A new bendable lithium-ion battery prototype continues delivering electricity even when cut into pieces, submerged in water, or struck with force.

“We are very encouraged by the feedback we are receiving,” says Jeffrey P. Maranchi, manager of the materials science program at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “We are not that far away from testing in the field.”

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Electric VehiclesAs sustainable technologies continue to expand into the marketplace, the demand for better batteries rises. Many researchers in the field are looking toward all-solid-state batteries as a promising venture, citing safety and energy density properties. Now, one company is looking to take that work from the lab to the marketplace.

Electric car maker Fisker has recently filed patents for solid state lithium-ion batteries, stating that mass scale production could begin as soon as 2023. The patent covers novel materials and manufacturing processes that the company plans to use to develop automotive-ready batteries.

Unlike other types of rechargeable batteries that use liquid electrodes and electrolytes, solid state batteries utilize both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. While liquid electrolytes are efficient in conducting ions, there are certain safety hazards attached (i.e. fires if the battery overheats or is short-circuited). In addition to better safety, solid electrodes could also impact battery cost and energy density, opening up new possibilities for large scale storage applications.

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ECS Lecture with Steven Chu

The ECS Lecture during the 232nd ECS Meeting in National Harbor, MD, was delivered by Steven Chu. Chu is currently the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular & Cellular Physiology at Stanford. Previously, he served as U.S. Secretary of Energy under President Obama and was the co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to laser cooling and atom trapping.

Chu’s ECS Lecture, “The Role of Electrochemistry in our Transition to Sustainable Energy,” focused on the risks society is facing due to changing climate, the evolving energy landscape, and the role of electrochemistry in providing critical technological advances.

During his lecture, Chu outlined the risks that modern society faces, which demand technological innovation to provide solutions. Namely, Chu stated that the rising climate poses significant risks to the global community. According to Chu, the Earth has warmed by an alarming one degree Celsius since 1975.

“One degree Celsius does not sound like a lot, but just a couple of degrees warmer would make a dramatic difference,” Chu said. “If the Earth does warm by two degrees Celsius, Boston will be underwater.”

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Carbon dioxideAfter remaining steady for three years, global fossil fuel emissions are rising again and may increase again next year. But improved energy efficiency and a booming renewables market may offer a bit of a silver lining.

“This year’s result is discouraging, but I remain hopeful,” says Rob Jackson, professor at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford University and chair of the Global Carbon Project, which released a series of reports in Environmental Research Letters.

“In the US, cities, states, and companies have seized leadership on energy efficiency and low-carbon renewables that the federal government has abdicated.”

The report appears with data published simultaneously in an Earth System Science Data Discussions paper led by Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, who is also part of the Global Carbon Project.

Together, they forecast that global fossil fuel emissions will reach a record 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2017, with total emissions reaching a record 41 billion tons, including deforestation. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration reached 403 parts per million in 2016, and is expected to increase by 2.5 parts per million in 2017.

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Carbon dioxideNew research sheds light on the effectiveness and value of carbon-pricing incentive programs.

In a new paper, based on analysis of a 2015 pilot program on the Yale University campus, researchers examine internal carbon-pricing strategies, including different models of implementation.

Further, they illustrate how the Yale project, which has since expanded into a campus-wide initiative, has provided empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these price signals.

More than 600 major companies—from BP to Microsoft—have adopted carbon-pricing programs to spur energy conservation and control their carbon emissions. But researchers have previously not analyzed or publicly reported the effectiveness of these efforts.

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GridEngineers have developed a 4-in-1 smart utilities plant that produces electricity, water, air-conditioning, and heat in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way.

The eco-friendly system harvests waste energy and is suitable for building clusters and underground cities, especially those in the tropics.

“Currently, significant amount of energy is required for the generation of electricity, water, air-conditioning, and heat. Running four independent processes also result in extensive energy wastage, and such systems take up a huge floor area,” says Ernest Chua, associate professor in the mechanical engineering department at National University of Singapore Faculty of Engineering.

“With our smart plant, these processes are carefully integrated together such that waste energy can be harvested for useful output. Overall, this novel approach could cut energy usage by 25 to 30 percent and the 4-in-1 plant is also less bulky.

“Users can also enjoy cheaper and a more resilient supply of utilities.”

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BatteryCapitalizing on tiny defects can improve electrodes for lithium-ion batteries, new research suggests.

In a study on lithium transport in battery cathodes, researchers found that a common cathode material for lithium-ion batteries, olivine lithium iron phosphate, releases or takes in lithium ions through a much larger surface area than previously thought.

“We know this material works very well but there’s still much debate about why,” says Ming Tang, an assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University. “In many aspects, this material isn’t supposed to be so good, but somehow it exceeds people’s expectations.”

Part of the reason, Tang says, comes from point defects—atoms misplaced in the crystal lattice—known as antisite defects. Such defects are impossible to completely eliminate in the fabrication process. As it turns out, he says, they make real-world electrode materials behave very differently from perfect crystals.

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Transparent solar materials on windows could gather as much energy as bulkier rooftop solar units, say researchers.

The authors of a new paper argue that widespread use of such highly transparent solar applications, together with the rooftop units, could nearly meet US electricity demand and drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” says Richard Lunt, an associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles, and mobile electronics.”

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Transitioning to 100% Renewable

On the latest episode of the Science Vs podcast, host Wendy Zukerman takes a look at renewable energy in the United States. Through research and interviews with scientists across the board, Zukerman poses the ultimate question: Can the U.S. go 100 percent renewable by 2050?

Listen to Mark Delucchi, Christopher Clack, and David Connolly as they navigate the renewable energy debate and discuss the role of renewables.

PS: Want more science podcasts? Check out the nearly 70 epiosdes of the ECS Podcast!

Using unique design and building methods, researchers have created a prototype for an ultra-thin, curving concrete roof that will also generate solar power.

The self-supporting, doubly curved shell roof has multiple layers: the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer. A second, exterior layer of the concrete sandwich structure encloses the roof, onto which builders install thin-film photovoltaic cells.

Philippe Block, a professor of architecture and structures at ETH Zurich, and Arno Schlüter, a professor of architecture and building systems, led the team. They want to put the new lightweight construction to the test and combine it with intelligent and adaptive building systems.

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