Posts belonging to Category electronics

Under Attack Robots Dance To Stay On Feet

It’s another day of abuse for this poor robot named Atrias. If not being kicked around, Atrias spends hours being pummelled by balls. But, remarkably, through the abuse, the robot stays on its feet. Unlike most bipedal robots which are designed to move like humans, researchers at Oregon State University modelled Atrias after a bird, creating what’s basically a robotic ostrich that conserves energy while maximizing agility and balance.
Atrias is fitted with two constantly moving pogo stick-like legs made of carbon fiber. Fiberglass springs store the mechanical energy produced while the robot makes unsuccessful attempts to avoid the punishment it receives from its creators. The researchers say that with a few more tweaks, the robots bird-like design will allow it to become the fastest two-legged robot ever built.
Atrias is funded by the U.S. Defense Department’s research arm, DARPA, who hope the robot will one day be able to work in hazard zones too dangerous for humans. But until that day comes - Atrias will just have to keep on taking the abuse — all in the name of science.

Cheap Batteries For Hydrogen Electric Car

Electrochemical devices are crucial to a green energy revolution in which clean alternatives replace carbon-based fuels. This revolution requires conversion systems that produce hydrogen from water or rechargeable batteries that can store clean energy in cars. Now, Singapore-based researchers have developed improved catalysts as electrodes for efficient and more durable green energy devices.

Electrochemical devices such as batteries use chemical reactions to create and store energy. One of the cleanest reactions is the conversion from water into oxygen and hydrogen. Using energy from the sun, water can be converted into those two elements, which then store this solar energy in gaseous form. Burning hydrogen leads to a chemical explosion that produces water.

For technical applications, the conversion from hydrogen and oxygen into water is done in fuel cells, while some rechargeable batteries use chemical reactions based on oxygen to store and release energy. A crucial element for both types of devices is the cathode, which is the electrical contact where these reactions take place. The research team, which included Zhaolin Liu and colleagues from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering with colleagues from Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore, combined nanometer-sized crystals of this material with sheets of carbon or carbon nanotubes.

oxyde-carbon compositesOxide/carbon composites could power green metal-air batteries

The cost is estimated to be tens of times cheaper than the platinum/carbon composites used at present,” says Liu. Because platinum is expensive, intensive efforts are being made to find alternative materials for batteries.


How To process Graphene To Produce Solar Cells

A new technique invented at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to produce graphene — a material made up of an atom-thick layer of carbon, at room temperature, could help pave the way for commercially feasible graphene-based solar cells and light-emitting diodes, large-panel displays, and flexible electronics.

With this new technique, we can grow large sheets of electronic-grade graphene in much less time and at much lower temperatures,” says Caltech staff scientist David Boyd, who developed the method. Boyd is the first author of a new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, detailing the new manufacturing process and the novel properties of the graphene it produces.

Graphene revolutionizes a variety of engineering and scientific fields due to its unique properties, which include a tensile strength 200 times stronger than steel and an electrical mobility that is two to three orders of magnitude better than silicon. The electrical mobility of a material is a measure of how easily electrons can travel across its surface. However, achieving these properties on an industrially relevant scale has proven to be complicated. Existing techniques require temperatures that are much too hot — 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1,000 degrees Celsius — for incorporating graphene fabrication with current electronic manufacturing. Additionally, high-temperature growth of graphene tends to induce large, uncontrollably distributed strain—deformation—in the material, which severely compromises its intrinsic properties.

Previously, people were only able to grow a few square millimeters of high-mobility graphene at a time, and it required very high temperatures, long periods of time, and many steps,” says Caltech physics professor Nai-Chang Yeh, the Fletcher Jones Foundation Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and the corresponding author of the new study. “Our new method can consistently produce high-mobility and nearly strain-free graphene in a single step in just a few minutes without high temperature. We have created sample sizes of a few square centimeters, and since we think that our method is scalable, we believe that we can grow sheets that are up to several square inches or larger, paving the way to realistic large-scale applications.”


How To Split Water At Low Cost To Produce Hydrogen

UNSW (Australia) scientists have developed a highly efficient oxygen-producing electrode for splitting water that has the potential to be scaled up for industrial production of clean energy fuel, hydrogen. This breaktrough is important for the future development of hydrogen electric cars (H mobil). The new technology is based on an inexpensive, specially coated foam material that lets the bubbles of oxygen escape quickly. Inefficient and costly oxygen-producing electrodes are one of the major barriers to the widespread commercial production of hydrogen by electrolysis, where the water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrical current.

watersplitting Electrode

Our electrode is the most efficient oxygen-producing electrode in alkaline electrolytes reported to date, to the best of our knowledge,” says Associate Professor Chuan Zhao, of the UNSW School of Chemistry. “It is inexpensive, sturdy and simple to make, and can potentially be scaled up for industrial application of water splitting.”

The research, by Associate Professor Zhao and Dr Xunyu Lu, is published in the journal Nature Communications.


Electric Car Race: The Rise Of Formula E

Downtown Miami has been converted into a race track. Cement blocks, fencing and grandstands are all in place for the first electric car race ever held on U.S. soil. Miami is the fifth of ten cities around the world to host during the inaugural year of the Formula E Championship, a fully electric race car series. Teams of mechanics are preparing their electric cars for Saturday’s race. Mark Schneider from Team Audi ABT says Formula E is in many ways similar to Formula 1. The cars are fast, the suspense on race day is high, but instead of the roar of a gasoline powered engines, these electric cars let out a high pitched hum as they barrel down the track. Schneider says pits stop are a bit different as well.
We do a pit stops like other racing series but when formula 1 changes tires we change cars. So we have two cars for each driver and after roughly half an hour the driver gets into the pits, jumps out of the car, jumps into another car and goes out again“, says Mark Schneider. Each car is powered by a massive lithium ion battery that makes up a third of the cars overall weight. Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag says with time those batteries will become more efficient and smaller allowing them to power a single car for an entire race. He says the concept behind formula E is to drive research and development in the electric automotive space to new heights.

Formula 1, Indy Car, NASCAR are places where new technologies have been developed that then have been used on road cars and we want Formula E to be the place that happens for the electric car,” he noticed. Along with innovations on the track, Agag says he wants to attract young fans to Formula E by utilizing technology off the track as well. He says plans are in the works to develop an interactive virtual track that will allow people to compete on race day from their homes. He concludes: “So if you are a kid at home you can play with the virtual car, a shadow car, against the real racers in real time.

How To Print Solar Cells Massively

Flexible optoelectronic devices that can be produced roll-to-roll – much like newspapers are printed – are a highly promising path to cheaper devices such as solar cells and LED lighting panels. Scientists from “TREASORES” European project present prototype flexible solar cell modules as well as novel silver-based transparent electrodes that outperform currently used materials.

printes solar cells
A flexible organic solar cell from TREASORES project undergoing mechanical testing: the cell is repeatedly flexed to a 25 mm radius whilst monitoring its performance. Such cells have shown lifetimes in excess of 4000 hours

In order to make solar energy widely affordable scientists and engineers all over the world are looking for low-cost production technologies. Flexible organic solar cells have a huge potential in this regard because they require only a minimum amount of (rather cheap) materials and can be manufactured in large quantities by roll-to-roll (R2R) processing. This requires, however, that the transparent electrodes, the barrier layers and even the entire devices be flexible. With these «ultra-flat» electrodes record efficiencies of up to 7% were obtained for organic solar cells using commercially available materials for light harvesting.

Electric Car: How To Increase the Batteries Life-Span

Drexel University (Philadephia) researchers, along with colleagues at Aix-Marseille University in France, have discovered a high performance cathode material with great promise for use in next generation lithium-sulfur batteries that could one day be used to power mobile devices and electric cars.

Lithium-sulfur batteries have recently become one of the hottest topics in the field of energy storage devices due to their high energy density — which is about four times higher than that of lithium-ion batteries currently used in mobile devices. One of the major challenges for the practical application of lithium-sulfur batteries is to find cathode materials that demonstrate long-term stability.

An international research collaboration led by Drexel’s Yury Gogotsi, PhD, professor in the College of Engineering and director of its Nanomaterials Research Group, has created a two-dimensional carbon/sulfur nanolaminate that could be a viable candidate for use as a lithium-sulfur cathode.
Tesla-Model-S One of the major challenges for the practical application of lithium-sulfur batteries is to find cathode materials that demonstrate long-term stability.

The carbon/sulfur nanolaminates synthesized by Gogotsi’s group demonstrate the same uniformity as the infiltrated carbon nanomaterials, but the sulfur in the nanolaminates is uniformly deposited in the carbon matrix as atomically thin layers and a strong covalent bonding between carbon and sulfur is observed. This may have a significant impact on increasing the life-span of next generation batteries.

In a paper they recently published in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, Gogotsi, along with his colleagues at Aix-Marseille University explain their process for extracting the nanolaminate from a three-dimensional material called a Ti2SC MAX phase.

How To Make Batteries Last Five Times Longer

Lithium-ion batteries have enabled many of today’s electronics, from portable gadgets to electric cars. But much to the frustration of consumers, none of these batteries last long without a recharge. Now scientists report in the journal ACS Nano the development of a new, “green” way to boost the performance of these batteries — with a material derived from silk.
silk to boost batteryChuanbao Cao from the Beijing Institute of Technology (China) note that carbon is a key component in commercial Li-ion energy storage devices including batteries and supercapacitors. Most commonly, graphite fills that role, but it has a limited energy capacity.

The Cao’s team found a way to process natural silk to create carbon-based nanosheets that could potentially be used in energy storage devices. Their material stores five times more lithium than graphite can — a capacity that is critical to improving battery performance. It also worked for over 10,000 cycles with only a 9 percent loss in stability. The researchers successfully incorporated their material in prototype batteries and supercapacitors in a one-step method that could easily be scaled up.

A.I., Nanotechnology ‘threaten civilisation’

A report from the Global Challenges Foundation created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.
Besides the usual major risks such as extreme climate change, nuclear war, super volcanoes or asteroids impact there are 3 emerging new global risks: Synthetic Biology, Nanotechnology and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).
The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

In the case of AI, the report suggests that future machines and software with “human-level intelligence” could create new, dangerous challenges for humanity – although they could also help to combat many of the other risks cited in the report. “Such extreme intelligences could not easily be controlled (either by the groups creating them, or by some international regulatory regime), and would probably act to boost their own intelligence and acquire maximal resources for almost all initial AI motivations,” suggest authors Dennis Pamlin and Stuart Armstrong.
In the case of nanotechnology, the report notes that “atomically precise manufacturing” could have a range of benefits for humans. It could help to tackle challenges including depletion of natural resources, pollution and climate change. But it foresees risks too.
It could create new products – such as smart or extremely resilient materials – and would allow many different groups or even individuals to manufacture a wide range of things,” suggests the report. “This could lead to the easy construction of large arsenals of conventional or more novel weapons made possible by atomically precise manufacturing.”


How To Double The Energy Capacity Of Li-Ion Batteries

Researchers from Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of A*STAR and Quebec’s IREQ (Hydro-Québec’s research institute) have synthesized silicate-based nanoboxes that could more than double the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries as compared to conventional phosphate-based cathodes. This breakthrough could hold the key to longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and mobile devices.

electric car
Lithium-ion batteries are widely used to power many electronic devices, including smart phones, medical devices and electric vehicles. Their high energy density, excellent durability and lightness make them a popular choice for energy storage
IBN researchers have successfully achieved simultaneous control of the phase purity and nanostructure of Li2MnSiO4 for the first time,” said Professor Jackie Y. Ying, IBN Executive Director. “This novel synthetic approach would allow us to move closer to attaining the ultrahigh theoretical capacity of silicate-based cathodes for battery applications.”