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Sodium-based batteries could be great alternative to lithium

New evidence suggests batteries based on sodium and potassium hold promise as a potential alternative to lithium-based batteries.

The growth in battery technology has led to concerns that the world’s supply of lithium, the metal at the heart of many of the new rechargeable batteries, may eventually be depleted.

“One of the biggest obstacles for sodium- and potassium-ion batteries has been that they tend to decay and degrade faster and hold less energy than alternatives,” says Matthew McDowell, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech.

“But we’ve found that’s not always the case,” he adds.

For the study, which appears in the journal Joule, the research team looked at how three different ions—lithium, sodium, and potassium—reacted with particles of iron sulfide, also called pyrite and fool’s gold.

As batteries charge and discharge, ions are constantly reacting with and penetrating the particles that make up the battery electrode. This reaction process causes large volume changes in the electrode’s particles, often breaking them up into small pieces. Because sodium and potassium ions are larger than lithium, it’s traditionally been thought that they cause more significant degradation when reacting with particles.

In their experiments, the reactions that occur inside a battery were directly observed inside an electron microscope, with the iron sulfide particles playing the role of a battery electrode. The researchers found that iron sulfide was more stable during reaction with sodium and potassium than with lithium, indicating that such a battery based on sodium or potassium could have a much longer life than expected.

The difference between how the different ions reacted was stark visually. When exposed to lithium, iron sulfide particles appeared to almost explode under the electron microscope. On the contrary, the iron sulfide expanded like a balloon when exposed to the sodium and potassium.

“We saw a very robust reaction with no fracture—something that suggests that this material and other materials like it could be used in these novel batteries with greater stability over time,” says graduate student Matthew Boebinger.

The study also casts doubt on the notion that large volume changes that occur during the electrochemical reaction are always a precursor to particle fracture, which causes electrode failure leading to battery degradation.

The researchers suggest that one possible reason for the difference in how the different ions reacted with the iron sulfide is that the lithium was more likely to concentrate its reaction along the particle’s sharp cube-like edges, whereas the reaction with sodium and potassium was more diffuse along all of the surface of the iron sulfide particle.

As a result, the iron sulfide particle when reacting with sodium and potassium developed a more oval shape with rounded edges.

While there’s still more work to be done, the new research findings could help scientists design battery systems that use these types of novel materials.

Sugar cubes solve big problem with lithium metal batteries

“Lithium batteries are still the most attractive right now because they have the most energy density—you can pack a lot of energy in that space,” McDowell says.

“Sodium and potassium batteries at this point don’t have more density, but they are based on elements a thousand times more abundant in the earth’s crust than lithium. So they could be much cheaper in the future, which is important for large scale energy storage—backup power for homes or the energy grid of the future.”

The National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy funded the research. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.

Source: Georgia Tech

The post Sodium-based batteries could be great alternative to lithium appeared first on Futurity.

The Weather Channel’s new storm graphics are totally insane

Spoiler alert: A tornado literally rips apart the studio during a live broadcast.

This week, the Weather Channel launched a new broadcast technology dubbed Immersive Mixed Reality. “Using the power of advanced, real-time graphic renderings and visual effects . . . TWC is pioneering new methods of broadcast presentation for real-time immersive storytelling,” the company explained.

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Pax’s clever new app stops you from getting too high

Pot is increasingly legal, but newb smokers need help. Enter the power of good design to get you high with less risk.

Pax, the pocket vaporizer company that’s sold more than 2 million units to date, is announcing a major update to help its customers get high. Called Session Control, it’s an update to the company’s app that lets you set how much you want to vape at once. Previously, you could vape limitless amounts of pot until the cartridge was empty.

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Read Elon Musk’s email alleging there is a saboteur at Tesla

The CEO emailed every employee at his car company on Monday night alleging a fellow employee conducted “quite extensive and damaging sabotage” to the company by altering internal product code and exporting company data to outsiders, reports CNBC. The email states that Musk is not sure if the rogue employee was working alone or if he had other accomplices at Tesla. Here is Musk’s email in full:

To: Everybody

Subject: Some concerning news

June 17, 2018

11:57 p.m.

I was dismayed to learn this weekend about a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations. This included making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.

The full extent of his actions are not yet clear, but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad. His stated motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive. In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move.

However, there may be considerably more to this situation than meets the eye, so the investigation will continue in depth this week. We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations.

As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die. These include Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lot more. Then there are the oil & gas companies, the wealthiest industry in the world — they don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power & electric cars. Don’t want to blow your mind, but rumor has it that those companies are sometimes not super nice. Then there are the multitude of big gas/diesel car company competitors. If they’re willing to cheat so much about emissions, maybe they’re willing to cheat in other ways?

Most of the time, when there is theft of goods, leaking of confidential information, dereliction of duty or outright sabotage, the reason really is something simple like wanting to get back at someone within the company or at the company as a whole. Occasionally, it is much more serious.

Please be extremely vigilant, particularly over the next few weeks as we ramp up the production rate to 5k/week. This is when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us.

If you know of, see or suspect anything suspicious, please send a note to [email address removed for privacy] with as much info as possible. This can be done in your name, which will be kept confidential, or completely anonymously.

Looking forward to having a great week with you as we charge up the super exciting ramp to 5000 Model 3 cars per week!

Will follow this up with emails every few days describing the progress and challenges of the Model 3 ramp.

Thanks for working so hard to make Tesla successful,


3 brilliant design details from the new Microsoft Office

Microsoft is evolving Office 365 to be pretty darn tolerable.

Since the introduction of Google Docs, many of us avoid Microsoft Office like the plague. But Office is still a mainstay in business. Excel, for instance, is the untouchable spreadsheet champion of the world, which is why a remarkable 1 billion people on the planet still use the software suite. And for all of them, Microsoft is rolling out a series of welcome design updates that should make the experience better. The company is focusing on creating simplicity–but without costing users power.

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Silicon-perovskite solar cell cracks new efficiency record

The pyramid shapes of silicon's surface structure is clear in this microscope image

Silicon has long been the go-to material for solar cell technology, and for good reason: It’s inexpensive, it’s stable and it’s efficient. Unfortunately in that last regard silicon is fast approaching its theoretical limit, but pairing it up with other materials could help break through that ceiling. Now, researchers at EPFL and CSEM have developed a new technique for combining silicon and perovskite solar cells, and reported an efficiency of 25.2 percent – a record for that combination.

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Category: Energy


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Retro Onyx electric mopeds blur the line between e-bikes and motorcycles

These neo-retro e-bikes pack in enough power to raise the question: when do these things become ...

This pair of neo-retro e-bikes from the San Francisco-based Onyx Motorbikes convert from (allegedly) bike lane-legal getabouts to 60-mph, high-powered trail shredders at the touch of a button. The RCR makes a whopping 5,400 watts at full throttle, while the CTY is more commuting focused but still packs a punch.

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Category: Motorcycles


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Apple bans cryptocurrency mining on iPhones

Not that anyone would seriously use an iPhone to mine cryptocurrencies. Anyhow, Apple has updated its App Store Review Guidelines to explicitly ban the mining of cryptocurrencies on its iOS devices. An updated clause 2.4.2 now reads:

Design your app to use power efficiently. Apps should not rapidly drain battery, generate excessive heat, or put unnecessary strain on device resources. Apps, including any third-party advertisements displayed within them, may not run unrelated background processes, such as cryptocurrency mining.

It’s highly unlikely even the latest iPhone would have enough power to mine a single bitcoin, so Apple’s move seems more like a preemptive move to notify developers that such apps, which likely wouldn’t work and would only drain an iPhone’s resources, are a nonstarter. In other words: Don’t waste your time building them.

Microsoft deploys underwater data center off the coast of Scotland

Microsoft has submerged a data center in the ocean off the coast of Scotland

Water-cooling systems have long been used to keep computers from overheating, but how do you scale that up for huge data centers? According to Microsoft, you drop the data center to the bottom of the ocean. As the second phase of its Project Natick, the company has just deployed a data center in the frigid waters off Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

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Category: Computers


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