Are power management researchers really 21st century alchemists?

Are power management researchers really 21st century alchemists?

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

In past centuries numerous proto-scientists (including none other than Isaac Newton) spent their lives trying to discover the philosophers’ stone which can be described as a legendary alchemical substance reputed to be capable of turning base metals such as lead into gold or silver.

In this century R&D scientists around the world seem keen to try using almost any material to develop a cheap, environmentally friendly energy source – the modern day equivalent to a precious metal.  The philosophers’ stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss.

We all know that alchemists of yesteryear failed in their attempts to find the philosophers’ stone.  One cannot help wondering how many of the obscure materials being studied around the world currently will ever reach commercial fruition.  Here is the list of the more unusual substances that scientists were working with during 2014. Do you think any of them will become the energy breakthrough of 2015?

Fool’s gold    

A research team from University of Wisconsin-Madison has discovered that iron pyrite – a compound that makes a mineral commonly known as fool’s gold – could prove a promising material for producing inexpensive yet efficient solar cells.


Researchers from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton have demonstrated a way that glass can be manipulated to create electronic devices that will be smaller, faster and consume less power.


Researchers at Washington State University have developed a chewing gum-like battery material that is claimed could reduce the fire hazard potential of lithium ion batteries.


Researchers University of California San Diego have designed a sensor in the form of a temporary tattoo that can both monitor a person’s progress during exercise and the tattoo biobatteries can also produce power from the perspiration.


Scientists in Canada reported that fibers from hemp can pack as much energy and power as graphene which has been favored as an ideal candidate material for supercapacitors


Purdue University physicists are part of an international group that investigated the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel.  The scientists are focusing on spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.


Researchers from University of Liverpool have discovered that a low-cost chemical used to make tofu and bath salts could be used to replace cadmium chloride, which is a highly toxic and expensive substance used to make solar cells.


Researchers at Swiss Materials Science and Technology Institution – Empa – have developed a photoelectrochemical cell that imitates plant photosynthesis by recreating a moth’s eye to boost its light collecting efficiency.  The cell is made of cheap raw materials – iron and tungsten oxide and could see rust – iron oxide – being used to revolutionize solar cell technology


An international team of engineers at Penn State have discovered a way of creating saliva-powered micro-sized microbial fuel cells that can produce minute amounts of energy sufficient to run on-chip applications.


The humble pomegranate has proved to be an inspiration for a new generation of lithium-ion batteries according to researchers at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

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