- Number 381 |
- February 4, 2013
Scientists from DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have set a world record for energy storage, using a clever “yolk-shell” design to store five times more energy in the sulfur cathode of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery than is possible with today’s commercial technology. The cathode also maintained a high level of performance after 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, paving the way for new generations of lighter, longer-lasting batteries for use in portable electronics and electric vehicles.
The research was led by Yi Cui, a Stanford associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, a SLAC/Stanford joint institute. The team reported its results Jan. 8 in Nature Communications.
The strong magnetic fields of an MRI scanner or a particle accelerator are generated efficiently by electromagnets that have superconducting wire in their coils. A group of scientists has discovered how to make better wires using a promising material known as Bi-2212. With this discovery comes the possibility of creating magnetic fields in excess of 30 Tesla, three to four times higher than those generated by present accelerator magnet technology.
Bi-2212 (Bi2Sr2CaCu2Ox) is one of the copper-oxide high-temperature superconductors discovered 27 years ago. Since then, attention has focused on the use of such HTS materials in electric power transmission and other electrical applications not related to high-field magnets. In those applications, Bi-2212 loses out to other HTS materials.
Yet scientists had recognized for a long time the potential of Bi-2212 for use in superconducting magnet coils. When cooled with liquid helium, many HTS materials, including Bi-2212, can conduct large electric currents without resistance even in the presence of huge magnetic fields. But so far scientists only have managed to turn three of these HTS materials into the long wires that are necessary to make coils. Among these materials, Bi-2212 stands out as the only HTS that can be fabricated as a round wire. This makes Bi-2212 a perfect candidate for winding cables and coils without significantly changing present magnet technology.
In a case of the Goldilocks story retold at the molecular level, scientists at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University have discovered a new path to the development of more stable and efficient catalysts.
The research team sought to create "nanobowls" — nanosized bowl shapes that allow inorganic catalysts to operate selectively on particular molecules.
The large impact of the small, fair-weather clouds on the amount of sunshine reaching Earth's surface is now more accurately modeled, thanks to scientists at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The team's new method includes variations in temperature and humidity near the surface and their role in forming these clouds. Their method improves climate forecasts and yields better cloud predictions, including the amount of sunshine the clouds reflect.
Looking like stretched-out cotton balls, these common clouds reflect the sun's energy back to space. Because they are so small, researchers have not been able to track their reflecting properties with global or regional climate models. Improved understanding of the impact of these clouds will provide scientists with more detailed information on weather and climate that was frequently misread.
A team led by DOE's Ames Laboratory has been selected to establish a U.S. Department of Energy Energy Innovation Hub that will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security. The new research center, which will be named the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), will bring together leading researchers from four Department of Energy national laboratories, academia and the private sector.
The new $120 million CMI will focus on technologies that will enable us to make better use of the materials we have access to as well as eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions. These critical materials, including many rare earth elements, are essential for American competitiveness in the clean energy industry. The DOE’s 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years.