Latest long-lasting ‘battery’ can charge in seconds, doesn’t degrade

If this battery breakthrough makes it beyond testing, waiting for your smartphone to charge up could be a thing of the past.

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This tiny, flexible supercapacitor can charge in seconds. Image: University of Central Florida

Scientists have developed a method for creating small, flexible supercapacitors that could mean blisteringly fast charging times and more reliable batteries.

While lithium-ion batteries can break after about 1,500 charges, this supercapacitor can be recharged 30,000 times before degrading, according to scientists at the University of Central Florida. Better yet, the supercapacitor can charge in a blink of an eye and wouldn’t need topping up for a week.

Supercapacitors use static electricity to store energy, as opposed to batteries which use an electrochemical reaction.

“By replacing batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” said Nitin Choudhary, a postdoctoral associate and one of the main authors of a new paper outlining the procedure.

The supercapacitors they’ve created are also flexible, which could help address one of the main pitfalls of devices such as the Apple Watch.

Historically, one of the main disadvantages of supercapacitors is that they hold far less energy than a similarly-sized lithium-ion battery. So researchers have been exploring the use of nanomaterials, such as graphene, to improve capacity.

As noted by Engadget, supercapacitors store electricity statically on the surface of a material and require two-dimensional material sheets with enough surface area to hold lots of electrons.

Yeonwoong ‘Eric’ Jung, an assistant professor at UCF and nano-materials researcher, said the chief problem with existing approaches has been in integrating these two-dimensional materials into existing systems.

“That’s been a bottleneck in the field. We developed a simple chemical synthesis approach, so we can very nicely integrate the existing materials with the two-dimensional materials,” Jung said.

Their supercapacitors are packed with millions of nanometer-thick wires wrapped in two-dimensional materials.

“A highly-conductive core facilitates fast electron transfer for fast charging and discharging. And uniformly coated shells of two-dimensional materials yield high energy and power densities,” the university explains.

Jung is in the process of patenting the method. However, he warned it could be some time before this technology is seen in electronic gadgets and vehicles.

“It’s not ready for commercialization,” Jung said. “But this is a proof-of-concept demonstration, and our studies show there are very high impacts for many technologies.”

It’s unclear whether the supercapacitors would be suitable for replacing lithium-ion outright or complementing them, since they’re ideal for providing energy when vehicles or devices need sudden bursts of power and speed.

However, Choudhary said the technology is already outperforming lithium-ion on some measures in small electronic devices.

“For small electronic devices, our materials are surpassing the conventional ones worldwide in terms of energy density, power density and cyclic stability,” he said.

Read more on battery technology

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Everything You Should Know About Nuclear Fusion, Explained in just a few Minutes

A colorful primer on one power source that maybe could change everything as we know it in power production.

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Fusion power is the holy grail of energy production. Short of building some sort of Dyson sphere around the sun, it’s the cleanest, most efficient source of power we could hope to achieve. The only catch is that is expensive, complicated, and hard.

Fusion reactors, which are not yet good enough for commercial use, can be nightmarish tangles of technology that are damn near impossible to fully understand. And that’s because maintaining the plasma required to make a sustained fusion reaction is incredibly challenging.

Just knowing how it works and wanting it really bad was enough to almost make it happen

You’ll probably never understand the complicated ins and outs of fusion power, but there’s no reason not to understand the basics, and this terrific video from Kurzgesagt covers them, quickly, colorfully, and well.

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Why Samsung’s Note 7 crisis could soon assist in solving the problem of poor battery life

The recall could provide researchers with a huge batch of potentially faulty batteries that could be tested to improve battery technology in the years ahead

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Most accidents caused by smartphones are caused by distracted drivers or pedestrians. But a phone that bursts into flames – as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7s have been doing – comes with a level of uncertainty that borders on terrifying, especially when these fires take place in airplane cabins.

From the publicly available information, it doesn’t appear Samsung knows the technicalities of the problem, and external experts know even less. This uncertainty could cause consumer confidence to wobble, which makes it vital for the whole industry to identify and fix the problem as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Samsung has warned the debacle could cost the company more than £2 billion over the next six months, on top of the costs of recalling millions of handsets.

The sheer scale of the problem could, however, be a unique opportunity to improve battery safety across the industry for the future. If Samsung made its faulty batteries available to researchers, it could effectively crowd-source work into why they went wrong. This would provide much-needed insight into how batteries and their manufacture could be improved.

Scientists and engineers in battery research have a closely related problem. Research on battery safety is more important than ever, but it is very difficult to get obtain batteries that are actually faulty. You can artificially introduce obstacles into a model production line, but then you are only investigating a self-created problem, which limits potential to learn new lessons.

The Note 7 recall could provide researchers with a huge batch of potentially faulty batteries. Samsung, with their millions of recalled handsets, could turn a corporate and environmental nightmare into a benefit for scientific research by initiating a global crowd-sourcing consortium of hundreds of academic battery laboratories.

One of the big questions is what is going wrong with the Note 7 batteries? A previous mass recall of faulty batteries by Sony in 2006 was down to the presence of small metal particles left in the battery cells by the manufacturing process. As the battery was charged and discharged, or put under mechanical pressure, these particles led to the growth of little trees of metallic lithium known as dendrites in one of the electrodes. These eventually penetrated the battery’s other electrode and caused a short circuit. They then heated up like a wire in a traditional light bulb and ignited the flammable electrolyte in the cell, consuming oxygen from the positive electrode material.

It is not yet known if the Note 7 battery has suffered a similar problem. Today’s battery technology has moved on, packing more energy into the same space than in 2006. Modern batteries are built using advanced manufacturing techniques that coat powerful thin layers of active electrode materials onto thin aluminium and copper foils.

Metal particles of the kind that caused the problems back in 2006 would cause modern batteries to fail before they leave the factory. But the Note 7 battery problem could be caused by much smaller dust-type particles, small voids in the electrode material or manufacturing inconsistencies.

All lithium ion batteries undergo the so-called “formation” process after the mechanical manufacturing. This involves charging and discharging them a fixed number of times in a way that forms internal protection layers and allows any side-reaction to happen in a controlled way. Cells that show any irregularities will be recycled. But this process can’t (yet) detect symptoms that would point towards a future failure. We would only know about such a problem once hundreds of thousands of units have been manufactured.

Samsung’s problem does give us an opportunity to study battery failure in much greater depth. This could allow us to improve future manufacturing technology and defect detection. By agreeing on a portfolio of diagnosis methods with the firm, scientists around the world could find out what’s wrong with the faulty cells. They could also work out methods to spot problem cells before they dangerously heat up, and fix the production process accordingly and introduce a new post-production check.

The biggest problem perhaps would be Samsung’s guarding of its intellectual property, which may explain why the company hasn’t had its Note 7 batteries tested externally already, despite it being considered good practice in the industry.

But the risk of corporate damage resulting from the disclosure of a few company secrets would arguably be much smaller than that caused to consumer confidence by battery failures on any future models.

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Electric Vehicles Could Be Standard By as early as 2030

Electric cars are plugged into a charging point in London, Britain, April 7, 2016. To match Insight ELECTRIC-CAR/COMMODITIES REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo - RTSQT3N

Electric cars are plugged into a charging point in London, Britain

By 2030, electric vehicles may account for two-thirds of all cars on the road in cities in developed countries, a report released Tuesday says. The increase in EVs can be pinned to lower technological costs, consumer interest in ride-sharing, and tighter regulations on emissions.

The report, by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and McKinsey & Co., seeks to produce a vision of what urban mobility will look like in 15 years. “The individual traveler is at the heart of this evolution, so consumers will need to be open to adopting new technologies and services,” the report says. “However, both the public and private sectors will have roles to play in paving the way.”

In an effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions, governments around the world are attempting to introduce EVs through subsidies and tax breaks, while at the same time creating low-emission zones. The report also notes that technology costs surrounding EVs are falling drastically: the price of a lithium-ion battery pack dropped 65 percent from 2010 to 2015, and they are expected to drop further to below $100 per kilowatt in the next ten years.

“In the near term, it is likeliest to emerge in densely populated, high-income cities such as Chicago, Hong Kong, London, and Singapore,” the report says. “EVs become far more common, spurred by economics, consumer interest, incentives, and the creation of low-emission zones.”

The report notes that EVs are a “direct threat” to vehicles that run on fossil fuels. “The automotive sector faces a future that could be fundamentally different from its past and may need to consider moving from using a pure product-ownership model toward providing a range of transportation services,” it says, adding that gasoline retailers should be considering how to monetize current assets, while at the same time considering how to get future value from electric charging, as well as fleet services.

On Tuesday, at the BNEF Future of Energy Summit in London, Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, acknowledged how rapidly EVs are become relevant. “Electric vehicles could take off anytime,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.

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Beer Byproduct being used by researchersTo Create New Battery

Breweries’ sugary wastewater is great for creating fungus-powered fuel cells, it is said.

Thousands of newly-labelled bottles of Coors Light beer head for packaging at the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado October 16, 2007. Brewers SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing have agreed to combine their U.S. operations to create a business that will have annual sales of $6.6 billion and be the second-biggest market player behind Anheuser-Busch. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES) - RTR1UZRL

Thousands of newly-labelled bottles of Coors Light beer head for packaging at the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado October 16, 2007. Brewers SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing have agreed to combine their U.S. operations to create a business that will have annual sales of $6.6 billion and be the second-biggest market player behind Anheuser-Busch. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES) – RTR1UZRL

University of Colorado Boulder researchers have converted brewery wastewater into battery power. The process uses biological organisms cultivated in the water to make the carbon-based materials required to create cells that store energy.

According to those involved in the recent study, the process could benefit both breweries and energy manufacturers: beer makers could potentially slash the costs of treating their wastewater while manufacturers could take advantage of this cheaper way of developing renewable fuel cell technologies. “Breweries use about seven barrels of water for every barrel of beer produced, Tyler Huggins, a graduate student at CU Boulder’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and lead author of the study, told the university’s news site. “And they can’t just dump into the sewer because it requires extra filtration.”

As CU Boulder Today notes, biomasses (such as timber) are already being used to manufacture carbon-based battery electrodes, though the process as it stands now is expensive and hard to perfect. The study demonstrates that a specific type of rapidly-growing fungus, Neurospora crassa, can be “tuned during cultivation” in order to create a new process of manufacturing electrodes while bettering “the electrochemical performance of the biomass-derived electrode.” Huggins said that the brewery wastewater, which is full of sugars, is “ideal for our fungus to flourish in, so we are happy to take it.”

It also helps that Colorado is experiencing something of a craft beer boom in recent times. According to the Denver Post, the state counts more than 350 craft breweries, a 48 percent increase from 2014. That means a lot of breweries have a lot of sugary wastewater to contribute to these fungus-powered, efficient lithium-ion batteries.

“The novelty of our process is changing the manufacturing process from top-down to bottom up,” Zhiyong Jason Ren, an associate professor at CU Boulder and co-author of the study, told CU Today. “We’re biodesigning the materials right from the start.”

Additionally, Huggins Justin Whiteley, another study co-author at CU Boulder, have their sights set on making their new technology profitable. The pair have filed a patent on the process and founded Emergy, a company based in Boulder. “We see large potential for scaling because there’s nothing required in this process that isn’t already available,” Huggins said.

www.foodpassions.net

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World’s largest second-use battery storage unit prepared for grid connection

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The second-use battery storage unit will be connected to the grid in early 2016

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As electric cars come towards the end of their life, they create a set of problems that you simply don’t get with petrol cars – namely, getting rid of the batteries. Automotive giant Daimler is doing its bit to tackle the problem by partnering with The Mobility House, GETEC and Remondis to create a 13-MWh battery storage unit out of second-life battery systems from electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

These companies have worked to map out the process of battery creation and recycling in Lünen in the Westphalian region of Germany. Daimler provides its electric vehicle customers with a 10 year battery life guarantee, but reports that there’s still a good deal of life in the cells beyond this point.

The company estimates that such batteries should offer at least another 10 years of usefulness when employed in stationary storage systems, which are said to be key in helping to level out dips in the energy supply coming from renewable sources like wind farms and solar power stations.

This is a role that’s partially played by fossil-fuel power plants at the moment, so Daimler says the battery system will help to “speed up the energy revolution and eliminates the cost of expanding the grid and building new power plants.”

The battery storage unit will be connected to the grid in early 2016.

Source: Daimler

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One of world’s largest solar plants plan to produce …You guessed it.. oil

mirrahsolarplant-image www.energy-options (2)

A rendering of the 36 glass modules containing the solar-powered steam flooding system being built in Oman.

In a real case of strange bedfellows, one of the largest solar plants in the world is being built in Oman to boil water for use in oil production rather than to generate electricity. The plant, dubbed Miraah and created by GlassPoint for Petroleum Development Oman, will eventually produce the equivalent of 1 GW of power and will replace a less energy efficient natural gas method currently in use.

The Miraah project will feature rows of curved mirrors that will be focused on a boiler tube containing water. Unlike conventional concentrated solar plants that use heat to produce steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity, the steam created by the Mirraah plant will be used in nearby oil fields to loosen heavy oil so it can be more easily pumped to the surface.

mirrahsolarplant-image www.energy-options (3)

Since much of the easily extracted oil has already been pumped, companies are resorting to more complex and expensive processes called Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) to access the more difficult to extract heavier oil that now makes up the majority of the world’s remaining oil reserves.

The leading EOR method to help extract the heavier oil is called steam flooding, whereby steam is injected into an oil reservoir to heat the oil and reduce its viscosity making it easier to pump to the surface. But that method currently requires large amounts of natural gas to produce the steam, which is also increasing the demand for that energy source. According to GlassPoint, it can take the equivalent of one barrel of oil to produce every five.

The primary benefit of the Miraah solar plant will be that it will replace the less efficient and more environmentally impactful natural gas method. The plant is expected to save 5.6 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of natural gas each year, or about the amount of gas it takes to provide residential electricity to over 209,000 people in Oman.

mirrahsolarplant-image www.energy-options (1)

GlassPoint said the Miraah project will generate an average of 6,000 tons (5,443 tonnes) of solar-produced steam daily, which will also make it the largest solar EOR installation in the world. Once completed, Miraah will reduce gas consumption by a significant but as yet undetermined amount.

Once completed, the project will include 36 self-cleaning glass house modules enclosing the solar mirrors to protect them from dust and the elements. The timeline for completion of the entire Miraah project is yet to be determined, but the first steam generation is expected by the end of 2017. The project will cover more than 3 sq km (1.2 sq mi) at a cost of US$600 million.

The video below provides an overview of the design and construction of Miraah.

Source: GlassPoint

This article was updated on 5/23/16 to correct errors from the project’s original press release, including project completion date and reduction in gas consumption.

www.www-globalcommodities.com

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Solar-powered smart outdoor pole keeps commuters powered-up and surfing

The Mito was designed by Art Lebedev studio at the request of Verisun

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Smartphones have made it easier than ever to keep occupied while commuting, but all it takes is a dead battery to make for a tedious waiting game. A recently installed piece of street furniture in the Turkish city of Istanbul, however, lets commuters keep their devices charged while surfing the web with that extra jolt of juice.

mito-phone-charging-solar-power image www.energy-options (2)

The Mito was designed by Art Lebedev studio at the request of Verisun, a Turkish tech company that deals in smart city solutions, among other things. The two firms previously worked on a solar-powered smart pole back in 2013, but began work on a new design in September of last year.

mito-phone-charging-solar-power image www.energy-options (3)

There are eight USB charging ports mounted in the Mito, allowing for up to eight mobile devices to be charged at any one time. In addition, wireless internet access allows commuters to check their emails, read the news or browse social media while they wait.

Transport information is provided via a built-in 7-in outdoor LCD screen. This includes the station or stop and route name, the expected arrival time of the bus or tram and the current temperature. The system is powered by Android content management software.

mito-phone-charging-solar-power image www.energy-options (4)

In addition to these features, the Mito also has an eye-catching design, with graceful curves and patterned wood covering an internal metal frame. It has to be said that the Mito doesn’t really fit in with with the typical perfunctory vernacular of city street design, but it’s a good-looking installation nonetheless.

The name Mito derives from the energy-generating mitochondrion found in cells and refers to the 240-W top-mounted solar panel that powers the unit. Verisun tells New Atlas that, in winter, the Mito can produce up to 600 Wh of electricity a day, which rises to 1,920 Wh in summer.

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Both those figures are ample for the 360 Wh of power that Verisun says is required to run the Mito every day, but, in the event that the amount of electricity generated falls short in real-time, there’s also a 60-Ah battery from which power can be pulled.

The first Mito was installed near a tram stop at Taksim Square in downtown Istanbul in February. Verisun says it plans to roll more out in different cities in the future.

Sources: Art Lebedev, Verisun

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Smartphones Flexible battery from Panasonic

 

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On the back of a recent story about Samsung patenting a bendable OLED display for smartphones, Panasonic is rumoured to be developing flexible lithium-ion batteries designed for the smartphone market.

One of the roadblocks to creating a flexible battery has been the ability for it to retain its charge as it’s bent out of shape. The new battery is said to be able to do this even with a twist angle of 25 degrees.

The prototype is also said to hold a charge of up to 60mAh, which, when you consider the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge can hold up to 3600mAh, there is still some time to go before it is commercially viable.

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How smart is the solar Smart Plan?

The solar Smart Plan is a simple way to get predictable low daytime solar energy rates for $0 upfront. From how it works to how it helps you save, here are the smartest parts of the solar Smart Plan.

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Solar Smart Plan simplified.

The solar Smart Plan is different to­­ buying a solar system outright to install on your roof. With a solar Smart Plan, the system is installed and owned by AGL – stress and hassle free.

Put simply, the solar Smart Plan is like having a mini power station on your roof – where you buy the solar electricity it produces during the day for a low rate, instead of buying it from the grid at a higher price.

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The energy rates offered start from 12.1c/kwh, plus all solar Smart Plans are only seven years, so you can enjoy predictable low daytime solar energy rates for years to come.

Making the most of the sun.

Converting to a solar Smart Plan is a great way to help save on your power bills each year. But just how much will it really help in the long run?

Well, by switching to a solar Smart Plan, you could save hundreds. Those savings could be used on anything from a family holiday to a new TV, or groceries and school fees.

On top of this, AGL will look after the health of the system, maintaining and monitoring it so the panels will always perform at their best and you don’t need to worry about claiming on warranties or maintenance.

Keeping it flexible. 

The solar Smart Plan is designed to be flexible and meet your needs if your circumstances change. When you sign up for the solar Smart Plan it gives you predictable low daytime solar energy rates for seven years, but doesn’t lock you into the plan – your options are always open.

When your plan is up, you can choose to roll it over and keep saving, or make the final payment and AGL can transfer the system to you as per the terms of the contract.

If you move house and don’t want to buy the system, you may be able to transfer your plan to the new owners so they can start saving too. However, if you decide to exit that’s fine as well – you only need to make a final payment.

AGL solar Smart Plan can help people save with predictably low solar energy rates, while helping them live more sustainably.

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