A Team Develops A One Million Mile Battery

A team in Penn State’s Battery and Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Center have developed a safe, high power lithium-ion battery capable of providing 1 million miles for electric vehicles. This is equivalent to over 4000 cycles or approximately 2x the cycle life of lithium iron phosphate batteries.

The team took a totally different approach to build this battery. They broke it down to two parts, the first was to build a battery with highly stable materials. The second step was to introduce heating into the battery. Chao-Yang Wang, professor of mechanical, chemical and materials science and engineering developed a self-heating battery to overcome performance problems in cold climates. The battery can heat up in seconds by using electric current. This heating also gives the battery an instant boost in reactivity because of the law of kinetics.

Together these two steps create a battery that is both highly safe and able to provide high power that an electric vehicle requires.

The next project for the team will be developing a solid-state battery.

A California Startup Plans To Turn Any Surface Into A Touchscreen

A San Jose, California startup called Ultrasense has plans to turn any surface into a touchscreen. The company has created a new type of sensor smaller than the size of a ballpoint pen tip that can sense touch using 3D ultrasound technology. The “TouchPoint” sensor detects how tiny sound waves are moving through a given surface, as well as, discern between different kinds of touches.

Being a system-on-chip (SoC), the TouchPoint sensor has all its necessary computing and electronic components built into it, which makes it incredibly small, efficient, and according to Ultrasense doesn’t put a strain on the system’s main CPU.

This type of sensor opens up the potential for innovation in almost any kind of product. Now designers will be able to develop products with unique features and capabilities.


New Printer Creates Realistic 3-D Holograms

Researchers have developed a new printer that produces digital 3-D holograms with an unprecedented level of detail and realistic color. The printer can create holograms from 3-D computer-generated models or from scans acquired with a dedicated scanner created by the researchers. The CHIMERA printer uses red, green and blue low-power commercially available continuous-wave lasers with shutters that adjust the exposure for each laser in a matter of milliseconds.

Holograms are created by recording small holographic elements known as hogels, one after another using three spatial light modulators and a custom-designed full-color optical printing head that enables the 120-degree parallax. After printing, the holograms are developed in chemical baths and sealed for protection.

This new printer produces such perfect prints that it can be used to make high-resolution color recreations of objects or scenes for museum displays, architectural models, and fine art. The researchers are also looking at expanding its capabilities for medical or other advanced applications.

Fully Autonomous RacerAI Drone Versus Human Pilots

In the never-ending battle of human vs. machine comes the next battle, drone piloting. On Tuesday, October 9, 2019, human pilots of the Drone Racing League will get a new challenger: the fully autonomous RacerAI, a drone programmed to fly itself.

The RacerAI software which took months to code was designed by nine teams from around the world. When it comes to the physical, the RacerAI looks like a bird or prey with propellers on the front, left, and right that point downward, while the rear propeller points upward. On the technical side, the drone requires a lot of power, 40 watts. That is about 20 times what your cellphones use, because of this the battery life is about 3 minutes which is enough to complete a course.

On the left and right side are a pair of fisheye cameras about 8 inches (20cm) apart. Each camera pair can be used to see in 3D stereoscopically, like human eyes. With two pairs, the drone gets that 3D vision ability for the entire 180-degree view. To handle the processing, the RacerAI uses Nvidia’s Xavier processor which is designed for autonomous vehicles.

With the RacerAI being fully autonomous, this race will be a very interesting one to watch to see if the software can keep up with speeds and course corrections needed.

Biodegradable Plastic Based On Spider Silk

Scientists from Aalto University and the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland have developed a biodegradable replacement for plastic. The material described as “very firm and resilient” is made from combining wood cellulose fibers and a silk protein found within a spider’s web.

This new plastic has potential in medical applications, surgical fibers, textile industry and packaging. The teams next step are to make new composite materials as implants and create impact-resistant objects.


Engineers Create Nanoscale Incandescent Light Source

Gururaj Naik of Rice’s Brown School of Engineering and graduate student Chloe Doiron have developed the smallest incandescent lightbulb using a collection of near-nanoscale materials that absorb heat and emit light.

The system relies on non-Hermitian physics, a quantum mechanical way to describe “open” systems that dissipate energy—in this case, heat—rather than retain it. This new strategy uses many elements whose interaction can be tuned. One element may give brightness; the next element could be used to provide wavelength (light color) specificity.

Thermal light emitters may play an important part in next-level computing. It is well known that semiconductor technology is reaching saturation and we will need a replacement for silicon transistors. The International Roadmap for Semiconductor Technology (ITRS) believes optical switches will be that replacement, as the switch has to be unidirectional. It has to send light in the direction we want, and none comes back, like a diode for light instead of electricity.

Chemical Reaction Powered Glider

Scientists at Imperial College London and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology have created a glider that uses a chemical reaction to propel itself out of the water. Water is pumped into a master chamber and then siphoned into another smaller chamber containing calcium carbide powder. When the water mixes with the powder it creates acetylene gas which is then ignited. The force of this ignition sends the vehicle into the air.


The current design carries enough calcium carbide for more than 20 jumps and can glide for almost 26 meters. The next step for the team is to scale up the vehicle in both size and distribution.


The Gravity Jet Suit

If you ever wanted to fly like a superhero it’s now possible but at a price. Gravity Industries have developed, the Gravity Jet Suit. The suit is made from 3D printed black aluminun and feels like a bulky backpack. The suit holds 5 gallons of jet fuel, which gives the suit a top speed of 30 MPH. For control the wearer has two thrusters in each hand and allows the person to manipulate their speed, amplitude, and direction.

Now the bad news the price, a custom suit will cost you $440,000! With that kind of price this suit is pretty much out of reach for most people. The Gravity Jet Suit shows the progress in jet pack innovation, the packs are getting smaller and if the price can be reduced to the price of a car we just might have a new era of personal transportation.

Bacteria Transforms Greenhouse Gases Into Usable Chemical Compounds

Researchers at the University of South Florida have discovered a way to use bacteria to transform greenhouse gases into usable chemical compounds. The team took a modified human enzyme 2-hydroxyacyl-coenzyme A lyase (in humans this enzyme degrades branched-chain fatty acids) and inserted it into E. coli microorganisms. When the microorganisms are introduced to greenhouse gases such as formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, and methane, a metabolic bioconversion process takes place, transforming the molecules into more complex compounds.

This new method is enticing for oil manufacturers as it allows them to better manage their impact on the environment and produce valuable chemical compounds like ethylene glycol and glycolic acid – molecules that are used in the production of plastics, cosmetics, cleaning solutions and much more.