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The Race for Cold Fusion

Do Cold Fusion Experiments Create Energy When None Should Exist?

November 30th 2016

superconducting fibers

Howard J. Wilk is a long-term unemployed synthetic organic chemist living in Philadelphia. Like many pharmaceutical researchers, he has suffered through the drug industry’s R&D downsizing in recent years and now is underemployed in a nonscience job. With extra time on his hands, Wilk has been tracking the progress of a New Jersey-based company called Brilliant Light Power (BLP).

The company is one of several that are developing processes that collectively fall into the category of new energy technologies. This movement is largely a reincarnation of cold fusion, the short-lived, quickly dismissed phenomenon from the late 1980s of achieving nuclear fusion in a simple benchtop electrolysis device.

In 1991, BLP’s founder, Randell L. Mills, announced at a press conference in Lancaster, Pa., that he had devised a theory in which the electron in hydrogen could transition from its normal ground energy state to previously unknown lower and more stable states, liberating copious amount of energy in the process. Mills named this curious new type of shrunken hydrogen the hydrino, and he has been at work ever since to develop a commercial device to harness its power and make it available to the world.

Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Recycling EV Batteries for Home Storage Probably 'Nonsensical,'

November 28th 2016

Lead batteries dump

The economics of reusing batteries from plug-in vehicles for home energy storage don’t make sense, says a new report from Lux Research.

Up to 65 GWh of second-life batteries are poised to enter the market by 2035 with the retirement of the first generation of plug-in vehicles, but reusing them for home storage is not economic says the report, “Reuse or Recycle: The Billion-dollar Battery Question,” from the Lux Research Energy Storage Intelligence service.

Reuse of batteries from electric vehicles will deliver questionable returns on account of reduced performance, limiting them to application with less frequent and shallower depth of discharge cycles. For example, an oversized 11.2 kWh residential system from second-life batteries will cost just over $4,600, compared with nearly $6,000 for a new 7 kWh system. The reduced efficiency and cycle life make residential units and other daily cycling applications a poor fit compared to some others.

Read more ..

The Race for Hi-Speed Rail

California Hits the Brakes on High-Speed Rail Fiasco

November 24th 2016

Shinkansen bullet train

California's high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?

Sold to the public in 2008 as a visionary plan to whisk riders along at 220 miles an hour, making the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a little over two and a half hours, the project promised to attract most of the necessary billions from private investors, to operate without ongoing subsidies and to charge fares low enough to make it competitive with cheap flights. With those assurances, 53.7 percent of voters said yes to a $9.95 billion bond referendum to get the project started. But the assurances were at best wishful thinking, at worst an elaborate con. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Scrap Metal Batteries Promise Energy Storage Innovation

November 7th 2016

Batteries

A team at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) has created the world's first steel-brass battery - made from junkyard metal scraps - that can store energy at levels comparable to lead-acid batteries while charging and discharging at rates comparable to ultra-fast charging supercapacitors.

The key is anodization, a common chemical treatment used to give aluminum a durable and decorative finish. When easily available waste scraps of steel and brass are anodized using a common household chemical and residential electrical current, the researchers found that the metal surfaces are restructured into nanometer-sized networks of metal oxide that can store and release energy when reacting with a water-based liquid electrolyte.

The team determined that these nanometer domains explain the fast charging behaviour as well as the battery's stability. They tested it for 5,000 consecutive charging cycles - the equivalent of over 13 years of daily charging and discharging - and found that it retained more than 90 percent of its capacity.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Water Fuels Israeli Aluminum Battery EVs

November 3rd 2016

Electric car Israel

Israeli tech start-up Phinergy has produced a car that runs on metal, air and water. The technology significantly increases the driving range of current electric vehicles and should be in high demand when it hits the marketplace. 

SEE THE VIDEO

Phinergy is a leading developer of breakthrough, zero emission, high energy density systems based on metal air energy technologies, mainly Aluminum-Air and Zinc-Air. Unlike conventional batteries that carry oxygen, these batteries freely breathe oxygen from the ambient air to release the energy contained in metals.

In the video,anyone can see the car in action, driving over 300 km. in one drive. Just refill the water and you’re good for another few hundred km. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Panasonic Boost from Tesla Solar Roof and Powerwall

November 1st 2016

Sunrise or Sunset

Tesla, which is in the process of taking over Solar Cityin a $2.2bn deal, is using heterogeneous photovoltaic cells from Panasonic and adding its own tempered glass cover (below) to make the cells more rugged and attractive as roof tiles. The cells combine crystalline and amorphous silicon and provide an efficiency of 19%. The additional glass layer reduces the efficiency of the cell by only 2%, says Tesla.

The tiles include an option of a heater to clear snow so that the cells can still be used in winter and will be paired with the second generation of Tesla’s Powerpack. This uses lithium ion battery cells developed and manufactured by Panasonic. The Powerpack 2 combines two of Panasonic’s 14kWh battery packs with an integrated inverter designed and built by Tesla at its battery gigafactory in Nevada, US. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Daimler the Latest to Establish Global Battery Production

October 26th 2016

Batteries-small-assorted

In preparation its strategic shift towards electromobility, carmaker Daimler AG plans to invest 1 billion euros to quadruple its battery production capacity. Construction works for a second production facility at the company’s Kamenz campus have started.

The battery factory will be operated by Daimler subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive GmbH. The battery factory in Kamenz will cost about 500 million euros. Besides expanding the production capacity in Kamenz (Saxony), Daimler also plans to assign the role of a global battery competence center to that campus.

Read more ..

The Race for Energy Conservation

Vampire Power and the Saving Energy Little and Often

October 19th 2016

LED bulb

Jim Bird of Texas Instruments points out that "standby" may be a convenience in home electronics but it is also an energy drain. More needs to be done in saving energy on a global basis but small but ubiquitous changes can have a great impact.

Much time is spent discussing the need for more efficient use of limited energy resources, and with good reason. Energy demand continues to grow and the number of loads is predicted to climb exponentially as Internet of Things (IoT) deployment becomes real. In 2014, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published an enlightening (and somewhat sobering) document titled More Data, Less Power.

It’s a 170-page fact-laden discussion of global IT energy usage with recommendations for managing the predicted growth of worldwide power consumption over the next few decades. The list of contributors is impressive, including the U.S. Department of Energy, tier-one telecom manufacturers, big data, big network and everyone in-between.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

High-current EV Charging at 400 Amps Gets Closer

October 17th 2016

Better Place

When Audi and Porsche recently put up to discussion their ideas of high-performance electric vehicles, they made clear that the charging infrastructure will be the main bottleneck – after all their vehicles engulf some 350 kW at the charging station. Now the first components for high-performance charging are falling in place.

Independently of one another, connector manufacturer ITT Cannon and cable systems provider Leoni introduced elements of a charging infrastructure capable of reducing the charging time to a few minutes. Leoni showcased the concept design of a charging station capable of charging an 85 kWh battery (like the one used in the Tesla S) within 15 minutes. Within three to five minutes, the battery can be charged for a range of some 100 kilometers. During charging, 400 amps at 1000 volts are carried over the cable. Since conventional cables, dimensioned for lower currents, would overheat during the process, Leoni enables the current-carrying parts to be cooled actively. The company however declined to specify the coolant.

Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Lower Cost Solar Cells - Just Add Water

October 15th 2016

solar power plant

Researchers at Japan's Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University's (OIST) Energy Materials and Surface Sciences Unit have discovered a method of making perovskite films with larger grain sizes that can result in lowering manufacturing costs of solar cells.

Earlier studies had concluded that exposing perovskite films to ambient air was detrimental because moisture reacted with perovskite, which degraded over time. As a result it was believed the material had to be prepared using a heat treatment called annealing in a water-free environment.

OIST researchers set out to investigate the effects of moisture on perovskite formation during 45 minutes of annealing, at temperatures between 105 and 125 degrees centigrade. The researchers grew a type of perovskite that has been shown to work better for solar cells.  Then, they compared the perovskite film's formation in a nitrogen atmosphere with its formation in humid air and found that the films actually receive a growth improvement resulting in larger grain sizes than usual in the presence of moisture. The film grows slowly, so larger grains can form.

Read more ..

The Race for Wearable Energy

Photovoltaics and Energy Storage Threads For Smart Fabrics

October 10th 2016

US Marines post battle Iraq

Weaving two types of specially designed fibres with cotton yarn and conductive copper-coated threads, a team of researchers from China and Singapore has devised a smart fabric that can both harvest energy from light and store it as a supercapacitor would do.

As its main threads (used as flying shuttle), the textile combines fibre-shaped photo-anodes interlaced with counter electrodes (CEs) for the energy harvesting functionality, with TiN nanowire-based fibre supercapacitors (FSCs) for the energy storage part.

Published in the ACS Nano journal, the paper "Tailorable and Wearable Textile Devices for Solar Energy Harvesting and Simultaneous Storage" details the fabrication process of both types of specialty threads as commercially viable for production in any length.

Read more ..

The Race for Autonomous Cars

Autonomous Auto Security Research Ramps up

September 30th 2016

Dashboard for electric car

Karamba Security has released Autonomous Security for connected and autonomous vehicles, a solution that empowers electronic control units (ECUs) to protect themselves from hackers and which the company claims would have blocked the recent Tesla-type hacks.

Autonomous Security is an extension to the company’s Carwall ECU security platform, enabling automotive technology providers to achieve the goals set out in the U.S. Department of Transportation's guidelines for the safe deployment of autonomous cars. Cyberattacks can only infiltrate a car by compromising the externally-connected ECUs controlling infotainment, navigation and OBDII telematics dongles, for example. Karamba Security’s Autonomous Security technology allows any car’s ECU to protect itself from this threat by automatically locking it down to the ECU's factory settings.

Read more ..

The Race for Energy Efficiency

Car-mounted Sensors Can Automate Street Light Maintenance

September 27th 2016

Downtown LA Neighborhood

Researchers from the MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering hope to lower the cost of monitoring and maintenance for street lighting by automatically sensing and mapping all street lights at night.

They devised a set of cameras and sensors to be mounted on top of city-owned vehicles, such as police cars, night buses or garbage trucks which regularly cruise the city's streets. Tagging it with GPS data, the sensor pack uses digital cameras and sophisticated software to distinguish between streetlights and other sources of illumination, and even to estimate the height of each lamp. Other sensors measure the exact level of illumination to determine if lights are failing, or if there are dark areas between lights which would indicate a possible lamp outage or a need for an additional light pole.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Samsung Builds 'Gigafactory' in Hungary

September 5th 2016

batteries

The 330,000sq m plant in Goed, north of Budapest, Hungary, is the third for Samsung SDI alongside plants in Ulsan, Korea and Xian, China. Starting commercial production in the second half of 2018, the €320m ($358m) investment in the plant will achieve an annual capacity of batteries for 50,000 pure electric vehicles. The two other plants currently support production for 90,000 vehicles.

The plant was orignially built in 2001 to manufacture cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and remodeled it for PDP production several years later. 

The investment comes in response to demand from European car makers with production in Central and eastern Europe, significantly reducing logistic costs. It will also allow Samsung to sharpen its competitive edge in automotive battery industry by establishing integrated production system ranging from battery cells to packs, working with SDI Battery Systems, Austria, which it acquired last year to be the production base of battery packs. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Solar Energy Conversion Breakthrough Using New Class Of Materials

August 11th 2016

Sunrise or Sunset

Ferroelectric materials are pushing solar cells above a theoretical limit for conversion efficiency while only using ultraviolet light.

The team of researchers from Drexel University, the Shubnikov Institute of Crystallography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the University of Pennsylvania and the US Naval Research Laboratory are using barium titanate crystals to convert sunlight into electric power much more efficiently than the theoretical Shockley-Queisser limit predicts for a bandgap material that absorbs almost no light in the visible spectrum. This could also be a boost for the development of transparent solar cells.

The energy collection mechanism relies on collecting “hot” electrons, those that carry additional energy in a photovoltaic material when excited by sunlight, before they lose their energy. This bulk photovoltaic effect could open up new cell design techniques.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Daimler Pursues All-Electric Truck

July 28th 2016

Traffic Jam

So far, electric driving used to be matter of passenger vehicles and sports cars; trucks and buses stuck to their traditional diesel powertrains, despite all their drawbacks of noise and harmful emissions. This is no longer true: Daimler, not only a manufacturer of coveted luxury cars but also one of the world’s largest players in the market for commercial vehicles, has introduced a relatively large truck with an all-electric powertrain, and the company signalizes that the time is right to bring electric trucks to the global markets. “After 120 years of diesel-driven trucks, electric mobility has arrived at this market”, said Wolfgang Bernhard, general Manager of Daimler’s trucks and buses business unit.

Hitherto, electric trucks could not compete against conventional ones in terms of cost, performance and driving range. “Ten years ago, the battery alone made up one third of the weight of the entire vehicle”, Bernhard said. Now, the technology is advanced enough to match and surpass diesel-driven trucks, albeit only in certain model roles.

Read more ..

The Race for E-Bikes

Battery Technology Drives E-Bike Boom

July 14th 2016

Battery-single-use

Improvements in lithium ion battery technology are driving a boom in electric bicycle shipments around the world says a new report from market researchers Navigant Research.

Increasing urbanization and a desire to move away from cars for motorized transportation are creating more opportunities for alternative mobility devices such as e-bikes which will be the highest selling electric vehicle globally with nearly 35 million units sold this year. Navigant predicts the market will grow from $15.7 bn this year to $24.3 billion by 2025.

“Rising levels of population density and traffic congestion are driving interest in different modes of transportation,” says Ryan Citron, research analyst at Navigant Research. “E-bikes are uniquely positioned to be a primary benefactor of this trend since they are low in cost relative to cars, do not require licenses to operate, and can take advantage of existing bicycling infrastructure.”

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Deadly Tesla Crash Exposes Confusion over Automated Driving

July 8th 2016

Broken Road

How much do we really know about what so-called self-driving vehicles can and cannot do? The fatal traffic accident involving a Tesla Motors car that crashed while using its Autopilot feature offers a stark reminder that such drivers are in uncharted territory—and of the steep cost of that uncertainty.

The sensor systems that enable Tesla’s hands-free driving are the result of decades of advances in computer vision and machine learning. Yet the failure of Autopilot—built into 70,000 Tesla vehicles worldwide since October 2014—to help avoid the May 7 collision that killed the car’s sole occupant demonstrates how far the technology has to go before fully autonomous vehicles can truly arrive.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

EVs Increase But Gas Engines Are Here for Quite a While

March 27th 2016

Electric car Israel

Increasingly stiff limits on carbon emission and minimum fuel economy in most of the world's car markets mean that more plug-in electric cars must be sold. With battery costs steadily falling and the pricetag rising for the new technologies that make cars more efficient, some now envision a world in which all new vehicles have dispensed with combustion engines. It's a lovely vision, but it won't happen for decades, if ever.

Instead, gasoline engines will endure for many more decades, in smaller and far more efficient forms.

They'll often be paired with various types of electrification, from 48-volt enhanced start-stop systems to full plug-in hybrid powertrains.

That's the message offered by two executives from the major global parts supplier Continental, in an interesting piece by Drew Winter in Ward's Auto.

Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

March 19th 2016

Tamar-gas

The Eastern Mediterranean is changing fast with its estimated 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves (the equivalent of 21 billion barrels of oil) already having an impact on regional patterns of amity and enmity.[1] With Israel and Cyprus well underway to becoming gas exporters, the problematic Israeli-Lebanese and Cypriot-Turkish relationships have been further strained. At the same time, energy cooperation has been the driving force behind the nascent Greek-Cypriot-Israeli partnership, manifested in rapidly growing defense and economic cooperation. Clearly, the development of energy resources and their transportation will have far-reaching geopolitical implications for the Eastern Mediterranean and its nations. Read more ..


The Race for Driverless Cars

Driver Assistance Becomes Predictive

March 14th 2016

Highways

A 360 degree surround sensing system today creates a virtual image of a car's environment, enabling the electronic systems to keep the vehicle in the selected lane and to hit the brake if an obstacle emerges. Now Honda has added a predictive element - their Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (i-ACC) system can tell if a fellow car driver has the intention to cut in.

Has Honda the proverbial crystal ball? No - the i-ACC uses camera and radar to sense the position of other vehicles on the road. The system runs an algorithm that can determine the likelihood of vehicles in adjacent lanes cutting-in. For this purpose it evaluates the relation between the vehicles in the surroundings and how they change. According to Honda, the predictable time horizon is about 2 seconds. And of course the outcome of the computation is not a 100% sure prediction, it is more like a guess, albeit a rather good one. 

The system has been devised by European and Japanese developers and is based on real-world research of typical European driving styles. It will make its debut this year on the new European CR-V, building upon the traditional Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) system.

Traditional ACC systems keep a preselected longitudinal velocity, which is only reduced for maintaining a safe distance to a car in front. However, if a vehicle cuts in from a neighboring lane, the traditional ACC system reacts later thus requiring stronger braking. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Report Shows How West Coast Can Cut Gasoline Use By Half

February 6th 2016

Oil well

The goal of cutting petroleum consumption in half by 2030 is within reach for the three Pacific coast states — California, Oregon and Washington — but such a plan would rely heavily on expanding the use of alternative fuels, according to a new report commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

With California leading the way, the states can achieve an 18 percent reduction--from about 22 billion gallons of gasoline in 2015, to 18 billion gallons by 2030--simply by following "policies and measures in place."

The rest of the heavy lifting must come through a combination of solutions: Using more alternative fuels (20 percent of the total reductions); making vehicles more efficient and adding more electrification (7 percent); and improving the range of transportation choices, along with better land-use planning (2 percent). Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Nisssan Launches Multi-Billion Pound Lithium Ion Enterprise

January 24th 2016

Electric car Israel

Nissan has given a vote of confidence in European manufacturing by awarding production of future generation electric vehicle (EV) batteries to the company’s manufacturing facility in Sunderland, UK.

The £26.5 million investment will help safeguard 300 highly-skilled jobs in manufacturing, maintenance and engineering at Nissan’s advanced lithium-ion battery plant in Sunderland, the largest of its type in Europe. The Sunderland facility is one of three Nissan battery production sites globally and will provide battery modules for the all-electric Nissan LEAF and e-NV200 electric van, which is manufactured at Nissan’s facility in Barcelona, Spain.

Already the global leaders in electric vehicles with more than 200,000 Nissan LEAF models on the road worldwide covering a total of two billion electric miles. In 2015 Nissan sold 43,651 LEAFs worldwide with 15,630 of that number being sold in Europe. Read more ..


The Race for Wearable Energy

Quest for Energy Source in Clothing Adavances with Woven Microsupercapacitors

December 21st 2015

being cool

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH) have developed flexible wire-shaped microsupercapacitors that can be woven into clothing, creating a tailored power source for wearable electronics.

By their design or by connecting the capacitors in series or parallel, the devices can be tailored to match the charge storage and delivery needs of electronics donned. While there's been progress in development of those electronics - body cameras, smart glasses, sensors that monitor health, activity trackers and more - one challenge remaining is providing less obtrusive and cumbersome power sources.

"The area of clothing is fixed, so to generate the power density needed in a small area, we grew radially-aligned titanium oxide nanotubes on a titanium wire used as the main electrode," says Liming Dai, the Kent Hale Smith Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. "By increasing the surface area of the electrode, you increase the capacitance."

The microsupercapacitor was based on earlier research on carbon-based supercapacitors. A capacitor is cousin to the battery, but offers the advantage of charging and releasing energy much faster.

In this new supercapacitor, the modified titanium wire is coated with a solid electrolyte made of polyvinyl alcohol and phosphoric acid. The wire is then wrapped with either yarn or a sheet made of aligned carbon nanotubes, which serves as the second electrode. The titanium oxide nanotubes, which are semiconducting, separate the two active portions of the electrodes, preventing a short circuit.

Read more ..

The Race for More Oil

A Slick Solution to Spilled Oil on Our Seas

December 13th 2015

Oil well

Oil spills are a fact of life, along with their negative environmental impacts. Large ships, ports, rigs and even cruise ships are always at risk of accidentally creating the next major oil catastrophe.

HARBO Technologies is an Israeli company with an innovative cleanup product that could save companies billions of dollars and save our environment, too.

The company has created a lightweight, easily deployed floating barrier – known as a containment boom — that can prevent disastrous consequences of marine oil spills within minutes of leak detection.

“Oil spills today still turn into major disasters because there are no immediate containment systems onsite. There is nothing onsite to keep oil from spreading. So when the oil spill response team arrives on the scene, it’s always too late,” cofounder Haim Greenberg tells ISRAEL21c. “We have a disruptive concept of immediate response because there is none today.” Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Light Trapping Innovation Lifts Solar Cell Efficiency To 45 Percent

December 3rd 2015

Solar Panels

Florida State University (FSU) researchers claim they are a step closer to making solar cells more effective at trapping and using light. In a paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Kenneth Hanson and his team have introduced a new strategy for generating more efficient solar cells. The team is composed of post-doctoral researcher Tanmay Banerjee and graduate students Sean Hill and Tristan Dilbeck.

Using the FSU process in an optimized solar cell the researchers claim they can increase the maximum efficiency from 33 percent to more than 45 percent.
“We’re looking not only for new materials but also new light harvesting processes to make solar cells better,” explained Hanson. Though solar cells have grown in popularity, they are still not widely used by the general public as an energy source due to their high cost and low efficiency. A typical solar cell, at maximum, converts less than 33 percent of light into electricity, so researchers have been working to find ways to surpass this limit and make cells more efficient. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Google's Project Sunroof Makes Solar Power Easier

August 19th 2015

Sunrise or Sunset

Google has announced its latest project - Project Sunroof - which is designed to make it easier for people to install solar panels in their homes. Using Google's mapping and computing resources, Project Sunroof offers users personalized roof analyses to help them calculate the best solar plan based on their individual roofs and locations. Once supplied with a user's address, the site provides user-specific data on the amount of usable sunlight that hits the roof per year, which parts of the house receive the most sunlight, the amount of space available on the home for solar panels, and the amount of money that could be saved by switching to solar.

The site takes into account the following data when computing its results: Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Israeli Nat Gas Committee Changes Rules

July 28th 2015

Tamar-gas-drill-ocean

Members of the gas outline hearing committee met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, only two days before the Prime Minister plans to bring the outline to the government's approval and they told him that changes are needed in the outline. Committee members who ended the public hearing that lasted three weeks asked to launch a new round of talks with the gas companies.

Committee members explained that they think the outline should move forward, but with changes in the price issue and in the issue of reservoir development. The most significant change the committee members demand is the price.  The price that was set in the outline they think is too high and the monitoring mechanism is "too soft." They suggested two possible solutions: either lower the gas price or toughen the monitoring mechanism, so that the price will not rise dramatically in the coming years.

The committee members were also concerned by the Israeli dependency on a single gas pipe – the Tamar gas field pipe. As an answer for this problem, the committee suggested imposing more sanctions on the private companies if those do not develop the Leviathan gas field. An additional possibility that was raised after the hearing was to give more incentives to smaller companies so that they buy and develop the Tanin and the Karish gas fields. Netanyahu will meet the committee members again tonight. Meetings with the companies’ representatives may take place as early as tomorrow in order to promote the changes and bring them to the governments’ approval. Read more ..


After Fukushima

Fukushima Operator Did Not Act Preventively Against Tsunami

June 21st 2015

fukushima reactor smoke

The operator of Japan’s ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was aware of the need to improve the facility’s defences against tsunami more than two years before the March 2011 disaster but failed to take action, according to an internal company document.

The revelation casts doubt on claims by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) that it had done everything possible to protect the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown after being struck by a towering tsunami.

The nuclear accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl 25 years earlier, caused massive radiation leaks and forced the evacuation of more than 150,000 people, most of whom have yet to return to their homes.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

General Motors Targets Tesla with EV Launches

June 9th 2015

Electric car Israel

GM has unveiled a concept version of the Bolt at this week's Detroit automotive show. The Chevy Bolt features a battery manufactured by South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd. and is targeting the company's rival EV maker, Tesla Motors' Model 3, which is a $35,000 electric car also scheduled to debut in 2017. The Bolt will be capable of driving four times farther than a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid on a single charge.

“The Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity,” said General Motors CEO Mary Barra. “Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers.”

Bolt drivers will be able to select operating modes designed around preferred driving styles such as daily commuting and spirited weekend cruising, for uncompromising electric driving. The modes adjust accelerator pedal mapping, vehicle ride height and suspension tuning. The Bolt EV concept is also designed to support DC fast charging. Read more ..


The Race for Biogas

Backyard Unit Eats Trash to make Biofuel

May 21st 2015

Arab Vendor

When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the sukkah of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during the Jewish harvest holiday last October, he was treated to a demo of a machine the government has given to Bedouin families to convert organic waste into clean biogas for cooking, heating and lighting, as well as organic liquid crop fertilizer.

"He got very excited and told us, 'Millions of women and children die each year due to indoor smoke from open fires. This is just the thing they need. The UN should be purchasing these units!' recalls Ami Amir of HomeBioGas, which develops and manufactures a new class of anaerobic biodigesters to convert organic waste to clean renewable energy. He asked us to be in touch with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to see where and when our systems could be deployed.” Read more ..


Energy and Security

Diminished U.S. Influence in Latin America and the Future of Petrocaribe

May 9th 2015

In 2014, the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C. based think-tank, hosted a panel discussion, “Petrocaribe, Central America, and the Caribbean: Who Will Subsidize the Future?” regarding the Venezuelan-backed energy initiative and the corresponding potential for the United States to regain some of its reduced influence in the region. The event was in conjunction with the Atlantic Council’s recent report, “Uncertain Energy: The Caribbean’s Gamble with Venezuela.” Speakers included David Goldwyn, who co-authored the report; Jorge Piñón, Director of the Center of International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin; and Jed Bailey, who authored a pre-feasibility study that considered transitioning the region to liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Petrocaribe provides Venezuelan oil and oil products at preferential financing terms to 17 member states across the Caribbean and Central America. While the program has not experienced major problems since it was first created in 2005, its future is uncertain as Venezuela grapples with its own economic challenges, including high inflation and commodity shortages. The discussion centered largely on possible scenarios for the future and Washington’s potential role should Petrocaribe weaken. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Single Material Battery Safer, Simpler and More Efficient

May 6th 2015

Battery-single-use

Engineers at the University of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material and claims to be capable of both moving electricity and storing it.

“To my knowledge, there has never been any similar work reported,” explained Dr. Kang Xu of the Army Research Laboratory, a researcher only peripherally related to the study. “It could lead to revolutionary progress in area of solid state batteries.”

Most batteries have at either end a layer of material for the electrodes which can help move ions through the electrolyte. Chunsheng Wang, a professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and his team have made a single material that incorporates the properties of both the electrodes and electrolyte.

“Our battery is 600 microns thick, about the size of a dime, whereas conventional solid state batteries are thin films - forty times thinner. This means that more energy can be stored in our battery,” said Fudong Han, the first author of the paper and a graduate student in Wang’s group. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Electric Vehicles Still Dependent on Driving Range

April 27th 2015

Electric car Israel

Though the sales figures of electric vehicles fall short of vendor’s expectations, the number of available models will continue to climb, Predicts market researcher Frost & Sullivan. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) are rapidly gaining market share over battery electric vehicles – driving range continues to be the decisive factor for customers.

Currently, 70 % of all available electric vehicles are battery-electric vehicles (BEVs); 25% are PHEVs. Frost & Sullivan Automotive and Transportation analyst Prajot Sathe believes that within the next three to four years the share of PHEVs will grow which translates into a faster market growth for this category compared to BEVs. The reason Sathe sees a higher demand for vehicles with high driving range. As an example, the analyst quotes BMW’s i3 which is available as a pure BEV and with an optional range extender. The latter achieves clearly higher sales figures, the release suggests. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Can Iron Fluoride Triple Energy Storage?

April 22nd 2015

Laser burst

Researchers the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a novel X-ray imaging technique to study the electrochemical reactions in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries containing iron fluoride which can store three times the energy of existing batteries.

“Iron fluoride has the potential to triple the amount of energy a conventional lithium-ion battery can store,” explained Song Jin, a UW–Madison professor of chemistry and Wisconsin Energy Institute affiliate. “However, we have yet to tap its true potential.”

Graduate student Linsen Li worked with Jin and other collaborators to perform experiments with a state-of-the-art transmission X-ray microscope at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven. The researchers collected chemical maps from actual coin cell batteries filled with iron fluoride during battery cycling to determine how well they perform. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Solid State Thin Film Battery Market Takes Off Driven By Wireless Sensor Networks

April 13th 2015

Battery-single-use

Market research predicts that solid state thin film battery markets at $9 million in 2014 are forecast to reach $1.3 billion by 2021. Rapid growth toward the end of the forecast period is anticipated as technology improves the cost structure of the manufacturing. Solid state thin film batteries are ideal for powering energy harvesting applications. According the study, "Solid state electronics brings the same advantages to batteries as it has brought to all other industry segments it touches. Printed circuit board manufacturers are finding that they can achieve a rapid return on investment from substantially decreasing the energy costs associated with using storage by wave soldering the storage onto the boards during the manufacturing process."

The quality of energy storage is better with solid state thin film batteries. Data for thin film batteries using very thin substrates illustrate the longer cycle life that can be achieved. Applications include power bridging, permanent power, and wireless sensor networks. Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Natural Gas Can be Good Fuel-- Just Find the "Super-Emitters"

April 12th 2015

Natural Gas Terminal

Gas likes to escape. That's bad news for the atmosphere when the gas in question is methane, the primary component in natural gas that is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. But burning natural gas results in half the greenhouse gas pollution than coal, making it appealing as fuel in an era of combating climate change.

Thanks to a bonanza of natural gas liberated from deep shales by new techniques, the U.S. is burning more and more of the fuel—and considering using more natural gas in more places, such as fuel for trucking. But if the amount of methane escaping is too high, such widespread use might prove a disaster for climate change. And that's why a group of scientists set out to better estimate how much methane is escaping in the U.S. To do that, they surveyed more than 200 sets of field measurements and scientific papers from the past 20 years to learn whether increasing use of natural gas could prove a climate boon or bane. Read more ..


The Edge of Solar

Record 40% Efficiency Achieved for Transparent Organic Solar Cells

April 8th 2015

Minneapolis skyline

Heliatek GmbH is claiming a new record in the efficiency of transparent solar cells.  The latest development allows transparency levels up to 40% with an efficiency of more than 7%. The company already holds the world record of 12% cell efficiency for opaque (non-transparent) organic solar cells.  

The latest generation of organic solar cells with a 40% light transparency have reached an efficiency record of 7.2%. The measurement follows standard testing conditions using a white background.  Heliatek has succeeded in generating an optimal energy conversion for transparent HeliaFilm. Currently, its opaque cells achieve 12% efficiency.  The 7.2% cells mirror the same efficiency, since the partial transparency allows the usage of 60% of the light for the energy harvesting. Depending on the application, the balance between light let through and electricity generated can be adjusted.  The production of transparent HeliaFilm is possible with the introduction of transparent conductive layers at the front- and back-side of the solar cells. Read more ..


The Edge of Solar

Solar Cell Achieves 24.4 percent Efficiency

April 1st 2015

Sunrise or Sunset

China's Trina Solar has collaborated the Australian National University's (ANU) Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems on the joint development of a new high efficiency solar cell which has achieved an efficiency of 24.4%.


Independently tested by Germany’s Fraunhofer CalLab the laboratory scale Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) solar cell is now one of the most efficient solar cells ever tested.

Trina Solar funded the two-year research project, which involved contributions from Australian consultancy PV Lighthouse, and the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS).

The Chinese company is now developing a commercial version of the IBC cell, as well as an IBC PV module. In testing, Trina Solar’s commercial IBC cell has already achieved efficiency greater than 22% at laboratory scale. The company hopes to match the 24.4% level soon, ready in time for industrialized mass production. Read more ..


Travel Safe

Lithium Battery Shipments on Passenger Planes Face Ban

March 13th 2015

Boeing 787

Boeing Co has declared that high-density packages of lithium batteries pose fire risks and should not be carried on passenger planes until safer methods for carrying them are developed. Boeing adds another voice to the growing clamour to stop bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger aircraft. This week Reuters quoted a Boeing statement as saying that the risk is "continually increasing (and) requires action to be taken".

Boeing is part of an industry group including other plane makers such as Bombardier Inc and Airbus Group NV , that found current firefighting systems on airliners cannot "suppress or extinguish a fire involving significant quantities of lithium batteries" thereby posing an "unacceptable risk" for the industry. Read more ..



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