- In this month’s focus on technology, I turn my attention to advances made in batteries and more broadly energy storage. One way to improve a battery is to improve the amount of energy it can store without increasing its weight. A startup, California Lithium Battery (CalBattery), has found a way to embed nano-silicon particles on graphite anodes (the electron collecting part of a battery) to improve the energy density of a lithium-ion battery by 300% without increasing it weight. In the past, silicon was too unstable for use in an anode; but silicon has a high energy potential making it a great compliment to the lightweight graphite base. A Stanford researcher has improved upon today’s lithium-ion rechargeable battery by using nanoparticles of sulfur surrounded by titanium-oxide. The sulfur inside the titanium shell can expand in the presence of lithium and bond with electrons released from the element, thereby creating a current. The titanium shell protects the sulfur from forming intermediate compounds when a lithium bond is formed. Tests show the sulfur-based cathodes (the electron creating part of a battery) store up to 5 times the energy as traditional lithium-ion batteries do today. Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have taken another approach to increasing the energy density of lithium-ion batteries by employing pure lithium metal for the anodes. Crushed, porous silicon anodes appear to have potential to increase the life of traditional lithium-ion batteries according to research from Rice Univeristy. Meanwhile, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute have extended the life of lithium-sulfur batteries by using a carbon backbone to which the sulfur is bound to in the cathodes. This bonding process slows down the degradation of sulfur to intermediate compounds.
Improving on traditional lithium-ion batteries is one approach to improving energy storage and so too is the creation of new battery compounds. For example, another team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory created lightweight, low-cost and energy dense batteries from a unique class of solid sulfur compounds. University of Maryland scientists used a sliver of wood covered with tin in an inexpensive, experimental sodium-ion battery which lasted 400 full charge cycles. Finally, US Department of Energy researchers developed a liquid battery that could be used for large-scale utility energy storage. Their system uses a piece of coated lithium metal surrounded by an organic solvent containing sulfur and lithium. Electrons move back and forth from the liquid to the coated metal without degradation or the need to filter the organic solvent.
- Now here is a highly debated topic, what do you call a tall glass of a carbonated beverage? A pop? Or a soda? Well, a graduate student at North Carolina State has an answer to the debate! And he put together a terrific series of maps that answers this question by geography. The maps are highly interactive and sortable by city. This online project include answers to 122 questions on dialects and word choices, for instance: Do you mow or cut the grass? What is ‘the City’? And what term do you use for the small road parallel to a highway?
- If you spend the time to Google, “GIS and trail design”, you might come across this article on ATV trail planning by Snyder et al. In their research study, the authors use a combination of ecological considerations and user preferences to design a looped trail in a Minnesota state forest. By employing least-cost path analysis, the authors developed a flexible toolset that can be supplemented with additional geographic information as it becomes available as well as work in any location. This sort of GIS analysis can complement the expertise of resource managers and politicians as the locations of new ATV trails are debated, designed and implemented to minimize environmental impacts while increasing their attractiveness to those who use them.
- From the Mid-Atlantic states we travel down the coast to look at the GIS resources of Florida’s biggest city, Jacksonville. Unlike our stop in Delaware, the Jacksonville GIS website is robust. It features several premade map displays with a ton of layers including zoning, schools, emergency support and so much more! The maps feature the standard suite of interactive tools such as zoom, query and print. The one drawback to the site is the inability to download the layers as shapefiles.
Brock Adam McCarty