Monday, January 31, 2011

Porsche GT3 R Hybrid

The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid has passed its most unusual task by now with flying colours in preparation for the Nürburgring 24 hour race on 15/16 May: AT&T Williams Formula 1 pilot Nico Hülkenberg tested the orange and white liveried racing 911 on the Nürburgring Nordschleife in the lead up to the third round of the VLN Long Distance Championship and was enthusiastic with many aspects: "Great car, fascinating technology and an incomparable track," concluded Hülkenberg.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Lithium air batteries

Lithium air batteries can theoretically store three times as much energy per weight unit as a lithium ion battery. The current prototypes are, however, subject to many problems. Two of them could now be solved by a new, highly efficient catalyst.

By now omnipresent, there is no end in sight to the technical development of the lithium ion batteries. One of the latest ideas is a lithium air battery that owes its name to the fact that they generate current once the light metal lithium reacts with atmospheric oxygen. Referred to the weight it can store three times as much energy as the conventional lithium ion battery.

Sounds great but this energy store has been rather unpopular so far: poor efficiency, a short life cycle ( only few charge cycles), slow performance, current and water kill them and last but not least: lithium is highly reactive; it is possible that branches grow out of the electrodes which can cause short-circuits in the battery.

The MIT people have found a solution to at least two of the inconveniences: Thanks to a new catalyst they have succeeded in increasing the efficiency of the batteries to a new record value. This catalyst consists of nanoparticles of a gold-platinum alloy. Using it the prototype of the battery could release 77 percent of the energy stored.

Image source: Yi-Chun Lu

It seems that the MIT people could have solved at least the efficiency problem with this catalyst. During discharge the lithium combines with atmospheric oxygen to lithium oxide and releases electrons. During charging both elements are separated. The new catalyst reinforces both reactions: The gold atoms help with oxidisation, the platinum atoms, however, support the separation of the oxygen. Thus less energy is wasted during charging and discharge.

Since the catalyst also alleviates the formation of lithium oxide clots that would otherwise clog the interior of the battery, it could also increase its life cycle. The future of the gold-platinum catalyst still remains to be seen because Jean-Marie Tarascon of the Université de Picardie Jules Verne is convinced of cheap manganese oxide since he has found out just recently that it has even better values than the compound of the MIT researcher, says Tarascon.

Excitement remains....

The paper: Lu, Y. et al., "Platinum-Gold Nanoparticles: A Highly Active Bifunctional Electrocatalyst for Rechargeable Lithium-Air Batteries", Journal of the American Chemical Society, 7.6.2010 (Abstract)

More information:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Record: The fastest printed circuits

American researchers have created flexible high-performance electronics by combining nanotubes and a new non-conductor.

The flexible electronics has a significantly higher switching speed than other circuits produced by means of printing processes. Furthermore the printed electronics ensures easy mass production, low prices and flexibility of the final product. "Printing processes permit all that; this field, however, has been dominated by organic semiconductors whose performance is comparably low" explains Mark Hersam, Professor of materials science and engineering.

The project manager Daniel Friesbie and Hersam combined only the very pure semiconducting nanotubes with the non-conducting gel and thus created circuits with record performances.

Image source

In their study the researchers report that flexible electronics resulted from the process that switch at frequencies of two kilohertz - at a voltage of 2.5 volts. "The colleagues have built components and circuits via printing processes whose speed at room temperature has never been reached so far" says John Rogers, professor of materials science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "These results are so exciting because they show that there are important and realistic applications for carbon nanotubes in electronics."

More details in the study:

Monday, January 3, 2011

The first electric racing car

New at the Formula Student competition: electric mobility

The electric trend conquers curricula and competitions. One example: the Formula Student Competition 2010.

Image source: Formula Student Gallery

Formula Student Germany?
In a team students build a single seat formula racing car to participate in a worldwide competition. What is important is not speed but the overall package of construction, performance, financial planning and sales arguments.

The challenge of Formula Student is that in addition to their normal studies, students are to gain intensive experience in building and manufacturing as well as with the economic aspects of the automotive industry.

Image source: Formula Student Gallery

New discipline: electric mobility

24 teams intensively worked on solutions to an eco-friendly mobility. Finally eight of them managed to get into the final. Besides all other obstacles the teams have to overcome, scrutineering is hardest: "First of all, all electric drive elements have to be checked for safety. The complete high-voltage system is marked orange on the vehicle and every racing bolide is fitted with an e-stop," says Ulf Steinfurth, head of the scrutineering team.

"Team of TU Delft wins Formula Student Germany The winner of Formula Student Germany 2010 is the team of TU Delft. In the new electric vehicle discipline, Formula Student Electric, the greenteam of the Stuttgart University won the cup."

Image source: Formula Student Gallery

More information: