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 Integrity Research Institute                                       DECEMBER, 2010toc









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In This Holiday Issue

1. New Evidence that Magnetism is Driving Force in Superconductivity

2. Testing Validates Blacklight's Hydrino Theory

3. Tapping Tesla to Save Trapped Miners

4. Dim Prospects For Energy R&D Funding

5. World's Smallest Battery Improved by Nanowire Anode




Dear Subscriber,     HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


We are pleased to bring a significant Tesla article to the public's attention this month with story #3. The Navy has used this type of communication for submarines since the 1980s and now miners will have the benefit of wireless ELF communication that can go through solid rock or an ocean, thanks to Nikola Tesla who first discovered it 100 years ago. However, the 187-foot Wardenclyffe Tower was Tesla's means to deliver natural 8 Hz electricity anywhere in the world, by longitudinal waves. Unknown to most electrical engineers, Nikola Tesla's dream answers the energy crisis worldwide, saves electrical conversion losses, and provides a real alternative to transmission lines. In Dr. Corum's contributed papers to my Tesla book, he explains Tesla's magnifying transmitter, which Tesla compared to a telescope. Corum points out that "the tuned circuit of his magnifying transmitter was the whole earth-ionosphere cavity resonator." Download an introductory sample chapter of this book (3.5 Mb pdf) if you would like to learn more.  As far as the Federal energy R&D funding story, IRI is of the opinion that individual inventors and scientists are the historical revolutionaries who invariably succeed with public and private funding. Just look the rest of the stories (#1, #4, #5) as well as our FE eNews archives online to see where the majority of progress is being made with energy breakthroughs. Our homepage has a short video success story of IRI-promoted private funding for the most electrically practical and efficient fusion project now underway: focus fusion

Here at the end of 2010, we extend an appreciation to those who receive these monthly Future Energy eNews and are willing to make charitable donations, memberships and purchases, to make this possible. Please visit Integrity Research Institute's order page to place your holiday gift order. You may also make a year-end tax-deductible donation through Donate.org.Thank you very much for all of your interest in future energy through the past year. Please help us serve you better: Become a member of IRI for 2011! Some of the best scientists, engineers and inventors in their fields are dedicated members like you. Let's make the New Year a year of energetic revolutions that will naturally generate economic hope for the world!    


Thomas Valone, PhD


1) New Evidence that Magnetism is Driving Force behind Superconductivity


ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2010) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213121751.htm -


European and U.S. physicists this week are offering up the strongest evidence yet that magnetism is the driving force behind unconventional superconductivity. The findings by researchers from Rice University, the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids (MPI-CPfS) in Dresden, Germany, and other institutions were published online December 13 in Nature Physics.


superconductivityThe findings follow more than three decades of research by the team that discovered unconventional superconductivity in 1979. That breakthrough, which was led by MPI-CPfS Director Frank Steglich, preceded by seven years the more widely publicized discovery of unconventional superconductivity at high temperatures. In the latest study, the team revisited the same heavy-fermion material -- a mix of cerium, copper and silicon -- that was used in 1979, applying new experimental techniques and theoretical knowledge unavailable 30 years ago.


"In 1979, there was not much understanding of quantum criticality or of the collective way that electrons behave at the border of magnetism," said Rice physicist Qimiao Si, the lead theorist and co-author of the new paper. "Today, we know a great deal about such collective behavior in the regime where materials transition to a superconducting state. The question we examined in this study is, How does all of that new knowledge translate into an understanding of the superconducting state itself?"


Magnetism -- the phenomenon that drives compass needles and keeps notes stuck to refrigerators the world over -- arises when the electrons in a material are oriented in a particular way. Every electron is imbued with a property called spin, and electron spins are oriented either up or down. In most materials, the arrangement of electron spins is haphazard, but in everyday refrigerator magnets -- which scientists call ferromagnets -- electron spins are oriented collectively, in the same direction.


Classical superconductors, which were discovered almost a century ago, were the first materials known to conduct electrons without losing energy due to resistance. Electrons typically bump and ricochet from atom to atom as they travel down a wire, and this jostling leads to a loss of energy in the form of electrical resistance. Resistance costs the energy industry billions of dollars per year in lost power, so scientists have been keen to put superconducting wires to widespread use, but it hasn't been easy.

It took physicists almost 50 years to explain classical superconductivity: At extremely low temperatures, electrons pair up and move in unison, thus avoiding the jostling they experience by themselves. These electron twosomes are called Cooper pairs, and physicists began trying to explain how they form in unconventional superconductors as soon as Steglich's findings were published in 1979. Si said theorists studying the question have increasingly been drawn to the collective behavior of electrons, particularly at the border of magnetism -- the critical point where a material changes from one magnetic state to another.


In the new experiments, Steglich, the lead experimentalist co-author, and his group collaborated with physicists at the Jülich Centre for Neutron Science at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, to bombard heavy fermion samples with neutrons. Because neutrons also have spin, those experiments allowed the team to probe the spin states of the electrons in the heavy fermions.

"Our neutron-scattering data provide convincing evidence that the cerium-based heavy fermion compound is located near a quantum critical point," said Oliver Stockert, a study co-author and a neutron-scattering specialist from MPI-CPfS. "Moreover, the data revealed how the magnetic spectrum changes as the material turns into a superconductor."


From the data, Si and co-author Stefan Kirchner, a theorist from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems and a former postdoctoral fellow at Rice, determined the amount of magnetic energy that was saved when the system entered the superconducting state.

"We have calculated that the saved magnetic energy is more than 10 times what is needed for the formation of the Cooper pairs," Kirchner said.


"Why the magnetic exchange in the superconductor yields such a large energy saving is a new and intriguing question," said Si, Rice's Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Physics and Astronomy. He said one possible origin is the electronic phenomenon known as the "Kondo effect," which is involved in a class of unconventional quantum critical points advanced by Si and colleagues in a theoretical paper published in Nature in 2001. Regardless of the final answer, Si said the present study already constitutes a definitive proof that "collective fluctuations of the electrons at the border of magnetism are capable of driving superconductivity."


Si and Steglich found it remarkable that the notion of quantum criticality is providing fresh insights into the workings of the very first unconventional superconductor ever discovered. At the same time, both said more studies are needed to determine the precise way that quantum-critical fluctuations give rise to heavy-fermion superconductivity. And thanks to key differences between the heavy-fermion materials and high-temperature superconductors, additional work must be done to determine whether the same findings apply to both.


"We are certain that we are on the right track with our investigations, however," Steglich said.

The research was facilitated by the International Collaborative Center on Quantum Matter, a collaborative entity formed by Rice, MPI-CPfS, China's Zhejiang University and the London Centre for Nanotechnology. Research support was provided by the German Research Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Welch Foundation.





2) Testing Validates Hydrino Theory


by Joe Shea,  AR Correspondent


BRADENTON, Fla., Dec. 18, 2010 -- A remarkable new energy source from fractional hydrogen will allow a gallon of ordinary water to become the energy equivalent of 200 barrels of oil, a team of physicists working near the onetime laboratories of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein are saying.

"With further optimization," Dr. K.V. Ramanujachary of Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., says, "there is no doubt that this technology will present an economically viable and environmentally benign alternate to meet global energy needs. If advanced to commercialization, it would be one of the most profound developments ever."


The method of electricity production allows the fuel to reproduce itself by diverting part of the energy output to a catalyst that is then regenerated so fuel is only needed once. Using the process, about 10 100-watt bulbs could be lit 24 hours a day for a penny.

Hydrogen atoms of water can release an enormous amount of energy. Now BlackLight is promising an engine technology aimed at driving a car 5,000 miles on a gallon of water.

And if solar flares over the next 10 years have the power to blackout thousands of homes, as the National Oceanography and Atmospheric Administration has warned, the distributed power of the new cells could keep America lit up.


A working model is promised for 2011. Until it appears and independent laboratories confirm BlackLight's claims, most scientists will not accept such unorthodox technology, especially if it is based on classical rather than quantum physics. BlackLight's research has also been hampered in the past by its close ties to Rowan University, where several of its engineers have worked.

But the greater problem for BlackLight may be the oil companies and conventional utilities that will be displaced, if not destroyed, by hydrino technology. Even though the cells as described would collectively save homeowners and manufacturers trillions in electricity costs and generate many millions of jobs, it is also thought to be the target of a concerted foreign industrial espionage campaign.

The company, which has never tried to go public, keeps a low profile and has mounted a remarkably mundane website full of small type and dense physics with little appeal to readers. Even the weekly Cranbury Press has no mention of the company in its search database, yet there are thousands of search results on Google.


Ironically, the BlackLight Power facilities are located in Cranbury, N.J., a small town 8 miles from the Princeton University labs where Albert Einstein once toiled and 37 miles from the West Orange, N.J., laboratories of Thomas Edison.

But the proof is in the pudding, not the website.


"We have demonstrated the ability to produce electrical power using chemical systems for the direct production of electric power from the conversion of hydrogen to hydrinos, a more stable form of hydrogen," said Dr. Randell Mills, chairman, CEO and president of BlackLight Power.

Working with a team headed by Dr. Alexander Bykanov at Harvard's Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics under contract with GEN3 Partners, the device showed hydrogen spectral emissions below 80 nanometers, the previously known "ground state" of hydrogen. Scientists formerly believed there could be no parts of the hydrogen atom smaller than the atom itself.


"This is decisive evidence of the existence of hydrinos as Dr. Randell Mills theoretically predicted," the BlackLight Power press release said. Hydrinos are a fractional element of hydrogen that skeptics in the world of quantum physics previously said could not exist.

"This is smoking-gun evidence of the existence of hydrinos," Dr. Mills said. "The light signature observed is from pure hydrogen and exists at a much higher energy level than deemed possible for this element in any known form."


In a joint statement, Dr. Bykanov and Dr. Sam Kogan, chief operating officer of Boston-based GEN3 Partners, a company that evaluates new technologies and helps bring them to market, said "[BlackLight Power's] spectral results were identically [and] independently reproduced, and we could find no conventional explanation for the emission of bright light from hydrogen in this very high energy region. We believe that this confirms hydrino emission."

Acceptance of Mills' ideas is largely the product of a battle between Einstein's old-fashioned "classical" physics and the newfangled "quantum" ideas of physicists like the late Richard Feynman.


One critic has been Stephen Chu, the Chinese-American physicist who was won the Nobel Prize and later became President Obama's Secretary of Energy. Chu urged investors to avoid BlackLight Power in 1999, saying he "felt sorry" for them. As many as seven Chinese-American physicists have co-authored some of the more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles published by and about Mills and his work, however. Mills could not be reached for comment on this article. His corporate public relations firm, the giant Hill & Knowlton, has not responded to emails in the past, and a Hill & Knowlton spokesperson, Milly Coleman, had her calls forwarded to voicemail Friday.

The company published its latest findings in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Hydrogen, and issued the news release Nov. 29 about the new power source, a system they call Catalyst Induced Hydrino Transition, or CIHT, that produces electricity directly. Others seeking a more palatable name have called it "Electricity from Collapsing Hydrogen Orbits," or ECHO.


The company, funded with $70 million in investments by three large venture capital firms, says the technology allows an electric car, the size and weight of a Prius and costing about $9,000 to build, to travel more than 5,000 miles on a gallon of water. No combustion engine is required. A former chief of staff of the United States Air Force and a former CEO of Westinghouse Corp. have at various times sat on the company's board.


At least five American utilities, a Washington, D.C., energy broker and multinational firms in Italy and Holland are hoping to deploy the hydrino generators to produce an amount of electricity equivalent to that needed to run 1 million American homes - for as little as one cent per kilowatt.

An expanded team of scientists and engineers at Rowan University say they completed a thorough year-long series of additional testing of the thermal systems following the announcement and release of earlier validations, performed in October 2008 and August 2009. Using BLP's proprietary solid-fuel chemistry, which is capable of continuous regeneration, they independently formulated and tested fuels that they found could generate on-demand energy greater than that of combustion but at the far lower power levels of kilowatts.


"When using BLP's chemical process, Rowan professors reported a net energy gain of up to 6.5 times the maximum energy potential of these materials from known chemical reactions," the release said. The Rowan team included Dr. Ramanujachary, who is Rowan University Meritorious Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, assistant professor of chemistry Dr. Amos Mugweru, professor of engineering Dr. John L. Schmalzel, P.E., and Dr. Peter Jansson P.E., asssociate professor of engineering at Rowan.


"In additional independent tests conducted over the last 12 months, involving 13 solid fuel mixtures made by us from commercially-available chemicals and confirmed by multiple analyses, our team of engineering and chemistry professors, staff and students at Rowan University has independently and consistently generated energy in excesses ranging from 1.3 times to 6.5 times the maximum theoretical heat available through known chemical reactions," Dr. Ramanujachary said

Compared to thermal-based systems, Mills says, "[CIHT] produces electricity without requiring enormous thermally-driven mechanical generators." The power units would be distributed to individual homes, where they could power not just the home home but a neighborhood. The small unit in the car could even be hooked up to the house to power it.


Rather than relying on a giant utility, the units would make each home and neighborhood autonomous - "off the grid," as green energy activists like to say. That will make adoption of the units a quicker process, Mills says.


"Consequently, more rapid dissemination is expected by deploying many autonomous distributed units that circumvent the huge barriers of entry into the power markets such as developing and building massive billion-dollar power plants with their associated power distribution infrastructure," Mills said. "This is especially true in emerging markets."

BlackLight Power focuses on using CIHT units to produce power to ultimately sell directly to consumers under power purchase agreements.


"The business plan is akin to that of solar leasing, but the costs are potentially vastly cheaper, and the systems may be deployable for essentially all applications of all scales untethered to the Sun or the grid, or as in the case of fuel cells and cars, a fuel supply," Dr. Mills said.

"To realize how transformational this technology will be, imagine that an electric car can travel over 5,000 miles on the hydrogen energy from a gallon of water without any pollution whatsoever. The power source can then be lifted out and plugged into your electrical panel to power your home with enough power to spare to also power your neighborhood," Mills added.


Some of those hoping to exploit the new technology are already thinking ahead. "BLP's breakthrough CIHT technology will allow us to become a major green-power producer for the DC metro area while enabling dramatic savings and unheard of independence," said John E. Akridge III, chairman and owner of Washington, D.C.,-based Akridge Energy.


"It is ideal for our needs across the full spectrum of our applications: powering apartment complexes, commercial offices, retail outlets, and mixed-use projects." Akridge said. His firm, a BlackLight Power licensee that owns numerous buildings in Washinton, D.C., "intends to deploy distributed-scale CIHT electric power units at commercial real estate properties, sell electricity to its tenants and eventually into the local electric grid," he said.


At Rowan University, where much of the validation of the technology was done, the chairman of the college's physics department is emphatic about the process.

"The chemicals used in CIHT technology, similar to those used in thermal and chemical cells, were separately, thoroughly and diligently validated over the past three years by a team at Rowan University that included myself," Dr. K.V. Ramanujachary said. "Since the measurements on CIHT are electrical versus calorimetric, there can be no dispute over the power and the energy balance," he said.




Dr. Mitchell Swartz's Cold Fusion Times http://world.std.com/~mica/cftsci.html

Eric Lerner's Lawrenceville Plasma Physics www.focusfusion.org
Dr. George Miley's Fusion Studies Lab http://fsl.ne.uiuc.edu/

Dr. Ray Sedwick's Electrostatic Confinement Fusion University of Maryland
Ed Esko's Quantum Rabbit http://quantumrabbit.com/
Dr. Scott Chubb's NRL Experiments http://www.lenr-canr.org/Collections/USNavy.htm




From Business Energy Reports, Dec 2010.



Fusion energy has the potential to provide a sustainable solution to increasing global energy demands, as concerns grow over climate change and declining fossil fuel supplies. It can provide a continuous, sustainable baseload power supply that is environmentally sound and large-scale, using fuels that are universally available.

Fusion is the same process that gives hydrogen bombs their awesome explosive energy, and powers the sun and the stars, where atomic nuclei collide together and release energy.

Fusion scientists and engineers are developing the technology to use this process in future power stations. Fusion-based power stations would have a number of advantages:

- No carbon emissions. The only by-products of fusion reactions are small amounts of helium, which is an inert gas that will not add to atmospheric pollution.

- Abundant fuels. Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium is produced from lithium, which is found in the earth's crust. Fuel supplies will therefore last for millions of years.

- Energy efficiency. One kilogram of fusion fuel can provide the same amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel.

- No long-lived radioactive waste. Only plant components become radioactive and these will be safe to recycle or dispose of conventionally within 100 years.

- Safety. The small amounts of fuel used in fusion devices (about the weight of a postage stamp at any one time) means that a large-scale nuclear accident is not possible.

- Reliable power. Fusion power plants should provide a baseload supply of large amounts of electricity, at costs that are estimated to be broadly similar to other energy sources.

This report analyzes the fusion power technology. The report describes fusion energy, discusses the challenges with fusion energy, the workings of fusion power plants, and offers fusion energy case studies. The report also examines the environmental fallout of fusion power as well as the safety issues attached to nuclear proliferation and fusion energy.

If you want order the report


3) Tapping Tesla to Save Trapped Miners

by Phil Berardelli, Science Now.



After a mining incident, Gary Smith, a retired engineer, sent a letter to his ex-manager at the Lockheed Martin Corp. in Syracuse, New York. Smith, who grew up in a West Virginia mining family, asked his former colleagues if anyone knew of a technology that could provide reliable communications during such disasters. After reading reports of the Sago incident and discussing similar emergencies with federal mine safety officials, the Lockheed Martin engineers updated a very old one.


The team focused on a concept developed over a century ago by Nikola Tesla. The noted pioneer in electricity and radio had shown that a magnetic wave generator could be used for wireless communications.


Basically, the generator works like an electromagnet. Powered by standard alternating current or battery, it runs electricity through a wire that is coiled around a metal cylinder, creating a harmless, low-energy magnetic field that extends for hundreds of meters. Just like radio, the field can carry an audio signal by modulating (raising or lowering) its strength instant by instant. But unlike radio, cell phones, and satellite phones-whose electromagnetic waves can't pass very far through rock, clay, or other materials that conduct electricity-a magnetically generated signal penetrates the ground easily. On the other end, a coiled antenna wire about 100 meters long receives the signal, and an amplifier converts it into sound.


In the 1890s, Tesla experimented with the concept as a possible alternative to Marconi's wireless telegraph. But the device's relatively short range and high signal noise made it impractical for widespread use. Short range is not a problem in most mine situations, explains engineer David LeVan, who led the Lockheed Martin research team. The devices the group developed, called the MagneLink Magnetic Communication System, combine a refrigerator-size magnetic generator with a briefcase-size receiving antenna. One such unit operates on the surface; the other, down in the mine. LeVan says tests earlier this year at a mine in Mavisdale, Virginia, showed that the low-frequency signal can penetrate through 500 meters of solid rock, making it usable in more than 85% of underground mines in the United States.


The team solved the problem of signal noise with the same type of digital signal-processing software used in cellular phones, LeVan says. The software also allows users to send and receive text messages. Although the units are rather bulky, they fit easily next to miners' emergency shelters with other lifesaving equipment. The underground transmission antenna is wrapped around one of the coal pillars that help to support the roof of the mine tunnel. A box made of polycarbonate (photo, in foreground) houses the receiving antenna


Each generating unit can operate at least 24 hours on 12-volt battery power, which complies with U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requirements, and contains a telephone handset and text-message pad. Its low energy output means it poses no danger of sparking, which could set off an explosion if methane gas is present.


MagneLink program manager Warren Gross says that during field tests, miners offered many suggestions for making the units simpler to operate in emergencies. It's important, he says, that users need only turn the unit on, pick up the phone, and talk or text. Gross says the company is awaiting MSHA certification. If the agency approves the system, he says the units should start rolling off the assembly line by the end of this year.


Todd Moore, the director of safety services for CONSOL Energy, a coal-mining company in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, says he has been advocating for this technology ever since the Sago disaster, which involved another coal company. "No one can predict what will be destroyed" in an explosion, says Moore, a lifelong mining safety engineer who assisted in the Sago rescue effort. "Our coal mines are the size of downtown Manhattan." Moore, who has supervised MagneLink tests but was not involved in the research, envisions each mine being equipped with at least several underground units, while topside units move around as necessary. "I am truly convinced [it] can save lives in the coal industry," he says.

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4) Dim Prospects For Energy R&D Funding

 Kevin Bulls, Technology Review, Dec 10, 2010



As Congress rushes to finish its business before the year's end, it is likely to pass one of two spending bills to keep the government running in 2011. Either way, funding for energy R&D is expected to be stagnant next year and decrease in 2012.


On Wednesday, the House passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill. If the Senate follows suit, which is by no means certain, overall funding for energy R&D will remain level-but some specific research programs could take a significant funding hit. Congress may yet pass another version of the spending bill that will rescue some of these programs. However, the outlook for energy R&D remains bleak, especially for 2012.


All this comes after a year of rhetoric from the White House and key members of Congress about the urgent need for more energy R&D. But Congress failed to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation that would have directly funded new energy projects, leaving funding to the regular budget, which has been limited. Congress also hasn't passed a single appropriations bill yet this year-the government has been running on temporary spending bills since October-and it is running out of time to pass one in the current session.


Under the president's proposed budget-a document submitted by the administration in February and meant to guide Congress in crafting its spending bills-several energy-related research programs would have received significant new funding. It called for $300 million for ARPA-E, an agency founded to foster high risk but potentially high reward R&D. The first projects funded by ARPA-E include one focused on developing a cheaper way to make silicon wafers for solar cells and another investigating new battery designs that could give electric cars a range of 500 miles. The President's budget also requested a $218 million increase in spending for energy R&D in the Department of Energy's Office of Science, as part of a long-term plan to double funding for physical sciences research in order to keep the United States competitive in this area-a goal that's part of the 2007 America Competes Act.


The president's budget also called for the addition of a fourth "Energy Innovation Hub" to the three that were approved by Congress last year. These innovation hubs, devised by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, are meant to bring together the best researchers and engineers to tackle key energy-related issues, in the style of the Manhattan Project or Bell Labs. Last year, Congress funded an innovation hub for making fuels using sunlight, another for increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, and a third for simulation tools to advance nuclear energy. Each of these would get $24 million under the president's proposed budget. The new hub for developing better batteries would get $30 million. The budget also called for spending on related Energy Frontier Research Centers to increase from $100 million to $140 million.


Congress is considering two options. The first is to adopt a continuing resolution that will keep overall funding levels equal to 2010's (about $50 billion less than the president's budget), while rearranging where some of that funding goes. That's the spending bill the House passed on Wednesday, and it now goes to the Senate. The other option is a more comprehensive "omnibus" bill that lumps together a dozen appropriations bills that committees have crafted based on President Obama's budget request but modified in ways meant to make them more likely to pass or to reflect the preferences of the committee members. Overall, the omnibus bill would be better for energy R&D funding, though not as good as the budget the president requested.


In either of the options before Congress now, ARPA-E is likely to continue to get funding. Although ARPA-E was created in 2007, it wasn't funded until the Recovery Act of 2009, and it has been running on that money since, without substantial funding from the regular budget. Keeping funding at 2010 levels could have prevented ARPA-E from funding any new projects, or even killed it. The House continuing resolution, however, allows the Department of Energy to give ARPA-E up to $300 million-the amount the president requested. But this must come at the expense of other DOE research funding, either for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program or the Office of Science. If the omnibus bill passes instead, ARPA-E is likely to get funding of its own, but about $100 million less than the President requested.


Under the continuing resolution, funding for the Office of Science, the Energy Frontier Research Centers, and the Energy Innovation Hubs will continue at 2010 levels instead of getting the increases President Obama requested. But the omnibus bill will be good news for some of these energy R&D programs. The Office of Science will get a small increase ($70 million as opposed to the $218 million the President requested), and the new battery innovation hub is likely to be funded.


It's not clear which option-the omnibus bill or the continuing resolution-will win, says Patrick Clemins, director of the R&D budget and policy program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The House has passed the continuing resolution, but the Senate may prefer passing an omnibus bill. What is clear is that funding for energy R&D overall will remain essentially flat-a trend that's been going on since 2004, he says, in spite of many calls for increased energy R&D over this time.


Things might be even worse in the 2012 budget. The new Republicans in the House were elected with a mandate to decrease government spending. ARPA-E, the benefits of which won't be clear for years and whose funding goes largely to research in Democratic states, "is the kind of thing that is easily killed," says David Victor, a professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, hopes that Republicans and Democrats can find common ground in some areas, such as support for nuclear power. But, he says, there is widespread fear that existing energy R&D will be cut. "We could be playing defense rather than moving it forward," he says.


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5.  World's Smallest Battery: Nanowire Anode Improves Performance

The Medusa Twist

A benchtop version of the world's smallest battery -- its anode a single nanowire one seven-thousandth the thickness of a human hair -- has been created by a team led by Sandia National Laboratories researcher Jianyu Huang.



To better study the anode's characteristics, the tiny rechargeable, lithium-based battery was formed inside a transmission electron microscope (TEM) at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), a Department of Energy research facility jointly operated by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.


Says Huang of the work, reported in the Dec. 10 issue of the journal Science, "This experiment enables us to study the charging and discharging of a battery in real time and at atomic scale resolution, thus enlarging our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which batteries work."


Because nanowire-based materials in lithium ion batteries offer the potential for significant improvements in power and energy density over bulk electrodes, more stringent investigations of their operating properties should improve new generations of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, laptops and cell phones.


What motivated our work," says Huang, "is that lithium ion batteries [LIB] have very important applications, but the low energy and power densities of current LIBs cannot meet the demand. To improve performance, we wanted to understand LIBs from the bottom up, and we thought in-situ TEM could bring new insights to the problem."


Battery research groups do use nanomaterials as anodes, but in bulk rather than individually -- a process, Huang says, that resembles "looking at a forest and trying to understand the behavior of an individual tree."


The tiny battery created by Huang and co-workers consists of a single tin oxide nanowire anode 100 nanometers in diameter and 10 micrometers long, a bulk lithium cobalt oxide cathode three millimeters long, and an ionic liquid electrolyte. The device offers the ability to directly observe change in atomic structure during charging and discharging of the individual "trees."


An unexpected find of the researchers was that the tin oxide nanowire rod nearly doubles in length during charging -- far more than its diameter increases -- a fact that could help avoid short circuits that may shorten battery life. "Manufacturers should take account of this elongation in their battery design," Huang said. (The common belief of workers in the field has been that batteries swell across their diameter, not longitudinally.)


Huang's group found this flaw by following the progression of the lithium ions as they travel along the nanowire and create what researchers christened the "Medusa front" -- an area where high density of mobile dislocations cause the nanowire to bend and wiggle as the front progresses. The web of dislocations is caused by lithium penetration of the crystalline lattice. "These observations prove that nanowires can sustain large stress (>10 GPa) induced by lithiation without breaking, indicating that nanowires are very good candidates for battery electrodes," said Huang."Our observations -- which initially surprised us -- tell battery researchers how these dislocations are generated, how they evolve during charging, and offer guidance in how to mitigate them," Huang said. "This is the closest view to what's happening during charging of a battery that researcher have achieved so far."


Lithiation-induced volume expansion, plasticity and pulverization of electrode materials are the major mechanical defects that plague the performance and lifetime of high-capacity anodes in lithium-ion batteries, Huang said. "So our observations of structural kinetics and amorphization [the change from normal crystalline structure] have important implications for high-energy battery design and in mitigating battery failure."


The electronic noise level generated from the researchers' measurement system was too high to read electrical currents, but Sandia co-author John Sullivan estimated a current level of a picoampere flowing in the nanowire during charging and discharging. The nanowire was charged to a potential of about 3.5 volts, Huang said.


A picoampere is a millionth of a microampere. A microampere is a millionth of an ampere.

The reason that atomic-scale examination of the charging and discharging process of a single nanowire had not been possible was because the high vacuum in a TEM made it difficult to use a liquid electrolyte. Part of the Huang group's achievement was to demonstrate that a low-vapor-pressure ionic liquid -- essentially, molten salt -- could function in the vacuum environment.

Although the work was carried out using tin oxide (SnO2) nanowires, the experiments can be extended to other materials systems, either for cathode or anode studies, Huang said.

"The methodology that we developed should stimulate extensive real-time studies of the microscopic processes in batteries and lead to a more complete understanding of the mechanisms governing battery performance and reliability," he said. "Our experiments also lay a foundation for in-situ studies of electrochemical reactions, and will have broad impact in energy storage, corrosion, electrodeposition and general chemical synthesis research field."


Other researchers contributing to this work include Xiao Hua Liu, Nicholas Hudak, Arunkumar Subramanian and Hong You Fan, all of Sandia; Li Zhong, Scott Mao and Li Qiang Zhang of the University of Pittsburgh; Chong Min Wang and Wu Xu of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and Liang Qi, Akihiro Kushima and Ju Li of the University of Pennsylvania.

Funding came from Sandia's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Office and the Department of Energy's Office of Science through the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and the Energy Frontier Research Centers program.




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