Addressing Critical Issues in Renewable Energy

Franklin Orr, U.S. Under Secretary for Science and Energy, delivering the keynote address at the fifth international ECS Electrochemical Energy Sumit.

Franklin Orr, U.S. Under Secretary for Science and Energy, delivering the keynote address at the fifth international ECS Electrochemical Energy Summit.

Today kicked off the fifth international ECS Electrochemical Energy Summit. ECS President Dan Scherson opened the summit by welcoming attendees and putting these critical topics in renewable energy into perspective.

“The research you are doing directly addresses some of the major issues people are facing around the world,” says Scherson. “Our work is about the sustainability of the planet.”

Since its establishment in Boston in 2011, the summit has grown substantially in magnitude. This year, the keynote speaker was Franklin Orr, U.S. Under Secretary for Science and Energy. Among his many responsibilities, Orr oversees the Department of Energy’s (DOE) offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, as well as the office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

The Future of Renewable Energy

“We’re really looking for a cost effective energy system, security for energy resources, and—even more importantly now than it was a few years ago—the environmental security,” says Orr.

Orr discussed the Quadrennial Technology Review, a recently published work by the DOE. Focusing on the energy infrastructure of the United States, the report seeks to find ways to modernize and make more secure the energy infrastructure.

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trees_to_power2Researchers are not only looking for alternative ways to generate energy, they’re also looking for alternative ways to store it. From ECS member Vilas Pol’s packing peanut batteries to innovative flow batteries; scientists are looking for a way to securely store and deliver clean energy to the grid.

Now, engineers from McMaster University are turning trees into energy storage devices that could potentially power everything from small electronic devices to electric vehicles. With any luck, this technology could be taken to large-scale grid applications.

This from McMaster University:

The scientists are using cellulose, an organic compound found in plants, bacteria, algae and trees, to build more efficient and longer-lasting energy storage devices or capacitors. This development paves the way toward the production of lightweight, flexible, and high-power electronics, such as wearable devices, portable power supplies and hybrid and electric vehicles.

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Graphene’s New Role in Water-Splitting

5592616537473The topics of climate change and the energy crisis are on the minds of many scientists working in the fields of energy storage and conversion. When looking toward the future, the development of more efficient and effective energy storage technologies is critical. Instead of our traditional “carbon cycle,” researchers are beginning to focus on the “hydrogen cycle” as a promising alternative.

With this, there been a lot of focus on water-splitting techniques. However, there are many challenges that this technology has to overcome before it reaches efficient levels on a large scale.

In order to help address complications associated with water-splitting, ECS member Qiang Zhang is leading a research group from Tsinghua University to help get closer to the ultimate goal of the “hydrogen cycle” by developing a novel graphene/metal hydroxide composite with superior oxygen evolution activity.

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How Your Car Could Be Powered by the Sun

By concentrating sunlight into reactors, H20 and CO2 can be split to form liquid fuels.Image: The Conversation/David Hahn

By concentrating sunlight into reactors, H2O and CO2 can be split to form liquid fuels.
Image: The Conversation/David Hahn

The sun produces an astronomical amount of energy each day, but scientists and engineers are still trying to better understand how to convert that energy into an efficient, usable form. Recently, work in photovoltaics deals with utilizing different materials, new arrangements of cell components, and interdisciplinary work to improve efficiently levels. However, a new and exciting area of photovoltaics is now rising in the ranks: turning sunlight into liquid fuels.

With this new development on the rise, the possibility of one day filling our cars with solar-generated fuel is on the horizon.

Researchers are giving more attention to the production of solar fuels because energy conversion and storage and simultaneously covered under one technique. It will give solar energy a wider scope due to more utilization opportunities, whereas conventional photovoltaic energy is only being used for one-third of the day when sunlight is at its peak.

Currently, the greatest roadblock lies in commercialization of the man-made solar fuels due to the substantial amount of energy it takes to break down stable CO2 and H2O molecules.

However, researchers are also exploring aspects of artificial photosynthesis through electrochemistry to help produce efficient, affordable man-made solar fuels.

Further material from the ECS Digital Library:

Read more about processes and current projects on The Conversation.

PS: Watch Ralph Brodd, a pillar of electrochemical science and technology with over 40 years in the electrochemical energy conversion business, talk about the future of the energy infrastructure and how it has transformed over the years.

New Type of Graphene Aerogel (Video)

focus-issue-boxLogan Streu, ECS Content Associate & Assistant to the CCO, recently spotted an article out of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory detailing a new type of graphene aerogel that could improve energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis, and separations.

The researchers are creating graphene aerogel microlattics through a 3D printing process known as direct ink wetting.

This from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

The 3D printed graphene aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, are lightweight, have mechanical stiffness and exhibit supercompressibility (up to 90 percent compressive strain). In addition, the 3D printed graphene aerogel microlattices show an order of magnitude improvement over bulk graphene materials and much better mass transport.

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New Development to Improve Energy Storage

Chemical phase map showing how the electrochemical discharge of iron fluoride microwires proceeded from 0 percent discharge (left), to 50 percent (middle), to 95 percent. Source:

Chemical phase map showing how the electrochemical discharge of iron fluoride microwires proceeded from 0 percent discharge (left), to 50 percent (middle), to 95 percent.
Source: AZO Materials

ECS student member Linsen Li, along with former member Song Jin, have recently completed the first part of their study focusing on the powerful potential of iron fluoride in lithium-ion batteries, which can improve energy storage.

“In the past, we weren’t able to truly understand what is happening to iron fluoride during battery reactions because other battery components were getting in the way of getting a precise image,” said Linsen Li, graduate student and research assistant at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

This development will likely impact energy storage and could, in the future, advance large-scale renewable energy storage technologies if the researchers can maximize the cycling performance and efficiency of the low-cost fluoride lithium-ion battery materials.

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Rutgers researchers Martha Greenblatt (left) and Chalres Dismukes (right) have developed a cost-effective energy storage technology to advance sustainable energy.Image: Nick Romaneko/Rutgers University

Rutgers researchers Martha Greenblatt (left) and Chalres Dismukes (right) have developed a cost-effective energy storage technology to advance sustainable energy.
Image: Nick Romaneko/Rutgers University

Dan Fatton, ECS Director of Development & Membership services, spotted an article in My Central Jersey that details a potential game changer in sustainable energy.

Researchers from Rutgers University may have just found the key to advancing renewable resources and potentially growing an energy infrastructure based on sustainability.

The researchers from Rutgers’ Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department have recently developed a novel patent-pending energy storage technology grounded in electrochemical science. The new technology is said to not only be cost-effective, but also a highly efficient way to store sustainable energy for later use.

The research published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science addresses the feasibility of widespread utilization of sustainable power.

“We have developed a compound, Ni5P4 (nickel-5 phosphide-4), that has the potential to replace platinum in two types of electrochemical cells: electrolyzers that make hydrogen by splitting water through hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) powered by electrical energy, and fuel cells that make electricity from combining hydrogen and oxygen,” co-author of the study Charles Dismukes explained to My Central Jersey.

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From Packing Peanuts to Energy Storage

The Electrochemical Society’s Vilas Pol has developed a new process to turn simple packing peanuts into energy-storing battery components.

Pol, an associate professor at Purdue University and active member of ECS, has thoroughly succeeded in turning one person’s trash into another person’s high-tech treasure. He and his team from Purdue University have developed a system that turns the puffy packing peanuts into nanoparticles and microsheets perfect for rechargeable batteries. Pol’s new generation of battery could even outperform the ones we currently use.

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New Speakers for Glasgow Conference

Glasgow_blog_imageJust announced are the newest speakers for the ECS Conference on Electrochemical Energy Conversion & Storage with SOFC-XIV, which will convene in Glasgow, Scotland at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre from July 26-31, 2015. This is the first of a series of planned biennial conferences in Europe by ECS on electrochemical energy conversion/storage materials, concepts and systems, with the intent to bring together scientists and engineers to discuss both fundamental advances and engineering innovations.

Abstracts are due February 20, 2015
Find out more about submitting your abstract today!

We’ve already introduced you to the lead organizers of the conference, now take a moment to meet the speakers:

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Meet the Glasgow Organizers

Glasgow_blog_imageThe ECS Conference on Electrochemical Energy Conversion & Storage with SOFC-XIV convening in Glasgow, Scotland at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre from July 26-31, 2015 is the first of a series of planned biennial conferences in Europe by ECS on electrochemical energy conversion/storage materials, concepts, and systems.

We are creating a forum where scientists and engineers can come together and discuss fundamental advances and engineering innovations.

Abstracts are due February 20, 2015
Find out more about submitting your abstract today!

The lead organizers of this conference are among the top researchers in their respective fields. We wanted to take a moment to introduce them to you:

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