Norwegian entrepreneur, Jostein Eikeland, is finally unveiling the development his has been working on in secret for the past decade in hopes to jolt the world of energy storage.

Eikeland and his company Alevo plan to reveal a battery that will last longer and cost far less than the current rival technologies. To do this, they have developed a technology that is to store excess electricity generated by power plants.

This from Reuters:

The company has created what it calls GridBanks, which are shipping containers full of thousands of battery cells. Each container can deliver 2 megawatts of power, enough to power up to 1,300 homes for an hour. The batteries use lithium iron phosphate and graphite as active materials and an inorganic electrolyte – what Eikeland called the company’s “secret sauce” – that extends longevity and reduces the risk of burning. They can be charged and discharged over 40,000 times, the company said.

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It’s a good day for renewable resources.

According to a jointly written report of solar photovoltaic systems (PV) pricing trends from the Energy Department’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), prices have dropped by 12 to 19 percent nationwide in 2013.

The report goes on to state that prices are expected to drop an additional 3 to 12 percent in 2014. The variation in percentage is dependent on the system location and market segment.

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Brainstorming

Over 100 researchers were guided through a brainstorming and working group session with the theme of improving access to clean water and sanitation in developing countries.

ECS is awarding $210,000 of seed funding to four innovative research projects addressing critical technology gaps in water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges being faced around the world.

Winners of the first Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge:

Artificial Biofilms for Sanitary/Hygienic Interface Technologies (A-Bio SHIT)
Plamen Atanassov, University of New Mexico, $70,000
Interfaces: Produce bio-catalytic septic cleaning materials that incorporate microorganisms removing organic and inorganic contaminants, while simultaneously creating electricity (or hydrocarbon fuel) for energy generation in support of a sustainable and portable system.

In-situ Electrochemical Generation of the Fenton Reagent for Wastewater Treatment
Luis Godinez, Centro de Investigacion y Desarrollo Tecnologico en Electroquimica SC, Mexico, $50,000
Disinfection: Study the electro-Fenton approach using activated carbon to efficiently oxidize most of the organic and biological materials present in sanitary wastewater so that recycling of the wastewater might be possible.

powerPAD
Neus Sabate, Institut de Microelectrónica de Barcelona (CSIC); Juan Pablo Esquivel, University of Washington; Erik Kjeang, Simon Fraser University, $50,000
Monitoring and Measurement: Develop a non-toxic portable source of power for water measuring and monitoring systems, which will not require recycling facilities. Using inexpensive materials such as paper, nanoporous carbon electrodes and organic redox species, the team will strive to create a biodegradable and even compostable power source.

More than MERe microbes: Microbial Electrochemical Reactors for water reuse in Africa
Gemma Reguera, Michigan State University, $40,000
Chemical Conversion: Develop microbial electrochemical reactors that harvest energy from human waste substrates using bioanodes engineered to process the waste into biofuels while simultaneously cleaning water for reuse. The microbial catalysts will be selected for their efficiency at processing the wastes, but also for their versatility to process other residential and agricultural waste substrates. This will provide an affordable, easy to operate system for the decentralized processing of a wide range of wastes for improved sanitation, water reuse, and energy independence.

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Researcher used microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO that could help enable higher-energy battery designs.Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Researcher used microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO that could help enable higher-energy battery designs.
Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The quest for better batteries is an ongoing trend, and now the researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have yet another development to add.

During their research, the scientists found exceptional properties in a garnet material. They now believe that this could lead to the development of higher-energy battery designs.

This from ORNL:

The ORNL-led team used scanning transmission electron microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO. The researchers found the material to be highly stable in a range of aqueous environments, making the compound a promising component in new battery configurations.

Read the full article here.

While most researcher tend to use a pure lithium anode to improve a battery’s energy density, the ORNL scientists believe the LLZO would be an ideal separator material.

“Many novel batteries adopt these two features [lithium anode and aqueous electrolyte], but if you integrate both into a single battery, a problem arises because the water is very reactive when in direct contact with lithium metal,” said ORNL postdoctoral associate Cheng Ma, first author on the team’s study published in Angewandte Chemie. “The reaction is very violent, which is why you need a protective layer around the lithium.”

With developments such as these, which lead to higher-energy batteries – we begin to improve electrified transportation and electric grid energy storage applications. Due to the importance of higher-energy batteries, researchers tend to explore battery designs beyond the limits of lithium-ion technologies.

Read the full study here.

To find out more about battery and how it will revolutionize the future, check out what the ECS Battery Division is doing. Also, head over to the Digital Library to read the latest research (some is even open access!). While you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for e-Alerts so you can keep up-to-date with the fast-paced world of electrochemical and solid-state science.

The Future of Energy Storage

The modified graphene aerogels are promising for high-power electrical energy storage applications due to their high surface area and excellent conductivity.Credit: Ryan Chen

The modified graphene aerogels are promising for high-power electrical energy storage applications due to their high surface area and excellent conductivity.
Credit: Ryan Chen

We all know the buzz around graphene, but now researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have found a way to improve upon this ultra-light material to boost the efficiency of your personal electronics.

The team at Lawrence Livermore have turned to graphene aerogel for enhanced electrical energy storage. This new generation of graphene has the potential to smooth power fluctuations in the energy grid, among other things.

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Major Breakthrough on Fusion Energy Project

The magnetic coils inside the compact fusion (CF) experiment are critical to plasma containment, as pictured in this undated handout photo

The magnetic coils inside the compact fusion experiment pictured in an undated photo provided by Lockheed Martin.
Credit: Reuters/Lockheed Martin

A few days ago we talked about fusion reactors and the new development out of the University of Washington that hopes to makes fusion a reality. Now we’re talking fusion again – only on a much different scale.

Lockheed Martin is making headlines for their announcement that their compact fusion reactors could be functional within one decade.

The company has been working for some time to develop a source of infinite energy, and have been devoting much time to fusion due to its clean and safe properties.

Their work on compact fusion revolves around the idea of using a high fraction of the magnetic field pressure, or all of its potential, to make devices much smaller than previous concepts. If they can achieve this, a reactor small enough to fit on a truck could provide enough power for a small city of up to 100,000 people.

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UW Reactor Could Make Fusion a Reality

The reactor uses a tokamak design, which is a giant torus surrounded on the sides and in the core by superconducting magnets generating tremendous energy.Credit: University of Washington

The reactor uses a tokamak design, which is a giant torus surrounded on the sides and in the core by superconducting magnets generating tremendous energy.
Credit: University of Washington

Fusion energy appears to be the future of energy storage – or at least it should be. Fusion energy yields zero greenhouse gas emissions, no long-lived radioactive waste, and a nearly unlimited fuel supply.

Up until this point, there has been an economic roadblock in producing this type of energy. The designs that have been penciled out to create fusion power are too expensive and won’t feasibly outperform systems that use fossil fuels.

Now, the engineers at the University of Washington (UW) are hoping to change that. They have designed a concept for a fusion reactor, that when scaled up, would rival costs of fossil fuel plants with similar electrical outputs.

This from the University of Washington:

The design builds on existing technology and creates a magnetic field within a closed space to hold plasma in place long enough for fusion to occur, allowing the hot plasma to react and burn. The reactor itself would be largely self-sustaining, meaning it would continuously heat the plasma to maintain thermonuclear conditions. Heat generated from the reactor would heat up a coolant that is used to spin a turbine and generate electricity, similar to how a typical power reactor works.

Read the full article here.

Currently, the University of Washington’s concept is about one-tenth the size and power output of a final product, which would still be years away.

Does the future of energy interest you? Check out what our Energy Technology Division has to offer. And head over to our Digital Library to see what our scientists are researching in the field of energy storage and conversion.

2014 ECS/SMEQ Meeting in the Books

Edison Theatre

“Pee to Energy” demo at the Edison Theatre in the exhibit hall in Cancun, Mexico. Rob Gerth, Gerri Botte, and Madhi Muthuvel getting ready to go.

I’m working on an official review of what happened at the meeting. In the meantime, I’ve been looking at some of the photos which got me thinking about the adventure that is an ECS meeting.

A couple of quick hits first:

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ECS Connections to 2014 Physics Nobel Prize

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California

Shuji Nakamura, the recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics and former ECS Plenary speaker, is awarded for his invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes.
Credit: Randall Lamb

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Shuji Nakamura, professor of materials and of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California and 2010 ECS Plenary speaker.

The prize is for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources, and is shared with ECS member Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University and Nagoya University, Japan; and Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University.

In his plenary talk at the 218th ECS Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, Nakamura described the current status of III-nitride based light emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes. Nitride-based white LEDs have been used for many application such as LCD TV backlight, lighting for inside/outside applications and others.

According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, when Nakamura, Akasaki and Amono “produced bright blue light beams from their semiconductors in the early 1990s, they triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology. Red and green diodes had been around for a long time, but without blue light, white lamps could not be created. Despite considerable efforts, both in the scientific community and in industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades.”

The LED lamp “holds great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids,” the academy continued.

Here’s a list of articles in the ECS Digital Library written by the 2014 Physics Nobel Prize Winners. You can look at them for free:

Hiroshi Amano and Isamu Akasaki

Widegap Column-III Nitride Semiconductors for UV/Blue Light Emitting Devices

Growth and Luminescence Properties of Mg-Doped GaN Prepared by MOVPE

Isamu Akasaki

Epitaxial Growth and Properties of AIxGal.xN by MOVPE

Etching Characteristics and Light Figures of the {111} Surfaces of GaAs

Shuji Nakamura

Piezoelectric Field in Semi-Polar InGaN/GaN Quantum Wells

Read more about Shuji Nakamura’s plenary talk.

Read more about 2014 Nobel Prize winners for Physics.

“Stella” is the name on every climate-cautious, pollution-loathing environmentalist’s lips.

Who is Stella? Well, she’s a car.

She may not be “pretty” by conventional standards, but Stella is the first family car powered by solar energy. The car – driven by a team of students from Eindhoven University of Technology – has just finished its road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, fueled solely by the California sunshine.

While the car is capable of traveling 500 miles (800km) on a single charge and can clock up to 80 miles per hour, there is still one pressing question on everyone’s mind – who will drive it?

“Do you want it in your daily life? Would you want to take it to get groceries?” asked one of Stella’s drivers, Jordy de Renet, in an interview with Popular Science.

The car’s strange shape stems from a compromise for aerodynamics and allowing comfort for at least two people. Also, the wedge-shaped vehicle’s flat surface allows for more solar cell coverage.

This from Popular Science:

Stella is CO2-neutral and the first energy-positive car in the world. The solar array charges while the car is in motion as well as when it is parked. “We get more energy out of the car than is needed to drive it,” said de Renet. That power, as much as twice what the car uses, can be returned to the grid.

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