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The Race for Solar

Siemens Works for African Solar Microgrid Projects

July 3rd 2018

Sunrise or Sunset

Siemens has teamed up with Berlin-based systems developer Solarkiosk to boost connectivity across Africa.

The two signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to use the Solarkiosk’s solar energy technology in non-electrified parts of rural Africa for connection gateways.

Solarkiosk has deployed more than 250 projects in twelve countries serving around 5 million people. It’s solar powered E-HUBB is the business centrepiece for a rural "off-grid" village providing retail and energy related services such as charging (mobile phones, batteries, lights), internet connectivity, cooling of products and medication, water purification, copy, print or scan, financial inclusion services as well as news and entertainment to local communities.


The Digital Age

8 Gigabit Data Connection to Aircraft Successfully Tested

May 17th 2018

airplanes shadows

Internet access in passenger airplanes today is expensive and not really high-performance. Really fast Internet for passenger is available nowhere yet; passengers can only dream of accessing online videos and music streams. Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have now succeeded for the first time in establishing a data link to an 8 GB/s aircraft. Is the fast Internet for airplane passengers coming now?

The researchers achieved the data rate of 8 GB/s by using the frequency range between 71 and 76 GHz for an air-to-ground radio link. In this frequency range, large bandwidths are available to achieve multi-gigabit data rates, and this frequency band has recently been released by the authorities for such purposes. With the technology developed, both broadband Internet and video-on-demand could be available in passenger aircraft in the future.


The Race for EVs

Wireless Recharging EVs on the Go

April 8th 2018

Traffic Jam

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, CO) have developed a proof of concept for wireless power transfer that could potentially allow electric vehicles to be charged while they are moving.

The researchers' wireless power concept is based on transferring electrical energy through electric fields at very high frequencies. Future electric vehicles, they envision, could be able to recharge while driving down the highway by drawing wireless power directly from low-cost charging plates installed in the road.

Most electric vehicles today can only travel between 100 and 250 miles on a single charge, and charging stations are still far from ubiquitous in the U.S., requiring drivers to carefully plan their trips. That problem, say the researchers, could go away with this technology.


The Race for EVs

Smart Charger Connects Solar Panels Directly to EVs

April 2nd 2018

Toyota Prius PHEV

The team worked with Power Research Electronics and Last Mile Solutions, funded by the Dutch Urban Energy Top Consortium (TKI Urban Energy).

Solar panels produce direct current (DC) and this normally has to be converted to alternating current (AC) before it can charge an electric car. The team developed a two-way 10kW direct charger using silicon carbide FETs and quasi-resonant technology which results in a high efficiency of over 96% for both full load and partial load and is a third the size of a conventional AC charger.  

“Charging stations are currently using the 50Hz AC network to exchange power between the solar panels and the vehicle,” said Chandra Mouli at TU Delft. “However, this is not efficient or cost-effective, for two reasons. Firstly, converting to AC results in unnecessary steps and loss. And, secondly, it requires two separate DC-AC converters, one for the vehicle and one for the solar panels, resulting in increased costs and dimensions.”


The Race for EVs

New Lithium Air Battery Design Promises up to 5x Energy Boost

March 26th 2018

Ford Focus electric

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has produced a design for a lithium-air battery that could have five times the energy capacity of today’s lithium ion batteries.

“Others have tried to build lithium-air battery cells that run on air, but they failed because of little cycle life,” said Larry Curtiss, co-principal investigator and Argonne Distinguished Fellow. Previous battery cells tested in the lab required a separate supply of pure oxygen, requiring a tank of oxygen gas would have to be part of the battery system. A lithium-air battery that uses air from outside eliminates this problem.

“This first demonstration of a true lithium-air battery is an important step toward what we call ‘beyond-lithium-ion’ batteries,” said Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


The Race for Smart Roads

Smart Road Stud System Makes Driving Safer

March 7th 2018

Broken Road

Just as skin is the body’s largest organ, roads are the earth’s largest infrastructure, covering a total of 30 million kilometers (8 million miles) worldwide.

And yet only 4 percent of the world’s roads are outfitted with sensors to convey critical data such as traffic patterns, hazardous conditions, driver behavior and accidents. That’s because it costs about $3 million per mile today to make roads “smart.”

“When it comes to data, roads are the final frontier. The main problem is the need for very expensive communication cables, cameras, patrols and control centers,” says Gabriel Jacobson, CEO of Valerann an Israeli and British company whose cloud-based road digitization system aims to change all that by slashing current costs by as much as 90%. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Will the Eastern Mediterranean Become a World Center for the Natural Gas?

February 28th 2018

Med Natural Gas

The deal just concluded between Nobel Energy from Texas and Israeli Delek group on the one hand, and Egyptian private company Dolphinus on the other, to provide Egypt with 64 billion cubic meters of gas for a total of $15 billion over a period of 10 years may well turn out to be the first sign that the Mediterranean is about to become a world hub of gas trade.

According to United States Geological Survey estimates, huge reserves of gas can be found in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea: some 325 trillion cubic feet or 9.2 trillion cubic meters—more than all known U.S. reserves. Regional disputes, however, are likely to hinder exploration and exploitation. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

$15 Billion of Israeli Natural Gas to be Sold to Egypt in Landmark Deal

February 20th 2018


The operators of Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan offshore natural gas fields have announced a landmark $15 billion, 10-year deal to sell the gas to Egypt.

Israeli-based Delek Drilling and U.S.-based Noble Energy announced that it has signed two agreements with Egypt’s Dolphin Energy worth an estimated $15 billion.

According to the terms of the deal, Delek and Noble will supply Egypt with about 7 billion cubic meters of gas annually, with half coming from the already operating Tamar field and the other half from the Leviathan field, which plans to begin operations next year. The companies are looking at various options to transfer the gas, including an eastern Mediterranean pipeline or a Pan-Arabian pipeline via Jordan. Commenting on the agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the deal as “historic.” Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Is EU planning to Promote Batteries for EVs?

February 15th 2018

EU flag

The EU is pushing the pace of developing powerful batteries for electric cars. The EU Commission intends to present a concrete strategy shortly.

We in Europe want to be competitive not only on our own market, but also worldwide, "said EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic earlier this week after a "Battery Summit" in Brussels, attended by representatives of other EU countries, including Germany's Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Matthias Machnig. At the end of next week, the Commission intends to present a strategy, Sefcovic said according to media reports.

Machnig said in Brussels that the automotive industry has undergone the deepest changes since its beginnings. In the past, the economy of the EU has been competitive because it leads the way in combustion engines. However, battery cells and modules are central to e-mobility. Those who think they can just buy these batteries are blind or even naïve, Sefcovic said. For this reason, European companies must work together across national borders.


The Race for Wind

World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Might Rise Off Netherlands

January 14th 2018

Wind Turbine

The Netherlands has a highly ambitious renewable-energy plan in the works.

The country hopes to build the world's largest offshore wind farm by 2027, along with a 2.3-square-mile artificial island to support it.

As The Guardian notes, the farm would sit at Dogger Bank, a windy and shallow site 78 miles off the East Yorkshire coast. It would deliver power to the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and later Belgium, Germany, and Denmark.

Offshore wind farms typically use expensive underwater cables that convert the turbines' electric current into a type that electricity grids can use. TenneT's island, however, would house equipment that would perform this conversion on-site, thereby allowing the farm to send electricity directly to the UK and Netherlands via less pricey cables.

According to TenneT, the Dutch electric company spearheading the project, putting additional equipment on the island would also allow the team to operate more turbines at a lower cost — and thus generate more power — than a traditional offshore wind farm.

Though the cost of offshore wind power is often higher than onshore (without subsidies), the approach can be advantageous, since winds tend to blow harder and more consistently in the ocean.

The Dutch wind farm would be capable of producing 30 gigawatts of power — more than double the amount of offshore wind power installed across Europe today.


The Race for Batteries

Salt and Water Could Make a Cheap Battery

January 11th 2018


Water could form the basis for affordable rechargeable batteries in the future. Scientists at the Swiss material research institution EMPA have succeeded in doubling the electrochemical stability of water with a special salt solution. This brings economic use of the technology closer.

Looking for safe, affordable batteries for the future, the question is: Why don't we just use water as electrolyte? Water is inexpensive, available everywhere, does not burn and can conduct ions. However, water has a decisive disadvantage: it is chemically stable only up to a voltage difference of 1.23 V. A water cell therefore supplies three times less voltage than a standard lithium-ion cell with 3.7 volts, which is why it would hardly be suitable for applications in an electric car. For stationary power storage applications, however, a cost-effective water-based battery could become interesting.

 Ruben-Simon Kühnel and David Reber, researchers in Empa's Materials for Energy Conversion department, have now discovered a way to solve the problem: The salt containing electrolyte has to be liquid, but at the same time it has to be so highly concentrated that it does not contain any "excess" water.


The Race for EVs

BMW Makes Its Electric Cars More Agile – With A Simple Design Trick

January 4th 2018

Electric plug and car

Starting with the new “s” version BMW's electric vehicle i3 has become considerably more agile and powerful. This is not only because BMW has given the car a stronger engine. But also at because a design trick for the electronics.

The new BMW i3s with its 135 kW electric motor offers a torque of 270 Nm from the standstill. But the traction system can do more than just get going: In adverse weather and road conditions, it increases traction and driving stability when starting off, in braking energy recovery mode and when accelerating from tight corners. The innovation is based on a control system that is 50 times faster than earlier versions. The BMW engineers achieved this performance increase mainly with a simple trick: They installed the driving stability systems for calculating the control process directly in the drive unit - normally these algorithms run in a remote ECU. The installation significantly shortens the signal paths and thus the dead times in the control loop.

BMW did not disclose details about the necessary design changes to the control electronics. It is clear, however, that the developers had to master a number of challenges for this measure, because when placed directly on the engine, the electronics have to be immunised against the strong electromagnetic interference fields of the engine; furthermore, the heating of the drive module requires additional cooling measures for the electronics.


The Race for EVs

Scotland to 'Phase Out' New Petrol and Diesel Cars by 2032

January 2nd 2018

new cars close up

The Scottish government has pledged to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans across Scotland by 2032, eight years ahead of the UK Government target.

Nicola Sturgeon outlined plans to "massively expand" charging points and set up pilot projects to encourage uptake of electric vehicles.

The SNP leader also said there were plans to make the A9 Scotland's first fully electric-enabled road and that an innovation fund would be set up to encourage climate-change solutions such as charging vehicles in areas with a high concentration of tenements.

“Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032,” Ms Sturgeon said. In July, Britain said it would halt the production of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to cut pollution. The plans replicate those already made by France and cities such as Madrid, Mexico City and Athens.


The Race for EVs

Superfast StoreDot Batteries Advance Superfast EV Charging

December 27th 2017

Ford Focus electric

The truck division of Daimler AG has led a $60 million invest round in StoreDot Ltd. (Herzeliya, Israel), a developer of peptide-based quantum dots founded in 2011.

The funding brings the amount raised to more than $125 million and includes participation of financial institutions from Israel and China, as well as existing investors such as Samsung Ventures and Norma Investments, representing Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.

Daimler will become a strategic partner of StoreDot and work with the company on fast-charging for electric vehicles. Samsung took a similar strategic position with StoreDot in 2013 to work on batteries for smartphones ( Samsung spots startup's quantum-dot potential ). It is not known that the technology has yet produced any exploitable results for Samsung.


The Race for Autonomous Cars

Autonomous Car for Winter in Development in Finland

December 21st 2017


Autonomous driving is already a challenging thing on normal, dry roads. It is even more so on ice-covered, slippery road. Where else could engineers face this challenge than in Finland? And so Martti, the first automated car to drive autonomously on a snow-covered road is the product of researchers from the VTT Research Centre of Finland.

Martti is a research vehicle developed on the chassis of Volkswagen Touareg. Like its counterpart Marilyn, it is equipped with cameras, antennas, sensors and laser scanners. The number and placement of sensors differs between the vehicles. For example, Martti has three laser scanners sensing the environment only in front of the car, whereas its spouse Marilyn has two scanners looking forwards and one looking backwards.

“When in spring 2017 we taught Marilyn to drive autonomously, this autumn it has been teaching us on how to make Martti such that it can get along with its spouse, and follow GPS and positioning information on its route. Martti has been designed for demanding weather conditions and Marilyn shines as the queen of urban areas,” says project manager Matti Kutila from VTT’s RobotCar Crew, describing the couple.


After Fukashima

Japan Is Poised To Flood The Pacific With One Million Tons Of Fukushima Nuclear Water

November 30th 2017

Nuclear Waste

The Japanese government is being urged by experts to gradually release radioactive water in to the Pacific Ocean more than six years after a tsunami overwhelmed the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The water is stored on site in around 900 large and densely packed tanks and could spill should another major disaster strike.

The government has been urged to release the water into the ocean as all the radioactive elements of the water except tritium - which has been said to be safe in small amounts - have been removed through treatment. But if the tank breaks, the contents may not be able to be controlled. The Japanese government is being urged by experts to gradually release radioactive water in to the Pacific Ocean. Local fishermen are extremely hesitant to this solution because many consumers are still uncertain to eat fish caught off Fukushima, despite tests that say the fish is safe to eat. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Fisker Claims 500-mile Battery Breakthough

November 27th 2017

Fisker EV

When Henrik Fisker relaunched its electric car startup last year, he announced that their first car will be powered by a new graphene-based hybrid supercapacitor technology, but he later announced that they put those plans on the backburner and instead will use more traditional li-ion batteries.

Now the company is announcing a “breakthrough” in solid-state batteries to power their next-generation electric cars and they are filing for patents to protect their IP. Get ready for some crazy claims here. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Don't Blame Just the Gas Tax for California's Pump Prices — Refineries $3 Billion more Annually Than They Should

November 23rd 2017

Oil Refinery

On Feb. 18, 2015, an explosion ripped through Exxon Mobil’s vast refinery in Torrance, forcing a shutdown that took 10% of the state’s overall gasoline production capacity offline.

Prices immediately spiked at the pump, rising by about 70 cents per gallon relative to the rest of the country. That wasn’t unexpected, given the resulting constraints in statewide gasoline supplies. What sets the Torrance outage apart from the effect of other outages, however, is what happened afterward.

Estimates of the mysterious premium being collected by the state’s refineries range from at least 20 cents per gallon — as calculated by UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein — to more than 30 cents, as reckoned by the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. (Neither figure includes the Nov. 1 tax increase.) The lower estimate would take about $3 billion a year out of California drivers’ pockets, or about $300 a year for an average family of four; the higher estimate, $4.5 billion. Where is the money going? To refineries, whose margins increased after the explosion and have stayed high. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Keystone Oil Spill Just Before Crucial Permit

November 17th 2017

Keystone Pipeline


The Race for Fuel Cells

Automotive Fuel Cells Power Data Centers

November 13th 2017

Oak Ridge Super Computer

At the Supercomputing Conference in Denver this week, automaker Daimler, together with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPW) and other partners, will demonstrate the application of fuel cells for stationary power supply systems.

At the past IAA motor show in September, Daimler presented a production-ready vehicle with fuel cell drive. The fuel cells of the current generation are to be 40 percent more powerful and 30 percent smaller than those of the previous generation. With its subsidiary NuCellSys and in cooperation with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Power Innovations (PI) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the company has now developed a solution for the use of such energy sources in stationary power supply systems.


The Race for Autonomous Vehicles

French Company Launches Fully Autonomous EV Taxi

November 13th 2017

Place Charles de Gaulle

French developer Navya in Lyon has launched a dedicated electric taxi that is fully autonomous without a steering wheel or place for a driver.

The AUTONOM CAB carries up to six passengers at a maxmum speed of 55mph using 22 or 33kWh lithium phospor battery packs (LiFePO 4) with up to 10 hours of operation.

To achieve the Level 5 autonomous operation it uses ten Lidar sensors (three giving 360 degree visibility and the rest with 145 degree visibility), six cameras, four radars, two GNSS satellite antennaes and an inertial measurement unit (IMU). These sensors provide at least a triple redundancy across all functions, says the company. It also uses high precision GPS RTK positioning and high resolution maps for navigation. 


The Race for Batteries

Daily Mail Exposes Cobalt Mining - The Human Tragedy Behind Lithium Battery Production

November 11th 2017

Lithium car battery

Early this morning London time, England's Daily Mail news outlet updated a story they previously published in August, titled "Child miners aged four living a hell on Earth so YOU can drive an electric car."

The story details the unspeakably atrocious conditions of "mining" for cobalt in Africa. If you think the images and videos of diamond mining in Africa are bad, you ain't seen nutin' yet.

The Daily Mail story centers on two young boys (8 and 11 years old) who are reportedly part of about 40,000 children used to find cobalt that's used in the production of lithium-ion batteries. The story is a devastating indictment of the burgeoning growth of the electric vehicle market. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Tesla Turns Power Back On At Children's Hospital In Puerto Rico

October 26th 2017

Solar panels

Tesla has used its solar panels and batteries to restore reliable electricity at San Juan's Hospital del Niño (Children's Hospital), in what company founder Elon Musk calls "the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico."

The project came about after Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating and powerful hurricanes in September, and Musk reached out about Tesla helping.

Musk's company announced its success in getting the hospital's power working again less than three weeks after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted on Oct. 6, "Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities."

Tesla's image of the project's solar array, in a parking lot next to the hospital, has been liked more than 84,000 times since it was posted to Instagram Tuesday. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Paris Plans to Ban all Gas Cars by 2030

October 13th 2017

new cars close up

France’s capital city, the world’s most visited city, according to Reuters, plans to ban all petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2030, officials announced Thursday. 
Paris will encourage commuters who don’t walk, bike or use public transportation to switch to electric cars.

The move is, in part, a pollution-reducing effort.

“This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases,” Christophe Najdovski, a transportation policy official for the city of Paris, told France Info radio. “Transport is one of the main greenhouse gas producers ... So we are planning an exit from combustion engine vehicles, or fossil-energy vehicles, by 2030.”

According to the CBC, city officials said it was introducing a “feasible and realistic” goal of phasing out of gas vehicles instead of calling the move a “ban” on such cars. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

High Capacity, Fast-charging Lithium Battery uses Asphalt and Graphene

October 11th 2017


A chemist at Rice University (Houston, TX) has developed a high capacity, fast-charging lithium battery using a combination of graphene and asphalt, which is more commonly used for surfacing roads.

James Tour has developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles (shown above). A high-current density of 20 mA/cm2 allows it to charged in a matter of minutes.

"The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries,” said Tour, who as well as being the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry at Rice is also a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering.


The Race for EVs

Dyson Invests £2bn in Electric Car and Battery Development

October 2nd 2017

Better Place EV charging

Vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is investing over £2bn ($2.4bn, €2.5bn) to develop a new generation of battery technology in its own electric car.

The company already has a team of 400 engineers working on the car design which is planned for launch in 2020 based around its digital motor technology. Dyson plans to double the size of the development team at Malmesbury in the UK over the next two years. 

The secretive company has not said whether this is the launch of a concept vehicle or a production model remains unclear. A production model would be tested on the roads in 2019 and so the car design and the battery technology would have to be at the advanced prototype stage already. How and where the batteries would be manufactured is also not disclosed and would be a major issue for the production of the vehicle.


The Race for EVs

As Petroleum Tanks, Will Britons Buy an EV?

September 27th 2017

Toyota Prius PHEV

The cards are stacked against petrol and diesel. 

The Government wants to ban the sale of new internal combustion engined cars in 2040. The London T-charge will be introduced next month - the first of a raft of toxin taxes due on diesel models. And, according to Confused.com's new weekly fuel price index, pump costs are at a six-month high.

Yet almost four in five drivers are still reluctant to consider buying an electric vehicle as their next car, the price comparison site said.

Fuel prices at a 6-month high: Confused.com said the cost of petrol and diesel is 7% and 6% higher respectively than it was a year ago.

Confused.com said petrol and diesel pump prices are at a six-month high, with the average cost per litre coming to 119.6p and 120.5p respectively. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

New Storage Technologies Promise Better Batteries

September 25th 2017


Researchers at the University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL) have developed two energy storage technologies to extend the life of lithium ion and zinc air batteries.

"We try to convert solar energy either to electricity or chemical fuels. We also try to convert chemical fuels to electricity. So, we do different things, but all of them are related to energy," said assistant Professor Yang Yang in the NanoScience Technology Center and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Yang's group developed a battery cathode for lithium ion batteries using a thin-film alloy of nickel sulfide and iron sulfide. They were able to boost conductivity even more by making the cathode from a thin film of nickel sulfide-iron sulfide, then etching it to create a porous surface of microscopic nanostructures. These nanopores, or holey structures, greatly expand the surface area available for chemical reaction.

Tests show a battery with the nickel sulfide-iron sulfide cathode could be depleted and recharged more than 5,000 times before degrading, compared to 300 to 500 cycles for existing lithium ion cells.


The Race for Wireless Charging

Wireless Charging for Underwater Vehicles

September 16th 2017

Ocean scene

Scientists at the US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Centre in San Diego have developed a way to use wireless charging technology underwater to recharge unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

“Unmanned and autonomous systems are used extensively for Navy missions and will continue to play a large role in future Navy and joint scenarios,” said Dr. Alex Phipps, chief of the advanced integrated circuit technology branch at SSC Pacific. “While most of these systems are able to perform their mission without human interaction, limitations in the amount of power that can be stored place a limit on the overall system autonomy.”

The researchers are now advocating for the creation of a guiding set of standards for these underwater wireless power transfer devices.


The Race for Alt Fuel

‘How Innovation Will Assist Nigeria To Diversify Away From Crude Oil’

September 7th 2017

Oil Barrels

Diversification has been the subject of numerous plans and initiatives of the Federal Government of Nigeria since the fall in crude oil prices.

It is noteworthy that oil accounts for more than 80 per cent of the nation’s earnings, and a cut in its supply invariably affects the economy.

Consequently, stakeholders at the 2017 WordStage Economic Forum, which took place in Lagos last week, believed that any diversification without innovation by businesses and government may be tantamount to running on the same spot.

Speaking at the event with the theme: ‘Transforming Business and Economy Through Innovation,’ the President/Chief Executive Officer of Worldstage Group, Segun Adeleye, said diversification into non-oil sectors may not be enough to sustain the nation’s economic development without adapting new ways of doing things. Read more ..

The Race for Al Energy

Nanotechnology Applications That Can Change The World: Alternative Energy Sources

September 6th 2017

superconducting fibers

“Nanotechnology” is defined by the National Technology Initiative as science, engineering or technology that involves manipulating matter with at least one dimension that falls in the range between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter which is a scale that is almost impossible to comprehend. Jennifer Kahn in an article in National Geographic tried to express this tiny distance on a more human scale by comparing it to the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise his razor to his face.

Interest in nanotechnology is driven in large part by the fact that properties of materials that are stable and familiar at the macroscale we experience can change radically at the nanoscale. Understanding and harnessing these changes promises to transform our everyday world in ways that may sound like science fiction but may happen in the not-so-distant future.

Here are some recent achievements in the nanotechnology of alternative energy sources.


The Race for EVs

Hydrogen Fuel Cell as Range Extender for Electric Van

August 28th 2017

Israeli battery vehicle MIA

In the recent past, the battery electric principle has gained a lead over hydrogen fuel cells in the market of emission-free propulsion principles. However, it is certainly too early to pronounce them dead. Now ULEMCo, a British company focusing on developing such drives for commercial vehicles, came up with a new suggestion: A fuel cell that acts as a range extender for a series battery electric van.

ULEMCo has developed a fuel cell based unit that will extend vehicle range by supplying additional power to the standard Nissan e-NV200 van; particularly targeting the need from vehicle operators for improved utility of electric vehicles when fully loaded. With the combination of the on-board hydrogen storage and fuel cell module, the van will have a range of over 150 miles (241 km) when laden, satisfying the range requirements of most average daily delivery operations for this size of van. 

The power module has been engineered to provide additional energy to the vehicle  so that the operational practicality of the full electric vehicle can be widened to cope with seasonal range variation, working lifetime, and the impact on range when fully loaded - all things that currently limit the range of duties an operator can target for existing for zero-emission commercial vehicles.


The Race for Solar

Australian €7m project Develops Large Perovskite Colar Panels

August 21st 2017

Solar Array

A €7m project in Australia is aiming to develop large panel solar cells using low cost perovskite materials.
Perovskite solar cells are cheaper to produce and have a high absorption efficiency in sunlight, and can be engineered to result in various optical and electronic properties but struggle with lifetime. Perovskite solar cells or modules can also be used to boost standard silicon (Si) solar technology when engineered to absorb a spectral range that is complementary to the optical range of silicon cells. By stacking the perovskite solar cells or modules on top of Si solar cells, power conversion efficiencies above 30 percent can potentially be achieved, beating the best single junction Si solar cells.

Greatcell Solar, the Australian materials company formerly called Dyesol, has been awarded a AUS$6m (€4m) grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for the Perovskite Solar Cell Technology - Large Area Module Development Project.

The company is also raising a minimum of AUS$5m (€3.5m) as part of the project funding.  This will enable Greatcell to accelerate the scale-up and prototyping activities to commercialise the company's technology.


The Race for BioFuel

The Future of Biofuel Isn’t Corn—It’s Algae

August 16th 2017


When they hear “biofuel,” people tend to assume you’re talking about corn. That makes sense, given that corn is anticipated to provide 80 percent of this year’s ethanol production — much more, say, than algae — until we consider a few numbers.

By all accounts, microalgae is less land-intensive than corn production, and although it can pull double duty, providing high-quality feed for fish farms, it doesn’t compete with food crops. Furthermore, even by by the largely pro-corn Renewable Fuel Association’s water-consumption standards, corn ethanol is a thirsty fuel: Drinking 2.8 gallons of water for every gallon of fuel refined, corn is often outclassed in efficiency by algae-based fuels. Read more ..

The Race for Autonomous Cars

Mobileye Plans Test Fleet of 100 Self-driving Cars

August 14th 2017

Traffic Jam

Having concluded the acquisition of the smart imaging company Mobileye, Intel announced first projects with company in the field of autonomous driving. Mobileye will build a fleet of 100 fully automated vehicles (Level 4) on the roads of the USA, Europe and Israel. The first cars are scheduled to start operation this year.

Building cars and testing them in real-world conditions provides immediate feedback and will accelerate delivery of technologies and solutions for highly and fully autonomous vehicles,” said Amnon Shshua, CEO and CTO of Mobileye and soon-to-be vice president of Intel Corp. "Geographic diversity is very important because different regions have very diverse driving styles, road conditions and traffic signs. Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be offered anywhere, so we have to test and train the vehicles at different locations." In the planned vehicle fleet, Mobileye will contribute its own competences in the fields of computer vision, sensor technology and sensor fusion and map creation, while Intel is contributing resources in the field of open computing platforms, data centers and 5G communication.


The Race for Batteries

Solid State Lithium Batteries Readying for Market

August 11th 2017


Hitachi Zosen in Japan has developed a prototype solid-state lithium-ion battery that it intends to commercialise over the next two years.

“We can offer solid-state lithium-ion batteries that are on par with the liquid type in performance even now,” said Takashi Tanisho, president of Hitachi Zosen, in reports. Solid-state batteries are more durable and have better temperature performance.

It has shipped samples of the battery to potential customers in the aerospace and automobile industries and plans to commercialise the technology in small cells by 2020, working with a local battery maker.

Hitachi Zosen has also been working on the technology for cars and has shipped samples to Honda’s research arm. “There are many companies working on solid-state batteries,” Tanisho said.


The Race for NatGas

Houston Startup Plans $2 Billion Permian Pipeline

August 9th 2017

Oil Pipes2

Houston pipeline startup Permico Energia hopes to build a $2 billion natural gas liquids pipeline across Texas from the booming Permian Basin to refining and port access near Corpus Christi.

The pipeline project includes building a fractionator near Corpus Christi to separate the NGLs into individual products - ethane, propane and butane - as well as products pipelines to carry the ethane and more to Houston-area markets like Mont Belvieu. The products typically are exported sold to the petrochemical sector and heating markets.

For a privately owned startup without projects under its belt and a massive price tag, full financing could still be quite a ways off. However, Permico co-founder and CEO Jeff Beicker said the company has funding commitments from unnamed South Korean investment banks and pension fund institutions. The company said it has about $800 million committed by Korean pension funds, but Permico isn't naming the funds. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Toyota EV Aims for Solid State Battery Breakthrough

August 7th 2017

Better Place EV charging

Toyota (Aichi Prefecture, Japan) is reportedly working on a new type of battery for electric vehicles (EVs) that it hopes to commercialize by the early 2020s.

Rather than being based on current lithium-ion technology, the new battery is to be solid state . This would offer a host of advantages for electric vehicles so equipped, including improved safety, significantly increased driving range, and reduced charging time.

The company is planning a new electric vehicle - built on an all-new platform - that will use the new batteries. According to reports, the new EV will recharge in "just a few minutes," compared to the usual 20 to 30 minutes recharge time for lithium-ion batteries.

Previously having focused on hybrid electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Toyota late last year announced plans to produce long-range EVs.


The Race for EVs

Electric Vehicle Taps Solar to Recharge

July 31st 2017

Sunrise or Sunset

Startup company Sono Motors (Munich, Germany) has launched its debut feature: An electric vehicle that obtains its power not only through the grid, but also through solar cells integrated on its surface. Also, the Sion is up-to-date in terms of connectivity and IT-supported usage models.

The surface of the vehicle is covered with a total of 330 solar cells that are integrated into the roof, doors, the trunk lid and the front bonnet. Of course the energy these solar cells provide does not suffice to drive the four-seater completely, but as long as the car sees the sun they contribute to charging the batteries – according to the company they generate enough electricity to add some extra 30 kilometers per day.

The battery stores enough electricity for a 250 kilometer ride – not bad, given the competitive environment such as BMW’s i3 (maximum 160 km, and all that at a price tag of 30.000+ euros). The Sion, in contrast will cost 16.000 euros – and buyers have the choice to either buy the battery (for some 4000 euros) or rent it. Another unique feature of the electric system is that it can be used as power source, providing up to 2.7 kilowatts (DC) through the standard plug or up to 7.6 kW through an optional Type 2 connector. The bidirectionality of the electric system also enables the car to pump electricity back to the grid if required – a prerequisite to establish smart grids.


The Race for Alt Energy

Energy Harvesting Foil Generates Electricity With Motion

July 28th 2017

OLED matrix

Researchers at Vanderbilt University's (Nashville, TN) Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory have developed an ultrathin system that harvests energy from motion at very low frequencies, one of the major challenges of such systems.

The system uses atomic layers, or 2D nanosheets, of black phosphorus that generate small amounts of energy when it is bent or pressed, even at the low frequencies of human movement.

"When you look at Usain Bolt, you see the fastest man on Earth. When I look at him, I see a machine working at 5 Hz," said Nitin Muralidharan, a doctoral student who co-led the project with Mengya Li 

Most energy harvesting systems based around piezoelectric crystals operate at around 100Hz and have to be tuned to the resonant frequency to be most effective. The 2D nanosheets can pick up much of the energy generated at frequencies down to 0.01Hz, meaning most of the energy from the movement is collected.


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