10 Most-Read Friday Features for 2015

January 07, 2016 by Power Pulse1595211359

The "Friday Features" on PowerPulse are staff-written articles presenting readers with insights into the latest developments in power electronics and energy at university and government research laboratories. These stories span the globe from Asia to Europe and North America. The following are the ten most-read Friday features from the past year:

10: Knitting Supercapacitors and Spinning Cotton into Capacitive Yarn

Using industrial knitting machines in the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Laboratory, Drexel University researchers are searching for the best capacitive yarn to use in energy storage textiles. While the pattern for making a wearable fabric battery has already been laid out, it's now time to select the threads that will turn a textile into an energy storage device. That process is being driven by Drexel University doctoral student Kristy Jost, who's threaded her way into the forefront of research on conductive yarns. more

9: Wireless Charging and Discharging for Electric Vehicles

In the future, a wireless charging system will allow electric cars not only to charge their batteries, but also to feed energy back into the power grid, helping to stabilize it. The cost-effective charging system achieves high levels of efficiency across the whole power range, from 400 Watts to 3.6 kiloWatts, while the car and the charging coil can be up to 20 centimeters apart. Fraunhofer researchers are presenting their prototype from September 15 to 18, 2015 at the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt (Hall 4, Booth D33). more

8: Solar Chip Monitors Windows

A new kind of radio chip is intended to warn when windows are left open. This way, you can avoid having the heat go out the window on cold days. The sensor also detects break-in attempts early on. The key: This maintenance-free chip powers up with energy supplied by solar power. It happens all too often in the cold times of the year, you open the window in the morning for fresh air and forget to shut it again. A thermostat reports cold temperatures, and the heating is turned up full blast - right out the window. But open windows are a problem with more than just the heating or storms. A window tilted open, for example, is a direct invitation to intruders. It would be desirable to have an automated system that notices open windows and sends an alarm signal to the tenant. more

7: Quantum Weirdness: Atoms only Exist when Measured

The bizarre nature of reality as laid out by quantum theory has survived another test, with scientists performing a famous experiment and proving that reality does not exist until it is measured. Physicists at The Australian National University (ANU) have conducted John Wheeler's delayed-choice thought experiment, which involves a moving object that is given the choice to act like a particle or a wave. Wheeler's experiment then asks - at which point does the object decide? more

6: California's PV Incentive Program Claimed to be Suboptimal

Since 2007, California has had one of the most aggressive incentive programs in the country for putting solar-electric panels on the rooftops of homes and businesses. Its $2.2 billion California Solar Initiative (CSI) has provided a per-watt rebate for installing residential and commercial photovoltaic systems. During this period, the solar industry in the state has experienced double-digit growth and to date has installed more than 245,000 systems capable of producing 2,365 megawatts of electricity. more

5: Iron Fluoride may Triple Capacity of Li-ion Batteries

In a move that could improve the energy storage of everything from portable electronics to electric microgrids, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Brookhaven National Laboratory researchers have developed a novel X-ray imaging technique to visualize and study the electrochemical reactions in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries containing a new type of material, iron fluoride. more

4: Magnesium Batteries may Outperform Li-ions

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have taken a significant step toward the development of a battery that could outperform the lithium-ion technology used in electric cars such as the Chevy Volt. They have shown they can replace the lithium ions, each of which carries a single positive charge, with magnesium ions, which have a plus-two charge, in battery-like chemical reactions, using an electrode with a structure like those in many of today's devices. more

3: Scientists create Quick-charging Hybrid Supercapacitors

The new hybrid supercapacitor developed at UCLA stores large amounts of energy, recharges quickly and can last for more than 10,000 recharge cycles. The dramatic rise of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other personal and portable electronics has brought battery technology to the forefront of electronics research. Even as devices have improved by leaps and bounds, the slow pace of battery development has held back technological progress. Researchers at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute have successfully combined two nanomaterials to create a new energy storage medium that combines the best qualities of batteries and supercapacitors. more

2: Researchers Driving Down the Cost of GaAs

Compared with other semiconductor materials, silicon has a crushing commercial advantage. It is roughly a thousand times cheaper to make. As a result, gallium arsenide (GaAs) based devices are only used in niche applications where their special capabilities justify their higher cost. Cellphones, for instance, typically rely on speedy gallium arsenide chips to process the high-frequency radio signals that arrive faster than silicon can handle. Now Stanford University researchers have invented a manufacturing process that could dramatically reduce the cost of making GaAs electronic devices and thus open up new uses for them, notably inside solar panels. more

1: MIT's Assessment of Tesla's Powerwall

Tesla Corporation launched its latest product at the end of April in Los Angeles with much fanfare and a promise to change the future. Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels and stores that power for use in the evening. The battery also is meant to insure against power outages by providing a backup electricity supply, and, Tesla says, it offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup. But is this new battery really all that revolutionary? more