Image: Antalexion

Image: Antalexion

With climate change being a continually rising global dilemma, many scientist have turned their attention to research in the area of renewable energy sources. Even with some of the most brilliant minds working on improving efficiency and price of solar cells, they are still not widely used due to the high cost of materials used to develop the them. Now, a scientist may be on the path to cracking the code on material prices of solar cells by using nanotechnology.

Elijah Thimsen, assistant professor at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, worked in conjunction with a team of engineers at the University of Minnesota to develop a technique to increase the performance of electrical conductivity.

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Professor Chunlei Guo has developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials hydrophobic, illustrated in this image of a water droplet bouncing off a treated sample.Photo: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Professor Chunlei Guo has developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials hydrophobic, illustrated in this image of a water droplet bouncing off a treated sample.
Photo: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

New super-hydrophobic metals developed at the University of Rochester could mean big things for solar innovation and sanitation initiatives.

The researchers, led by Professor Chunlei Guo, have developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials extremely water repellant, thus resulting in rust-free metals.

Professor Guo’s research in novel not in the sense that he and his team are creating water resistant materials, instead they are creating a new way to develop these super-hydrophobic materials by taking away reliance on chemical coatings and shifting to laser technology.

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Development in Lithium-Ion Batteries

You can thank “dendrites” when your smartphone battery goes from a solid 40 percent charge to completely dead in a matter of 20 minutes. Thankfully, researchers out of Purdue University are researching these dendrites – otherwise known as the slayer of lithium-ion batteries – and developing something that could greatly improve the li-ion.

Dendrites work to destroy lithium-ion batteries by forming an anode electrode and growing until they affect battery performance – potentially resulting in complete battery failure.

The new study out of Purdue University explores this issue with the intention of creating a safer and longer-lasting lithium-ion battery that could be charged within minutes instead of hours.

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Intel may be known for microprocessors and long-time ECS member Gordon E. Moore, but now the company’s Edison technology is lending itself to something entirely different.

They call it the Spider Dress, and the innovation involved in making this product goes far beyond sheer aesthetic value.

The 3-D printed dress was created by Anouk Wipprecht and uses Intel’s Edison technology to power robotic spider legs surrounding the collar, designed to keep people out of your personal space.

The dress’s robotic arms are connected to proximity sensors, which will react when someone gets too close to the wearer of the dress. Further, the sensors use biometric signals to measure the wearer’s stress level, which allow the dress to respond based on your mood.

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From Silk to Sensors

The India-based Achira Labs has taken silk screening to a whole new level.

Chemical engineers from Achira Labs have found a way to weave diabetes test strips from silk, rather than the conventional plastic or paper.

But they’re not creating these strips for luxury. Silk would actually have several advantages in a country such as India, where weavers are abundant and silk is inexpensive.

Achira Labs have used these silk sensors before to detect other medical issues, including strips that change color when they detect a deadly type of diarrhea in diapers.

These new silk strips for diabetics are not only just as efficient as other types of glucose strips, they are also easier to manufacture.

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Cochlear implants have been the go-to tool for those with significant hearing loss. However, in order to implant a cochlear device, one must be willing to go under the knife and dish out a substantial amount of money.

That’s why researchers from Colorado State University started looking for a more practical solution, which caused them to turn to an unlikely organ: the tongue.

Colorado State University researchers John William, Leslie Stone-Roy, and JJ Moritz have developed a Bluetooth-enabled microphone earpiece in conjunction with a smart retainer that fits on a person’s tongue to strengthen the hearing of partially deaf people.

Of course, you can’t organically hear though your tongue. Instead, the device works to reprogram areas of the brain in order to help partially deaf people interpret various sensations on the tongue as certain words. The tongue is the perfect organ for this application due to its hypersensitive ability to discern between tactile sensations.

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Flexible, Three-Dimensional Supercapacitors

The flexible material created at Rice University has the potential for use in electronics or for energy storage.Image: Tour Group/Rice University

The flexible material created at Rice University has the potential for use in electronics or for energy storage.
Image: Tour Group/Rice University

James Tour and his group at Rice University have developed and tested a flexible, three-dimensional supercapacitor with the potential to be scaled up for commercial applications.

In this study, the researchers advanced what they had already developed in laser-induced graphene (LIG) by producing and testing the stacked, three-dimensional supercapacitors.

Their prior findings showed that firing a laser at an inexpensive polymer burned off other elements and left a film of porous graphene, which has the potential to be the perfect electrode for supercapacitors or electronic circuits.

The researchers began by making vertically aligned supercapacitors with laser-induced graphene on both sides of a polymer sheet.

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Member Spotlight – Ryohei Mori

The aluminum-air battery has the potential to serve as a short-term power source for electric vehicles.Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

The aluminum-air battery has the potential to serve as a short-term power source for electric vehicles.
Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

A new long-life aluminum-air battery is set to resolve challenges in rechargeable energy storage technology, thanks to ECS member Ryohei Mori.

Mori’s development has yielded a new type of aluminum-air battery, which is rechargeable by refilling with either salt or fresh water.

The research is detailed in an open access article in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, where Mori explains how he modified the structure of the previous aluminum-air battery to ensure a longer battery life.

Theoretically, metal-air technology can have very high energy densities, which makes it a promising candidate for next-generation batteries that could enable such things as long-range battery-electric vehicles.

However, the long-standing barrier of anode corrosion and byproduct accumulation have halted these batteries from achieving their full potential. Dr. Mori’s recently published paper, “Addition of Ceramic Barriers to Aluminum-Air batteries to Suppress By-product Formation on Electrodes,” details how to combat this issue.

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A New Generation of Electric Car Battery

Scientists out of the University of Waterloo are one step closer to inventing a cheaper, lighter and more powerful rechargeable battery for electric vehicles. At the heart of this discovery lies a breakthrough in lithium-sulfur batteries due to an ultra-thin nanomaterial.

This from the University of Waterloo:

Their discovery of a material that maintains a rechargeable sulfur cathode helps to overcome a primary hurdle to building a lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery. Such a battery can theoretically power an electric car three times further than current lithium-ion batteries for the same weight – at much lower cost.

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Tech Highlights

Check out what’s trending in electrochemical and solid state technology! Read some of the most exciting and innovative papers that have been recently published in ECS’s journals.

The articles highlighted below are Open Access! Follow the links to get the full-text version.

“Modeling Volume Change due to Intercalation into Porous Electrodes”
Published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society
Lithium-ion batteries are electrochemical devices whose performance is influenced by transport processes, electrochemical phenomena, mechanical stresses, and structural deformations. Many mathematical models already describe the electrochemical performance of these devices. Some models go further and account for changes in porosity of the composite electrode. Read the rest.

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