Education is the Key to SuccessChildren struggle to learn when they don’t have science labs and libraries. Learning becomes difficult in classrooms that are falling apart, or where children are expected to sit on the floor because they have neither desks nor chairs.

A lack of infrastructure is just one contributor to South Africa’s entrenched and ongoing educational inequality. There is another, less frequently discussed issue that is deepening this inequality: access to quality peer-reviewed information.

Such information should be available to all South Africans whether they are school children, university students, researchers or citizen scientists. This will encourage lifelong self-learning. It will spur continued research and innovation. Access to information can bolster education, training, empowerment and human development.

International Open Access Week offers a good opportunity to explore how South Africa can improve its citizens’ access to information.

Opening up access

It has been more than 21 years since apartheid ended, but a distinction remains between South Africa’s “rich” and “poor” universities. One of the reasons for this distinction is the richer institutions’ ability to invest in research resources. They can afford expensive subscriptions to databases which contain a wealth of research – ironically funded by taxpayers’ money.

The historically disadvantaged and predominantly black universities can’t afford such subscriptions. Their academics also can’t contribute to such resources, because authors are expected to pay a fee for the “privilege” of being published.

As university budgets are slashed, even wealthier institutions are beginning to struggle with subscription and publication fee costs.

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Women in STEMJust over 45 years ago today, 500,000 women marched down New York City’s Fifth Avenue to celebrate the anniversary of the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment. Since that day, Aug. 26 has been annually celebrated in the U.S. as Women’s Equality Day – a celebration of a major turning point in the women’s rights movement: the right to vote.

While women’s move toward equality has gained much momentum since the 1920s, there have been plenty of bumps in the road – especially for women in science, technology, engineering, and math.

History may not have always been kind to women, but they’ve always been there – building the early foundation of modern science and breaking gender barriers in innovation and discovery.

Take Nettie Stevens (born 1861), the foremost researcher in sex determination, whose work was initially rejected because of her sex. Or Mary Engle Pennington (born 1872), an American chemist at the turn of the 20th century, pioneering research that allows us to process, store, and ship food safely. Barbara McClintock (born 1902) was deemed crazy when she suggested that genes jump from chromosome to chromosome. Of course, she was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of genetic transportation.

Through the years, women in STEM have worked tirelessly to break the hardest glass ceilings and close the gender gap.

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Solar-to-Hydrogen Production

The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2 percent, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight.
Image: Infini Lab/EPFL

One of the biggest barriers between renewables and widespread grid implementation has been the issue of intermittency. How can we meet a nation’s energy demands with solar when the sun goes down?

In an effort to move past these barriers toward a cleaner energy infrastructure, a new paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society describes an effective, low-cost solution for storing solar energy.

The research team from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne is looking to covert solar energy into hydrogen through water electrolysis. At its core, the concept revolves around using solar-produced electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, leaving clean hydrogen to be stored as future energy or even as a fuel.

But this idea is not new to the scientific community. However, the research published in JES provides answer to continuous barriers in this field related to stability, scaling, and efficiency.

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Glass supercapactors

Researchers place a block of glass between a cathode and anode, and then exerted steady pressure on the glass while gradually heating it.
Image: Douglas Benedict of Academic Image

A new study published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society describing novel finding in how glass transforms under intense electrical and thermal conditions could potentially spur development in glass supercapacitors, which could bolster the performance of batteries now used for electric vehicles and solar energy.

“This technology is relevant to companies seeking the next wave of portable, reliable energy,” says Himanshu Jain, Lehigh University professor and co-author of the study. “A breakthrough in the use of glass for power storage could unleash a torrent of innovation in the transportation and energy sectors, and even support efforts to curb global warming.”

This from Lehigh University:

McLaren’s work in Marburg revealed a two-step process in which a thin sliver of the glass nearest the anode, called a depletion layer, becomes much more resistant to electrical current than the rest of the glass as alkali ions in the glass migrate away. This is followed by a catastrophic change in the layer, known as dielectric breakdown, which dramatically increases its conductivity. McLaren likens the process of dielectric breakdown to a high-speed avalanche, and using spectroscopic analysis with electro-thermal poling as a way to see what is happening in slow motion.

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Renewable grideThe world’s next energy revolution is looming nearer.

In order to bolster this transformation, the U.S. Department of Energy has been funding 75 projects in the energy technology field, enabling cutting-edge research into energy conversion and storage. This effort is part of the DOE’s goal to “decarbonize” the U.S. energy infrastructure by the middle of the country.

One of the most promising projects funded by the DOE is led by ECS member Michael Aziz, where he and his team from Harvard are addressing challenges in grid energy storage.

Energy storage has become one of the largest barriers in the widespread implementation of renewables. By offering a cost-effective, efficient answer to energy storage, the issues of intermittency in power sources such as wind and solar could be answered.

Aziz and his team are addressing issues in energy storage with the development of a flow battery based on inexpensive organic molecules in a water-based electrolyte. The team is focusing on using quinone molecules, which can be found in such plant sources as rhubarb or even oil waste. The quinone molecules allow energy to be stored in a water0based solution at room temperature.

Aziz recently discussed some of his work in quinon-bromide flow batteries as part of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society Focus Issue on Redox Flow Batteries-Reversible Fuel Cells.

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Reminder: Submit Your OA Story Today!

Essay ContestThere’s only one week left to enter ECS’s Open Access Week Competition! Don’t forget to submit your brief 200-400 word essay for a chance to win one of two cash prizes and additional funding for your ECS Student Chapter.


Prizes:

1st prize: $250 to the individual, $500 to the affiliated ECS Student Chapter*

2nd prize: $100 to the individual, $250 to the affiliated ECS Student Chapter*

*In the event that there is no affiliated ECS Student Chapter, this prize money will be donated to the ECS Free the Science Fund. If a report is written by more than one individual, any prize money will be shared equally between those individuals.

Submissions Open: August 8, 2016

Submissions Close: September 1, 2016

Download our poster promoting the competition to distribute on your campus.

Not interested in participating, but want to get involved? Check out the Open Access Week website for information or inspiration: http://www.openaccessweek.org/


RULES AND MORE INFORMATION 

SUBMIT NOW!

In recent years, the focus on alternative means of transportation has almost exclusively highlighted automobiles. But ECS member Telpriore Gregory Tucker is shifting his attention in another direction: electric bikes.

Tucker was recently awarded the 2016 Arizona Legislative District 27-New Business of the Year by the Arizona House of Representatives for his sustainable business efforts with the U.S. Battery Bike Company. Now, Tucker is in full gear with his new company, Sirius E-Bikes, and is discussing the advantages of electric bikes in his recently penned article in Arizona’s Green Living magazine.

This from Green Living:

All e-bikes can legally travel at a max speed of 20 mph without pedaling, which is twice as fast as an average rider on a regular bicycle. In 2015, California passed a law allowing some e-bikes to reach 28 mph with the condition of added pedaling. Electric bicycle technology has improved specifically in the lithium-ion battery pack, the battery management system, the electric motor, and of course the integration for an overall aesthetically appealing frame.

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EVElectric vehicles have become more visible in the automobile market over the past few years, but many potential buyers still cite one thing as a major deterrent in going electric: range anxiety.

Range anxiety is a term many use to describe the fear of an EV’s battery running out of juice while driving, leaving them stranded away from a charging station.

However, a new study published by a team from MIT and the Santa Fe Institute looked at data in order to come to a conclusion that range anxiety is not something that most drivers really need to worry about.

Overcoming range anxiety

“What we found was that 87 percent of vehicles on the road could be replaced by a low cost electric vehicle available today, even if there’s no possibility to recharge during the day,” senior author of the study, Jessika Trancik, told The Washington Post.

As technology progresses, EVs continue to have a leg up on traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. In 2015, battery prices for EVs fell by 35 percent. By 2040, experts predict that long-range EV prices will be less than $22,000. Additionally, an expected 35 percent of all new cars world-wide are expected to come with a plug.

Even as the technology progresses, sociological barriers such as range anxiety remain as a factor that stands in the way of a full market boom of EVs.

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Discussing the importance of cyber security

Cyber Security via IStockWhile cyberwar may sound like the plot of the latest sci-fi blockbuster, the realities of the phenomena are much more palpable. Few understand that better than Yaw Obeng, ECS member and senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In light of the 2014 hack on Sony Pictures, the suspected Russian hacking of U.S. Democratic National Committee emails, and the data breach of the U.S. government, in which the personal information of 21.5 million government employees was leaked, the scientists at NIST – specifically researchers like Obeng – have been shifting their attention to cyber security.

“Right now, everything that can be attached to the internet has been attached to the internet – right down to toothbrushes,” says Obeng, ECS Dielectric Science and Technology Division chair. “The question then becomes: How do we make sure that these devices are secure so they cannot be hijacked or compromised?”

(MORE: Read Obeng’s paper on this topic published in ECS Transactions.)

The answer to that question, however, may not be as simple as some would hope.

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Open AccessNASA recently announced that all research funded by the space agency will be accessible to anyone looking to access the data at absolutely no cost.

The new public web portal, called PubSpace, was established in response to NASA’s new policy, which requires that all research funded by NASA and published in peer-reviewed journals must be open to the public within one year of its initial publication.

“At NASA, we are celebrating this opportunity to extend access to our extensive portfolio and scientific and technical publications,” NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman said in a press release. “Through open access and innovation we invite the global community to join us in exploring Earth, air, and space.”

However, the entire body of NASA-funded research will not be accessible in PubSpace. Materials and patents governed by personal privacy, proprietary, or security laws will not be housed in the new database.

NASA’s new policy and PubSpace is a direct response to a request from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for federal funding agencies to make papers and data more easily accessible to other researchers and the public.

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