To succeed, electric cars require batteries that store the greatest possible amount of energy in the smallest, lightest, safest, and cheapest package possible. But batteries pose a brutal technical challenge--one subject to all manner of misunderstandings and misinformation. Can today's lithium-ion batteries cut it? What new battery technologies lie on the horizon?
Today from 2:30 to 3:30 pm Eastern time, GM's director of Global Battery Systems, Bill Wallace, and PopSci's Seth Fletcher, author of Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy, will field these questions in an online chat, right here.
The rumbling you feel driving along a bridge may soon serve a purpose beyond just waking you up behind the wheel. Researchers at MIT have developed a tiny energy-harvester that is able to harness low-frequency vibrations like those made by a bridge or pipeline and converting them to electricity for wireless sensors.
One of the biggest disasters we face would begin about 18 hours after the sun spit out a 10-billion-ton ball of plasma--something it has done before and is sure to do again. When the ball, a charged cloud of particles called a coronal mass ejection (CME), struck the Earth, electrical currents would spike through the power grid. Transformers would be destroyed. Lights would go out. Food would spoil and--since the entire transportation system would also be shut down--go unrestocked.
The Extreme Light Infrastructure will be built in Eastern Europe
By Jennie WaltersPosted 04.26.2011 at 2:07 pm 22 Comments
Who knew it would take so long to approve a project to build the world’s most powerful lasers? Lasers are awesome. But after reconciling some paltry funding issues, the European Commission finally approved the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project, which plans to build three superlasers by 2015.
Several of Japan's nuclear power plants, especially the Fukushima Naiishi plant in northeastern Japan, are experiencing serious problems in the wake of Friday's earthquake and tsunami. If you've been following the news, you've seen some pretty alarming stuff going on at this plant--terms like "explosion," "partial meltdown," "evacuation," and "radiation exposure." With details sparse from the chaotic scene, here's what you need to know to understand and make sense of the news unfolding in Japan.
Yesterday, GM announced that it would start using an advanced lithium-ion electrode material developed by Argonne National Laboratory. Turns out that an early version of that material is already blended into the Volt’s batteries. But that’s not the end of the story: Expect dramatically better EV batteries based on the compound very soon
There was a puzzling moment in the conference call GM held yesterday to announce its licensing of a new high-energy battery-electrode chemistry from Argonne National Laboratory. Mohamed Alamgir, research director for LG Chem's subsidiary Compact Power, which builds the battery cells for the Chevy Volt, mentioned that the new license covered technology the companies were already using. This didn't seem to make sense: LG Chem has always said that the Volt's batteries were built on a compound called lithium manganese spinel.
The Empire State Building, arguably the world's most famous office tower, is 1,472 vertical feet of historic American real estate. It also contains 2.8 million square feet of office space, constructed to the energy efficiency standards of the early 1930s. So when Anthony Malkin took over management of the building several years ago, he also inherited an $11 million annual energy bill and a problem: How could he turn the iconic but aging building into a 21st-century office tower?
Now, a sweeping $13.4 million energy retrofit is slashing the Empire State Building's energy consumption by nearly 40 percent and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years while trimming $4.4 million from annual energy costs. We took a firsthand look at what such a massive and meaningful project looks like, starting in a nondescript corner of the fifth floor where the Empire State Building is turning two-decade-old glass into future dollars.
The most powerful lasers now being built, such as the forthcoming Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project underway in Europe, may approach the physical ceiling of laser intensity -- they may turn out to be the most powerful lasers that ever can be built, says a new article on the PhysicsBuzz blog.
That finite limit on how intense a laser can get is hypothesized to exist because, at sufficiently high energies, matter can be created out of light.
When my little flashlight or my electric toothbrush goes dead, some atavistic impulse leads me -- and I suspect I'm not alone -- to stare for a moment at the misbehaving gadget and then give it a violent shaking, as though the electrons are stuck and just need a little encouragement.
Soon, thanks to Brother Industries, that caveman approach to technology could actually work. The Japanese company is demonstrating standard AA and AAA batteries that incorporate vibration-powered induction generators, so they actually charge when you shake them.
When you think about it, it's ridiculous to spend the effort lugging around spare batteries, hand-cranked chargers, piezoelectric gadgets, and all the other half-baked solutions we depend on to resuscitate a dead phone. There's a potent supply of free power just waiting to be tapped, right above our heads. No, not the sun -- overhead power lines.