Tag Archives: CLS

Stanford team adds new energy (with graphene and carbon nanotubes) to 100 year old battery design

A nickel-iron battery designed to be recharged 100 years ago by Thomas Edison for use in electric vehicles has been revived with the addition of graphene. From the June 26, 2012 news item by Mark Schwartz on EurekAlert,

Designed in the early 1900s to power electric vehicles, the Edison battery largely went out of favor in the mid-1970s. Today only a handful of companies manufacture nickel-iron batteries, primarily to store surplus electricity from solar panels and wind turbines.

“The Edison battery is very durable, but it has a number of drawbacks,” said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. “A typical battery can take hours to charge, and the rate of discharge is also very slow.”

Now, Dai and his Stanford colleagues have dramatically improved the performance of this century-old technology. The Stanford team has created an ultrafast nickel-iron battery that can be fully charged in about 2 minutes and discharged in less than 30 seconds. The results are published in the June 26 [2012] issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Here’s how the battery worked originally and what they’ve done to improve it,

Edison, an early advocate of all-electric vehicles, began marketing the nickel-iron battery around 1900. It was used in electric cars until about 1920. The battery’s long life and reliability made it a popular backup power source for railroads, mines and other industries until the mid-20th century.

Edison created the nickel-iron battery as an inexpensive alternative to corrosive lead-acid batteries. Its basic design consists of two electrodes – a cathode made of nickel and an anode made of iron – bathed in an alkaline solution. “Importantly, both nickel and iron are abundant elements on Earth and relatively nontoxic,” Dai noted.

Carbon has long been used to enhance electrical conductivity in electrodes. To improve the Edison battery’s performance, the Stanford team used graphene – nanosized sheets of carbon that are only one-atom thick – and multi-walled carbon nanotubes, each consisting of about 10 concentric graphene sheets rolled together.

“In conventional electrodes, people randomly mix iron and nickel materials with conductive carbon,” Wang explained. “Instead, we grew nanocrystals of iron oxide onto graphene, and nanocrystals of nickel hydroxide onto carbon nanotubes.”

This technique produced strong chemical bonding between the metal particles and the carbon nanomaterials, which had a dramatic effect on performance. “Coupling the nickel and iron particles to the carbon substrate allows electrical charges to move quickly between the electrodes and the outside circuit,” Dai said. “The result is an ultrafast version of the nickel-iron battery that’s capable of charging and discharging in seconds.”

The Stanford researchers created a 1-volt ‘graphene-enhanced’ nickel-iron prototype battery for experimentation in the lab. This battery can power a flashlight but the researchers are hoping to scale up so that the battery could be used for the electrical grid or transportation.

The lead author for the study is Hailiang Wang, a Stanford graduate student. Other co-authors of the study are postdoctoral scholars Yongye Liang and Yanguang Li, graduate student Ming Gong, and undergraduates Wesley Chang and Tyler Mefford also of Stanford; Jigang Zhou, Jian Wang and Tom Regier of Canadian Light Source, Inc.; and Fei Wei of Tsinghua University.

ETA: June 27, 2012: Here, by the way, is an electric vehicle powered by Edison’s battery circa 1910, downloaded from the Stanford University site (http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/june/ultrafast-edison-battery-062612.html) and courtesy of the US National Park  Service.

To demonstrate the reliability of the Edison nickel-iron battery, drivers rode a battery-powered Bailey in a 1,000-mile endurance run in 1910. Courtesy: US National Park Service

Canadian scientists get more light in deal with the US Argonne National Laboratory

Canada’s synchrotron, Canadian Light Source (based in Saskatchewan), has signed a new three-year deal with the US Dept. of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS)  that will give Canadian scientists more access to the APS facilities, according to the June 18, 2012 news item at the  Nanowerk website,

Seeking to solve some of today’s greatest global problems, scientists using x-ray light source facilities at national research laboratories in the United States and Canada are sharing more expertise.

The Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory agreed in January 2012 to a Partner User Proposal that cements a stronger working relationship between the two facilities for the next three years. These two premier light sources use different but complementary x-ray techniques to probe materials in order to understand chemical and structural behavior.

Tone Kunz’s June 18, 2012 news release for the APS provides details about the deal,

This new agreement will provide Canadian scientists with more research time to use the x-ray light source facilities and more time on a larger number of APS beamlines. Using varied x-ray and imaging capabilities will broaden the range of experiments Canadians may undertake at the APS to augment their research done at the Canadian Light Source. X-ray science offers potential solutions to a broad range of problems in surface, material, environmental and earth sciences, condensed matter physics, chemistry, and geosciences.

Since the Sector 20 beamlines became fully operational, scientists from Canada and other areas who have used these beamlines at the APS have produced an average of 51 scientific publications a year. This research includes the study of more effective mineral exploration strategies, ways to mitigate mine waste and mercury contamination, and novel ways to fabricate nanomaterials for use in fuel cells, batteries, and LEDs.

I had not realized how longstanding the  CLS/APS relationship has been,

Before the Canadian Light Source began operation in 2004, a Canadian group led by Daryl Crozier of Simon Fraser University, working in partnership with colleagues at the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, helped found the Sector 20 beamlines at the APS as part of the Pacific Northwest Consortium Collaborative Access Team, or PNC-CAT. Parts of this team were included in the X-ray Science Division of the APS when it was formed.

This long-standing partnership has led to scientifically significant upgrades to the beamline. The new agreement will provide the valuable manpower and expertise to allow the APS to continue to push the innovation envelope. [emphasis mine]

As I was reading Kunz’s news release I kept asking, what’s in it for the APS? Apparently they need more “manpower and expertise.” Unfortunately, their future plans are a little shy of detail,

Scientists from the APS and the Canadian Light Source will work together on R&D projects to improve light-source technology. In particular, scientists will upgrade even further the two beamlines at Sector 20 in four key areas. This will provide a unique capability to prepare and measure in situ films and interfaces, a new technique to create quantitative three-dimensional chemical maps of samples, and improved forms of spectroscopy to expand the range of elements and types of environments that can be examined.

What are the four key areas? For that matter, what is Sector 20? I suspect some of my readers have similar questions about my postings. It’s easy (especially if you write frequently) to forget that your readers may not be as familiar as you are with the subject matter.

(I wrote about the CLS and another deal with a synchrotron in the UK in my May 31, 2011 posting.)

Canadian Light Source and Diamond Light (UK) Synchrotrons

Two synchrotrons, Canadian Light Source (CLS [Saskatoon, Saskatchewan]) and Diamond Light Source (near Oxford, England) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). From the May 31, 2011 news item on physorg.com,

Making the power of synchrotron light available to more businesses, building new experimental equipment and developing new capabilities are three of the areas of collaboration in a trans-Atlantic memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Diamond Light Source Ltd. near Oxford and Canadian Light Source Inc. (CLS) in Saskatoon.

The agreement paves the way for the two synchrotron light sources to work together on joint projects related to their industrial science programmes, such as exchanges of staff, marketing materials, and coordinating access for clients to capabilities that are available at one synchrotron but not the other.

“Diamond and the CLS have been working closely together for some time,” said Josef Hormes, Executive Director of the CLS. “Now that we have this formal agreement, I am looking forward to a very bright future where the expertise of both our facilities can be combined to accomplish momentous things for fundamental and industrial science.

They don’t mention nanotechnology but synchrotrons can be used for subnanometre measurement and nanofabrication (National Light Source Synchrotron 2009 seminar with Dr. Lin Wang).  You can find out more about synchrotrons at the CLS Education webpage,

A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light that scientists can use to gather information about the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level.

A synchrotron produces the light by using powerful electro-magnets and radio frequency waves to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. Energy is added to the electrons as they accelerate so that, when the magnets alter their course, they naturally emit a very brilliant, highly focused light. Different spectra of light, such as Infrared, Ultraviolet, and X-rays, are directed down beamlines where researchers choose the desired wavelength to study their samples. The researchers observe the interaction between the light and the matter in their sample at the endstations (small laboratories).

This tool can be used to probe the matter and analyze a host of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes. Information obtained by scientists can be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces to develop more effective motor oils, build smaller, more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help with clean-up of mining wastes, to name just a few applications.

Quick Facts:

  • More than 40 synchrotron light sources have been built around the world. The Canadian synchrotron is competitive with the brightest facilities in Japan, the U.S. and Europe.
  • As of 2009, more than 2000 scientists have used the CLS.
  • More than 3,000 academic, industrial, and government researchers a year from across Canada and from other countries are expected to use the facility once the full complement of beamlines is developed. Beamlines carry the synchrotron light to scientific work stations capable of operating 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, approximately 42 weeks of the year.
  • Initially, the CLS will focus on research in three key areas:
    • mining, natural resources and the environment
    • advanced materials, information technologies and micro systems
    • biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medicine
  • The first synchrotrons were additions to facilities built to study subatomic physics. Synchrotron light was an annoyance to the researchers because it meant their electron beams lost energy every time they went through a bending magnet. However, the remarkable qualities of this light were soon recognized, and researchers began to come up with ways to use it.

Currently, CLSI has more than 130 employees. The work force of scientists, engineers, technicians, and administrators is growing to match additional CLSI users. Located in the midst of a research cluster on the north end of the University of Saskatchewan, next to Innovation Place, one of Canada’s leading high-tech industrial parks, CLSI strengthens Saskatoon’s reputation as “Science City” as a much-needed national R&D facility.

Intriguingly, they don’t mention the word radiation until the 2nd to last section, Salute to safety. In fact, it wasn’t easy finding the Education webpage; it’s not accessible from the Home page as it’s rendered on my computer screen. (I found it by using a search engine.)