Tag: batteries

Researchers make mushroom inside battery

Portobello-MushroomsA team of researchers has been growing mushrooms in lithium-ion batteries to make them last longer – not just any mushroom they have to be portabella.

Engineers and material scientists at the University of California, Riverside used portabellas to create a longer lasting battery.

The new lithium-ion battery features anodes made of portabella mushrooms. In addition to being more durable, they’re also more inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Portabellas are easy to grow so the anodes are simple to produce.

The mushrooms are seen as a replacement for graphite. Graphite is costly and its production process is slow and harmful to the environment. Mushrooms attracted scientists because they’re extremely porous and rather tasty.

Graphite degrades over time as the result of electrode damage, the high concentration of potassium salt in portabellas improves the material’s electrode capacity.



Sodium ion batteries are commercially feasible

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 14.52.06The inventor of the lithium ion battery and a team of researchers at the University of Texas in Austin said they’ve identified a cathode material that could pave the way for low cost sodium ion batteries.

Professor John Goodenough, the inventor of the lithium ion battery, said that sodium ion batteries offer a promising replacement for lithium ion batteries because sodium is abundant and cheap.

Lithium ion batteries are expensive to make and rely on the availability of lithium which is by no means as common as salt.

The challenge the researchers face is how to improve the performance and safety of sodium ion batteries so they can be commercialised.

Obstacles to sodium ion batteries include performance, weight and instability of materials but hte team has come up with a non toxic and cheap mineral called eldfellite, which it said will likely be a candidate for commercialisation.

Preetam Singh, a researcher in the team said: “We believe our cathode material provides a good baseline structure for the development of new materials that could eventually make the sodium ion battery a commercial reality.”

The illustration above shows the crystal structure of the eldfellite cathode for a sodium ion battery.

There’s power in touch

Fingers crossedScientists have created a biodegradable nanogenerator fashioned out of DNA that will take energy from everyday movements and turn it into electricity.

According to the American Chemical Society a number of scientists all over the world are building prototypes of nanogenerators that take movement like walking and covert it into power.

The dream is that one day we won’t have to run for the electricity socket but our mobile devices will be powered by the things that we do, whether energetic or not.

The scientists build their nanogenerator using a flexible biocompatible polymer film using polyvinylidene fluoride. They improved the material’s energy harvesting functions by adding DNA.

DNA, apparently, has good electrical properties and is both biodegradable and biocompatible, just by tapping their were able to light up 22 to 55 LEDs, as this video shows.

Scientists make battery breakthrough

lithium-ion batteryA group of researchers at Stanford University claim to have invented an aluminium battery that will spell the end of lithium-ion batteries.

The batteries are made of a mix of graphite and aluminium and the Stanford scientists said that commercial production of the new style batteries could charge a smartphone in less than a minite.

Lithium-ion batteries have the tendency to catch fire, but the Stanford scientists claim the prototype they’ve built won’t do this.

And the aluminium prototype has shown in tests that it will charge much longer than comparable lithium-ion batteries.

The findings of the science are produced in the current edition of Nature. An aluminium ion battery has a negatively charged anode made of the metal.

Aluminium is also much cheaper than lithium so costs will be lower. The team said it still needs to make improvements for the battery to compete with the current technology.

German boffins come up with ultra long-life batteries

A team of researchers from the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg, which roughly translates as the centre for solar and hydrogen development, has come up with a new Li-Ion battery technology that could bring affordable electric cars a step closer.

The new batteries retain most of their capacity even after 10,000 recharge cycles, which means they should be good for 25 years, or more.

One of the biggest teething problems facing electric cars is the relatively short lifespan of their battery packs. Many experts claim the batteries have to be replaced every five to seven years, and they are pretty pricey, too.

The team claims their new power pack retains more than 85 percent of the initial capacity even after 10,000 cycles. That means they will probably never have to be replaced – the rest of the car will fail before they do.

As with most battery breakthroughs, there’s a catch. The technology is still not ready for mass adoption and it needs tweaking. It is unclear when, if ever, it will be employed commercially, reports Hothardware

Boeing groeing tough battery tests for Dreamliners

Boeing is desperately trying to get its 787 Dreamliner fleet back into the air and it is now testing the plane’s volatile Li-Ion battery system to a rigorous standard that it helped develop itself.

The strict new standard was never employed on the Dreamliner and in retrospect it might have been a good idea to run the tests before it was pressed into service.

The Dreamliner was the first commercial jet to use lithium ion batteries, which are a great way to save a bit of weight, but in some cases they can be more dangerous than exploding footwear and underwear. Following a couple of highly publicised battery incidents, the Dremliner fleet was grounded in January. Since the battery tech was all new, the FAA had to approve a set of special conditions for fire safety on the Dreamliner in 2007.

A Boeing committee issued a set of guidelines in March 2008 to minimise the risk of Li-Ion batteries. However, Boeing never had to meet the more stringent guidelines. The FAA never required it and Boeing chose to ignore them.

Boeing is now scrambling to get the Dreamiliner battery system up to spec and apply the tougher RTCA standard, published in 2008. However, it seems like it is too little too late.

Former NTSB board member John Goglia told Reuters that Boeing’s decision to use the  tandard is basically an admission that the company didn’t do a good job to begin with. Last month, the NTSB questioned the assumptions made by Boeing and the FAA during the battery certification process in 2007.

A Boeing spokesperson said the RTCA standard was not used because the it came too late, after Boeing had completed certification. Boeing is about one-third through testing under the stricter RTCA standard and it is likely to get the job done in a couple of weeks.

It is still unclear when the Dreamliner fleet will start flying again. 

Apple demonstrates staggeringly screwy arrogance on iPhone innards

Apple is so confident that its iPhone is unbreakable that it has decided to extend that closed garden.

The iPhone  has issues, but Apple has really got on its high horse now. It is so confident that nothing can or will go wrong that it has decided to, quite literally, close it off to the public.

According to sources, the company is replacing screws  on iPhones which are brought in for servicing with tamper-proof alternatives – which it hopes will stop people from fiddling with the device and prevent them from replacing the battery.

The latter means that Apple will now be able to fleece its customers for more cash as only qualified people will be able to open the device, and probably charge double for the privilege. 

Currently the company will replace iPhone batteries free if the device is under warranty, but otherwise charges $79, a price tag many were able to avoid by opening the device and buying a battery from a supplier.

Two people with first-hand knowledge of the practice told Fox News that when a customer brings an iPhone 4 into a US Apple store for repair, tech staff  have now been ordered to swap out the commonly-used Phillips screws, with which the device is shipped, and replace them with so-called “Pentalobe” screws.

Pentalobe screws require a screwdriver that is not commercially available, meaning Apple can supply these to its service staff minions and demand they charge extra.

However, iFixit, a site that’s well known for cheeky Apple antics, has already started advising customers of a way to get around this.

It has found a screwdriver that works for the 5-point “Pentalobe” fasteners on the iPhone 4 case, which although isn’t a true Pentalobe driver — the tip is more star shaped than “flowery,” so there may be some slight play in the fit when using – can unfasten these screws meaning you can replace them with the standard Philips ones.

Take a bite on that, Apple.

Sony Vaio explodes on journalist's lap

Why is it that laptops have a habit of exploding at or around journalists? The Inquirer got the scoop on an exploding Dell back in 2006, a wake up call to the nature of online journalism as CNN and countless other snooze outfits ran with the picture without accreditation. You can add us to that list, we guess.

Another former INQster, Charlie Demerjian now of SemiAccurate, has confirmed that his Sony Vaio laptop caught fire while he was in bed. The immediate reaction was to pull the plug and yank the malformed battery out as the thing bellowed smoke around Demerjian’s palatial bedroom quarters. 

He says, in typical Charlie fashion: “On Sunday, December 19, I was sitting in bed half awake, surfing the net instead of getting up and doing something productive. That is what weekends are for, right? My first clue was a large puff of grey-black smoke billowing up from the left side of the laptop. No, seriously, one minute lolcatz, the next OMFGfire!!!!1!!”

He took to Sony’s online live support chat where an analyst called Shanon_ quizzed him at length about the country of origin rather than apologise profusely and make right. See:

Charlie Demerjian > You seem to be more concerned with the fact that the laptop isn’t US based than the fact THAT IT JUST CAUGHT FIRE!

Charlie Demerjian > Minor point, I know, but it does concern me.

Shanon_ > Charlie, it is requried to contact the purchase country to get the issue resolved with the computer.

The model number is VGN-TZ22VN/x, apparently. When the helpful analyst had passed on a link to Sony’s support website, where Charlie had to sleuth to figure out its country of origin, Shanon_ promptly said goodbye, thanks and shut down the chat.  We’re unclear at press time whether or not this particular Vaio was the one that Kicking Pat Gelsinger – then at Intel – autographed for Charlie.

Dell’s exploding laptop in 2006 was sporting a Sony battery under the bonnet. It lead to a recall on a massive scale but our only explanation is that press departments are getting craftier – it makes more sense to bomb journalists than appease them. 

Scientists will create lithium-ion battery for nano-scale devices

Scientists are trying to create some of the tiniest lithium-ion batteries on earth which will be no bigger than a grain of sand.

The research, funded by DARPA, aims to reduce the size of lithium-ion batteries, commonly used in electrical goods, so they can be used to power electronics and mechanical components of micro- to nano-scale devices.

Jane Chang, an engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, is designing one component: the electrolyte that allows charge to flow between electrodes.

“We’re trying to achieve the same power densities, the same energy densities as traditional lithium ion batteries, but we need to make the footprint much smaller,” she said.

She is working with Bruce Dunn and other researchers at UCLA to coat micro-pillars or nano-wires, which have been designed to maximise the surface-to-volume ratio. This is the potential energy density coupled with electrolyte, the conductive material that allows current to flow in a battery.

Using atomic layer deposition, a slow but precise process which allows layers of material only an atom thick to be sprayed on a surface, Chung has successfully applied the solid electrolyte lithium aluminosilicate to nanomaterials.

Researchers say a solid electrolyte lithium aluminosilicate (LiAlSiO4) is a promising candidate due to high ionic conductivity along its c-axis – resulting from channels formed by the alternating tetrahedra of aluminum-oxygen (Al-O) and silicon-oxygen (Si-O). They said the length of c-axis of lithium aluminosilicate can be adjusted by changing the crystallisation temperature for desired conductivity characteristics.

The research, presented yesterday, is still in very early stages.

Phones explode after spooky messages

The Indian region of Assam has apparently been hit with a plague of haunted mobile phones which explode after receiving a mysterious text message.

Some 30 cases have been reported so far, with 20 people being admitted to hospital. Most are complaining of headaches and nausea, as well as the loss of their phone, obviously.

The problem, dubbed ‘Bombile’, is being taken so seriously that Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi says he’s going to launch an official investigation.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that a phone has burst into flames. But what really makes the hairs rise on the back of the neck is that each victim claims to have received a call from a number highlighted in red immediately before the explosion.

“I got a phone call from an unknown number and I noticed on my handset that the numbers were highlighted in red colour. Soon after I received the call, there was a loud sound and I was left unconscious,” victim Mujib Ali told the Indo-Asian News Service.

“I experienced some sort of an electric shock soon after receiving the call and then later found myself in the hospital bed with some of my friends shifting me by calling the 108 emergency ambulance service.”

The same thing’s been happening in Kenya for a few weeks, although there officials were quick to dismiss fears.

Charles Njoroge, director-general of the Coomucations Commission of Kenya, says he’s established that it’s simply a hoax, and that the numbers are non-existent.

“The alleged haemorrhage due to high frequency has no technical basis whatsoever. The Commission, therefore, wishes to urge the public to ignore these messages and go about their business without any fear.  The public is also advised to avoid fuelling the fear by transmitting the said messages to friends and family members,” he says in a statement.

“The Commission also wishes to call on the media, particularly FM stations, to exercise responsibility and avoid fuelling fear and despondency among Kenyans by dwelling on these rumours that have no basis whatsoever.”

Previous explosions of mobile phones in developing countries have been linked to the use of counterfeit batteries. Just a month ago, the Times of India reported on an Indian farmer who was killed by an exploding phone containing a fake.

Of course, this doesn’t explain the mysterious red messages, which are still making us pretty afraid and despondent.