NREL Reports: Plug-In EV’s and the ‘Charging Infrastructure’ Needed to Support Them


How much vehicle charging infrastructure is needed in the United States to support broader adoption scenarios for various types of plug-in electric vehicles?

 

 
A new report by NREL for the U.S. Department of Energy takes a look, providing guidance to public and private stakeholders seeking a nationwide network of non-residential (public and workplace) vehicle charging infrastructure.

See the full report at: http://bit.ly/2xWVfjh

 

 

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Clemson University team’s graphene-enhanced aluminum-ion batteries outperform lithium-ion ones


Oct 19, 2017

Clemson’s graphene-enhanced aluminum ion batteries outperform Li-ion ones image



Researchers at Clemson University in the U.S have shown that replacing lithium with aluminum and graphene may be key for next-gen batteries.

Aluminum is regarded as non-toxic and much more plentiful than the lithium currently in widespread use (and cheaper). Aluminum also transfers energy more efficiently. Inside a battery, the element — lithium or aluminum — gives up some of its electrons, which flow through external wires to power a device.

Because of their atomic structure, lithium ions can only provide one electron at a time; aluminum can give three at a time. That, the team says, is the real point of the switch.
Still, aluminum ion batteries designed by other researchers have not performed as well as lithium ion batteries.

The Clemson team describes how they were able to get aluminum ion to perform better than previously tested aluminum ion batteries. “The problem isn’t that aluminum ions are deficient,” said a graduate student at the Clemson Nanomaterials Institute and the first author of the Nano Energy paper. 

It’s that unlike lithium ions that have been around for a while, we do not know much about how aluminum ions behave inside the battery.”


Material Matters

The electrode in a battery is like a bucket and the electrical charge is like sand inside the bucket. If the sand starts to flow out, the speed at which it flows is the current. The greater the speed (the larger the current) the quicker the bucket is empty and the sooner the battery goes flat. The more sand you store in the bucket, the longer the current lasts.

The Clemson team seems to have found a way to pack more sand in the bucket and used tools to confirm the bucket was full. Their new battery technology uses aluminum foil and few-layer graphene as the electrode to store electrical charge from aluminum ions present in the electrolyte.

“We knew that aluminum ions could be stored inside few-layer graphene,” the team said. “But the ions need to be packed efficiently to increase the battery capacity. The arrangement of aluminum ions inside graphene is critical for better battery performance.”

“These aluminum batteries can last more than 10,000 cycles without any performance loss,” the researchers said. “Our hope is to make aluminum batteries with higher energy to ultimately displace lithium-ion technology.”
The next step toward a commercially viable aluminum ion battery is lowering the cost. Although aluminum is relatively inexpensive, the electrolytes are pricey.

Source:  Clemson

NREL: Demonstrating and Advancing Benefits of Hydrogen Technology



by Bryan S. Pivovar, Ph.D, H2@Scale Lead/Group Manager, Chemistry and Nanosciences Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Over the past several decades, technological advancements and cost reductions have dramatically changed the economic potential of hydrogen in our energy system. 
Fuel cell electric vehicles are now available for commercial sale and hydrogen stations are open to the public (more than 2,000 fuel cell vehicles are on the road and more than 30 fueling stations are open to the public in California). 

Low-cost wind and solar power are quickly changing the power generation landscape and creating a need for technologies that enhance the flexibility of the grid in the mid- to long-term.

The vision of a clean, sustainable energy system with hydrogen serving as the critical centerpiece is the focus of H2@Scale, a major initiative involving multiple U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program offices, led by DOE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and 14 DOE national laboratories. 

H2@Scale expands the focus of hydrogen technologies beyond power generation and transportation, to grid services and industrial processes that use hydrogen.

The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) serves as a world-class, sophisticated testbed to evaluate and advance the H2@Scale concept. 

The ESIF is a DOE user facility interacting with multiple industrial stakeholders to accelerate the adoption of clean energy, including hydrogen-based technologies. Many of the barriers for making the H2@Scale vision a reality are being addressed today within ESIF by NREL researchers along with other industrial and national laboratory collaborators. 

The unique testbed capabilities at NREL and collaborating national labs are now available for use by industry and several partnerships are currently in development.
Within the ESIF, NREL researchers use electrons and water to produce hydrogen at rates of up to 100 kg/day (enough to fuel ~6,000 miles of travel in today’s fuel cell electric vehicles or more than 20 cars) with plans to expand capacity to four times this level. 

The hydrogen produced is compressed and stored in the 350 kg of on-site storage available at pressures as high as 12,500 psi. The hydrogen is used in multiple applications at the ESIF, including fueling fuel cell electric vehicles, testing and validating hydrogen infrastructure components and systems, producing renewable natural gas (through biological reaction with carbon dioxide), and as a feedstock for fuel cell power generation and research and development efforts.

To accelerate the H2@Scale concept, the cost, performance, and durability of hydrogen production, infrastructure (distribution and storage), and end use technologies need to be improved. NREL researchers, along with other labs, are actively demonstrating and advancing hydrogen technology in a number of areas including low-temperature electrolysis, biological production of renewable natural gas, and infrastructure.

Renewable hydrogen via low-temperature electrolysis




Today’s small-scale electrolysis systems are capable of producing several kilograms (kg) of hydrogen per day, but can cost as much as $10 per watt. At larger scale, megawatt (MW) systems producing more than 400 kg per day can cost under $2 per watt. However, for low-temperature electrolyzer systems to compete with the established steam methane reforming process for hydrogen production, the capital cost needs to be reduced to far below $1 per watt.

NREL has ongoing collaborations with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to demonstrate control of a 250-kW electrolyzer system in a real-time grid simulation using a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL)-based approach to verify the performance of electrolyzer systems in providing grid support. HIL couples modeling and hardware in real-time simulations to better understand the performance of complex systems. 

The electrolyzer system, a building block for megawatt-scale deployment, was remotely controlled based on simulations of signals from a power grid. NREL and INL engineers demonstrated the ability of an electrolyzer to respond to grid signals in sub-seconds, making electrolyzers a viable candidate for “demand response” technologies that help control frequency and voltage on the grid by adjusting their power intake based on grid signals. 

A key enabler of low-cost electrolysis will be for electrolyzer technologies to respond dynamically to grid signals, such that they access low-cost power when available. The potential performance and durability implications of such dynamic operation are being elucidated in ongoing tests. Such experiments are essential to assess the potential for electrolyzers to support grid resiliency and to identify remaining R&D needs toward this value proposition.
NREL’s scientists are developing and exploring new materials for electrolysis systems, including advanced catalysts based on nanowire architecture and alkaline membranes, and approaches for integrating these materials into low-cost, durable membrane electrode assemblies.  

Antibiotics dosed with quantum dots appear to be better at killing superbugs



A researcher holds up a device used to test “super” bacteria’s ability to growth in the presence of antibiotics.CDC

Scientists have used quantum dots activated by light to help antibiotics fight bacteria more effectively. This could be a powerful new tool in the fight against antibiotic-resistant infections.

Quantum dots

Quantum dots, currently used in place of organic dyes in various experiments using photo-electronics to trace the ways that drugs and other molecules move through the body, may have a new supportive role in healthcare.

Scientists have engineered quantum dot nanoparticles that produce chemicals that can make bacteria more vulnerable to antibiotics. This will hopefully be a step forward in the fight against drug-resistant pathogens, like superbugs, and the infections they cause.

In this study, antibiotics empowered by the experimental quantum dots were 1,000 times more effective at fighting off bacteria than antibiotics alone. The quantum dots used were about the width of a strand of DNA, 3 nanometers in diameter. The dots were made of cadmium telluride, a stable crystalline compound often used in photovoltaics.

The electrons of the quantum dots react to green light at a particular frequency, causing them to bond with oxygen molecules in the body and form superoxide. Bacteria that absorbs the substance are unable to fend off antibiotics, as their internal chemistry falls out of balance.

The team mixed different quantities of quantum dots into varying concentrations of each of five antibiotics to create the range of samples for testing. They then added these test samples to five strains of drug-resistant bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, and Salmonella.

In the 480 tests with different quantum dots/antibiotics/bacteria combinations, more than 75 percent of the samples with quantum dots were able to curb bacterial growth or kill the bacteria entirely with lower doses of antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is becoming a growing problem considering how fast bacteria is adapting to medication.Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Antibiotic resistance



According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is among the most serious threats to food security, health, and development in the world. It can affect anyone in any country, and infections like gonorrhea, pneumonia, and tuberculosis thar were once simple to treat are now becoming increasingly difficult to manage due to antibiotic resistance.

Aside from obvious health and even mortality risks, antibiotic resistance also causes higher medical costs and longer hospital stays. And, although some level of antibiotic resistance occurs naturally as bacteria adapt to survive, misuse of antibiotics in both animals and humans is drastically accelerating this process.


In the US alone, at least 2 million people are affected by antibiotic resistance every year. And, if nothing is done to combat this problem, by 2050 antibiotic resistance will kill more than 10 million people. 

Researchers are working on a variety of techniques to overcome this challenge. Some are using CRISPR to attack the bacteria directly, while others are looking for answers by studying the ways that ants battle detrimental fungi. Meanwhile, scientists are searching for the genetic origins of antibiotic resistance and some are even battling resistance by studying the ways bacteria behave in space.

One limitation of this study’s use of quantum dots is the light that activates the process; it has to come from somewhere, and it can only radiate through a few millimeters of flesh.

For now, these quantum dots would really only be useful for surface issues. However, the team is also working to develop nanoparticles that absorb infrared light instead, as infrared light can pass through the body and could be used to treat bone and deep tissue infections.

 

Paper-based Supercapacitor uses metal Nanoparticles to Boost Energy Density


GIT Paper SuperCap 171005121053_1_540x360Images show the difference between paper prior to metallization (left) and the paper coated with conductive nanoparticles. Credit: Ko et al., published in Nature Communications

Using a simple layer-by-layer coating technique, researchers from the U.S. and Korea have developed a paper-based flexible supercapacitor that could be used to help power wearable devices. The device uses metallic nanoparticles to coat cellulose fibers in the paper, creating supercapacitor electrodes with high energy and power densities — and the best performance so far in a textile-based supercapacitor.

By implanting conductive and charge storage materials in the paper, the technique creates large surface areas that function as current collectors and nanoparticle reservoirs for the electrodes. Testing shows that devices fabricated with the technique can be folded thousands of times without affecting conductivity.

“This type of flexible energy storage device could provide unique opportunities for connectivity among wearable and internet of things devices,” said Seung Woo Lee, an assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We could support an evolution of the most advanced portable electronics. We also have an opportunity to combine this supercapacitor with energy-harvesting devices that could power biomedical sensors, consumer and military electronics, and similar applications.”

The research, done with collaborators at Korea University, was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea and reported September 14 in the journal Nature Communications.

Energy storage devices are generally judged on three properties: their energy density, power density and cycling stability. Supercapacitors often have high power density, but low energy density — the amount of energy that can be stored — compared to batteries, which often have the opposite attributes. In developing their new technique, Lee and collaborator Jinhan Cho from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Korea University set out to boost energy density of the supercapacitors while maintaining their high power output.

The researchers began by dipping paper samples into a beaker of solution containing an amine surfactant material designed to bind the gold nanoparticles to the paper. Next they dipped the paper into a solution containing gold nanoparticles. Because the fibers are porous, the surfactants and nanoparticles enter the fibers and become strongly attached, creating a conformal coating on each fiber.

By repeating the dipping steps, the researchers created a conductive paper on which they added alternating layers of metal oxide energy storage materials such as manganese oxide. The ligand-mediated layer-by-layer approach helped minimize the contact resistance between neighboring metal and/or metal oxide nanonparticles. Using the simple process done at room temperatures, the layers can be built up to provide the desired electrical properties.

“It’s basically a very simple process,” Lee said. “The layer-by-layer process, which we did in alternating beakers, provides a good conformal coating on the cellulose fibers. We can fold the resulting metallized paper and otherwise flex it without damage to the conductivity.”

Though the research involved small samples of paper, the solution-based technique could likely be scaled up using larger tanks or even a spray-on technique. “There should be no limitation on the size of the samples that we could produce,” Lee said. “We just need to establish the optimal layer thickness that provides good conductivity while minimizing the use of the nanoparticles to optimize the tradeoff between cost and performance.”

The researchers demonstrated that their self-assembly technique improves several aspects of the paper supercapacitor, including its areal performance, an important factor for measuring flexible energy-storage electrodes. The maximum power and energy density of the metallic paper-based supercapacitors are estimated to be 15.1mWcm?2 and 267.3 ?Wh cm?2, respectively, substantially outperforming conventional paper or textile supercapacitors.

The next steps will include testing the technique on flexible fabrics, and developing flexible batteries that could work with the supercapacitors. The researchers used gold nanoparticles because they are easy to work with, but plan to test less expensive metals such as silver and copper to reduce the cost.

During his Ph.D. work, Lee developed the layer-by-layer self-assembly process for energy storage using different materials. With his Korean collaborators, he saw a new opportunity to apply that to flexible and wearable devices with nanoparticles.

“We have nanoscale control over the coating applied to the paper,” he added. “If we increase the number of layers, the performance continues to increase. And it’s all based on ordinary paper.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Georgia Institute of TechnologyNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yongmin Ko, Minseong Kwon, Wan Ki Bae, Byeongyong Lee, Seung Woo Lee, Jinhan Cho. Flexible supercapacitor electrodes based on real metal-like cellulose papersNature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00550-3

Light-activated Nanoparticles (Quantum Dots) can supercharge current antibiotics


QDs and Antibiotics CU 171004142650_1_540x360CU Boulder researcher Colleen Courtney (left) speaks with Assistant Professor Anushree Chatterjee (right) inside a lab in the BioFrontiers Institute.
Credit: University of Colorado Boulder

Light-activated nanoparticles, also known as quantum dots, can provide a crucial boost in effectiveness for antibiotic treatments used to combat drug-resistant superbugs such as E. coliand Salmonella, new University of Colorado Boulder research shows.

Multi-drug resistant pathogens, which evolve their defenses faster than new antibiotic treatments can be developed to treat them, cost the United States an estimated $20 billion in direct healthcare costs and an additional $35 billion in lost productivity in 2013.

CU Boulder researchers, however, were able to re-potentiate existing antibiotics for certain clinical isolate infections by introducing nano-engineered quantum dots, which can be deployed selectively and activated or de-activated using specific wavelengths of light.

Rather than attacking the infecting bacteria conventionally, the dots release superoxide, a chemical species that interferes with the bacteria’s metabolic and cellular processes, triggering a fight response that makes it more susceptible to the original antibiotic.

“We’ve developed a one-two knockout punch,” said Prashant Nagpal, an assistant professor in CU Boulder’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE) and the co-lead author of the study. “The bacteria’s natural fight reaction [to the dots] actually leaves it more vulnerable.”

The findings, which were published today in the journal Science Advances, show that the dots reduced the effective antibiotic resistance of the clinical isolate infections by a factor of 1,000 without producing adverse side effects.

“We are thinking more like the bug,” said Anushree Chatterjee, an assistant professor in CHBE and the co-lead author of the study. “This is a novel strategy that plays against the infection’s normal strength and catalyzes the antibiotic instead.”

While other previous antibiotic treatments have proven too indiscriminate in their attack, the quantum dots have the advantage of being able to work selectively on an intracellular level. Salmonella, for example, can grow and reproduce inside host cells. The dots, however, are small enough to slip inside and help clear the infection from within.

“These super-resistant bugs already exist right now, especially in hospitals,” said Nagpal. “It’s just a matter of not contracting them. But they are one mutation away from becoming much more widespread infections.”

Overall, Chatterjee said, the most important advantage of the quantum dot technology is that it offers clinicians an adaptable multifaceted approach to fighting infections that are already straining the limits of current treatments.

“Disease works much faster than we do,” she said. “Medicine needs to evolve as well.”

Going forward, the researchers envision quantum dots as a kind of platform technology that can be scaled and modified to combat a wide range of infections and potentially expand to other therapeutic applications.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. Original written by Trent Knoss. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Colleen M. Courtney, Samuel M. Goodman, Toni A. Nagy, Max Levy, Pallavi Bhusal, Nancy E. Madinger, Corrella S. Detweiler, Prashant Nagpal, and Anushree Chatterjee. Potentiating antibiotics in drug-resistant clinical isolates via stimuli-activated superoxide generationScience Advances, 04 Oct 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701776

Tesla wants to build special charging stations that sell food and coffee — and it could be a huge opportunity … Or NOT!


 

Tesla wants to build special charging stations that sell food and coffee — and it could be a huge opportunity

Tesla Coffee – I’ll have a cup of Musk’s Blend – Business Insider

• Tesla is planning to build more retail-and-lifestyle focused “Mega Supercharger locations.”
• This might tempt the company to partner with the Amazons and Starbucks of the world.
• IOHO – That would be a big mistake!

As Tesla expands its Supercharger network, the automaker intends to up its game, building higher-end, retail-rich locations that CEO Elon Musk has called “Mega Superchargers” but that we’ll call just Megachargers.

CEO Elon Musk has speculatively described them as “like really big supercharging locations with a bunch of amenities,” complete with “great restrooms, great food, amenities” and an awesome place to “hang out for half an hour and then be on your way.”


The move makes sense. 



Superchargers are currently located through the US and other countries, providing the fastest rate of recharging available to Tesla owners. The station can have varying numbers of charging stalls, however, and they aren’t always located in the best areas for passing the time while a Tesla inhales new electrons, although Tesla typically tries to construct them near retail and dining options.

With more Tesla hitting the road in coming years as more and more Model 3 sedans are delivered (Tesla has about 500,000 pre-orders for the car, priced from $35,000-$44,000), additional Superchargers will be needed. Creating stand-alone Megachargers that function sort of like Tesla stores would enhance the ownership experience — and open new opportunities to the company.

At Business Insider, when we heard about the Megachargers, a discussion broke out. Should Tesla partner with Amazon or Starbucks to develop these locations, offering great shopping, food, and above all else … coffee?

Bring on the Tesla Brew


A Starbucks store is seen inside the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson      

Don’t do it, Tesla!Thomson Reuters I insisted, “NO NO NO!”
There’s no way that Tesla can blow the chance to create its own coffee. They could call it “Elon’s Blend” — bold, complex flavors, with a hint of, um, musk.

In all seriousness, for Tesla to share its Megacharger commerce might sound great, but it wouldn’t fit with the company’s plan to move toward greater vertical integration, owning not just the entire manufacturing process for its cars but also controlling its brand experience from top to bottom.

A recent example of Tesla’s reluctance to partner for the sake of partnering was the announcement that the carmaker could be working on its own streaming service. There are other instances that aren’t as obvious. Tesla’s audio system is an in-house design, a departure from what most luxury automaker do, which is joined with a well-known premium audio brands such as Bose or Bowers & Wilkins.

The company is already focused on building its own vehicle components, ranging from the guts of its cars — the battery packs and drivetrains — to seats and, of course, software. 

For a huge automaker, this type of integration can be impractical, but at Tesla’s current size, its business model operates more like Ford’s or GM’s did back before World War II, when near-total vertical integration was an advantage.


Supercharging is fun — and could be more fun!

In this respect, I’m using Tesla Brew as a symbolic bit of humor: it’s not entirely logical for Tesla to give away any branding opportunity that bolsters its existing and future owners’ perception that the Tesla experience is unique, self-contained, and dramatically different from what other carmakers are selling.

The Megachargers, if they’re built, are going to have a significant effect on how the overall Tesla experience is enjoyed. At the moment, the Supercharger network is pretty far-flung.

But Tesla wants to locate more fast-charging stations along the routes owners are likely to travel, so you could end up in a nice retail location just as easily as you could an out-of-the-way venue where there isn’t much to do besides consider some fast-food options.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but Tesla is a premium brand and for the most part, presents itself accordingly. You don’t find Tesla stores in odd places; you find them in upscale urban areas.

Tesla has endured its problems, but marketing isn’t one of them. Musk and his team might not yet have delivered 100,000 vehicles in a full year, but they’ve delivered almost that — with no advertising whatsoever. In the car world, 
Tesla ranks with Ferrari in terms of its aspirational aspects, and outside the car world, one thinks immediately of Apple. In the retail realm, Starbucks pops to mind, and that in itself is reason enough for Tesla to avoid putting the Green Siren next to its logo at Megacharger locations. 

If you’re a little bit cynical about Tesla, you might argue that the company is much better at marketing than it is at the whole car thing, and you’d be right. However, few people get excited about Ford- or Toyota-branded products that aren’t cars, and even Ferrari-branded merchandise isn’t always coveted, something that Ferrari, now a public company, is trying to change.

Tesla is already a luxury, and with an added high-tech, save-the-planet edge to everything. It’s begun the remaking of transportation. It could now be time to remake coffee, too. 

Tiny Nanoparticles Could Help Repair Damaged Brain And Nerve Cells


brain-quantum-1-download (1)

When our brains develop problems, such as degenerative diseases or epilepsy, some of the trouble can be electrical. As nerve signals involve electrically charged particles moving around, medics often try to treat associated problems using implanted electrodes. But this is a clumsy and difficult approach. A much better idea could be to implant tiny structures deep in the brain to act almost as miniature electricians. It may sound like science fiction, but it is moving fast towards reality.

Attilio Marino and colleagues at the Smart Bio-Interfaces group at the Italian Institute of Technology in Pontedera are striving to bring the idea to the clinic. They summarise progress in the field in a news and opinions article in Nano Today.brain_header

Nanomaterials are showing great potential in biomedicine since they can interact precisely with living systems down to the level of cells, subcellular structures and even individual molecules,” says Marino.

Marino is most interested in ‘piezoelectric‘ materials, which can convert mechanical stimulation into electrical energy, or vice-versa. He is exploring using ultrasound to mechanically stimulate nanoparticles into creating electrical signals that may fix problems with brain cells.

He points out that ultrasound offers a way to get a signal deep into brain tissue without using invasive electrodes, which can cause other problems including inflammation. Some researchers try to get round these difficulties using stimulation with light, but light cannot penetrate very deeply so ultrasound is a better option.

The field is still in its early days. Researchers are mainly studying the effects of piezoelectric nanoparticles on cultured cells rather than in animals or people, but the results are promising. Marino’s team, for example, shows that using ultrasound to stimulate nanoparticles embedded in nerve cells can increase the sprouting of new cell-signalling appendages called axons. This is exactly the kind of effect that may one day repair degenerative brain disease.

“We used barium titanate nanoparticles and confirmed the effect was specifically due to the piezoelectricity of our materials,” says Marino.

Other researchers are working with the ‘stem cells‘ that can develop into a wide range of mature types of cell needed by the body. Some are finding that piezoelectric nanomaterials can stimulate stem cells to begin their transformation into a variety of functional cell types.

A long road of safety studies, animal tests and eventual clinical trials lies ahead. But Marino is optimistic, he concludes: “The preliminary successes strongly encourage us that our research is a realistic approach for use in clinical practice in the near future.”


You can read the article for free for a limited time:

Marino, A., et al.: “Piezoelectric nanotransducers: The future of neural stimulation,” Nano Today (2017)

Better photovoltaic efficiency grows from enormous solar crystals: MH Perovskites 


In-depth analysis of the mechanisms that generate floating crystals from hot liquids could lead to large-scale, printable solar cells


New evidence of surface-initiated crystallization may improve the efficiency of printable photovoltaic materials.

In the race to replace silicon in low-cost solar cells, semiconductors known as metal halide perovskites are favored because they can be solution-processed into thin films with excellent photovoltaic efficiency. 

A collaboration between King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Oxford University researchers has now uncovered a strategy that grows perovskites into centimeter-scale, highly pure crystals thanks to the effect of surface tension (ACS Energy Letters, “The role of surface tension in the crystallization of metal halide perovskites”).

In their natural state, perovskites have difficultly moving solar-generated electricity because they crystallize with randomly oriented grains. 

Osman Bakr from KAUST’s Solar Center and coworkers are working on ways to dramatically speed up the flow of these charge carriers using inverse temperature crystallization (ITC). This technique uses special organic liquids and thermal energy to force perovskites to solidify into structures resembling single crystals—the optimal arrangements for device purposes.

While ITC produces high-quality perovskites far faster than conventional chemical methods, the curious mechanisms that initiate crystallization in hot organic liquids are poorly understood. Ayan Zhumekenov, a PhD student in Bakr’s group, recalls spotting a key piece of evidence during efforts to adapt ITC toward large-scale manufacturing. “At some point, we realized that when crystals appeared, it was usually at the solution’s surface,” he says. “And this was particularly true when we used concentrated solutions.”

The KAUST team partnered with Oxford theoreticians to identify how interfaces influence perovskite growth in ITC. They propose that metal halides and solvent molecules initially cling together in tight complexes that begin to stretch and weaken at higher temperatures. With sufficient thermal energy, the complex breaks and perovskites begin to crystallize.

But interestingly, the researchers found that complexes located at the solution surface can experience additional forces due to surface tension—the strong cohesive forces that enable certain insects to stride over lakes and ponds. The extra pull provided by the surface makes it much easier to separate the solvent-perovskite complexes and nucleate crystals that float on top of the liquid.

Exploiting this knowledge helped the team produce centimeter-sized, ultrathin single crystals and prototype a photodetector with characteristics comparable to state-of-the-art devices. Although the single crystals are currently fragile and difficult to handle due to their microscale thicknesses, Zhumekenov explains that this method could help direct the perovskite growth onto specific substrates.

“Taking into account the roles of interfaces and surface tension could have a fundamental impact,” he says, “we can get large-area growth, and it’s not limited to specific metal cations—you could have a library of materials with perovskite structures.”

Source: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

The Future of Batteries, from Human Power to a Wireless Grid


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Extending the battery life of our tech is something that preoccupies manufacturers and consumers alike. With every new phone launch we’re treated to new features, such as increasingly high-res displays and better cameras, but it’s longer battery life we all want. For most of us, being able to use our phone for a full day still means charging it every night, or lugging your charger around all day and hunting for a power socket. And when the electric car revolution reaches full speed, fast-charging, long-life batteries are going to be essential.

Advances in battery life are being made all the time, even if we’re yet to see the full benefits in our day-to-day gadgets.

But what’s beyond that? Wireless power. And we don’t mean laying our phone on a charging pad – we’re talking about long-range wireless power. If this is cracked we could have all our devices at full juice all the time, no matter where we are.

The current tech

The batteries in your current phone, and in electric cars, are lithium-ion. These  charge quickly, last for plenty of cycles and offer decent capacity. But devices are more juice-hungry than ever, and with cars in particular fast charging needs to become more effective, because batteries aren’t going away any time soon.

While wireless power could be a viable option in the future, in the short-to-medium term we need to enhance batteries so that individuals and energy providers can first transition from fossil fuels to green renewable power.

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The battery tech in our smartphones has changed little, even as other features have seen dramatic advances

Louis Shaffer of power management solutions firm Eaton tells TechRadar: “We constantly hear about battery breakthroughs but still have the same lithium-ion batteries in our phones. Innovation takes time. It took over 30 years for li-ion batteries to enter the mainstream, from their invention in the 1980s to featuring in iPhones.”

Another factor in slowing this progress is highlighted by Chris Slattery, product manager at smart lighting manufacturer Tridonic. “The interesting point with mobile phones is that one of the major factors for upgrading your phone is the degradation of the current phone’s battery life,“ he says.

“Increasing the life of these batteries removes a major reason for upgrading to the latest smartphone when the feature set itself doesn’t change that greatly.”

Ultracapacitors

Ultracapacitors are seen by many as the future of energy storage, as they store energy in an electric field, rather than in a chemical reaction as a battery does, meaning they can survive hundreds of thousands more charge and discharge cycles than a battery can.

Taavi Madiburk is CEO of Skeleton Technologies, a global leader in ultracapacitor-based storage solutions. He says: “The future, we believe, lies not in replacing lithium-ion, but coupling this technology with ultracapacitors in a hybrid approach.

“In doing so, it is possible to benefit from both the high energy density of batteries, and the high power density and output of ultracapacitors.

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Advances is energy storage and fast-charging tech are urgently needed if electric car use is to become practicable on a large scale

“Ultracapacitors can be re-charged in a matter of 2-3 seconds, providing one million deep charge/discharge cycles. Also, with ultracapacitors protecting batteries from high power surges, the lifetime of the battery pack is increased by 50% and the range by 10%.

Skeleton is already working to improve power grids to cater for the growing number of electric cars. It sees current large-scale electrical grids being replaced in certain areas by smaller, less centralized grids called microgrids, and, Madiburk adds, “We’re currently working on with ultracapacitors as a piece of that puzzle.”

Solid state batteries

One of the major advances in battery tech right now sticks with good old lithium.

Solid-state lithium batteries dispense with the electrolyte liquid that transfers charged particles, making them safer than current batteries yet still able to operate at super-capacitor levels, meaning that charging and discharging can happen faster.

This is great for car batteries, as it means more power can be utilized by the car for quick pull-away speed, but fast charging will mean drivers need to spend less time at charging stations.

One example of this, from Toyota scientists, is a battery that can be fully charged from empty in just seven minutes.

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Toyota is a the forefront of the development of high-capacity, fast-charging batteries for electric cars

Another promising area is aluminium-air batteries, which have been placed in a car to deliver a whopping 1,100 miles on a single charge. Then there are sand-based batteries, which – while still lithium-ion – manage to offer three times better performance than lithium-ion while being cheaper to make, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

Whisper it, but one of the big hopes for improved batteries for a while now has been graphene. The Grabat battery from Graphenano charges 33 times faster than lithium-ion units, and can deliver high power too, making it ideal for cars.

Battery-free phones

One way to go without batteries is to make gadgets super-low power consuming. A phone has been built that doesn’t even require a battery, so low are its power needs – and it was achieved using components that are available to anyone.

Engineers at the University of Washington designed the phone, which is able to pull power from the environment, with radio signals and light harvested by an antenna and tiny solar cell.

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Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a phone that doesn’t need a battery

The result is enough power to run the 3.5 microwatt-consuming phone. You’re limited to making calls only, but the idea having a tiny credit card-sized backup phone in your wallet will appeal to everyone from constantly on-the-move workers who need to stay in touch, to hikers.

Ambient power

Other breakthroughs have also been based on drawing ambient power from the world around us. One such technology uses sound and nanogenerators, so that simply talking into your phone generates power to charge it.

MIT scientists, meanwhile, have shown off a way to harvest power from water dew in the air; they’ve only been able to create a potential one microwatt so far, but combine these methods, throw in a bit more evolution and we could be looking at a battery-free future.

Over the air power

The dream of transmitting power over the air has existed since the days of the legendary inventor and electrical engineer Nikolas Tesla, but it’s only recently started to become a reality. One company that claims to have mastered the technology, taking it beyond the close-range Qi wireless charging now found in many smartphones, is uBeam.

The uBeam system was cracked by 25-year-old astrobiology grad Meredith Perry, who has since received over $28 million in funding.

This system uses microwaves to transmit energy several metres across a room to power devices. Perry has shown it off charging phones, but says it could be applied to TVs, computers and even cars.

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The uBeam system is capable of charging devices over distances of several meters, but such technology is still in its infancy

It uses a lot of power, costs a lot to manufacture and offers a pretty slow charging rate; but there are no wires to be seen, and this way of delivering power could hail a future without batteries.

If it could be made efficient on a large scale, in a similar way to mobile phone networks, all our devices could draw power from such a system. Imagine phones and electric cars that never need charging.

But is this future as close as uBeam would have its investors and us believe? Probably not.

Human power

This is where things get really interesting – harnessing the power of human beings. Not like in The Matrix, where we’re reduced to a glorified battery, but through friction generated by movement.

Scientists have shown off the tech in action, powering 12 LED bulbs. That’s not going to change the way you use your gadgets right now, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The technology uses a 50nm thin gold film sitting under silicone rubber nanopillars which create maximum surface area with the skin. The result is lots of friction, and all the user has to do is strap the unit on, making it ideal for wearables.

And the Bill Gates Foundation has even developed a process that harvests enough power from our urine to charge a phone, dubbed the Microbial Fuel Cell; that’s pretty much the definition of sustainable power.

GNT New Thumbnail LARGE 2016Watch Our ‘Current’ Video: “Nano Enabled Super Capacitors and Batteries”

 

 

Read More: Super Capacitor Assisted Silicon Nanowire 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 High 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 Scaleable Key Markets & Commercial Applications

 EV –  (18650 & 21700); Drone and Marine Batteries

 Wearable Electronics and The Internet of Things

 Estimated $112B Market by 2025