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The Lead

Rubber meets the road with ORNL carbon, battery technologies

August 27, 2014 3:22 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in electric vehicles and store energy produced by wind and solar, say researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. By modifying the microstructural characteristics of carbon black, a substance recovered from discarded tires, a team of researchers is developing a better anode for lithium-ion batteries.

Scientists develop water splitter that runs on ordinary AAA battery

August 22, 2014 7:27 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

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Recycling old batteries into solar cells

August 18, 2014 7:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

This could be a classic win-win solution: A system proposed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology recycles materials from discarded car batteries—a potential source of lead pollution—into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power. The system is based on a recent development in solar cells that makes use of a compound called perovskite.

New material could be used for energy storage, conversion

August 13, 2014 11:50 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have made a material that is 10 times stronger and stiffer than traditional aerogels of the same density. This ultra-low-density, ultra-high surface area bulk material with an interconnected nanotubular makeup could be used in catalysis, energy storage and conversion, thermal insulation, shock energy absorption and high energy density physics.

Could hemp nanosheets topple graphene for making the ideal supercapacitor?

August 12, 2014 12:34 pm | News | Comments

As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors. A team has figured out how to make electrodes from certain hemp fibers, and the breakthrough came from figuring out how to process them.

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“Wetting” a battery’s appetite for renewable energy storage

August 4, 2014 9:22 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Videos | Comments

Sun, wind and other renewable energy sources could make up a larger portion of the electricity America consumes if better batteries could be built to store the intermittent energy for cloudy, windless days. Now a new material could allow more utilities to store large amounts of renewable energy and make the nation's power system more reliable and resilient.

NASA to test making rocket fuel on Mars

August 4, 2014 8:16 am | News | Comments

Taking fuel to Mars for return flights is heavy and expensive. The $1.9 billion Mars 2020 rover that NASA announced on Friday will include an experiment that will turn carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. It could then be used to make rocket fuel and for future astronauts to breathe. The device, named MOXIE, will make about three-quarters of an ounce of oxygen an hour.

Method provides nanoscale details of electrochemical reactions in EV battery materials

August 4, 2014 7:33 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. 

Researchers close in on pure lithium anode

July 31, 2014 4:15 pm | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

In a recent paper, a team at Stanford Univ. which includes materials science expert Yi Cui and 2011 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year Steven Chu report that they have taken a big step toward accomplishing what battery designers have been trying to do for decades: design a pure lithium anode.

Panasonic, Tesla to build big U.S. battery plant

July 31, 2014 4:23 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

American electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is teaming up with Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. to build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. expected to create 6,500 jobs. The companies announced the deal Thursday, but they did not say where in the U.S. the so-called "gigafactory," or large-scale plant, will be built.

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All-in-one energy system offers greener power for off-grid buildings

July 30, 2014 11:49 am | News | Comments

Developed in the U.K., an innovative “trigeneration” system fuelled entirely by raw plant oils could have great potential for isolated homes and businesses operating outside grid systems. the small-scale combined cooling, heat and power system has been designed to utilize its waste heating by storing it through measures such as batteries and supercapacitors.

Understanding the source of extra-large capacities in promising Li-ion battery electrodes

July 28, 2014 8:15 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium (Li)-ion batteries power almost all of the portable electronic devices that we use every day, including smartphones, cameras, toys and even electric cars. Researchers across the globe are working to find materials that will lead to safe, cheap, long-lasting and powerful Li-ion batteries.

Labs characterize carbon for batteries

July 15, 2014 8:04 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries could benefit from a theoretical model created at Rice Univ. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that predicts how carbon components will perform as electrodes. The model is based on intrinsic electronic characteristics of materials used as battery anodes. These include the material’s quantum capacitance and the material’s absolute Fermi level.

Chemists develop novel catalyst with two functions

July 9, 2014 8:47 am | by Dr. Julia Weiler, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

A new type of catalyst, based on carbon, can facilitate two opposite reactions: electrolysis of water and combustion of hydrogen with oxygen. This bi-functionality, developed by researchers in Germany, is made possible from its construction: manganese-oxide or cobalt-oxide nanoparticles which are embedded in specially modified carbon, then integrated with nitrogen atoms in specific positions.

Silicon sponge improves lithium-ion battery performance

July 8, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a porous material to replace the graphite traditionally used in a battery's electrodes. Made from silicon, which has more than 10 times the energy storage capacity of graphite, the sponge-like material can help lithium-ion batteries store more energy and run longer on a single charge.

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More pores for more power

June 30, 2014 2:10 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have produced a new material the size of a sugar cube that has a surface area equivalent to more than seven tennis courts. This novel type of nanofiber has a highly ordered and porous structure gives it an extraordinarily high surface-to-volume ratio and could be a key enabling technology for lithium-sulfur batteries.

Study shows greater potential for solar power

June 23, 2014 9:43 am | News | Comments

Concentrating solar power (CSP) could supply a large fraction of the power supply in a decarbonized energy system, according to a new study of the technology and its potential practical application. For this research, scientists simulated the construction and operation of CSP systems in four regions around the world, taking into account weather variations, plant locations, electricity demand, and costs.

Tesla handing over the keys to its technology

June 13, 2014 8:21 am | by Michael Liedtke and Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Business Writers | News | Comments

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised Thursday to give away the company's entire patent portfolio to all comers, as long as they promised not to engage courtroom battles over intellectual property. The decision is meant to encourage other automakers to expand beyond gasoline-burning automobiles, and opens the door to more collaboration with Tesla, which is already making electric systems for Daimler and Toyota.

Charging portable electronics in 10 minutes

June 10, 2014 3:09 pm | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a 3-D, silicon-decorated, cone-shaped carbon-nanotube cluster architecture for lithium ion battery anodes that could enable charging of portable electronics in 10 minutes. It also increases cell capacity and reduces size and weight by 40%.

Designing ion “highway systems” for batteries

June 10, 2014 2:19 pm | News | Comments

Since the early 1970s, lithium has been the most popular element for batteries because of it’s low weight and good electrochemical potential. But it is also highly flammable. Researchers have recently married two traditional theories in materials science that can explain how the charge dictates the structure of the material. And using this they may be able to move to other materials, such as block copolymers, for use in batteries.

Seeing how a lithium-ion battery works

June 9, 2014 7:44 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New observations by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed the inner workings of a type of electrode widely used in lithium-ion batteries. The new findings explain the unexpectedly high power and long cycle life of such batteries, the researchers say.

A battery revolution on the cheap?

June 5, 2014 11:14 am | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

Whip together an industrial waste product and a bit of plastic and you might have the recipe for the next revolution in battery technology. Scientists have combined common ingredients to make an inexpensive, high-capacity lithium-sulfur battery that can be cycled hundreds of times without losing function.

Controlling thermal conductivities can improve energy storage

June 4, 2014 7:30 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Materials that control heat flow are available with both high and low conductivities, but materials with variable and reversible thermal conductivities are rare. For the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have experimentally shown that the thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide, an important material for electrochemical energy storage, can be reversibly electrochemically modulated over a considerable range.

Scientists pinpoint the creeping nanocrystals behind lithium-ion battery degradation

May 29, 2014 8:20 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Batteries don’t age gracefully. The lithium ions that power portable electronics cause lingering structural damage with each cycle of charge and discharge, making devices from smartphones to tablets tick toward zero faster and faster over time. To stop or slow this steady degradation, scientists must track and tweak the imperfect chemistry of lithium-ion batteries with nanoscale precision.

Graphene may make large scale electricity storage a reality

May 27, 2014 9:35 am | News | Comments

Soon after graphene’s isolation, early research already showed that lithium batteries with graphene in their electrodes had a greater capacity and lifespan than standard designs. At the Univ. of Manchester, U.K., where graphene was first isolated, researchers are working with more than 30 companies to advance technology in graphene-enabled energy storage, particularly in the area of lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors.

A new way to harness waste heat

May 21, 2014 7:55 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials.

Team visualizes complex electronic state

May 19, 2014 7:35 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A material called sodium manganese dioxide has shown promise for use in electrodes in rechargeable batteries. Now a team of researchers has produced the first detailed visualization—down to the level of individual atoms—of exactly how the material behaves during charging and discharging, in the process elucidating an exotic molecular state that may help in understanding superconductivity.

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