Solar Energy Conversion Under Dark Conditions

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The new solar cell developed by the University of Texas at Arlington team is more efficient and can store solar energy at night.
Image: UT Arlington

A research team from the University of Texas at Arlington comprised of both present and past ECS members has developed a new energy cell for large-scale solar energy storage even when it’s dark.

Solar energy systems that are currently in the market and limited in efficiency levels on cloudy days, and are typically unable to convert energy when the sun goes down.

The team, including ECS student member Chiajen Hsu and two former ECS members, has developed an all-vanadium photoelectrochemical flow cell that allows for energy storage during the night.

“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power,” said Fuqiang Liu, past member of ECS and assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department who led the research team. “As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage. It also can effectively harness the inexhaustible energy from the sun.”

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Li-Ion Battery with Double the Life

Two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology.Source: Nature Communications

Two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology.
Source: Nature Communications

Researchers from various institutes across Korea have found a way to nearly double the life of the lithium-ion battery.

In an ever-pressing race to create a more efficient and longer-lasting battery for electronics, researchers across the globe are looking toward alternative materials to make the li-ion battery stronger. A team of researchers associated with Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology, including ECS member Jang Wook Choi, have combined silicon and graphene to yield an amazing increase in lithium-ion battery efficiency.

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Graphene’s New Role in Water-Splitting

5592616537473The topics of climate change and the energy crisis are on the minds of many scientists working in the fields of energy storage and conversion. When looking toward the future, the development of more efficient and effective energy storage technologies is critical. Instead of our traditional “carbon cycle,” researchers are beginning to focus on the “hydrogen cycle” as a promising alternative.

With this, there been a lot of focus on water-splitting techniques. However, there are many challenges that this technology has to overcome before it reaches efficient levels on a large scale.

In order to help address complications associated with water-splitting, ECS member Qiang Zhang is leading a research group from Tsinghua University to help get closer to the ultimate goal of the “hydrogen cycle” by developing a novel graphene/metal hydroxide composite with superior oxygen evolution activity.

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Graphene Flexes Its Electronic Muscles

Carbon nanotubes, seamless cylinders of graphene, do not display a total dipole moment. While not zero, the vector-induced moments cancel each other out.Rice University

Carbon nanotubes, seamless cylinders of graphene, do not display a total dipole moment. While not zero, the vector-induced moments cancel each other out.
Image: Rice University

Theoretical physicist at both Rice University and institutes in Russia have concluded that the best way to control graphene’s electrical qualities is to flex the material.

Rice University’s Boris Yakobson and his lab are collaborating with Moscow researchers to calculate the electrical properties of nanocones, which should be universal for other forms of graphene.

(PS: You can take a look at some of Yakobson’s past meeting abstracts in the Digital Library.)

This from Rice University:

The researchers discovered it may be possible to access what they call an electronic flexoelectric effect in which the electronic properties of a sheet of graphene can be manipulated simply by twisting it a certain way. The work will be of interest to those considering graphene elements in flexible touchscreens or memories that store bits by controlling electric dipole moments of carbon atoms, the researchers said.

Read the full article here.

“While the dipole moment is zero for flat graphene or cylindrical nanotubes, in between there is a family of cones, actually produced in laboratories, whose dipole moments are significant and scale linearly with cone length,” Yakobson said.

ICYMI: Check out our podcast, “A Word About Nanocarbons,” featuring another Rice University carbon nanotube expert, Dr. Bruce Weisman.

Interested in carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and nanocarbons? Make sure to check out ECS’s Nanocarbons Division!

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Nanogenerator Harvests Power from Tires

During initial trials, the team tested the nanogenerator's capabilities on a toy car with LED lights.Image: UW-Madison College of Engineering

During initial trials, the team tested the nanogenerator’s capabilities on a toy car with LED lights.
Image: UW-Madison College of Engineering

Earlier this year, the company Goodyear announced its concept of a tire that can harvest heat in a variety of ways to help power electric vehicles. Since then, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been hard at work on their own accord to develop a tire that can harvest the typically wasted power produced from friction.

A team of UW-Madison researchers got together, led by Dr. Xudong Wang, to develop a nanogenerator that has the ability to harvest the energy from a car’s rolling tire friction, which will potentially make care tires a much more efficient product.

Find the paper in the journal Nano Energy, and take a look at Wang’s past paper, “3D Nanowire Architectures for Highly-Efficient Photoelectrochemical Anodes,” published in ECS Transactions.

This from UW-Madison:

The nanogenerator relies on the triboelectric effect to harness energy from the changing electric potential between the pavement and a vehicle’s wheels. The triboelectric effect is the electric charge that results from the contact or rubbing together of two dissimilar objects.

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Implantable Drug-Delivery Device to Hit Market

When an electrical current is delivered to one of the chip's tiny reservoirs, a single does of therapeutics releases into the body.Image: MIT/Microchips Biotech

When an electrical current is delivered to one of the chip’s tiny reservoirs, a single does of therapeutics releases into the body.
Image: MIT/Microchips Biotech

After extensive research, MIT engineers are on their way to commercializing microchips that release therapeutics inside of the body.

The implantable microchip-based device has the potential to outpace injections and conventional pills, changing the landscape of health care and treatment as we know it.

A startup stemming from MIT, Microchips Biotech, developed this technology and has partnered with Teva Pharmaceutical to get these chips into the market. Teva Pharmaceutical is a giant in the industry and the world’s largest producer of generic drugs.

This from MIT:

The microchips consist of hundreds of pinhead-sized reservoirs, each capped with a metal membrane, that store tiny doses of therapeutics or chemicals. An electric current delivered by the device removes the membrane, releasing a single dose. The device can be programmed wirelessly to release individual doses for up to 16 years to treat, for example, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis.

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Generating Solar Energy with Noise Barriers

Researchers aim to assess the economic and technical feasibility of these luminescent solar concentrators. Image: Eindhoven University of Technology

Researchers aim to assess the economic and technical feasibility of these luminescent solar concentrators.
Image: University of Technology

The Netherlands is making a push toward renewable energy sources with their new testing of solar energy generating noise barriers, which will be installed along highways. Researchers are currently testing the first phase of these energy storage devices, which generate electricity using solar cells integrated in noise barriers.

Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology have implemented luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) that are aesthetically attractive and should lead to promising energy efficiency levels.

“Further benefits are that the principle used is low cost, they can be produced in any desired, regular color, is robust, and the LSCs will even work when the sky is cloudy. That means it offers tremendous potential,” said Michael Debije of Eindhoven University of Technology’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry.

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Marie Curie and Beyond

curieJune 25th marked the 112th anniversary of Marie Curie’s announcement of her discovery of radium, a critical component in the development of x-rays and radiology. For her work on radioactivity, Curie earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.

Curie’s inspiring story helped pave the way and inspire many future women in STEM. While Currie may have been the first, she was not the last. There have been many women since Curie that have made a tremendous impact in science. Between 1901 and 2014, 46 women in total have been award the Nobel Prize. Of the 46 winners, 16 have been for STEM related achievements. While the following women may not be household names, they have impact our way of life and drastically changed the field of science.

Here are a few women who paved the way in chemistry and physics:

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Improving Properties of Sodium-Ion Batteries

The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.Ia

The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.
Image: Nature Communications

With the demand for hand-held electronics at an all-time high, the costs of the materials used to make them are also rising. That includes materials used to make lithium batteries, which is a cause for concern when projecting the development of large-scale grid storage.

In order to find an alternative solution to the high material costs connected with lithium batteries, the researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Institute of Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing have begun focusing their attention on sodium-ion batteries.

The science around sodium-ion batteries dates back to the 1980s, but the technology never took off due to resulting low energy densities and short life cycles.

However, the new research looks to combat those issues by improving the properties of a class of electrode materials by manipulating their electron structure in the sodium-ion battery.

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ECS Podcast – Alvin Salkind, World-Leader in Battery and Biomedical Applications

ECS Executive Director recently sat down with co-author of the seminal Alkaline Storage Batteries and globally respected battery and biomedical researcher, Alvin J. Salkind, to take a look back on his tremendously influential career in the sciences.

We are sad to say that Dr. Salkind has passed away since the recording of this interview. Take a look at some of the remarkable ways he impacted ECS.

Listen to the podcast below and download this episode and others for free thought the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

PS: Check out the video version of this podcast and interviews with other world-leaders in electrochemical and solid state science as part of our Masters Series.

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