Engineers at UC San Diego have developed a nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants that converts 90% of captured sunlight to heat. With particle sizes ranging from 10 nanometers to 10 micrometers, the multiscale structure traps and absorbs light more efficiently and at temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius.Credit: Renkun Chen, Mechanical Engineering Professor, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Engineers at UC San Diego have developed a nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants that converts 90% of captured sunlight to heat.
Credit: Renkun Chen, Mechanical Engineering Professor, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

An engineering team from the University of California, San Diego, has developed a new nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power. The new research, which has been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program and published in the journal Nano Energy, aims to convert 90 percent of captured light into heat and make solar costs more competitive.

The new material will be able to withstand temperatures greater than 700° Celsius and can survive many years outdoors, despite exposure to humidity.

“We wanted to create a material that absorbs sunlight that doesn’t let any of it escape. We want the black hole of sunlight,” said Sungho Jin, a professor in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

This from the University of California, San Diego:

The novel material features a “multiscale” surface created by using particles of many sizes ranging from 10 nanometers to 10 micrometers. The multiscale structures can trap and absorb light which contributes to the material’s high efficiency when operated at higher temperatures.

Read the full article here.

Head over to our Digital Library and read more research by Sungho Jin, one of the developers of the Silicon boride-coated nanoshell material.

The technology can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces.Credit: CSEM

The technology can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces.
Credit: CSEM

The Swiss company, Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), has announced that they have developed the world’s first white solar modules. According to the company, this will allow for a more visually appealing solar module, which will blend into buildings to become virtually invisible.

The current blue-black solar modules are built to maximize sunlight absorption, whereas a white solar module was previously not a color option due to the fact that the color would generally reflect light, rather than absorbing it.

This from CSEM:

CSEM has developed a new technology to make white solar modules, with no visible cells and connections, a reality. It combines a solar cell technology able to convert infrared solar light into electricity and a selective scattering filter, which scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light. Any solar technology based on crystalline silicon can now be used to manufacture white – and colored – modules.

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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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Glasgow Conferecne

The ECS Conference on Electrochemical Energy Conversion & Storage with SOFC–XIV

The ECS Conference on Electrochemical Energy Conversion & Storage with SOFC–XIV is an international conference convening in Glasgow, Scotland, July 26-31, 2015. It is devoted to all aspects of research, development, and engineering of solid oxide fuel cells, batteries, and low-temperature fuel cells, electrolyzers, and redox flow cells.

This international conference will bring together scientists and engineers to discuss both fundamental advances and engineering innovations.

See the Call for Papers for detailed information about the symposia, manuscript submission requirements, and financial assistance.

Submit your abstract here.

Be a sponsor or exhibitor.

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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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.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years.Credit: Nanyang Technological University

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years.
Credit: Nanyang Technological University

If you’re tired of spending more time charging your phone than actually using it, a team of researchers out of Singapore have some good news for you. The group from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed an ultra-fast charging battery – so fast that it can be recharged up to 70 percent in only two minutes.

When comparing this new discovery to the already existing lithium-ion batteries, the new generation has a lifespan of over 20 years – approximately 10 times more than the current lithium-ion battery. Further, each of the existing li-ion’s cycles takes two to four hours to charge, which is significantly more than the new generation’s two minute charge time.

The development will be of particular benefit to the industry of electric vehicles, where people are often put off by the long recharge times and limited battery life. The researchers at NTU believe that drivers of electric vehicles could save tens of thousands on battery replacement costs and will be able to charge their cars in just ten minutes, all in thanks to the new ultra-fast charging battery.

This from NTU:

In the new NTU-developed battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries is replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap and safe material found in soil. It is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays. Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for super-fast charging.

Read the full article here.

If you’re interested in battery research, take a look at what our Battery Division has to offer.

You can also explore the vast amount of research ECS carries on the technological and scientific breakthroughs in the field of battery by browsing through our digital library or taking a look at this past issue of Interface.