There seems to be a new announcement about energy storage breakthroughs daily.  It all has to be taken with a grain of salt until they actually have a product made outside the lab in some slow production facility for sale.

While this is still in the lab, what they are claiming and what they say they have done really is amazing. It’s a major university so I give them a little more credence.

http://www.computerworld.com/article/3060005/mobile-wireless/scientists-can-now-make-lithium-ion-batteries-last-a-lifetime.htm

While they don’t go into how this effects energy charge-discharge rate, just making batteries that can charge and discharge a couple hundred thousand times is going to radically change the economics of electric transportation and storage.

It will make electric cars and wind power happen a day after they start making these things….

X-Mini_Side1

The original Wankel Rotery engine was a technological triumph. Small, simple, did not use valves. The problem with it was one of emissions and wear. It used “wipers” between the sections. Those wipers wore much faster than a set of rings on a regular piston engine. Also the wipers not only used oil to reduce the wear but also to seal. The oil was burned in the combustion process leading to poor emissions…..

 

A small Connecticut Company has developed a new rotary engine that does not have these issues.

 

They have already received four million dollars from DARPA to push the technology forward. Here is the site.

 

http://liquidpiston.com/

 

The military looked at the Wankel engine years back. From a logistics point it had a lot of potential by “stacking” the pistons. Put three or four together and you can power a HUMVEE. Put six of them together and you power a medium truck. Put eight of them together and you power a Heavy truck. Twelve makes for a big generator. But the Wankel engine did not last long enough…..

 

This streamlines logistics, repair knowledge and specialized tools to disassemble or repair the sections. I assume they are still interested in this technology for those same reasons. Plus it runs off of anything, which has always made the Military happy.

Crabontitanium

carbon

Carbon fiber and laser titanium printing fall into the category of Additive manufacturing. Where layers of a material are added one at a time until you have a product.  Regular manufacturing (also known as reductive manufacturing) generally starts with pieces of materials that are then cut down.

   The benefit of additive manufacturing is there is no limits on the engineering in the process. For example lets take a bicycle frame. In the normal reductive process the frame is made of multiple pieces of tubing that are cut into shape and the welded together. with additive manufacturing the entire frame would be printed out in one piece. In that process of printing there is no limitations on how complex the frame could be from an engineering point of view. The frame could be three dimensional latticework that has great flexibility and strength. Or it could be just a tube.It would be up to the engineer. 

    A small company called Local Motors has used carbon fiber printing to make the frame and body for an electric car. They did that in multiple pieces. The next one they plan to do it all in one piece. While a one piece manufacturing may be a technological achievement, I think it is a mistake. How will they repair damage in a one piece car frame?  Either way, this is an exciting development for manufacturing. Here is the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daioWlkH7ZI

    The second step in the revolution is Titanium Laser Printing. Titanium is hard to work with since it can catch fire during the manufacturing process. Generally it is created in a argon environment. Titanium is not a scarce material. Its high cost are due to the issues in manufacturing it. And its strength and corrosion resistant qualities instantly make it a “top tier” material. 

   I have worked in the aviation industry. I see there two technologies working together to make helicopters and  aircraft lighter, simpler, corrosion resistant, less labor intense and stronger. I foresee the frames of the crafts being titanium, while the skin being carbon fiber. Instead of thousands of pieces of aluminum being drilled and riveted, entire sections of craft will be make in single pieces. Here is a few videos showing the processes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRXymDoYoWQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daioWlkH7ZI

I see this technology transitioning into all aspects of our life. Mainly dealing with transportation to begin with and spreading from there as the technology becomes common and cheaper. 

I have thought a great deal about this technology. Not only will it help existing companies, but I also see it helping start-ups and individual engineers. Much like computer coding created an influx of new companies due to the low cost of entrance (all you need is a computer and a desire to code something people will by and you are in business. Think apps and early Facebook) this will allow smaller companies to design things and then have machine shops with this equipment make it for them. Eventually partnering up with the machine shop (with success) or buying their own equipment to continue growing…..

  images (2)     images (1)

     It seems I have been remiss in my blogging duties for my followers. All ten of you:)

    I have started a new job and it seems there is barely enough time in the day to cruise through the new technology that is maturing enough to create a manufacturing or social trend. But having some time to think about a few new technological development I see a few that are really going to impact our lives.

      The first is a new form of fish farming. A fellow dumped 150 tons of Iron Sulfate (which is a byproduct of running new steel through acid during steel production. Iron sulfate is also used as an iron supplement for human diets) into the ocean to create a great algae bloom. The pink salmon of the region feed off of this bloom and created one of the largest pink salmon runs in history, Unlike regular fish farming, the only infrastructure are the boats to drop off the iron sulfate and the boats to catch the salmon. Both of which already exist. Here is a link with all the information and a few other links.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/russ-george-blogged-about-fraser-river.html

There is no reason why this process cannot be used anywhere to create thriving fish systems that humans can farm.

clover

Any breakthrough in farming, either in equipment or plant development, has a huge impact on our society. We pay farmers not to grow food in the US because they make so much it becomes worthless. We use plants to make fuel. Farming has a huge impact on our natural environment. Not just in the land used but also in the process itself.

In the US we use a large amount of Natural Gas derived nitrogen based fertilizer to boost our crops. This can have negative environmental consequences due to it running off into our rivers and lakes.

There are plants that can take nitrogen out of the air. They have a bacteria which in a symbiotic relationship with the plant benefits them both. Now a researcher named Professor Cocking has found a strain of this bacteria that when applied to the seed of any plant will make it nitrogen fixing.

This will have a really big impact on farming and the seed industry. Take a look:

http://www.gizmag.com/n-fix-nitrogen-fixation/28482/

Good stuff.

 

downloadIf you scroll down a bit you will see the article “Graphene makes a great superconductor”. In the article the University of Texas found that Graphene has the properties to make a great supercapacitor. But they do not explain how to do it. The process. 

Well some folks at UCLA have found how the process and it looks pretty straight forward:

http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/science/more-good-news-on-those-carbon-supercapacitors.html

Here is the Video:

http://vimeo.com/51873011

In the first article they say it can hold as much as a lead acid battery. Lets make the assumption that they are measuring based on space used. In other words you take a lead acid battery and in the volume of space it takes up you can make a capacitor(s) that have the same amount of energy storage.  With this in mind I can give some insight. With this capacity your phone and computer will still be Lithium-Ion. LI-On (Lithium-Ion) batteries are light and holds a lot of energy. Just about when you need to replace the battery is about the time you are thinking of getting a new one. So unless they make the capacitor a lot better I can see things staying the same. Even with the capacitors super fast recharge rate. 

But for cars and aircraft I see a swift change. Because wight matters. And quick recharge rate matters when dealing with electric cars and Hybrid aircraft. Take the battery in the Chevy Volt. It is quite large. One of the reasons it is so large is they found that if they only charged it 80% and discharged to 30% of battery capacity so it would make the batteries last twice as long. So in effect they are not using all the battery capacity in exchange for longevity.  If you swapped out the LI-ON with these capacitors you would still not get as much energy storage  but it would take five minutes to recharge.  So storage is not such an issue. 

The Volt is also fairly complex. The Li-On batteries have to be heated and cooled to keep them working efficiently. I do not think these capacitors would have such issues. Granted extreme weather can cause issues with any system. But batteries being a chemical reaction are effected a great deal by temperature.  

For aircraft I see this being an important step also. For planes and helicopters electric motors as the prime mover has advantages in power and simplicity. But the drawbacks right now are too great due to battery weight and loss of efficiency (motors and generators usually have a 10-15% inefficiency). But this could be a turning point. With light weigh capacitors which store the same amount as lead-Acid batteries and have a very long life it may be better to have a aircraft that has one engine for power production, one for backup and batteries which are used for high power demand maneuvers. Like taking off.  

Of course this is all speculation at this point. We will have to wait to see what the amp-hours are when they come out with an actual product. 

I hope we do not have too long to wait…

Update: 16 August 2013: Another lab is having similer results with Graphene super capacitors. This leads me to belive the breakthrough is not just a process, but the material itself.  This is a good thing. No one compnay will be able to lock in this technology. Take a look:

http://www.gizmag.com/graphene-based-supercapacitor/28579/

images   

 

I am a big believer in new processes. Processes created into efficient factory’s are the reason we have the modern cheap world we have today. Factories make the obscenely expensive into common.

   This new process is in its infancy. I hesitate to put it up until their new mini-factory is actually in production for a while. But it works in the lab so that means they should be able to scale it up into a factory, so I am posting it.

   

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21571847-exotic-useful-metals-such-tantalum-and-titanium-are-about-become-cheap

If this works as advertised it will have a huge effect on our society.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.