Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Batteries

Scientists have created a new type of lithium-ion battery that is said to hold a charge te...

For those of us using smart phones, an all-too-familiar problem is that of a dead battery. The computing power, as well as the multi-purpose abilities of modern-day phones is nothing short of amazing. However, until battery life catches up with the functionality, we're still forced to carry multiple devices. For example, what good is 32GB of memory to store music and movies if it leaves me with a dead phone after an hour or two of my favorite tunes? Even though my phone can easily handle the music and movie abilities of my iPod, I still carry the iPod. I still have a GPS in my car, even though my phone is more than capable. New technology from Northwestern University is aiming to change all that. Engineers there have created an electrode for lithium-ion batteries - the rechargeables commonly found in our devices - that allows them to run ten times longer, while only taking only one-tenth of the time to charge.  Read More

earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them ...

If you really want to minimize the amount of toxins that you put into the environment, use rechargeable batteries. Disposable and rechargeable batteries can contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, and with an estimated 3 billion batteries a year being discarded in the U.S. alone, the sometimes small amounts in each battery can really add up. Using rechargeables greatly reduces the number of batteries entering landfills, but many people don't bother buying them, or the chargers that they require. That's where earthCell batteries come in. They can be used like disposables, except that users send them away for for recharging or recycling when they're dead.  Read More

Nissan has developed an experimental system that can fully charge an EV battery in just te...

If there are two obstacles that are still keeping the general public from embracing electric cars, those would have to be the vehicles’ limited driving range and long charging times. Well, Nissan has achieved a major milestone regarding one of those two problems – last week, Japan’s Nikkei news agency reported that the automaker has developed an experimental system that can fully charge an EV battery in just ten minutes.  Read More

The low-cost, high-density energy-storage membrane, created at the National University of ...

Researchers from the National University of Singapore’s Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI) have created what they claim is the world’s first energy-storage membrane. Not only is the material soft and foldable, but it doesn’t incorporate liquid electrolytes that can spill out if it’s damaged, it's more cost-effective than capacitors or traditional batteries, and it's reportedly capable of storing more energy.  Read More

A new system that puts smartphones into 'subconscious mode' could boost battery run times ...

University of Michigan researchers have proposed a new power management system for smartphones that could dramatically improve battery life. Working with doctoral student Xinyu Zhang, computer science and engineering professor Kang Shin has created a proof-of-concept system known as E-MiLi, or Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening, that addresses the energy waste that occurs when "sleeping" phones are looking for incoming messages and clear communication channels. For users on the busiest networks, it could extend battery life by up to 54 percent.  Read More

Panasonic's EVOLTA swimming, cycling and running robots will be attempting to complete the...

While the Energizer Bunny may get all the fame, Panasonic's "Mr. Evolta" robot actually gets out and does things. In 2008, powered by two of the company's AA EVOLTA alkaline batteries, the 17 centimeter (6.69 inch)-tall robot climbed up a 1,640 foot (500 meter) rope suspended in the Grand Canyon. The following year, pedaling a miniature tricycle, he completed the "24 Hours of Le Mans" endurance challenge. Last year, he took a leisurely 500-kilometer (311-mile) stroll along the highway from Tokyo to Kyoto. This year's challenge is a little different - there will be three EVOLTA robots, and they will be teaming up to complete the 230-kilometer (143-mile) Ironman Triathlon circuit in Hawaii.  Read More

A newly-developed gel could make lithium batteries cheaper and more damage-tolerant, and a...

Lithium-ion batteries have certainly been a boon to electronic devices, offering much longer run times than their alkaline counterparts. There is still room for improvement, however. Existing lithium batteries can short circuit, they don't stand up to damage, and they can only be made in a limited variety of shapes. Now, scientists from the University of Leeds have developed a polymer gel that could be used to make lithium batteries with none of those shortcomings - plus, they should be cheaper.  Read More

A method developed at Rice University allows bundles of vertically aligned single-wall car...

Capacitors are able to charge and discharge more quickly than batteries, and can do so hundreds of thousands of times. Batteries, on the other hand, are able to store more energy than capacitors. There are also electric double-layer capacitors (EDLCs), otherwise known as supercapacitors, that can hold battery-like amounts of energy while retaining the charge/discharge speed of regular capacitors. EDLCs incorporate liquid or gel-like electrolytes, however, which can break down under hot or cold conditions. Now, a new solid-state supercapacitor developed at Houston’s Rice University is using nanotechnology to get around that limitation.  Read More

Nissan has unveiled a new power system that allows a LEAF to provide electricity to a hous...

Nissan has unveiled a new power supply system that allows electricity stored in the lithium-ion batteries of the all-electric Nissan LEAF to be supplied to a house. With the LEAF’s batteries able to store up to 24 kWh of electricity, Nissan says the system could supply the average Japanese household with electricity for about two days. This would be enough to provide a stable electricity supply in the event of power outages or to allow consumers to store cheaper off-peak power for use in high demand periods.  Read More

MIT researchers have further improved the energy density of lithium-air batteries (Image: ...

Last year MIT researchers reported improving the efficiency of lithium-air batteries through the use of electrodes with gold or platinum catalysts. MIT News is now reporting that in a continuation of that work, researchers have been able to further increase the energy storage capacity of lithium-air batteries for a given weight by creating carbon-fiber-based electrodes.  Read More

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