Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have accidentally – yes, accidentally – discovered a nanowire-based technology that could lead to batteries that can be charged hundreds of thousands of times.
Mya Le Thai, a PhD candidate at the university, explained in a paper published this week that she and her colleagues used nanowires, a material that is several thousand times thinner than a human hair, extremely conductive and has a surface area large enough to support the storage and transfer of electrons.
Nanowires are extremely fragile and don’t usually hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, or cycling. They expand and grow brittle in a typical lithium-ion battery, but Le Thai’s team fixed this by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and then placing it in a Plexiglas-like gel to improve its reliability. All by accident.
The breakthrough could lead to laptop, smartphone and tablet batteries that last forever.
Reginald Penner, chairman of UCI’s chemistry department, said: “Mya was playing around and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it.
“She discovered that just by using this gel she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity. That was crazy, because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”
The battery-like structure was tested more than 200,000 times over a three-month span, and the researchers reported no loss of capacity or power.
“The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option,” Thai said. “This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.”
The breakthrough also paves the way for commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in appliances, cars and spacecraft.
British fuel-cell maker Intelligent Energy Holdings announced earlier this year that it is working on a smartphone battery that will need to be charged only once a week.
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) said that’s they have discovered how to increase the tensile strength of nanowires that could be used to make lithium-ion batteries last virtually forever.
Researchers have pursued using nanowires in batteries for years because the filaments, thousands of times thinner than a human hair, are highly conductive and have a large surface area for the storage and transfer of electrons.
The problem they have encountered, however, is that nanowires are also extremely fragile and don’t hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, known as “cycling.” For example, in a typical lithium-ion battery, they expand and grow brittle, which leads to cracking.
UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai solved the brittleness conundrum by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and encasing the assembly in an electrolyte made of a Plexiglas-like gel. The combination, they said, is reliable and resistant to failure.
The findings were published today in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters. Hard work combined with serendipity paid off in this case, according to senior author Reginald Penner.
“Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department, said in a statement. “She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity.”
“That was crazy,” he added, “because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”
The researchers believe the gel plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery and gives it flexibility, preventing cracking.
Thai, the study’s leader, cycled the nanowire-enhanced electrode up to 200,000 times over three months without detecting any loss of capacity or power and without fracturing any nanowires.
“All nanowire capacitors can be extended from 2000 to 8000 cycles to more than 100,000 cycles, simply by replacing a liquid electrolyte with a… gel electrolyte,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
The result: commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft.
By 2020, 40% of Ford’s vehicles will include EV models, the company said. The move represents Ford’s largest-ever EV investment in a five-year period, it said.
Ford also announced a new Focus Electric, which features a new direct current (DC) fast-charge capability that can charge a vehicle to 80% capacity in around 30 minutes, offering an estimated 100-mile range. That’s about two hours faster than today’s Focus Electric. The new Focus Electric will go into production late next year.
By comparison, Tesla’s Supercharger technology can achieve an 80% vehicle charge in 40 minutes, but with just a 30-minute charge the vehicle can travel about 170 miles.
Last year, Tesla open-sourced its Supercharger technology, hoping to spur the market by offering it to any car company that wanted to duplicate it.
Ford also plans to introduce a new instrument cluster for its EVs. The new “SmartGauge with EcoGuide LCD Instrument Cluster” will offer multiple customizable displays that can help the driver see real-time EV power usage to help maximize vehicle efficiency.
Brake Coach, another smart feature Ford will introduce in its new EV lineup, will “coach” a driver on how to use smooth braking to maximize the energy captured through the regenerative braking system.
Regenerative braking systems recapture kinetic energy created when pressure is applied to a vehicle’s disk brakes and convert it into electricity used to charge the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery. The more energy a driver captures through braking, the more energy is returned to the vehicle’s battery.
“The challenge going forward isn’t who provides the most technology in a vehicle but who best organizes that technology in a way that most excites and delights people,” Raj Nair, executive vice president of Ford’s product development division. “By observing consumers, we can better understand which features and strengths users truly use and value and create even better experiences for them going forward.”
Some iPad Pro owners have reported strange behavior in their new 12.9-inch tablets. Normally when you charge a device, unless the battery has completely died, the screen remains responsive. But some iPad Pros are completely freezing, then dying, after a recharge. The problem appears to be widespread — Apple’s support communities are filled with complaints about the issue.
Apple knows about the problem, but hasn’t said why it’s happening. There doesn’t seem to be a real fix for it, either — at least not yet. The company published a support document on Thursday advising Pro users to force restart their tablets to bring them back to life, but that’s not really a long-term solution, because the issue is ongoing.
“When I connect my iPad Pro to the charger for more than an hour, it goes dead,” one iPad Pro owner reported in the Apple support forum. “It takes multiple hard resets to bring it back to life.”
MacRumors first reported the iPad Pro issue last Monday, just days after the supersized tablets began shipping, and even experienced the problem with one of its own tablets. Apple employees are reportedly advising a range of solutions, from using iTunes to restore settings to performing a hard restart, as Apple is now officially recommending.
We’ll update this story when Apple pushes out a fix for the problem.
The battery is based on the same lithium ion chemistry used in cellphone batteries today but gets its advantage from atoms of graphite bonded to the anode, Huawei said on Friday at an industry conference in Japan.
That change means faster charging but not at the expense of usage life or a sacrifice in the amount of energy that can be stored in each battery, it said.
It was developed by Huawei research and development subsidiary Watt Lab and the company showed off two prototypes in videos posted online.
One of the two batteries has a capacity of 3,000mAh (milliampere hours) — about equivalent to the batteries in modern smartphones — and can be charged to 48 percent of capacity in five minutes. The second has a much smaller capacity of 600mAh but reaches 68 percent of capacity in just two minutes.
The batteries have undergone repeated testing and the fast charging isn’t a one-time deal, the company said.
Huawei didn’t say when the fast charging might make its way into commercial products.
The announcement is one of a number this year that all point toward faster charging or longer battery life. Advances in battery technology have lagged other areas of technology and battery life remains a limiting factor for gadgets such as phones and larger products like electric vehicles.
Put your Android whatever back in its sand bucket. It is facing another threat. This one is spooky sounding and has been dubbed Ghost Push by Yang Yang and Jordan Pan of the Trend Micro security labs outfit.
The threat presents itself to people who download things from untrusted third-party stores, which is not everyone, and seems to behave in a way that is sophisticated – unlike perhaps people who download things from untrusted sites. Ghost Push is not new and neither is this method of infection.
“Halloween is still a month from now yet Android users are already being haunted by the previously reported Ghost Push malware, which roots devices and makes them download unwanted ads and apps. The malware is usually packaged with apps that users may download from third-party app stores,” said Yang and Pan.
“Further investigation of Ghost Push revealed more recent variants which, unlike older ones, employ routines that make them harder to remove and detect.”
Pan and Yang said that there are some 20 variants of Ghost Push in the wild, and that the threat has been active since April. It has ramped itself up during September and is presenting the worst side of itself in India and Indonesia, where 32 and 24 percent of infected devices can be found.
Trend does not think that this ghost theme is related to the XcodeGhost malware that bothers iOS users, but it does think that someone quite sophisticated is behind the attacks.
“It is likely that a team of cyber criminals are behind Ghost Push and they are not exactly new to the malware creation industry,” the researchers wrote.
“This group has already published 658 different malicious applications (1,259 different versions) in third-party app stores unrelated to Ghost Push. One of these apps has infected more than 100,000 devices, two more than 10,000 and seven more than 1,000.”
Third-party download sites are the reason for most of the affected devices and applications, but Yang and Pan said that a couple made it through to the official Google Play store.
“We also found two legitimate apps unrelated to Ghost Push that the same creators published on Google Play, which have since been removed,” they said, explaining that these apps accumulated some 10,000 downloads before being pulled.
“These show that this group possesses ample technical knowledge to effectively victimise thousands of devices and evade detection,” Yang and Pan said.
Once a device is infected the malware can launch other applications and services and steal personal information.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have found a way for wearables to communicate through a person’s body instead of the air around it. Their work could lead to devices that last longer on smaller batteries and don’t give away secrets as easily as today’s systems do.
The proliferation of smartphones, smart watches, health monitoring devices and other gear carried close to the body has led to so-called personal area networks that link the gadgets together and provide a path to the Internet through one that has a Wi-Fi or cell radio. Today, those PANs use short-range over-the-air systems like Bluetooth.
But radio technologies like Bluetooth can’t transmit well through the body itself, so they have to go around it. Bluetooth signals can travel as far as 10 meters (30 feet) which increases the chance of eavesdropping and leads to high “path loss,” an effect that weakens signals on the way to their destinations, the researchers said.
A team led by Professor Patrick Mercier of the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has discovered a way to use the body itself as the medium for data transmission. It uses magnetic fields and shows path loss that’s 10 million times lower than what happens with Bluetooth.
This could make the magnetic networks much more efficient, so devices don’t have to work as hard to communicate and can have smaller batteries — or get longer useful lives with the same size batteries. The team hasn’t actually tested the system’s energy use yet. They envision the technology being used for networks of health sensors that monitor many parts of the body.
Wireless technologies like Bluetooth radiate electrical and magnetic waves, which a human body tends to absorb, Mercier said. By contrast, his team’s network transmits data over magnetic fields that are created between two coils. Those fields can easily travel through the body. The system works like NFC (near-field communications), but at a slightly longer range.
According to reports, Intelligent Energy has created a working iPhone 6 prototype that looks no different from any other iPhone 6 except for tiny vents in the rear that allow imperceptible amounts of water vapor to escape.
The prototype contains both a rechargeable battery and its own hydrogen fuel cell, according to a report in the Telegraph.
Hydrogen fuel cells generate energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen; the only emission from the process is water.
Fuel cells supply hydrogen to a negative anode (an electrode through which electrical current flows), releasing electrons. The electrons then flow to a positive cathode (another electrode) to generate electricity. In addition, after releasing electrons, the hydrogen becomes a hydrogen ion moving to positive cathode and bonding with oxygen in the air, forming water.
Hydrogen is the simplest and most common molecule known to exist. Because of that, it is a part of almost every other substance, such as water and hydrocarbons. Hydrogen is also found in biomass, which includes all plants and animals.
Intelligent Energy has produced more than 2,000 patents related to fuel cells, which it has used to create batteries for cars and a portable recharger called the Upp. The Upp is a mini-hydrogen fuel cell that charges any USB-compatible mobile device, including smartphones, tablets, portable gaming consoles or digital cameras.
Like any fuel cell, the one in Intelligent Energy’s iPhone requires recharging with hydrogen gas. Intelligent Energy said that could be done through an adapted headphone socket.
Intelligent Energy is now working on a commercial version of the smartphone fuel cell that would be in the form of a small cartridge that fits into the bottom of a phone. The cartridge would supply power for a week and could be discarded after use.
Twenty-six-year-old Kuniako Saito and his team at Cocoa Motors recently unveiled the lithium battery-powered “WalkCar” transporter, which is the size of a laptop and resembles a skateboard more than a car.
The slender WalkCar is made from aluminum and weighs between two and three kilograms (4.4 to 6.6 pounds), depending on whether it is an indoor or outdoor version.
Saito expects to see many other uses for his transporter, as he says it has enough power to help people push wheelchairs with ease. The lightweight aluminum board is stronger than it looks, and can take loads of up to 120kg (265 pounds).
It reaches top speeds of 10 kilometers per hour (6.2 miles per hour), for distances of up to 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) after three hours of charging.
Its developer says it’s also extremely simple to ride. Once the rider stands on it the WalkCar starts automatically, while simply stepping off stops the vehicle. To change direction, the user just shifts their weight.
Best of all, there is no need to find a parking space, because it fits into a small bag when not in use.
Saito said his studies in electric car motor control systems sparked the idea for the new kind of ride.
“I thought, “what if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn’t that mean we’d always have our transportation with us to ride on?” and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems,” he told Reuters.
Saito says he is confident that WalkCar goes beyond bulkier devices such as the Segway or Toyota’s Winglet.
Workhorse isn’t as high profile as Amazon or Google, but it demonstrated an eight-rotor delivery drone designed to work with its electric trucks and use some of the same battery technology.
“Our concept is, you have a package-delivery drone that rides on top of a truck as the driver goes about his day, and helps to pick off outliers on his route to help cut down on the cost of delivery per package,” said Elliot Bokeno, a mechanical engineer with Workhorse, who demonstrated the drone at a conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.
If a driver had four deliveries in one part of town but only one in another, the drone might be able to handle that single, less convenient delivery.
The technology combines autonomous and manual control.
GPS is used to determine the delivery location, and the drone flies there without any human input, Bokeno said. But when it gets to the address, a downward-pointing camera switches on and an operator at a remote center takes over.
The operator guides the drone down, making sure to avoid people and obstacles, and releases the package. The drone then resumes autonomous flight and makes its way back to the truck.
In tests, the drone has flown as fast at 55 mph and has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. The company is working with Panasonic, which provides batteries for Workhorse’s electric vehicles, on more advanced battery technology that will increase flight times to 45 minutes.
Bokeno said his company has already talked to several package delivery companies about using its technology.
For now, tests of the technology over relatively short distances continue. Workhorse is collaborating with the University of Cincinnati and hopes to begin multi-mile delivery tests soon.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is backing a requirement that the country’s telecom carriers warn residential and business customers about plans to retire copper telephone networks for IP-based systems.
A proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would also require telecom carriers retiring their copper networks to offer customers the option of purchasing battery backup systems so that they don’t lose voice service during an electrical power outage, officials said Friday. IP-based voice service depends on working Internet service, which, in turn, requires electricity.
The old copper-based phone service works without electrical service available at the customer’s address, and a loss of voice service during power outages is one of the major concerns of consumer groups as major telecom carriers move to retire their decades-old copper networks.
Wheeler’s proposal, likely to be voted on by the commission during its Aug. 6 meeting, would require telecom providers that are retiring copper to make battery backup systems with eight hours of standby power available to affected customers, either through the carriers themselves or for third-party retailers. Voice customers would have to pay for the battery backups, which now cost $40 and up, but they could choose whether or not they want the backup.
Most consumers and consumer groups in contact with the FCC wanted the option to purchase battery backup from sources other than carriers, an FCC official said. Requiring battery backup systems during VoIP installs could have discouraged customers from signing up for the service, he added.
Within three years, carriers would have to offer a battery backup option with 24 hours of standby power, under the rules proposed by Wheeler.
Telecom carriers retiring their copper would also have to alert customers that their old telephone service was going away. Telecom carriers currently aren’t required to notify customers, but under the proposed rules, residential customers would get a three-month warning, and business customers would get a six-month warning, agency officials said during a press briefing.
Telecom carriers would also have to notify interconnecting carriers of their copper retirement plans, and competitors using the existing copper to provide business voice and Internet services would be eligible to receive similar pricing deals from the large incumbent carriers, the FCC said.
Hyundai, the largest carmaker in South Korea, began selling its Tuscon Fuel Cell SUV last year, but only 273 out of a target 1,000 vehicles were purchased or leased.
Most of the Tuscon Fuel Cell vehicles, which retail for $76,000, were purchased in Europe and California, according to reports confirmed by Hyundai America.
Over the next four years, Hyundai plans to invest another $10 billion in hybrid cars, electric battery vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell models.
Fuel cell vehicles, however, represent a better opportunity for growing sales — even over electric vehicles — because there is less market competition, according to Kim Sae Hoon, general manager at Hyundai’s fuel cell engineering design team.
The hydrogen vehicles also offer grater flexibility for designers, in that they can scale in size from small cars to buses, Hoon said.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are already being used in trucks and buses. That’s an advantage for hydrogen vehicles since all-electric engines don’t perform as well in larger vehicles, which require bigger batteries that need more charging, according to Devin Lindsay, IHS Automotive’s senior analyst.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles emit only water vapor as exhaust. They also have remarkable advantages over all-electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model S, in that they can travel 300 miles on a tank of fuel and can refuel in just five minutes. By comparison, a Tesla using the company’s so-called “Superchargers” requires at least 20 minutes to achieve a half-charged battery. A full charge will provide a range of up to 265 miles.
High prices and the dearth of fueling stations are barriers to sales of fuel cell vehicles. Hyundai said it will be another 10 years before hydrogen cars start gaining wider acceptance. Today, hybrid cars and electric vehicles are dominating the green-vehicle market.
As was the case with all-electric vehicles when they first emerged in the mid-2000s, high prices and the lack of fueling stations have stifled uptake of fuel cell vehicles. In a statement, Hyundai said it will take another decade before hydrogen cars gain wider acceptance.
The Mercedes-Benz energy storage plants for private use are available for order now and are expected to ship in September.
The batteries were first developed for cars, but Mercedes-Benz said the energy storage units “meet the very highest safety and quality standards” for home use.
Up to eight battery modules with an energy capacity of 2.5 kWh can be combined into an energy storage plant with a capacity of 20 kWh.
“Households with their own photovoltaic systems can thus buffer surplus solar power virtually free of any losses,” the carmaker said in a statement.
What wasn’t announced by Mercedes-Benz was information about the size of or pricing for the new batteries.
In May, Tesla announced its Powerwall batteries for home use and its Powerpack batteries for commercial use. Today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced his company would double the power output of the Powerwall batteries but keep their prices the same.
Tesla’s Powerwall batteries will go from having a two-kilowatt (kW) steady power output and 3.3kW peak output to a 5kW steady output and 7kW peak output, Musk said. The price of the batteries will remain the same: $3,000 for the 7kW/hour (KWh) daily cycle version and $3,500 for the 10kWh backup UPS version. Total installation cost will run around $4,000, according to Musk.
Up to nine Powerwall battery units can be daisy-chained together on a wall to provide up to 90kWh of power.
The average U.S. household uses about 20 kWh to 25 kWh of power every day, according to GTM Research.
Tesla Energy’s new commercial-grade battery is called the Powerpack, and will sell in 100kWh modules for $25,000 each. Musk said the Powerpack can scale infinitely, even powering factories and small cities.
Mercedes-Benz’s batteries, being produced by subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive, are its first industrial-scale lithium-ion units, and they’ve already been tested “on the grid,” the company said.
Ossia originally announced its Cota wireless charging technology, in 2013, saying the antenna and chipset could receive power from wireless transmissions up to 30 feet away.
The company announced that mobile device makers can now integrate its Cota chipset into mobile products without adding additional antennas; the chip simply uses the antenna that comes with the mobile device to receive power.
Ossia’s Cota remote wireless power receiver uses a mobile device’s existing antenna, eliminating internal coils needed by magnetic induction wireless charging systems that dominate the market today.
“Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas can perform double duty as both data and Cota wireless power receivers,” the company said in a statement.
Hatem Zeine, CEO of Ossia and inventor of the Cota system, said the technology addresses internal mobile device “real estate” that limits what can be placed, not only inside smartphones and tablets, but also more compact wearable devices, all of which are increasingly thinner and lighter.
Additonally, the Cota chipset can be used in stationary technology, such as in smoke detectors or even AA or AAA batteries, to keep them fully charged.
The Cota technology consists of two parts: a charger and a receiver. The internal Cota receivers charge batteries and send out omnidirectional beacon signals. Once the Cota charger receives these beacons, it returns thousands of targeted signals that build pockets of energy at only the precise locations of the beacons’ origins.
“This pinpoint precision targeting of energy safely and efficiently powers all Cota-equipped devices and batteries within its effective radius, even as they move around the room,” Cota said in its marketing material.
Cota claims its technology is “inherently safe.” Its tracking beacons use only about 1/10,000th the signal power of Wi-Fi, which itself is a low-power signal.
Ossia hopes to begin shipping its Cota technology to equipment makers this year.
HTC and Samsung Electronics impressed Mobile World Congress attendees with new high-end smartphones, but they won’t be the only game in town for long: LG Electronics and Huawei Technologies are gearing up to announce new devices next month.
The shortage of new flagship smartphones at the show was a bit of a disappointment. But for those who weren’t entirely convinced by the HTC One M9, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 or the Galaxy S6 edge, more devices are on the way for buyers who aren’t afraid of pricier products.
The most highly anticipated is the successor to the LG G3, which unsurprisingly is expected to be called the G4. LG has so far kept quiet on when the smartphone will be unveiled, but an event is expected to take place in April. To steal some of Samsung’s thunder, the company would do well to at least start posting teasers before April 10, which is when the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge go on sale.
In light of the growing focus on design at Mobile World Congress, it wouldn’t be surprising if LG uses better materials for the G4 than it did for the G3. But don’t necessarily bet on a nice high-end, all-metal design or a metal frame combined with a glass back (which the Galaxy S6 has).
The G3 might be made of plastic but it looked much better than the Galaxy S5. So, LG isn’t under as much pressure as Samsung was to update the looks of its flagship. Also, sticking with plastic allows the company to keep the price down.
The specifications for LG’s new smartphone are the subject of multiple rumors, and include a screen with a 1620 x 2880 pixel resolution. But I am keeping my fingers crossed for a 5.3-inch screen that keeps the G3′s 1440 by 2560 pixel resolution.
That would mean shrinking the screen size from 5.5 to 5.3 inches, which might seem like a strange move, but to me the G3 feels a bit too wide. Also, LG has shown it isn’t averse to the concept: the G Flex2 has a 5.5-inch screen instead of the 6-inch screen on the G Flex.
While LG is quiet on its plans for the G4 launch, Huawei has started to post teasers for an event on April 8. The date likely isn’t a random pick, since the company is expected to present the P8. It also comes before the Samsung ship date.