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Glass as Electrode Makes Batteries More Efficient

Today’s batteries provide a reliable power supply for our smartphones, electric cars and laptops, but are unable to keep up with the growing demands placed on them. Researchers have discovered a material that may have the potential to double battery capacity: vanadate-borate glass. The glass is being used as a cathode material, which is made of vanadium oxide (V2O5) and lithium-borate (LiBO2) precursors, and was coated with reduced graphite oxide (RGO) to enhance the electrode properties of the material. The vanadate-borate glass powder was used for battery cathodes, which were placed in prototypes for coin cell batteries to undergo numerous charge/discharge cycles. In tests, the glass electrodes demonstrated a vast improvement in these batteries’ capacity and energy density. Source:

Posted in: News, Batteries, Electronic Components, Energy Efficiency

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ORCA Prototype Ready to Observe Ocean

If selected for a NASA flight mission, the Ocean Radiometer for Carbon Assessment (ORCA) instrument will study microscopic phytoplankton, the tiny green plants that float in the upper layer of the ocean and make up the base of the marine food chain.Conceived in 2001 as the next technological step forward in observing ocean color, the ORCA-development team used funding from Goddard’s Internal Research and Development program and NASA’s Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) to develop a prototype. Completed in 2014, ORCA now is a contender as the primary instrument on an upcoming Earth science mission.The ORCA prototype has a scanning telescope designed to sweep across 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of ocean at a time. The technology collects light reflected from the sea surface that then passes through a series of mirrors, optical filters, gratings, and lenses. The components direct the light onto an array of detectors that cover the full range of wavelengths.Instead of observing a handful of discrete bands at specific wavelengths reflected off the ocean, ORCA measures a range of bands, from 350 nanometers to 900 nanometers at five-nanometer resolution. The sensor will see the entire rainbow, including the color gradations of green that fade into blue. In addition to the hyperspectral bands, the instrument has three short-wave infrared bands that measure specific wavelengths between 1200 and 2200 nanometers for atmospheric applications.The NASA researchers will use ORCA to obtain more accurate measurements of chlorophyll concentrations, the size of a phytoplankton bloom, and how much carbon it holds. Detecting chlorophyll in various wavelengths also will allow the team to distinguish between types of phytoplankton. Suspended sediments in coastal regions could also be detected by the instrument.SourceAlso: Learn about a Ultra-Low-Maintenance Portable Ocean Power Station.

Posted in: News, Optics, Photonics, Sensors, Measuring Instruments

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Microcapsule Method Captures Carbon

Researchers has developed a novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power-plant emissions. The team, led by scientists from Harvard University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, employed a microfluidic assembly technique to produce microcapsules that contain liquid sorbents, or absorbing materials, encased in highly permeable polymer shells. The capsules have significant performance advantages over the carbon-absorbing materials used in current capture and sequestration technology.The new technique employs an abundant and environmentally benign sorbent: sodium carbonate, which is kitchen-grade baking soda. The microencapsulated carbon sorbents (MECS) achieve an order-of-magnitude increase in CO2 absorption rates compared to sorbents currently used in carbon capture. The carbon sorbents are produced using a double-capillary device in which the flow rates of three fluids — a carbonate solution combined with a catalyst for enhanced CO2 absorption, a photo-curable silicone that forms the capsule shell, and an aqueous solution — can be independently controlled.The MECS-based approach could also be tailored to industrial processes like steel and cement production, which are significant greenhouse gas sources.SourceRead other Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Greenhouse Gases, Remediation Technologies

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Army Equips Stryker Unit With New Communications Technology

The Army's Stryker vehicle, designed to quickly move soldiers into a combat zone, is swift and mobile. Now its communications equipment will be, too.

Posted in: News, Wireless

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Smaller Lidars Could Let UAVs Conduct Underwater Scans

Bathymetric lidars – devices that employ powerful lasers to scan beneath the water's surface – are frequently used to map coastal waters. At nearly 600 pounds, the systems are large, heavy, and require costly, piloted aircraft to carry them. But a team at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has designed a new approach that could lead to bathymetric lidars that are much smaller and more efficient than the current full-size systems. The new technology, developed under the Active Electro-Optical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AEO-ISR) project, would let modest-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) carry bathymetric lidars.

Posted in: News

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New Device Measures How Birds Take Flight

It's quite easy to look at a bird and deduce that it flies by flapping its wings, but understanding exactly how a bird generates lift has long eluded scientists. Now engineers at Stanford have developed a device that precisely and humanely measures the forces generated by a bird's wings while in flight. The work promises to answer many mysteries of bird flight, providing aid in the design of innovative and efficient unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs or, more recently, drones.

Posted in: News

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The Human Eye Can See ‘Invisible’ Infrared Light

Any science textbook will tell you that human beings can’t see infrared light. Like X-rays and radio waves, infrared light waves are outside the visual spectrum. But an international team of researchers co-led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that under certain conditions, the retina can, in fact, sense infrared light after all. Using cells from the retinas of mice and people, and powerful lasers that emit pulses of infrared light, the researchers found that when laser light pulses rapidly, light-sensing cells in the retina sometimes get a double hit of infrared energy. When that happens, the eye is able to detect light that falls outside the visible spectrum.

Posted in: News, Question of the Week

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