Tesla Honored As 2017’s ‘Battery Innovator Of The Year’ At The International Battery Seminar


tesla-honored-as-2017-s-battery-innovator-of-the-year-at-the-international-battery-seminarInternational experts in the field of battery research recognized Tesla’s contributions and cutting-edge innovations in battery technology. Tesla exec and battery expert says it’s all about implementation.  ( Tesla )

March 24, 2017

Tesla is always looking for ways to produce better energy storage not only to extend the range of its electric vehicles but also to power up homes using clean energy, and experts on battery technology have recognized the company’s efforts.

In a surprise addition to the 34th International Battery Seminar’s program, the organizers presented Kurt Kelty, Tesla’s senior director of Battery Technology with the “Battery Innovator of the Year” award, which he received on behalf of Tesla.

Tesla On Battery Technology

Kelty was scheduled to give the Plenary Keynote Address in front of 800 battery experts — including specialists from other EV manufacturers — at the International Battery Seminar, which was held from March 20 to 23 at Fort Lauderdale in Florida. However, before he was even able to utter his first sentence, the prestigious award was bestowed.

Kelty was quick to express his gratitude on behalf of Tesla and say how much of an honor the prize is for the company.

“Everyone recognizes we’re not a battery chemistry company. That’s not why we got the award. It’s more [about] the implementation of the technology,” Kelty said.

Tesla’s Battery Innovations

Tesla is not new to receiving awards when it comes to its battery technology. In 2016, Tesla’s top researcher on battery technology, Jeff Dahn, received the same award and the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering for his research on lithium-ion batteries. And with the company’s smart energy storage solutions in response to energy crises and dedication to producing Li-ion batteries in its Gigafactory in Nevada in 2016 and early 2017, it’s not really that much of a surprise that Elon Musk’s company was honored this time around.

Tesla Will Continue To Innovate Batteries

In his keynote address, Kelty revealed that the company receives battery usage data from its electric vehicle and stationary unit customers in real-time and the company has been learning a lot from the collected data.

He also added that Telsa envisions a well-integrated clean energy system for homes, especially when users combine the company’s products together.

“Where we see the future [is] in houses [and] we want to be your EV provider. Put your EV in your garage and you charge it up with one of our chargers, you have a powerwall … [and] a solar product [solar roof] that we’ll be introducing this summer […] This is the kind of future we see for [your] house,” he reveals.

Musk is probably thrilled with the award but there’s no reaction yet from Tesla’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer as of writing.

 

“An Energy Miracle” ~ Making Solar Fuel to Power Our Energy Needs


Bill Gates Fuel from Solar AAEAAQAAAAAAAArDAAAAJDNlZDZlNmMzLTZkYjMtNDNlYy1iMTliLTIyMzY2ZDg5MjcwOQ

*** Bill Gates: Original Post From gatesnotes.com  

The sun was out in full force the fall morning I arrived at Caltech to visit Professor Nate Lewis’s research laboratory. Temperatures in southern California had soared to 20 degrees above normal, prompting the National Weather Service to issue warnings for extreme fire danger and heat-related illnesses.

The weather was a fitting introduction to what I had come to see inside Nate’s lab—how we might be able to tap the sun’s tremendous energy to make fuels to power cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes.

Stepping into the lab cluttered with computer screens, jars of chemicals, beakers, and other equipment, Nate handed me a pair of safety goggles and offered some advice for what I was about to see. “Everything we do is simple in the end, even though there’s lots of complicated stuff,” he said.

What’s simple is the idea behind all of his team’s research: The sun is the most reliable, plentiful source of renewable energy we have. In fact, more energy from the sun hits the Earth in one hour than humans use in an entire year. If we can find cheap and efficient ways to tap just a fraction of its power, we will go a long way toward finding a clean, affordable, and reliable energy source for the future.

We are all familiar with solar panels, which convert sunlight into electricity. As solar panel costs continue to fall, it’s been encouraging to see how they are becoming a growing source of clean energy around the world. Of course, there’s one major challenge of solar power. The sun sets each night and there are cloudy days. That’s why we need to find efficient ways to store the energy from sunlight so it’s available on demand. 

Batteries are one solution. Even better would be a solar fuel. Fuels have a much higher energy density than batteries, making it far easier to use for storage and transportation. For example, one ton of gasoline stores the same amount of energy as 60 tons of batteries. That’s why, barring a major breakthrough in battery technology, it’s hard to imagine flying from Seattle to Tokyo on a plug-in airplane. Solar Twist download

I’ve written before about the need for an energy miracle to halt climate change and provide access to electricity to millions of the poorest families who live without it. Making solar fuel would be one of those miracles. It would solve the energy storage problem for when the sun isn’t shining. And it would provide an easy-to-use power source for our existing transportation infrastructure. We could continue to drive the cars we have now. Instead of running on fossil fuels from the ground, they would be powered by fuel made from sunlight. And because it wouldn’t contribute additional greenhouses gases to the atmosphere, it would be carbon neutral. 

Imagining such a future is tantalizing. Realizing it will require a lot of hard work. No one knows if there’s a practical way to turn sunlight into fuel. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy, Nate and a group of other researchers around the U.S. are receiving research support to find out if it is possible.

We live in a time when new discoveries and innovations are so commonplace that it’s easy to take the cutting-edge research I saw at Caltech for granted. But most breakthroughs that improve our lives—from new health interventions to new clean energy ideas—get their start as government-sponsored research like Nate’s. If successful, that research leads to new innovations, that spawn new industries, that create new jobs, that spur economic growth. It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of government support in this process. Without it, human progress would not come as far as it has.

tenka-growing-plants-082616-picture1Nate and his team are still at the first stage of this process. But they have reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead. After all, turning sunlight into chemical energy is what plants do every day. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants combine sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to store solar energy in chemical bonds. At Nate’s lab, his team is working with the same ingredients. The difference is that they need to figure out how to do it even better and beat nature at its own game.

“We want to create a solar fuel inspired by what nature does, in the same way that man built aircraft inspired by birds that fly,” Nate said. “But you don’t build an airplane out of feathers. And we’re not going to build an artificial photosynthetic system out of chlorophylls and living systems, because we can do better than that.”

One of Nate’s students showed me how light can be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen—a critical first step in the path to solar fuels. The next step would involve combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make fuels. Using current technologies, however, it is too costly to produce a fuel from sunlight. To make it cheaper, much more research needs to be done to understand the materials and systems that could create a dependable source of solar fuel.hydrogen-earth-150x150

One idea his team is working on is a kind of artificial turf made of plastic cells that could be easily rolled out to capture sunlight to make fuel. Each plastic cell would contain water, light absorbers, and a catalyst. The catalyst helps accelerate the chemical reactions so each cell can produce hydrogen or carbon-based fuels more efficiently. Unfortunately, the best catalysts are among the rarest and most expensive elements, like platinum. A key focus of Nate’s research is finding other catalysts that are not only effective and durable, but also economical.

Nate’s interest in clean energy research started during the oil crisis in the 1970s, when he waited for hours in gas lines with his dad. He says he knew then that he wanted to dedicate his life to energy research. Now, he is helping to train a new generation of scientists to help solve our world’s energy challenge. Seeing the number of young people working in Nate’s lab was inspiring. The pace of innovation for them is now much faster than ever before. “We do experiments now in a day that would once take a year or an entire Ph.D. thesis to do,” Nate said.

Still, I believe we should be doing a lot more. We need thousands of scientists following all paths that might lead us to a clean energy future. That’s why a group of investors and I recently launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund that will invest more than $1 billion in scientific discoveries that have the potential to deliver cheap and reliable clean energy to the world.

While we won’t be filling up our cars with solar fuels next week or next year, Nate’s team has already made valuable contributions to our understanding of how we might achieve this bold goal. With increased government and private sector support, we will make it possible for them to move ahead with their research at full speed.

This originally appeared on gatesnotes.com.

New nanofiber marks important step in next generation battery development



One of the keys to building electric cars that can travel longer distances and to powering more homes with renewable energy is developing efficient and highly capable energy storage systems.

Materials researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a nanofiber that could help enable the next generation of rechargeable batteries and increase the efficiency of hydrogen production from water electrolysis.

In a study that was published in Nature Communications (“A tailored double perovskite nanofiber catalyst enables ultrafast oxygen evolution”) and was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the researchers describe the development of double perovskite nanofiber that can be used as a highly efficient catalyst in ultrafast oxygen evolution reactions – one of the underlying electrochemical processes in hydrogen-based energy and the newer metal-air batteries.

Double Perovskite Nanofiber Catalyst


This is a 20 nanometer double perovskite nanofiber that can be used as a highly efficient catalyst in ultrafast oxygen evolution reactions — one of the underlying electrochemical processes in hydrogen-based energy and the newer metal-air batteries. (Image: Georgia Tech)

“Metal-air batteries, such as those that could power electric vehicles in the future, are able to store a lot of energy in a much smaller space than current batteries,” said Meilin Liu, a Regents Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. 


“The problem is that the batteries lack a cost-efficient catalyst to improve their efficiency. This new catalyst will improve that process.”

Perovskite refers to the crystal structure of the catalyst the researchers used to form the nanofibers.

“This unique crystal structure and the composition are vital to enabling better activity and durability for the application,” Liu said.

During the synthetization process, the researchers used a technique called composition tuning – or “co-doping” – to improve the intrinsic activity of the catalyst by approximately 4.7 times. The perovskite oxide fiber made during the electrospinning process was about 20 nanometers in diameter – which thus far is the thinnest diameter reported for electrospun perovskite oxide nanofibers.

The researchers found that the new substance showed markedly enhanced oxygen evolution reaction capability when compared to existing catalysts. 
The new nanofiber’s mass-normalized catalytic activity improved about 72 times greater than the initial powder catalyst, and 2.5 times greater than iridium oxide, which is considered a state of the art catalyst by current standards.

That increase in catalytic activity comes in part from the larger surface area achieved with nanofibers, the researchers said. Synthesizing the perovskite structure into a nanofiber also boosted its intrinsic activity, which also improved how efficiently it worked as a catalyst for oxygen evolution reactions (OER).

“This work not only represents an advancement in the development of highly efficient and durable electrocatalysts for OER but may also provide insight into the effect of nanostructures on the intrinsic OER activity,” the researchers wrote.

Beyond its applicability in the development of rechargeable metal air batteries, the new catalyst could also represent the next step in creating more efficient fuel cell technologies that could aid in the creation of renewable energy systems.

“Solar, wind, geothermal – those are becoming very inexpensive today. But the trouble is those renewable energies are intermittent in nature,” Liu said. 

“When there is no wind, you have no power. But what if we could store the energy from the sun or the wind when there’s an excess supply. We can use that extra electricity to produce hydrogen and store that energy for use when we need it.”

That’s where the new nanofiber catalysts could make a difference, he said.

“To store that energy, batteries are still very expensive,” Liu said. “We need a good catalyst in order for the water electrolysis to be efficient. This catalyst can speed up electrochemical reactions in water splitting or metal air batteries.”

MIT Energy Conference: Making energy storage so simple it’s “boring”


MIT-Energy-Conference01A1_0At the Friday evening “Energy Showcase,” participants tried out a virtual reality demonstration put on by Shell, one of the conference sponsors. Courtesy of the MIT Energy Conference

Inexpensive, reliable, and forgettable storage systems could enable boom in renewables, say speakers at MIT Energy Conference.

One of the key technologies needed to transform world energy supplies away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable sources is a cheap and reliable way of storing and releasing energy. That will enable intermittent supplies such as solar and wind power, with their variable and often unpredictable outputs, to store energy that’s produced when it’s not needed and to release it when it’s needed most (or can be sold for the best price).

That was a message that came up repeatedly over the two days of talks and panel discussions at the 12th annual MIT Energy Conference, held on March 3 and 4. But while better, cheaper storage is essential, implementing it faces technical, economic, and policy challenges, several speakers noted.

Massachusetts, home to a number of leading startup ventures in the energy storage area, has “a huge opportunity to be a leader” in this burgeoning industry, said Judith Judson, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, in one of the conference’s panel discussions. The state is already home to a number of companies working on innovative battery technologies, several of which are based on research from MIT labs.

But getting such technologies out into the world is more than just a matter of building a better mousetrap. For one thing, “the role of the utilities to push on this technology is so important,” said Belen Linares, the global research and development director for Spain-based energy company Acciona. “It’s collaborations between schools and industry that are going to give these technologies the real boost they need.”mit_logo

Ravi Manghani, energy storage director for GTM Research, a solar-market analysis firm, who moderated that panel, concluded that what researchers really need to do now is “work on making energy storage less complicated and more boring.” It needs to be the kind of simple technology that can be purchased and then forgotten, he suggested, somewhat like a home water heater.

One promising new entry in that sector is Ambri, a company developing grid-scale batteries based on all-liquid active components, a technology developed at MIT in the lab of Donald Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor in Materials Science and Engineering. Dana Guernsey, Ambri’s director of corporate development, said that “one of the exciting reasons to be in this industry” is the potential to open up electrification “in places where there is no grid at all. Storage systems will electrify parts of the world that have been dark,” by enabling the construction of small, localized “microgrids” that can serve villages, schools, or small businesses.

energy_storage_2013 042216 _11-13-1Consumers can help to bring about that transformation, a number of speakers said. A panel discussion on “the engaged ratepayer” made it clear that utilities are becoming ever more responsive to the needs and wants of their customers, as the business has become more competitive. “The rate of change now in the industry is extraordinary,” said Terry Sobolewski, the chief customer officer of the utility company National Grid. “And it’s almost entirely driven by customers.”

In fact, the customer-centric orientation of the companies is now so strong that the formerly universal term “ratepayer” has now been officially discontinued by most of these companies because it implies a one-way relationship, and the companies now really want to stress their responsiveness and engagement, Sobolewski said.

Part of that responsiveness includes working with business and industrial customers. “More and more industries are asking for help,” he said, “on ‘how do I integrate renewables into my business?’” The change in attitude, he said, suggests that “we are on the precipice of this transformation.”

Accelerating the transformation to non-fossil-fuel energy sources will also require improved analytical tools for gathering data about the performance of buildings and industrial plants using different combinations of energy and efficiency systems, several speakers said.

Southern California Edison is making inroads in this area, said Andre Ramirez, a principal advisor to the company. Its 5 million customers, he said, are all now on a “time-of-use” rate system, by default. That kind of rate system allows customers to shift energy-intensive activities, such as running a clothes dryer or charging an electric car, to off-peak periods when the rates may be much lower. Such shifting, if done on a large scale, can greatly reduce the utility’s need to build expensive peak-power generators to handle those loads. “We’re at the leading edge of that change,” Ramirez said.

The kind of detailed information that can be gathered over time about residential use can lead to specific, targeted suggestions for energy improvements for a given home or business. But information can also influence other kinds of decisions. For example, “millennials want to work for companies that have a conscience,” including what their energy strategies are and what their values are, said Tim Healy, CEO and chairman of the energy data analysis and management company EnerNOC. Transparency about a company’s business practices, including the details of its actual energy production sources, can be an important part of that, he said.

As for the energy systems themselves, innovations in the regulatory system that establishes rates and governs the interactions among power producers, distribution networks, and end-users are a major need at this point. “Regulatory affairs is where the innovation needs to occur,” Healy said.

MIT’s Energy Conference is organized annually under the auspices of the MIT Energy Club, which with its 5,000 members, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni, is “the largest energy club anywhere,” said Robert Armstrong, director of the MIT Energy Initiative, in his opening remarks at this year’s event.

Researchers at CalTech and Berkeley Lab Discover New materials that could turn “water into the fuel of the future”


Water for Fuel 170306151722_1_900x600New materials are created through deposition onto disks, which are then tested to determine their properties. Credit: Caltech

 

California Institute of Technology Summary: Combining computational with experimental approaches, researchers identify 12 new materials with potential use in solar fuels generators.

Researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have — in just two years — nearly doubled the number of materials known to have potential for use in solar fuels.

They did so by developing a process that promises to speed the discovery of commercially viable solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Solar fuels, a dream of clean-energy research, are created using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers are exploring a range of target fuels, from hydrogen gas to liquid hydrocarbons, and producing any of these fuels involves splitting water.

Each water molecule is comprised of an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms are extracted, and then can be reunited to create highly flammable hydrogen gas or combined with CO2 to create hydrocarbon fuels, creating a plentiful and renewable energy source. The problem, however, is that water molecules do not simply break down when sunlight shines on them — if they did, the oceans would not cover most of the planet. They need a little help from a solar-powered catalyst.

To create practical solar fuels, scientists have been trying to develop low-cost and efficient materials, known as photoanodes, that are capable of splitting water using visible light as an energy source. Over the past four decades, researchers identified only 16 of these photoanode materials. Now, using a new high-throughput method of identifying new materials, a team of researchers led by Caltech’s John Gregoire and Berkeley Lab’s Jeffrey Neaton and Qimin Yan have found 12 promising new photoanodes.

A paper about the method and the new photoanodes appears the week of March 6 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new method was developed through a partnership between the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) at Caltech, and Berkeley Lab’s Materials Project, using resources at the Molecular Foundry and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC).

“This integration of theory and experiment is a blueprint for conducting research in an increasingly interdisciplinary world,” says Gregoire, JCAP thrust coordinator for Photoelectrocatalysis and leader of the High Throughput Experimentation group. “It’s exciting to find 12 new potential photoanodes for making solar fuels, but even more so to have a new materials discovery pipeline going forward.”

“What is particularly significant about this study, which combines experiment and theory, is that in addition to identifying several new compounds for solar fuel applications, we were also able to learn something new about the underlying electronic structure of the materials themselves,” says Neaton, the director of the Molecular Foundry.

Previous materials discovery processes relied on cumbersome testing of individual compounds to assess their potential for use in specific applications. In the new process, Gregoire and his colleagues combined computational and experimental approaches by first mining a materials database for potentially useful compounds, screening it based on the properties of the materials, and then rapidly testing the most promising candidates using high-throughput experimentation.

In the work described in the PNAS paper, they explored 174 metal vanadates — compounds containing the elements vanadium and oxygen along with one other element from the periodic table.

The research, Gregoire says, reveals how different choices for this third element can produce materials with different properties, and reveals how to “tune” those properties to make a better photoanode.

“The key advance made by the team was to combine the best capabilities enabled by theory and supercomputers with novel high throughput experiments to generate scientific knowledge at an unprecedented rate,” Gregoire says.


Story Source:

Materials provided by California Institute of Technology. Original written by Robert Perkins. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Qimin Yan, Jie Yu, Santosh K. Suram, Lan Zhou, Aniketa Shinde, Paul F. Newhouse, Wei Chen, Guo Li, Kristin A. Persson, John M. Gregoire, and Jeffrey B. Neaton. Solar fuels photoanode materials discovery by integrating high-throughput theory and experiment. PNAS, March 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1619940114

Australian National University Claim: Hydro storage can secure 100 percent renewable electricity -What Do You Think?


hydrostoragePumped hydro storage can be used to help build a secure and cheap Australian electricity grid with 100 per cent renewable energy, a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) has found.

 

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Blakers from ANU said the zero-emissions grid would mainly rely on wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, with support from pumped hydro storage, and would eliminate Australia’s need for coal and gas-fired power.

“With Australia wrestling with how to secure its energy supply, we’ve found we can make the switch to affordable and reliable clean power,” said Professor Blakers from the ANU Research School of Engineering.

Professor Blakers said wind and solar PV provided nearly all new generation capacity in Australia and half the world’s new generation capacity each year. At present, renewable energy accounts for around 15 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation while two thirds comes from coal-fired power stations.

“However, most existing coal and gas stations will retire over the next 15 years, and it will be cheaper to replace them with wind and solar PV,” he said.

The ANU research considers the potential benefits of using hydro power , where water is pumped uphill and stored to generate electricity on demand.

“Pumped hydro energy storage is 97 per cent of all storage worldwide, and can be used to support high levels of solar PV and wind,” Professor Blakers said.

Hydro storage can secure 100% renewable electricity
Map showing South Australia’s extensive array of potential pumped hydro energy storage sites (excluding national parks and other protected areas). In general, larger heads (red areas) lead to lower cost. Credit: Australian National University

Professor Blakers said the cost of a 100 per cent stabilized renewable electricity system would be around AU$75/MWh, which is cheaper than coal and gas-fueled power.

ANU is leading a study to map potential short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage (STORES) sites that could support a much greater share of in the grid.

STORES sites are pairs of reservoirs, typically 10 hectares each, which are separated by an altitude difference of between 300 and 900 metres, in hilly terrain, and joined by a pipe with a pump and turbine. Water is circulated between the upper and lower reservoirs in a closed loop to store and generate power.

Dr Matthew Stocks from the ANU Research School of Engineering said STORES needed much less water than power generated by fossil fuels and had minimal impact on the environment because water was recycled between the small reservoirs.

“This hydro power doesn’t need a river and can go from zero to full in minutes, providing an effective method to stabilise the grid,” he said.

“The water is pumped up from the low reservoir to the high reservoir when the sun shines and wind blows and electricity is abundant, and then the can run down through the turbine at night and when electricity is expensive.”

Co-researcher Mr Bin Lu said Australia had hundreds of potential sites for STORES in the extensive hills and mountains close to population centres from North Queensland down the east coast to South Australia and Tasmania.

Explore further: How South Australia can function reliably while moving to 100% renewable power

More information: 100% renewable electricity in Australia: energy.anu.edu.au/files/100%25%20renewable%20electricity%20in%20Australia.pdf

 

Penn State U. – New ‘Flow-Cell’ Battery Recharged with Carbon Dioxide – Capturing CO2 Emissions for an Untapped Source of Energy


co2flowcell
The pH-gradient flow cell has two channels: one containing an aqueous solution sparged with carbon dioxide (low pH) and the other containing an aqueous solution sparged with ambient air (high pH). The pH gradient causes ions to flow across …more

Researchers have developed a type of rechargeable battery called a flow cell that can be recharged with a water-based solution containing dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from fossil fuel power plants. The device works by taking advantage of the CO2 concentration difference between CO2 emissions and ambient air, which can ultimately be used to generate electricity.

The new flow cell produces an average power density of 0.82 W/m2, which is almost 200 times higher than values obtained using previous similar methods. Although it is not yet clear whether the process could be economically viable on a large scale, the early results appear promising and could be further improved with future research.

The scientists, Taeyong Kim, Bruce E. Logan, and Christopher A. Gorski at The Pennsylvania State University, have published a paper on the new method of CO2-to-electricity conversion in a recent issue of Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

“This work offers an alternative, simpler means to capturing energy from CO2 emissions compared to existing technologies that require expensive catalyst materials and very high temperatures to convert CO2 into useful fuels,” said Gorski.

While the contrast of gray-white smoke against a blue sky illustrates the adverse environmental impact of burning , the large difference in CO2 concentration between the two gases is also what provides an untapped energy source for generating electricity.fossil-fuels-co2-to-green-images

In order to harness the potential energy in this concentration difference, the researchers first dissolved CO2 gas and in separate containers of an aqueous solution, in a process called sparging. At the end of this process, the CO2-sparged solution forms bicarbonate ions, which give it a lower pH of 7.7 compared to the air-sparged solution, which has a pH of 9.4.

After sparging, the researchers injected each solution into one of two channels in a flow cell, creating a pH gradient in the cell. The flow cell has electrodes on opposite sides of the two channels, along with a semi-porous membrane between the two channels that prevents instant mixing while still allowing ions to pass through. Due to the pH difference between the two solutions, various ions pass through the membrane, creating a voltage difference between the two electrodes and causing electrons to flow along a wire connecting the electrodes.

After the flow cell is discharged, it can be recharged again by switching the channels that the solutions flow through. By switching the solution that flows over each electrode, the charging mechanism is reversed so that the electrons flow in the opposite direction. Tests showed that the cell maintains its performance over 50 cycles of alternating solutions.

The results also showed that, the higher the pH difference between the two channels, the higher the average power density. Although the pH-gradient flow cell achieves a power density that is high compared to similar cells that convert waste CO2 to electricity, it is still much lower than the power densities of fuel cell systems that combine CO2 with other fuels, such as H2.

However, the new flow cell has certain advantages over these other devices, such as its use of inexpensive materials and room-temperature operation. These features make the flow cell attractive for practical applications at existing .

“A system containing numerous identical flow cells would be installed at power plants that combust fossil fuels,” Gorski said. “The flue gas emitted from fossil fuel combustion would need to be pre-cooled, then bubbled through a reservoir of water that can be pumped through the flow cells.”

In the future, the researchers plan to further improve the flow cell performance.

“We are currently looking to see how the solution conditions can be optimized to maximize the amount of energy produced,” Gorski said. “We are also investigating if we can dissolve chemicals in the water that exhibit pH-dependent redox properties, thus allowing us to increase the amount of energy that can be recovered. The latter approach would be analogous to a flow battery, which reduces and oxidizes dissolved chemicals in aqueous solutions, except we are causing them to be reduced and oxidized here by changing the solution pH with CO2.”

Explore further: Chemists present an innovative redox-flow battery based on organic polymers and water

More information: Taeyoung Kim et al. “A pH-Gradient Flow Cell for Converting Waste CO2 into Electricity.” Environmental Science & Technology Letters. DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00467

 

Harvard: Renewable Energy: Long-lasting flow battery could run for more than a decade


Flow batteries are a promising storage solution for renewable, intermittent energy like wind and solar.

Posted: Feb 09, 2017

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new flow battery that stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. 

This new chemistry allows for a non-toxic, non-corrosive battery with an exceptionally long lifetime and offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production.

The research, published in ACS Energy Letters (“A Neutral pH Aqueous Organic/Organometallic Redox Flow Battery with Extremely High Capacity Retention”), was led by Michael Aziz, the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies and Roy Gordon, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science.

Renewable Energy 

Flow batteries are a promising storage solution for renewable, intermittent energy like wind and solar.

Flow batteries store energy in liquid solutions in external tanks — the bigger the tanks, the more energy they store. Flow batteries are a promising storage solution for renewable, intermittent energy like wind and solar but today’s flow batteries often suffer degraded energy storage capacity after many charge-discharge cycles, requiring periodic maintenance of the electrolyte to restore the capacity.

By modifying the structures of molecules used in the positive and negative electrolyte solutions, and making them water soluble, the Harvard team was able to engineer a battery that loses only one percent of its capacity per 1000 cycles.

“Lithium ion batteries don’t even survive 1000 complete charge/discharge cycles,” said Aziz.

“Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement,” said Gordon. “If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn’t eat the concrete and since the medium is noncorrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build the components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps.”

This reduction of cost is important. The Department of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of building a battery that can store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, which would make stored wind and solar energy competitive to energy produced from traditional power plants.

“If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world,” said Aziz. “It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places. This research puts us one step closer to reaching that target.”

“This work on aqueous soluble organic electrolytes is of high significance in pointing the way towards future batteries with vastly improved cycle life and considerably lower cost,” said Imre Gyuk, Director of Energy Storage Research at the Office of Electricity of the DOE. “I expect that efficient, long duration flow batteries will become standard as part of the infrastructure of the electric grid.”

The key to designing the battery was to first figure out why previous molecules were degrading so quickly in neutral solutions, said Eugene Beh, a postdoctoral fellow and first author of the paper. By first identifying how the molecule viologen in the negative electrolyte was decomposing, Beh was able to modify its molecular structure to make it more resilient.

Next, the team turned to ferrocene, a molecule well known for its electrochemical properties, for the positive electrolyte.

“Ferrocene is great for storing charge but is completely insoluble in water,” said Beh. “It has been used in other batteries with organic solvents, which are flammable and expensive.”

But by functionalizing ferrocene molecules in the same way as with the viologen, the team was able to turn an insoluble molecule into a highly soluble one that could also be cycled stably.

“Aqueous soluble ferrocenes represent a whole new class of molecules for flow batteries,” said Aziz.

The neutral pH should be especially helpful in lowering the cost of the ion-selective membrane that separates the two sides of the battery. Most flow batteries today use expensive polymers that can withstand the aggressive chemistry inside the battery. They can account for up to one third of the total cost of the device. With essentially salt water on both sides of the membrane, expensive polymers can be replaced by cheap hydrocarbons.

This research was coauthored by Diana De Porcellinis, Rebecca Gracia, and Kay Xia. It was supported by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability of the DOE and by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

With assistance from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), the researchers are working with several companies to scale up the technology for industrial applications and to optimize the interactions between the membrane and the electrolyte. Harvard OTD has filed a portfolio of pending patents on innovations in flow battery technology.

Source: By Leah Burrows, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Physics, photosynthesis and ‘Green’ solar cells


green-solar-cells-161130154310_1_540x360
In a light harvesting quantum photocell, particles of light (photons) can efficiently generate electrons. When two absorbing channels are used, solar power entering the system through the two absorbers (a and b) efficiently generates power in the machine (M). Credit: Nathaniel Gabor and Tamar Melen

A University of California, Riverside assistant professor has combined photosynthesis and physics to make a key discovery that could help make solar cells more efficient. The findings were recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

Nathan Gabor is focused on experimental condensed matter physics, and uses light to probe the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics. But, he got interested in photosynthesis when a question popped into his head in 2010: Why are plants green? He soon discovered that no one really knows.

During the past six years, he sought to help change that by combining his background in physics with a deep dive into biology.

He set out to re-think solar energy conversion by asking the question: can we make materials for solar cells that more efficiently absorb the fluctuating amount of energy from the sun. Plants have evolved to do this, but current affordable solar cells — which are at best 20 percent efficient — do not control these sudden changes in solar power, Gabor said. That results in a lot of wasted energy and helps prevent wide-scale adoption of solar cells as an energy source.

Gabor, and several other UC Riverside physicists, addressed the problem by designing a new type of quantum heat engine photocell, which helps manipulate the flow of energy in solar cells. The design incorporates a heat engine photocell that absorbs photons from the sun and converts the photon energy into electricity.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the quantum heat engine photocell could regulate solar power conversion without requiring active feedback or adaptive control mechanisms. In conventional photovoltaic technology, which is used on rooftops and solar farms today, fluctuations in solar power must be suppressed by voltage converters and feedback controllers, which dramatically reduce the overall efficiency.

The goal of the UC Riverside teams was to design the simplest photocell that matches the amount of solar power from the sun as close as possible to the average power demand and to suppress energy fluctuations to avoid the accumulation of excess energy.

The researchers compared the two simplest quantum mechanical photocell systems: one in which the photocell absorbed only a single color of light, and the other in which the photocell absorbed two colors. They found that by simply incorporating two photon-absorbing channels, rather than only one, the regulation of energy flow emerges naturally within the photocell.

The basic operating principle is that one channel absorbs at a wavelength for which the average input power is high, while the other absorbs at low power. The photocell switches between high and low power to convert varying levels of solar power into a steady-state output.

When Gabor’s team applied these simple models to the measured solar spectrum on Earth’s surface, they discovered that the absorption of green light, the most radiant portion of the solar power spectrum per unit wavelength, provides no regulatory benefit and should therefore be avoided. They systematically optimized the photocell parameters to reduce solar energy fluctuations, and found that the absorption spectrum looks nearly identical to the absorption spectrum observed in photosynthetic green plants.

The findings led the researchers to propose that natural regulation of energy they found in the quantum heat engine photocell may play a critical role in the photosynthesis in plants, perhaps explaining the predominance of green plants on Earth.

Other researchers have recently found that several molecular structures in plants, including chlorophyll a and b molecules, could be critical in preventing the accumulation of excess energy in plants, which could kill them. The UC Riverside researchers found that the molecular structure of the quantum heat engine photocell they studied is very similar to the structure of photosynthetic molecules that incorporate pairs of chlorophyll.

The hypothesis set out by Gabor and his team is the first to connect quantum mechanical structure to the greenness of plants, and provides a clear set of tests for researchers aiming to verify natural regulation. Equally important, their design allows regulation without active input, a process made possible by the photocell’s quantum mechanical structure.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of California – Riverside. Original written by Sean Nealon. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Trevor B. Arp, Yafis Barlas, Vivek Aji, Nathaniel M. Gabor. Natural Regulation of Energy Flow in a Green Quantum Photocell. Nano Letters, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b03136

The Small Matter of Big Solutions: Nanotechnologies Helping to Fulfill the Promise of Solar Energy


back-to-the-future-bttf2Nanotechnology is more than just a set of applications. When people wonder what the next big product will be, the truth is more nuanced. Prof.Jillian Buriak, a chemistry professor at the University of Alberta, calls it a quiet revolution. For the first time in history, scientists from all disciplines are working together towards solving big problems; the ability to control matter at the atomic and molecular level is how nanotechnology is opening doors all across the sciences.

[See Our Article This Week: The Promise of Nanotechnology ~ Where to Look for Emerging (Nano) Technologies that will: (1) Create New Market Opportunities or (2) Disrupt Existing Markets ]

I call this a quiet revolution because for the first time, and I think in the history of science, is that you’ve got the distinct silos – you have the biologists talking to the physicists, talking to the medical people – all using the tools and the enabling technologies of nanotechnology to solve these big problems.

One area that Prof. Buriak’s research addresses is the critical need for renewable energy.

Read the Full Article Here: The Small Matter of Big Solutions

Watch the YouTube Video Below

Sun SolarCan Nanotechnology Turn Windows Into Solar Panels?

Solar energy technology is becoming more efficient and more effective while also becoming invisible to the naked eye – here’s how.

img_0759Quantum dot solar windows go non-toxic, colorless, with record efficiency

A luminescent solar concentrator is an emerging sunlight harvesting technology that has the potential to disrupt the way we think about energy; It could turn any window into a daytime power source.

“In these devices, a fraction of light transmitted through the window is absorbed by nanosized particles (semiconductor ) dispersed in a glass window, re-emitted at the infrared wavelength invisible to the human eye, and wave-guided to a solar cell at the edge of the window,” said Victor Klimov, lead researcher on the project at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Using this design, a nearly transparent window becomes an electrical generator, one that can power your room’s air conditioner on a hot day or a heater on a cold one.”

Read the Full Article Here: Quantum dot solar windows go non-toxic, colorless, with record efficiency

rice-nanoporus-battery-102315-untitled-1Silicon Nanowire-Based Solar Cells

Nanotechnology celebrates 25 years in an interview with the author of one of the most cited and downloaded papers: ‘Silicon nanowire-based solar cells’. It demonstrates the fabrication of silicon nanowire-based solar cells on silicon wafers and on multicrystalline silicon thin films on glass.

Silke Christiansen, from the Helmholtz-Center Berlin for Materials and Energy, talks about the motivation behind the paper and the impact that it has had on further research.

Watch the YouTube Video Below:

More Reading on Solar Energy – Nanotechnology – Quantum Dots

confinement-for-qdots-100816-nanoscaleconScientists with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for the first time discovered how to make perovskite solar cells out of quantum dots and used the new material to convert sunlight to electricity with 10.77 percent efficiency.

The research, Quantum dot-induced phase stabilization of a-CsPbI3perovskite for high-efficiency photovoltaics, appears in the journal Science.

Read More Here: NREL: Nanoscale confinement leads to new all-inorganic perovskite with exceptional solar cell properties – Using Quantum Dots to Create Increased Solar Cell Efficiency: Colorado School of Mines

 

 

2- sprayon solar scientistsdeNanotechnology could improve the efficiency of organic photovoltaic technology, researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have demonstrated. In general, solar cells made from organic materials offer a cheap, simple and sustainable approach to harvesting light from the sun. But there is an urgent need to improve the efficiency of these organic cells. The performance of these devices is limited by the re-emission of light that has been absorbed, thus detracting energy that should be converted to electricity.

Read More Here: Quantum Dots Improve the Performance of Cost Effective Processed Solar Cells

 

 

St Mary Spray on Solar 150928083119_1_540x360A Rice University laboratory has found a way to turn common carbon fiber into graphene quantum dots, tiny specks of matter with properties expected to prove useful in electronic, optical and biomedical applications.

Quantum dots, discovered in the 1980s, are semiconductors that contain a size- and shape-dependent . These have been promising structures for applications that range from computers, LEDs, and lasers to medical imaging devices. The sub-5 nanometer carbon-based quantum dots produced in bulk through the wet chemical process discovered at Rice are highly soluble, and their size can be controlled via the temperature at which they’re created.

Read More Here: Rice University: Graphene Quantum Dots: The Next Big “Small Thing”

 

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