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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.


The Race for Batteries

UK Bets £246 Million on Batteries

July 25th 2017

Electric car Israel

The UK government, is due to announce today the first phase of a four-year £246 million investment (about €275 million or $320 million) in the research and scale-up to production of battery technology.

Battery development is being supported under a scheme the government calls the Faraday Challenge and has been selected because making batteries more efficient and renewable is likely to form a cornerstone of a low-carbon economy as batteries are used broadly in cars, aircraft, medical equipment, consumer electronics, and in district or grid storage. It is also intended to capitalize in good academic research present in the UK.

The spend of £246 million by the government is intended to help the UK become the world leader in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries. The first phase will be a competition to establish a £45 million 'Battery Institute' for research into battery technology.


The Race for Batteries

Tesla Wins Giant Battery Contract in Australia--100-day Deadline

July 13th 2017

Sydney Opera House

Tesla Inc. has won an Australian contract to install the world's biggest grid-scale battery, in what experts say will be a litmus test for the reliability of large-scale renewable energy.

Tesla's CEO Elon Musk, known for his bold approach to cars, clean energy and space exploration, trumped dozens of competing proposals to build the gigantic lithium-ion battery that will serve as emergency back-up power for South Australia - a state racked by outages.

But under the agreement, Tesla must deliver the 100-MW battery within 100 days of the contract being signed or it will be free - a commitment Musk made in a Tweet in March.

"There will be a lot of people that will look at this -'Did they get it done within 100 days? Did it work?'" Musk told reporters in South Australia's capital city of Adelaide.

"We are going to make sure it does."

The battery, designed to light up 30,000 homes if there is a blackout, will be built on a wind farm operated by France's Neoen - parts of which are still under construction. Read more ..

The Race for Hyperloop

Futuristic Hyperloop Delivers an Exciting Status Check

July 11th 2017

silver robot

What is Hyperloop?

Hyperloop is on track to be the next great transformation in mass transportation. The concept is simple: a network of on-demand, electrodynamically levitated pods traveling in evacuated tubes at 95% of the speed of sound. The term 'Hyperloop' was first coined in 2012 by technology billionaire and serial entrepreneur, Elon Musk. It is a radically new concept of point-to-point travel at speeds over 700mph, covering the distance between Edinburgh and London in 35 minutes.

How could Hyperloop influence the way that we travel in the future?

The implications of a Hyperloop corridor are immense; intercity commuting becomes comparable to taking the metro, injecting economic stimulus throughout the country and creating a superproductive population. Beyond connecting cities, Hyperloop has the potential to combine separate airports into terminals of an integrated airport network. Read more ..

The Race for Hi-Speed Rail

Smart Cities Require Smart Rail

July 9th 2017

Shinkansen bullet train

Did you know that Milton Keynes is well on its way to becoming a fully functional smart city? The MK:Smart initiative is partly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and led by The Open University, and it aims to develop innovative solutions to support economic growth in Milton Keynes.

One such solution, targeted at supporting transport links within the city, is MotionMap. This tool uses information gathered by a sensor network around the city to feed updates about congestion and car park occupancy to a mobile app. Any smart city will inherently be reliant on smart systems like this, which in turn rely on data and energy transfer.

This all increases the levels of disruptive electromagnetic interference (EMI) that can have a seriously detrimental effect on power quality. Smart cities will live and breathe data and communications through the many devices that will exist on the Internet of Things (IoT) web, but power quality issues could seriously affect the efficacy of these devices if proper precautions are not taken. For instance, prolonged exposure to EMI could cause major disruptions to vital rail signalling or to onboard services, putting passengers at risk.


The Race for Wind

World’s Largest Wind Turbine Would Be Taller Than the Empire State Building

June 29th 2017

Green Mtn wind farm

Wind energy is soaring in the U.S.; the nation’s renewable energy capacity has more than tripled in the past nine years, and wind and solar power are largely responsible. Now businesses want to harness even more wind energy, at a cheaper price—and one of the best ways to lower cost is to build bigger turbines. That’s why an alliance of six institutions led by researchers at the University of Virginia are designing the world’s largest wind turbine at 500 meters tall—almost a third of a mile high, and about 57 meters taller than the Empire State Building.

Turbines are already noticeably larger than they were 15 or 20 years ago. Size varies, but today’s typical wind farm towers stand around 70 meters tall, with blades about 50 meters long. Their power output depends on size and height, but it generally ranges between one and five megawatts—on the upper end, that’s enough to power about 1,100 homes. “There's this motivation to go to larger wind turbines, and the reason is pretty much economics,” explains John Hall, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo, S.U.N.Y. One reason giant turbines are more cost-effective is that wind blows stronger and more steadily at greater altitudes.


The Race for Solar

'Solar' Paint Harvests Energy from The Air

June 19th 2017

Minneapolis skyline

Researchers from RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia) and MIT (Cambridge, MA) have developed a sunlight-absorbing paint able to harvest hydrogen from air moisture, by splitting water molecules.

The catalyst for this solar-powered hydrolysis comes in the shape of molybdenum sulfides that could readily be mixed to the titanium oxide particles typically used in white paint.

In a recent paper titled "Surface Water Dependent Properties of Sulfur-Rich Molybdenum Sulfides: Electrolyteless Gas Phase Water Splitting" published in the ACS Nano journal, the researchers report that sulfur-rich MoSx (x = 32/3) is a highly hygroscopic semiconductor which can reversibly bind up to 0.9 H2O molecule per Mo.


The Race for Autonomous Cars

Automobile Software Can Now be Updated While Driving

June 15th 2017

Traffic Jam

With the amount of software in today’s cars in the dimension of millions of lines of code, updating vehicle software today is a cumbersome business. Now Continental has created the necessary technology and infrastructure to enable secure software updates over the air, doing away with the need to visit the garage for every update.

With significance for software for the user experience of car buyers updates having dramatically increased over the past decade or so, automotive manufacturers are feverishly working on solutions to establish similar mechanisms for their vehicles. So far, only Tesla dares to update the software of its cars automatically. All others look jealously over the fence, frightened by the prospect of a terrible glitch or, even worse, a cyber attack against the transmission path. Also, updating a vehicle’s software is somewhat more complex than updating a smartphone’s operating system: Up to 100 computers are involved, and since they are all connected, the activities of most of them can have side effects on others. Plus, the number of possible variants and options in a car is much bigger than in a smartphone. And last but not least, no one can afford a failed software update – in a car such a situation would have far more serious consequences than with a smartphone.


The Race for Batteries

New Liquid Metal Battery May Solve Renewable Energy Storage Problem

June 12th 2017


The team at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology ( NTNU) in Trondheim have developed a battery system with three liquid layers: sodium at the top as the negative electrode, a sodium chloride based electrolyte in the middle, and zinc at the bottom as the positive electrode.

To prevent the zinc containing ions from reacting with the sodium electrode, a porous diaphragm or separator is placed between the electrodes. Avoiding a brittle, expensive β-alumina ion selective membrane and replacing it with a cheap durable diaphragm material significantly improves the performance and reduces the cost of liquid metal batteries.

The choice of immiscible electrolytes and electrodes will ensure a safe battery system, which in the unlikely event of mechanical failure will discharge without any undesired effects such as fire or explosion. This compares to sodium sulphur (NaS) molten salt batteries which have been demonstrated for grid storage. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Proposed Solar Paneled Wall for US-Mexico Border May Become a Reality

June 11th 2017

Sunrise or Sunset

At a recent White House meeting, President Trump told congressional Republicans that his suggestion in terms of construction of the US-Mexico border wall would be to seriously explore the solar paneled option.

The WSJ reported that two lawmakers who attended the meeting told them that Trump said the solar panels could offset the exorbitant costs in erecting such a border wall. This can be effectuated by collecting revenue from the sale of solar power that the panels would generate. Those funds could be earmarked to assist in offsetting the projected multi-billion dollar cost in construction.

The WSJ has also reported that Trump’s idea for the use of solar panels to build a wall separating the US and Mexico came after the Department of Homeland Security issued a solicitation of proposals a few months ago from engineering firms and other construction companies  for their blueprints. Read more ..

The Race for Autonomous Cars

Why Israel Is A Fast-Moving Force In Smart Transportation

June 3rd 2017

Israeli battery vehicle MIA

In June 2013, 250 Israeli smart-transportation visionaries flocked to the inaugural EcoMotion “unconference” to share their crazy fantasies about the future of moving people from one place to another.

Only four years later, leaders of the global automotive and transportation industry were among 1,500 participants at the fifth annual EcoMotion Main Event at the Peres Center in Jaffa last month.

It hasn’t taken long for Israel to emerge as a significant source of innovation for autonomous  and connected vehicles, navigation, public transportation,  alternative fuels, super-efficient engines, urban parking and environment-friendly personal and mass transportation. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Graphene and Nanotubes Triple Lithium Metal Battery Density

May 22nd 2017

Graphene carbon mesh

Researchers at Rice University in the US have used a combination of graphene and carbon nanotubes to build a rechargeable lithium metal battery with three times the capacity of commercial lithium-ion batteries.

The Rice battery uses an anode built of a hybrid of graphene and carbon nanotubes. The 3D surface provides more area for lithium to inhabit and approaches the theoretical maximum for storage of lithium metal while resisting the formation of damaging dendrites.

These dendrites are lithium deposits that grow into the battery's electrolyte and if they bridge the anode and cathode and create a short circuit, the battery may fail, catch fire or even explode.

Led by chemist James Tour, the researchers found that when the new batteries are charged, lithium metal evenly coats the highly conductive carbon hybrid in which nanotubes are covalently bonded to the graphene surface.


The Race for Alt Energy

Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the Future

May 4th 2017

Green Mtn wind farm

Hamburg knew the bombs were coming, and so the prisoners of war and forced laborers had just half a year to build the giant flak bunker. By July 1943 it was finished. A windowless cube of reinforced concrete, with seven-foot-thick walls and an even thicker roof, it towered like a medieval castle above a park near the Elbe River. The guns protruding from its four turrets would sweep Allied bombers from the sky, the Nazis promised, while tens of thousands of citizens sheltered safely behind its impenetrable walls.

Coming in at night from the North Sea just weeks after the bunker was finished, British bombers steered for the spire of St. Nikolai in the center of the city. They dropped clouds of metallic foil strips to throw off German radar and flak gunners. Targeting crowded residential neighborhoods, the bombers ignited an unquenchable firestorm that destroyed half of Hamburg and killed more than 34,000 people. Towering walls of fire created winds so strong that people were blown into the flames. Church bells clanged furiously.


The Race for Batteries

Separator Layer Can Make Lithium-ion Batteries Fireproof

April 15th 2017


Lithium-ion batteries, though being considered as the power source of choice for today’s electric vehicles, are having a significant disadvantage: They are not fireproof. Even worse, they tend to catch fire under overload and short circuit conditions which can occur as a consequence of accidents. Researchers from the Stanford University have developed a potential solution.

The reason why lithium ion batteries can start burning so easily is that the electrolytes necessary to enable the exchange of electrons between cathode and anode are flammable and highly reactive. Though battery manufacturers have tried to minimize this risk through internal protective covers or by adding flame retardants, the risk persists, acknowledged Stanford researcher Kai Liu. In addition, these measures have side effects: They reduce the energy density and ion mobility which in turns reduces the battery performances.


The Race for EVs

Electromobility: The Big Leap has Yet to Come

April 14th 2017

Electric car Israel

The annual Electromobility Index from consultancy Roland Berger and the fka automotive technology research institute (Aachen, Germany) certifies Germany and France the leading positions in terms of technology. Though the market shows growth in all regions, the market share for electric vehicles is still very low.

The Electromobility Index periodically compares the competitive positions of the seven most important automotive geographies China, France, Germany Italy, Japan South Korea and USA in terms of technology, industrialization and market.

According to the study, Germany currently holds the technology pole position in the race about electromobility – a little bit surprising, given the success of Tesla in the US and the relatively high market penetration of electric vehicles in France. Wolfgang Bernhardt, Roland Berger Partner and expert for automobile markets, explains why.


The Race for Nuclear

A Bankruptcy of Nuclear Proportions

April 14th 2017

Nuclear Reactors

On March 29, Westinghouse Electric Co., a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy. The U.S.-based nuclear power company has been building two state-of-the-art nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina, but it has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. The filing sent Toshiba scrambling to cut its losses by March 31, the end of Japan's fiscal year. The Japanese conglomerate ended up writing down over $6 billion on its nuclear reactor business. But Toshiba's troubles don't end there; the firm is also working to sell off a portion of its chip manufacturing holdings.

The U.S. government is worried about what the sale of Westinghouse could mean for the future of traditional nuclear power in the United States and for nuclear power in China, which is keen to learn the secrets of a Western firm such as Westinghouse. The Japanese government, meanwhile, is wary of how Beijing could benefit in the long term, should a Chinese firm acquire Toshiba's semiconductor unit. Read more ..

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