Tag Archives: storage

Graphene: an energy storage alternative

Super-thin, super-capacity, clean batteries from graphene oxide

An energy storage alternative using technology better than lithium or even solar is under development as researchers work to efficiently capture the energy of graphene oxide (GO).  

Under a new $3.45 million Cooperative Research Centre Project (CRC-P) grant, researchers at Swinburne University of Technology and Flinders University will partner with Australian industry to commercialise the world’s first alternative to lithium-ion battery (LIB) technology as an energy storage alternative.

The industry collaboration, with Australian Stock Exchange-listed First Graphene Ltd and  Victorian manufacturer Kremford Pty Ltd, aims to make inroads into the production of a new super-capacity GO-powered battery, an energy storage alternative to the emerging LIB technology.  

Researchers at Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics are working on a commercially viable, chemical-free, long-lasting safe GO-based supercapacitor which offers high performance and low-cost energy storage capabilities.  

Graphene is the lightest, strongest, most electrically conductive material available and has been predicted to generate revolutionary new products in many industry sectors. But so far unreliable quality and poor manufacturing processes has prevented an industrial graphene market.

Last year First Graphite entered into a research agreement with Professor Raston’s research group at Flinders University to improve GO processing and production.     

The new national CRC Project via the Australian Government’s Advance Manufacturing Fund will expand Flinders University’s clean technologies and nanotech research focus.

Professor Colin Raston, the South Australian Premier’s Professorial Research Fellow in Clean Technology, says there is significant global research to improve energy storage capability to support its role in the development of sustainable energy storage systems.

“For example, we’re seeing the rapid rise of LIB around the world, notably with South Australia’s significant investment in the new storage facility near Jamestown in this State.”

The ‘High performance energy storage alternative to lithium ion batteries’ project seeks to advance the GO-based supercapacitor that has promising superior energy density, flexibility and environmental sustainability ahead of traditional batteries.

“This project aims to develop the manufacturing specifications for the commercial production of a graphene oxide (GO) super-capacitor with the ‘look and feel’ of a LIB but with superior performance across weight, charge rate, lifecycle and environmental footprint factors,” Professor Raston says.

“The production of GO from graphite ore, without generating lots of waste, is an important part of this collaborative project.”

First Graphene (ASX code: FGR) managing director Craig McGuckin says the $1.5 million in CRC-P funding, to be matched by the partner organisations and in-kind, would propel the company’s innovative approach to finding real-world applications for graphene.

“The success in the fourth round of the CRC-P funding demonstrates the high regard in which the company’s research efforts are held,” Mr McGuckin said.

“It also shows the robustness of the programs designed by FGR’s university partners.”

First published by Flinders University, 12 December 2017

Image: By AlexanderAlUS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11294534

Read next: The Sunshine Factory 

Building power by concentrating light

South Australian company HeliostatSA has partnered with Indian company Global Wind Power Limited to develop a portfolio of projects in India and Australia over the next four years. It will begin with an initial 150 megawatts in Concentrated Solar Powered (CSP) electricity in Rajashtan, Indian using a solar array.

The projects are valued at $2.5 billion and will further cement HeliostatSA as a leader in the global renewable energy sector.

Heliostat CEO Jason May says India had made a commitment to reaching an investment target of USD $100 billion of renewable energy by 2019 and has already secured $20 billion.

“India is looking for credible, renewable energy partners for utility scale projects,’’ says May.

“We bring everything to the table that they require such as size, project development experience, capital funding, field design capability, the latest technology, precision manufacturing and expertise.’’

Each solar array is made of thousands of heliostats, which are mirrors that track and reflect the suns thermal energy on to a central receiver. The energy is then converted into electricity. Each HeliostatSA mirror is 3.21 x 2.22 metres with optical efficiency believed to be the most accurate in the world. This reduces the number of mirrors required, reducing the overall cost of CSP while still delivering the same 24-hour electricity outputs.

The heliostats and their high tech components are fabricated using laser mapping and steel cutting technology.

The mirrors are slightly parabolic and components need to be cut and measured to exact requirements to achieve the strict operational performance.

“There is strong global interest in CSP with thermal storage for 24-hour power. At the moment large-scale batteries which also store electricity are very expensive. Constant advances in CSP storage technology over the next 10 years will only add to the competitive advantage,’’ says May.

– John Merriman

This article was first published by The Lead South Australia on 25 August 2015. Read the original article here.

Why DVDs are the new cool tech

In this era of big data, storage capacity is everything. To store the vast amount of data being generated requires an increasing number of large data centres. Some of which are industrial scale operations, consuming as much electricity as a small town.

In the quest for greater storage capacity technology, researchers at Swinburne University have achieved a technological breakthrough by increasing the storage capacity of DVDs from a meagre 4.7 gigabytes to a staggering 1000 terabytes. This is the equivalent of storing 50,000 high-definition movies.

Rapid commercialisation of the research has positioned it as a finalist under the best commercial deal category for the 2015 .

“Our first motivations were scientific curiosity: could we increase the storage capacity of the disc?” says the lead researcher Professor Min Gu. “The storage capacity of optical discs is determined by the number of dots that can be burned in to the disc, which in turn is determined by the wavelength of the laser used to burn the dots.”

“To put more dots on the disc beyond conventional DVDs, we had to address a physical limit. Our approach overcame the minimum dot size determined by the law to produce an extremely tiny spot of light.” Each dot on the disc is a binary digit, or bit, representing 0 or 1.

Optical discs have significant advantages over other data storage technologies – such as hard disk drives, USB flash drives and SD cards – in terms of cost, longevity and reliability. However, their low storage capacity has been their major limiting factor.

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Professor Min Gu, lead researcher at Swinburne University demonstrates the technology used to massively increase the storage capacity of DVDs.

Using nanotechnology, Gu and his colleagues Dr Xiangping Li and Dr Yaoyu Cao have developed a technique using two laser beams, instead of the conventional single beam, with different colours for recording onto the disc.

One beam, referred to as the ‘writing beam’ records the information, while the second beam inhibits the writing beam, essentially playing an anti-recording function. This produces a spot of light nine nanometres in effective diameter – around one ten thousandth the width of a human hair.

“One data centre at the moment can be the size of a football stadium. We can reduce the size to one box of discs,” explains Gu. The impact of this technology, however, goes beyond just storage capacity, and has significant implications for energy consumption.

“Big data storage already consumes 3% of electricity. If we record all the information produced by Australia in 2011, we have to use all the electricity consumed for domestic use that year. Optical discs are what we call ‘cool technology’ they don’t require cooling systems, and they also have along life times of around 20-30 years.”

Gu describes how the technology has progressed from publication of the research (co-first authored by Dr Zongsong Gan) in Nature Communications in 2013, to commercialisation.

“Two weeks after we published the results we received a call from the investment advisor for Optical Archive Inc. saying that ‘your technology will be very useful for big data.’”

Optical Archive Inc, which licensed the technology,  was purchased by Sony Corporation of America in May 2015.

Gu believes that the first prototype of the technology will be available in around three years’ time.

Carl Williams

No silver bullets

NOT ENOUGH, AND TOO much: that’s the core problem we face globally when it comes to energy and climate change. Demand for energy is booming: it’s forecast to rise 56% by 2040 from 2010 levels. More than 85% of this increase will come from countries outside the club of rich nations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Energy prices are rising, and there’s a race on to drill oil and gas fields, dig coal mines and build power plants. It’ll get even more frenzied beyond 2040 as India, Brazil and China ride the wealth curve higher.
But today, too much energy – 87% – comes from fossil fuels, energy sources that exacerbate climate change. Despite notable efforts to reduce emissions, fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy source: by 2040 renewables – like hydro, wind, solar and biomass – are forecast to contribute 15% to our coming needs, just four points up from 2010.
What to do? Ignoring the human contribution to climate change is one way to react, but reality has a habit of catching up with you: if 97% of peer-reviewed science says industrial activity is the cause, and that economically catastrophic changes will result, it’s a brave soul who bets otherwise. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently quipped, “the good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it”.
The problem with greenhouse gases is that they stay in the atmosphere for decades, even centuries, with new tonnage piling up on previous years’. And with demand booming, global policymakers are worried enough to consider the seemingly unthinkable: a shift away from fossil fuels entirely.
“To combat climate change, reducing emissions will simply not be enough – we need to eliminate them altogether,” said Ángel Gurría, secretary-general of the OECD, when handing down a new report in October 2013. “We need to achieve zero emissions from fossil fuel sources by the second half of the century.”
That’s a hell of a challenge.
In innovation terms, there are two ways forward: to boost efficiency and extract more energy from fossil fuels, thereby getting more bang per tonne of greenhouse gas emitted; or to commercialise zero-emission technologies.
It’s the latter where innovation is stuck in the narrow band of wind and solar, and advocates of these technologies do everyone a disservice by pretending they can meet all demand. In energy, there are no silver bullets.
In Canada recently, a brave band of scientists, engineers and policy specialists tackled this head-on. Could the world really move away from fossil fuels this century; would such a shift be possible, much less achievable? The answer entails planning technology pathways over a 60-year time-scale, and developing promising technologies.
“We hoped we would emerge with pragmatic next steps for a global energy transition,” says Jatin Nathwani, an engineering professor and energy specialist at Canada’s University of Waterloo, one of the scientific advisors.
The resulting report, Equinox Blueprint: Energy 2030, does just that.

It proposes five technological pathways: develop large-scale electricity storage for wind and solar plants, removing the problem of intermittent supply; explore enhanced geothermal deep drilling by creating 10 commercial-scale, 50 megawatt demonstration projects worldwide, run as public-private partnerships, which freely share knowledge (reducing the technical and financial risks for commercial players); accelerate and deploy organic photovoltaic technologies for the 1.5 billion people who live in off-grid communities; and pursue sustained research of advanced nuclear reactor designs – such as the Integral Fast Reactor – which offer inherent safety and allow most high-level radioactive waste to be ‘burned’ as energy is generated.

And finally, ‘smart urbanisation’: roll out 2000 new and existing ICT technologies – plus the larger-scale use of smart grids and superconductors for transmission and distribution in dense urban settings – to make cities more efficient and reduce emissions.
Where would the money come from? One source is suggested by the same OECD report: abandon the tax breaks OECD countries give to oil and gas producers, which are worth between US$55 billion and US$90 billion a year.

WilsondaSilvaWilson da Silva is the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of COSMOS science magazine, and he chaired the Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 meeting in Canada.