future.

National Labs Map downloadDownload and read 75 Breakthroughs by America’s National Laboratories.

75 Breakthroughs

At America’s National Laboratories, we’ve …

Advanced supercomputing

The National Labs operate some of the most significant high performance computing resources available, including 32 of the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world. These systems, working at quadrillions of operations per second, model and simulate complex, dynamic systems – such as the nuclear deterrent – that would be too expensive, impractical or impossible to physically demonstrate. Supercomputers are changing the way scientists explore the evolution of our universe, climate change, biological systems, weather forecasting and even renewable energy.

Decoded DNA 

In 1990, the National Labs joined with the National Institutes of Health and other laboratories to kick off the Human Genome Project, an international collaboration to identify and map all of the genes of the human genome.

Brought the web to the United States 

National Lab scientists, seeking to share particle physics information, were first to install a web server in North America, kick-starting the development of the worldwide web as we know it.

Put eyes in the sky 

Vela satellites, first launched in 1963 to detect potential nuclear detonations, transformed the nascent U.S. space program. The satellites featured optical sensors and data processing, logic and power subsystems designed and created by National Labs.

Revolutionized medical diagnostics and treatment 

Researchers at the National Labs helped to develop the field of nuclear medicine, producing radioisotopes to diagnose and treat disease, designing imaging technology to detect cancer and developing software to target tumors while sparing healthy tissue.

Powered NASA spacecraft 

The National Labs built the enclosure for the radioisotope thermoelectric generators that fuel crafts such as Cassini and have begun producing plutonium-238 for future NASA missions.

Harnessed the power of the atom 

National Lab scientists and engineers have led the world in developing safe, efficient and emissions-free nuclear power. Starting with the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity, National Labs have been the innovation engine behind the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Today’s labs are supporting the next generation of nuclear power that will be available for the nation and world.

Brought safe water to millions 

Removing arsenic from drinking water is a global priority. A long-lasting particle engineered at a National Lab can now do exactly that, making contaminated water safe to drink. Another technology developed at a National Lab uses ultraviolet light to kill water-borne bacteria that cause dysentery, thus reducing child mortality in the developing world.

Filled the Protein Data Bank 

National Lab X-ray facilities have contributed a large portion of more than 100,000 protein structures in the Protein Data Bank. A protein’s structure reveals how it functions, helping scientists understand how living things work and develop treatments for disease. Almost all new medications that hit the market start with these data bank structures.

Invented new materials 

National Labs provide the theory, tools and techniques that offer industry revolutionary materials such as strong, lighter-weight metals and alloys that save fuel and maintenance costs and enable cleaner, more efficient engines.

Found life’s mystery messenger 

National Lab scientists discovered how genetic instructions are carried to the cell’s protein manufacturing center, where all of life’s processes begin. Subsequent light source research on the genetic courier, called messenger RNA, has revealed how the information is transcribed and how mistakes can cause cancer and birth defects.

Mapped the universe — and the dark side of the moon

Credit for producing 3D maps of the sky — and 400 million celestial objects — goes to National Lab scientists, who also developed a camera that mapped the entire surface of the moon.

Shed light on photosynthesis 

Ever wonder how plants turn sunlight into energy? National Lab scientists determined the path of carbon through photosynthesis, and today use X-ray laser technology to reveal how each step in the process is triggered by a single particle of light. This work helps scientists explore new ways to get sustainable energy from the sun.

Solved cultural mysteries 

The works of ancient mathematician Archimedes — written over by medieval monks and lost for millennia — were revealed to modern eyes thanks to the X-ray vision and light-source technology at National Labs. These studies also have revealed secrets of masterpiece paintings, ancient Greek vases and other priceless cultural artifacts.

Revolutionized accelerators 

A National Lab built and operated the first large-scale accelerator based on superconducting radio frequency technology. This more efficient technology now powers research machines for exploring the heart of matter, examining the properties of materials and providing unique information about the building blocks of life.

Los Alamos 1200px-Los_Alamos_aerial_viewRevealed the secrets of matter 

Protons and neutrons were once thought to be indivisible. National Lab scientists discovered that protons and neutrons were made of even smaller parts, called quarks. Over time, experimenters identified six kinds of quarks, three types of neutrinos and the Higgs particle, changing our view of how the material world works.

Confirmed the Big Bang and discovered dark energy

National Lab detectors aboard a NASA satellite revealed the birth of galaxies in the echoes of the Big Bang. Dark energy — the mysterious something that makes up three-quarters of the universe and causes it to expand at an accelerating rate — also was discovered by National Lab cosmologists.

Discovered 22 elements 

The periodic table would be smaller without the National Labs. To date the National Labs have discovered: technetium, promethium, astatine, neptunium, plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium, lawrencium, rutherfordium, dubnium, seaborgium, flerovium, moscovium, livermorium, tennessine and oganesson.

Made refrigerators cool 

Next-generation refrigerators will likely put the freeze on harmful chemical coolants in favor of an environmentally friendly alloy, thanks to National Lab scientists.

Got the lead out 

Removing hazardous lead-based solders from the environment is a reality thanks to a lead-free alloy of tin-silver-copper developed at a National Lab. The lead-free solder has been licensed by more than 60 companies worldwide.

Invented a magic sponge to clean up oil spills

National Lab scientists used a nano technique to invent a new sponge that can absorb 90 times its own weight in oil from water. It can be wrung out to collect the oil and reused hundreds of times — and it can collect oil that has sunk below the surface, something previous technology couldn’t do.

Added the punch to additive manufacturing 

High-pressure gas atomization processing pioneered at a National Lab made possible the production of titanium and other metal-alloy powders used in additive manufacturing and powder metallurgy.


Created inexpensive catalysts 

Low-cost catalysts are key to efficient biomass refining. National Lab scientists created catalysts that are inexpensive and stable for biomass conversion. ANL_H_White

Created high-tech coatings to reduce friction 

National Lab scientists created ways to reduce wear and tear in machines from table fans to car engines all the way up to giant wind turbines, such as a diamond-like film that rebuilds itself as soon as it begins to break down — so that engines last longer and need fewer oil additives.

Put the jolt in the Volt 

Chevy’s Volt would not be able to cruise on battery power were it not for the advanced cathode technology that emerged from a National Lab. The same technology is sparking a revival of America’s battery manufacturing industry.

Cemented a new material 

National Lab scientists have developed a novel and versatile material that blends properties of ceramic and concrete to form a non-porous product that can do everything from seal oil w ells to insulate walls with extra fire protection. It even sets in cold weather.

Pioneered efficient power lines 

New kinds of power lines made from superconductors can carry electric current with no energy loss. Now deployed by National Lab scientists, these prototypes could usher in a new era of ultra-efficient power transmission.

Made early universe quark soup 

National Lab scientists used a particle collider to recreate the primordial soup of subatomic building blocks that last existed shortly after the Big Bang. The research is expanding scientists’ understanding of matter at extreme temperatures and densities.

Oak Ridge NL DWKcxYZXkAEY9NVLevitated trains with magnets 

Say goodbye to traffic jams. National Lab scientists developed a technology that uses the attractive and repulsive forces of magnets to levitate and propel trains. Maglev trains now ferry commuters in Japan and China and will be operational in other countries soon.

Developed efficient burners 

National Lab researchers developed cleaner-combusting oil burners, saving consumers more than $25 billion in fuel costs and keeping more than 160 megatons of carbon dioxide out of Earth’s atmosphere.

Improved automotive steel

A company with National Lab roots is pioneering a metal that weighs significantly less than regular steel, retains steel’s strength and malleability and can be fabricated without major modifications to the automotive manufacturing infrastructure.

Looked inside weapons

National Lab researchers created a device that could identify the contents of suspicious chemical and explosive munitions and containers, while minimizing risk to the people involved. The technology, which quickly identifies the chemical makeup of weapons, has been used to verify treaties around the world.

Pioneered nuclear safety modeling 

National Lab scientists began developing the Reactor Excursion and Leak Analysis Program (RELAP) to model nuclear reactor coolant and core behavior. Today, RELAP is used throughout the world and has been licensed for both nuclear and non-nuclear applications, including modeling of jet aircraft engines and fossil-fuel power plant components.

Identified good and bad cholesterol 

The battle against heart disease received a boost in the 1960s when National Lab research unveiled the good and bad sides of cholesterol. Today, diagnostic tests that detect both types of cholesterol save lives.

Unmasked a dinosaur killer 

Natural history’s greatest whodunit was solved in 1980 when a team of National Lab scientists pinned the dinosaurs’ abrupt extinction on an asteroid collision with Earth. Case closed.

Pitted cool roofs against carbon dioxide 

National Lab researchers and policy experts led the way in analyzing and implementing cool roofing materials, which reflect sunlight, lower surface temperature and slash cooling costs.

Squeezed fuel from microbes 

In a milestone that brings advanced biofuels one step closer to America’s gas tanks, National Lab scientists helped develop a microbe that can produce fuel directly from biomass.

Tamed hydrogen with nanoparticles 

To replace gasoline, hydrogen must be safely stored and easy to use, which has proven elusive. National Lab researchers have now designed a new pliable material using nanoparticles that can rapidly absorb and release hydrogen without ill effects, a major step in making fuel-cell powered cars a commercial reality.

Exposed the risk 

You can sleep easier thanks to National Lab research that quantified the health risk posed by radon gas in parts of the country. Subsequent EPA standards, coupled with radon detection and mitigation measures pioneered by a National Lab research team, prevent the naturally occurring gas from seeping into basements, saving thousands of lives every year.

Created a pocket-sized DNA sampler 

A tool that identifies the microbes in air, water and soil samples is fast becoming a workhorse in public health, medical and environmental cleanup projects. Developed by National Lab scientists, the credit-card-sized device pinpoints diseases that kill coral reefs and catalogs airborne bacteria over U.S. cities. It also was used to quickly categorize the oil-eating bacteria in the plumes of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Fabricated the smallest machines

The world’s smallest synthetic motors — as well as radios, scales and switches that are 100,000 times finer than a human hair — were engineered at a National Lab. These and other forays into nanotechnology could lead to life-saving pharmaceuticals and more powerful computers.

Preserved the sounds of yesteryear 

National Lab scientists engineered a high-tech way to digitally reconstruct aging

sound recordings that are too fragile to play, such as Edison wax cylinders from the late 1800s. Archivists estimate that many of the millions of recordings in the world’s sound archives, including the U.S. Library of Congress, could benefit from the technology.

Exposed explosives 

A credit-card sized detector developed by National Lab scientists can screen for more than 30 kinds of explosives in just minutes. The detector, called ELITE, requires no po wer and is widely used by the military, law enforcement and security personnel.

Toughened airplanes 

A National Lab and industry technique for strengthening metal by bombarding it with laser pulses has saved the aircraft industry hundreds of millions of dollars in engine and aircraft maintenance expenses.

Simulated reality 

Trains, planes and automobiles — and thousands of other objects — are safer, stronger and better-designed thanks to computer simulation software, DYNA 3D, developed by National Lab researchers.

Detected the neutrino 

Starting with the Nobel-Prize winning discovery of the neutrino in 1956 by Fred Reines and Clyde Cowan Jr., National Lab researchers have made numerous contributions to neutrino physics and astrophysics.

Discovered gamma ray bursts

Sensors developed at the National Labs and placed aboard Vela satellites were used in the discovery of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) in 1973. GRBs are extremely energetic explosions from distant galaxies. Scientists believe that most of these bursts consist of a narrow beam of intense radiation released when a rapidly rotating, high-mass star collapses to form a neutron star, a quark star or a black hole.

Created the first 100-Tesla magnetic field 

National Lab scientists achieved a 100.75-Tesla magnetic pulse in March 2012, setting a world record. The pulse was nearly 2 million times more powerful than Earth’s magnetic field. The 100-Tesla multi-shot magnet can be used over and over again without being destroyed by the force of the field it creates, and produces the most powerful non-destructive magnetic field in the world.

Froze smoke for hot uses 

National Labs researchers perfected aerogels, known as frozen smoke. They are one of the lightest solids ever made and have the highest heat resistance of any material tested. They also are fireproof and extraordinarily strong — able to support more than a thousand times their own weight. As a result of their heat resistance, aerogels are outstanding candidates for insulation in buildings, vehicles, filters and appliances.

Invented the cell sorter 

During the 1960s, a National Lab physicist invented a “cell sorter” — a novel device that works much like an ink jet printer, guiding a tiny flow of cell-containing droplets so cells of interest can be deflected for counting and study. Cell sorters are a vital tool for studying the biochemistry behind many diseases, including cancer and AIDS.

Ushered a domestic energy renaissance 

National Lab research jump-started the shale gas revolution by pointing the way to key technologies and methodologies for cost efficient extraction. An estimated $220 million in research and development expenditures on unconventional gas R&D from 1976 to 1992 have resulted in an estimated $100 billion in annual economic activity from shale gas production alone.

Enabled space exploration 

National Labs invented Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), the backbone of the device that allowed the Curiosity Rover to analyze material from Mars. Lab researchers also found the right combination of materials to make high-efficiency solar cells for spacecraft.

Sharply curtailed power plant air emissions 

National Lab scientists introduced some 20 innovative technologies — such as low nitrogen oxide (NOx) burners, flue gas desulfurization (scrubbers) and fluidized bed combustion — through the Clean Coal Technology Development Program that have deeply penetrated the marketplace, substantially controlled harmful power plant emissions and benefited energy production and air quality.

Made wind power mainstream 

Increasing wind turbine efficiency with high efficiency airfoils has reduced the cost of wind power by more than 80 percent over the last 30 years. Now deployed in wind farms nationwide, these turbines owe their existence to National Lab research.

Engineered smart windows 

National Lab scientists have created highly insulated windows that change color to modulate interior temperatures and lighting. If broadly installed, they could save about 5 percent of the nation’s total energy budget.

Delivered troops safely 

National Lab researchers have developed computer models that effectively manage the complex logistical tasks of deploying troops and equipment to distant destinations.

Channeled chips and hips 

Integrated circuits and artificial hips owe their success to a National Lab discovery that revealed how to change a material by injecting it with charged atoms, called ions. Ion channeling is now standard practice in industry and science.

Made 3D printing bigger and better 

A large-scale additive manufacturing platform developed by a National Lab and an industry partner printed 3D components 10 times larger and 200 times faster than previous processes. So far, the system has produced a 3D-printed sports car, SUV, house, excavator and aviation components.

Purified vaccines

National Lab researchers adapted nuclear separations technology to develop a zonal centrifuge used to purify vaccines, which reduces or eliminates unwanted side effects. Commercial centrifuges based on the invention produce vaccines for millions of people.

Built a better building 

A National Lab has built one of the world’s most energy efficient office buildings. The facility, operating as a living laboratory at a lab site, uses 50 percent less energy than required by commercial codes and only consumes energy produced by renewable power on or near the building.

Improved airport security 

Weapons, explosives, plastic devices and other concealed tools of terrorists are easier to detect thanks to technology developed at a National Lab and now installed in airports worldwide.

Improved grid resiliency 

A National Lab created an advanced battery that can store large amounts of energy from intermittent renewable sources — such as wind and solar — onto the power grid, while also smoothing over temporary disruptions to the grid. Several companies have licensed the technology and offer it as a commercial product.

Solved a diesel dilemma 

A National Lab insight into how catalysts behave paved the way for a new, “lean-burn” diesel engine that met emissions standards and improved fuel efficiency by 25 percent over conventional engines.

Harvested energy from air 

A miniature device — commercialized by private industry after a National Lab breakthrough — generates enough power from small temperature changes to power wireless sensors or radio frequency transmitters at remote sites, such as dams, bridges and pipelines.

Gone grid friendly 

Regulating the energy use of household appliances — especially at peak times — could slash energy demand and avoid blackouts. A National Lab appliance-control device senses grid stress and responds instantly to turn off machines and reduce end-use demand, balancing the system so that the power stays on.

Put the digital in DVDs 

The optical digital recording technology behind music, video and data storage originated at a National Lab nearly 40 years ago.

Locked nuclear waste in glass 

Disposal of U.S. Cold War waste is safer thanks to National Lab scientists who developed and deployed a process to lock it into glass to keep it from leaching into the environment.

Cleaned up anthrax 

Scientists at a National Lab developed a non-toxic foam that neutralizes chemical and biological agents. This foam was used to clean up congressional office buildings and mail rooms exposed to anthrax in 2001.

Removed radiation from Fukushima seawater 

After a tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, massive amounts of seawater cooled the reactor. A molecular sieve engineered by National Lab scientists was used to extract radioactive cesium from tens of millions of gallons of seawater.11

Sped up Ebola detection 

In 2014, researchers from a National Lab modeled the Liberian blood sample transport system and made recommendations to diagnose patients quicker. This minimized the amount of time people were waiting together, reducing the spread of Ebola.

Prevented unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon 

In 1960, National Lab scientists invented coded electromechanical locks for all U.S. nuclear weapons. The switch blocks the arming signal until it receives the proper presidential authorization code.

Launched the LED lighting revolution 

In the 1990s, scientists at a National Lab saw the need for energy-efficient solid-state lighting and worked with industry to develop white LEDs. Today, white LEDs are about 30 percent efficient, with the potential to reach 70 percent to 80 percent efficiency. Fluorescent lighting is about 20 percent efficient and incandescent bulbs are 5 percent.

Mastered the art of artificial photosynthesis 

National Lab scientists engineered and synthesized multi-layer semiconductor structures in devices that directly convert sunlight to chemical energy in hydrogen by splitting water at efficiencies greater than 15 percent. This direct conversion of sunlight to fuels paves the way for use of solar energy in applications beyond the electrical grid.

Advanced fusion technology

From the first fusion test reactor to briefly produce power at the megawatt scale, and the world’s largest and most energetic laser creating extreme conditions mimicking the Big Bang, the interiors of planets and stars and thermonuclear weapons, to the international experiment to generate industrial levels of fusion energy from burning plasmas, fusion science and applications are advancing because of the National Labs.

Made the first molecular movie 

National Lab scientists have used ultrafast X-rays to capture the first molecular movies in quadrillionths-of-a-second frames. These movies detail the intricate structural dances of molecules as they undergo chemical reactions.

DOE imagesThe National Laboratory System: Protecting America Through Science and Technology

For more than 75 years, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories have solved important problems in science, energy and national security. This expertise keeps our nation at the forefront of science and technology in a rapidly changing world. Partnering with industry and academia, the laboratories also drive innovation to advance economic competitiveness and     ensure our nation’s future prosperity.

New nanocomposite textiles for high-tech clothing that is ‘Smart’ and Comfortable

New Nano Textiles id49419Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner (left) and Prof. Dr. Seema Agarwal (right) with equipment for electrospinning at the University of Bayreuth. With backlighting, one can see the thin fibres from which nonwoven materials are formed.

Uncomfortable, rigid, with low air permeability: textile materials capable of conducting electricity can be awkward for day-to-day use. However, researchers at the University of Bayreuth, Donghua University in Shanghai, and Nanjing Forestry University have now developed new nonwoven materials that are electrically conductive as well as flexible and breathable. This paves the way for comfortable high-tech clothes which, for example, convert sunlight to warmth, supply wearable electronic devices with electricity, or contain sensors for fitness training.

The scientists have published their findings in the journal npj Flexible Electronics (“Polymer nanofibre composite nonwovens with metal-like electrical conductivity”).
Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner’s team of researchers at the University of Bayreuth and their Chinese partners have succeeded in producing electrically conductive nonwovens which have all the other characteristics you would expect from clothing that is suitable for daily use. The materials are flexible, and thus adapt to movements and changes in posture. In addition, they are air-permeable, meaning they do not interfere with the natural breathing of the skin.
The combination of these properties is based on a special production process. In contrast to common methods of production, metal wires were not inserted into finished textiles. Rather, the scientists modified classical electro-spinning, which has been used to produce nonwovens for many years: short electro-spun polymer fibres and small amounts of tiny silver wires with a diameter of only 80 nanometres are mixed in a liquid. Afterwards, they are filtered, dried, and briefly heated up. If the composition is right, the resulting nonwoven material exhibits a very high degree of electrical conductivity.
This opens up a whole range of possibilities for innovative applications, especially in the area of smart clothes (i.e. wearables). Everyday clothing, for example, can be equipped with solar cells such that the captured sunlight is converted to warmth, heating up the textiles themselves. Mobile phones, cameras, mini-computers, and other wearable electronic devices could be charged by plugging them into the textiles. Sensors installed in the clothes could provide athletes and trainers with important fitness and health data or could give family and friends information on its location.
“In addition to articles of clothing, similar functions could also just as easily be installed in textile materials for use in seats and instruments in cars or airplanes,” explained Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner, Chair of Macromolecular Chemistry II at the University of Bayreuth.
“Our approach, which takes the production of conductive textiles as its basis, can in principle be applied to many different systems,” added Steffen Reich, doctoral researcher and lead author of the new study. As an example, he cites current Bayreuth research projects on microbial fuel cells, which could eventually be used as electrodes in such nonwoven materials.
The research findings that were published in npj Flexible Electronics resulted from close cooperation between the University of Bayreuth, Donghua University in Shanghai, and Nanjing Forestry University. It was only two years ago that the University of Bayreuth signed a cooperation agreement with Donghua University, which has had a research priority on the research and development of textiles since the establishment of the institution. The mutual exchange in research and teaching that was agreed on is now beginning to bear fruit.
Source: University of Bayreuth


The discovery that photons can interact could be harnessed for quantum computing. PHOTO: CHRISTINE DANILOFF/MIT

For the first time, scientists have watched groups of three photons interacting and effectively producing a new form of light.

In results published in Science, researchers suggest that this new light could be used to perform highly complex, incredibly fast quantum computations.

Photons are tiny particles that normally travel solo through beams of light, never interacting with each other. But in 2013 scientists made them clump together in pairs, creating a new state of matter. This discovery shows that interactions are possible on a greater scale.

“It was an open question,” Vladan Vuletic from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who led the team with Mikhail Lukin from Harvard University, said in a statement. “Can you add more photons to a molecule to make bigger and bigger things?”

The scientists cooled a cloud of rubidium atoms to an ultralow temperature to answer their question. This slowed the atoms down till they were almost still. A very faint laser beam sent just a few photons through the freezing cloud at once.

The photons came out the other side as pairs and triplets, rather than just as individuals.

Photons flit between atoms like bees among flowers.

The researchers think the particles might flit from one nearby atom to another as they pass through the rubidium cloud—like bees in a field of flowers.

These passing photons could form “polaritons”—part photon, part atom hybrids. If more than one photon passes by the same atom at the same time, they might form polaritons that are linked.

As they leave the atom, they could stay together as a pair, or even a triplet.

“What’s neat about this is, when photons go through the medium, anything that happens in the medium, they ‘remember’ when they get out,” said co-author Sergio Cantu from MIT.

This whole process takes about a millionth of a second.

Read About: MIT Researchers Link Photons

The future of computing

This research is the latest step toward a long-fabled quantum computer, an ultra-powerful machine that could solve problems beyond the realm of traditional computers. Your desktop PC would, for example, struggle to solve the question: “If a salesman has lots of places to visit, what is the quickest route?”

“[A traditional computer] could solve this for a certain number of cities, but if I wanted to add more cities, it would get much harder, very quickly,” Vuletic previously stated in a press release.

Read more: What did the Big Bang look like? The physics of light during the formation of the universe

Light, he said, is already used to transmit data very quickly over long distances via fiber optic cables. Being able to manipulate these photons could enable the distribution of data in much more powerful ways.

The team is now aiming to coerce photons in ways beyond attraction. The next stop is repulsion, where photons slam into each other and scatter.

“It’s completely novel in the sense that we don’t even know sometimes qualitatively what to expect,” Vuletic says. “With repulsion of photons, can they be such that they form a regular pattern, like a crystal of light? Or will something else happen? It’s very uncharted territory.”

An Ultra-Thin – Wearable Health Monitor made possible by a ‘Graphene Ink Tattoo’ designed and developed at the University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin. This is the world’s thinnest wearable Health Monitor, designed and developed by the researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, in the form of a “Graphene-Ink Tattoo”.

Most health monitors in use today are bulky and tend to restrict patients movements. This graphene tattoo will eliminate these restrictions. It picks up electric signal given off by the body and transmits it to a smartphone app.

Watch the Video:

Abstract: Tattoo-like epidermal sensors are an emerging class of truly wearable electronics, owing to their thinness and softness. While most of them are based on thin metal films, a silicon membrane, or nanoparticle-based printable inks, we report sub-micrometer thick, multimodal electronic tattoo sensors that are made of graphene.UT Autin Graphene Ink Tattoo maxresdefault (2)

The graphene electronic tattoo (GET) is designed as filamentary serpentines and fabricated by a cost- and time-effective “wet transfer, dry patterning” method. It has a total thickness of 463 ± 30 nm, an optical transparency of ∼85%, and a stretchability of more than 40%.

The GET can be directly laminated on human skin just like a temporary tattoo and can fully conform to the microscopic morphology of the surface of skin viajust van der Waals forces. The open-mesh structure of the GET makes it breathable and its stiffness negligible. A bare GET is able to stay attached to skin for several hours without fracture or delamination.

Wearable Health Patches 150929112030_1_540x360With liquid bandage coverage, a GET may stay functional on the skin for up to several days. As a dry electrode, GET–skin interface impedance is on par with medically used silver/silver-chloride (Ag/AgCl) gel electrodes, while offering superior comfort, mobility, and reliability. GET has been successfully applied to measure electrocardiogram (ECG), electromyogram (EMG), electroencephalogram (EEG), skin temperature, and skin hydration.

Read More Here

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Rice University Expands LIG (laser induced graphene) Research and Applications: Supercapacitor, an Electrocatalyst for Fuel Cells, RFID’s and Biological Sensors


Rice University scientists who introduced laser-induced graphene (LIG) have enhanced their technique to produce what may become a new class of edible electronics.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour, which once turned Girl Scout cookies into graphene, is investigating ways to write graphene patterns onto food and other materials to quickly embed conductive identification tags and sensors into the products themselves.

“This is not ink,” Tour said. “This is taking the material itself and converting it into graphene.”

The process is an extension of the Tour lab’s contention that anything with the proper carbon content can be turned into graphene. In recent years, the lab has developed and expanded upon its method to make graphene foam by using a commercial laser to transform the top layer of an inexpensive polymer film.


Laser-Induced graphene supercapacitors may be the future of wearables

The foam consists of microscopic, cross-linked flakes of graphene, the two-dimensional form of carbon. LIG can be written into target materials in patterns and used as a supercapacitor, an electrocatalyst for fuel cells, radio-frequency identification (RFID) antennas and biological sensors, among other potential applications.

The new work reported in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano demonstrated that laser-induced graphene can be burned into paper, cardboard, cloth, coal and certain foods, even toast.

“Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” Tour said. “Perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin and the path it took to get to your table.”

He said LIG tags could also be sensors that detect E. coli or other microorganisms on food. “They could light up and give you a signal that you don’t want to eat this,” Tour said. “All that could be placed not on a separate tag on the food, but on the food itself.”

Multiple laser passes with a defocused beam allowed the researchers to write LIG patterns into cloth, paper, potatoes, coconut shells and cork, as well as toast. (The bread is toasted first to “carbonize” the surface.) The process happens in air at ambient temperatures.


“In some cases, multiple lasing creates a two-step reaction,” Tour said. “First, the laser photothermally converts the target surface into amorphous carbon. Then on subsequent passes of the laser, the selective absorption of infrared light turns the amorphous carbon into LIG. We discovered that the wavelength clearly matters.”

The researchers turned to multiple lasing and defocusing when they discovered that simply turning up the laser’s power didn’t make better graphene on a coconut or other organic materials. But adjusting the process allowed them to make a micro supercapacitor in the shape of a Rice “R” on their twice-lased coconut skin.

Defocusing the laser sped the process for many materials as the wider beam allowed each spot on a target to be lased many times in a single raster scan. That also allowed for fine control over the product, Tour said. Defocusing allowed them to turn previously unsuitable polyetherimide into LIG.

“We also found we could take bread or paper or cloth and add fire retardant to them to promote the formation of amorphous carbon,” said Rice graduate student Yieu Chyan, co-lead author of the paper. “Now we’re able to take all these materials and convert them directly in air without requiring a controlled atmosphere box or more complicated methods.”

The common element of all the targeted materials appears to be lignin, Tour said. An earlier study relied on lignin, a complex organic polymer that forms rigid cell walls, as a carbon precursor to burn LIG in oven-dried wood. Cork, coconut shells and potato skins have even higher lignin content, which made it easier to convert them to graphene.

Tour said flexible, wearable electronics may be an early market for the technique. “This has applications to put conductive traces on clothing, whether you want to heat the clothing or add a sensor or conductive pattern,” he said.


Rice alumnus Ruquan Ye is co-lead author of the study. Co-authors are Rice graduate student Yilun Li and postdoctoral fellow Swatantra Pratap Singh and Professor Christopher Arnusch of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research supported the research.

Energy from evaporating water could rival wind and solar – Can the Proof of Concept be shown to be both Practical and Comercially Viable

Evaporation engine prototypes use materials that expand and contract like muscles – Xi Chen

A vast source of renewable energy has been sitting under our noses. Evaporating water could supply enormous volumes of clean electricity, if we can only harness it.

Evaporation is the process by which liquids turn into gases, generally when they are heated up. Every day, vast amounts of water evaporate from lakes and rivers, powered by heat energy from the sun. The scale of this energy is considerable.

Water that evaporates from existing lakes and dams in the US – excluding the Great Lakes – could provide up to 2.85 billion megawatt hours of electricity per year, according to Ozgur Sahin of Columbia University and colleagues.

The evaporation engine floats on the surface of water. It creates piston-like back and forth motion as the water evaporates from the surface. The movement of the engine produces electricity when connected to a generator.

That is the equivalent of two-thirds of US electricity generation in 2015. In 15 of the 47 US states studied, the potential power exceeds demand.

Covering freshwater bodies with engines that harness evaporation would halve water lost in this way, the team says. In seven US states, this would save more water than the entire state consumes. But the calculations assume that all the water is covered – which we would not want to do.

Evaporation engines could also be put in other areas, from irrigated fields and greenhouses to sheltered bays, says Sahin.

But first an evaporation engine needs to be built. Sahin’s team has created several miniature prototypes.

The prototypes are all based on materials that shrink as they dry, such as tape coated with bacterial spores. The spores curl as they dry, shortening the tape. “They work like a muscle,” says Sahin. “They can push and pull with a lot of force.”

To avoid being repeatedly soaked in water and becoming contaminated with dirt and chemicals, the prototypes exploit changes in humidity.

In one version, the “muscle” sits just above the water. When shutters above it are closed, the humidity rises and the material expands. That opens the shutters, allowing the material to dry out and shrink, and so on.

Such evaporation engines can run at night as well as day. Normally, there would be less evaporation at night, but blocking evaporation during the day stores energy in the form of warm water. “At night you take advantage of this power,” says Sahin. “This is a great advantage.”

Engine problems

Others agree that the potential is huge. The issue is harnessing it.

“The question is whether there is any practical way to capture that energy,” says Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California.

He doubts it is possible to efficiently convert evaporation energy into electrical energy.

What’s more, developing evaporation engines to the point where they can be mass-produced is a huge task, and one that few groups are working on.

The technology would also have to compete directly with solar panels, as it is increasingly common for floating solar farms to be placed on reservoirs.

But evaporation engines could be made from cheap biological materials that are easier to dispose of than solar panels, says Sahin.

If the technology does take off in a big way, it could affect local weather by reducing evaporation. But it will only make a difference if an area of 250,000 square kilometres is covered, the team calculates.

At large scales, all forms of energy production, from wind to nuclear, can affect weather and climate.

Besides, in a world of increasingly extreme rainfall, reducing evaporation could be desirable in some places.

Journal reference:

By Michael LePage

Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00581-w


Bacterial infections are among the greatest threats to human health. However, due to the increasing spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria, the current antibiotic supply appears to be insufficient, thereby necessitating the exploration of novel antibacterial agents.

Nano-antibacterial agents represent a new strategy for bacterial treatment. Compared with antibiotics, nano-antibacterial agents have two advantages: (1) broad-spectrum bactericidal effects against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and (2) long-lasting bactericidal effects due to their extraordinary stability.

Significant differences exist in the antibacterial mechanisms between antibiotics and nano-antibacterial agents. Antibiotics can prevent bacterial growth by inhibiting the synthesis of target biomolecules in bacteria, including the cell wall, DNA and proteins.

Nano-antibacterial agents kill bacteria through membrane destruction, oxidative stress response, and interactions with cytosolic molecules (lipids, proteins, DNA, etc.).

Graphene oxide (GO) has antibacterial applications. A review titled “Antibacterial Applications of Graphene Oxides: Structure-Activity Relationships, Molecular Initiating Events and Biosafety,” published in Science Bulletin, primarily discusses the structure-activity relationships (SARs) involved in GO-induced antibacterial action, the molecular initiating events (MIEs), and the biosafety of antibacterial applications.

GO possesses a unique two-dimensional (2-D) honeycombed hydrophobic plane structure and hydrophilic groups, including carboxylic (-COOH) and hydroxyl (-OH) groups on its edge, which determine its excellent antibacterial activity. Among these antibacterial mechanisms, this review summarizes the interactions between GO and the bacterial membrane, especially the significant role of MIEs, including redox reactions with biomolecules, mechanical destruction of membranes, and catalysis of extracellular metabolites.

The review also discusses in detail the physicochemical effect of GO on the bacterial membrane, such as phospholipid peroxidation, insertion, wrapping and the trapping effect, lipid extraction, and free radicals induced by GO.

The full article is available below.

Source: Phys Org