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July 26th, 2013:

New lithium-ion battery design that’s 2,000 times more powerful, recharges 1,000 times faster

New lithium-ion battery design that’s 2,000 times more powerful, recharges 1,000 times faster

University of Illinois, 3D porous microstructure lithium-ion battery

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Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new lithium-ion battery technology that is 2,000 times more powerful than comparable batteries. According to the researchers, this is not simply an evolutionary step in battery tech, “It’s a new enabling technology… it breaks the normal paradigms of energy sources. It’s allowing us to do different, new things.”

Currently, energy storage is all about trade-offs. You can have lots of power (watts), or lots of energy (watt-hours), but you can’t generally have both. Supercapacitors can release a massive amount of power, but only for a few seconds; fuel cells can store a vast amount of energy, but are limited in their peak power output. This a problem because most modern applications of bleeding-edge tech — smartphones, wearable computers, electric vehicles — require large amounts of power and energy. Lithium-ion batteries are currently the best solution for high-power-and-energy applications, but even the best li-ion battery designs demand that industrial designers and electronic engineers make serious trade-offs when creating a new device.

Which brings us neatly onto the University of Illinois’ battery, which has a higher power density than a supercapacitor, and yet comparable energy density to current nickel-zinc and lithium-ion batteries. According to the university’s press release, this new battery could allow for wireless devices to transmit their signals 30 times farther — or, perhaps more usefully, be equipped with a battery that’s 30 times smaller. If that wasn’t enough, this new battery is rechargeable – and can be charged 1,000 times faster than conventional li-ion batteries. In short, this is a dream battery. (See: DoE calls for a chemical battery with 5x capacity, within 5 years – can it be done?)

Diagram illustrating the University of Illinois' 3D anode/cathode fabrication

These huge advances stem from a brand new cathode and anode structure, pioneered by the University of Illinois researchers. In essence, a standard li-ion battery normally has a solid, two-dimensional anode made of graphite and a cathode made of a lithium salt. The new Illinois battery, on the other hand, has a porous, three-dimensional anode and cathode. To create this new electrode structure, the researchers build up a structure of polystyrene (Styrofoam) on a glass substrate, electrodeposit nickel onto the polystyrene, and then electrodeposit nickel-tin onto the anode and manganese dioxide onto the cathode. The diagram above does a good job of explaining the process.

The end result is that these porous electrodes have a massive surface area, allowing for more chemical reactions to take place in a given space, ultimately providing a massive boost to discharge speed (power output) and charging. So far, the researchers have used this tech to create a button-sized microbattery, and you can see in the graph below how well their battery compares to a conventional Sony CR1620 button cell. The energy density is slightly lower, but the power density is 2,000 times greater. On the opposite end of the bleeding-edge spectrum — increased energy density, but lower power density — then IBM’s lithium-air battery currently leads the pack.

Energy density vs. power density for a variety of battery technologies, including University of Illinois' new microstructured anode/cathode li-ion battery

Energy density vs. power density for a variety of battery technologies, including University of Illinois’ new microstructured anode/cathode li-ion battery

In real-world use, this tech will probably be used to equip consumer devices with batteries that are much smaller and lighter — imagine a smartphone with a battery the thickness of a credit card, which can be recharged in a few seconds. There will also be plenty of applications outside the consumer space, in high-powered settings such as lasers and medical devices, and other areas that normally use supercapacitors, such as Formula 1 cars and fast-recharge power tools. For this to occur, though, the University of Illinois will first have to prove that their technology scales to larger battery sizes, and that the production process isn’t prohibitively expensive for commercial production. Here’s hoping.

Now read: We are slaves of electricity and battery technology

Research paper: doi:10.1038/ncomms2747 – “High-power lithium ion microbatteries from interdigitated three-dimensional bicontinuous nanoporous electrodes”

Microbiological Process Report Factors Affecting the Survival of Bacteria in Sea Water’

Download PDF : applmicro00326-0062

EU meets most international air pollutant emissions limits, further cuts possible

EU meets most international air pollutant emissions limits, further cuts possible

Published : Jun 26, 2013 Last modified : Jun 26, 2013 11:51 AM

Topics: Air pollution , Environment and health , Industry ,

Many air pollutant emissions are below internationally agreed limits, except nitrogen oxides, according to a European Environment Agency report released today. Emissions of three air pollutants, including fine particulate matter, are only slightly above targets to be met in 2020.

Image © Tim Fields

Europe can go beyond the emissions reductions that have already been achieved. We also need to think beyond purely technical measures, working towards a structural shift in our economy and promoting international cooperation.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are mainly caused by traffic, although this pollutant is also emitted by industrial facilities and power plants. This pollutant and many others are still harming health and the environment across Europe. For three pollutants – ammonia (NH3), NMVOC and fine particles (PM2.5) – emission levels in 2011 are already very close to the 2020 reduction commitments under international legislation, according to the EEA technical report, indicating that the EU could aim for more ambitious targets.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “Air pollution still has an impact on Europeans and our environment. Europe can go beyond the emissions reductions that have already been achieved. We also need to think beyond purely technical measures, working towards a structural shift in our economy and promoting international cooperation.”

The UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) was agreed in order to limit air pollutants causing acid rain and eutrophication, often far away from the source of the pollution as air currents carry the pollutants long distances and across borders. Many of the pollutants addressed also harm human health, causing a range of problems from respiratory illnesses to cardiovascular disease, leading to premature death in some cases.

The Gothenburg Protocol to the UNECE LRTAP Convention contains emission reduction commitments that have to be met from 2010 and onwards, for the pollutants nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur oxides (SOx) and ammonia (NH3). In addition to the emission reduction commitments for individual countries, the protocol also specifies reduction commitments for the EU.

NOx is the only pollutant for which the 2011 emissions exceeded the respective EU emission reduction commitment. For the remaining pollutants, the emissions in 2011 were below the respective air pollutant reduction commitments. The Protocol was recently updated to include five targets for the year 2020, including a target for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Past air pollutant emission reductions

Since 1990 the EU’s most successful reduction of air emissions has been cutting sulphur dioxide (SO2) – in 2011 emissions were 82 % lower than in 1990. Many other air pollutant emissions have more than halved during this time, including the main heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury), and persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins and furans, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Between 2010 and 2011, emissions of most main air pollutants continued to fall, including NOx, sulphur dioxide (SO2), NMVOCs and carbon monoxide. For all pollutants except NOx, the European Union’s emissions were below the respective reduction commitments in 2011.

There are many reasons for emission reductions, including power stations switching from solid and liquid fuels to fuels such as natural gas, new legislation limiting vehicle exhaust emissions, flue-gas scrubbing technology in industry, reduced sulphur content in some liquid fuels, lower point-source emissions from industrial facilities, and the closure of older industrial facilities as a consequence of economic restructuring.

Background information

The report includes emissions over the period 1990-2011 for the air pollutants sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), ammonia (NH3), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM), heavy metals (HMs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The inventory compiled by the EEA on the basis of data submitted by EU Member States is largely complete for 5 (NOx, NMVOCs, SO2, NH3, CO) out of 26 air pollutants. Member State submissions contain various data gaps for particular pollutants or years in the time series. A procedure to fill such gaps was applied, but was impossible in some instances in which case the EU emission totals for these pollutants are underestimated.

EU emission inventory report 1990-2011 under the UNECE Convention on LRTAPEU emission inventory report 1990-2011 under the UNECE Convention on LRTAP

Islanders’ bid to halt Shek Kwu Chau incinerator fails

Friday, 26 July, 2013, 8:38pm

NewsHong Kong


Austin Chiu and Ada Lee

Court throws out all arguments of challenge to plan to build a HK$15b waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau near dolphin habitat

A Cheung Chau resident yesterday lost his legal battle to stop the government building a massive offshore waste incinerator on an island south of Lantau.

Leung Hon-wai objected to the proposed HK$15 billion incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau, which is near an important marine habitat for finless porpoises. He claimed the environmental impact assessment conducted for the project was flawed.

He saw all eight challenges he mounted dismissed by the Court of First Instance and vowed to take the challenge further.

“We will definitely file an appeal. It’s not surprising that we lost,” said Leung, 66, who took the case to court on behalf of Cheung Chau residents. “Our grounds are reasonable. We ought to fight for justice.”

Leung said he opposed the construction of the incinerator because the government had not done enough to mitigate potential respiratory problems arising from the operations of the giant burner.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the court’s decision reaffirmed the objectiveness and transparency of the impact report, which was filed by the Environmental Protection Department.

The government would retable the project in the Legislative Council “at a suitable time”, Wong said.

The proposal was presented to Legco in April last year, but the environmental affairs panel decided, amid public opposition, not to endorse it.

Wong declined to give an estimate on how much the projected costs had risen since then, but appealed for public support as an incinerator could take as long as eight years to build.

“Any further delay will not benefit Hong Kong’s long-term development,” he said.

Friends of the Earth advised against retabling the incinerator plan too soon. Instead, the government should seek to build public trust with its efforts to reduce and recycle waste, the environmental group said.

Leung’s lawyers argued that the impact report failed to meet the requirements of a technical memorandum and a study brief from the government.

In part because of that, the department should not have granted the project an environmental permit, nor should the Town Planning Board have submitted a draft plan on the zoning of Shek Kwu Chau to the Chief Executive in Council, Leung said.

Dismissing the arguments, Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung said off-site mitigation measures proposed in the impact report met requirements.

The judge pointed to the government’s proposal to designate 700 hectares for a marine park – where no further developments would be allowed without prior approval – that would meet the requirement to offset a permanent loss of 31 hectares of marine habitat due to the project.

On Leung’s challenge that the impact report failed to take into account a certain amount of persistent organic pollution and very fine particles, the judge said it was up to the “professional judgment” of the department to decide what to include in the report since there were no specific requirements.

Au also threw out Leung’s position that it was wrong for the director of environmental protection to compile the impact report, approve it and grant the permit. The judge said the different tasks had in fact been done by the director’s subordinates, who were properly separated.

The judge ordered Leung, who brought the case using legal aid, to pay costs.

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