Update EV News: Volvo buys a stake in electric charging firm FreeWire Technologies


Volvo and MOBI

Oct. 24, 2018

Volvo Cars has acquired a stake in electric car charging company FreeWire Technologies via the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, deepening the company’s commitment to a fully electric future. (See Industry Announcement Below)

While Volvo Cars’s electrification strategy does not envision direct ownership of charging or service stations, the investment in FreeWire reinforces its overall commitment to supporting a widespread transition to electric mobility together with other partners.

FWire mobisLeafsFreeWire is a San Francisco-based company that has been a pioneer in flexible fast-charging technology for electric cars. It specialises in both stationary and mobile fast charging technology, allowing electric car charging to be deployed quickly and widely. (Check Out FWT’s website – Featuring ‘MOBI’)  FreeWire Technologies – Electrification Beyond the Grid

Installing traditional fixed fast-charging stations is usually a cost- and labour intensive process that requires a lot of electrical upgrades to support the connection between charging stations and the main electrical grid. FreeWire’s charging stations remove that complication and use low-voltage power, allowing operators to simply use existing power outlets. This means drivers can enjoy all the benefits of fast charging without operators needing to go through the hassle of establishing a high-voltage connection to the grid.

Volvo Cars has one of the auto industry’s most ambitious electrification strategies. Every new Volvo car launched from 2019 will be electrified, and by 2025 the company aims for fully electric cars to make up 50 per cent of its overall global sales.

“Volvo Cars’ future is electric, as reflected by our industry-leading commitment to electrify our entire product range,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank. Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”

“FreeWire’s fast charging technology holds great promise to simplify the experience for customers of electrified Volvos,” said Atif Rafiq, chief digital officer at Volvo Cars. “With this move, we aim to make the future of sustainable, electric cars more practical and convenient.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with Volvo Cars to develop new markets and business models around our EV fast charging and ultra-fast charging technology,” said Arcady Sosinov, CEO of FreeWire. “Having a car maker with both the legacy and future vision of Volvo is going to give us access to technology, testing, and new strategies that will really accelerate the growth of the company.”

The Volvo Cars Tech Fund was launched earlier this year and aims to invest in high-potential technology start-ups around the globe. It focuses its investments on strategic technology trends transforming the auto industry, such as artificial intelligence, electrification, autonomous drive and digital mobility services.

Earlier this year, the Volvo Cars Tech Fund announced its first investment in Luminar Technologies, a leading start-up in the development of advanced sensor technology for use in autonomous vehicles, with whom Volvo Cars collaborates on the development and testing of its LiDAR sensing technology on Volvo cars.

Companies benefit from participation by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund as they may gain the ability to validate technologies, accelerate market introduction, as well as potentially access Volvo Cars’ global network and unique position in the Chinese car market.

 

 Volvo Car Group in 2017

For the 2017 financial year, Volvo Car Group recorded an operating profit of 14,061 MSEK (11,014 MSEK in 2016). Revenue over the period amounted to 210,912 MSEK (180,902 MSEK). For the full year 2017, global sales reached a record 571,577 cars, an increase of 7.0 per cent versus 2016. The results underline the comprehensive transformation of Volvo Cars’ finances and operations in recent years, positioning the company for its next growth phase.

About Volvo Car Group

Volvo has been in operation since 1927. Today, Volvo Cars is one of the most well-known and respected car brands in the world with sales of 571,577 cars in 2017 in about 100 countries. Volvo Cars has been under the ownership of the Zhejiang Geely Holding (Geely Holding) of China since 2010. It formed part of the Swedish Volvo Group until 1999, when the company was bought by Ford Motor Company of the US. In 2010, Volvo Cars was acquired by Geely Holding.

In 2017, Volvo Cars employed on average approximately 38,000 (30,400) full-time employees. Volvo Cars head office, product development, marketing and administration functions are mainly located in Gothenburg, Sweden. Volvo Cars head office for China is located in Shanghai. The company’s main car production plants are located in Gothenburg (Sweden), Ghent (Belgium), Chengdu, Daqing (China) and Charleston (USA), while engines are manufactured in Skövde (Sweden) and Zhangjiakou (China) and body components in Olofström (Sweden).

About Volvo Cars Tech Fund Volvo download

Volvo Cars Tech Fund is a new venture fund under the Volvo Cars umbrella, and is dedicated to advancing Volvo’s mission of ecology, safety, and technology across its vehicles. The fund was established in 2018, and is based out of Volvo Cars R&D Tech Center in Mountain View, California. Read more here.

 

 

Industry Announcement

Volvo is the latest business to take an interest in FreeWire.  Swedish luxury vehicles company Volvo Cars has bought a stake in FreeWire Technologies, a California-based electric car charging business. 

The acquisition has been made through the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, which was launched earlier this year. In an announcement Wednesday, Volvo described FreeWire as a “pioneer in flexible fast charging technology for electric cars.”Volvo becomes the latest major business to take an interest in FreeWire. In January 2018, BP Ventures announced it was investing $5 million in the business. 

From 2019, every new car that Volvo launches is set to be electrified. The business wants fully-electric cars to account for 50 percent of overall global sales by the year 2025.

“To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank,” Zaki Fasihuddin, the Volvo Cars Tech Fund CEO, said in a statement. “Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”

In 2017, there were more than 3 million electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the planet’s roads, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Electric Vehicles Outlook. This represents an increase of 54 percent compared to 2016.

Almost 580,000 electric cars were sold in China last year, according to the IEA, while around 280,000 were sold in the U.S.

In terms of charging infrastructure, the IEA says that, globally, there were an estimated 3 million private chargers at homes and workplaces in 2017. The number of “publicly accessible” chargers amounted to roughly 430,000.

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Will Drexel’s Discovery Enable a Lithium-Sulfur ‘Battery (R)evolution’?


Lithium-sulfur batteries could be the energy storage devices of the future, if they can get past a chemical phenomenon that reduces their endurance. Drexel researchers have reported a method for making a sulfur cathode that could preserve the batteries’ exceptional performance. (Image from Drexel News)

Drexel’s College of Engineering reports that researchers and the industry are looking at Li-S batteries to eventually replace Li-ion batteries because a new chemistry that theoretically allows more energy to be packed into a single battery.

img_0808This improved capacity, on the order of 5-10 times that of Li-ion batteries, equates to a longer run time for batteries between charges.

However, the problem is that Li-S batteries have trouble maintaining their superiority beyond just a few recharge cycles. But a solution to that problem may have been found with new research.

The new approach, reported by in a recent edition of the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, shows that it can hold polysulfides in place, maintaining the battery’s impressive stamina, while reducing the overall weight and the time required to produce them.

“We have created freestanding porous titanium monoxide nanofiber mat as a cathode host material in lithium-sulfur batteries,” said Vibha Kalra, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Engineering who led the research.

img_0810

“This is a significant development because we have found that our titanium monoxide-sulfur cathode is both highly conductive and able to bind polysulfides via strong chemical interactions, which means it can augment the battery’s specific capacity while preserving its impressive performance through hundreds of cycles.

We can also demonstrate the complete elimination of binders and current collector on the cathode side that account for 30-50 percent of the electrode weight — and our method takes just seconds to create the sulfur cathode, when the current standard can take nearly half a day.”

img_0811

Please find the full report here: LINK
TiO Phase Stabilized into Free-Standing Nanofibers as Strong Polysulfide Immobilizer in Li-S Batteries: Evidence for Lewis Acid-Base Interactions
Arvinder Singh and Vibha Kalra

ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, Just Accepted Manuscript

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b11029

We report the stabilization of titanium monoxide (TiO) nanoparticles in nanofibers through electrospinning and carbothermal processes and their unique bi-functionality – high conductivity and ability to bind polysulfides – in Li-S batteries. The developed 3-D TiO/CNF architecture with the inherent inter-fiber macropores of nanofiber mats provides a much higher surface area (~427 m2 g-1) and overcomes the challenges associated with the use of highly dense powdered Ti-based suboxides/monoxide materials, thereby allowing for high active sulfur loading among other benefits.

The developed TiO/CNF-S cathodes exhibit high initial discharge capacities of ~1080 mAh g-1, ~975 mAh g-1, and ~791 mAh g-1 at 0.1C, 0.2C, and 0.5C rates, respectively with long term cycling. Furthermore, free-standing TiO/CNF-S cathodes developed with rapid sulfur melt infiltration (~5 sec) eradicate the need of inactive elements viz. binders, additional current collectors (Al-foil) and additives. Using postmortem XPS and Raman analysis, this study is the first to reveal the presence of strong Lewis acid-base interaction between TiO (3d2) and Sx2- through coordinate covalent Ti-S bond formation.

Our results highlight the importance of developing Ti-suboxides/monoxide based nanofibrous conducting polar host materials for next-generation Li-S batteries.

“Reprinted with permission from (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b11029). Copyright (2018) American Chemical Society.”

 

 

MIT: Mass producing cell-sized robots that could monitor conditions inside oil/gas pipelines or search out disease while floating through the bloodstream


This photo shows circles on a graphene sheet where the sheet is draped over an array of round posts, creating stresses that will cause these discs to separate from the sheet. The gray bar across the sheet is liquid being used to lift the discs from the surface. Credit: Felice Frankel

Tiny robots no bigger than a cell could be mass-produced using a new method developed by researchers at MIT. The microscopic devices, which the team calls “syncells” (short for synthetic cells), might eventually be used to monitor conditions inside an oil or gas pipeline, or to search out disease while floating through the bloodstream.

The key to making such tiny devices in large quantities lies in a method the team developed for controlling the natural fracturing process of atomically-thin, brittle , directing the fracture lines so that they produce miniscule pockets of a predictable size and shape. Embedded inside these pockets are electronic circuits and materials that can collect, record, and output data.

The novel process, called “auto-perforation,” is described in a paper published today in the journal Nature Materials, by MIT Professor Michael Strano, postdoc Pingwei Liu, graduate student Albert Liu, and eight others at MIT.

The system uses a two-dimensional form of carbon called graphene, which forms the outer structure of the tiny syncells. One layer of the material is laid down on a surface, then tiny dots of a polymer material, containing the electronics for the devices, are deposited by a sophisticated laboratory version of an inkjet printer. Then, a second layer of graphene is laid on top.

Controlled fracturing

People think of graphene, an ultrathin but extremely strong material, as being “floppy,” but it is actually brittle, Strano explains. But rather than considering that brittleness a problem, the team figured out that it could be used to their advantage.

“We discovered that you can use the brittleness,” says Strano, who is the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “It’s counterintuitive. Before this work, if you told me you could fracture a material to control its shape at the nanoscale, I would have been incredulous.”

But the new system does just that. It controls the fracturing process so that rather than generating random shards of material, like the remains of a broken window, it produces pieces of uniform shape and size. “What we discovered is that you can impose a strain field to cause the fracture to be guided, and you can use that for controlled fabrication,” Strano says.

When the top layer of graphene is placed over the array of polymer dots, which form round pillar shapes, the places where the graphene drapes over the round edges of the pillars form lines of high strain in the material.

As Albert Liu describes it, “imagine a tablecloth falling slowly down onto the surface of a circular table. One can very easily visualize the developing circular strain toward the table edges, and that’s very much analogous to what happens when a flat sheet of graphene folds around these printed polymer pillars.”

As a result, the fractures are concentrated right along those boundaries, Strano says. “And then something pretty amazing happens: The graphene will completely fracture, but the fracture will be guided around the periphery of the pillar.” The result is a neat, round piece of graphene that looks as if it had been cleanly cut out by a microscopic hole punch.

Because there are two layers of graphene, above and below the polymer pillars, the two resulting disks adhere at their edges to form something like a tiny pita bread pocket, with the polymer sealed inside. “And the advantage here is that this is essentially a single step,” in contrast to many complex clean-room steps needed by other processes to try to make microscopic robotic devices, Strano says.

The researchers have also shown that other two-dimensional materials in addition to graphene, such as molybdenum disulfide and hexagonal boronitride, work just as well.

Cell-like robots

Ranging in size from that of a human red blood cell, about 10 micrometers across, up to about 10 times that size, these tiny objects “start to look and behave like a living biological cell. In fact, under a microscope, you could probably convince most people that it is a cell,” Strano says. mit_logo

This work follows up on earlier research by Strano and his students on developing syncells that could gather information about the chemistry or other properties of their surroundings using sensors on their surface, and store the information for later retrieval, for example injecting a swarm of such particles in one end of a pipeline and retrieving them at the other to gain data about conditions inside it.

While the new syncells do not yet have as many capabilities as the earlier ones, those were assembled individually, whereas this work demonstrates a way of easily mass-producing such devices.

Apart from the syncells’ potential uses for industrial or biomedical monitoring, the way the tiny devices are made is itself an innovation with great potential, according to Albert Liu. “This general procedure of using controlled fracture as a production method can be extended across many length scales,” he says. “[It could potentially be used with] essentially any 2-D materials of choice, in principle allowing future researchers to tailor these atomically thin surfaces into any desired shape or form for applications in other disciplines.”

This is, Albert Liu says, “one of the only ways available right now to produce stand-alone integrated microelectronics on a large scale” that can function as independent, free-floating devices. Depending on the nature of the electronics inside, the devices could be provided with capabilities for movement, detection of various chemicals or other parameters, and memory storage.

There are a wide range of potential new applications for such cell-sized robotic devices, says Strano, who details many such possible uses in a book he co-authored with Shawn Walsh, an expert at Army Research Laboratories, on the subject, called “Robotic Systems and Autonomous Platforms,” which is being published this month by Elsevier Press.

As a demonstration, the team “wrote” the letters M, I, and T into a memory array within a syncell, which stores the information as varying levels of electrical conductivity. This information can then be “read” using an electrical probe, showing that the material can function as a form of electronic memory into which data can be written, read, and erased at will.

It can also retain the data without the need for power, allowing information to be collected at a later time. The researchers have demonstrated that the particles are stable over a period of months even when floating around in water, which is a harsh solvent for electronics, according to Strano.

“I think it opens up a whole new toolkit for micro- and nanofabrication,” he says.

More information: 
Pingwei Liu et al, Autoperforation of 2D materials for generating two-terminal memristive Janus particles, Nature Materials(2018).  DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0197-z

Provided by: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Are Electric Vehicles at a Tipping Point? A Distinguished Panel Discussion Tackling the Tough Questions


Top EVs

Electric vehicles are set to overcome historic and significant hurdles: sticker price, range anxiety and limited model options. Annual sales are forecasted to jump from 1% today to 25% in 2030 and cross 50% by 2040.

Nearly every major car maker has announced new models for EVs. By 2020, there will be 44 models of EVs available in North America.

Watch the Video Discussion with Panelists from Daimler Benz, Chargepoint and Lucid

Please join us for a lively panel discussion with diverse electric vehicle experts as they provide their take on the future of the industry and tackle tough questions like:

  • What are the remaining technical, economic and political hurdles that will impact the mass adoption of EVs?
  • Charging infrastructure vs EVs – the chicken and the egg problem.
  • What’s the right amount and mix of charging infrastructure?
  • Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric – How important is “electric” to this futuristic concept?
  • When will EVs be cheaper to own than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles?
  • Battery costs have fallen 74% since 2010 – what other technology opportunities exist i.e. new battery chemistry, economies of scale?
  • China’s EV targets outpace Europe and the US. What are the implications for traditional automakers and Silicon Valley startups?
  • California’s latest Executive Order targets 5 million EVs on the road by 2030. How do we get there?all-ev-models-list-500

Panelists:

Sven Beiker – Moderator & Keynote Speaker, Stanford GSB

Pat Romano – CEO Chargepoint

Fred Kim – R&D Group Manager – Daimler Benz

Albert Liu – Director of Battery Technology, Lucid Motor

Presented By:

mit_logoMIT Club of Northern California

 

 

You might also enjoy watching a Presentation on ‘Mobility Disruption by Tony Seba:

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

 

Watch Our Video Presentation – Tenka Energy, Inc.

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

Super Capacitor Assisted Silicon Nanowire and Graphene Batteries for EV and Small Form Factor Markets. A New Class of Battery /Energy Storage Materials is being developed to support the High Energy – High Capacity – High Performance and Cycle Battery Markets.

“Ultrathin Asymmetric Porous-Nickel Graphene-Based Supercapacitor with High Energy Density and Silicon Nanowire,” A New Generation Battery that is:

  •  Energy Dense
  •  High Specific Power
  •  Simple Manufacturing Process
  •  Low Manufacturing Cost
  •  Rapid Charge/ Re-Charge
  •  Flexible Form Factor
  •  Long Warranty Life
  •  Non-Toxic
  •  Highly Scalable

 

Key Markets & Commercial Applications

EV, (18650 & 21700); Drone and Marine Batteries

Wearable Electronics and The Internet of Things

Estimated $112B Market by 2025

AI and Nanotechnology Team Up to bring Humans to the brink of IMMORTALITY, top scientist claims


IMMORTAL: Human beings could soon live forever 

HUMAN beings becoming immortal is a step closer following the launch of a new start-up.

Dr Ian Pearson has previously said people will have the ability to “not die” by 2050 – just over 30 years from now.

Two of the methods he said humans might use were “body part renewal” and linking bodies with machines so that people are living their lives through an android.

But after Dr Pearson’s predictions, immortality may now be a step nearer following the launch of a new start-up.

Human is hoping to make the immortality dream a reality with an ambitious plan.

Josh Bocanegra, the CEO of the company, said he is hoping to use Artificial Intelligence technology to create its own human being in the next three decades.

He said: “We’re using artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to store data of conversational styles, behavioural patterns, thought processes and information about how your body functions from the inside-out.

Watch

Live to 2050 and “Live Forever” Really?

“This data will be coded into multiple sensor technologies, which will be built into an artificial body with the brain of a deceased human.

“Using cloning technology, we will restore the brain as it matures.” 

Last year, UK-based stem cell bank StemProject said it could eventually potentially develop treatments that allow humans to live until 200.

Mark Hall, from StemProtect, said at the time: “In just the same way as we might replace a joint such as a hip with a specially made synthetic device, we can now replace cells in the body with new cells which are healthy and younger versions of the ones they’re replacing.

“That means we can replace diseased or ageing cells – and parts of the body – with entirely new ones which are completely natural and healthy.”

Watch Dr. Ian Pearson Talk About the Possibility of Immortality by 2050

‘Quantum Internet’ – Moving toward ‘Unhackable’ Communications and how Single Particles of Light could make it Possible: Purdue University – Next Step ‘On-Chip Circuitry’


towardunhack
Purdue researchers have created a new light source that generates at least 35 million photons per second, increasing the speed of quantum communication. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology image/Mikhail Shalaginov

Hacker attacks on everything from social media accounts to government files could be largely prevented by the advent of quantum communication, which would use particles of light called “photons” to secure information rather than a crackable code.

The problem is that quantum communication is currently limited by how much   can help send securely, called a “secret bit rate.” Purdue University researchers created a new technique that would increase the secret bit rate 100-fold, to over 35 million photons per second.

“Increasing the bit rate allows us to use single photons for sending not just a sentence a second, but rather a relatively large piece of information with extreme security, like a megabyte-sized file,” said Simeon Bogdanov, a Purdue postdoctoral researcher in electrical and computer engineering.

Eventually, a high  will enable an ultra-secure “quantum internet,” a network of channels called “waveguides” that will transmit single photons between devices, chips, places or parties capable of processing quantum information.

“No matter how computationally advanced a hacker is, it would be basically impossible by the laws of physics to interfere with these quantum communication channels without being detected, since at the quantum level,  and matter are so sensitive to disturbances,” Bogdanov said.

The work was first published online in July for inclusion in a print Nano Letters issue on August 8, 2018.

Using light to send information is a game of probability: Transmitting one bit of information can take multiple attempts. The more photons a light source can generate per second, the faster the rate of successful information transmission.

Toward unhackable communication: Single particles of light could bring the 'quantum internet'
The Purdue University Quantum Center, including Simeon Bogdanov (left) and Sajid Choudhury (right), is investigating how to advance quantum communication for practical uses. Credit: Purdue University image/Susan Fleck

“A source might generate a lot of photons per second, but only a few of them may actually be used to transmit information, which strongly limits the speed of quantum communication,” Bogdanov said.

For faster  , Purdue researchers modified the way in which a light pulse from a laser beam excites electrons in a man-made “defect,” or local disturbance in a crystal lattice, and then how this defect emits one  at a time.

The researchers sped up these processes by creating a new light source that includes a tiny diamond only 10 nanometers big, sandwiched between a silver cube and silver film. Within the nanodiamond, they identified a single defect, resulting from one atom of carbon being replaced by nitrogen and a vacancy left by a missing adjacent carbon atom.

The nitrogen and the missing atom together formed a so-called “nitrogen-vacancy center” in a diamond with electrons orbiting around it.

A metallic antenna coupled to this defect facilitated the interaction of photons with the orbiting electrons of the nitrogen-vacancy center, through hybrid light-matter particles called “plasmons.” By the center absorbing and emitting one plasmon at a time, and the nanoantenna converting the plasmons into photons, the rate of generating photons for  became dramatically faster.

“We have demonstrated the brightest single-photon source at room temperature. Usually sources with comparable brightness only operate at very low temperatures, which is impractical for implementing on computer chips that we would use at room temperature,” said Vlad Shalaev, the Bob and Anne Burnett Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Next, the researchers will be adapting this system for on-chip circuitry. This would mean connecting the plasmonic antenna with waveguides so that photons could be routed to different parts of the chip rather than radiating in all directions.

 Explore further: Physicists demonstrate new method to make single photons

More information: Simeon I. Bogdanov et al. Ultrabright Room-Temperature Sub-Nanosecond Emission from Single Nitrogen-Vacancy Centers Coupled to Nanopatch Antennas, Nano Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b01415

North Western U: Study Provides insight into how Nanoparticles interact with Biological Systems


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Computer simulation of a lipid corona around a 5-nanometer nanoparticle showing ammonium-phosphate ion pairing. Credit: Northwestern University

Personal electronic devices—smartphones, computers, TVs, tablets, screens of all kinds—are a significant and growing source of the world’s electronic waste. Many of these products use nanomaterials, but little is known about how these modern materials and their tiny particles interact with the environment and living things.

Now a research team of Northwestern University chemists and colleagues from the national Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology has discovered that when certain coated  interact with living organisms it results in new properties that cause the nanoparticles to become sticky. Fragmented  coronas form on the particles, causing them to stick together and grow into long kelp-like strands. Nanoparticles with 5-nanometer diameters form long structures that are microns in size in solution. The impact on cells is not known.

“Why not make a particle that is benign from the beginning?” said Franz M. Geiger, professor of chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He led the Northwestern portion of the research.

“This study provides insight into the molecular mechanisms by which nanoparticles interact with biological systems,” Geiger said. “This may help us understand and predict why some /ligand coating combinations are detrimental to cellular organisms while others are not. We can use this to engineer nanoparticles that are benign by design.”

Using experiments and computer simulations, the research team studied polycation-wrapped gold nanoparticles and their interactions with a variety of bilayer membrane models, including bacteria. The researchers found that a nearly circular layer of lipids forms spontaneously around the particles. These “fragmented lipid coronas” have never been seen before.

The study points to solving problems with chemistry. Scientists can use the findings to design a better ligand coating for nanoparticles that avoids the ammonium-phosphate interaction, which causes the aggregation. (Ligands are used in nanomaterials for layering.)

The results will be published Oct. 18 in the journal Chem.

Geiger is the study’s corresponding author. Other authors include scientists from the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology’s other institutional partners. Based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the center studies engineered nanomaterials and their interaction with the environment, including biological systems—both the negative and positive aspects.

“The nanoparticles pick up parts of the lipid cellular membrane like a snowball rolling in a snowfield, and they become sticky,” Geiger said. “This unintended effect happens because of the presence of the nanoparticle. It can bring lipids to places in cells where lipids are not meant to be.”

The experiments were conducted in idealized laboratory settings that nevertheless are relevant to environments found during the late summer in a landfill—at 21-22 degrees Celsius and a couple feet below ground, where soil and groundwater mix and the food chain begins.

By pairing spectroscopic and imaging experiments with atomistic and coarse-grain simulations, the researchers identified that ion pairing between the lipid head groups of biological membranes and the polycations’ ammonium groups in the nanoparticle wrapping leads to the formation of fragmented lipid coronas. These coronas engender new properties, including composition and stickiness, to the particles with diameters below 10 nanometers.

The study’s insights help predict the impact that the increasingly widespread use of engineered nanomaterials has on the nanoparticles’ fate once they enter the food chain, which many of them may eventually do.

“New technologies and mass consumer products are emerging that feature nanomaterials as critical operational components,” Geiger said. “We can upend the existing paradigm in nanomaterial production towards one in which companies design nanomaterials to be sustainable from the beginning, as opposed to risking expensive product recalls—or worse—down the road.”

 Explore further: Water matters to metal nanoparticles

More information: “Lipid Corona Formation from Nanoparticle Interactions with Bilayers,” Chem (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.chempr.2018.09.018

 

The Future Of Energy Isn’t Fossil Fuels Or Renewables, It’s Nuclear Fusion (Really?)


 

Co State Nuc Fussion 2Colorado State University scientists, using a compact but powerful laser to heat arrays of ordered nanowires, have demonstrated micro-scale nuclear fusion in the lab.

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that the climate doesn’t matter. That we’re completely ignoring the connection between carbon dioxide, the Earth’s atmosphere, the greenhouse effect, global temperatures, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise. From a long-term point of view, we’d still need to plan for our energy future. Fossil fuels, which make up by far the majority of world-wide power today, are an abundant but fundamentally limited resource. Renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power have different limitations: they’re inconsistent. There is a long-term solution, though, that overcomes all of these problems: nuclear fusion.

Even the most advanced chemical reactions, like combusting thermite, shown here, generate about a million times less energy per unit mass compared to a nuclear reaction.

Even the most advanced chemical reactions, like combusting thermite, shown here, generate about a million times less energy per unit mass compared to a nuclear reaction.NIKTHESTUNNED OF WIKIPEDIA

It might seem that the fossil fuel problem is obvious: we cannot simply generate more coal, oil, or natural gas when our present supplies run out. We’ve been burning pretty much every drop we can get our hands on for going on three centuries now, and this problem is going to get worse. Even though we have hundreds of years more before we’re all out, the amount isn’t limitless. There are legitimate, non-warming-related environmental concerns, too.

Even if we ignored the CO2-global climate change problem, fossil fuels are limited in the amount Earth contains, and also extracting, transporting, refining and burning them causes large amounts of pollution.

Even if we ignored the CO2-global climate change problem, fossil fuels are limited in the amount Earth contains, and also extracting, transporting, refining and burning them causes large amounts of pollution.GREG GOEBEL

The burning of fossil fuels generates pollution, since these carbon-based fuel sources contain a lot more than just carbon and hydrogen in their chemical makeup, and burning them (to generate energy) also burns all the impurities, releasing them into the air. In addition, the refining and/or extraction process is dirty, dangerous and can pollute the water table and entire bodies of water, like rivers and lakes.

Wind farms, like many other sources of renewable energy, are dependent on the environment in an inconsistent, uncontrollable way.

Wind farms, like many other sources of renewable energy, are dependent on the environment in an inconsistent, uncontrollable way.WINCHELL JOSHUA, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

On the other hand, renewable energy sources are inconsistent, even at their best. Try powering your grid during dry, overcast (or overnight), and drought-riddled times, and you’re doomed to failure. The sheer magnitude of the battery storage capabilities required to power even a single city during insufficient energy-generation conditions is daunting. Simultaneously, the pollution effects associated with creating solar panels, manufacturing wind or hydroelectric turbines, and (especially) with creating the materials needed to store large amounts of energy are tremendous as well. Even what’s touted as “green energy” isn’t devoid of drawbacks.

Reactor nuclear experimental RA-6 (Republica Argentina 6), en marcha. The blue glow is known as Cherenkov radiation, from the faster-than-light-in-water particles emitted.

Reactor nuclear experimental RA-6 (Republica Argentina 6), en marcha. The blue glow is known as Cherenkov radiation, from the faster-than-light-in-water particles emitted.CENTRO ATOMICO BARILOCHE, VIA PIECK DARÍO

But there is always the nuclear option. That word itself is enough to elicit strong reactions from many people: nuclear. The idea of nuclear bombs, of radioactive fallout, of meltdowns, and of disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima — not to mention residual fear from the Cold War — make “NIMBY” the default position for a large number of people. And that’s a fear that’s not wholly without foundation, when it comes to nuclear fission. But fission isn’t the only game in town.

Watch the Video: Nuclear Bomb – The First H Bomb Test

 

In 1952, the United States detonated Ivy Mike, the first demonstrated nuclear fusion reaction to occur on Earth. Whereas nuclear fission involves taking heavy, unstable (and already radioactive) elements like Thorium, Uranium or Plutonium, initiating a reaction that causes them to split apart into smaller, also radioactive components that release energy, nothing involved in fusion is radioactive at all. The reactants are light, stable elements like isotopes of hydrogen, helium or lithium; the products are also light and stable, like helium, lithium, beryllium or boron.

 

The proton-proton chain responsible for producing the vast majority of the Sun's power is an example of nuclear fusion.

The proton-proton chain responsible for producing the vast majority of the Sun’s power is an example of nuclear fusion.BORB / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

So far, fission has taken place in either a runaway or controlled environment, rushing past the breakeven point (where the energy output is greater than the input) with ease, while fusion has never reached the breakeven point in a controlled setting. But four main possibilities have emerged. img_0787

  1. Inertial Confinement Fusion. We take a pellet of hydrogen — the fuel for this fusion reaction — and compress it using many lasers that surround the pellet. The compression causes the hydrogen nuclei to fuse into heavier elements like helium, and releases a burst of energy.
  2. Magnetic Confinement Fusion. Instead of using mechanical compression, why not let the electromagnetic force do the confining work? Magnetic fields confine a superheated plasma of fusible material, and nuclear fusion reactions occur inside a Tokamak-style reactor.
  3. Magnetized Target Fusion. In MTF, a superheated plasma is created and confined magnetically, but pistons surrounding it compress the fuel inside, creating a burst of nuclear fusion in the interior.
  4. Subcritical Fusion. Instead of trying to trigger fusion with heat or inertia, subcritical fusion uses a subcritical fission reaction — with zero chance of a meltdown — to power a fusion reaction.

The first two have been researched for decades now, and are the closest to the coveted breakeven point. But the latter two are new, with the last one gaining many new investors and start-ups this decade.

The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. NIF recently achieved a 500 terawatt shot - 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time.

The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. NIF recently achieved a 500 terawatt shot – 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time.DAMIEN JEMISON/LLNL

Even if you reject climate science, the problem of powering the world, and doing so in a sustainable, pollution-free way, is one of the most daunting long-term ones facing humanity. Nuclear fusion as a power source has never been given the necessary funding to develop it to fruition, but it’s the one physically possible solution to our energy needs with no obvious downsides. If we can get the idea that “nuclear” means “potential for disaster” out of our heads, people from all across the political spectrum just might be able to come together and solve our energy and environmental needs in one single blow. If you think the government should be investing in science with national and global payoffs, you can’t do better than the ROI that would come from successful fusion research. The physics works out beautifully; we now just need the investment and the engineering breakthroughs.

Special Contribution to Forbes by: Ethan Siegel 

University of Cambridge: Researchers to target hard-to-treat cancers


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A £10 million interdisciplinary collaboration is to target the most challenging of cancers using nanomedicine.

“We are going to pierce through the body’s natural barriers and deliver anti-cancer drugs to the heart of the tumour.” – George Malliaras

While the survival rate for most cancers has doubled over the past 40 years, some cancers such as those of the pancreas, brain, lung and oesophagus still have low survival rates.

Such cancers are now the target of an Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) led by the University of Cambridge and involving researchers from Imperial College London, University College London and the Universities of Glasgow and Birmingham.

“Some cancers are difficult to remove by surgery and highly invasive, and they are also hard to treat because drugs often cannot reach them at high enough concentration,” explains George Malliaras, Prince Philip Professor of Technology in Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who leads the IRC. “Pancreatic tumour cells, for instance, are protected by dense stromal tissue, and tumours of the central nervous system by the blood-brain barrier.”

The aim of the project, which is funded for six years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is to develop an array of new delivery technologies that can deliver almost any drug to any tumour in a large enough concentration to kill the cancerous cells.

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Chemists, engineers, material scientists and pharmacologists will focus on developing particles, injectable gels and implantable devices to deliver the drugs. Cancer scientists and clinicians from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre and partner sites will devise and carry out clinical trials. Experts in innovative manufacturing technologies will ensure the devices are able to be manufactured and robust enough to withstand surgical manipulation.

One technology the team will examine is the ability of advanced materials to self-assemble and entrap drugs inside metal-organic frameworks. These structures can carry enormous amounts of drugs, and be tuned both to target the tumour and to release the drug at an optimal rate.

“We are going to pierce through the body’s natural barriers,” says Malliaras, “and deliver anti-cancer drugs to the heart of the tumour.”

Dr Su Metcalfe, a member of George Malliaras’s team and who is already using NanoBioMed to treat Multuple Sclerosis, added “the power of nanotechnology to synergise with potent anti-cancer drugs will be profound and the award will speed delivery to patients.”

How nanotechnology is advancing drug delivery


Nanotechnology brings a lot to the medical field, and a specific branch known as nanomedicine has evolved because of the growing interest in this area.

Drug delivery systems derived from materials (or particles) at the nano-level provide a way for drugs, that might otherwise be toxic to the body, to reach their intended target through encapsulation or conjugation approaches.

There are some issues which need to be ironed out, with respect to the size of some of these carriers against the regulatory definitions, but it is an area that is expanding drug delivery approaches beyond what was previously possible with conventional approaches.

Inorganic Nanocarriers

Inorganic nanocarriers were the first type of nanotechnology-based drug delivery system to be trialled, yet their use and research is becoming less and less frequent. Many types of inorganic nanoparticle have been tried and tested, from gold, to iron oxide, to calcium phosphate, and beyond. Many inorganic nanoparticles are not biocompatible within the body, however, this can be overcome by functionalising the surface with organic molecules, such as PEG, to increase their compatibility within the body.

However, where this area has been let down is in their inability to be easily broken down after use and the subsequent difficulty to be excreted.

Organic Nanocarriers

Organic-based nanocarriers are the fastest growing area of nano-inspired drug delivery systems, and the reason for this expansion is due to the (often) inability of inorganic drug carriers to be broken down within the body and excreted. By comparison, the organic make-up of organic carriers, such as those made of certain types of polymers, dendrimer architectures and lipid-based encapsulating vessels (liposomes), can be broken down and excreted and offer a much greater degree of biocompatibility.

Each mechanism of delivery is different for these systems. For example, dendrimer-based delivery vessels will often have the drug covalently linked (conjugated) to the dendrimer backbone itself, and when it reaches a target of interest, certain functional groups at the edges will bind to the target and release the drug through molecular cleavage.

However, the most common way of delivering drugs is through encapsulation, as the toxicity (and the possibility of the drug interacting with the body before it reaches the target) is significantly reduced.

By using this approach, the nanocarrier can uptake the drug of interest into its core, where it is only released once the nanocarrier has reached the target of interest—thus lowering the risk of the drug being cleaved and released on route to the target site.

Solid Drug Nanoparticles

 Solid drug nanoparticles are another growing nanotechnology-inspired drug delivery system, but their use is not (yet) as widespread as organic delivery vessels. However, they do avoid some of the regulatory complications, as their use does not involve any extra species other than already approved drugs in an efficient nanoparticle form.

Solid drug nanoparticles are the nanoparticle form of a conventional drug; and take the form of being packed into a template, or as a suspension—therefore no delivery system is required and are administered by injection. The drug nanoparticles are often created through a bottom-up controlled precipitation of the drug to be administered, or by a top-down grinding approach of larger pieces of the drug until they are in the nanoparticle size range.

Aside from providing a more straightforward route to the clinic from a regulatory perspective, they also offer a way to tackle drug adherence issues—i.e. where people don’t take their required medication on time, which causes the effectiveness of the drug to be reduced—by providing a long-lasting, slow release of the drug over a period of 1 to 6 months.

Contributed and Written by Liam Critchley

Nano Magazine the magazine for Small Science