Grid Batteries Are Poised to Become Cheaper Than Natural-Gas Plants in Minnesota

A 60-acre solar farm in Camp Ripley, a National Guard base in Minnesota.

A new report suggests the economics of large-scale batteries are reaching an important inflection point.

When it comes to renewable energy, Minnesota isn’t typically a headline-grabber: in 2016 it got about 18 percent of its energy from wind, good enough to rank in the top 10 states. 
But it’s just 28th in terms of installed solar capacity, and its relatively small size means projects within its borders rarely garner the attention that giants like California and Texas routinely get.

A new report on the future of energy in the state should turn some heads (PDF). According to the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, starting in 2019 and for the foreseeable future, the overall cost of building grid-scale storage there will be less than that of building natural-gas plants to meet future energy demand.

Minnesota currently gets about 21 percent of its energy from renewables. That’s not bad, but current plans also call for bringing an additional 1,800 megawatts of gas-fired “peaker” plants online by 2028 to meet growing demand. As the moniker suggests, these plants are meant to spin up quickly to meet daily peaks in energy demand—something renewables tend to be bad at because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.

Storing energy from renewables could solve that problem, but it’s traditionally been thought of as too expensive compared with other forms of energy.

The new report suggests otherwise. According to the analysis, bringing lithium-ion batteries online for grid storage would be a good way to stockpile energy for when it’s needed, and it would prove less costly than building and operating new natural-gas plants.

The finding comes at an interesting time. For one thing, the price of lithium-ion batteries continues to plummet, something that certainly has the auto industry’s attention. And grid-scale batteries, while still relatively rare, are popping up more and more these days. The Minnesota report, then, suggests that such projects may become increasingly common—and could be a powerful way to lower emissions without sending our power bills skyrocketing in the process.
(Read more: Minnesota Public Radio, “Texas and California Have Too Much Renewable Energy,” 

“The One and Only Texas Wind Boom,” “By 2040, More Than Half of All New Cars Could Be Electric”)

Volvo Places ‘BIG Bet’ on the Electric Vehicle (EV) Market (w/video Tenka Magnum ‘Battery Pack’)

Volvo EC rd1707_volvo

One of the most well-known car companies in the world is placing a big bet on the future of alternative energy.

Volvo announced on Wednesday it would produce every car model with an electric motor starting in 2019.

This move marks the first time a traditional automaker has decided to phase out the use of traditional combustion engines in their vehicles.

Volvo’s portfolio will be comprised of a mix of electrified and hybrid cars across a variety of model ranges.

The company plans on launching the first five fully electric models between 2019 and 2021, which will be supplemented by a mix of petrol and diesel plug in hybrid and mild hybrid 48 volt options on all models, according to the announcement.

Volvo’s goal is to sell an approximate 1 million electrified cars by 2025.

Combustion engines will still be part of Volvo’s cars for 2018, but this decision signifies a real shift in auto manufacturers’ interest in electric and hybrid vehicles as they contend with factors like stricter emissions regulations.

“This is about the customer,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo, in a statement. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

Specific details regarding the models of the electric powered vehicles will be provided at a later date.

Tenka Power Max SuperCap Battery Pack for 18650 and 21700 Markets

Published on Apr 26, 2017

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 Manfacturing 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

Electrodes Push Charging Rate Limits in Energy Storage: Using MXene in Electrode Design: Drexel University

Drexel Energy Storage Electrodes Key rd1707_MXene-electrode-crop

Drexel researchers developed electrode designs using MXene that allow for much faster charging because they open up paths for ions to quickly travel within the material. Source: Drexel University


Can you imagine fully charging your cell phone in just a few seconds? Researchers in Drexel University’s College of Engineering can, and they took a big step toward making it a reality with their recent work unveiling of a new battery electrode design in the journal Nature Energy.

The team, led by Yury Gogotsi, PhD,Distinguished University and Bach professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering, in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, created the new electrode designs from a highly conductive, two-dimensional material called MXene. Their design could make energy storage devices like batteries, viewed as the plodding tanker truck of energy storage technology, just as fast as the speedy supercapacitors that are used to provide energy in a pinch — often as a battery back-up or to provide quick bursts of energy for things like camera flashes.

“This paper refutes the widely accepted dogma that chemical charge storage, used in batteries and pseudocapacitors, is always much slower than physical storage used in electrical double-layer capacitors, also known as supercapacitors,” Gogotsi said. “We demonstrate charging of thin MXene electrodes in tens of milliseconds. This is enabled by very high electronic conductivity of MXene. This paves the way to development of ultrafast energy storage devices than can be charged and discharged within seconds, but store much more energy than conventional supercapacitors.”

The key to faster charging energy storage devices is in the electrode design. Electrodes are essential components of batteries, through which energy is stored during charging and from which it is disbursed to power electronic devices. So the ideal design for these components would be one that allows them to be quickly charged and store more energy.

To store more energy, the materials should have places to put it. Electrode materials in batteries offer ports for charge to be stored. In electrochemistry, these ports, called “redox active sites” are the places that hold an electrical charge when each ion is delivered. So if the electrode material has more ports, it can store more energy — which equates to a battery with more “juice.”

Collaborators Patrice Simon, PhD, and Zifeng Lin, from Université Paul Sabatier in France, produced a hydrogel electrode design with more redox active sites, which allows it to store as much charge for its volume as a battery. This measure of capacity, termed “volumetric performance,” is an important metric for judging the utility of any energy storage device.

To make those plentiful hydrogel electrode ports even more attractive to ion traffic, the Drexel-led team, including researchers Maria Lukatskaya, PhD, Sankalp Kota, a graduate student in Drexel’s MAX/MXene Research Group led by Michel Barsoum, PhD,distinguished professor in the College of Engineering; and Mengquiang Zhao, PhD, designed electrode architectures with open macroporosity — many small openings — to make each redox active sites in the MXene material readily accessible to ions.

Mxene 2 containingou“In traditional batteries and supercapacitors, ions have a tortuous path toward charge storage ports, which not only slows down everything, but it also creates a situation where very few ions actually reach their destination at fast charging rates,” said Lukatskayathe first author on the paper, who conducted the research as part of the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. “The ideal electrode architecture would be something like ions moving to the ports via multi-lane, high-speed ‘highways,’ instead of taking single-lane roads. Our macroporous electrode design achieves this goal, which allows for rapid charging — on the order of a few seconds or less.”

The overarching benefit of using MXene as the material for the electrode design is its conductivity. Materials that allow for rapid flow of an electrical current, like aluminum and copper, are often used in electric cables. MXenes are  conductive, just like metals, so not only do ions have a wide-open path to a number of storage ports, but they can also move very quickly to meet electrons there. Mikhael Levi, PhD, and Netanel Shpigel, research collaborators from Bar-Ilan University in Israel, helped the Drexel group maximize the number of the ports accessible to ions in MXene electrodes.mxene-polymer-nanocomposite-material

Use in battery electrodes is just the latest in a series of developments with the MXene material that was discovered by researchers in Drexel’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2011. Since then, researchers have been testing them in a variety of applications from energy storage to electromagnetic radiation shielding, and water filtering. This latest development is significant in particular because it addresses one of the primary problems hindering the expansion of the electric vehicle market and that has been lurking on the horizon for mobile devices.

“If we start using low-dimensional and electronically conducting materials as battery electrodes, we can make batteries working much, much faster than today,” Gogotsi said. “Eventually, appreciation of this fact will lead us to car, laptop and cell-phone batteries capable of charging at much higher rates — seconds or minutes rather than hours.”

This research was supported by Fluid Interface Reactions, Structures and Transport (FIRST) Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Office of Basic Energy Sciences; as well as the National Science Foundation and Binational Science Foundation, which supported collaborations with France and Israel, respectively.

What are MXenes ?

MXenes are a new family of two-dimensional (2D) transition metal carbides, carbonitrides and nitrides that were discovered and developed in collaboration with Prof. Barsoum’s group, that can be used in many applications. These applications include lithium-ion and sodium-ion energy storage systems, electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding, and water purification. MXenes are highly desirable in EMI shielding due to their good flexibility, easy processing, and high conductivity with minimal thickness, having the highest EMI shielding effectiveness of all synthetic materials of similar thickness. MXenes are also promising antibacterial agents, with higher efficiency than graphene oxide in diminishing bacterial cell viability.



AE_Nanomaterials_Figure 1Read More: 2D Carbides and Nitrides (MXenes)

MIT: Antibiotic Nanoparticles fight drug-resistant bacteria


Researchers are hoping to use nanotechnology to develop more targeted treatments for drug-resistant bacteria. In this illustration, an antimicrobial peptide is packaged in a silicon nanoparticle to target bacteria in the lung.Image:  Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Antibiotic Nanoparticles fight drug-resistant bacteria

Targeted treatment could be used for pneumonia and other bacterial infections.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, especially among a type of bacteria that are classified as “Gram-negative.” These bacteria have two cell membranes, making it more difficult for drugs to penetrate and kill the cells.

Researchers from MIT and other institutions are hoping to use nanotechnology to develop more targeted treatments for these drug-resistant bugs. In a new study, they report that an antimicrobial peptide packaged in a silicon nanoparticle dramatically reduced the number of bacteria in the lungs of mice infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a disease causing Gram-negative bacterium that can lead to pneumonia.

This approach, which could also be adapted to target other difficult-to-treat bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, is modeled on a strategy that the researchers have previously used to deliver targeted cancer drugs.

“There are a lot of similarities in the delivery challenges. In infection, as in cancer, the name of the game is selectively killing something, using a drug that has potential side effects,” says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.

Bhatia is the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal Advanced Materials. The lead author is Ester Kwon, a research scientist at the Koch Institute. Other authors are Matthew Skalak, an MIT graduate and former Koch Institute research technician; Alessandro Bertucci, a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California at San Diego; Gary Braun, a postdoc at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute; Francesco Ricci, an associate professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata; Erkki Ruoslahti, a professor at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute; and Michael Sailor, a professor at UCSD.

Synergistic peptides

As bacteria grow increasingly resistant to traditional antibiotics, one alternative that some researchers are exploring is antimicrobial peptides — naturally occurring defensive proteins that can kill many types of bacteria by disrupting cellular targets such as membranes and proteins or cellular processes such as protein synthesis.

A few years ago, Bhatia and her colleagues began investigating the possibility of delivering antimicrobial peptides in a targeted fashion using nanoparticles. They also decided to try combining an antimicrobial peptide with another peptide that would help the drug cross bacterial membranes. This concept was built on previous work suggesting that these “tandem peptides” could kill cancer cells effectively.

For the antimicrobial peptide, the researchers chose a synthetic bacterial toxin called KLAKAK. They attached this toxin to a variety of “trafficking peptides,” which interact with bacterial membranes. Of 25 tandem peptides tested, the best one turned out to be a combination of KLAKAK and a peptide called lactoferrin, which was 30 times more effective at killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa than the individual peptides were on their own. It also had minimal toxic effects on human cells.

To further minimize potential side effects, the researchers packaged the peptides into silicon nanoparticles, which prevent the peptides from being released too soon and damaging tissue while en route to their targets. For this study, the researchers delivered the particles directly into the trachea, but for human use, they plan to design a version that could be inhaled.

After the nanoparticles were delivered to mice with an aggressive bacterial infection, those mice had about one-millionth the number of bacteria in their lungs as untreated mice, and they survived longer. The researchers also found that the peptides could kill strains of drug-resistant Pseudomonas taken from patients and grown in the lab.

Adapting concepts

Infectious disease is a fairly new area of research for Bhatia’s lab, which has spent most of the past 17 years developing nanomaterials to treat cancer. A few years ago, she began working on a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop targeted treatments for infections of the brain, which led to the new lung infection project.

“We’ve adapted a lot of the same concepts from our cancer work, including boosting local concentration of the cargo and then making the cargo selectively interact with the target, which is now bacteria instead of a tumor,” Bhatia says.

She is now working on incorporating another peptide that would help to target antimicrobial peptides to the correct location in the body. A related project involves using trafficking peptides to help existing antibiotics that kill Gram-positive bacteria to cross the double membrane of Gram-negative bacteria, enabling them to kill those bacteria as well.

The research was funded by the Koch Institute Support Grant from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and DARPA.


Rice University: Designing Materials with ‘Stiffness and Flexibility’

Rice Flex Materials 38905-53

Materials scientists at Rice University are looking to nature — at the discs in human spines and the skin in ocean-diving fish, for example — for clues about designing materials with seemingly contradictory properties — flexibility and stiffness.

In research graduate student Peter Owuor, research scientist Chandra Sekhar Tiwary and colleagues from the laboratories of Rice Professor Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou found they could increase the stiffness, or “elastic modulus,” of a soft silicon-based polymer by infusing it with tiny pockets of liquid gallium.

Such composites could find use in high-energy absorption materials and shock absorbers and in biomimetic structures like artificial intervertebral discs, they said.

Owuor said conventional wisdom in composite design for the past 60 years has been that adding a harder substance increases modulus and adding a softer one decreases modulus. In most instances, that’s correct.

“People had not really looked at it from the other way around,” he said. “Is it possible to add something soft inside something else that is also soft and get something that has a higher modulus? If you look at the natural world, there are plenty of examples where you find exactly that. As materials scientists, we wanted to study this, not from a biological perspective but rather from a mechanical one.”

For example, the discs between the vertebrae in human spines, which act like both shock absorbers and ligaments, are made of a tough outer layer of cartilage and a soft, jelly-like interior. And the outer skin of deep-diving ocean fish and mammals contain myriad tiny oil-filled chambers — some no larger than a virus and others larger than entire cells — that allow the animals to withstand the intense pressures that exist thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface.Rice Flex Materials2 38906-53.jpg

Choosing the basic materials to model these living systems was relatively easy, but finding a way to bring them together to mimic nature proved difficult, said Tiwary, a postdoctoral research associate in Rice’s Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering.

Polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, was chosen as the soft encapsulating layer for a number of reasons: It’s cheap, inert, nontoxic and widely used in everything from caulk and aquarium sealants to cosmetics and food additives. It also dries clear, which made it easy to see the bubbles of liquid the team wanted to encapsulate. For that, the researchers chose gallium, which like mercury is liquid at room temperature, but unlike mercury is nontoxic and relatively easy to work with.

Owuor said it took nearly four months to find a recipe for encapsulating bubbles of gallium inside PDMS. His test samples are about the diameter of a small coin and as much as a quarter-inch thick. By curing the PDMS slowly, Owuor developed a process by which he could add gallium droplets of various sizes. Some samples contained one large inner chamber, and others contained up to a dozen discrete droplets.

Each sample was subjected to dozens of tests. A dynamic mechanical analysis instrument was used to measure how much the material deformed under load, and various measures like stiffness, toughness and elasticity were measured under a variety of conditions. For example, with a relatively small amount of cooling, gallium can be turned into a solid. So the team was able to compare some measurements taken when the gallium spheres were liquid with measures taken when the spheres were solid.

Collaborators Roy Mahapatra and Shashishekarayya Hiremath of the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore used finite element modeling and hydrodynamic simulations to help the team analyze how the materials behaved under mechanical stress. Based on this, the researchers determined that pockets of liquid gallium gave the composite higher energy absorption and dissipation characteristics than plain PDMS or PDMS with air-filled pockets.

“What we’ve shown is that putting liquid inside a solid is not always going to make it softer, and thanks to our collaborators we are able to explain why this is the case,” Tiwary said. “Next we hope to use this understanding to try to engineer materials to take advantage of these properties.”

Owuor and Tiwary said just using nanoengineering alone may not provide a maximum effect. Instead, nature employs hierarchical structures with features of varying sizes that repeat at larger scales, like those found in the oil-filled chambers in fish skin.

“If you look at (the fish’s) membrane and you section it, there is a layer where you have spheres with big diameters, and as you move, the diameters keep decreasing,” Owuor said. “The chambers are seen across the whole scale, from the nano- all the way out to the microscale.

Tiwary said, “There are important nanoscale features in nature, but it’s not all nano. We may find that engineering at the nanoscale alone isn’t enough. We want to see if we can start designing in a hierarchical way.”

Ajayan is chair of Rice’s Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering and a professor of chemistry.

The research was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Additional Rice co-authors include Lou, Alin Chipara and Robert Vajtai.

MIT: Dialysis membrane made from Graphene filters more quickly

MIT Dialysis 170629131958_1_540x360
1) Graphene, grown on copper foil, is pressed against a supporting sheet of polycarbonate. 2) The polycarbonate acts to peel the graphene from the copper. 3) Using interfacial polymerization, researchers seal large tears and defects in graphene. 4) Next, they use oxygen plasma to etch pores of specific sizes in graphene.
Credit: Courtesy of the researchers (edited by MIT News)

Material can filter nanometer-sized molecules at 10 to 100 times the rate of commercial membranes

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: A functional dialysis membrane has been fabricated from a sheet of graphene — a single layer of carbon atoms, linked end to end in hexagonal configuration like that of chicken wire. The graphene membrane, about the size of a fingernail, is less than 1 nanometer thick.

Dialysis, in the most general sense, is the process by which molecules filter out of one solution, by diffusing through a membrane, into a more dilute solution. Outside of hemodialysis, which removes waste from blood, scientists use dialysis to purify drugs, remove residue from chemical solutions, and isolate molecules for medical diagnosis, typically by allowing the materials to pass through a porous membrane.

Today’s commercial dialysis membranes separate molecules slowly, in part due to their makeup: They are relatively thick, and the pores that tunnel through such dense membranes do so in winding paths, making it difficult for target molecules to quickly pass through.

Now MIT engineers have fabricated a functional dialysis membrane from a sheet of graphene — a single layer of carbon atoms, linked end to end in hexagonal configuration like that of chicken wire. The graphene membrane, about the size of a fingernail, is less than 1 nanometer thick. (The thinnest existing membranes are about 20 nanometers thick.) The team’s membrane is able to filter out nanometer-sized molecules from aqueous solutions up to 10 times faster than state-of-the-art membranes, with the graphene itself being up to 100 times faster.

While graphene has largely been explored for applications in electronics, Piran Kidambi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, says the team’s findings demonstrate that graphene may improve membrane technology, particularly for lab-scale separation processes and potentially for hemodialysis.

MIT Dialysis 170629131958_1_540x360“Because graphene is so thin, diffusion across it will be extremely fast,” Kidambi says. “A molecule doesn’t have to do this tedious job of going through all these tortuous pores in a thick membrane before exiting the other side. Moving graphene into this regime of biological separation is very exciting.”

Kidambi is a lead author of a study reporting the technology, published in Advanced Materials. Six co-authors are from MIT, including Rohit Karnik, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Jing Kong, associate professor of electrical engineering.

Plugging graphene

To make the graphene membrane, the researchers first used a common technique called chemical vapor deposition to grow graphene on copper foil. They then carefully etched away the copper and transferred the graphene to a supporting sheet of polycarbonate, studded throughout with pores large enough to let through any molecules that have passed through the graphene. The polycarbonate acts as a scaffold, keeping the ultrathin graphene from curling up on itself.

The researchers looked to turn graphene into a molecularly selective sieve, letting through only molecules of a certain size. To do so, they created tiny pores in the material by exposing the structure to oxygen plasma, a process by which oxygen, pumped into a plasma chamber, can etch away at materials.

“By tuning the oxygen plasma conditions, we can control the density and size of pores we make, in the areas where the graphene is pristine,” Kidambi says. “What happens is, an oxygen radical comes to a carbon atom [in graphene] and rapidly reacts, and they both fly out as carbon dioxide.”

What is left is a tiny hole in the graphene, where a carbon atom once sat. Kidambi and his colleagues found that the longer graphene is exposed to oxygen plasma, the larger and more dense the pores will be. Relatively short exposure times, of about 45 to 60 seconds, generate very small pores.

Desirable defects

The researchers tested multiple graphene membranes with pores of varying sizes and distributions, placing each membrane in the middle of a diffusion chamber. They filled the chamber’s feed side with a solution containing various mixtures of molecules of different sizes, ranging from potassium chloride (0.66 nanometers wide) to vitamin B12 (1 to 1.5 nanometers) and lysozyme (4 nanometers), a protein found in egg white. The other side of the chamber was filled with a dilute solution.

The team then measured the flow of molecules as they diffused through each graphene membrane.

Membranes with very small pores let through potassium chloride but not larger molecules such as L-tryptophan, which measures only 0.2 nanometers wider. Membranes with larger pores let through correspondingly larger molecules.

The team carried out similar experiments with commercial dialysis membranes and found that, in comparison, the graphene membranes performed with higher “permeance,” filtering out the desired molecules up to 10 times faster.

Kidambi points out that the polycarbonate support is etched with pores that only take up 10 percent of its surface area, which limits the amount of desired molecules that ultimately pass through both layers.

“Only 10 percent of the membrane’s area is accessible, but even with that 10 percent, we’re able to do better than state-of-the-art,” Kidambi says.

To make the graphene membrane even better, the team plans to improve the polycarbonate support by etching more pores into the material to increase the membrane’s overall permeance. They are also working to further scale up the dimensions of the membrane, which currently measures 1 square centimeter. Further tuning the oxygen plasma process to create tailored pores will also improve a membrane’s performance — something that Kidambi points out would have vastly different consequences for graphene in electronics applications.

“What’s exciting is, what’s not great for the electronics field is actually perfect in this [membrane dialysis] field,” Kidambi says. “In electronics, you want to minimize defects. Here you want to make defects of the right size. It goes to show the end use of the technology dictates what you want in the technology. That’s the key.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Original written by Jennifer Chu. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Piran R. Kidambi, Doojoon Jang, Juan-Carlos Idrobo, Michael S. H. Boutilier, Luda Wang, Jing Kong, Rohit Karnik. Nanoporous Atomically Thin Graphene Membranes for Desalting and Dialysis ApplicationsAdvanced Materials, 2017; 1700277 DOI: 10.1002/adma.201700277

Breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices

Through nanotechnology, physicists Dr Raymond McQuaid, Dr Amit Kumar and Professor Marty Gregg from Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics, have created unique 2-D sheets, called domain walls, which exist within crystalline materials.

The sheets are almost as thin as the wonder-material graphene, at just a few atomic layers. However, they can do something that graphene can’t – they can appear, disappear or move around within the crystal, without permanently altering the crystal itself.

This means that in future, even smaller electronic devices could be created, as electronic circuits could constantly reconfigure themselves to perform a number of tasks, rather than just having a sole function.
Professor Marty Gregg explains: “Almost all aspects of modern life such as communication, healthcare, finance and entertainment rely on microelectronic devices. 

The demand for more powerful, smaller technology keeps growing, meaning that the tiniest devices are now composed of just a few atoms – a tiny fraction of the width of human hair.”

Breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices Credit: Queen’s University Belfast

“As things currently stand, it will become impossible to make these devices any smaller – we will simply run out of space. This is a huge problem for the computing industry and new, radical, disruptive technologies are needed. One solution is to make electronic circuits more ‘flexible’ so that they can exist at one moment for one purpose, but can be completely reconfigured the next moment for another purpose.”

The team’s findings, which have been published in Nature Communications, pave the way for a completely new way of data processing.

Professor Gregg says: “Our research suggests the possibility to “etch-a-sketch” nanoscale electrical connections, where patterns of electrically conducting wires can be drawn and then wiped away again as often as required.

“In this way, complete electronic circuits could be created and then dynamically reconfigured when needed to carry out a different role, overturning the paradigm that electronic circuits need be fixed components of hardware, typically designed with a dedicated purpose in mind.”

Breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices Credit: Queen’s University Belfast

There are two key hurdles to overcome when creating these 2-D sheets, long straight walls need to be created. These need to effectively conduct electricity and mimic the behavior of real metallic wires. It is also essential to be able to choose exactly where and when the domain walls appear and to reposition or delete them.

 Through the research, the Queen’s researchers have discovered some solutions to the hurdles. Their research proves that long conducting sheets can be created by squeezing the crystal at precisely the location they are required, using a targeted acupuncture-like approach with a sharp needle. The sheets can then be moved around within the crystal using applied electric fields to position them.

Dr Raymond McQuaid, a recently appointed lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University, added: “Our team has demonstrated for the first time that copper-chlorine boracite crystals can have straight conducting walls that are hundreds of microns in length and yet only nanometres thick. 

The key is that, when a needle is pressed into the crystal surface, a jigsaw puzzle-like pattern of structural variants, called “domains”, develops around the contact point. The different pieces of the pattern fit together in a unique way with the result that the conducting walls are found along certain boundaries where they meet.

“We have also shown that these walls can then be moved using applied electric fields, therefore suggesting compatibility with more conventional voltage operated devices. Taken together, these two results are a promising sign for the potential use of conducting walls in reconfigurable nano-electronics.”


More information: Raymond G.P. McQuaid et al. Injection and controlled motion of conducting domain walls in improper ferroelectric Cu-Cl boracite, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15105

Provided by: Queen’s University Belfast

World’s Largest Lithium-Ion Battery System to be Built in Australia by Tesla + Video


You’d think the biggest Tesla news today would be surrounding landmark production of Tesla Model 3 SN1 — aka serial number 1. 

However, news emerged that Elon Musk was on the other side of the world. Wall Street Journal* reports, “Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk has agreed to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery system in Australia, an ambitious project that he hopes will show how the technology can help solve energy problems.”

Above: Tesla is planning the world’s biggest battery installation in South Australia (Image: Tesla)

It’s reported that, “The plan is to build a 100-megawatt storage system in the state of South Australia—which has been hit by a string of blackouts over the past year—that will collect power generated by a wind farm built by French energy company Neoen.” Musk emphasized the magnitude of the project, explaining: ““This is not a minor foray into the frontier, this is like going three times further than anyone has gone before.”

Above: More on Tesla’s project in South Australia (Youtube: Jay Weatherill)
It turns out that “Tesla was selected from more than 90 bids to build a storage system for the state, said South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill. The value of the project wasn’t disclosed. The origins of the deal trace back to a Twitter exchange in March between Mr. Musk and local entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes, which led to conversations between Mr. Musk and Mr. Weatherill and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.”

Above: Tesla CEO Elon Musk and South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill (Twitter: Jay Weatherill)

True to his word, “Mr. Musk pledged to complete the project—which he said will be three times more powerful than any other battery system in the world—within 100 days of signing an agreement or it would be free.” In addition, “Once the project is completed, which Tesla expects will happen by the start of the Australian summer in December, it will be larger than a storage facility in the Southern California desert also built on Tesla batteries.”

Above: Tesla Powerpack installation (Image: Tesla)
According to Tesla, “The project will provide enough power for more than 30,000 homes, about equal to the number of homes that lost power during the blackouts.” Back in Fremont, the Tesla factory will get started on the first-ever production Model 3. Coming off historic rocket launches at SpaceX, chalk up another landmark milestone (or two) for Tesla today — just another week of work for the Iron Man, Elon Musk.

*Source: Wall Street Journal

Graphene Oxide Membrane (Sieve) Turns Seawater into Drinking Water: University of Manchester

Graphene Seives 58e264acaef12


New research shows graphene can filter common salts from water to make it safe to drink Findings could lead to affordable desalination technology

 Graphene membrane

Graphene-oxide membranes have attracted considerable attention as promising candidates for new filtration technologies. Now the much sought-after development of making membranes capable of sieving common salts has been achieved.

New research demonstrates the real-world potential of providing clean drinking water for millions of people who struggle to access adequate clean water sources.
The new findings from a group of scientists at The University of Manchester were published today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Previously graphene-oxide membranes have shown exciting potential for gas separation and water filtration.

Graphene-oxide membranes developed at the National Graphene Institute have already demonstrated the potential of filtering out small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts. Until now, however, they couldn’t be used for sieving common salts used in desalination technologies, which require even smaller sieves.

Previous research at The University of Manchester found that if immersed in water, graphene-oxide membranes become slightly swollen and smaller salts flow through the membrane along with water, but larger ions or molecules are blocked.

The Manchester-based group have now further developed these graphene membranes and found a strategy to avoid the swelling of the membrane when exposed to water.
The pore size in the membrane can be precisely controlled which can sieve common salts out of salty water and make it safe to drink.
Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology.

Professor Rahul Raveendran Nair

As the effects of climate change continue to reduce modern city’s water supplies, wealthy modern countries are also investing in desalination technologies. Following the severe floods in California major wealthy cities are also looking increasingly to alternative water solutions.

When the common salts are dissolved in water, they always form a ‘shell’ of water molecules around the salts molecules. This allows the tiny capillaries of the graphene-oxide membranes to block the salt from flowing along with the water. Water molecules are able to pass through the membrane barrier and flow anomalously fast which is ideal for application of these membranes for desalination.

Professor Rahul Nair, at The University of Manchester said: “Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology.

“This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.”

Mr. Jijo Abraham and Dr. Vasu Siddeswara Kalangi were the joint-lead authors on the research paper: “The developed membranes are not only useful for desalination, but the atomic scale tunability of the pore size also opens new opportunity to fabricate membranes with on-demand filtration capable of filtering out ions according to their sizes.” said Mr. Abraham.

By 2025 the UN expects that 14% of the world’s population will encounter water scarcity. This technology has the potential to revolutionise water filtration across the world, in particular in countries which cannot afford large scale desalination plants.

It is hoped that graphene-oxide membrane systems can be built on smaller scales making this technology accessible to countries which do not have the financial infrastructure to fund large plants without compromising the yield of fresh water produced.

Advanced materials

A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.
The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water. The promising graphene oxide sieve could be highly efficient at filtering salts, and will now be tested against existing desalination membranes.
It has previously been difficult to manufacture graphene-based barriers on an industrial scale. Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Rahul Nair, shows how they solved some of the challenges by using a chemical derivative called graphene oxide.
Advanced materials is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons – examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet. #ResearchBeacons


HDIAC SOAR Webinar: Uses of Nanotechnology on Surfaces for Military Applications: Video + Presentation

HDIAC Featured_Information_Resources

Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center


Click on the Link below to see the Presentation and Notes:


• Overall
• Nanoceramics
• Metals/metal oxides: silver, copper, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide
• Carbon nanotubes
• Hard surfaces
• Advancements in nanoceramics
• Incorporating superhydrophobic characteristics into surfaces
• Soft surfaces
• Major advancements in antibacterial coatings
• Developments in smart textiles
• Incorporating nanomaterials into existing fibers/textiles
• Nondurable goods
• Anti-corrosive epoxy coatings with nanomaterials
• Biomedical applications

Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center: PDF Presentation