Open AccessFive German scientists have stepped down from their editorial positions with Elsevier journals in an effort to push for nationwide open access. This is the latest move in the battle between German open access advocates and the for-profit publisher.

Earlier this year, German libraries, universities, and academic leaders came to the table to support an initiative called Projekt DEAL, aimed at changing the landscape of scholarly publishing by foregoing the subscription-based academic publishing model in lieu of a “publish and read” agreement. Essentially, Projekt DEAL pushes for an agreement where German institutions pay a lump sum that covers publication costs for all papers whose first authors are associated with German institutions, those papers are then published as open access, and in return the institutions receive access to all Elsevier-published journals.

Publishing giant Elsevier has been resistant to the deal, stating that they will continue to publish open access papers if authors or instructions pay the processing charge, but that the institutions should not expect that amount to give them full access to all Elsevier journals.

As Elsevier continues to resist, more German institutions are choosing to not renew subscriptions.

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Engineers have developed a flexible sensor “skin” that can stretch over any part of a robot’s body or prosthetic to accurately convey information about shear forces and vibration—information critical to grasping and manipulating objects.

If a robot sets out to disable a roadside bomb—or delicately handle an egg while cooking you an omelet—it needs to be able to sense when objects are slipping out of its grasp. Yet, to date, it’s been difficult or impossible for most robotic and prosthetic hands to accurately sense the vibrations and shear forces that occur, for example, when a finger is sliding along a tabletop or when an object begins to fall.

To solve that issue, the bio-inspired robot sensor skin mimics the way a human finger experiences tension and compression as it slides along a surface or distinguishes among different textures. It measures this tactile information with similar precision and sensitivity as human skin, and could vastly improve the ability of robots to perform everything from surgical and industrial procedures to cleaning a kitchen.

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Deadline for Submitting Abstracts
November 17, 2017
Submit today!

Topic Close-up #2

Symposium C02: High Temperature Corrosion and Materials Chemistry 13

Symposium Focus: On thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of high temperature oxidation and corrosion, as well as other chemical reactions involving inorganic materials at high temperatures. Studies on materials interactions in high temperature processing or power, propulsion, and energy applications are welcome. Both theoretical and experimental papers are accepted, and contributions from industry and students are especially encouraged.

Featured Invited Speakers: Include Prof. David Young, University of New South Wales, “Preventing high temperature corrosion of chromia-forming alloys by CO2”, Dr. Valerie Wiesner, NASA Glenn Research Center, “Developing Environmental Barrier Coatings Resistant to Molten CMAS”, Prof. Laurence Latu-Romain, Grenoble Alpes University, “Chromia semiconducting properties study: a textbook case?”, and Prof. Yury Gogotsi, Drexel University, “High-temperature behaviors of MXenes”

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!

Deadline for Submitting Abstracts
November 17, 2017
Submit today!

Topic Close-up #1

Symposium L06: Nanoporous Materials

Symposium Highlights: Nanoporous materials have unique surface, structural, and bulk properties that enable their applications in electrochemical sensing, catalysis, environmental remediation, photoelectrochemistry, and energy storage. The development of nanoporous materials requires specialized design, synthesis, and characterization methods that tailor pore structure and chemistry to achieve desired material properties. The goal of this symposium is to explore unique challenges and opportunities in the evolution and utilization of nanoporous materials.

Topics of Interest: Including but are not limited to: 1) design, simulation, and/or characterization of nanoporous materials, 2) novel synthesis methods, 3) unique applications of nanoporous materials in electrochemistry and beyond, and 4) insights into the effects of pore structure and surface functionalization on the properties and potential applications of nanoporous materials.

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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Shirley Meng on Sustainable Power

Our guest on this episode of the ECS Podcast is Shirley Meng, professor of NanoEngineering at the University of California, San Diego. Meng founded the Sustainable Power and Energy Center, the goal of which is solving key technical challenges in distributed energy generation, storage, and power management.

Meng is also the principal investigator of Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion research group. Her group is focused on functional nano and micro-scale materials for energy storage and conversion.

She talked to Rob Gerth, ECS’s director of marketing and communications.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher and Acast.

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BatteryA new kind of lithium sulfur battery could be more efficient, less expensive, and safer than currently available lithium batteries.

“We demonstrated this method in a coin battery,” says Donghai Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State. “But, I think it could eventually become big enough for cell phones, drones, and even bigger for electric vehicles.”

Lithium sulfur batteries should be a promising candidate for the next generation of rechargeable batteries, but they are not without problems. For lithium, the efficiency in which charge transfers is low, and, lithium batteries tend to grow dendrites—thin branching crystals—when charging that do not disappear when discharged.

The researchers examined a self-formed, flexible hybrid solid-electrolyte interphase layer that is deposited by both organosulfides and organopolysulfides with inorganic lithium salts. The researchers report that the organic sulfur compounds act as plasticizers in the interphase layer and improve the mechanical flexibility and toughness of the layer. The interphase layer allows the lithium to deposit without growing dendrites. The Coulombic efficiency is about 99 percent over 400 recharging discharging cycles.

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By: Timothy J. Jorgensen, Georgetown University

Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.)

But few will know she was also a major hero of World War I. In fact, a visitor to her Paris laboratory in October of 1917 – 100 years ago this month – would not have found either her or her radium on the premises. Her radium was in hiding and she was at war.

For Curie, the war started in early 1914, as German troops headed toward her hometown of Paris. She knew her scientific research needed to be put on hold. So she gathered her entire stock of radium, put it in a lead-lined container, transported it by train to Bordeaux – 375 miles away from Paris – and left it in a safety deposit box at a local bank. She then returned to Paris, confident that she would reclaim her radium after France had won the war.

With the subject of her life’s work hidden far away, she now needed something else to do. Rather than flee the turmoil, she decided to join in the fight. But just how could a middle-aged woman do that? She decided to redirect her scientific skills toward the war effort; not to make weapons, but to save lives.

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BatteryA new sodium-based battery can store the same amount of energy as a state-of-the-art lithium ion at a substantially lower cost.

As a warming world moves from fossil fuels toward renewable solar and wind energy, industrial forecasts predict an insatiable need for battery farms to store power and provide electricity.

Chemical engineer Zhenan Bao and materials scientists Yi Cui and William Chueh of Stanford University aren’t the first researchers to design a sodium ion battery. But they believe their approach has the price and performance characteristics to create a sodium ion battery that costs less than 80 percent of a lithium ion battery with the same storage capacity.

$150 a ton

“Nothing may ever surpass lithium in performance,” Bao says. “But lithium is so rare and costly that we need to develop high-performance but low-cost batteries based on abundant elements like sodium.”

With materials constituting about one-quarter of a battery’s price, the cost of lithium—about $15,000 a ton to mine and refine—looms large. Researchers say that’s why they are basing the new battery on widely available sodium-based electrode material that costs just $150 a ton.

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