Carbon dioxideA team of researchers from the University of Toronto is looking to give wasted materials new value by developing a new catalyst that could help recycle carbon dioxide into plastic.

According to a new study, the researchers have successfully used a new technique to efficiently convert carbon dioxide to ethylene, which can then be processed to make polyethylene, the most common plastic used in making packaging, bottles, and toys.

By using a copper catalyst, the team was able to achieve the desired result of ethylene production. However, controlling the catalyst was one of the technological challenges the team had to overcome.

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Li-ion fuel cell

Superior high-voltage performance of Li-ion full cell with Li-rich layered oxide cathode prepared with fluorinated polyimide (FPI) binder, compared to the cell with conventional binder PVdF. (Click to enlarge.)
Image: Seung Wan Song

In order to increase the driving range of electric vehicles, researchers across the globe are working to develop lithium-ion batteries with higher energy storage. Now, scientists at Chungnam National University and Kumoh National Institute of Technology in Korea are taking a step toward that goal with their development of the first high-voltage cathode binder for higher energy Li-ion batteries.

Today’s Li-ion batteries are limited to charge to 4.2V due to the electrochemical instability of the liquid electrolyte and cathode-electrolyte interface, and loosening of conventional binder, polyvinylidenefluoride (PVdF), particularly at elevated temperatures. The fabrication of Li-rich layered oxide cathode with a novel high-voltage binder, as the research team demonstrated, can overcome these limitations.

Charging the batteries with Li-rich layered oxide cathode (xLi2MnO3∙(1−x)LiMO2, M = Mn, Ni, Co) to higher than 4.5V produces approximately doubled capacity than those with LiCoO2 cathode, so that doubled energy density batteries can be achieved.

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A new method to quickly produce fibers from carbon nanotubes is both handmade and high tech.

The method allows researchers to make short lengths of strong, conductive fibers from small samples of bulk nanotubes in about an hour.

In 2013, Rice University chemist Matteo Pasquali found a way to spin full spools of thread-like nanotube fibers for aerospace, automotive, medical, and smart-clothing applications. The fibers look like cotton thread but perform like metal wires and carbon fibers.

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GrapheneAdding a little ultrathin hexagonal boron nitride to ceramics could give them outstanding properties, according to new research.

Rouzbeh Shahsavari, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, suggests the incorporation of ultrathin hBN sheets between layers of calcium-silicates would make an interesting bilayer crystal with multifunctional properties.

These could be suitable for construction and refractory materials and applications in the nuclear industry, oil and gas, aerospace, and other areas that require high-performance composites.

Combining the materials would make a ceramic that’s not only tough and durable but resistant to heat and radiation. By Shahsavari’s calculations, calcium-silicates with inserted layers of two-dimensional hBN could be hardened enough to serve as shielding in nuclear applications like power plants.

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Quantum dotsResearchers have found an explanation for why a certain class of quantum dots shines with such incredibly bright colors.

The nanocrystals in question contain caesium lead halide compounds arranged in a perovskite lattice structure. Three years ago, Maksym Kovalenko, a professor at ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), succeeded in creating nanocrystals from the same semiconductor material.

“These tiny crystals have proved to be extremely bright and fast emitting light sources, brighter and faster than any other type of quantum dot studied so far,” says Kovalenko.

By varying the composition of the chemical elements and the size of the nanoparticles, Kovalenko also  produced a variety of nanocrystals that light up with the colors of the entire visible spectrum. These quantum dots could be used as components for future light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and displays.

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SolarOne year ago, the Chinese government’s energy agency made a long-term commitment to the development of renewable energy sources, investing more than $360 billion in an effort to shift away from coal-powered energy. Now, the country is following through on those promises, paving the way to becoming the global leader in the overall development of clean energy technology.

According to a new report from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), China has continued to grow its clean energy sector in 2017, installing over 50 GW of solar-powered generation.

“The clean energy market is growing at a rapid pace and China is setting itself up as a global technology leader while the U.S. government looks the other way,” said Tim Buckley, co-author of the report. “Although China isn’t necessarily intending to fill the climate leadership void left by the U.S. withdrawal from Paris, it will certainly be very comfortable providing technology leadership and financial capacity so as to dominate fast-growing sectors such as solar energy, electric vehicles, and batteries.”

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Websites of Note

The following article was originally published in the winter 2017 issue of Interface.

Websites of NoteBy: Alice Suroviec, Berry College

Corrosion Technology Laboratory
The Corrosion Technology Laboratory at the NASA Kennedy Space Center is a network of capabilities—people, equipment, and facilities—that provide technical innovations and engineering services in all areas of corrosion for NASA and external customers.

The Corrosion Technology Laboratory is part of the Applied Technology Division of NASA, and any project involving corrosion may utilize this fully staffed and equipped corrosion laboratory as a resource. This site provides fundamentals of corrosion and corrosion control information as well as resources for further information. Learn more.

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BatteryWater-based rechargeable batteries could be one step closer to commercial viability, thanks to research from Empa. According to a new report, a team of researchers has successfully doubled the electrochemical stability of water with a special saline solution.

Energy storage is the backbone of many technological innovations. As researchers explore new ways to develop low-cost, safe batteries, the research team from Empa is looking to water to function as a battery electrolyte.

While a water-electrolyte offers many potential benefits such as low cost and high availability, it does have at least one major drawback: low chemical stability. At a voltage of 1.23 volts, a water cell supplies three times less voltage than a typical lithium-ion cell. While water-based batteries may not see an application in such technologies as electric vehicles, the team of researchers at Empa believe they could be utilized for stationary electricity storage applications.

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The following article was originally published in the winter 2017 issue of Interface.

Winter 2017 InterfaceBy: Johna Leddy, ECS President

“It is all about power. If you have power, you have water. If you have water, you have food. If you have food, you can go to school. If you go to school, you have tools to think. If you have access and tools to think, you can learn those next door are not so different. You can work together to mitigate energy disparates and so reduce conflict. It is all about power.”

-ECS satellite OpenCon, October 2017

ECS looks to its future as a forum for research and a conduit for access and communication. Tenets of the scientific method are invariant, but practice of communication and access change. Change is driven by gradients. Without gradients, energy is minimized and the system dies, but if gradients are too steep, the system becomes unstable. History maps conflicts over energy and power. Early wars were over land for food energy. Distribution of natural resources and oil sustain conflicts for thermal energy. Gradients in energy distribution drive change and conflict. Going forward, access to critical materials and information, coupled with the skills and imagination to develop advanced technologies, will mitigate steep gradients in energy distribution.

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Fuel CellNitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes or modified graphene nanoribbons could be effective, less costly replacements for expensive platinum in fuel cells, according to a new study.

In fuel cells, platinum is used for fast oxygen reduction, the key reaction that transforms chemical energy into electricity.

The findings come from computer simulations scientists created to see how carbon nanomaterials could be improved for fuel-cell cathodes. Their study reveals the atom-level mechanisms by which doped nanomaterials catalyze oxygen reduction reactions (ORR).

Doping with nitrogen

Boris Yakobson, a professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry at Rice University, and his colleagues are among many researchers looking for a way to speed up ORR for fuel cells, which were discovered in the 19th century but not widely used until the latter part of the 20th. Fuel cells have since powered transportation modes ranging from cars and buses to spacecraft.

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