miércoles, 27 de diciembre de 2017

Scientists Develop A Battery That Can Run For More Than A Decade

Credit: Harvard University

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new flow battery that stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. This new chemistry allows for a
  • non-toxic,
  • non-corrosive battery
  • with an exceptionally long lifetime and
  • offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production.
The research, published in ACS Energy Letters, was led by Michael Aziz, the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies and Roy Gordon, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science.

A Neutral pH Aqueous Organic–Organometallic Redox Flow Battery with Extremely High Capacity Retention
Eugene S. Beh†‡ , Diana De Porcellinis†#, Rebecca L. Gracia∥, Kay T. Xia∥, Roy G. Gordon*†‡, and Michael J. Aziz*
† John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States
‡ Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States
# Department of Chemical Science and Technologies, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, 00133 Rome, Italy
∥ Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States
ACS Energy Lett., 2017, 2 (3), pp 639–644
DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.7b00019
Publication Date (Web): February 7, 2017
Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society
*E-mail: gordon@chemistry.harvard.edu., *E-mail: maziz@harvard.edu.

Abstract Image
We demonstrate an aqueous organic and organometallic redox flow battery utilizing reactants composed of only earth-abundant elements and operating at neutral pH. The positive electrolyte contains bis((3-trimethylammonio)propyl)ferrocene dichloride, and the negative electrolyte contains bis(3-trimethylammonio)propyl viologen tetrachloride; these are separated by an anion-conducting membrane passing chloride ions. Bis(trimethylammoniopropyl) functionalization leads to ∼2 M solubility for both reactants, suppresses higher-order chemical decomposition pathways, and reduces reactant crossover rates through the membrane. Unprecedented cycling stability was achieved with capacity retention of 99.9943%/cycle and 99.90%/day at a 1.3 M reactant concentration, increasing to 99.9989%/cycle and 99.967%/day at 0.75–1.00 M; these represent the highest capacity retention rates reported to date versus time and versus cycle number. We discuss opportunities for future performance improvement, including chemical modification of a ferrocene center and reducing the membrane resistance without unacceptable increases in reactant crossover. This approach may provide the decadal lifetimes that enable organic–organometallic redox flow batteries to be cost-effective for grid-scale electricity storage, thereby enabling massive penetration of intermittent renewable electricity.
Flow batteries store energy in liquid solutions in external tanks—the bigger the tanks, the more energy they store. Flow batteries are a promising storage solution for renewable, intermittent energy like wind and solar but today’s flow batteries often suffer degraded energy storage capacity after many charge-discharge cycles, requiring periodic maintenance of the electrolyte to restore the capacity.

By modifying the structures of molecules used in the positive and negative electrolyte solutions, and making them water soluble, the Harvard team was able to engineer a battery that loses only one percent of its capacity per 1000 cycles.

Lithium ion batteries don’t even survive 1000 complete charge/discharge cycles,” said Aziz.

Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement,” said Gordon. “If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn’t eat the concrete and since the medium is noncorrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build the components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps.

This reduction of cost is important. The Department of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of building a battery that can store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, which would make stored wind and solar energy competitive to energy produced from traditional power plants.

If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world,” said Aziz. “It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places. This research puts us one step closer to reaching that target.

This work on aqueous soluble organic electrolytes is of high significance in pointing the way towards future batteries with vastly improved cycle life and considerably lower cost,” said Imre Gyuk, Director of Energy Storage Research at the Office of Electricity of the DOE. “I expect that efficient, long duration flow batteries will become standard as part of the infrastructure of the electric grid.

The key to designing the battery was to first figure out why previous molecules were degrading so quickly in neutral solutions, said Eugene Beh, a postdoctoral fellow and first author of the paper. By first identifying how the molecule viologen in the negative electrolyte was decomposing, Beh was able to modify its molecular structure to make it more resilient.

Next, the team turned to ferrocene, a molecule well known for its electrochemical properties, for the positive electrolyte.

Ferrocene is great for storing charge but is completely insoluble in water,” said Beh. “It has been used in other batteries with organic solvents, which are flammable and expensive.

But by functionalizing ferrocene molecules in the same way as with the viologen, the team was able to turn an insoluble molecule into a highly soluble one that could also be cycled stably.

Aqueous soluble ferrocenes represent a whole new class of molecules for flow batteries,” said Aziz.

The neutral pH should be especially helpful in lowering the cost of the ion-selective membrane that separates the two sides of the battery. Most flow batteries today use expensive polymers that can withstand the aggressive chemistry inside the battery. They can account for up to one third of the total cost of the device. With essentially salt water on both sides of the membrane, expensive polymers can be replaced by cheap hydrocarbons.

This research was coauthored by Diana De Porcellinis, Rebecca Gracia, and Kay Xia. It was supported by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability of the DOE and by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

With assistance from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), the researchers are working with several companies to scale up the technology for industrial applications and to optimize the interactions between the membrane and the electrolyte. Harvard OTD has filed a portfolio of pending patents on innovations in flow battery technology.

ORIGINAL: Daily Accord
Credit: Harvard University
Feb 9, 2017 

domingo, 24 de diciembre de 2017

MIT Just Created Living Plants That Glow Like A Lamp, And Could Grow Glowing Trees To Replace Streetlights

Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts injected specialized nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant, which caused it to give off a dim light for nearly four hours. This could solve lots of problems.

The chemical involved, which produced enough light to read a book by, is the same as is used by fireflies to create their characteristic shine. To create their glowing plants, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) turned to an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light.
Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts created a watercress plant which caused it to glow for nearly four hours and gave off enough light to illuminate this book
Another molecule called Co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity. The MIT team packaged each of these components into a different type of nanoparticle carrier.

The nanoparticles help them to get to the right part of the plant and also prevent them from building to concentrations that could be toxic to the plants. The result was a watercress plant that functioned like a desk lamp.

Researchers believe with further tweaking, the technology could also be used to provide lights bright enough to illuminate a workspace or even an entire street, as well as low-intensity indoor lighting

Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study, said: 'The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don't have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself. Our work very seriously opens up the doorway to streetlamps that are nothing but treated trees, and to indirect lighting around homes.'

Luciferases make up a class of oxidative enzymes found in several species that enable them to 'bioluminesce', or emit light.
Fireflies are able to emit light via a chemical reaction.

In the chemical reaction luciferin is converted to oxyluciferin by the luciferase enzyme. Some of the energy released by this reaction is in the form of light. The reaction is highly efficient, meaning nearly all the energy put into the reaction is rapidly converted to light.

Lighting accounts for around 20 per cent of worldwide energy consumption, so replacing them with naturally bioluminescent plants would represent a significant cut to CO2 emissions. The researchers’ early efforts at the start of the project yielded plants that could glow for about 45 minutes, which they have since improved to 3.5 hours.

The light generated by one ten centimetre (four inch) watercress seedling is currently about one-thousandth of the amount needed to properly read by, but it was enough to illuminate the words on a page of John Milton's Paradise Lost.

The MIT team believes it can boost the light emitted, as well as the duration of light, by further optimising the concentration and release rates of the chemical components. For future versions of this technology, the team hopes to develop a way to paint or spray the nanoparticles onto plant leaves, which could make it possible to transform trees and other large plants into light sources. 

The researchers have also demonstrated that they can turn the light off by adding nanoparticles carrying a luciferase inhibitor. This could enable them to eventually create plants that shut off their light emission in response to environmental conditions such as sunlight, they say.

The full findings of the study were published in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

ORIGINAL: The Space Academy
December 18, 2017

viernes, 22 de diciembre de 2017

Electric eel inspires bio-friendly power source, what happens next may shock you

Could a device inspired by the electric eel offer a safer way to power medical implants?
Scientists are always on the lookout for safer, more natural ways to power devices that go into our bodies. After all, who really needs toxic battery elements and replacement surgery?

One organism that is pretty good at generating biocompatible power (for itself, at least) is the electric eel, and scientists have now used the high-voltage species as a blueprint for a promising new self-charging device that could one day power things like pacemakers, prosthetics and even augmented reality contact lenses.

Electric eels generate voltage through long stacks of thin cells that run end-on-end through their bodies. Called electrocytes, these cells create electricity by allowing sodium ions to rush into one end and potassium ions out the other, all at the same time. The voltage created by each cell is small, but together, the stacks within a single eel can generate as many as 600 V.

To recreate this effect, researchers from the University of Fribourg, the University of Michigan and the University of California San Diego turned to the difference in salinity between fresh and saltwater. They deposited hydrogel, ion-conducting blobs onto clear plastic sheets and separated them with ion-selective membranes.

Hundreds of blobs containing salt and freshwater were arranged in an alternating pattern. When the team had all these gel compartments make contact with one another, they were able to generate 100 V through what is known as reverse electrodialysis, where energy is generated through differing salt concentrations in the water.

While the eel triggers the simultaneous contact of its electrocytes using a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine as the command signal, the team achieved this by carefully working a special origami pattern – called a Miura-ori fold – into the plastic sheet. This meant that when pressure was applied to the sheet, it quickly snapped together and the cells shifted into exactly the right positions to create the electricity.

The device, which the team calls an artificial electric organ, isn't in the same ball park as an eel in terms of output, but the researchers do have some ideas around how to boost its efficiency. It points to the metabolic energy created by ion differences in the eel's stomach, or the mechanical muscle energy, as some of the possibilities, but does note that recreating these would be a major challenge.

"The electric organs in eels are incredibly sophisticated, they're far better at generating power than we are," Mayer said. "But the important thing for us was to replicate the basics of what's happening."

The research was published in the journal Nature. You can hear from Mayer in the video below.


Source: University of Fribourg, University of Michigan

Nick Lavars
December 14th, 2017

jueves, 14 de diciembre de 2017

512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson
A recently identified 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the world’s oldest living vertebrate. Although scientists discovered the 18-foot fish in the North Atlantic months ago, its age was only recently revealed in a study published in the journal Science. Greenland sharks have the longest lifespan of any vertebrate animal, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the species would boast the oldest living individual vertebrate as well. Nonetheless, the fact that this creature may have been born as early as 1505 is remarkable. “It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said marine biologist Julius Nelson, whose research team studied the shark’s longevity.

Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson
To determine the shark’s age, scientists used a mathematical model that analyzes the lens and cornea of a shark’s eye and links size of the shark to its age. Greenland sharks grow at a rate of about 1 centimeter per year, which allowed scientists to estimate a particular shark’s age. The ability to measure the age of this mysterious shark is relatively new. “Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success,” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1,000 years.

Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson
The Greenland shark thrives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Despite its considerable size, comparable to that of a great white shark, the Greenland shark is a scavenger and has never been observed hunting. Its diet primarily consists of fish, though remains of reindeer, polar bear, moose, and seals have been found in the species’ stomachs. To cope with life in deep water, the living tissues of a Greenland shark contains high levels of trimethylamine N-oxide, which makes the meat toxic. However, when the flesh is fermented, it can be consumed, as it is in Iceland as a dish known as Kæstur hákarl.

Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson

ORIGINAL: Inhabitat
by Greg Beach