A new device that runs on almost zero power can transmit data across distances of up to 2.8 kilometers—breaking a long-held barrier—and could lead to a vast array of interconnected devices.

For example, flexible electronics—such as knee patches that capture range of motion in arthritic patients or patches that use sweat to detect fatigue in athletes and soldiers—hold great promise for collecting medically relevant data.

But today’s flexible electronics and other sensors that can’t employ bulky batteries and need to operate with very low power typically can’t communicate with other devices more than a few feet or meters away. This limits their practical use in applications for medical monitoring, home sensing to smart cities, and precision agriculture.

By contrast, the new long-range backscatter system, which uses reflected radio signals to transmit data at extremely low power and low cost, achieve reliable coverage throughout a 4,800-square-foot house, an office area covering 41 rooms, and a one-acre vegetable farm.

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By: Joshua M. Pearce, Michigan Technology University

SolarAs the U.S. military increases its use of drones in surveillance and combat overseas, the danger posed by a threat back at home grows. Many drone flights are piloted by soldiers located in the U.S., even when the drones are flying over Yemen or Iraq or Syria. Those pilots and their control systems depend on the American electricity grid – large, complex, interconnected and very vulnerable to attack.

Without electricity from civilian power plants, the most advanced military in world history could be crippled. The U.S. Department of Energy has begged for new authority to defend against weaknesses in the grid in a nearly 500-page comprehensive study issued in January 2017 warning that it’s only a matter of time before the grid fails, due to disaster or attack. A new study by a team I led reveals the three ways American military bases’ electrical power sources are threatened, and shows how the U.S. military could take advantage of solar power to significantly improve national security.

A triple threat

The first threat to the electricity grid comes from nature. Severe weather disasters resulting in power outages cause between US$25 billion and $70 billion in the U.S. each year – and that’s average years, not those including increasingly frequent major storms, like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The second type of threat is from traditional acts of crime or terrorism, such as bombing or sabotage. For example, a 2013 sniper attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric substation in California disabled 17 transformers supplying power to Silicon Valley. In what the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission called “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred,” the attacker – who may have been an insider – fired about 100 rounds of .30-caliber rifle ammunition into the radiators of 17 electricity transformers over the course of 19 minutes. The electronics overheated and shut down. Fortunately, power company engineers managed to keep the lights on in Silicon Valley by routing power from other sources.

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From Wastewater to Fertilizer

The National Science Foundation is spearheading a $2.4 million research initiative to develop new methods to create commercial fertilizer out of wastewater nutrients. Among the researchers working on this project, ECS member and chair of the Society’s Energy Technology Divison, Andrew Herring, is leading an electrochemical engineering team in electrode design, water chemistry, electrochemical operations, and developing a bench-scale electrochemical reactor design.

The goal of this project is to take the nitrogen and phosphorus that exists in wastewater and transform it into fertilizer struvite, which is made up of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate.

“Basically, you’d have a hog barn and you’d collect the liquid effluent from the farm and run it through a reactor and you’d get a solid fertilizer out of the back and, hopefully, energy,” Herring, Colorado School of Mines professor, says in a statement. “At the end of the day, we hope to optimize this thing so it makes energy, saves water, and produces fertilizer for food production.”

This work is is a collaborative effort with ECS members Lauren Greenlee, lead princial investigator and Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas; and Julie Renner, Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University.

This isn’t Herring’s first foray into water and energy research. During the PRiME 2016 meeting, Herring co-organized the Energy/Water Nexus: Power from Saline Solutions symposium.

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Student Opportunities in National Harbor

BMWBy: Alyssa Doyle, ECS Membership Intern

As a student registrant, you have several unique opportunities to get involved in the 232nd ECS Meeting in National Harbor, MD.

Student Mixer (sponsored by BMW)
As an upcoming leader in the electrochemistry and solid state science professions, students are encouraged to attend the mixer to network with their future colleagues. Light refreshments and food will be available.

The event is being held on Monday from 1900-2100h. Student member tickets are $5 and student nonmember tickets $15.

Career Expo
A pilot-program for the society biannual meeting, the event creates the opportunity for employers/recruiters to meet and interview job-seekers, volunteers, and post-doctoral candidates in electrochemistry and solid state science.

The event will be located in the Exhibit Hall during the technical exhibit hours. Free to all meeting registrants.

Author Information Session
Join Robert Savinell, Dennis Hess, and Jeff Fergus for insight into opportunities available for publishing with ECS, understanding the journals continuous publication model and types of articles published by ECS, how to publish open access and how ECS’s Free the Science initiative supports open access for authors, where content is accessible after publication, and more.

The event will be located in Maryland 4 on Tuesday from 1600h-1700h. Open to all meeting attendees.

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In May 2017, we sat down with Gerald Frankel at the 231st ECS Meeting in New Orleans. Frankel is a technical editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, corrosion expert, and open access advocate. Currently, he is a professor of materials science and engineering at The Ohio State University.

Since joining ECS, Jerry has served as chair of the Society’s Corrosion Division and was named ECS fellow in 2006. His research efforts focus on topics ranging from degradation of materials to atmospheric corrosion. In 2012, he was appointed by President Obama to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

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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Founder of the highly controversial Sci-Hub, Alexandra Elbakyan, has recently pulled access to the research pirate site in Russia. After criticism from Russian scientists, Elbakayan finally pulled the plug on Russia’s access to Sci-Hub after researchers named a new parasitic insect after her.

The so-called “Pirate Bay of science” made its mark in 2011 when Kazakhstan hacked into hundreds of scholarly journals, leaking million documents and illegally allowing the public to freely access scientific papers.

Previously, Elbakyan referred to the internet as a “global brain,” stating that paywalls should not exist in order to provide a free flow of content that can help build society. Now, she has described recent attacks on her as an “extreme injustice,” saying: “If you analyze the situation with scientific publications, the real parasites are scientific publishers, and Sci-Hub, on the contrary, fights for equal access to scientific information.”

This is not the first to Sci-Hub has come under attack. In June 2017, publishing giant Elsevier won a legal judgement against sites like Sci-Hub, awarding the publisher $15 million in damages for copyright infringement. The site is also facing legal action from the American Chemical Society.

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ARPA-EIn a recent post by Bill Gates, the business magnate identified the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, more commonly known as ARPA-E, as his favorite obscure government agency.

Gates cited the agency as a key in solving pressing energy issues, referencing his faith in ARPA-E as demonstrated through his involvement in the $1 billion investment funding created in 2016 through Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV).

BEV was developed as an initiative to provide affordable, clean energy to people across the globe. In order to make that energy future possible, Gates and his partners at BEV knew they would have to depend on public, government funded research.

Since its establishment in 2009 under then U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, ARPA-E has acted as an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy that can help deliver the highly innovative technology that ventures like BEV depend on. From the agency’s REFUEL program, which promotes the development of carbon-neutral fuels to BEEST, funding research in energy storage for transportation, ARPA-E funds high-risk, high-reward endeavors capable of transforming energy landscapes.

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Transparency and ECS

With Peer Review Week 2017 in full swing, researchers, reviewers, and publishers worldwide are currently engaged in critical conversations about the role of peer review in scholarly communications.

In the spirit of the week’s theme of “Transparency in Review,” ECS hopes to shed as much light as possible upon its own peer review process. After all, the way peer review is conducted affects all participants involved in scientific scholarship—authors, reviewers, publishers, and consumers.

ECS prides itself on its commitment to rigorous peer review, which has remained a focus for the Society since 1902.

“All the work that we publish goes through a very rigorous peer review,” says Robert Savinell, editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, in a podcast on open science. “If you look at the editorial board that we have that makes the decisions, these are all experts in the field. We can give critical feedback to the authors that can make the papers much stronger and much better.”

Likewise, ECS takes pride in being forthright about its peer review practices. It believes all of its authors, reviewers, and readers have a right to know how peer review is performed at ECS. ECS’s goal has always been to disseminate science you can trust. Transparent peer review is the cornerstone of this trust.

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Q&A series with ECS OpenCon 2017 speakers

Dina Paltoo

Dina Paltoo, director, Division of Scientific Data Sharing Policy, Office of Science Policy,
National Institutes of Health

ECS will be hosting its first ever OpenCon event on October 1 in National Harbor, MD. OpenCon will be ECS’s first, large community event aimed at creating a culture of change in how research is designed, shared, discussed, and disseminated, with the ultimate goal of making scientific progress faster.

During ECS’s OpenCon, Dina Paltoo, director of the Division of Scientific Data Sharing Policy at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Science Policy, will give a talk on open and government.

The following conversation is part of a series with speakers from the upcoming ECS OpenCon. Read the rest of the series.

ECS: Why are you interested in OpenCon?

Dina Paltoo: OpenCon will bring together various stakeholders to learn about recent updates and current activities in open science and public access. Science is generating a vast amount of data, and these data are becoming increasingly digital. The digitization of these data, along with advances in bioinformatics and information technology, as well changes to scientific ethos and practices, are allowing for increased access to and analyses of data. Thus, these data may be used to answer additional research questions which can advance science and benefit the public. It is important for the scientific community to understand the benefits of open science and public access to data.

ECS: The bio and life sciences, as well as the math and physics community, have been early adopters of tools in the open science paradigm. Do you think there are easily transferrable lessons for other scientific disciplines?

DP: I would agree that some scientific communities have been ahead of others, with regards to the open science paradigm. Within the biological sciences for example, the genomics community has been openly sharing data for a number of years. A culture change is needed in many scientific disciplines, and the math and physics community could definitely provide case studies and lessons learned which other disciplines can adopt.

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Calling Student Volunteers!

ECS Student MembersVolunteer for six hours at the 232nd ECS Meeting and receive 50% off your meeting registration, (1) ticket to the Student Mixer and (1) free year of student membership!

As a student volunteer, you will work closely with the ECS staff and gain first-hand experience in what it takes to execute an ECS biannual meeting.

Take advantage of the opportunity to network and engage with meeting attendees, symposium organizers, and ECS staff while learning how registration operates, technical sessions run, and how major meeting programs are facilitated. In addition to hands-on experience, volunteers will also receive a meeting t-shirt, a complimentary ticket to the student mixer and a certificate of participation.

Multilingual speakers are highly encouraged to apply!

Deadline for application submissions: Thursday, September 21
Candidates notified: Monday, September 25

SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION

NOTE: If you do not complete the six hours of work on-site, you will be invoiced for the full registration fee. We will do our best to accommodate the hours you have listed as being available but this is not a guarantee. Each volunteer position will require interaction with the attendees, long periods of standing, and foot-traffic flow management. If you are unwilling or unable to complete these tasks please make us aware upon submitting your application.

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