Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Batteries

Aluminum-Cemet at 40x magnification

Range anxiety, the fear that such vehicles will leave the vehicle's occupants stranded well short of their destination, remains one of, if not the main barrier to the widespread adoption of EVs. A new material developed by Japanese company Sumitomo Electric could help allay such fears by potentially improving the capacity of lithium-ion batteries by 1.5 to three times, and therefore extending the range of EVs by by an extra 50 to 200 percent. That would give a Nissan LEAF a range of up to 109 to 219 miles (175 to 352 km) or a Tesla Roadster a range of up to 366 to 732 miles (589 to 1,178 km) - enough to assuage the range anxiety of the most fretful drivers.  Read More

An azobenzene-functionalized carbon nanotube molecule, which can store solar energy indefi...

While solar panels are very useful at converting the sun’s rays into electricity for immediate use, the storage of that energy for later use is ... well, it’s still being figured out. The energy can be used to charge batteries, for instance, but that charge will wear off over time. Instead, scientists have been looking at thermo-chemical storage of solar energy. Last year, researchers from MIT discovered that the chemical fulvalene diruthenium was quite an effective storage medium. Unfortunately, the ruthenium element that it contains is rare and expensive. Now, however, one of those same scientists has created a new storage material that is cheaper, and is able to store much more energy.  Read More

Researchers involved in the PolyZion project are developing a zinc-plastic battery, that s...

While today's lithium-ion, lead acid, and nickel metal hydride batteries may offer far better performance than their predecessors, they are still not perfect - they're heavy, expensive, and have been known to short circuit and catch fire. Now, however, scientists involved in the PolyZion research project are developing zinc-plastic batteries for use in hybrid and electric vehicles. Their aim is to produce a rechargeable battery that is lighter, cheaper, safer, greener and better-performing than anything currently available.  Read More

A diagram of a lithium-ion battery constructed using Braun's nanostructured bicontinuous c...

Of all the criticisms of electric vehicles, probably the most commonly-heard is that their batteries take too long to recharge – after all, limited range wouldn’t be such a big deal if the cars could be juiced up while out and about, in just a few minutes. Well, while no one is promising anything, new batteries developed at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign do indeed look like they might be a step very much in the right direction. They are said to offer all the advantages of capacitors and batteries, in one unit.  Read More

A soldier in a fictitious but realistic urban, desert environment, with superimposed numbe...

If you’ve ever removed the battery from a laptop, then you will know that it constitutes quite a large percentage of the total weight of the computer. Well, if you think you’ve got it tough lugging that laptop battery around, consider the plight of infantry soldiers – they have to carry multiple batteries to power devices such as weapons, radios, and GPS equipment, and they have to do so for hours at a time, often under very harsh conditions. Attempts to lighten the 45 to 70 kg (99 to 154 lb) loads typically carried by soldiers currently include the use of fuel cells, li-ion batteries woven into their clothing, and autonomous pack horse-like vehicles. Now, UK researchers are adding their two pence-worth, by developing wearable solar and thermoelectric power systems.  Read More

Tesla has announced a battery recycling program for Europe

When weighing up the impact of electric-vehicles on the environment two factors come to the fore. EV's produce no emissions locally, but depending on where the energy comes from, they can still be producing greenhouse gases back at the power plant ... the so called "long-tailpipe" argument. That's one. The second is batteries – or more specifically, how much energy goes into making them and what to do with the massive battery packs in these cars once they've passed their lifespan. Auto manufacturers building EV infrastructure are taking this second factor into consideration and now EV pioneer Tesla has announced a battery recycling program throughout Europe that will help reduce the carbon footprint of its vehicles.  Read More

IBM's Next 5 in 5 list predicts 5 technologies that will impact us in the next 5 years

IBM has announced its fifth annual Next Five in Five – a list of five technologies that the company believes “have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years.” While there are no flying cars or robot servants on the list, there are holographic friends, air-powered batteries, personal environmental sensors, customized commutes and building-heating computers.  Read More

Formerly unobserved increase in length and twist of the anode in a nanobattery (Image: DOE...

Because battery technology hasn’t developed as quickly as the electronic devices they power, a greater and greater percentage of the volume of these devices is taken up by the batteries needed to keep them running. Now a team of researchers working at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) is claiming to have created the world’s smallest battery, and although the tiny battery won’t be powering next year’s mobile phones, it has already provided insights into how batteries work and should enable the development of smaller and more efficient batteries in the future.  Read More

SEM images of nickel-coated TMV arrays patterned using photolithography onto a silicon waf...

The first virus to be discovered was the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) back in 1898. It is a rigid, rod-shaped virus that, under an electron microscope, looks like uncooked spaghetti. This widespread virus devastates tobacco, tomatoes, peppers and other plants, but engineers have managed to harness and exploit the self-replicating and self-renewing characteristics of TMV to build tiny components for more efficient lithium-ion batteries.  Read More

High surface area of graphene make supercapcitors possible

A breakthrough in supercapacitor performance has been achieved with the development of a device that can store as much energy as a battery while recharging in seconds. The graphene-based supercapacitor being developed in the U.S. by researchers at Nanotek Instruments can store as much energy per unit mass as nickel metal hydride batteries and could one day be used to help deliver almost instant charging to recharge mobile phones, digital cameras or micro electric vehicles.  Read More

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