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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Google wants to solve renewable energy storage with salt and antifreeze

August 2, 2017 by  
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One of the arguments against solar and wind is that the renewable energy sources are intermittent and thus unreliable — the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Storage is the key to unlocking the full potential of renewables to power modern, industrial societies on the scale of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Now, Google’s parent Alphabet is joining the race to develop clean energy storage. The Malta project , from Alphabet’s secretive research lab X, uses cold antifreeze and hot salt to store power. The storage system reportedly has some key advantages, including the ability to be located almost anywhere and the potential to last longer than lithium-ion batteries. The system also could be as cost-effective as new hydroelectric plants and other existing clean energy storage methods. Related: Siemens and AES start new energy storage company to rival Tesla Tesla is also developing utility-scale renewable energy storage solutions with its Powerpack. Other companies are working on energy storage as well. Renewable energy storage players such as Tesla and Google could increasingly be in demand as states like California attempt to integrate more solar and wind into the electricity grid. During the first half of this year, California wasted more than 300,000 megawatts generated by solar panels and wind farms. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, lithium-ion battery prices are dropping fast and low oil and natural gas prices could pose a challenge to the Malta project. “It could potentially compete with lithium-ion,” said Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Yayoi Sekine. “But there are a lot of challenges that an emerging technology has to face.” + The Malta Project Via CNET Images via X Research Lab

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Google wants to solve renewable energy storage with salt and antifreeze

Snail-inspired retreat is the perfect escape for nature lovers

August 2, 2017 by  
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Although you certainly wouldn’t be able to carry this shell-shaped structure on your back, the El Caracol retreat is perfect for getting away from it all. The dome home features an all-glass facade that connects the interior to 8 acres of pine forest in Lledó, Spain. If that isn’t enough of the great outdoors for you, nearby is a limestone gorge with a natural swimming pool and two wild rivers, making it the perfect escape for nature lovers. The structure is set deep into the mountainous forest where two rivers meet, making it a true nature lover’s paradise . However, the property itself is so relaxing, it might be hard to get out and explore the surrounding area. Related: Norway’s Fleinvaer cabins offer the ultimate in off-grid living on a remote island The concrete dome is cut in half with a slanted, all-glass facade that juts out over the outdoor patio. The large windows flood the interior with natural light and connects the living space with the natural exterior. On the inside, there’s an open-plan living area with a large kitchen. Exposed steel supports are found throughout the home, giving an industrial aspect that contrasts nicely with the all-concrete walls. The three bedrooms and two bathrooms are located on the upper level. The master has a beautiful convex wall on one side and a full-length glass wall that offers spectacular views of the surroundings. The heart of the retreat is undoubtedly the outdoor living area. A large shaded area provides outdoor dining space that opens up to the infinity pool . Guests can enjoy the BBQ area, a hammock, and plenty of nooks and crannies for long siestas in the Spanish sun. El Caracol can be rented through CoolStays.com + El Caracol Via Dwell Images via Cool Stays

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Snail-inspired retreat is the perfect escape for nature lovers

Report: meat industry responsible for largest-ever dead zone in Gulf of Mexico

August 2, 2017 by  
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Most people know by now that a plant-based diet is better for one’s mental and physical well-being. But did you know that reducing your consumption of meat — whether from bovine, chicken or pig — can also benefit the environment? It’s an important revelation, one more people need to learn, as a new report reveals that toxins poured into waterways by major meat suppliers have resulted in the largest-ever “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico . The report was conducted by Mighty , an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman. It was determined that toxins from manure and fertilizer which companies are pouring into waterways are contributing to huge algae blooms . This, in turn, creates oxygen-deprived areas in the gulf, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake bay. As a result of the pollution and worsening algae blooms, it is expected that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) will confirm that the Gulf of Mexico has the largest ever recorded dead zone in history. Concerned environmental advocates predict it to be nearly 8,200 square miles or roughly the size of New Jersey. The report blamed American citizens’ vast appetite for meat for driving much of the harmful pollution. Small businesses, as well, are “contaminating our water and destroying our landscape,” said the report. Said Lucia von Reusner , campaign director at Mighty, “This problem is worsening and worsening and regulation isn’t reducing the scope of this pollution. These companies’ practices need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely necessary to reduce the environmental burden.” To determine the findings, Mighty analyzed supply chains or agribusiness and pollution trends. It was found that a “highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system” is primarily responsible for converting “vast tracts of native grassland in the midwest” into mono-crops , such as soy and corn. When it rains, the stripped soils can easily wash away, resulting in fertilizers entering streams, rivers, and oceans. Related: Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” in 2017 could be the largest on record Tyson Foods , which is based in Arkansas, was identified as a “dominant” influence in the pollution. This is because the company is a major supplier of beef, chicken, and pork in the United States. The Guardian reports that every year, the supplier slaughters 35 million chickens and 125,000 cattle every week. Its practices require five million acres of corn a year for feed. Unfortunately, Americans’ appetite for animal products is only expected to increase in future years , which spells trouble unless the majority of the United States adopts high-quality, organic plant-based diets which require fewer resources to grow and are less detrimental to the environment. Mighty is urging Tyson and other firms to use their influence and to ensure grain producers, such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, implement practices that reduce pollution in the waterways. These changes include not leaving soil uncovered by crops and being more efficient with fertilizers so plants are not sprayed with so many chemicals . While more action needs to be taken, the report, at the very least, raises awareness about the pervasive issue which demands attention. Via The Guardian + Mighty Images via Wikimedia , Pixabay

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Utility coalition invests in EV charging firm Greenlots

July 25, 2017 by  
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It’s another indicator of how critical electric vehicles could become to grid demand management.

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Siemens and AES start new energy storage company to rival Tesla

July 13, 2017 by  
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Tesla’s no longer the only big company in the energy storage game. Back in April, Mercedes-Benz started to deliver home energy storage units in Germany, and now technology giants Siemens and AES are creating a new energy storage company, Fluence . The venture could reach consumers in more than 160 countries. AES and Siemens intend to draw on their knowledge of the power industry to offer energy storage technology in Fluence. Although the new venture will operate independently of its parent companies, according to a press release, it will draw on technology both have developed, like the AES Advancion and Siemens Siestorage technologies. AES CEO Adrés Gluski said of the move, “This will accelerate the integration of renewables into the energy network of tomorrow.” Related: New on-demand energy system generates and stores power in one device In combination, the two companies have either deployed or been awarded 48 projects in 13 countries to install 463 megawatts of battery-based energy storage . AES has been deploying energy storage systems for 10 years, in seven countries. Siemens has been around for much longer. The company was founded in 1847 and boasts a sales presence in over 160 countries. Which means Fluence stands to do well, on a global level. According to the press release, “The company will empower customers around the world to better navigate the fragmented but rapidly growing energy storage sector and meet their pressing needs for scalable, flexible, and cost-competitive energy storage solutions.” And the energy storage market is growing at a steady pace. According to IHS Markit , the sector could expand from three gigawatts (GW) in installed capacity in 2016 to 28 GW just around six years later, in 2022. That’s enough power to run roughly 18.6 million households. The companies expect after regulatory approvals, the transaction will close later in 2017. + Fluence Via Siemens and AES Images via AES Energy Storage on Twitter and Siemens

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Tesla makes good on South Australia promise with world’s largest Lithium ion battery

July 7, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk is a man of his word. In March the Tesla CEO tweeted a promise that he would help South Australia solve its energy woes in 100 days with a new power storage system – or give the whole thing away for free. Now he’s following up on that promise, having inked a deal with the State government to build the world’s largest Lithium ion battery. If he can’t finish in 100 days, the energy titan estimates he’ll lose a cool $50 million. “There is certainly some risk, because this will be the largest battery installation in the world by a significant margin … the next biggest battery in the world is 30 megawatts,” Musk said at a recent press conference. According to local news sites , Musk said that Tesla will make an effort to make the 100MW battery storage system aesthetically-pleasing so that it can double as a tourist attraction. This will be the highest power battery system in the world by a factor of 3. Australia rocks!! https://t.co/c1DD7xtC90 — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2017 He said it will look like a series of white obelisks. Tesla’s 129MWh battery system will store energy – produced by a nearby wind farm still under construction by the French company Neoen, providing greater stability and a backup power source when necessary. “You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low,” Musk said, “…and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer.” Via ABC

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Tesla makes good on South Australia promise with world’s largest Lithium ion battery

Why Kilroy is turning buildings into batteries

July 7, 2017 by  
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Its initial energy storage installations in California, which should be online in 2018, will automate demand response services more seamless for tenants.

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Groundbreaking new energy storage system mounts to existing poles

July 5, 2017 by  
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Grid reliability is a growing concern as the world transitions to renewable energy and existing infrastructure ages. To address these challenges, Toronto Hydro is testing a grid-scale energy storage system that can be attached to poles already present around the city. The system has been in place since August of last year, and it’s already displaying positive results. Toronto Hydro is running a pilot program with the pole-mounted energy storage system in the city’s North York neighborhood. Drawing on eCAMION battery technology, the energy storage system was first developed at Ryerson University . According to the press release, the system completely lacks a footprint, because it can be attached to existing infrastructure. Related: New on-demand energy system generates and stores power in one device The energy storage system can be mounted 16 feet up on power poles, and can store as much energy as around 2,100 smartphone batteries could. During off-peak hours, it stores power and then releases it when there’s a demand. Energy storage technology could lengthen the lifespan of some of Toronto Hydro’s equipment, and offer reliability as a backup power source in case of an outage. Bala Venkatesh, Academic Director at Ryerson University’s Center for Urban Energy, described this energy storage unit as the first of its kind in the world, saying in a statement, “This project showcases how the use of energy storage and smart grid technologies can enhance distribution system performance and reduce asset upgrade costs.” The team monitoring the pole-mounted system is scrutinizing how it reacts to real-time data. So far they’ve found the system can indeed lower the burden on local transformers. Should the pilot project continue to go well, Toronto Hydro is considering implementing the technology on new installations on the more than 175,000 power poles in Toronto. Via CNW Group Images via CNW Group/Toronto Hydro Corporation

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IKEA’s new cookbook cooks your food for you

July 5, 2017 by  
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You probably have that one friend who visits IKEA just for their Swedish meatballs, but now the furniture giant is showing how creative you can get with those meatballs at home. They just rolled out the IKEA Easy Recipe Series cookbook in Canadian stores, which makes dinner easier to cook with parchment paper pages that resemble a paint-by-numbers sketch – and they do much of the hard work for you. IKEA has made well-designed furniture more accessible, and now it seems they’re working to make food more accessible too. They got a little help from the Leo Burnett Toronto advertising agency to come up with the Cook This Page campaign. All users have to do is fill in the pictures of food on the parchment cooking pages, put it in the oven, and pull out a dinner that assembles far easier than an IKEA bed frame or bookcase. Related: IKEA’s new app will let you preview furniture in your home before you buy IKEA’s cookbook pages don’t simply come with a list of ingredients. The pages have spaces on which to place the food, drawn with food-safe ink in the approximate sizes of the precise amounts of items like one minced garlic clove or one eighth of a teaspoon of black pepper. Users place ingredients on the pages and roll them up to cook. The pages recently popped up in Canadian stores during the IKEA Kitchen Event. People could see exactly what food and kitchen equipment they’d need, and shop for the items at the store before taking the pages home to bake homemade meals. According to a video on the campaign, IKEA realized some folks are intimidated by new food and recipes , and “wanted to show people that getting creative can be deliciously simple.” Leo Burnett won two Gold and two Bronze Cannes Lions at this year’s festival for their work on the campaign. Via Fast Co.Design Images via screenshot and Leo Burnett Toronto

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