I have just been reading some news reports that the Crann (meaning Tree in Irish - and pronounced 'crown') Research Centre at Trinity College Dublin is to receive major research grants and thus become a significant player in the exciting development of the new super material Graphene.
My previous post expressed my hopes for Graphene as the genesis and major component in the development of a new breed of Super Capacitors.
This news that Trinity College and Ireland is to have a direct hand in the development of this exciting material is most heartening in these times of recession and lots of bad news. Congratulation Crann, Trinity, and Ireland!
I have written fairly extensively over the years about the universal world need for a quantum leap in battery design. The recenty reported battery electrical problems that grounded the entire stock of Boeing's Dreamliner has again brought into sharp focus the urgent need for safer, lighter, and higher-capacity batteries.
Batteries are essentially CHEMICAL FACTORIES. Electricity is both stored and retrieved by changing the chemistry of the substances inside the battery. These chemical reactions cause the release of both heat and gasses. As Boeing have to their great expense now fully realised, heat and gasses are very much not wanted in an enclosed space.
Another disadvantage to batteries is that they take a long time to charge up, and cannot release the charge very quickly either. If you try to charge or discharge a battery too quickly - they go on fire or blow up, as Boeing are only too painfully aware.
The reason the all-electric car has not taken off is because the batteries are:
(1) Way too expensive.
(2) Don't hold enough electricity for long journeys.
(3) Take WAY too long to charge.
(4) Are too bulky and heavy.
(5) Are too Short lived - a few years - where a capacitor could out-live the car twice over.
(6) Are prone to overheat or blow up.
By contrast, capacitors, to date, have only TWO of the above disadvantages - bulk and weight, and charge capacity.
The other way to store electricity is by the use of a CAPACITOR. A capacitor stores energy in a very different way to a battery. It is a charge device - meaning it does not generate ANY chemical reactions, heat or gasses. This is a huge advantage.
The problem with capacitor storage has been the charge capacity to size/weight ratio. In other words, you needed tens if not hundreds of times more space and or weight to hold the same amount of electrical charge.
In recent years nano technology has made great advances in the development of Super Capacitors. But till now they still need to be too large for many uses, for instance, as a main power source in electric cars.
In posts to this blog ranged over years, I have outline some of the many hopeful contenders in the race for a better battery. To date all have failed to produce the holy grail of energy storage, and many would appear to be no more than "vapour ware".
There are lots of hopefuls out there ferreting away trying to develop viable batteries but nothing much has actually been delivered in more than 5 years of development.
THE NEW HOPE
Now on the horizon appears a new hopeful, it is based on a cheap, natural, safe, non toxic, and plentiful substance. The form of this substance was only discovered some five years ago.
Graphene, a form of carbon, is what I speak of. The above picture is the form of graphine first produced using almost a school boy low tech method of Scotch Tape to peel and peel and peel layer after layer of graphite to arrive at the all important single layer.
Graphene is a matrix of carbon atoms in a single layer - looking something like chicken wire. It has some truly amazing properties, one of these properties may lend it to the development of a compact and efficient Ultra-Capacitor. Developers have come up with new ways of producing graphene in usable quantities.
STORAGE CAPACITY DEMONSTRATED
Graphine is known to have amazing electrical properties. A tiny but viable capacitor has been demonstrated that can hold electrical charge many many times greater than anything previously demonstrated in a capacitor.
Now the development chase is on full-speed - to learn to produce industrial quantities of graphene and turn it into amazingly high capacity capacitors.
Mobile phones that would charge in seconds and last a week, electric cars that could re-charge in 10 minutes and travel 300 - 400 miles before re-charging. We will hopefully wait and see.
The above Chinese LED lamp is an example of some utter and complete rubbish being exported from China. If the Chinese government or trade bodies had any cop-on, they would ban the export of this sort of trash. It can do nothing but get Chinese industry a bad name.
I am a sucker for a bargain and for trying out different things. I bought several lots of 3 watt GU10 lamps on EBay. On average they lasted about 3 weeks before dying, some died after 5 days in use, and a few hang on. Do yourself a big favour and skip this particular rubbish if you are trying for a bargain on EBay.
Not all Bad News
Another purchase that I made turned out very differently. The above GU10 lamp is a 12 Watt 3 emitter lamp. It cost about $10US including postage. There is very good light output and it has been going for 2 months 14 hours a day so far. The only negative comment I have is that the light is a little bit too warm or yellowish.
It claims to have Cree emitters, and as you can see the heat sink is fairly massive - that is a good point because what tends to kill LED lamps is heat. If there is a good heat-sink, that means - big in size and plenty of metal, the lamp has a greater possibility of longer life.
In the crappy Chinese LED lamp exports, another cause of failure is poor quality driver circuits, some makers use cheap and nasty quality capacitors and other components.
The Chinese lesson for today with regard to LED Lamps is "Caveat Emptor"
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY - the term has come to have a completely new meaning for me. Now it stands for the maintenance of heat in low income homes, and for the elimination of fuel poverty, the forced decision for too many to either Eat or Heat. I am starkly aware that coal is a bad fuel environmentally, but I promote it simply because it is the most affordable fuel when burned in inexpensive enclosed stoves. The blog is a hobby, because I enjoy writing, and because now and again, I find it therapeutic to let off steam about issues that concern me. I have reached the 10th year of writing, and I am chuffed with myself that I have written over 900 articles and got almost 3/4 of a million hits to date. NEED TO CLARIFY that I am not writing as a professional, nor as a consultant, nor do I offer a service or give advice here. I express opinions - SO PLEASE DO NOT WRITE ASKING FOR SPECIFIC INFORMATION, IT'LL JUST GET BINNED. Over the years I have broadened the scope of the blog which is now covering a wider field of topics. My hope is that the blog might stimulate constructive debate.