FUTURE ENERGY eNEWS
Integrity Research Institute DECEMBER, 2010
Public Pre-registration for the COFE4 (SPESIF)
has been discounted until February 15, 2011 at only $225 which gives
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FROM ALL AT
Dear Subscriber, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
We are pleased to bring a significant
Tesla article to the public's attention this month with story #3. The
Navy has used this type of communication for submarines since the 1980s
and now miners will have the benefit of wireless ELF communication
that can go through solid rock or an ocean, thanks to Nikola Tesla who
first discovered it 100 years ago. However, the 187-foot Wardenclyffe Tower was Tesla's means to
deliver natural 8 Hz electricity anywhere in the world, by longitudinal
waves. Unknown to most electrical engineers, Nikola Tesla's dream
answers the energy crisis worldwide, saves electrical conversion
losses, and provides a real alternative to transmission lines. In Dr.
Corum's contributed papers to my Tesla book, he explains
Tesla's magnifying transmitter, which Tesla compared to a telescope.
Corum points out that "the tuned circuit of his magnifying
transmitter was the whole earth-ionosphere cavity resonator."
Download an introductory sample chapter of this book (3.5 Mb pdf) if you would like to
learn more. As far as the Federal energy R&D
funding story, IRI is of the opinion that individual
inventors and scientists are the historical revolutionaries
who invariably succeed with public and private funding. Just
look the rest of the stories (#1, #4, #5) as well as our FE eNews archives online to see where
the majority of progress is being made with energy
breakthroughs. Our homepage has a short video success story of
IRI-promoted private funding for the most electrically
practical and efficient fusion project now underway: focus fusion.
Here at the end of 2010, we extend
an appreciation to those who receive these monthly Future Energy eNews
and are willing to make charitable donations, memberships and
purchases, to make this possible. Please visit Integrity Research
Institute's order page to
place your holiday gift order. You may also make a year-end
tax-deductible donation through Donate.org.Thank
you very much for all of your interest in future energy through the
past year. Please help us serve you better: Become a member of
IRI for 2011! Some of the best scientists, engineers and inventors in
their fields are dedicated members like you. Let's make the New Year a
year of energetic revolutions that will naturally generate economic
hope for the world!
Thomas Valone, PhD
1) New Evidence
that Magnetism is Driving Force behind Superconductivity
(Dec. 14, 2010) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213121751.htm
European and U.S. physicists this week are
offering up the strongest evidence yet that magnetism is the driving
force behind unconventional superconductivity. The findings by
researchers from Rice University, the Max Planck Institute for Chemical
Physics of Solids (MPI-CPfS) in Dresden, Germany, and other institutions
were published online December 13 in Nature
follow more than three decades of research by the team that discovered
unconventional superconductivity in 1979. That breakthrough, which was
led by MPI-CPfS Director Frank Steglich, preceded by seven years the more
widely publicized discovery of unconventional superconductivity at high
temperatures. In the latest study, the team revisited the same
heavy-fermion material -- a mix of cerium, copper and silicon -- that was
used in 1979, applying new experimental techniques and theoretical knowledge
unavailable 30 years ago.
"In 1979, there was not much
understanding of quantum criticality or of the collective way that
electrons behave at the border of magnetism," said Rice physicist
Qimiao Si, the lead theorist and co-author of the new paper. "Today,
we know a great deal about such collective behavior in the regime where
materials transition to a superconducting state. The question we examined
in this study is, How does all of that new knowledge translate into an
understanding of the superconducting state itself?"
Magnetism -- the phenomenon that
drives compass needles and keeps notes stuck to refrigerators the world
over -- arises when the electrons in a material are oriented in a
particular way. Every electron is imbued with a property called spin, and
electron spins are oriented either up or down. In most materials, the
arrangement of electron spins is haphazard, but in everyday refrigerator
magnets -- which scientists call ferromagnets -- electron spins are
oriented collectively, in the same direction.
Classical superconductors, which
were discovered almost a century ago, were the first materials known to
conduct electrons without losing energy due to resistance. Electrons
typically bump and ricochet from atom to atom as they travel down a wire,
and this jostling leads to a loss of energy in the form of electrical
resistance. Resistance costs the energy industry billions of dollars per
year in lost power, so scientists have been keen to put superconducting
wires to widespread use, but it hasn't been easy.
It took physicists almost 50
years to explain classical superconductivity: At extremely low
temperatures, electrons pair up and move in unison, thus avoiding the
jostling they experience by themselves. These electron twosomes are
called Cooper pairs, and physicists began trying to explain how they form
in unconventional superconductors as soon as Steglich's findings were
published in 1979. Si said theorists studying the question have
increasingly been drawn to the collective behavior of electrons,
particularly at the border of magnetism -- the critical point where a
material changes from one magnetic state to another.
In the new experiments, Steglich,
the lead experimentalist co-author, and his group collaborated with
physicists at the Jülich Centre for Neutron Science at the Institut
Laue-Langevin in Grenoble,
to bombard heavy fermion samples with neutrons. Because neutrons also
have spin, those experiments allowed the team to probe the spin states of
the electrons in the heavy fermions.
"Our neutron-scattering data
provide convincing evidence that the cerium-based heavy fermion compound
is located near a quantum critical point," said Oliver Stockert, a
study co-author and a neutron-scattering specialist from MPI-CPfS.
"Moreover, the data revealed how the magnetic spectrum changes as
the material turns into a superconductor."
From the data, Si and co-author Stefan
Kirchner, a theorist from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of
Complex Systems and a former postdoctoral fellow at Rice, determined the
amount of magnetic energy that was saved when the system entered the
"We have calculated that the saved
magnetic energy is more than 10 times what is needed for the formation of
the Cooper pairs," Kirchner said.
"Why the magnetic exchange in the
superconductor yields such a large energy saving is a new and intriguing
question," said Si, Rice's Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of
Physics and Astronomy. He said one possible origin is the electronic phenomenon
known as the "Kondo effect," which is involved in a class of
unconventional quantum critical points advanced by Si and colleagues in a
theoretical paper published in Nature in 2001. Regardless of the final
answer, Si said the present study already constitutes a definitive proof
that "collective fluctuations of the electrons at the border of
magnetism are capable of driving superconductivity."
Si and Steglich found it remarkable that
the notion of quantum criticality is providing fresh insights into the workings
of the very first unconventional superconductor ever discovered. At the
same time, both said more studies are needed to determine the precise way
that quantum-critical fluctuations give rise to heavy-fermion
superconductivity. And thanks to key differences between the
heavy-fermion materials and high-temperature superconductors, additional
work must be done to determine whether the same findings apply to both.
"We are certain that we are on the
right track with our investigations, however," Steglich said.
The research was facilitated by the International Collaborative
Center on Quantum Matter, a
collaborative entity formed by Rice, MPI-CPfS,
China's Zhejiang University and the London Centre
for Nanotechnology. Research support was provided by the German Research
Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Welch Foundation.
Testing Validates Hydrino Theory
by Joe Shea, AR Correspondent
BRADENTON, Fla., Dec. 18, 2010 -- A remarkable
new energy source from fractional hydrogen will allow a gallon of
ordinary water to become the energy equivalent of 200 barrels of oil, a
team of physicists working near the onetime laboratories of Thomas Edison
and Albert Einstein are saying.
"With further optimization,"
Dr. K.V. Ramanujachary of Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.,
says, "there is no doubt that this technology will present an
economically viable and environmentally benign alternate to meet global
energy needs. If advanced to commercialization, it would be one of the
most profound developments ever."
The method of
electricity production allows the fuel to reproduce itself by diverting
part of the energy output to a catalyst that is then regenerated so fuel
is only needed once. Using the process, about 10 100-watt bulbs could be
lit 24 hours a day for a penny.
Hydrogen atoms of water can release an
enormous amount of energy. Now BlackLight is promising an engine technology
aimed at driving a car 5,000 miles on a gallon of water.
And if solar flares over the next 10
years have the power to blackout thousands of homes, as the National
Oceanography and Atmospheric Administration has warned, the distributed
power of the new cells could keep America lit up.
A working model is promised for 2011.
Until it appears and independent laboratories confirm BlackLight's
claims, most scientists will not accept such unorthodox technology,
especially if it is based on classical rather than quantum physics.
BlackLight's research has also been hampered in the past by its close
ties to Rowan
several of its engineers have worked.
But the greater problem for BlackLight
may be the oil companies and conventional utilities that will be
displaced, if not destroyed, by hydrino technology. Even though the cells
as described would collectively save homeowners and manufacturers
trillions in electricity costs and generate many millions of jobs, it is
also thought to be the target of a concerted foreign industrial espionage
which has never tried to go public, keeps a low profile and has mounted a
remarkably mundane website full of small type and dense physics with
little appeal to readers. Even the weekly Cranbury Press has no
mention of the company in its search database, yet there are thousands of
search results on Google.
Ironically, the BlackLight Power
facilities are located in Cranbury, N.J., a small town 8 miles from the Princeton University
labs where Albert Einstein once toiled and 37 miles from the West Orange, N.J., laboratories of Thomas Edison.
But the proof is in the pudding, not the
"We have demonstrated the ability
to produce electrical power using chemical systems for the direct
production of electric power from the conversion of hydrogen to hydrinos,
a more stable form of hydrogen," said Dr. Randell Mills, chairman,
CEO and president of BlackLight Power.
Working with a team headed by Dr.
Alexander Bykanov at Harvard's Smithsonian
Astrophysics under contract with GEN3 Partners, the device showed
hydrogen spectral emissions below 80 nanometers, the previously known
"ground state" of hydrogen. Scientists formerly believed there
could be no parts of the hydrogen atom smaller than the atom itself.
"This is decisive evidence of the
existence of hydrinos as Dr. Randell Mills theoretically predicted,"
the BlackLight Power press release said. Hydrinos are a fractional
element of hydrogen that skeptics in the world of quantum physics
previously said could not exist.
"This is smoking-gun evidence of
the existence of hydrinos," Dr. Mills said. "The light
signature observed is from pure hydrogen and exists at a much higher
energy level than deemed possible for this element in any known
In a joint statement, Dr. Bykanov and
Dr. Sam Kogan, chief operating officer of Boston-based GEN3 Partners, a
company that evaluates new technologies and helps bring them to market,
said "[BlackLight Power's] spectral results were identically [and] independently
reproduced, and we could find no conventional explanation for the
emission of bright light from hydrogen in this very high energy region.
We believe that this confirms hydrino emission."
Acceptance of Mills' ideas is largely
the product of a battle between Einstein's old-fashioned
"classical" physics and the newfangled "quantum"
ideas of physicists like the late Richard Feynman.
One critic has been Stephen Chu, the
Chinese-American physicist who was won the Nobel Prize and later became
President Obama's Secretary of Energy. Chu
urged investors to avoid BlackLight Power in 1999, saying he "felt
sorry" for them. As many as seven Chinese-American physicists have
co-authored some of the more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific journal
articles published by and about Mills and his work, however. Mills could
not be reached for comment on this article. His corporate public
relations firm, the giant Hill & Knowlton, has not responded to
emails in the past, and a Hill & Knowlton spokesperson, Milly Coleman,
had her calls forwarded to voicemail Friday.
The company published its latest
findings in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Hydrogen, and
issued the news release Nov. 29 about the new power source, a system they
call Catalyst Induced Hydrino Transition, or CIHT, that produces
electricity directly. Others seeking a more palatable name have called it
"Electricity from Collapsing Hydrogen Orbits," or ECHO.
The company, funded with $70 million in
investments by three large venture capital firms, says the technology
allows an electric car, the size and weight of a Prius and costing about
$9,000 to build, to travel more than 5,000 miles on a gallon of water. No
combustion engine is required. A former chief of staff of the United
States Air Force and a former CEO of Westinghouse Corp. have at various
times sat on the company's board.
At least five American utilities, a
Washington, D.C., energy broker and multinational firms in Italy and
Holland are hoping to deploy the hydrino generators to produce an amount
of electricity equivalent to that needed to run 1 million American homes
- for as little as one cent per kilowatt.
An expanded team of scientists and
engineers at Rowan
University say they
completed a thorough year-long series of additional testing of the
thermal systems following the announcement and release of earlier
validations, performed in October 2008 and August 2009. Using BLP's
proprietary solid-fuel chemistry, which is capable of continuous
regeneration, they independently formulated and tested fuels that they
found could generate on-demand energy greater than that of combustion but
at the far lower power levels of kilowatts.
"When using BLP's chemical process,
Rowan professors reported a net energy gain of up to 6.5 times the
maximum energy potential of these materials from known chemical
reactions," the release said. The Rowan team included Dr.
Ramanujachary, who is Rowan University Meritorious Professor of Chemistry
and Biochemistry, assistant professor of chemistry Dr. Amos Mugweru, professor
of engineering Dr. John L. Schmalzel, P.E., and Dr. Peter Jansson P.E.,
asssociate professor of engineering at Rowan.
"In additional independent tests
conducted over the last 12 months, involving 13 solid fuel mixtures made
by us from commercially-available chemicals and confirmed by multiple
analyses, our team of engineering and chemistry professors, staff and
students at Rowan University has independently and consistently generated
energy in excesses ranging from 1.3 times to 6.5 times the maximum
theoretical heat available through known chemical reactions," Dr.
Compared to thermal-based systems, Mills
says, "[CIHT] produces electricity without requiring enormous
thermally-driven mechanical generators." The power units would be
distributed to individual homes, where they could power not just the home
home but a neighborhood. The small unit in the car could even be hooked
up to the house to power it.
Rather than relying on a giant utility,
the units would make each home and neighborhood autonomous - "off
the grid," as green energy activists like to say. That will make
adoption of the units a quicker process, Mills says.
"Consequently, more rapid
dissemination is expected by deploying many autonomous distributed units
that circumvent the huge barriers of entry into the power markets such as
developing and building massive billion-dollar power plants with their
associated power distribution infrastructure," Mills said.
"This is especially true in emerging markets."
BlackLight Power focuses on using CIHT
units to produce power to ultimately sell directly to consumers under
power purchase agreements.
"The business plan is akin to that
of solar leasing, but the costs are potentially vastly cheaper, and the
systems may be deployable for essentially all applications of all scales
untethered to the Sun or the grid, or as in the case of fuel cells and
cars, a fuel supply," Dr. Mills said.
"To realize how transformational
this technology will be, imagine that an electric car can travel over
5,000 miles on the hydrogen energy from a gallon of water without any
pollution whatsoever. The power source can then be lifted out and plugged
into your electrical panel to power your home with enough power to spare
to also power your neighborhood," Mills added.
Some of those hoping to exploit the new
technology are already thinking ahead. "BLP's breakthrough CIHT
technology will allow us to become a major green-power producer for the
DC metro area while enabling dramatic savings and unheard of
independence," said John E. Akridge III, chairman and owner of
Washington, D.C.,-based Akridge Energy.
"It is ideal for our needs across
the full spectrum of our applications: powering apartment complexes,
commercial offices, retail outlets, and mixed-use projects." Akridge
said. His firm, a BlackLight Power licensee that owns numerous buildings
in Washinton, D.C., "intends to deploy
distributed-scale CIHT electric power units at commercial real estate
properties, sell electricity to its tenants and eventually into the local
electric grid," he said.
At Rowan University,
where much of the validation of the technology was done, the chairman of
the college's physics department is emphatic about the process.
"The chemicals used in CIHT
technology, similar to those used in thermal and chemical cells, were
separately, thoroughly and diligently validated over the past three years
by a team at Rowan
included myself," Dr. K.V. Ramanujachary said. "Since the
measurements on CIHT are electrical versus calorimetric, there can be no
dispute over the power and the energy balance," he said.
RELATED IRI LINKS
Mitchell Swartz's Cold Fusion Times http://world.std.com/~mica/cftsci.html
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics www.focusfusion.org
Dr. George Miley's Fusion Studies
Dr. Ray Sedwick's Electrostatic Confinement Fusion University of
Ed Esko's Quantum Rabbit
Dr. Scott Chubb's NRL Experiments
Energy Reports, Dec 2010.
Fusion energy has the potential to provide a sustainable
solution to increasing global energy demands, as concerns grow over
climate change and declining fossil fuel supplies. It can provide a
continuous, sustainable baseload power supply that is environmentally sound and large-scale, using fuels that are
Fusion is the same process that gives hydrogen bombs their awesome
explosive energy, and powers the sun and the stars, where atomic nuclei
collide together and release energy.
Fusion scientists and engineers are developing the technology to use this
process in future power stations. Fusion-based power stations would have
a number of advantages:
- No carbon emissions. The only by-products of fusion reactions are small
amounts of helium, which is an inert gas that will not add to atmospheric
- Abundant fuels. Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium is
produced from lithium, which is found in the earth's crust. Fuel supplies
will therefore last for millions of years.
- Energy efficiency. One kilogram of fusion fuel can provide the same
amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel.
- No long-lived radioactive waste. Only plant components become
radioactive and these will be safe to recycle or dispose of
conventionally within 100 years.
- Safety. The small amounts of fuel used in fusion devices (about the
weight of a postage stamp at any one time) means that a large-scale
nuclear accident is not possible.
- Reliable power. Fusion power plants should provide a baseload supply of
large amounts of electricity, at costs that are estimated to be broadly
similar to other energy sources.
This report analyzes the
fusion power technology. The report describes fusion energy, discusses
the challenges with fusion energy, the workings of fusion power plants,
and offers fusion energy case studies. The report also examines the
environmental fallout of fusion power as well as the safety issues
attached to nuclear proliferation and fusion energy.
If you want order the report
Tapping Tesla to Save Trapped Miners
by Phil Berardelli, Science
mining incident, Gary Smith, a retired engineer, sent a letter to
his ex-manager at the Lockheed Martin Corp. in Syracuse, New York.
Smith, who grew up in a West
Virginia mining family, asked his former
colleagues if anyone knew of a technology that could provide reliable
communications during such disasters. After reading reports of the Sago
incident and discussing similar emergencies with federal mine safety
officials, the Lockheed Martin engineers updated a very old one.
The team focused on a concept developed
over a century ago by Nikola Tesla. The noted pioneer in electricity and
radio had shown that a magnetic wave generator could be used for wireless
Basically, the generator works like an
electromagnet. Powered by standard alternating current or battery, it
runs electricity through a wire that is coiled around a metal cylinder,
creating a harmless, low-energy magnetic field that extends for hundreds
of meters. Just like radio, the field can carry an audio signal by
modulating (raising or lowering) its strength instant by instant. But
unlike radio, cell phones, and satellite phones-whose electromagnetic
waves can't pass very far through rock, clay, or other materials that
conduct electricity-a magnetically generated signal penetrates the ground
easily. On the other end, a coiled antenna wire about 100 meters long
receives the signal, and an amplifier converts it into sound.
In the 1890s, Tesla experimented with
the concept as a possible alternative to Marconi's wireless telegraph.
But the device's relatively short range and high signal noise made it
impractical for widespread use. Short range is not a problem in most mine
situations, explains engineer David LeVan, who led the Lockheed Martin
research team. The devices the group developed, called the MagneLink
Magnetic Communication System, combine a refrigerator-size magnetic
generator with a briefcase-size receiving antenna. One such unit operates
on the surface; the other, down in the mine. LeVan says tests earlier
this year at a mine in Mavisdale, Virginia, showed that the low-frequency signal can
penetrate through 500 meters of solid rock, making it usable in more than
85% of underground mines in the United States.
The team solved the problem of signal
noise with the same type of digital signal-processing software used in
cellular phones, LeVan says. The software also allows users to send and
receive text messages. Although the units are rather bulky, they fit
easily next to miners' emergency shelters with other lifesaving
equipment. The underground transmission antenna is wrapped around one of
the coal pillars that help to support the roof of the mine tunnel. A box
made of polycarbonate (photo, in foreground) houses the receiving antenna
Each generating unit can operate at
least 24 hours on 12-volt battery power, which complies with U.S. Mine
Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requirements, and contains a
telephone handset and text-message pad. Its low energy output means it
poses no danger of sparking, which could set off an explosion if methane
gas is present.
MagneLink program manager Warren Gross
says that during field tests, miners offered many suggestions for making
the units simpler to operate in emergencies. It's important, he says,
that users need only turn the unit on, pick up the phone, and talk or
text. Gross says the company is awaiting MSHA certification. If the agency
approves the system, he says the units should start rolling off the
assembly line by the end of this year.
Todd Moore, the director of safety
services for CONSOL Energy, a coal-mining company in Canonsburg,
Pennsylvania, says he has been advocating for this technology ever since
the Sago disaster, which involved another coal company. "No one can
predict what will be destroyed" in an explosion, says Moore, a
lifelong mining safety engineer who assisted in the Sago rescue effort.
"Our coal mines are the size of downtown Manhattan." Moore, who has
supervised MagneLink tests but was not involved in the research,
envisions each mine being equipped with at least several underground
units, while topside units move around as necessary. "I am truly
convinced [it] can save lives in the coal industry," he says.
back to table of contents
4) Dim Prospects For
Energy R&D Funding
Kevin Bulls, Technology Review, Dec 10, 2010
As Congress rushes to finish its
business before the year's end, it is likely to pass one of two spending
bills to keep the government running in 2011. Either way, funding for
energy R&D is expected to be stagnant next year and decrease in 2012.
On Wednesday, the House passed a $1.1
trillion spending bill. If the Senate follows suit, which is by no means
certain, overall funding for energy R&D will remain level-but some
specific research programs could take a significant funding hit. Congress
may yet pass another version of the spending bill that will rescue some
of these programs. However, the outlook for energy R&D remains bleak,
especially for 2012.
All this comes after a year of rhetoric
from the White House and key members of Congress about the urgent need
for more energy R&D. But Congress failed to pass comprehensive
climate and energy legislation that would have directly funded new energy
projects, leaving funding to the regular budget, which has been limited.
Congress also hasn't passed a single appropriations bill yet this
year-the government has been running on temporary spending bills since
October-and it is running out of time to pass one in the current session.
Under the president's proposed budget-a
document submitted by the administration in February and meant to guide
Congress in crafting its spending bills-several energy-related research
programs would have received significant new funding. It called for $300
million for ARPA-E, an agency founded to foster high risk but potentially
high reward R&D. The first projects funded by ARPA-E include one
focused on developing a cheaper way to make silicon wafers for solar
cells and another investigating new battery designs that could give electric
cars a range of 500 miles. The President's budget also requested a $218
million increase in spending for energy R&D in the Department of
Energy's Office of Science, as part of a long-term plan to double funding
for physical sciences research in order to keep the United States
competitive in this area-a goal that's part of the 2007 America Competes
The president's budget also called for
the addition of a fourth "Energy Innovation Hub" to the three
that were approved by Congress last year. These innovation hubs, devised
by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, are meant to bring together the best
researchers and engineers to tackle key energy-related issues, in the
style of the Manhattan Project or Bell Labs. Last year, Congress funded
an innovation hub for making fuels using sunlight, another for increasing
the energy efficiency of buildings, and a third for simulation tools to
advance nuclear energy. Each of these would get $24 million under the
president's proposed budget. The new hub for developing better batteries
would get $30 million. The budget also called for spending on related
Energy Frontier Research Centers to increase from $100 million to $140
Congress is considering two options. The
first is to adopt a continuing resolution that will keep overall funding
levels equal to 2010's (about $50 billion less than the president's
budget), while rearranging where some of that funding goes. That's the
spending bill the House passed on Wednesday, and it now goes to the
Senate. The other option is a more comprehensive "omnibus" bill
that lumps together a dozen appropriations bills that committees have
crafted based on President Obama's budget request but modified in ways
meant to make them more likely to pass or to reflect the preferences of
the committee members. Overall, the omnibus bill would be better for
energy R&D funding, though not as good as the budget the president
In either of the options before Congress
now, ARPA-E is likely to continue to get funding. Although ARPA-E was
created in 2007, it wasn't funded until the Recovery Act of 2009, and it
has been running on that money since, without substantial funding from
the regular budget. Keeping funding at 2010 levels could have prevented
ARPA-E from funding any new projects, or even killed it. The House
continuing resolution, however, allows the Department of Energy to give
ARPA-E up to $300 million-the amount the president requested. But this
must come at the expense of other DOE research funding, either for the
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program or the Office of Science.
If the omnibus bill passes instead, ARPA-E is likely to get funding of
its own, but about $100 million less than the President requested.
Under the continuing resolution, funding
for the Office of Science, the Energy
Centers, and the
Energy Innovation Hubs will continue at 2010 levels instead of getting
the increases President Obama requested. But the omnibus bill will be
good news for some of these energy R&D programs. The Office of
Science will get a small increase ($70 million as opposed to the $218
million the President requested), and the new battery innovation hub is
likely to be funded.
It's not clear which option-the omnibus
bill or the continuing resolution-will win, says Patrick Clemins,
director of the R&D budget and policy program for the American
Association for the Advancement of Science. The House has passed the
continuing resolution, but the Senate may prefer passing an omnibus bill.
What is clear is that funding for energy R&D overall will remain
essentially flat-a trend that's been going on since 2004, he says, in
spite of many calls for increased energy R&D over this time.
Things might be even worse in the 2012
budget. The new Republicans in the House were elected with a mandate to
decrease government spending. ARPA-E, the benefits of which won't be
clear for years and whose funding goes largely to research in Democratic
states, "is the kind of thing that is easily killed," says
David Victor, a professor at the School
of International Relations and
Pacific Studies at the University
of California, San Diego. Mark Muro, a senior fellow
at the Brookings Institute, hopes that Republicans and Democrats can find
common ground in some areas, such as support for nuclear power. But, he
says, there is widespread fear that existing energy R&D will be cut.
"We could be playing defense rather than moving it forward," he
back to table
Smallest Battery: Nanowire Anode
A benchtop version of the world's
smallest battery -- its anode a single nanowire one seven-thousandth the
thickness of a human hair -- has been created by a team led by Sandia
National Laboratories researcher Jianyu Huang.
To better study the anode's characteristics,
the tiny rechargeable, lithium-based battery was formed inside a
transmission electron microscope (TEM) at the Center for Integrated
Nanotechnologies (CINT), a Department of Energy research facility jointly
operated by Sandia and Los Alamos
Says Huang of the work, reported
in the Dec. 10 issue of the journal Science,
"This experiment enables us to study the charging and discharging of
a battery in real time and at atomic scale resolution, thus enlarging our
understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which batteries
Because nanowire-based materials
in lithium ion batteries offer the potential for significant improvements
in power and energy density over bulk electrodes, more stringent
investigations of their operating properties should improve new
generations of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, laptops and cell phones.
What motivated our work,"
says Huang, "is that lithium ion batteries [LIB] have very important
applications, but the low energy and power densities of current LIBs
cannot meet the demand. To improve performance, we wanted to understand
LIBs from the bottom up, and we thought in-situ TEM could bring new
insights to the problem."
Battery research groups
do use nanomaterials as anodes, but in bulk rather than individually -- a
process, Huang says, that resembles "looking at a forest and trying
to understand the behavior of an individual tree."
The tiny battery created by Huang
and co-workers consists of a single tin oxide nanowire anode 100
nanometers in diameter and 10 micrometers long, a bulk lithium cobalt
oxide cathode three millimeters long, and an ionic liquid electrolyte.
The device offers the ability to directly observe change in atomic
structure during charging and discharging of the individual
An unexpected find of the
researchers was that the tin oxide nanowire rod nearly doubles in length
during charging -- far more than its diameter increases -- a fact that
could help avoid short circuits that may shorten battery life.
"Manufacturers should take account of this elongation in their
battery design," Huang said. (The common belief of workers in the
field has been that batteries swell across their diameter, not
Huang's group found this flaw by
following the progression of the lithium ions as they travel along the
nanowire and create what researchers christened the "Medusa
front" -- an area where high density of mobile dislocations cause
the nanowire to bend and wiggle as the front progresses. The web of
dislocations is caused by lithium penetration of the crystalline lattice.
"These observations prove that nanowires can sustain large stress
(>10 GPa) induced by lithiation without breaking, indicating that
nanowires are very good candidates for battery electrodes," said
Huang."Our observations -- which initially surprised us -- tell
battery researchers how these dislocations are generated, how they evolve
during charging, and offer guidance in how to mitigate them," Huang
said. "This is the closest view to what's happening during charging
of a battery that researcher have achieved so far."
expansion, plasticity and pulverization of electrode materials are the
major mechanical defects that plague the performance and lifetime of
high-capacity anodes in lithium-ion batteries, Huang said. "So our
observations of structural kinetics and amorphization [the change from
normal crystalline structure] have important implications for high-energy
battery design and in mitigating battery failure."
The electronic noise level
generated from the researchers' measurement system was too high to read
electrical currents, but Sandia co-author John Sullivan estimated a
current level of a picoampere flowing in the nanowire during charging and
discharging. The nanowire was charged to a potential of about 3.5 volts,
A picoampere is a millionth of a
microampere. A microampere is a millionth of an ampere.
The reason that atomic-scale examination
of the charging and discharging process of a single nanowire had not been
possible was because the high vacuum in a TEM made it difficult to use a
liquid electrolyte. Part of the Huang group's achievement was to
demonstrate that a low-vapor-pressure ionic liquid -- essentially, molten
salt -- could function in the vacuum environment.
Although the work was carried out using
tin oxide (SnO2) nanowires, the experiments can be extended to other
materials systems, either for cathode or anode studies, Huang said.
"The methodology that we developed
should stimulate extensive real-time studies of the microscopic processes
in batteries and lead to a more complete understanding of the mechanisms
governing battery performance and reliability," he said. "Our
experiments also lay a foundation for in-situ studies of electrochemical
reactions, and will have broad impact in energy storage, corrosion,
electrodeposition and general chemical synthesis research field."
Other researchers contributing to this
work include Xiao Hua Liu, Nicholas Hudak, Arunkumar Subramanian and Hong
You Fan, all of Sandia; Li Zhong, Scott Mao and Li Qiang Zhang of the
University of Pittsburgh; Chong Min Wang and Wu Xu of Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory; and Liang Qi, Akihiro Kushima and Ju Li of the
University of Pennsylvania.
Funding came from Sandia's Laboratory
Directed Research and Development Office and the Department of Energy's
Office of Science through the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and
the Energy Frontier Research Centers program.
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