Cleantech ‘Moonshots’ Attract Big-Name Investors


Photo Credit: Makani

 

Makani won Shell’s support for kite-based wind, and Dandelion nabbed $16 million in venture funding

Two cleantech startups from Alphabet’s “moonshot factory” improved their odds of commercialization this week.

Makani, which makes a kite-based wind power generation device, secured a partnership with Shell’s wind development arm to test the technology offshore.

The deal makes Shell a minority shareholder in the startup, although further details of the terms were not disclosed.

Now, Makani will graduate out of X’s Moonshot Factory and live as an independent entity within the Alphabet corporate structure.

Earlier this week, home geothermal heating company Dandelion Energy raised a $16 million Series A led by Google Ventures (now called GV) and Comcast Ventures.

Back in December, X (formerly Google X) spun out another far-out energy startup called Malta, which converts electricity into thermal energy and back again.

That company raised $26 million from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Concord New Energy and Alfa Laval.

This makes for a solid record of successes for X. All three active projects that dealt primarily with energy have graduated from the lab.

Another energy concept, Project Foghorn, would have synthesized carbon-neutral fuel from seawater, but the team discontinued the effortdue to the challenges of achieving cost-competitiveness with gasoline.

Cleantech investment rebound

The preliminary achievements of the three projects are all the more notable because groundbreaking energy hardware has been anathema to venture investment for years, since the big busts of the first cleantech investment boom.

Investors lost big with expensive bets on thin-film solar and biofuels, technologies which largely failed to overcome their mainstream alternatives.

Investor sentiments are changing, however. New strategic funds have emerged to offer a more direct line from energy startups to well-capitalized potential customers or buyers. Other funds have emerged targeting early-stage cleantech investment, including hardware.

Overall venture and private equity investment in cleantech for 2018 was the highest since 2010, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That total grew 127 percent over 2017.

“There’s both a wave of new innovation in this space that warrants investment, and capital largely available now for good ideas,” said Shayle Kann, senior VP of research and strategy at Energy Impact Partners, on a recent episodeof The Interchange. “Rarely, I think, do we see at this point really good ideas with great teams that just can’t find capital to grow.”

Malta found capital despite the uninspiring track record of technological alternatives to dominant lithium-ion batteries for energy storage.

Dandelion’s raise brings the company’s total funding to $23 million to make geothermal an attractive alternative to gas or oil heating in homes. It faces strong incumbents in a market where high costs have historically limited the penetration of geothermal.

“Dandelion Energy expects to use this round of funding to accelerate growth, invest in research and development, and expand its operations across New York state — opening new warehouses and growing its team,” the company said in the announcement.

Homebuilder Lennar joined the round, raising the possibility that it could include Dandelion systems in new-build homes.

Makani to benefit from Shell’s expertise

Of the three X cleantech graduates, Makani’s technology is the furthest from anything on the market. It’s developing a wind generator without the tower, by putting turbines on a drone kite that flies in circles while tethered to the ground. It has been testing a 600-kilowatt prototype in Hawaii.

If it reaches market, this design could drastically lower the cost of wind power and speed up deployment times, by eliminating heavy construction from wind farm development. It also opens up new territory that may be hard to reach with conventional designs.

Shell wants to help commercialize the kites for offshore deployment, where they could anchor to buoys in deep water with much less effort than it takes to secure a traditional floating turbine.

“We’ll be drawing on Shell’s extensive engineering and operational expertise with floating structures to make this transition,” Makani CEO Fort Felker wrote in a blog postWednesday.

The partners plan to test an offshore Makani system at the Marine Energy Test Centre in Norway later this year, and Felker added that he is working on other partnerships to assist commercialization.

Shell has invested heavily in the cleantech space over the last year, most recently acquiring Greenlots to anchor electric mobility operations in North America.

The oil and gas supermajor separately invested in a different floating wind technology Wednesday.

It acquired a 66 percent stake in the €18 million TetraSpar demonstration project, which will mount a 3.6-megawatt turbine 10 kilometers from the coast of Norway in waters 200 meters deep.

 

Original Article from Green Tech Media

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Rivian – Electric Adventure Vehicles – For Those of You Who Wanted to See a Little More Why Amazon & GM are Considering Investing (MV $1B – $2B) – Video| Fully Charged


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Automotive startups always need to be viewed with a little caution, but as Jonny Smith (Fully Charged) discovers, Rivian have presented a very convincing launch. A large SUV and pick up truck at the LA motor show. Most impressive. (And probably why, Amazon and GM are considering investing in the EV SUV and Truck Start-Up – See Article Below)

Rivian is developing vehicles and technology to inspire people to get out and explore the world. These are their stories about the things they make, the places they go and the people they meet along the way.

 

Amazon, GM eye investment that would value Rivian at $1 billion to $2 billion, Reuters reports

Rivian SUV II 5bfdb9b644466.image

Rivian Automotive, which plans to build the nation’s first electric pickup trucks along with SUVs in Normal, is in talks about an investment from Amazon and General Motors that would value the company at between $1 billion and $2 billion, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The two companies may receive minority stakes in the Plymouth, Mich.-based startup in a deal that could be concluded and announced this month, Reuters reported, citing sources that asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

The sources noted the talks may fail to reach a deal, Reuters reported. But the Chicago Tribune is reporting “talks are progressing” and a deal could be announced as soon as Friday, citing an unnamed source. 

Amazon, General Motors and Rivian did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters. Normal (Illinois) Mayor Chris Koos and Mike O’Grady, interim CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday night. 

 

Rivian, which plans to hire as many as 1,000 employees to manufacture the “electric adventure” vehicles in the Twin Cities, unveiled a five-passenger pickup truck — the R1T — and the R1S SUV in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The vehicles are due in showrooms in late 2020.

 

“We’re launching Rivian with two vehicles that re-imagine the pickup and SUV segments,” Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe said in a statement at the time of the vehicles’ unveiling. “I started Rivian to deliver products that the world didn’t already have — to redefine expectations through the application of technology and innovation. Starting with a clean sheet, we have spent years developing the technology to deliver the ideal vehicle for active customers.”

The pickup, starting at $61,500, is expected to travel between 250 and 400 miles on a single charge, depending on the model, and is expected to tow up to 5,000 kilograms, or more than 11,000 pounds. The SUV, starting at around $70,000, can travel up to 400 miles on a single charge, said the company, and has a towing capacity of 3,500 kilograms.

Rivian, which received performance-based incentives from state and local governments, paid $16 million for the former Mitsubishi Motors North America plant on Normal’s west side in 2017.

Town officials said in November that Rivian had already exceeded its benchmarks for a full property tax abatement at the plant for 2018, investing $10 million and employing 35 people. The plant had 60 workers at the time. Rivian had about 600 workers at the time across not only Normal but also facilities near Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

The company was required to hire 500 locally and invest $40.5 million by the end of 2021 to receive hundreds of thousands in local tax breaks, plus a $1 million Normal grant, and plans to hire 1,000 locally over a decade to receive about $50 million in state income tax credits. Koos said in November the company may employ 500 when it reaches full production in 2020. “It will never be as populated as the Mitsubishi plant, but it’ll certainly be high production,” said Koos.

 

Mitsubishi employed about 3,000 in Normal at its peak. The plant had 1,200 employees when it ceased production in November 2015.

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Learn More About Rivian Here: Video Presentation

 

 

 

Also Watch Tenka Energy’s Short Presentation on Nano-Enabled Batteries and Super Caps: For Ev’s – Drones – Medical Devices – Electronics

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

Amazon, GM in talks to invest in electric pickup truck maker Rivian – Reuters


Amazon.com Inc and General Motors Co are in talks to invest in Rivian Automotive LLC in a deal that would value the U.S. electric pickup truck manufacturer at between $1 billion and $2 billion, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The deal would give Amazon and GM minority stakes in Rivian, the sources said. It would be a major boost for the Plymouth, Michigan-based startup, which aspires to be the first carmaker to the U.S. consumer market with an electric pickup.

If the negotiations conclude successfully, a deal could be announced as early as this month, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. There is always a chance that deal talks fall through, the sources cautioned.

“We admire Rivian’s contribution to a future of zero emissions and an all-electric future,” GM said in an emailed statement, declining to specifically comment on any talks with Rivian.

Amazon and Rivian declined comment.

The Rivian deal would come as its much larger electric car manufacturing rival, Tesla Inc, struggles to stabilize production and deliver consistent profits as it rolls out its flagship Model 3 sedan.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors last August that an electric pickup is “probably my personal favorite for the next product” from the company, though he has spoken only in general about a potential launch, saying that it would happen “right after” Tesla’s Model Y, which the company has targeted to start production in 2020.

‘SKATEBOARD’ PLATFORM

Rivian intends to begin selling its R1T, the pickup it debuted in November, in the fall of 2020. The company was founded in 2009 by CEO R.J. Scaringe. 

Read More: All-Electric Rivian Truck and SUV Debut

Scaringe has described the Rivian vehicle’s platform as a “skateboard” that packages the drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system all below wheel height to allow for more storage space and greater stability due to a lower center of gravity. 

He has also said the company plans to partner with outside firms to develop advanced self-driving technology, rather than try to do so on its own.

Big automakers, including GM, have not jumped into the market for electric pickups thus far. GM CEO Mary Barra has said it has given a “tiny bit” of thought to developing all-electric pickups.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker is counting on profit from sales of conventional large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in North America to fund its electrification push.

GM said last November it was doubling resources allocated to developing electric and self-driving vehicles, as part of a significant restructuring that included ending production at five North American plants.

GM last month announced a strategy to make its luxury Cadillac its lead electric vehicle brand, revealing it would be the first vehicle built on the Detroit automaker’s “BEV3” platform to challenge Tesla. GM has said one of the first fully electric Cadillac models using the new platform would hit the market around 2022.

Amazon has also invested in self-driving car startup Aurora Innovation Inc, in a $530 million funding round announced last week.

The world’s largest online retailer has steadily increased its logistics footprint, building warehouses around the world and inking deals with Mercedes as well as cargo airlines to help with delivery. 

Rivian’s existing financial backers include Saudi auto distributor Abdul Latif Jameel Co (ALJ), Sumitomo Corp of Americas and Standard Chartered Bank. ALJ has agreed to provide almost $500 million in funding, Sumitomo invested an undisclosed amount, and Standard Chartered provided debt financing of $200 million.

(Reporting by Harry Brumpton in New York and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Article provided by Reuters

Lithium vs Hydrogen – EV’s vs Fuel Cells – A New Perspective of Mutual Evolution


Electric vehicle sales are pumping, with an ever-expanding network of charging stations around the world facilitating the transition from gas-guzzling automobiles, to sleek and technologically adept carbon-friendly alternatives.

With that in mind, the community of car and energy enthusiasts still continue to open up the old ‘Who would win in a fight, lithium vs hydrogen fuel cell technology?’.

 

Are hydrogen fuel cell cars doomed?

Imagine being the disgruntled owner of a hydrogen-powered car, only for lithium batteries to completely take the reigns of the industry and in effect, make your vehicle obsolete. It’s not really that wild of a notion, it’s far closer to reality than you may realize, as most electric car vehicle manufacturers consider lithium to be the battery of choice, and a more progressive development tool.

Any rechargeable device in your home, like your portable battery, your camera or even your iPhone, is using lithium. It’s clearly felt in the tech world that this is the path of least resistance for the future, but what does that mean for hydrogen fuel cell technology?

In 2017, with BMW announcing a 75% increase in BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) sales, Hyundai came out and announced that they were going to focus almost entirely on lithium batteries. They’re not abandoning their fuel cell programme, but their next line of 10 electric vehicles will feature only 2 hydrogen options. Hyundai Executive VP Lee Kwang-guk stated, “We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles”.

Is it likely that other manufacturers will follow suit? Well, with Tesla’s Elon Musk personally stating a preference for lithium (he called hydrogen fuel ‘incredibly dumb’), and both Toyota and Honda indicating that they will pour R&D funds into this type of battery (despite earlier hesitation), the answer seems to be ‘well, we already have’.

READ MORE:

Toyota vs Tesla – Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles vs Electric Cars

 (Article Continued Below)

Do ‘refueling’ and ‘recharging’ stations hold the key to success?

Did you know that as of May 2017 there were only 35 hydrogen refueling stations in the entire US, with 30 of those in California? Compared to the 16,000 electric vehicle refueling stations already available in the US, with more on the way, it would seem that the logical EV purchaser would opt for a car with a lithium battery. In China, there are already more than 215,000 electric charging stations, with over 600,000 more in planning to make the East Asian nation’s road system more accommodating to EVs.

On January 30th, 2018, REQUEST MORE INFO, invested $5m into ‘FreeWire Technologies’, a manufacturer of rapid-charging systems for EVs. The plan is to install these charging systems in their gas stations all over the UK, though they did not disclose how many. So, even on the other side of the Atlantic, building a network of charging systems is a high priority.

With ‘Range Anxiety’ (the fear that your battery will run out of juice before the next charging point) being a common concern for EV owners, the noticeably growing network of refueling stations, including those with ‘fast charge’ options, are seeming to settle down the crowd of anxious early adopters.

 

Will the market dictate the winner in the lithium vs hydrogen car battery ‘war’?

If we look at the effects of supply and demand, the early clarity of lithium batteries as the battery of choice for alternative energy vehicles meant that there were a great time and cause for development. As a result, between 2010 and 2016, lithium battery production costs reduced by 73%.

If this trajectory continues, price parity is a when, not an if, and that when could well be encouraging you to take a trip down to your local EV dealership for an upgrade.

Demand for EVs instead of hydrogen fuel cell technology means that some of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers are showing a strong lean towards lithium batteries.

Hyundai, Honda, and VW are all putting hydrogen on the back burner. And whilst market demand for hydrogen is considerably lower, Toyota remains keen on fighting this battle, which they have been researching for around 25 years.

Their theory that hydrogen and lithium battery powered vehicles must be developed ‘at the same speed’ is a dogged one.

You could say their self-belief was completely rewarded by their faith in the Prius, with over 5 million global sales and comfortable status as the top-selling car (ever) in Japan, so there will be many who tune in to the Toyota line of thinking and overlook the market sentiment.

Price will always play a role in purchasing decisions, and with scalable cost reduction methods not yet visible or available for hydrogen fuel cell technology, it looks like lithium is going to be the battery that opens wallets.

 

Can lithium and hydrogen car batteries coexist?

Sure, they can co-exist, but ultimately one technology is going to come close to a monopoly while the other becomes a collector’s item, a novelty, just a blip in technological history. That’s just one theory of course. 

Another theory is that the pockets in which hydrogen fuel cell vehicles already exist and are somewhat popular, like Japan and California, will use their powerful economies to almost force their success.

Why would they do this? Because the vehicles are far more expensive than EVs by comparison, they had to start in wealthy regions, install fuelling stations and slowly spread out into other affluent neighborhoods.

It’s a long game that relies heavily on wealthy regions opting to choose the expensive inconvenience, a feat which could arguably be achieved simply by creating the most visually compelling vehicles rather than the most efficient. Style over substance, for lack of a better phrase.

Take a look! See how Lithium powers the world…

 

Which will stand the test of time?

Looking at this from a scientific perspective, one might say ‘Well, lithium is limited, whereas hydrogen is the most abundant gas in our atmosphere’, and one would be correct. However, science doesn’t always simplify things. Hydrogen is really hard and inefficient to capture, and therein lies a huge obstacle.

Hydrogen fuel is hard to make and distribute, too, with a very high refill cost. The final kick in the teeth is that the technology required to capture, make and distribute all of that hydrogen is not very good for the environment, and is arguably no ‘cleaner’ than gasoline. That same technology uses more electricity in the hydrogen-creation process than is currently needed to recharge lithium batteries, and therein lies the answer to this whole debate, right?

We aren’t saying lithium batteries will be around forever, but they’re more adaptable, useful, scalable and affordable as a technology, right now.

By the time hydrogen fuel cell technology is affordable to the average consumer, we will hopefully have found a true clean energy source.

 

Conclusion: Will the lithium vs hydrogen debate ever be over?

Lithium is this, hydrogen is that, EVs are this and that, HFCs are that and this. The cycle will perpetuate until it becomes clear which is the definitive solution, at least that’s the belief of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said ‘There’s no need for us to have this debate. I’ve said my piece on this, it will be super obvious as time goes by.’

To be fair though, this quote from George W Bush would beg to differ, when he is quoted as saying ‘Fuel cells will power cars with little or no waste at all. We happen to believe that fuel cell cars are the wave of the future; that fuel cells offer incredible opportunity’. Well, George, you may have been right back in 2003, but this is 2018.

Article Provided By

Mike is Chief Operating Officer of Dubuc Motors, a startup dedicated to the commercialization of electric vehicles targeting niche markets within the automotive industry.

MIT: Unleashing perovskites’ potential for solar cells


Solar cells made of perovskite have great promise, in part because they can easily be made on flexible substrates, like this experimental cell. Image: Ken Richardson

New results show how varying the recipe could bring these materials closer to commercialization.

Perovskites — a broad category of compounds that share a certain crystal structure — have attracted a great deal of attention as potential new solar-cell materials because of their low cost, flexibility, and relatively easy manufacturing process.

But much remains unknown about the details of their structure and the effects of substituting different metals or other elements within the material.

Conventional solar cells made of silicon must be processed at temperatures above 1,400 degrees Celsius, using expensive equipment that limits their potential for production scaleup.

In contrast, perovskites can be processed in a liquid solution at temperatures as low as 100 degrees, using inexpensive equipment. What’s more, perovskites can be deposited on a variety of substrates, including flexible plastics, enabling a variety of new uses that would be impossible with thicker, stiffer silicon wafers.

Now, researchers have been able to decipher a key aspect of the behavior of perovskites made with different formulations:

With certain additives there is a kind of “sweet spot” where greater amounts will enhance performance and beyond which further amounts begin to degrade it.

The findings are detailed this week in the journal Science, in a paper by former MIT postdoc Juan-Pablo Correa-Baena, MIT professors Tonio Buonassisi and Moungi Bawendi, and 18 others at MIT, the University of California at San Diego, and other institutions.

Perovskite solar cells are thought to have great potential, and new understanding of how changes in composition affect their behavior could help to make them practical. Image: Ken Richardson

Perovskites are a family of compounds that share a three-part crystal structure. Each part can be made from any of a number of different elements or compounds — leading to a very broad range of possible formulations. Buonassisi compares designing a new perovskite to ordering from a menu, picking one (or more) from each of column A, column B, and (by convention) column X.

“You can mix and match,” he says, but until now all the variations could only be studied by trial and error, since researchers had no basic understanding of what was going on in the material.

In previous research by a team from the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in which Correa-Baena participated, had found that adding certain alkali metals to the perovskite mix could improve the material’s efficiency at converting solar energy to electricity, from about 19 percent to about 22 percent.

But at the time there was no explanation for this improvement, and no understanding of exactly what these metals were doing inside the compound. “Very little was known about how the microstructure affects the performance,” Buonassisi says.

Now, detailed mapping using high-resolution synchrotron nano-X-ray fluorescence measurements, which can probe the material with a beam just one-thousandth the width of a hair, has revealed the details of the process, with potential clues for how to improve the material’s performance even further.

It turns out that adding these alkali metals, such as cesium or rubidium, to the perovskite compound helps some of the other constituents to mix together more smoothly. As the team describes it, these additives help to “homogenize” the mixture, making it conduct electricity more easily and thus improving its efficiency as a solar cell.

But, they found, that only works up to a certain point. Beyond a certain concentration, these added metals clump together, forming regions that interfere with the material’s conductivity and partly counteract the initial advantage. In between, for any given formulation of these complex compounds, is the sweet spot that provides the best performance, they found.

“It’s a big finding,” says Correa-Baena, who in January became an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Georgia Tech.

What the researchers found, after about three years of work at MIT and with collaborators at UCSD, was “what happens when you add those alkali metals, and why the performance improves.” They were able to directly observe the changes in the composition of the material, and reveal, among other things, these countervailing effects of homogenizing and clumping.

“The idea is that, based on these findings, we now know we should be looking into similar systems, in terms of adding alkali metals or other metals,” or varying other parts of the recipe, Correa-Baena says.

While perovskites can have major benefits over conventional silicon solar cells, especially in terms of the low cost of setting up factories to produce them, they still require further work to boost their overall efficiency and improve their longevity, which lags significantly behind that of silicon cells.

Although the researchers have clarified the structural changes that take place in the perovskite material when adding different metals, and the resulting changes in performance, “we still don’t understand the chemistry behind this,” Correa-Baena says. That’s the subject of ongoing research by the team. The theoretical maximum efficiency of these perovskite solar cells is about 31 percent, according to Correa-Baena, and the best performance to date is around 23 percent, so there remains a significant margin for potential improvement.

Although it may take years for perovskites to realize their full potential, at least two companies are already in the process of setting up production lines, and they expect to begin selling their first modules within the next year or so. Some of these are small, transparent and colorful solar cells designed to be integrated into a building’s façade. “It’s already happening,” Correa-Baena says, “but there’s still work to do in making these more durable.”

Once issues of large-scale manufacturability, efficiency, and durability are addressed, Buonassisi says, perovskites could become a major player in the renewable energy industry. “If they succeed in making sustainable, high-efficiency modules while preserving the low cost of the manufacturing, that could be game-changing,” he says. “It could allow expansion of solar power much faster than we’ve seen.”

Perovskite solar cells “are now primary candidates for commercialization. Thus, providing deeper insights, as done in this work, contributes to future development,” says Michael Saliba, a senior researcher on the physics of soft matter at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, who was not involved in this research.

Saliba adds, “This is great work that is shedding light on some of the most investigated materials. The use of synchrotron-based, novel techniques in combination with novel material engineering is of the highest quality, and is deserving of appearing in such a high-ranking journal.” He adds that work in this field “is rapidly progressing. Thus, having more detailed knowledge will be important for addressing future engineering challenges.”

The study, which included researchers at Purdue University and Argonne National Laboratory, in addition to those at MIT and UCSD, was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, and the California Energy Commission.

U of Manchester – Nobel-prize Winning Chemistry for Clean Energy Breakthrough used to Reduce the cost of Fuel Cells used in Renewable Energy Vehicles – Reduce harmful emissions from ICE’s


nobelenergynanoparticlesCredit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists have used a Nobel-prize winning chemistry technique on a mixture of metals to potentially reduce the cost of fuel cells used in electric cars and reduce harmful emissions from conventional vehicles.

The researchers have translated a biological , which won the 2017 Nobel Chemistry Prize, to reveal atomic scale chemistry in metal . These materials are one of the most effective catalysts for energy converting systems such as fuel cells. It is the first time this technique has been for this kind of research.

The particles have a complex star-shaped geometry and this new work shows that the edges and corners can have different chemistries which can now be tuned to reduce the cost of batteries and catalytic convertors.

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Joachim Frank, Richard Henderson and Jacques Dubochet for their role in pioneering the technique of single particle reconstruction. This electron microscopy technique has revealed the structures of a huge number of viruses and proteins but is not usually used for metals.

Now, a team at the University of Manchester, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Oxford and Macquarie University, have built upon the Nobel Prize winning technique to produce three dimensional elemental maps of metallic nanoparticles consisting of just a few thousand atoms.

Published in the journal Nano Letters, their research demonstrates that it is possible to map different elements at the nanometre scale in three dimensions, circumventing damage to the particles being studied.

Metal nanoparticles are the primary component in many catalysts, such as those used to convert toxic gases in car exhausts. Their effectiveness is highly dependent on their structure and chemistry, but because of their incredibly small structure,  are required in order to provide image them. However, most imaging is limited to 2-D projections.

“We have been investigating the use of tomography in the electron microscope to map elemental distributions in three dimensions for some time,” said Professor Sarah Haigh, from the School of Materials, University of Manchester. “We usually rotate the particle and take images from all directions, like a CT scan in a hospital, but these particles were damaging too quickly to enable a 3-D image to be built up. Biologists use a different approach for 3-D imaging and we decided to explore whether this could be used together with spectroscopic techniques to map the different elements inside the nanoparticles.”

“Like ‘single particle reconstruction’ the technique works by imaging many particles and assuming that they are all identical in structure, but arranged at different orientations relative to the electron beam. The images are then fed in to a computer algorithm which outputs a three dimensional reconstruction.”

In the present study the new 3-D chemical imaging method has been used to investigate platinum-nickel (Pt-Ni) metal nanoparticles.

Lead author, Yi-Chi Wang, also from the School of Materials, added: “Platinum based nanoparticles are one of the most effective and widely used catalytic materials in applications such as fuel cells and batteries. Our new insights about the 3-D local chemical distribution could help researchers to design better catalysts that are low-cost and high-efficiency.”

“We are aiming to automate our 3-D chemical reconstruction workflow in the future”, added author Dr. Thomas Slater.”We hope it can provide a fast and reliable method of imaging nanoparticle populations which is urgently needed to speed up optimisation of nanoparticle synthesis for wide ranging applications including biomedical sensing, light emitting diodes, and solar cells.”

 Explore further: Video: The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Cryo-electron microscopy explained

More information: Yi-Chi Wang et al. Imaging Three-Dimensional Elemental Inhomogeneity in Pt–Ni Nanoparticles Using Spectroscopic Single Particle Reconstruction, Nano Letters (2019). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b03768

 

Harnessing Renewable Energy – Dongguk University Develops a Powerful New Catalyst Process for Electrolysis – Converting Renewable Energy Sources into Chemical Energy


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An international collaboration of Scientists at Dongguk University developed a novel nickel-based hydroxide compound that can be used as a powerful catalyst for the electrolysis of water. This material could also be useful for developing …more

Finding and improving renewable energy sources is becoming increasingly important. One strategy to generate energy is breaking water molecules (H2O) apart in an electrochemical reaction known as electrolysis.

This process allows us to convert energy from the sun or other renewable sources into chemical energy. However, electrochemically splitting water molecules requires an overpotential—an excess voltage that has to be applied in addition to the theoretical voltage (1.23V vs. reversible hydrogen electrode or RHE) so that the necessary reactions can occur.

Electrocatalysts are materials that, because of their electrical and morphological features, facilitate electrochemical processes. Researchers have been searching for electrocatalysts that can aid in the electrolysis of water, and some of the best catalysts are noble-metal oxides, which are rare and costly. Nickel-based hydroxide (Ni(OH)2) compounds are, fortunately, a better alternative.

the kims dongguk u 1_wyb8mqvyqopjj-qli01iiaA team of scientists, including Profs. Hyunsik Im and Hyungsang Kim from Dongguk University, intercalated polyoxovanadate (POV) nanoclusters into Ni(OH)2 arranged in ordered layers and found that doing this improves its conducting and morphological properties, which in turn enhances its .

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 File Photo: Dongguk University

They employed a promising method called chemical solution growth (CSG), wherein a highly saturated solution is prepared, and the desired material structure naturally forms as the solutes precipitate in a predictable and controlled fashion, creating a layer-by-layer structure with POV nanoclusters intercalated between the Ni(OH)2 layers.

The team demonstrated that the resulting house-of-cards-like structure greatly reduced the overpotential needed for the electrolysis of water. They attributed this to the morphological features of this material; the POV nanoclusters increase the spacing between the Ni(OH)2 layers and induce the formation of micropores, which increases the surface area of the final material and the number of catalytic sites where  can be split. “Our results demonstrate the advantages of the CSG method for optimizing the pore structure of the resulting material,” explains Prof. Im.

Facilitating the electrolysis of  using novel catalysts is a step toward achieving a greener future. What’s more, the CSG method could be useful in many other fields. “The facile CSG deposition of nanohybrid  may be useful for applications such as the production of Li-ion batteries and biosensors,” states Prof. Kim. Only time will tell what new uses CSG will find.

 Explore further: Defects in nanoparticles help to drive the production of hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel

More information: Jayavant L. Gunjakar et al, Two-Dimensional Layered Hydroxide Nanoporous Nanohybrids Pillared with Zero-Dimensional Polyoxovanadate Nanoclusters for Enhanced Water Oxidation Catalysis, Small (2018). DOI: 10.1002/smll.201703481

Journal reference: Small search and more info website

Provided by: Dongguk University

 

Toyota and Panasonic are teaming up in massive EV battery cell venture, report says


Panasonic, Tesla’s battery cell partner, is reportedly teaming up with Toyota to create an important electric vehicle battery cell venture in China and Japan.

According to a report from Japan’s Nikkei, the two Japanese companies would create a new joint-venture that would result in Panasonic producing a large number of cells for the automaker”

“The venture, in which Toyota is to hold a 51% stake with Panasonic owning the rest, will be announced as soon as this week. Panasonic will shift five automotive battery production facilities in Japan and China to the new company, though the U.S. plant it operates under a partnership with American automaker Tesla will not be included.”

For Panasonic, it would represent shifting an important part of its battery cell production capacity to Toyota’s electric vehicle programs.

Read More: Toyota andPanasonic Explore ‘Prismatic’ Batteries Together

Toyota has fallen behind when it comes to all-electric vehicles as it preferred to focus on fuel cell cars for years.

Lately, it is tentatively making moves in the space since announcing an expansion of its electric car plans last year with 10 upcoming new BEVs.

The first one is supposed to launch next year and it also happens to be when this new venture with Panasonic is supposed to go into operation, according to Nikkei.

The joint-venture would not only supply batteries to Toyota vehicles but also other partners like Mazda and Subaru.

Again according to the report, it will also involve the production of next-generation battery cells, including solid-state batteries.

Just over a year ago, the two companies announced that they were exploring the possibility to cooperate on batteries.

Electrek’s Take

I’ve been saying it forever: if you want to see how serious an automaker is about electric vehicles, you need to look at what they are doing to secure battery cell supply.

Until now, I would have never said that Toyota was serious about EVs, but it could be the case if the report turns out to be true.

Interestingly, the deal appears to be reminiscent of Tesla’s battery partnership with Panasonic, but we would need more details to confirm that.

Either way, this could be very important news for the over industry. We will keep an eye out for more information.

Article by Fred Lambert

Fred is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Electrek.

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity


This is a schematic illustration of Hybrid Na-CO2 System and its reaction mechanism. UNIST

Scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.

The inspiration came from the fact that much of the carbon dioxide produced by humans is absorbed by the oceans, where it raises the level of acidity in the water.

Researchers used this concept to “melt” carbon dioxide in water in order to induce an electrochemical reaction. When acidity rises, the number of protons increases, and these protons attract electrons at a high rate. This can be used to create a battery system where electricity is produced by removing carbon dioxide.

The elements of the battery system are similar to a fuel cell, and include a cathode (sodium metal), a separator (NASICON), and an anode (catalyst). In this case, the catalysts are contained in the water and are connected to the cathode through a lead wire. The reaction begins when carbon dioxide is injected into the water and begins to break down into electricity and hydrogen. Not only is the electricity generated obviously useful, but the produced hydrogen could be used to fuel vehicles as well. The current efficiency of the system is up to 50 percent of the carbon dioxide being converted, which is impressive, although the system only operates on a small scale.

“Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) technologies have recently received a great deal of attention for providing a pathway in dealing with global climate change,” Professor Guntae Kim of the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST said in a statement. “The key to that technology is the easy conversion of chemically stable CO2 molecules to other materials. Our new system has solved this problem with [the] CO2 dissolution mechanism.”

Renewable Energy Trends and Updates for 2019: TEDx Presents 5 ‘Under 30′ Entrepreneurs’ Visions


 

 

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Visions For the Future of Renewable Energy

2019 is an exciting year for renewable energy. More and more countries and cities are adopting ambitious renewable energy targets and the technology is evolving rapidly. Many of these technologies, such as microgrids and energy storage, could become mainstream technology in the coming years. At this speed of innovation, it is difficult to keep track of all the changes!

This selection of TED Talks covers some of the most fascinating and promising energy topics for 2019. Be sure to read the 2018 Climate Change Overview and list of Energy Trends To Watch In 2019 before diving into these talks to better understand the impact of these new developments.

1. Accelerating The Shift To Clean Energy, Bill Nussey

 

Topic: Building local, consumer-driven electricity markets, such as the Brooklyn Microgrid, with renewable energy resources. (2017).

Nussey is an entrepreneur, investor, speaker, clean tech CEO and founder of the Freeing Energy Project.

“Solar and batteries are governed by something called Swanson‘s law, which states the more product you manufacture, the cheaper it gets. If we want to unleash society’s most powerful force for change, the irresistible economics of a lower price, we just need to make more and more solar panels and batteries. This is where you come in.  For the first time in energy history, each of us can play a role in creating the future. All we have to do is embrace clean, local energy ourselves. Install solar panels. Purchase community solar. Buy an electric vehicle to drive up the battery volumes. Do business with companies powered by clean energy. Every little thing we do adds up.”

2. Batteries Not Included, Marek Kubik

Topic: How energy storage technologies are transforming our approach to electricity generation with renewables. (2018).

Kubik is an energy and sustainability futurist, Forbes 30 Under 30 Honouree and TEDx speaker.

“Solar and wind are already cost-competitive today. The cost of these technologies has fallen to a point where, in many countries, they are already the cheapest forms of electricity generation. And that trend is set to continue.”

3. Ground Zero For Global Energy Transition, Justin Locke

Topic: The role of leadership that small islands are taking in developing sustainable energy solutions. (2017).

Locke is a writer and speaker on sustainable energy and the director for the Islands Energy Program at the Rocky Mountain Institute. (See also: Electric Vehicles in Barbados).

“Islands have been determined as victims of colonization, occupation and now climate change. But now they are flipping that script and actually providing the solutions to the world’s most difficult challenge: how to combat climate change.”

global energy storage ii battery_storage_illustration_xl_721_420_80_s_c1Read More: “5 Predictions for the Global Energy Storage Market in 2019” from Green Tech Media

4. A Printable, Flexible, Organic Solar Cell, Hannah Bürckstümmer

Topic: Efficient, flexible organic solar cells that can be printed in any shape to allow the facades of buildings to capture solar from every exposed surface. (2017).

Bürckstümmer has a background in chemistry and a curiosity about our environment, which she has translated into research into third-generation solar cells and work on the strategy and marketing for organic photovoltaics.

“This is pointing towards a future where buildings are no longer energy consumers, but energy providers. I want to see solar cells seamlessly integrated into our building shells to be both resource-efficient and a pleasure to look at. To exploit the potential of all facades and other areas, organic photovoltaics can offer a significant contribution, and they can be made in any form architects and planners will want them to.”

5. The Thrilling Potential For Off-Grid Solar Energy, Amar Inamdar

Topic: How the factors of distributed generation- lower costs, infrastructure and decentralization- are revolutionizing the energy market, to the benefit of the environment. (2017).

Inamdar works with businesses and entrepreneurs to imagine, create and grow markets that address our biggest social and environmental challenges.

“We aspire towards energy access for everybody, and we aspire towards a fully-functioning low-carbon economy. And we’re getting to the point where we’re seeing the fully-functioning low-carbon economy is not just about getting people onto the grid, it’s about getting people onto electricity and doing it in a way that’s really dignified.”
What’s Next?
To learn more about the latest energy trends, you should read the 2018 Climate Change Overview and list of Energy Trends To Watch In 2019. Stay tuned for another selection of TED Talks in February with a focus on the latest science and action combating global climate change. Presented by James Ellsmoor is a Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur.

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