Chinese researchers develop flexible salt-powered batteries

August 14, 2017 by  
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As the world rushes to transition to a new energy economy, researchers are uncovering novel methods to harvest energy from mundane, everyday sources. A research team in China has created a new battery that could be safely used in wearable or implantable devices, thanks to its use of salt-based electrolytes. This breakthrough could drastically improve the quality and safety of battery-dependent medical technology and may even pave the way for sweat-powered devices. In order to be effective, implantable or wearable batteries need to be flexible to allow functional bending on organic surfaces. In prior iterations, these batteries usually included a mix of toxic chemicals that serve as the electrolytes through which electrical charge can flow. This new battery uses non-harmful electrolytes such as sodium sulfate and saline. Because there is less of a concern regarding leakage of these chemicals, the battery’s design does not require extra material to protect humans from exposure and is significantly less bulky. Related: Inexpensive new battery generates power with just a drop of saliva One particularly interesting implication of a salt-based battery is the idea that the batteries could prove effective at harvesting sweat and other salty bodily fluids to power a workout assistant device. The researchers also noted that the batteries have a marked ability to convert dissolved oxygen into hydroxide ions, which could prove useful in medical applications.  “We can implant these fiber-shaped electrodes into the human body to consume essential oxygen, especially for areas that are difficult for injectable drugs to reach,” said researcher Yonggang Wang. “Deoxygenation might even wipe out cancerous cells or pathogenic bacteria since they are very sensitive to changes in living environment pH. Of course, this is hypothetical right now, but we hope to investigate further with biologists and medical scientists.” Via Engadget Images via Deposit Photos , Tim Simpson/Flickr  and Andy Armstrong/Flickr

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Solar-powered Tesla Tiny House hits the road in Australia

August 14, 2017 by  
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Tesla’s taking to the streets to demonstrate their clean technology . A Model X is pulling around a tiny house showcasing a solar power system and Powerwall , giving the curious a way to check out their renewable technology in action. Electrek shared some stunning images of Tesla’s Tiny House , which is serving as a mobile design studio in major Australian cities. The Tesla Tiny House is incredibly eye-catching: clad in sustainable, locally-sourced chemical-free timber , the rolling design studio gives locals an up-close look at Tesla’s renewable wares. The Tiny House measuring 20x7x13 feet is outfitted with a 2 kW photovoltaic system with six panels. There’s also a Tesla Powerwall on the home’s exterior. Related: Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof Naturally, the Tiny House is entirely powered by renewable energy , and people can step inside to use a configurator to design a solar system with storage for their own homes. A tour with staff provides detailed information; Electrek quoted the company as saying: “The tour is designed to provide a one-on-one educational experience on how to integrate Powerwall and solar to seamlessly power an entire home 24/7, allowing Australian consumers to gain control and understanding of their power use.” According to Electrek, Australia is a key market for Tesla’s products: 1.5 million households in the country have solar for the highest per capita penetration of rooftop solar power in the world. Tesla plans to take their tiny house to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane throughout August, September, and early October. But, the company says on their site that anyone in Australia can request a stop. They “want to bring the Tesla Tiny House to you, so you can fully experience what it means to be self-powered.” + Tesla Tiny House Via Electrek Images via Electrek/Tesla

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Solar-powered Tesla Tiny House hits the road in Australia

Inexpensive new battery generates power with just a drop of saliva

August 10, 2017 by  
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In addition to aiding digestion, it turns out saliva can also power batteries. Researchers at Binghamton University discovered this while inventing a small, paper-based battery that generates energy when mixed with a drop of saliva. The batteries, which are more like tiny microbial fuel cells, are inexpensive to make and could be used in natural disasters and remote settings where on-demand power is hard (if not impossible) to come by. As a result, access to medical care and screenings in rural settings could improve. Binghamton University Electrical and Computer Science Assistant Professor Seokheun Choi spent the past five years developing the micro-power sources. His ultimate goal was to find a way to power medical diagnostic tests in poverty-stricken regions; finally, he succeeded at developing paper-based bacteria -powered batteries “On-demand micro-power generation is required especially for point-of-care diagnostic applications in developing countries,” said Choi. “Typically, those applications require only several tens of microwatt-level power for several minutes, but commercial batteries or other energy harvesting technologies are too expensive and over-qualified. Also, they pose environmental pollution issues.” Related: Indian startup pioneers new battery swapping system for electric buses The batteries contain freeze-dried exoelectrogenic cells which generate power when saliva is added. Astonishingly, with just one drop of spit, the paper batteries can produce enough power for low-power biological sensors in just a matter of minutes. Eureka Alert reports that a benefit of freeze drying the cells is that they can be stored for a long time before use. This means they can be stocked in medical clinics around the world. An additional perk is that the required biological fluid (saliva) can be easily obtained anywhere, anytime. At present, the battery can only produce a few microwatts of power per square centimeter. However, Choi and his research assistant, Maedeh Mohammadifar, are working on boosting the output. In the future, the team hopes to make the paper batteries more robust so they can sustain devices other than LED lights when connected in a series. The paper, “A Papertronic, On-Demand and Disposable Biobattery: Saliva-Activated Electricity Generation from Lyophilized Exoelectrogens Preinoculated on Paper,” was published in Advanced Materials Technologies. + Binghamton University Via Eureka Alert Images via  Binghamton University , Pixabay

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Groundbreaking new material for longer-lasting batteries inspired by leaf veins

April 11, 2017 by  
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Biology may hold the clues to better batteries . An international team of scientists designed a porous material inspired by the vascular structure of leaves that could make energy transfers more efficient. Similar to the way leaf veins efficiently transport nutrients, this material could help rechargeable batteries perform better and last longer. A team of researchers led by Xianfeng Zheng of China’s Wuhan University of Technology and Australia’s University of Queensland scrutinized the way leaf veins optimize the flow of nutrients, with minimum energy consumption, “by branching out to smaller scales” according to the University of Cambridge , and then applied that to their groundbreaking porous material. The nature-inspired material could help relieve stresses in battery electrodes that currently limit their lifespan. The material could also enhance the charge and discharge process. Related: American fern inspires groundbreaking new solar storage solution The team calls their product Murray material after Murray’s Law. Cambridge said according to the rule the whole network of pores in biological systems is connected in a manner “to facilitate the transfer of liquids and minimize resistance throughout the network.” Scientist Bao-Lian Su of Cambridge, Wuhan University of Technology, and University of Namur in Belgium said they applied that biological law to chemistry , saying, “The introduction of the concept of Murray’s Law to industrial processes could revolutionize the design of reactors with highly enhanced efficiency, minimum energy, time, and raw material consumption for a sustainable future.” The scientists applied Murray material to gas sensing and photocatalysis as well. Su is a co-author on a paper published online by Nature Communications late last week. There are seven other co-authors on the paper from institutions in China, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Another co-author, Tawfique Hasan of Cambridge University, said it could be possible to manufacture the porous material on a large scale. Via the University of Cambridge Images via Christoph Rupprecht on Flickr and Pixabay

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Groundbreaking new material for longer-lasting batteries inspired by leaf veins

Hyundai reportedly working on next-gen solid-state batteries for electric vehicles

April 6, 2017 by  
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Major car companies like Hyundai have toyed with both hydrogen and electricity for clean fuel sources, but now it seems the Seoul, South Korea -based manufacturer may be taking a major step towards improving technology for their electric cars with solid-state batteries . An April 5 report from The Korea Herald says the car company has pilot-scale battery production facilities in which they’re developing the battery technology that could store more energy  and be a game changer for the industry. Hyundai may be working on solid-state batteries in their facilities they own, according to information obtained by The Korea Herald from who they described as sources close to the matter. They quoted this source as saying, “Hyundai is developing solid-state batteries through its Namyang R&D Center’s battery precedence development team and it has secured a certain level of technology.” Related: 2017 Hyundai IONIQ will be offered in EV, plug-in hybrid and hybrid versions Hyundai is apparently developing the technology without help from Korean battery manufacturers like LG Chem or Samsung SDI . The source compared Hyundai’s approach to Toyota’s – they also own production facilities according to the source. Industry sources told The Korea Herald Hyundai might be able to mass produce solid-state batteries around 2025. LG Economic Research Institute analyst Choi Jung-deok told The Korea Herald “…if automakers are able to succeed the mass production of next-generation batteries, the paradigm of batteries in the future may be shifted.” As solid-state batteries carry less risk of explosion they are considered safer than conventional batteries. According to Electrek, no company has yet been able to produce solid-state batteries at a large scale and at a price competitive with lithium-ion batteries. Along with Toyota, Ford has dabbled in the technology as well. Companies like Bosch and Dyson have also invested in the technology; the latter acquired a solid-state battery startup in 2015 for $90 million with plans to construct a $1 billion factory. Via The Korea Herald and Electrek Images via Jakob Härter on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Propella’s lightweight electric bike rides like a regular bike

April 6, 2017 by  
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Electric bicycles just keep getting sleeker and slimmer. Propella has just come out with a second generation e-bike that could almost be mistaken for a regular bike. They say their Propella 2.0 rides like a traditional road bike, has a 15 percent smaller battery than its competitor, and it’s said to be eight percent lighter. With a goal to bridge the divide between electric bikes and ordinary bikes, Propella’s 2.0 e-bike features minimalist design that keeps it nice and light. It weighs 34.5 pounds, and according to the company is “classified as the lightest electric vehicle in its class.” Its top speed is 20 miles per hour. Related: Turn any bike into an e-bike with UrbanX’s drop-in wheel You’d be forgiven for mistaking the bike’s battery for a water bottle – it fits snugly against the down tube but boasts Panasonic’s lithium ion technology. The 36 volt battery can be charged in two and a half hours, and offers a range of up to 40 miles. There’s an anti-theft lock on the battery, which can be removed and charged via a standard wall outlet. The bike’s 250 watt geared hub motor fits into the rear wheel, and Propella describes the motor as both quiet and maintenance-free. A LED display on one of the bike’s handles allows riders to choose their pedal assist level. On the company’s Indiegogo campaign page they say concept electric vehicles inspired them to design their bike “so that Propella riders can be guaranteed to own the most beautiful electric bike in the world.” With a month left on their Indiegogo campaign, Propella has reached almost $50,000 of a $60,000 goal. Their super early backer prices are already sold out; now cycling fans can grab a single speed for $999 or a seven-speed for $1,149; both are 33 percent off retail price. The company says their single speed is still “quite capable of climbing most hills.” You can check out the campaign here . + Propella + Propella on Indiegogo Images via Propella

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Propella’s lightweight electric bike rides like a regular bike

Stanford researchers pioneer world’s first affordable urea battery

February 13, 2017 by  
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Stanford University researchers have designed a new battery that could revolutionize renewable energy storage . Using urea , an affordable, natural and readily available material found in mammal urine and fertilizers, their battery is notably more efficient than past iterations. The battery, developed by Stanford chemistry professor Honjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, uses an electrolyte made from urea – a material already produced in mass industrial quantities for use in plant fertilizers. Non-flammable and made with electrodes from abundant materials like aluminum and graphite, the battery presents a low-cost way for storing energy from many sources – including renewables . “So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” says Dai in a press release. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” Dai and his team were the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery in 2015, which charged in less than a minute, while lasting for thousands of charge-discharge cycles. And they’ve improved on both the performance and cost of their latest model, which is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 battery, with a higher efficiency of 1,500 charge-discharge cycles and a charging time of 45 minutes. This is also the first time that urea has been used to make a battery. Related: MIT researchers invent ingestible battery powered by stomach acid Energy storage is a huge challenge for solar power and other renewables, as users need a reliable way to store power for when their systems aren’t producing energy. The batteries currently on the market, including lithium ion and lead-acid batteries tend to be quite costly and don’t last that long. But Dai and Angell believe their battery might be the solution to the conundrum of renewable energy storage. “It’s cheap. It’s efficient. Grid storage is the main goal,” says Angell. “I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire,” added Dai. The researchers have licensed their battery patents to AB Systems, a company founded by Dai, and a commercial version of the battery is on the way. They’re planning to work on increasing its life span down the road by further investigating its internal chemical processes. Via Stanford Images via Pexels , US Navy and Tea Horse Trade Guest House , Wikimedia Commons

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Playful KATRIS scratching post blocks fit together like Tetris for cats

February 13, 2017 by  
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Cat owners who find themselves hiding grubby scratching posts out of sight will love this awesome KATRIS set that combines feline fun with playful design. The modular system consists of scratchable blocks that double as flexible furnishings . All of the pieces are non-toxic, and they can be assembled in a variety of ways so that cats can enjoy an ever-changing feline playground. Featured on an episode of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell”, KATRIS is the result of extensive research into the best materials for feline furniture according to cat behavioral science. Each shred-resistant block is made with 200 sheets of FSC-certified heavy-duty paper , and they can support up to 300 pounds of weight. The blocks can be connected in a variety of ways using built-in straps. https://youtu.be/dHhO_CnZBjU Related: Architects turn a cramped apartment into a gorgeous loft where the owner’s cats can roam freely The blocks are manufactured using non-toxic ingredients, such as SGS-certified, non-toxic glue and eco-friendly branding ink made with non-toxic soybean inks. Not only is the whole system completely recyclable, but the blocks are designed to have an extremely long life cycle, further minimizing waste. + KATRIS Cat Via Curbed Images via KATRIS

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British supermarket chain launches trucks powered by food waste

February 13, 2017 by  
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Food waste has always been something of a bugbear with Waitrose , an upscale British grocer that stopped shoveling its leftovers into the landfill as early as 2012. It even packages some of its fusilli pasta in boxes made, in part, from recycled food scraps, which it says reduces the use of virgin tree pulp by 15 percent while lowering greenhouse-gas emissions by a fifth. But Waitrose wants to take the issue further, both literally and figuratively. The supermarket just announced that it’ll be running its delivery trucks entirely on biomethane gas generated from food waste—making it the first company in Europe to do so. Food waste is a looming concern in the United Kingdom. At a time when 8.4 million U.K. families struggle to feed themselves daily, the volume of household food waste continues to soar, amounting to an estimated 7.3 million metric tons in 2015. Waitrose, according to the Times , is partnering with CNG Fuels to juice up 10 of its trucks with 100 percent renewable biomethane. The trucks can run up to 500 miles—almost twice the current average—on what is essentially rotting food. “We will be able to make deliveries to our stores without having to refuel away from base,” Justin Laney of the John Lewis Partnership , which operates Waitrose, said in a statement on Thursday. Related: Toronto Rolls Out Biogas-Capable Garbage Trucks Because its biomethane costs 40 percent less than diesel, any upgrades will pay for themselves in two to three years, CNG Fuels said. “Renewable biomethane is far cheaper and cleaner than diesel, and, with a range of up to 500 miles, it is a game-changer for road transport operators,” CNG Fuels CEO Philip Fjeld said. Another plus? The alternative fuel emits 70 percent less carbon dioxide, which would give a much needed boost to the European Union’s pledge to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 under the Paris Climate Agreement . + Waitrose Via Grubstreet

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MIT researchers invent an ingestible battery powered by stomach acid

February 8, 2017 by  
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MIT researchers have developed a new safe-to-swallow battery powered by stomach acid. The technology could significantly aid in the powering of ingestible electronic devices currently being used for drug delivery and internal medical procedures like colonoscopies – as well as other wearable technology . MIT drug delivery device As New Atlas reports, “safe-to-swallow batteries” are currently being developed to power these ingestible electronic devices, but up until recently they have posed problems. This recent development out of MIT is expected to provide a cheaper and safer alternative to those batteries currently on the market. The battery was the result of a study by a team of MIT researchers led by senior authors, Giovanni Traverso and Robert Langer who have developed a number of internal devices, for which they wanted a safe, reliable power source. “We need to come up with ways to power these ingestible systems for a long time,” Traverso told New Atlas . “We see the GI tract as providing a really unique opportunity to house new systems for drug delivery and sensing, and fundamental to these systems is how they are powered.” They started with the fact that the majority of batteries are powered by acid, and realized they could take advantage of acid in the stomach. Their concept is based on the simple battery concept that involves putting a piece of zinc and copper into a lemon, where the citric acid becomes an electrolyte that can carry a current between the two metals – creating enough power to run an LED . Related: MIT designs innovative wearable tech that makes it easier to network As New Atlas explains, “The researchers scaled that principle down by attaching their own zinc and copper electrodes to the outside of a small, ingestible device containing a temperature sensor and a 900 MHz transmitter. Like in the lemon, the stomach acid can carry the electric current from the zinc to the copper and power the device, which, when tested in pigs, was able to take temperature readings and then send that data wirelessly, every 12 seconds, to a receiver up to 2 m (6.6 ft) away.” According to senior author Anantha Chandrakasan, this design solves problems with internal medical devices, such as energy generation , conversion, storage and utilization, opening up new horizons for the technology. “This work allows us to envision new medical devices where the body itself contributes to energy generation enabling a fully self-sustaining system.” Via New Atlas Images via MIT

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