Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cheaper, greener, alternative energy storage at Stevens

Every year, the world consumes 15 Terrawatts of power. Since the amount of annual harvestable solar energy has been estimated at 50 Terrawatts, students at Stevens Institute of Technology are working on a supercapacitor that will allow us to harness more of this renewable energy through biochar electrodes for supercapacitors, resulting in a cleaner, greener planet.

Supercapacitors are common today in solar panels and , but the material they use to store energy, activated carbon, is unsustainable and expensive. Biochar, on the other hand, represents a cheap, green alternative. The Chemical Engineering Senior Design team of Rachel Kenion, Liana Vaccari, and Katie Van Strander has designed biochar electrodes for supercapacitors, and is looking to eventually bring their solution to market. The group is advised by Dr. Woo Lee, the George Meade Bond Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

For their project, the team designed, fabricated, and tested a prototype supercapacitor electrode. The group demonstrated biochar's feasibility as an alternative to activated carbon for electrodes, which can be used in hybrid electric automobile batteries or home in .

"While the team's findings are preliminary, the approach taken by us represents a small, but potentially very important step in realizing sustainable energy future over the next few decades," says Dr. Lee.

Biochar is viewed as a green solution to the activated carbon currently used in electrodes. Unlike activated carbon, biochar is the byproduct of the pyrolysis process used to produce biofuels. That is, biochar comes from the burning of organic matter. As the use of biofuels increases, biochar production increases as well. "With our process, we are able to take that biochar and put it to good use in supercapacitors. Our supply comes from goldenrod crop, and through an IP-protected process, most organics, metals, and other impurities are removed. It is a more sustainable method of production than activated carbon," Liana says. Another significant advantage: biochar is nontoxic and will not pollute the soil when it is tossed out. The team estimates that biochar costs almost half as much as activated carbon, and is more sustainable because it reuses the waste from production, a process with sustainable intentions to begin with.

One of the largest concerns for solar panel production today is the sheer cost of manufacturing supercapacitors. Current photovoltaic arrays rely on supercapacitors to store the energy that is harnessed from the sun. And while the growth rate of supercapacitors is advancing at 20 percent a year, their cost is still very high, in part because they require activated carbon. Biochar, on the other hand, is cheaper and readily available as a byproduct of a process already used in production.

"My favorite part of this project was seeing the creation of the prototype," Katie says. "It was cool to be able to hold it in my hand and test it and say that I made this."

"Using this technology, we can reduce the cost of manufacturing supercapacitors by lowering the cost of the electrodes," Katie says. "Our goal is eventually to manufacture these electrodes and sell them to a company that already makes supercapacitors. Once supercapacitors become cheaper, they will become more common and be integrated into more and more devices."

Provided by Stevens Institute of Technology

Mechanism behind compound's effects on skin inflammation and cancer progression

Charles J. Dimitroff, MS, PhD and colleagues in the Dimitroff Lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital, have developed a fluorinated analog of glucosamine, which, in a recent study, has been shown to block the synthesis of key carbohydrate structures linked to skin inflammation and cancer progression. These findings appear in the April 14, 2011, issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Dr. Dimitroff and colleagues show for the first time that the fluorinated glucosamine therapeutic works not through direct incorporation into growing sugar chains as previously believed but instead blocks the synthesis of a key sugar, UDP-GlcNAc, inside immune cells characteristically involved inflammation and anti-tumor immunity

Accordingly, this report underscores a novel and previously unknown mechanism by which fluorinated glucosamine analogs could shape and reduce inflammation intensity, while boosting anti-tumor immune responses. Such knowledge could prove valuable in the design of new and more potent glucosamine mimetics against disease as well as in treatment strategies to utilize existing glucosamine mimetics more efficiently.

Provided by Brigham and Women's Hospital

Supercapacitors: Cheaper, greener, alternative energy storage

 Every year, the world consumes approximately 15 terawatts of power, according to some estimates. Since the amount of annual harvestable solar energy has been estimated at 50 terawatts, students at Stevens Institute of Technology are working on a supercapacitor that will allow us to harness more of this renewable energy through biochar electrodes for supercapacitors, resulting in a cleaner, greener planet.


Supercapacitors are common today in solar panels and hydrogen fuel cell car batteries, but the material they use to store energy, activated carbon, is unsustainable and expensive. Biochar, on the other hand, represents a cheap, green alternative. The Chemical Engineering Senior Design team of Rachel Kenion, Liana Vaccari, and Katie Van Strander has designed biochar electrodes for supercapacitors, and is looking to eventually bring their solution to market. The group is advised by Dr. Woo Lee, the George Meade Bond Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.


For their project, the team designed, fabricated, and tested a prototype supercapacitor electrode. The group demonstrated biochar's feasibility as an alternative to activated carbon for electrodes, which can be used in hybrid electric automobile batteries or home energy storage in solar panels.


"While the team's findings are preliminary, the approach taken by us represents a small, but potentially very important step in realizing sustainable energy future over the next few decades," says Dr. Lee.


Biochar is viewed as a green solution to the activated carbon currently used in supercapacitor electrodes. Unlike activated carbon, biochar is the byproduct of the pyrolysis process used to produce biofuels. That is, biochar comes from the burning of organic matter. As the use of biofuels increases, biochar production increases as well. "With our process, we are able to take that biochar and put it to good use in supercapacitors. Our supply comes from goldenrod crop, and through an IP-protected process, most organics, metals, and other impurities are removed. It is a more sustainable method of production than activated carbon," Liana says. Another significant advantage: biochar is nontoxic and will not pollute the soil when it is tossed out. The team estimates that biochar costs almost half as much as activated carbon, and is more sustainable because it reuses the waste from biofuel production, a process with sustainable intentions to begin with.


One of the largest concerns for solar panel production today is the sheer cost of manufacturing supercapacitors. Current photovoltaic arrays rely on supercapacitors to store the energy that is harnessed from the sun. And while the growth rate of supercapacitors is advancing at 20 percent a year, their cost is still very high, in part because they require activated carbon. Biochar, on the other hand, is cheaper and readily available as a byproduct of a process already used in energy production.


"My favorite part of this project was seeing the creation of the prototype," Katie says. "It was cool to be able to hold it in my hand and test it and say that I made this."


"Using this technology, we can reduce the cost of manufacturing supercapacitors by lowering the cost of the electrodes," Katie says. "Our goal is eventually to manufacture these electrodes and sell them to a company that already makes supercapacitors. Once supercapacitors become cheaper, they will become more common and be integrated into more and more devices."


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The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations ) from materials provided by Stevens Institute of Technology.

Portable hydrogen reactor for fuel cells

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2011) — Chemical engineering students at Stevens Institute of Technology are transforming the way that American soldiers power their battery-operated devices by making a small change: a really small change. Capitalizing on the unique properties of microscale systems, the students have invented a microreactor that converts everyday fossil fuels like propane and butane into pure hydrogen for fuel cell batteries. These batteries are not only highly efficient, but also can be replenished with hydrogen again and again for years of resilient performance in the field.

With soldiers carrying up to 80% of gear weight in batteries, the Army has a high interest in replacing the current paradigm of single-use batteries with a reliable, reusable power source. The Stevens-made microreactors thus have the potential to not only reduce waste from disposable batteries, but also provide American soldiers with a dependable way to recharge the batteries for the critical devices that keep them safe.

Current methods for generating fuel cell hydrogen are both sophisticated and risky, requiring high temperatures and a vacuum to produce the necessary chemical-reaction-causing plasmas. Once in a container, hydrogen is a highly volatile substance that is dangerous and expensive to transport.

The Stevens microreactor overcomes both of these barriers by using low temperatures and atmospheric pressure, and by producing hydrogen only as needed to avoid creating explosive targets in combat areas. These advanced reactors are created using cutting-edge microfabrication techniques, similar to those used to create plasma television screens, which use microscale physics to produce plasma under normal atmospheres.

The team has already had success producing hydrogen from methanol. After gasifying methanol by suspending it in hot nitrogen gas, the mixture is drawn into a 25┬Ám channel in the microreactor. There, it reacts with plasma to cause thermal decomposition, breaking down the methanol into its elemental components. Now the team is conducting tests to see what kind of yields are realizable from various starter fuels. Eventually, soldiers will be able to convert everyday liquid fuels like propane or butane, commonly found on military bases, into high-potency juice for portable fuel cell batteries.

The team, made up of seniors Ali Acosta, Kyle Lazzaro, Randy Parrilla, and Andrew Robertson, are supporting Ph.D. candidate Peter Lindner in a research project sponsored by the U.S. Army. The project is overseen by Dr. Ronald Besser. The team will be presenting their device prototype at Senior Projects Expo on April 27.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Stevens Institute of Technology.

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.