If you’ve got an interest in technology, it’s inevitable that your feed will feature a constant supply of stories with titles in the vein of “New battery breakthrough offers unlimited life and capacity!”. If we had a pound, dollar, or Euro for each one, we’d be millionaires by now. But while the real science behind the breathless headlines will undoubtedly have provided incremental battery improvements, we’re still waiting for the unlimited battery.
It’s not to say that they don’t conceal some interesting stories though, and there’s an announcement from Australia proving this point admirably. Scientists at ECU in Perth have created a new cathode compound for rechargeable zinc-air batteries, which it is hoped will make them much safer and cheaper competitors for lithium-ion cells.
Most of us think of zinc-air batteries as the tiny cells you’d put in a camera or a hearing aid, but these conceal a chemistry with significant potential that is held back by the difficulty of creating a reliable cathode. In these batteries the cathode is a porous support in which a reaction between zinc powder wet paste and oxygen in the air occurs, turning zinc into zinc oxide and releasing electrons which can be harvested as electricity. They have a very high power density, but previous cathode materials have quickly degraded performance when presented with significant load.
The new cathode support is a nano-composite material containing cobalt, nickel, and iron, and is claimed to offer much better performance without the degradation. Whether or not it can be mass-produced remains to be seen, but as a possible alternative to lithium-ion in portable and transport applications it’s of great interest.
We’re pretty sure that [Luke] took Uncle of the Year last Halloween when he made an RGB LED princess dress for his niece. He recently found the time to document the build with a comprehensive how-to that’s just in time for Halloween ’17.
[Luke] made the system modular so that his niece could use it with any dress. The RGB LED strips are actually fastened down the inside of a petticoat — a fluffy, puffy kind of slip that’s worn underneath the dress. The LEDs face in toward the body, which helps diffuse the light. [Luke] first attached the strips with their own adhesive and then spent a lot of time sewing them down so they stayed put. At some point, he found that hot glue worked just as well.
The coolest part of this project (aside from the blinkenlights of course) is the power source. [Luke] used what he already had lying around: an 18V Ryobi battery pack. He wired a step-converter to it using a printed cap from Shapeways that’s designed to connect metal clips to the battery contacts. This cap really makes these packs useful for a lot of projects that need long-lasting portability.
These batteries are rated for 240W, which is overkill considering the load. But there’s a reason: it keeps heat to a minimum, since the electronics are hidden inside a cute little backpack. Speaking of cute, you can see his niece model the dress after the break.
Continue reading “LED Princess Dress Also Lights Up Girl’s Face”
Researchers have built a prototype lithium-sulphur battery that — when perfected — could have up to five times the energy density of current lithium-ion devices. Researchers in the UK and China drew inspiration from intestines to overcome problems in the battery construction.
In your intestine, small hair-like structures called villi increase the surface area that your body uses to absorb nutrients from food. In the new lithium-sulphur battery, researchers used tiny zinc oxide wires to form a layer of material with a villi-like structure. These villi cover one electrode and can trap fragments of the active material when they break off, allowing them to continue participating in the electrochemical reaction that produces electricity.
Lithium-sulphur batteries aren’t new (in fact, they were used in 2008 in a solar-powered plane that broke several records), but this new technique may make them more practical. You can see a video about ordinary lithium-sulphur batteries below along with more on how this research improves the state of the art.
Continue reading “New Lithium Battery Technology Takes Guts”
There’s a bunch of different electric scooters available nowadays, including those hoverboards that keep catching fire. [TK] had an older Razor E300 that uses lead acid batteries. After getting tired of the low speeds and 12 hour charge times, [TK] decided it was time to swap for lithium batteries.
The new batteries were sourced from a Ryobi drill. Each provides 18 V, giving 36 V in series. The original batteries only ran at 24 V, which caused some issues with the motor controller. It refused to start up with the higher voltage. The solution: disable the safety shutdown relay on the motor controller by bridging it with a wire.
With the voltage issue sorted out, it was time for the current limit to be modified. This motor controller uses a TI TL494 to generate the PWM waveforms that drive a MOSFET to provide variable power to the motor. Cutting the trace to the TL494’s current sense pin removed the current limit all together.
We’re not saying it’s advisable to disable all current and voltage limits on your scooter, but it seems to be working out for [TK]. The $200 scooter now does 28 km/h, up from 22 km/h and charges much faster. With gearing mods, he’s hoping to eke out some more performance.
After the break, the full conversion video.
Continue reading “Converting An Electric Scooter To Lithium Batteries And Disabling The Safeties”
Researchers in Singapore have created a new kind of redox flow battery with an energy density around ten times higher than conventional redox flow batteries. Never heard of a redox flow battery? These rechargeable batteries have more in common with fuel cells than conventional batteries. They use two circulating liquids separated by a membrane as an electrolyte. Each liquid has its own tank, and you can recharge it by pumping in fresh electrolyte. The redox in the name is short for reduction-oxidation and refers to the process that stores energy in the two liquids. You can learn more about flow batteries in the video from Harvard below.
Continue reading “Storing Energy In Liquid Form”
There are a number of resources scattered across the Internet that provide detailed breakdowns of common products, such as batteries, but we haven’t seen anything quite as impressive as this site. It’s an overwhelming presentation of data that addresses batteries of all types, including 18650’s (and others close in size), 26650’s, and more chargers than you can shake a LiPo at. It’s an amazing site with pictures of the product both assembled and disassembled, graphs for charge and discharge rates, comparisons for different chemistries, and even some thermal images to illustrate how the chargers deal with heat dissipation.
Check out the review for the SysMax Intellicharger i4 to see a typical example. If you make it to the bottom of that novel-length repository of information, you’ll see that each entry includes a link to the methodology used for testing these chargers.
But wait, there’s more! You can also find equally thorough reviews of flashlights, USB chargers, LED drivers, and a few miscellaneous overviews of the equipment used for these tests.
Most tools sport rechargeable batteries these days, but there’s no need to toss that old flashlight: just replace the cells with rechargable ones!
[monjnoux] had a 3-cell D-sized MagLite lying around—though you could reproduce this hack with a 2 to 5 cell model—which he emptied of its regular batteries and replaced with some 11000mAh NiMHs from eBay. The original bulb was also tossed in favor of a 140-lumens LED.
After disassembling the flashlight, [monjnoux] set about installing the new parts. He replaced the original bulb with the LED, soldering it into place and securing it with hot glue. He then drilled a hole in the body of the flashlight for a DC socket. The charger he purchased is adaptive, detecting the number of cells and adjusting its voltage accordingly. It had the wrong connector, though, so [monjnoux] simply chopped off the end and soldered on a new one. For a hack that comes in at 40€, it’s definitely a cheaper alternative to the official rechargeable model: which costs 80€. And with a duration of 7 hours (though it’s unclear whether this number reflects continuous use), it likely outlasts the official model, as well.