Computer pioneer Grace Hopper

Computing pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Hopper as a LEGO minifigure.
image by: pixbymaia, image license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

One of the quotes I like to keep on my desk is, “A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”

“Amazing Grace” Hopper, who said those words, certainly did new things. She was a computer programming pioneer, and the first woman at Yale University to earn a doctorate in math.

She is perhaps most noted for having invented key software technologies that laid the ground for today’s computer languages, and which remain a part of our everyday life. She was able to convince industry and government agencies to agree on a common business programming language, called Cobol, which (among many uses) is still used when you withdraw money from a cash machine.

She also worked on a device called the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, which worked out flight trajectories for rockets. Named for her are many places and objects, including the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper, the Department of Energy’s flagship computer system “Hopper,” and the Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer at NERSC.

Read about just ten of the many women who changed the tech industry forever.

rod-borupRodney Borup of the Los Alamos National Laboratory will be awarded the 2015 Energy Technology Division Research Award for his pioneering work in energy conversion and storage, specifically related to sustainability and fuel cells.

The prestigious award was established in 1992 to encourage excellence in energy related research.

Dr. Borup is widely recognized for his work in fuel cell transportation with such corporate and academic organizations such as General Motors and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). He joined LANL in 1994 as a post-doctoral researcher, where he would eventually move on to become the Program Manager for the Fuel Cells and Vehicle Technologies Program and Team Leader for Fuel Cells Program —titles which he currently holds.

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ECS’s Energy Technology Division has presented three distinguished student awards to be accepted at the 227th ECS Meeting this May in Chicago, IL.

The Energy Technology Division Supramaniam Srinivasan Young Investigator Award will be presented to William Mustain of the University of Connecticut.

mustain-photoWilliam Mustain earned a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2006, followed by two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in ECS President Paul Kohl’s research group at Georgia Tech. He went on to join the Department of Chemical & Bimolecular Engineering gat the University of Connecticut in 2008.

Over the past twelve years, Prof. Mustain has worked in several areas related to electrochemical energy generation and storage, including: catalysts and supports for proton exchange membrane and anion exchange membrane fuel cells and electrolyzers, high capacity materials for Li-ion batteries, the purposeful use of carbonates in low temperature electrochemical systems, and the electrochemical conversion and utilizations of methane and CO2.

Take a peak at his award address, “Near Room Temperature Conversion of Methane to Methanol.”

The Energy Technology Division Supramaniam Srinivasan Young Investigator Award was established in 2011 to recognize and reward an outstanding young researcher in the field of energy technology.

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Glass Coating for Li-S Battery

Researchers have investigated a strategy to prevent this “polysulfide shuttling” phenomenon by creating nano-sized sulfur particles, and coating them in silica (SiO2), otherwise known as glass.Image: Nanoscale

Researchers have investigated a strategy to prevent this “polysulfide shuttling” phenomenon by creating nano-sized sulfur particles, and coating them in silica (SiO2), otherwise known as glass.
Image: Nanoscale

Lithium-sulfur has been a hot topic in battery technology recently. Because of its ability to produce 10 times the amount of energy as a conventional battery, we’ve seen novel innovations such as the all solid state lithium-sulfur battery. Now, the li-sulfur battery is getting a glass coating to further improve its performance.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have applied a glass cage-like coating, along with graphene oxide, to the li-sulfur battery. This innovation was developed in order to overcome one of the major issues in commercializing the battery – polysulfides, which cause the battery’s capacity to decrease over its lifetime.

The cathode material traps the polysulfides in a very thin glass cage. Researchers used an organic precursor to construct the trapping barrier.

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Nanoscale Microscopy

The microscope they developed produces x-ray images by scanning a sample while collecting various x-ray signals emerging from the sample.Image: Brookhaven National Laboratory

The microscope they developed produces x-ray images by scanning a sample while collecting various x-ray signals emerging from the sample.
Image: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Researchers have developed a new x-ray microscope that will provide scientists with the opportunity to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to the nanometer.

The new class of x-ray microscope allows for nanoscale imagining like never before. This development brings researchers one step closer to the ultimate goal of nanometer resolution.

This from Brookhaven National Laboratory:

The microscope manipulates novel nanofocusing optics called multilayer Laue lenses (MLL) — incredibly precise lenses grown one atomic layer at a time — which produce a tiny x-ray beam that is currently about 10 nanometers in size. Focusing an x-ray beam to that level means being able to see the structures on that length scale, whether they are proteins in a biological sample, or the inner workings of a fuel cell catalyst.

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3D Printing Organs for Transplant

A two-part water-based gel made of synthetic DNA and peptide could bring the inventors of a 3D bioprinter closer to being able to print organs for transplant, or to replace animal testing.Image:Angewandte Chemie

A two-part water-based gel made of synthetic DNA and peptide could bring the inventors of a 3D bioprinter closer to being able to print organs for transplant, or to replace animal testing.
Image: Angewandte Chemie

Need a new pancreas? These scientists will print one right up for you.

Thanks to the development of a two-part water-based gel made out of synthetic DNA from Heriot Watt University, the 3D bio-printer is one step closer to reality.

The team from Heriot-Watt that engineered this developed is led by Prof. Rory Duncan and Dr.Will Shu of the University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics, and Bioengineering.

“The first challenge was that if we used a normal gel it was not possible to mix live cells with it for 3D printing. Colleagues at Tsinghua University in Beijing have developed a gel which, like some proprietary glues, comes as two separate liquids into which cells can be added. These do not turn into a gel until the two liquids are actually mixed together during the printing process,” said Prof. Duncan in a release.

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Using human skin as one of its charge-collectors, a new flexible generator converts muscle movements into enough power for small electronics.Image: National University of Singapore

Using human skin as one of its charge-collectors, a new flexible generator converts muscle movements into enough power for small electronics.
Image: National University of Singapore

A new discovery from the National University of Singapore has yielded a material that could be used to create battery-free, wearable sensors to power your electronics from the energy generated via muscle movement.

The sensor, which is the size of a postage stamp, uses human skin as one of its charge-collectors. The device takes advantage of static electricity to convert mechanical energy into electricity. It is powered by the wear’s daily activities such as walking, talking, or simply holding an object.

This from IEEE Spectrum:

They tested the device by attaching it to a subject’s forearm or throat, nanopillar side down. Fist-clenching and speaking produced 7.3V and 7.5V respectively. The researchers tested the device as a human motion/activity sensor by attaching it on the forearm and measuring the pulse generated due to holding and releasing of an object.

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Sensors Make ‘Sixth Sense’ Possible

Scientists from Germany and Japan have developed a new magnetic sensor, which is thin, robust and pliable enough to be smoothly adapted to human skin, even to the most flexible part of the human palm.Image: IFW Dresden

Scientists from Germany and Japan have developed a new magnetic sensor, which is thin, robust and pliable enough to be smoothly adapted to human skin, even to the most flexible part of the human palm.
Image: IFW Dresden

Humans possess five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. While we do not inherently possess any senses beyond those five, it is possible to tap into extended senses through science and technology.

Magnetoception, for example, is a sense which allows bacteria, insects and even vertebrates like birds and sharks to detect magnetic fields for orientation and navigation. While humans cannot organically perceive magnetic fields, scientist have just created a new sensor that may allow us to do so.

Researchers from Germany and Japan have developed a new magnetic sensor that is thin and pliable enough to be adapted to the human skin. This innovation makes equipping humans with magnetic senses a more viable reality.

This from Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden:

These novel magneto-electronics are less than two micrometers thick and weights only three gram per square meter; they can even float on a soap bubble. The new magnetic sensors withstand extreme bending with radii of less than three micrometer, and survive crumpling like a piece of paper without sacrificing the sensor performance. On elastic supports like a rubber band, they can be stretched to more than 270 percent and for over 1,000 cycles without fatigue. These versatile features are imparted to the magnetoelectronic elements by their ultra-thin and –flexible, yet robust polymeric support.

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Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the Li/Li3PS4/S battery.Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the Li/Li3PS4/S battery.
Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

A team from Japan’s Samsung R&D has worked in collaboration with researchers from the University of Rome to fabricate a novel all solid state Lithium-sulfur battery.

The paper has been recently published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. (P.S. It’s Open Access! Read it here.)

The battery’s capacity is around 1,600 mAhg⁻¹, which denotes an initial charge-discharge Coulombic efficiency approaching 99 percent.

Additionally, the battery possesses such beneficial properties as the smooth stripping-deposition of lithium. In contrast to other Li-S cells, the new battery’s activation energy of the charge transfer process is much smaller.

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An Ever-Present Light (Bulb)

Centinnial Light Bulb

Lynn Owens, former chairman of the Centennial Light Bulb

Since 1901, just a year before The Electrochemical Society was founded, a light bulb was installed to bring light into a firehouse in Livermore, California. Back then, if a call came in for the firemen at night, they would have to dress, assemble their gear, and organize the hand water-trucks (no motorized firetrucks yet) in the dark. By adding what we now consider the simple light bulb, a fire station was much more readily able to handle emergencies. And that light bulb, now more than 113 years old, is still burning today.

This incandescent light bulb, invented by Adolphe A. Chaillet, was produced by the Shelby Electric Company. Originally giving off a glowing 60 watts, it now burns steadily at 4 watts. It has been moved several times, most recently in 1976, as the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department has changed locations.

“According to a website dedicated to the bulb, Debora Katz, a physicist at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., has conducted extensive research into the Livermore light bulb’s physical properties, using a vintage light bulb from Shelby Electric Co. that is a near replica of the Livermore light.

“The Livermore light bulb differs from a contemporary incandescent bulb in two ways,” says Katz. “First its filament is about eight times thicker than a contemporary bulb. Second, the filament is a semiconductor, most likely made of carbon.”

Watch the live webcam here to see the longest-burning light bulb in the world.

Listen to the 99% Invisible podcast for an in-depth look at the bulb.

Learn more about light bulbs in the ECS Digital Library.