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EADS aircraft runs on algae biofuel

EADS showed the actual trip related to a good plane driven through biofuel made from algae at the Farnborough Airshow lately.

Among both Austro Motor AE300 motors within the EADS demonstrator Valuable rock Plane DA42 Brand-new Era had been energy through specifically created as well as processed algae biofuel. The alternative had been fuelled simply by regular diesel-powered.

Based on EADS, the actual plane offers, as of this moment, already been just licensed through Western aviation authorities in order to travel along with 1 motor driven through biofuel.

Jean Botti, chief technical officer of EADS, said the use of algae biofuel made the aircraft 10 per cent more efficient and fuel consumption was 1.5 litres per hour lower when compared to conventional JET-A1 fuel.

‘Algaes have more energy content than the equivalent diesel fuel,’ he explained.

The tests performed on the engines showed that only minor adjustments had to be made to qualify the algae biofuel for demonstration flights. In this case, the nozzle for combustion needed to be turned down to prevent overheating.

Botti said this means algae biofuel could be used on newer aeroplanes or existing ones. ‘Basically it’s a plug-in solution,’ he added.

Algae is considered to be a promising potential feedstock for biofuels, as certain species of algae contain high amounts of oil. EADS is investigating microalgae, which reproduce rapidly and create at least 30 times more biomass per cultivation area than other alternative fuel sources such as rapeseed.

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Microalgae can be grown relatively inexpensively in ponds and wastewater or in more controlled environments such as photobiosynthetic reactors, which are believed to deliver better quality and consistency.

The use of such biofuel is viewed by many as ‘carbon neutral’ because the carbon dioxide that is emitted from burning the fuel is less than the amount of CO2 the organisms absorb to grow.


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‘For one ton of raw algae material you need 1.8 tons of CO2 to grow them,’ said Botti.

According to tests by EADS, the exhaust gas quality measurements indicate that biofuel from algae contains eight times less hydrocarbons than kerosene derived from crude oil. In addition, the aviation and defence giant claimed the nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide emissions are also reduced.

Botti said the major challenge standing in the way of algae biofuel being used by the aviation industry is scaling up its production levels to industrial size and economy. This issue was clearly demonstrated, he added, by the extraordinary efforts EADS had to go through to find enough quality algae biofuel to perform tests and demonstration flights.

‘I had to go all around the world to find the best guys that could deliver a good quality product that we could refine,’ he said. ‘This is why we had to fly a little aeroplane. I couldn’t fly on a large Airbus aircraft with those algaes because I did not have enough quantity for all the testing and certification.’

EADS has been working over the past 18 months with partners towards a pilot project to develop the necessary industrial infrastructure. The project, led by EADS Innovation Works, is supported by the German government. It includes German scientific partner IGV and Austrian aviation companies Diamond Aircraft and Austro Engines. The algae oil for engine testing and flight demonstrations was delivered by Biocombustibles del Chubut in Argentina and refined into biofuel by German firm VTS Verfahrenstechnik Schwedt. Using algae biofuel regarding industrial aeroplanes depends upon regardless of whether it may very easily move Western accreditation requirements this also will need A large number of litres from the specific energy, that will not be however obtainable.Botti is actually assured that after the actual aviation as well as power industries get together around 10 in order to 15 % associated with industrial airliners may be operating upon biofuel within two decades, or even combined energy sources within the closer to long term.‘I ‘m persuaded when all of us begin this particular snowball it’s likely to remove rapidly, ’ he or she pointed out.

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Do You Really Need a Barcode Scanner?

Laptops have made the lives and our work quick and simple, for that reason, a pc can be regarded as as a really essential tool in order to us. It’s difficult to picture how life and work will probably be without the assist of computers. Similar to the computer, probable barcode scanner has grown to be a most vital aspect in retail and production business.

As an example, handheld scanner becomes essential in both store and large warehouses as it can efficiently track items easily and also quickly without manipulation the scanner. Inside smaller areas together with smaller items, an individual can make his / her way in relocating items and turn inventory with a scanning junction, nonetheless, it could be difficult to go large and weighty items scattered across an extensive and huge area, it will really be described as a difficult task.

Back then, most industries use the technology of the wired barcode readers and they are believed to be very important that time. The counterpart of the wired barcode readers today are the portable barcode scanners. Now that everything is moving so fast, especially in the business world, efficiency, accuracy and speed is very vital to the success of the business.

You already see this kind of barcode readers, they are the ones usually used by the different sales assistant in the department store. These devices are quite sophisticated, because they convey data even from a far distance of the data center. This technology is the one being used by Fed-Ex, an example of logistic company.

There are various models that vary in shapes and sizes. The prices is also ranges, from a very affordable one up to the most expensive ones, it will really depends on you, what type or brand of scanner you wish to have, just keep in mind that it should always be functional and efficient. If you try to visit in-house barcode readers, they will surely offer you the Wi-Fi or the Bluetooth technology.

Even though P.O. S. or point of sale scanners can operate continuously and successively, it can be operated with the use of the battery, all you have to do is to recharge regularly. These scanners are also equipped with mobile phones that can accurately read barcodes, all you have to do is to keep the frequency high to be able to perform it and charge the device.

The application of the barcode audience has entirely built industries successful along with productive. They works extremely well on libraries, development, manufacturing and additional. IT is really true after they say, “time can be money. ” Investing with a barcode scanner truly worth the cost, it is a fantastic investment which can be done for your organization. It aids in speeding up the activities and limit or maybe avoid any man errors.

Bar code Scanners are located in almost every single industry, they aid in keeping a file of stock and tracks the items that are going around your building, deciding which Barcode Scanners is dependent upon your requirements. With the number of different varieties available it can be a difficult choice picking the most appropriate one for you. Essentially the most favored is your Motorola ls2208, it’s super-cheap lasts for many years and never does not work out.

Bar code Scanners are located in almost every single industry, they aid in keeping a file of stock and tracks the items that are going around your building, deciding which Barcode scanner is dependent upon your requirements. With the number of different varieties available it can be a difficult choice picking the most appropriate one for you. Essentially the most favored is your Motorola ls2208, it’s super-cheap lasts for many years and never does not work out.

Bob Marley’s 8 Simple Ways to Go Green with Power
 As the immortal Kermit the Frog put it, “It’s not easy being green.” The idea of going green is a noble one. It sounds good, we all know we need to make changes in the way we go about our daily lives in order to preserve our beautiful planet and reduce our energy consumption. However, actually implementing these necessary changes can be a whole different story.
Making radical changes in your day to day life can be overwhelming, therefore the key going green is taking baby steps. Here are a 8 tunes from the legendary Bob Marley that will set you on the right paths to going green. 

1. “Coming In From The Cold”
Running your furnace, your hot water heater, and any other heat generating contraption can be costly and use up loads of electricity and gas. Minor changes around the home such as making sure windows and doors stay closed can make a huge difference and minimize the amount of power you use.

2. “Turn Your Lights Down Low”
One way could be installing light dimmers, which cut electricity use by the same percentage that they lower the light. An even simpler step is to just keep lights off around the home as much as possible. While on a recent trip to Central America, I was amazed at how many people keep SYMBOL 21-65587-02 Barcode Scanner Battery operated lanterns and headlamps around their homes in order to cut back on their electric bills. Perhaps keeping a couple of these around the home might be a wise way to go green.

3. “Natural Mystic”
Utilizing nature can be key to going green. Let your clothes air-dry instead of wasting massive amounts of energy in the dryer.

4. “Natty Dread”
I’ve been amazed at the length of time it takes many women (and some men) to blow-dry their hair. This burns a ton of power. Try towel-drying your hair more or just letting time take care of drying your do. Think about how much power you would conserve by cutting blow-dryer usage in half. Or you can go crazy with it and move to dread-locks, you’ll never have to blow-dry again!

5. “Burnin’ and Lootin’”
Appliances that include a clock or operate by a remote, as well as chargers are all sucking electricity even when you’re not using them. They’re called ‘vampire appliances’ because they just suck and suck. The more appliances you have plugged in, the more energy you consume. And it can really add up. So while you’re sleeping or simply not even using many of the appliances around the home, you’re still burning electricity and getting looted on your electric bill. Remember to unplug as well as go to battery-operated alarm clocks when hitting the sack.

6. “Sun is Shining”
Utilizing the sun and all of it’s goodness can be a simple way to move in the green direction. Switching to solar power is becoming more common,but even just taking advantage of the sunlight and all of it’s benefits can greatly reduce the amount of power you use.

7. “Keep on Moving”
With the millions upon millions of lap-top owners around the world spending hours in front of the screen, using your battery power instead of staying plugged into the wall at all times can be a smooth way to cut back on the amount of power you use. Plug in, get charged up, then unplug and keep on moving.

8. “Caution”
The simplest way to going green? Use caution, be aware, and make the little changes in your daily life that will lead to you leaving a smaller footprint on the earth. Their are hundreds of ways to reduce the amount of power you use, you just have to open your eyes.

Molten metal batteries to be clean energy reservoirs

A BATTERY capable to match the output of people used in cellular phones from 1/20th with their electrode area could possibly have you dreaming involving more talk occasion.

But putting it as part of your pocket has to be bad idea – it’s brimming with molten metal. Alternatively, its inventors hope it is going to provide much-needed storage convenience of electricity grids.Grid-scale batteries would boost efficiency by allowing solar energy to be used at night, for example, or excess power from a nuclear plant to be stored for later.

Engineers led by Donald Sadoway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were inspired by the way aluminium is smelted using electricity. They created a similar but reversible process that can either consume or release energy.

Their batteries are simply tanks filled with three separate layers of liquid at 700 °C that float on top of one another: the top one is molten magnesium, the bottom antimony and the one in between a salt containing magnesium antimonide, a dissolved compound of the two metals.

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When the battery is being charged, magnesium antimonide in the middle layer breaks down into the pure elements and so the upper and lower layers deepen. Discharging the battery reverses the process and releases electrons to provide power. Once heated up to its operating temperature, the battery generates enough heat on its own to keep the liquids molten.A small prototype provided up to 20 times as much current as a lithium-ion battery – the kind used in portable devices and electric cars – from the same area of electrode, says team member Luis Ortiz. The materials used are much cheaper than lithium (New Scientist, 12 December 2009, p 23), making scaling to up to grid scale feasible, he says.

“Cost-effective storage could be the holy grail with the electricity grid, inches says Matthew Nordan, a professional in clean engineering at venture-capital company Venrock in Cambridge, Ma, who has not dedicated to the technology.

The MIT team calculates a battery how big is a shipping box could deliver any megawatt of electrical energy – enough to be able to power 10, 000 100-watt lights – for a long time.

The missing piece of the electric-car jigsaw has just turned up

IF YOU want to buy an electric car, you can. Tesla Motors, a firm based in San Carlos, California, will sell you a nifty open-top sports job for $109,000. Not cheap, admittedly, but cheap to run. Plugged in overnight, it can be refuelled for the equivalent of 25 cents a litre of petrol. The catch is, “plugged in overnight”. Tesla’s vehicles use standard lithium-ion battery cells. As any owner of a mobile phone or laptop computer knows, these take time to charge. If you use 6,831 of them, as a Tesla sports car does, that time does tend to drag on. Which is fine if you are not planning a long trip the following day, for a full charge will take you about 350km (220 miles). But it might cramp the style of anyone planning to bomb down from, say, Paris to Cannes, and who would therefore need to refuel on the way.

Gerbrand Ceder and Byoungwoo Kang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hope to change this, and thus help make the electric car a work-a-day consumer item, rather than a high-end boy’s toy. In this week’s Nature they have published the technical details of a new battery material that will, if all goes well, take the waiting out of wanting, at least when it comes to recharging

Broadly speaking, there are two ways of storing electrical energy in a chemical system. One is a standard battery, in which the whole material of the electrodes acts as a storage medium. That allows lots of energy to be squirrelled away, but makes it relatively hard to get at—and so it can be released or put back in only slowly. The other way is called a supercapacitor. This stores energy only at the surface of the electrode. It is quick to charge and discharge, but cannot hold much energy. The great prize in the battery world has thus been a material that can both store a lot and discharge rapidly, and it is this that Dr Ceder and Mr Kang think they have come up with.


Lithium-ion batteries, as their name suggests, work by the movement of lithium ions (which carry a positive electric charge) along with electrons (which carry a negative charge). Electrons are small and mobile but lithium ions are much larger and slower. In a standard lithium-ion battery one electrode is made from a material such as lithium iron phosphate and the other from graphite. The ions pass from the graphite to the phosphate through an intervening electrolyte while the electrons make the journey via an external circuit that allows them to do useful work. When the battery is recharged, they go in the opposite direction.

It is the speed with which the ions can enter and leave the electrodes that governs how fast a battery can be charged and discharged. Graphite has an open structure and is easily penetrated. However, in the case of lithium iron phosphate and other, similar, materials, the crystal structure allows entrance and egress in only one direction. That creates a traffic jam that slows the movement of ions down.

What Dr Ceder and Mr Kang have done is create electrodes that are made of two different materials, one of which is good at storing ions while the other is good at conducting them. The two substances themselves are arranged in tiny spheres less than 50 billionths of a metre across. The core of each sphere is a crystal of lithium iron phosphate. This acts as a standard battery material. The surface, however, is made of a glassy (ie, non-crystalline) form of lithium phosphate. This lithium-phosphate glass is good at conducting lithium ions, though it cannot actually store many. It thus acts as a supercapacitor. The result is that any ion arriving at a sphere is quickly conducted around the surface by the supercapacitor phase until it finds its way to the right place to enter the battery phase in the core—or, if the battery in question is being charged, the other way round.

The truly clever bit, however, is how the spheres are produced. They crystallise coming from a melt it doesn’t have enough iron within it to become natural lithium iron phosphate, so eventually no longer of that product can form because melt cools along. From then for the growing sphere is definitely lithium phosphate along with, by manipulating your conditions, the researchers had the ability to make the coating glassy in lieu of crystalline.

The result is often a material that, while tested in experimental batteries, was able for you to charge and discharge in a short time. In the potential, therefore, that weekend inside south of France don’t need to be interrupted by running beyond juice.

PDA Barcode Scanner Training: 5 Essential Tips

Plants can be extremely efficient converters involving light into electricity, more or a lesser amount of setting the tavern for researchers generating photovoltaic cells that will convert sunlight straight into electricity. As this sort of, researchers are constantly looking to mimic the tricks that numerous years of progression and development get taught to seed biology. Now, a new team of MIT people believe they’ve accomplished it, creating a new synthetic, self-assembling chloroplast that could be broken down along with reassembled repeatedly, restoring solar panels that are damaged with the sun.

Here are 5 top tips to help you manage your users and ultimately a barcode scanning operation.

Top Tip #1: Understanding barcode scanner interface

Probably one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of using a barcode scanner is understanding how the PDA scanner works. This is especially important when we mention the words Pocket PC and Palm. Even though a Palm barcode scanner might operate differently from a Palm barcode scanner, there are some differences (and similarities) which allow management of both types of barcode scanner easier.

For example, a Pocket PC barcode scanner will integrate well with Word and Excel, a massive plus if you need to inventory stock manually or make notes and later transfer them to a PC. Of course, a small resolution on your Pocket PC may pose a few problems when editing a document, but most Pocket PCs (and Palm’s) that support a resolution higher than 320×320 will make its operation much easier.

In addition, it’s important to know the different types of input available for your barcode scanner. Most Palm and Pocket PC barcode scanners offer the ability to write on the PDA using a stylus just as you would use pen and paper. However, the PDA barcode scanner may need calibrating to suit individual users, which may be a problem if a number of people are using the same barcode scanner. For most PDAs, using the keyboard onscreen is only the other option unless you have a built in keypad (which most PDA barcode scanners now do).

So, when choosing your PDA barcode scanner, consider the functionality, compatibility and issues that may be raised when implementing a PDA barcode scanner in your organisation. Pocket PC barcode scanners integrate much better with everyday applications such as Word, although types of user input, such as the stylus method or built in keyboard, are common between both the Pocket PC scanner and the Palm barcode scanner.

Top Tip #2: Knowing connectivity

Back in the day, PDAs could only really communicate with other PDAs and PCs via infra-red or serial COM (gasp!). The late 1990s brought wireless, although that really only became popular in the early 2000s when laptops came down in price and a demand for mobile connectivity went up. During this time, Bluetooth became popular with mobile phones and for short range networking, this method was both convenient and easy to set up.

Since a PDA barcode scanner is a cross between a phone and a PC as well as taking a small form factor, both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is now prevalent on even the cheapest models. Since everything is networked one way or another these days, it is deemed unacceptable for a user to travel over to a computer after scanning, for example, to input the data or transfer the inventory file manually.

Is there anything else you need to know other than to get a PDA with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi? First of all, battery life certainly needs to be considered since these kinds of wireless connectivity do take a lot of battery power. A Palm barcode scanner is more desirable in this department since it takes much less battery life than a Pocket PC barcode scanner. However, both can transfer data over a wireless network to a host PC for inventory management (which should be able to receive data wirelessly itself).

Making sure you find a model that has all types of connectivity will save your skin in the long run. For example, the Motorola MC70 barcode scanner is great for all kinds of scanning and connectivity and can even be used to make calls. Such a device would need extensive training in order to get the most out of it, however, since there are many features that can make scanning and everyday usage much easier.

Top Tip #3: Scanning Procedures

Just like any type of barcode scanner, process of scanning your barcodes is also very important. In terms of software, look for the ability to control how much information users can edit. Ideally, item information should not be altered but the inventory ID might need changing if it was read incorrectly by the PDA scanner. In addition, standardise the scanning procedure by providing a small guide on the relevant fields to edit and any information that might need to be added manually. Top Tip #4: Understanding the Barcode

Understanding the type of barcode you are scanning (termed symbology) will not only help your users scan the correct barcodes but also allow you to choose the right PDA barcode scanner. Most PDA scanners now scan with CCD technology, meaning that a camera is used to capture the image which is then interpreted by the software. This allows much more flexibility than a laser barcode scanner, which can only scan in a linear fashion. Using a CCD PDA barcode scanner, you can scan 2D barcodes as well as the more traditional 1D linear barcodes.

Before purchasing your PDA barcode scanner, make sure you choose the correct scanner based on the specification of your barcodes.

Top Tip #5: Dealing with User Errors

Suggest strategies to scanning the barcode for you to users. Usually, lazer PDA barcode code readers are faster when compared with CCD scanners, although recent advancements in technology implies this gap is closing continuously. As a consequence, errors should not be a whole lot of of a trouble. However, there could possibly be times during transit that this barcode becomes unreadable as well as damaged. Using prime tip #3, create a reference guide on the fields that should be filled and offer suggestions about inputting information if your barcode is certainly not scanned correctly.

Are Batteries Bad for the Environment?

The particular wireless world we are now living in runs on power packs.

That fancy cell phone is nothing many ounces of dead weight within your pocket without any charged battery. That iPod can’t utter a sound when its battery drains the past drop. Even laptop power cords think that restrictive leashes, having us back coming from joining the cell mayhem.

But are we paying a high environmental price for all of this battery-operated convenience?

“Rechargeable batteries can contain metals that may be harmful to the environmental if not disposed of properly,” said Carl Smith, CEO of Call2Recycle, a rechargeable battery collection program operated by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. “So, it’s better to keep them out of landfills.”

Since Congress passed the Mercury-Containing Battery Management Act in 1996, most disposable alkaline batteries contain little or no mercury. As a result, they’re considered nontoxic enough to toss out with the household trash.

Rechargeable batteries are greener on the production end since they last for hundreds of cycles over many years. However, the toxic metals required to make them – cadmium, cobalt, lead – aren’t kind to the Earth.

When rechargeable batteries degrade in landfills, heavy metals can taint the surrounding air, topsoil and groundwater, eventually getting inside our bodies.

For that reason, Call2Recycle and similar programs are working to train consumers to recycle their cell phone, laptop, digital camera and other rechargeable batteries. Those heavy metals can actually be reused to make more batteries, reducing the need to mine for new resources.

“We recycle every bit of the batteries we collect, regardless of chemistry, and use their byproducts to make new products, including batteries and stainless steel items,” Smith said.

In fact, since its environmental footprint has become a major concern within the battery industry, researchers have begun searching for alternative materials to fuel the electrochemical cells.

“We take into account environmental impact because there is, to a significant degree, a battery recycling industry out there, [and] there are now conferences that deal with nothing but environmental impact and recycling of used batteries,” said Elton Cairns, a rechargeable battery and fuel cell expert at the University of California, Berkeley.

“So that’s very much an industrial concern and a concern for many researchers in choosing the electrode materials and the electrolytes that they study and develop.”

For example, phosphate materials are starting to show up in more lithium-ion batteries that power devices including laptops and cell phones. The phosphate serves as a substitute for heavy metal nickel and cobalt elements.

But substituting toxic battery components for gentler ones isn’t always an equal energy trade-off, which is a major reason why creating “green batteries” is a tough proposition.

“Phosphate-based materials, though safer and more environmentally benign, are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to the oxide-based materials in terms of specific energy,” Cairns told Discovery News.

Without an eco-friendlier alternative to batteries, recycling rechargeables is the best way consumers can prevent those heavy metals from leeching into the environment and help green the battery production cycle.

Cairns points to the success of recycling programs in the automotive battery industry. Lead-acid car batteries are one of the most commonly recycled rechargeables, which has not only kept lead out of the waste stream but also reduced the demand for lead mining since around 80 percent of the lead in the new car batteries is a recycling byproduct.
By doing a similar with the smaller sized lithium-ion, button cell along with nickel metal hydride rechargeable batteries in your household products and portable electronic devices, cadmium, cobalt, nickel and also other heavy metals could also be reused throughout new batteries.

It just is determined by consumers taking gumption and getting the crooks to the appropriate battery pack recycling drop-off internet sites.

“If we could recycle tin cans and plastic containers and all that will, why can’t many of us recycle batteries? ” Cairns explained.

In search of the perfect battery |

WHILE General Motors (GM) presented the EV1, a new sleek electric car or truck, with much fanfare throughout 1996, it was meant to herald a emerging trend: the start in the modern mass-production involving electric cars. The hub of the two-seater sat a tremendous 533kg lead-acid battery pack, providing the EV1 with an array of about 110km (80 miles). A lot of people who leased the auto were enthusiastic, nevertheless its limited selection, and the idea that it took many hours to recharge, amid other reasons, convinced GM and also other carmakers that got launched all-electric types to abandon their efforts quite a while later.

Yet today about a dozen firms are once again developing all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles capable of running on batteries for short trips (and, in the case of plug-in hybrids, firing up an internal-combustion engine for longer trips). Toyota’s popular Prius hybrid, by contrast, can travel less than a mile on battery power alone. Tesla Motors of San Carlos, California, recently delivered its first Roadster, an all-electric two-seater with a 450kg battery pack and a range of 350km (220 miles) between charges. And both Toyota and GM hope to start selling plug-in hybrids as soon as 2010.

So what has changed? Aside from growing concern about climate change and a surge in the oil price, the big difference is that battery technology is getting a lot better. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which helped to make the mobile-phone revolution possible in the past decade, are now expected to power the increasing electrification of the car. “They are clearly the next step,” says Mary Ann Wright, the boss of Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions, a joint venture that recently opened a factory in France to produce lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles.

According to Menahem Anderman, a consultant based in California who specialises in the automotive-battery market, more money is being spent on research into lithium-ion batteries than all other battery chemistries combined. A big market awaits the firms that manage to adapt lithium-ion batteries for cars. Between now and 2015, Dr Anderman estimates, the worldwide market for hybrid-vehicle batteries will more than triple, to $2.3 billion. Lithium-ion batteries, the first of which should appear in hybrid cars in 2009, could make up as much as half of that, he predicts.

Compared with other types of rechargeable-battery chemistry, the lithium-ion approach has many advantages. Besides being light, it does not suffer from any memory effect, which is the loss in capacity when a battery is recharged without being fully depleted. Once in mass production, large-scale lithium-ion technology is expected to become cheaper than its closest rival, the nickel-metal-hydride battery, which is found in the Prius and most other hybrid cars.

Still, the success of the lithium-ion battery is not assured. Its biggest weakness is probably its tendency to become unstable if it is overheated, overcharged or punctured. In 2006 Sony, a Japanese electronics giant, had to recall several million laptop batteries because of a manufacturing defect that caused some batteries to burst into flames. A faulty car battery which contains many times more stored energy could trigger a huge explosion—something no car company could afford. Performance, durability and tight costs for cars are also much more stringent than for small electronic devices. So the quest is under way for the refinements and improvements that will bring lithium-ion batteries up to scratch—and lead to their presence in millions of cars.

Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist, invented the first battery in 1800. Since then a lot of new types have been developed, though all are based on the same principle: they exploit chemical reactions between different materials to store and deliver electrical energy.

A battery is made up of one or more cells. Each cell consists of a negative electrode and a positive electrode kept apart by a separator soaked in a conductive electrolyte that allows ions, but not electrons, to travel between them. When a battery is connected to a load, a chemical reaction begins. As positively charged ions travel from the negative to the positive electrode through the electrolyte, a proportional number of negatively charged electrons must make the same journey through an external circuit, resulting in an electric current that does useful work.

Some batteries are based on an underlying chemical reaction that can be reversed. Such rechargeable batteries have an advantage, because they can be restored to their charged state by reversing the direction of the current flow that occurred during discharging. They can thus be reused hundreds or thousands of times. According to Joe Iorillo, an analyst at the Freedonia Group, rechargeable batteries make up almost two-thirds of the world’s $56 billion battery market. Four different chemical reactions dominate the industry—each of which has pros and cons when it comes to utility, durability, cost, safety and performance.

The first rechargeable battery, the lead-acid battery, was invented in 1859 by Gaston Planté, a French physicist. The electrification of Europe and America in the late 19th century sparked the use of storage batteries for telegraphy, portable electric-lighting systems and back-up power. But the biggest market was probably electric cars. At the turn of the century battery-powered vehicles were a common sight on city streets, because they were quiet and did not emit any noxious fumes. But electric cars could not compete on range. In 1912 the electric self-starter, which replaced cranking by hand, meant that cars with internal-combustion engines left electric cars in the dust.

Nickel-cadmium cells came along around 1900 and were used in situations where more power was needed. As with lead-acid batteries, nickel-cadmium cells had a tendency to produce gases while in use, especially when being overcharged. In the late 1940s Georg Neumann, a German engineer, succeeded in fine-tuning the battery’s chemistry to avoid this problem, making a sealed version possible. It started to become more widely available in the 1960s, powering devices such as electric razors and toothbrushes.

For most of the 20th century lead-acid and nickel-cadmium cells dominated the rechargeable-battery market, and both are still in use today. Although they cannot store as much energy for a given weight or volume as newer technologies, they can be extremely cost-effective. Small lead-acid battery packs provide short bursts of power to starter motors in virtually all cars; they are also used in large back-up power systems, and make up about half of the worldwide rechargeable-battery market. Nickel-cadmium batteries are used to provide emergency back-up power on planes and trains.

Time to change the batteries

In the past two decades two new rechargeable-battery types made their commercial debuts. Storing about twice as much energy as a lead-acid battery for a given weight, the nickel-metal-hydride battery appeared on the market in 1989. For much of the 1990s it was the battery of choice for powering portable electronic devices, displacing nickel-cadmium batteries in many applications. Toyota picked nickel-metal-hydride batteries for the new hybrid petrol-electric car it launched in 1997, the Prius.

Nickel-metal-hydride batteries evolved from the nickel-hydrogen batteries used to power satellites. Such batteries are expensive and bulky, since they require high-pressure hydrogen-storage tanks, but they offer high energy-density and last a long time, which makes them well suited for use in space. Nickel-metal-hydride batteries emerged as researchers looked for ways to store hydrogen in a more convenient form: within a hydrogen-absorbing metal alloy. Eventually Stanford Ovshinsky, an American inventor, and his company, now known as ECD Ovonics, succeeded in creating metal-hydride alloys with a disordered structure that improved performance.

Adapting the nickel-metal-hydride battery to the automotive environment was no small feat, since the way batteries have to work in hybrid cars is very different from the way they work in portable devices. Batteries in laptops and mobile phones are engineered to be discharged over the course of several hours or days, and they only need to last a couple of years. Hybrid-car batteries, on the other hand, are expected to work for eight to ten years and must endure hundreds of thousands of partial charge and discharge cycles as they absorb energy from regenerative braking or supply short bursts of power to aid in acceleration.

Lithium-ion batteries evolved from non-rechargeable lithium batteries, such as those used in watches and hearing aids. One reason lithium is particularly suitable for batteries is that it is the lightest metal, which means a lithium battery of a given weight can store more energy than one based on another metal (such as lead or nickel). Early rechargeable lithium batteries used pure lithium metal as the negative-electrode material, and an “intercalation” compound—a material with a lattice structure that could absorb lithium ions—as the positive electrode.

The problem with this design was that during recharging, the metallic lithium reformed unevenly at the negative electrode, creating spiky structures called “dendrites” that are unstable and reactive, and can pierce the separator and cause an explosion. So today’s rechargeable lithium-ion batteries do not contain lithium in metallic form. Instead they use materials with lattice structures for both positive and negative electrodes. As the battery discharges, the lithium ions swim from the negative-electrode lattice to the positive one; during recharging, they swim back again. This to-and-fro approach is called a “rocking chair” design.

The first commercial lithium-ion battery, launched by Sony in 1991, was a rocking-chair design that used cobalt oxide for the positive electrode, and graphite (carbon) for the negative one. In the early 1990s, such batteries had an energy density of about 100 watt-hours per litre. Since then engineers have worked out ways to squeeze more than twice as much energy into a battery of the same size, in particular by reducing the width of the separator and increasing the amount of active electrode materials.

The high energy-density of lithium-ion batteries makes them the best technology for portable devices. According to Christophe Pillot of Avicenne Développement, a market-research firm based in Paris, they account for 70% of the $7 billion market for portable, rechargeable batteries. But not all lithium-ion batteries are alike. The host structures that accept lithium ions can be made using a variety of materials, explains Venkat Srinivasan, a scientist at America’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The combination of materials determines the characteristics of the battery, including its energy and power density, safety, longevity and cost. Because of this flexibility, researchers hope to develop new electrode materials that can increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries by a factor of two or more in the future.

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The batteries commonly used in today’s mobile phones and laptops still use cobalt oxide as the positive electrode. Such batteries are also starting to appear in cars, such as Tesla’s Roadster. But since cobalt oxide is so reactive and costly, most experts deem it unsuitable for widespread use in hybrid or electric vehicles.

So researchers are trying other approaches. Some firms, such as Compact Power, based in Troy, Michigan, are developing batteries in which the cobalt is replaced by manganese, a material that is less expensive and more stable at high temperatures. Unfortunately, batteries with manganese-based electrodes store slightly less energy than cobalt-based ones, and also tend to have a shorter life, as manganese starts to dissolve into the electrolyte. But blending manganese with other elements, such as nickel and cobalt, can reduce these problems, says Michael Thackeray, a senior scientist at America’s Argonne National Laboratory who holds several patents in this area.

In 1997 John Goodenough and his colleagues at the University of Texas published a paper in which they suggested using a new material for the positive electrode: iron phosphate. It promised to be cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly than cobalt oxide. There were just two problems: it had a lower energy-density than cobalt oxide and suffered from low conductivity, limiting the rate at which energy could be delivered and stored by the battery. So when Yet-Ming Chiang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues published a paper in 2002 in which they claimed to have dramatically boosted the material’s conductivity by doping it with aluminium, niobium and zirconium, other researchers were impressed—though the exact mechanism that causes the increase in performance has since become the subject of a heated debate.

Dr Chiang’s team published another paper in 2004 in which they described a way to increase performance further. Using iron-phosphate particles less than 100 nanometres across—about 100 times smaller than usual—increases the surface area of the electrode and improves the battery’s ability to store and deliver energy. But again, the exact mechanism involved is somewhat controversial.

The iron-phosphate technology is being commercialised by several companies, including A123 Systems, co-founded by Dr Chiang, and Phostech Lithium, a Canadian firm that has been granted exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the material based on Dr Goodenough’s patents. At the moment the two rivals are competing in the market, but their fate may be decided in court, since they are fighting a patent-infringement battle.

The quest for the perfect battery

Johnson Controls and Saft, which launched a joint venture in 2006, are taking a different approach, in which the positive electrode is made using a nickel-cobalt-aluminium-oxide. John Searle, the company’s boss, says batteries made using its approach can last about 15 years. In 2007 Saft announced that Daimler had selected its batteries for use in a hybrid Mercedes saloon, due to go on sale in 2009. Other materials being investigated for use in future lithium-ion batteries include tin alloys and silicon.

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At this point, it is hard to say which lithium-ion variation will prevail. Toyota, which is pursuing its own battery development with Matsushita, will not say which chemistry it favours. GM is also hedging its bets. The company is testing battery packs from both A123 Systems and Compact Power for the Chevy Volt (pictured), a forthcoming plug-in hybrid that will have an all-electric range of 40 miles and a small internal-combustion engine to recharge its battery when necessary. To ensure that the Volt’s battery can always supply enough power and meet its targeted 10-year life-span, it will be kept between 30% and 80% charged at all times, says Roland Matthe of GM’s energy-storage systems group.

GM hopes to start mass-production of the Volt in late 2010. That is ambitious, since the Volt’s viability is dependent on the availability of a suitable battery technology. “It’s either going to be a tremendous victory, or a terrible defeat,” says James George, a battery expert based in New Hampshire who has followed the industry for 45 years.

“We’ve still got a considerable ways to go with regards to getting the best battery, ” claims Dr Thackeray. Weighed against computer chips, which may have doubled in efficiency roughly every couple of years for decades, power packs have improved extremely slowly over their particular 200-year history. But high acrylic prices and problem over climate change mean there is certainly now more of your incentive than at any time for researchers to participate the quest regarding better battery technology. “It’s going to become journey”, says Milliseconds Wright, “where we are going to be using the particular gas engine a smaller amount and less. ”.

i like it so much.

i like it so much.