Are Sustainable Super-capacitors from Wood (yes w-o-o-d) the Answer for the Future of Energy Storage? Researchers at UST China Think ‘Nano-Cellulose’ may Hold the Key


Supercapacitors are touted by many as the wave of the future when it comes to battery storage for everything from cell phones to electric cars.

Unlike batteries, supercapacitors can charge and discharge much more rapidly — a boon for impatient drivers who want to be able to charge their electric cars quickly.

The key to supercap performance is electrodes with a large surface area and high conductivity that are inexpensive to manufacture, according to Science Daily.

Carbon aerogels satisfy the first two requirements but have significant drawbacks. Some are made from phenolic precursors which are inexpensive but not environmentally friendly. Others are made from  graphene and carbon nanotube precursors but are costly to manufacture.

Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China have discovered a new process that is low cost and sustainable using nanocellulose, the primary component of wood pulp that gives strength to the cell walls of trees.

Once extracted in the lab, it forms a stable, highly porous network which when oxidized forms a micro-porous hydrogel of highly oriented cellulose nano-fibrils of uniform width and length.

Like most scientific research, there was not a straight line between the initial discovery and the final process.

A lot of tweaking went on in the lab to get things to work just right. Eventually, it was found that heating the hydrogel in the presence of para-toluenesulfonic acid, an organic acid catalyst, lowered the decomposition temperature and yielded a “mechanically stable and porous three dimensional nano-fibrous network” featuring a “large specific surface area and high electrical conductivity,” the researchers say in a report published by the journal Angewandte Chemie International.

The chemists have been able to create a low cost, environmentally friendly wood-based carbon aerogel that works well as a binder-free electrode for supercapacitor applications with electro-chemical properties comparable to commercial electrodes currently in use.

Now the hard work of transitioning this discovery from the laboratory to commercial viability will begin. Contributed by Steve Hanley

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Why Do Most Science Startups Fail? Here’s Why …


Science Start ups fail why getty_629009118_355815

“We need to get a lot better at bridging that gap between discovery and commercialization”

G. Satell – Inc. Magazine

It seems like every day we see or hear about a breakthrough new discovery that will change everything. Some, like perovskites in solar cells and CRISPR are improvements on existing technologies. Others, like quantum computing and graphene promise to open up new horizons encompassing many applications. Still others promise breakthroughs in Exciting Battery Technology Breakthrough News — Is Any Of It Real? or Beyond lithium — the search for a better battery

Nevertheless, we are still waiting for a true market impact. Quantum computing and graphene have been around for decades and still haven’t hit on their “killer app.” Perovskite solar cells and CRISPR are newer, but haven’t really impacted their industries yet. And those are just the most prominent examples.

bright_idea_1_400x400The problem isn’t necessarily with the discoveries themselves, many of which are truly path-breaking, but that there’s a fundamental difference between discovering an important new phenomenon in the lab and creating value in the marketplace.

“We need to get a lot better at bridging that gap. To do so, we need to create a new innovation ecosystem for commercializing science.”

The Valley Of Death And The Human Problem

The gap between discovery and commercialization is so notorious and fraught with danger that it’s been unaffectionately called the “Valley of Death.” Part of the problem is that you can’t really commercialize a discovery, you can only commercialize a product and those are two very different things.

The truth is that innovation is never a single event, but a process of discovery, engineering and transformation. After something like graphene is discovered in the lab, it needs to be engineered into a useful product and then it has to gain adoption by winning customers in the marketplace. Those three things almost never happen in the same place.

So to bring an important discovery to market, you first need to identify a real world problem it can solve and connect to engineers who can transform it into a viable product or service. Then you need to find customers who are willing to drop whatever else they’ve been doing and adopt it on a large scale. That takes time, usually about 30 years.

The reason it takes so long is that there is a long list of problems to solve. To create a successful business based on a scientific discovery, you need to get scientists to collaborate effectively with engineers and a host of specialists in other areas, such as manufacturing, distribution and marketing. Those aren’t just technology problems, those are human problems. Being able to collaborate effectively is often the most important competitive advantage.

Wrong Industry, Wrong Application

One of the most effective programs for helping to bring discoveries out of the lab is I-Corps. First established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help recipients of SBIR grants identify business models for scientific discoveries, it has been such an extraordinary success that the US Congress has mandated its expansion across the federal government.

Based on Steve Blank’s lean startup methodology, the program aims to transform scientists into entrepreneurs. It begins with a presentation session, in which each team explains the nature of their discovery and its commercial potential. It’s exciting stuff, pathbreaking science with real potential to truly change the world.

The thing is, they invariably get it wrong. Despite their years of work to discover something of significance and their further efforts to apply and receive commercialization grants from the federal government, they fail to come up with a viable application in an industry that wants what they have to offer. professor-with-a-bright-idea-vector-937691

Ironically, much of the success of the I-Corps program is due to these early sessions. Once they realize that they are on the wrong track, they embark on a crash course of customer discovery, interviewing dozens — and sometimes hundreds — of customers in search of a business model that actually has a chance of succeeding.

What’s startling about the program is that, without it, scientists with important discoveries often wasted years trying to make a business work that never really had a chance in the first place.

The Silicon Valley Myth

Much of the success of Silicon Valley has been based on venture-funded entrepreneurship. Startups with an idea to change the world create an early stage version of the product they want to launch, show it to investors and get funding to bring it to market. Just about every significant tech company was started this way.

Yet most of the success of Silicon Valley has been based on companies that sell either software or consumer gadgets, which are relatively cheap and easy to rapidly prototype. Many scientific startups, however, do not fit into this category. Often, they need millions of dollars to build a prototype and then have to sell to industrial companies with long lead times.

start up imagesThe myth of Silicon Valley is that venture-funded entrepreneurship is a generalizable model that can be applied to every type of business. It is not. In fact, it is a specific model that was conceived in a specific place at a specific time to fund mature technologies for specific markets. It’s not a solution that fits every problem.

The truth is that venture funds are very adept with assessing market risk, but not so good at taking on technology risk, especially in hard sciences. That simply isn’t what they were set up to do.

We Need A New Innovation Ecosystem For Science Entrepreneurship

In 1945, Vannevar Bush delivered a report, Science, The Endless Frontier, to President Truman, in which he made the persuasive argument that expanding the nation’s scientific capacity will expand its economic capacity and well being. His call led, ultimately, to building America’s scientific infrastructure, including programs like the NSF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

It was Bush’s vision that made America a technological superpower. Grants from federal agencies to scientists enabled them to discover new knowledge. Then established businesses and, later, venture backed entrepreneurs would then take those discoveries to bring new products and services to market.

Look at any industry today and its most important technologies were largely shaped by investment from the federal government. Today, however, the challenges are evolving. We’re entering a new era of innovation in which technologies like genomics, nanotechnology and robotics are going to reshape traditional industries like energy, healthcare and manufacturing.

That’s exciting, but also poses new challenges, because these technologies are ill-suited to the Silicon Valley model of venture-funded entrepreneurship and need help to them get past the Valley of Death. So we need to build a new innovation ecosystem on top of the scientific architecture Bush created for the post-war world.

There have been encouraging signs. New programs like I-Corps, the Manufacturing InstitutesCyclotron Road and Chain Reaction are beginning to help fill the gap.

Still much more needs to be done, especially at the state and local level to help build regional hubs for specific industries, if we are going to be nearly as successful in the 21st century as were were in the 20th.

Cape-Starman

Predictions for the Evolution of the Battery Markets for EV’s and More … Looking Back … To See What is Ahead


businessman-standing-boat-looking-to-horizon-business-concept-107638369The Following articles, one from the Brookings Institute and the other from Green Technology we take a look back to some of the predictions, to get a better understanding of  how far we have come in seeking better performing (and safe) batteries and more importantly where we might be by 2030 – Team GNT

In This Post:

Five emerging battery technologies for electric vehicles

New Lithium Battery Technology Startups

Mobility Disruption | by Tony Seba, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and Lecturer at Stanford University

 

Five emerging Battery downloadFive Emerging Battery Technologies for Electric Vehicles

September 15, 2015

As the 2016 suite of new car models makes evident, electric vehicles are finally gaining real traction in the market. At the turn of the 20th century, more than one quarter of all cars in the United States were electric, yet the electric car had all but vanished by the 1920s. This disappearance was largely due to the insufficient range and power of electric car batteries compared to gasoline engines. Furthermore, electric cars were significantly more expensive than their gasoline counterparts. These same complaints are still heard today, even though battery technology has certainly improved over the last century. Much research and development is being done on battery technology to improve performance while ensuring that batteries are lightweight, compact, and affordable.

So, what are the newest innovations in battery technology, and what do such advances mean for the electric vehicle market?

Lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are currently used in the majority of electric vehicles, and it’s likely that they will remain dominant into the next decade. Several manufacturers, including Tesla and Nissan, have invested heavily in this technology. In LIBs, positively charged lithium ions travel between the anode and the cathode in the electrolyte. LIBs have a high cyclability – the number of times the battery can be recharged while still maintaining its efficiency – but a low energy density – the amount of energy that can be stored in a unit volume. LIBs have garnered a bad reputation for overheating and catching on fire (e.g. Boeing jetsTesla carslaptops), so manufacturers have not only worked to make LIBs more stable, but they have also developed many safety mechanisms to prevent harm if a battery were to catch fire.

The LIBs on the market today primarily use graphite or silicon anodes and a liquid electrolyte. A lithium anode has been the holy grail for a long time because it can store a lot of energy in a small space (i.e. it has a high energy density) and is very lightweight. Unfortunately, lithium heats up and expands during charging, causing leaked lithium ions to build up on a battery’s surface. These growths short-circuit the battery and decrease its overall life. Researchers at Stanford recently made headway on these problems by forming a protective nanosphere layer on the lithium anode that moves with the lithium as it expands and contracts.

lithiumion_battery_diagram

Movement of lithium ions and electrons in a lithium-ion battery during charging and use. Source: Argonne National Laboratory. Used under Creative Commons license.   

Solid state batteries

Solid-state batteries have solid components. This construction provides several advantages: no worry of electrolyte leaks or fires (provided a flame-resistant electrolyte is used), extended lifetime, decreased need for bulky and expensive cooling mechanisms, and the ability to operate in an extended temperature range. Solid-state batteries can build off of the improvements made in other types of batteries. For example, Sakti3 is trying to commercialize solid-state, LIBs with funding from General Motors Ventures. Other auto manufacturers, such as Toyotaand Volkswagen, are also looking into solid state batteries to power their electric cars.

Aluminum-ion batteries

Aluminum-ion batteries are similar to LIBs but have an aluminum anode. They promise increased safety at a decreased cost over LIBs, but research is still in its infancy. Scientists at Stanford recently solved one of the aluminum-ion battery’s greatest drawbacks, its cyclability, by using an aluminum metal anode and a graphite cathode. This also offers significantly decreased charging time and the ability to bend. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are also working onimproving aluminum-ion battery technology.

Lithium-sulfur batteries

Lithium-sulfur batteries (Li/S) typically have a lithium anode and a sulfur-carbon cathode. They offer a higher theoretical energy density and a lower cost than LIBs. Their low cyclability, caused by expansion and harmful reactions with the electrolyte, is the major drawback. However, the cyclability of Li/S batteries has recently been improved. Li/S batteries, combined with solar panels, powered the famous 3-day flight of the Zephyr-6 unmanned aerial vehicle. NASA has invested in solid-state Li/S batteries to power space exploration, and Oxis Energyis also working to commercialize Li/S batteries.

Metal-air batteries

Metal-air batteries have a pure-metal anode and an ambient air cathode. As the cathode typically makes up most of the weight in a battery, having one made of air is a major advantage. There are many possibilities for the metal, but lithiumaluminumzincsodium remain the forerunners. Most experimental work uses oxygen as the cathode to prevent the metal from reacting with CO­2in the air, because capturing enough oxygen in the ambient air is a major challenge. Furthermore, most metal-air or metal-oxygen prototypes have problems with cyclability and lifetime.

Batteries are often underappreciated when they work as designed, but harshly criticized when they don’t live up to expectations. The technologies highlighted above are by no means an exhaustive list of the developments that have been made. Electric vehicles will undoubtedly become more commonplace as batteries are improved. Advancements in batteries could not only transform the transportation industry, but they could also significantly affect global energy markets. The combination of batteries with renewable energy sources would drastically diminish the need for oil, gas, and coal, thereby altering the foundation of many economic and political norms we currently take for granted. We certainly don’t have to wait until the “perfect battery” is developed to recognize tangible improvements in performance. Despite the current shortcomings of batteries, the potential global impact that even relatively moderate improvements can have is astonishing.

Elsie Bjarnason contributed to this blog post.

China-Battery-Market (1)New Lithium Battery Technology Startups

March 4, 2017

If you stop and think about it for a second, advances in lithium batteries have powered a fair number of emerging technologies in this decade. Electric cars, drones, smartphones, these are all becoming prolific because of improvements in lithium battery technologies. When it comes to portable batteries, short of some entirely new battery technology being developed, it looks like we’re going to be stuck with lithium batteries for a while. Here’s where all these batteries will be coming from:

 

It’s been a while since we mentioned anything about battery technology or power cells and the companies looking to advance these technologies. Batteries or power cell systems are generally made up of the anode, the cathode, and the electrolyte. The most popular material for the anode and the cathode is lithium, mainly because it is a safer alternative than most materials for manufacturing batteries. When looking to improve upon the lithium battery, there are two primary areas for improvement:

  • Cycles need to be improved – Lithium batteries typically have a charge/discharge life cycle of 300 to 500 before they “die”.
  • Density needs to be increased – The more energy you can store in a battery, the smaller and lighter you can make the appliance that carries the battery.

Since we first started writing about lithium battery technology startups, there have been a few notable acquisitions. Vacuum maker Dyson acquired Sakti3 which was working on solid state batteries. If you recall, solid state batteries eliminate the need for an electrolyte which means they are safer and cheaper to manufacture. Another battery technology startup called Seeo was developing solid state batteries based on a nano-structured polymer electrolyte. Seeo was acquired by Bosch in August of 2015. Both of these acquisitions show promising possible exits for other lithium battery technology startups. We had some of our on-staff PHDs try and put together a list of lithium battery technology startups to watch and here’s what they found.

The biggest lithium battery startup out there is Boston Power, a company we wrote about before that has taken in a whopping $370 million in funding so far to develop a next generation of lithium-ion battery cells that boast a 10-year lifespan. They’ve disappeared across the pond over to China where they are building loads of batteries now for electric vehicles. We couldn’t help but put in this very cool chart from Visual Capitalist on lithium-ion battery production in China and where Boston Power fits into the bigger picture:

China is expected to become a major player in lithium battery production by 2020 with a capacity increase of +521% between 2016 and 2020. Clearly Boston Power sees a future there that avoids having to compete directly with the Tesla Gigafactory.

English startup Nexeon has taken in $108 million in funding so far to develop a unique silicon anode technology which uses nanomaterials that we won’t get into because that’s complicated, innit. Their drop-in approach means that you can just start using their new cathode in your current manufacturing process and cell capacity will increase by 30-40%. They have a fully automated pilot plant in operation at the moment and have recently expanded into Asia via Japan. Their last funding was a $38 million round last year which they plan to use for acquisitions.

We talked about this Israeli company before which has taken in $66 million in funding and is using nanotechnology, specifically quantum dots, to create a battery that charges 100X quicker. The only issue they’re facing is that the technology requires the phone to attach directly to the charger (no wires) with a proprietary 20-pin connector. This means that you would need an entire ecosystem in place before the technology could be adopted. Nonetheless, the CEO and founder Doron Myersdorf believes that this is the year for a mass production launch.

Founded in 2006, Irvine California startup Enevate has taken in around $60 million in funding so far to develop a silicon-dominant anode battery technology referred to as HD-Energy. Phone run tests show 35-50% more use time along with 4X faster charge time than conventional batteries. The Company is currently in negotiations with several original-equipment manufacturers of mobile devices to supply batteries for certain product lines. While initially targeting smartphones, the new battery technology is also expected to be used in drones and electric vehicles as well.

We first wrote about Amprius way back in 2014, a California startup out of Stanford that took in $55 million to develop an anode made out of silicon nanowires. According to the Company, they are “currently designing and selling the highest energy batteries on the market, with 15-30% more energy per unit weight and volume than state-of-the-art batteries“. They also go on to say that “Amprius products are featured in a number of smartphones released in 2013 and 2014“.  It seems like they’re pivoting into electric vehicles with their website stating “Amprius silicon nanowire anodes can improve the energy density of lithium-ion batteries by 1.4x to 10x, making them ideally suited for electric vehicles“.

This Massachusetts startup is working on an ultra-thin metal anode that can double energy density while using existing lithium-ion production infrastructure. They’ve taken in $20.5 million so far to further those aspirations, and their 3 funding rounds so far included participation from General Motors. When Samsung had all those phones catching fire recently, SolidEnergy was quick to point out that they are using electrolytes which are not flammable.

ActaCell, Inc. founded in 2007 is based in Austin, Texas, and was acquired by Contour Energy Systems in September 2012. Since the Contour Website isn’t functioning at the moment, we’re not sure if they’ve gone bankrupt or just have an incompetent hosting provider. ActaCell had raised a total of $9.8 million (of which $3 million was a grant from the Department of Commerce received in 2010) to develop cathodes made from magnesium spinel and anodes made from nanocomposite alloys. Prominent among its investors was none other than Google.

Another startup out of Massachusetts called Cadenza Innovation has taken in $5 million in funding to develop a new way of packaging lithium batteries. The founder, Christina Lampe-Onnerud, was also the founder of Boston Power so she knows a thing or two about batteries. Cadenza has also received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for a 4-year project that began back in 2014 to expand the range of electric car batteries by increasing energy density. Cadenza’s technology is a multifunctional battery pack design that costs less, has double the density, and can manage impact energy in the event of a collision.

Massachusetts startup Ionic Materials was founded in 2011 by CEO Mike Zimmerman Ph.D., a proven serial entrepreneur who has more than 30 years of polymer expertise. The Company has taken in $4.29 million in funding (according to PitchBook) to develop a novel polymer that eliminates the liquid electrolyte, creating a completely solid battery. They plan to be in production in the next two or three years . They were recently awarded with a $3 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) grant from the Department of Energy that will begin this year. Science Friday interviewed the company in this article in which the CEO is hopeful that “we’ll see devices supported by Ionic Materials’ plastic battery in two or three years“.

Colorado startup Prieto battery has taken in $2.5 million in funding from investors that included Intel and Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE:SWK). The Company is working on a 3D lithium-ion battery technology that is price-competitive, charges faster, and lasts longer. Their batteries use no liquid electrolytes, and instead use a highly conductive copper foam that can be shaped to fit spaces that are inaccessible – like the sort of custom shapes you might need when creating an ergonomic power tool. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them get acquired by SWK.

Mysterious San Jose startup QuantumScape has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding from investors that included Volkswagen, with the intent of developing a solid-state fireproof battery that can triple the range of its electric cars. The technology, which is being licensed from Stanford, was developed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. QuantumScape continues to operate in stealth mode so if suddenly VW announces a vehicle that has triple the range of a Tesla, we’ll know who is behind it.

Founded in 2004 with an undisclosed amount of funding, a UK-based startup called Oxis Energy is developing and innovating a Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) battery chemistry. This chemistry is the reason why Oxis’ patented technology is safer, lighter, maintenance-free, and provides 5 times (1,500 cycles) greater energy compared to conventional Li-ion technology. Oxis batteries can withstand the most extreme abuse like nail or bullet penetration. The Company is in the process of building pilot manufacturing facilities.

OneD Material was co-founded by Invention Capital Partners and a group of private investors who acquired Nanosys’ nanowire technologies and Palo Alto R&D activities for an undisclosed amount. Back in the day when nanotechnology first started to come to the attention of investors, Nanosys was expected to be a forerunner and actually came close to having an IPO. The OneD Material technology is a silicon-graphite anode material which improves the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Covered by more than 300 patents, their scalable SiNANOde™ production processes is available now for technology transfer and licensing.

In researching this article, it was decided to exclude lithium technology startups like Brightvolt that are targeting thin film batteries for smaller applications like IoT or credit cards. That’s because the main interest is in lithium technologies that will increase the range of electric vehicles, help smartphones stay charged longer, and enable drones to fly over longer distances.

Adoption of lithium batteries will only accelerate with a predicted reduction of battery prices in 2017 of at least 15% (after a 70% reduction in the past 5 years). With a few successful exits already, we can be assured that a new lithium battery technology from at least one of these startups will be powering a battery near you in the coming years. Think we missed a lithium battery technology company that’s targeting EVs/drones/phones? Drop us a line or a comment at Genesis Nanotechnology Inc.

electric-car-fleetMobility Disruption | by Tony Seba, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and Lecturer at Stanford University

January 18, 2018

Tony Seba, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Author and Thought Leader, Lecturer at Stanford University, Keynote The reinvention and connection between infrastructure and mobility will fundamentally disrupt the clean transport model. It will change the way governments and consumers think about mobility, how power is delivered and consumed and the payment models for usage.

 

GNT US Tenka EnergyWatch Our YouTube Video for Our Current Project – Nano Enabled Energy Storage

Tenka Energy, Inc. Building Ultra-Thin Energy Dense SuperCaps and NexGen Nano-Enabled Pouch & Cylindrical Batteries – Energy Storage Made Small and POWERFUL! – Team GNT

 

Wrapping an electrode material for Li-ion batteries into the inner spacing of carbon nanotube (CNT) – Delivers a theoretical capacity (7) times higher for electrodes


wrapanelectrElectrochemical characterization of a high capacitive electrode for lithium ion batteries using phosphorus-encapsulated carbon nanotubes

Summary:
Researchers have designed a unique lithium ion battery (LIB) electrode, where red phosphorus is stuffed into carbon nanotubes (CNTs). They revealed reversible electrochemical reactions and relatively high structural stability of red phosphorus in the nanotubes even after the fiftieth charge-discharge cycle. The charge-discharge capacities are twice or even higher than that of graphite in commercial LIBs. Therefore, a new electrode material for LIBs with high capacity is proposed.
FULL STORY

Toyohashi U 2586Researchers at the Toyohashi University of Technology have demonstrated the electrochemical performance of lithium ion batteries (LIBs) using phosphorus-encapsulated carbon nanotube electrodes, in which red phosphorus with considerable high capacity is introduced into the inner spacing of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with a tubular structure. The electrodes indicated an improvement in the electrochemical reactivity of red phosphorus when accessible pathways of lithium ions, i.e., nanopores, were formed onto the sidewalls of the CNTs where the red phosphorus was encapsulated. Furthermore, the charge-discharge profiles and structural analysis revealed reversible electrochemical reactions and the relatively high structural stability of red phosphorus in the nanotubes even after the fiftieth charge-discharge cycle. The charge-discharge capacities show a value two times or higher than that of graphite used in commercial LIBs. Therefore, a new electrode material for LIBs with high capacity is proposed.

Red phosphorus has attracted attention as a higher capacitive electrode material for LIBs because it can deliver a theoretical capacity approximately seven times higher than that of graphite used as a commercial electrode material for LIBs. The large difference in the capacity is thought to be due to an acceptable amount of lithium ions in the structures of graphite for LiC6 or phosphorus for Li3P.

However, red phosphorus suffers enormous volumetric changes, pulverization, and peeling off during lithium ion insertion and extraction processes, resulting in rapid capacity fading due to the decrement in the amount of electrochemically reactive red phosphorus. Additionally, while electrons move onto the electrode during lithium ion insertion/extraction, red phosphorus has a disadvantage in terms of energy loss because of its low electronic conductivity.

Tomohiro Tojo and his colleagues at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Information Engineering, Toyohashi University of Technology, have synthesized unique structures in which red phosphorus is encapsulated into the inner spacing of CNTs to prevent its peeling off from the electrode and improve its electronic conductivity. For improving the electrochemical reactivity of red phosphorus through accessible pathways of lithium ions, nanopores (<5 nm) were also formed onto the sidewalls of the phosphorus-encapsulated CNTs. After phosphorus encapsulation, the phosphorus atoms were distributed inside the nanotubes, confirming the structural stability of red phosphorus.

Using phosphorus-encapsulated CNT electrodes, a reversible capacity showed approximately 850 mAh/g at the fiftieth charge-discharge cycle. This was a value at least two times higher than that of graphite electrodes. The estimated ratio of charge and discharge capacities (Coulombic efficiencies) of >99% after the tenth cycle and the subsequent cycles, which indicates a high reversibility of charge-discharge reactions on red phosphorus. However, the charge-discharge capacities gradually decreased with increasing cycle number because of the dissociation of some P-P bonds and other side reactions on the surface of phosphorus and the CNTs. Interestingly, the phosphorus-encapsulated CNT with nanopores facilitated the significant improvement in electrochemical performance compared with the phosphorus-encapsulated CNT without nanopores. This is suggested to be due to the high reactivity of red phosphorus with lithium ions through the nanopores on the sidewalls. After the charge-discharge cycles, red phosphorus was observed to be inside the nanotubes.

We have proposed phosphorus-encapsulated CNTs as an electrode material for LIBs with high capacity, even though additional improvements in the structures are required to achieve long-term cycling without capacity fading. Further studies will be performed on the utilization of such electrodes.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Toyohashi University of TechnologyNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tomohiro Tojo, Shinpei Yamaguchi, Yuki Furukawa, Kengo Aoyanagi, Kotaro Umezaki, Ryoji Inada, Yoji Sakurai. Electrochemical Performance of Lithium Ion Battery Anode Using Phosphorus Encapsulated into Nanoporous Carbon NanotubesJournal of The Electrochemical Society, 2018; 165 (7): A1231 DOI: 10.1149/2.0351807jes

A real “boost” in the design and development of graphene-based light detection technology – the photoexcited graphene puzzle solved


thephotoexci
Schematic representation of the ultrafast optical pump – terahertz probe experiment, where the optical pump induces electron heating and the terahertz pulse is sensitive to the conductivity of graphene directly after this heating process, …more

 

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as the cameras in phones. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for light detectors offers significant improvements with respect to materials being used nowadays. For example, graphene can detect light of almost any colour, and it gives an extremely fast electronic response within one millionth of a millionth of a second. Thus, in order to properly design graphene-based light detectors, it is crucial to understand the processes that take place inside the graphene after it absorbs light.

A team of European scientists has now succeeded in understanding these processes. Published recently in Science Advances, their work gives a thorough explanation of why, in some cases,  conductivity increases after  absorption, and in other cases, it decreases. The researchers show that this behaviour correlates with the way in which energy from absorbed light flows to the graphene electrons: After light is absorbed by the graphene, the processes through which graphene electrons  up happen extremely fast and with a very high efficiency.

For highly doped graphene (where many free electrons are present), ultrafast electron heating leads to carriers with elevated energy—hot carriers—which, in turn, leads to a decrease in conductivity. Interestingly enough, for weakly doped graphene (where not so many free electrons are present), electron heating leads to the creation of additional , and therefore an increase in conductivity. These additional carriers are the direct result of the gapless nature of graphene—in gapped , electron heating does not lead to additional free carriers.

This simple scenario of light-induced electron heating in graphene can explain many observed effects. Aside from describing the conductive properties of the material after light absorption, it can explain carrier multiplication, where—under specific conditions—one absorbed light particle (photon) can indirectly generate more than one additional free electron, and thus create an efficient photoresponse within a device.

The results of the paper, in particular, understanding electron heating processes accurately, will definitely mean a great boost in the design and development of graphene-based light detection technology.

 Explore further: Atomically thin building blocks could make optoelectrical devices more efficient

More information: “The ultrafast dynamics and conductivity of photoexcited graphene at different Fermi energies” Science Advances (2018). advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/5/eaar5313

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-photoexcited-graphene-puzzle.html#jCp

“Just a pinch” of salt can improve battery performance


Battery salt 5af984d302cf4When an MOF is carbonised it transforms into a nano-diatom like the way a dragon egg, when given fire-treatment, turns into a fire-born dragon in Game of Thrones. Credit: Dr Jingwei Hou

 

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London, University of Cambridge and Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research have discovered how a pinch of salt can be used to drastically improve the performance of batteries.

They found that adding salt to the inside of a supermolecular sponge and then baking it at a high temperature transformed the sponge into a  based structure.

Surprisingly, the salt reacted with the sponge in special ways and turned it from a homogeneous mass to an intricate structure with fibres, struts, pillars and webs. This kind of 3-D hierarchically organised carbon structure has proven very difficult to grow in a laboratory but is crucial in providing unimpeded ion transport to active sites in a battery.

In the study, published in JACS (Journal of the American Chemical Society), the researchers demonstrate that the use of these  in Lithium-ion batteries not only enables the batteries to be charged-up rapidly, but also at one of the highest capacities.

Due to their intricate architecture the researchers have termed these structures ‘nano-diatoms’, and believe they could also be used in  and conversion, for example as electrocatalysts for hydrogen production.

Lead author and project leader Dr. Stoyan Smoukov, from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, said: “This metamorphosis only happens when we heat the compounds to 800 degrees centigrade and was as unexpected as hatching fire-born dragons instead of getting baked eggs in the Game of Thrones. It is very satisfying that after the initial surprise, we have also discovered how to control the transformations with chemical composition.”

Carbon, including graphene and carbon nanotubes, is a family of the most versatile materials in nature, used in catalysis and electronics because of its conductivity and chemical and thermal stability.

3-D carbon-based nanostructures with multiple levels of hierarchy not only can retain useful physical properties like good electronic conductivity but also can have unique properties. These 3-D carbon-based materials can exhibit improved wettability (to facilitate ion infiltration), high strength per unit weight, and directional pathways for fluid transport.

It is, however, very challenging to make carbon-based multilevel hierarchical structures, particularly via simple chemical routes, yet these structures would be useful if such materials are to be made in large quantities for industry.

The supermolecular sponge used in the study is also known as a metal organic framework (MOF) material.

These MOFs are attractive, molecularly designed porous materials with many promising applications such as gas storage and separation. The retention of high surface area after carbonisation – or baking at a high temperature—makes them interesting as electrode materials for batteries.

However, so far carbonising MOFs has preserved the  of the initial particles like that of a dense carbon foam. By adding salts to these MOF sponges and carbonising them, the researchers discovered a series of carbon-based materials with multiple levels of hierarchy.

Dr. R. Vasant Kumar, a collaborator on the study from University of Cambridge, commented: “This work pushes the use of the MOFs to a new level. The strategy for structuring carbon materials could be important not only in energy storage but also in energy conversion, and sensing.”

Lead author, Tiesheng Wang (王铁胜), from University of Cambridge, said: “Potentially, we could design nano-diatoms with desired structures and active sites incorporated in the carbon as there are thousands of MOFs and salts for us to select.”

 Explore further: Full of hot air and proud of it: Improving gas storage with MOFs

More information: Tiesheng Wang et al. Bottom-up Formation of Carbon-Based Structures with Multilevel Hierarchy from MOF–Guest Polyhedra, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2018). DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b02411

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-scientists-salt-battery.html#jCp

University of Waterloo Chemists create faster and more efficient way to process information


waterloochemProfessor Pavle Radovanovic in front of the magnetic circular dichroism system used in this study. Credit: University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo chemists have found a much faster and more efficient way to store and process information by expanding the limitations of how the flow of electricity can be used and managed.

 

In a recently released study, the chemists discovered that light can induce magnetization in certain semiconductors—the standard class of  at the heart of all computing devices today.

“These results could allow for a fundamentally new way to process, transfer, and store information by electronic devices, that is much faster and more efficient than conventional electronics.”

For decades, computer chips have been shrinking thanks to a steady stream of technological improvements in processing density. Experts have, however, been warning that we’ll soon reach the end of the trend known as Moore’s Law, in which the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits double every year.

“Simply put, there’s a physical limit to the performance of conventional semiconductors as well as how dense you can build a chip,” said Pavle Radovanovic, a professor of chemistry and a member of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology. “In order to continue improving chip performance, you would either need to change the material transistors are made of—from silicon, say to carbon nanotubes or graphene—or change how our current materials store and process information.”

Radovanovic’s finding is made possible by  and a field called spintronics, which proposes to store binary information within an electron’s spin direction, in addition to its charge and plasmonics, which studies collective oscillations of elements in a material.

“We’ve basically magnetized individual semiconducting nanocrystals (tiny particles nearly 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair) with light at room temperature,” said Radovanovic. “It’s the first time someone’s been able to use collective motion of electrons, known as plasmon, to induce a stable magnetization within such a non-magnetic semiconductor material.”

In manipulating plasmon in doped indium oxide nanocrystals Radovanovic’s findings proves that the magnetic and semiconducting properties can indeed be coupled, all without needing ultra-low temperatures (cryogens) to operate a device.

He anticipates the findings could initially lead to highly sensitive magneto-optical sensors for thermal imaging and chemical sensing. In the future, he hopes to extend this approach to quantum sensing, data storage, and quantum  processing.

The findings of the research appeared recently in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

 Explore further: Processing power beyond Moore’s Law

More information: Penghui Yin et al, Plasmon-induced carrier polarization in semiconductor nanocrystals, Nature Nanotechnology (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41565-018-0096-0

 

The University of Texas at Arlington has successfully patented (Europe) an implantable medical device that attracts and kills circulating cancer cells


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The University of Texas at Arlington has successfully patented in Europe an implantable medical device that attracts and kills circulating cancer cells that was invented by a faculty member. This cancer trap can be used for early diagnosis and treatment of metastasized cancer.

“Our cancer trap works just like a roach motel, where you put in some bait and the roach goes there and dies,” said Liping Tang, UTA bioengineering professor and leader of the research. “We are putting biological agents in a cancer trap to attract and kill cancer cells.

“This method is effective for both diagnosing and treating metastasis cancer and can be used in combination with traditional chemotherapy and radiation therapy,” he added.

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Currently, there are many treatments for primary tumors but they do little to prevent metastasis and stray cancer cells from relocating to another part of the body. Surgical removal of cancerous tissue also can spur the spread of cancer in the body. While there are drugs given to patients after surgery to prevent cancer cells from adhering to each other or other tissues, these drugs do not rid the body of cancer cells or collect them to allow an assessment of the patient’s status.

“We have made a nano-sized device that we can put under the skin using an injection needle to recruit the cancer cells into a small area where we can treat them with less overall side effects to the whole body,” Tang said.

“So the cancer trap is really complementary to current cancer treatments and especially beneficial at the early stages when it is difficult to see if the cancer is spreading as there are few cancer cells. We have also found it very effective in late stage cancers to stop the spread of the disease and to prolong lifespan,” he added.

The cancer trap works by releasing different chemokines or regulatory proteins to attract circulating cancer cells and then expose them to chemotherapeutic agents to eradicate potential spreading. The trap has been tested in the lab and proved effective on many kinds of cancer cells, including melanoma, prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, leukemia and esophageal cancer.

“We are hoping to move toward clinical trials in the next few years as this technology could potentially significantly increase the lifespan of cancer patients,” Tang said.

This work on cancer forms part of a larger program at UTA where more than 30 faculty from different colleges and disciplines are developing new solutions to attack this disease.

With more than $4 million in research expenditures in 2017, UTA’s program for cancer encompasses basic cancer research, identification and diagnostics, as well as in noninvasive, midterm, invasive and postoperative therapies. UTA’s multidisciplinary research teams harness proficiencies from across science, engineering, computer science, nursing and kinesiology to tackle the challenges of precision oncology and cancer treatment.

Tang’s expertise encompasses a broad area, including stem cells, tissue engineering, nanotechnology, biocompatibility, biomaterials, inflammation, infection and fibrosis. He has published many of his work in high impact journals, including BiomaterialsJournal of Clinical InvestigationProceedings of the National Academy of SciencesBloodJournal of Experimental Medicine, and Tissue Engineering.

“Tang is a remarkable innovator and internationally recognized researcher,” said Michael Cho, UTA’s chair of bioengineering. “His work is a clear example of UTA’s strategic focus on health and the human condition and of the strength of multidisciplinary work.”

Source

7 Emerging Technologies that are Changing Mission Critical Processes: IoT .. AI .. AR and


An article by Jorge Sagastume, Vice President at EscrowTech International, Inc.

Sometimes, even the simplest of processes can be critical to the continued day-to-day operation of your business. That’s why businesses should be taking a proactive approach to enhancing their processes by making use of the latest technologies available that could facilitate business process management.

Here are 7 technologies — including Blockchain technology and the Internet of Things — that are already demonstrating how they have the potential to completely overhaul existing critical processes:

 

1. Blockchain

Your data is important. In fact, it’s crucial to your vital business processes. Your data can tell you what you need to do, how you need to do it, and when it needs to be done. So what happens if that data is inaccurate, or is tampered with through either internal or external sources? Process failure. That’s where Blockchain technology comes in. The ‘Blockchain’ is a database or ledger that records transactions, activity, or behaviors automatically without the need for human input. It cannot be altered, changed, or amended manually, significantly boosting the accuracy, security, and efficiency of your critical processes. Most commonly associated with cryptocurrency, Blockchain can be used in practically any industry.

2. Internet of Things

Mission critical processes are essential for the continued smooth running of a business, but an ongoing concern with these vital processes is that they can be challenging to analyze and review to ensure they’re the most efficient, effective, and productive processes that the business could be using. That’s why many businesses are looking into the Internet of Things, or IoT. IoT is the concept of interconnected devices; one talks to another, to another, and so on as necessary. These devices can also be set up to operate on an ‘if x, then x’ schedule. In terms of mission-critical processes, connected devices can be used to gather data from multiple areas to comprehensively monitor and record how you work.

3. Business Process Automation Software

Business Process Automation software, or BPA software, works to simplify your mission-critical processes, minimize the need for human input (thereby reducing the risk of human error), and streamline the way you work. However, it is important to understand that forming a heavy reliance on automation software isn’t an entirely risk-free endeavor, particularly if you use the cloud-based software. While there are advantages of the cloud, there are also concerns. If your business relies on third-party software for mission-critical processes, consider a software escrow agreement, where the source code for the BPA software is held by a neutral agency and released to you should your provider go bankrupt.

4. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a key catalyst facilitating the new ‘digital transformation’; a shift from rigid business processes to more flexible approaches using the intelligent software. AI and machine-learning technologies become smarter with continued use, as they ‘learn’ more about operations. This can able your technology to identify process flow patterns, apply fixes to enhance the process, locate patterns and trends in your way of working and highlight any room for improvement. The technology can predict how your business processes will fare in the future by merging with existing business process management platforms ultimately improving continuity, lowering costs, and boosting efficiency.

5. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has been around for a while, but it is only recently that it has become ready to support mission-critical processes and applications. Part of this readiness stems from the longevity and continued strength of cloud providers, and the ability of providers to demonstrate experience in IT management. By moving mission-critical processes to the cloud, businesses find that they have greater flexibility, enabling them to focus more on their own core competencies which, in many cases, is not IT-based. Cloud providers today are able to show solid track records in terms of security and reliability, perhaps more so than businesses themselves are able to demonstrate, meaning mission-critical applications are safe.

6. Edge Computing

Although cloud computing and edge computing are often said to be polar opposites, both technologies have the potential to completely overhaul existing mission-critical processes. While cloud computing is concerned with a central ‘hub’, edge computing is more focused on the availability of several shared-effort facilities, often located closer to the user (or on the ‘edge’). In terms of mission-critical processes, the advantage for businesses is notable low latency which can boost the speed of your processes and facilitate real-time functionality to improve accuracy and efficiency. However, not all providers are able to offer edge computing yet, and it is still considered to be an emerging technology.

7. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality already has a firm place in commerce; it’s used to try on clothes without buying, check that furniture fits in the home, or see a new car on the driveway without signing the contract. However, augmented reality, or AR, is still relatively new in terms of internal mission-critical processes, but it certainly seems to have a place. Google Glass was one of the first examples of how AR could be used in the enterprise, and how it could impact business processes. It can enable users to overlay their environment with vital information to ensure accurate troubleshooting, faster fix times, optimal productivity, better learning, and enhanced safety, all using a completely hands-free method.

About the author:
Jorge Sagastume is a Vice President at EscrowTech International, Inc. with 12 years of experience protecting IP and earning the trust of the greatest companies in the world. Jorge has been invited to speak on IP issues by foreign governments and international agencies.

Graphene smart contact lenses could give you thermal infrared and UV vision


A breakthrough in graphene imaging technology means you might soon have a smart contact lens, or other ultra-thin device, with a built-in camera that also gives you infrared “heat vision.” By sandwiching two layers of graphene together, engineers at the University of Michigan have created an ultra-broadband graphene imaging sensor that is ultra-broadband (it can capture everything from visible light all the way up to mid-infrared) — but more importantly, unlike other devices that can see far into the infrared spectrum, it operates well at room temperature.

As you probably know by now, graphene has some rather miraculous properties — including, as luck would have it, a very strong effect when it’s struck by photons (light energy). Basically, when graphene is struck by a photon, an electron absorbs that energy and becomes a hot carrier — an effect that can be measured, processed, and turned into an image. The problem, however, is that graphene is incredibly thin (just one atom thick) and transparent — and so it only absorbs around 2.3% of the light that hits it. With so little light striking it, there just aren’t enough hot carrier electrons to be reliably detected. (Yes, this is one of those rare cases where being transparent and super-thin is actually a bad thing.)

Zhaohui Zhong and friends at the University of Michigan, however, have devised a solution to this problem. They still use a single layer of graphene as the primary photodetector — but then they put an insulating dielectric beneath it, and then another layer of graphene beneath that. When light strikes the top layer, the hot carrier tunnels through the dielectric to the other side, creating a charge build-up and strong change in conductance. In effect, they have created a phototransistor that amplifies the small number of absorbed photons absorbed by the top layer (gate) into a large change in the bottom layer’s conductance (channel).

In numerical terms, raw graphene generally produces a few milliamps of power per watt of light energy (mA/W) —  the Michigan phototransistor, however, is around 1 A/W, or around 100 times more sensitive. This is around the same sensitivity as CMOS silicon imaging sensors in commercial digital cameras.

The prototype device created by Zhong and co. is already “smaller than a pinky nail” and can be easily scaled down. By far the most exciting aspect here is the ultra-broadband sensitivity — while the silicon sensor in your smartphone can only register visible light, graphene is sensitive to a much wider range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet at the bottom, all the way to far-infrared at the top.

In this case, the Michigan phototransistor is sensitive to visible light and up to mid-infrared — but it’s entirely possible that a future device would cover UV and far-IR as well.

There are imaging technologies that can see in the UV and IR ranges, but they generally require bulky cryogenic cooling equipment; the graphene phototransistor, on the other hand, is so sensitive that it works at room temperature. [Research paper: doi:10.1038/nnano.2014.31 – “Graphene photodetectors with ultra-broadband and high responsivity at room temperature”]

Now, I think we can all agree that a smartphone that can capture UV and IR would be pretty damn awesome — but because this is ultra-thin-and-light-and-efficient graphene we’re talking about, the potential, futuristic applications are far more exciting. For me, the most exciting possibility is building graphene imaging technology into smart contact lenses. At first, you might just use this data to take awesome photos of the environment, or to give you you night/thermal vision through a display built into the contact lens. In the future, though, as bionic eyes and retinal implants improve, we might use this graphene imaging tech to wire UV and IR vision directly into our brains.

Imagine if you could look up at the sky, and instead of seeing the normal handful of stars, you saw this:

The Milky Way, as seen by NASA’s infrared Spitzer telescope

That’d be pretty sweet.