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Submission + - John Goodenough responds to skeptics of his new lithium-on battery (

Lucas123 writes: John Goodenough, the University of Texas researcher who this week demonstrated new battery cells that are safer and have at least three times as much energy density as today's standard Li-on batteries, responded to skeptics who said the technology described in research published in a peer-reviewed journal, appear to defy the laws of thermodynamics. In an article published Monday by Quartz , various energy experts took exception to Goodenough's claims, even calling them "unbelievable." Goodenough is also co-inventor of the original lithium-ion battery. In an email to Computerworld, Goodenough said "any new discovery invites strong skepticism." In this case, the skeptical scientists wondered how it is possible to strip lithium from the anode and plate it on a cathode current collector to obtain a battery voltage since the voltage is the difference in the chemical potentials (Fermi energies) between the two metallic electrodes,. "The answer is that if the lithium plated on the cathode current collector is thin enough for its reaction with the current collector to have its Fermi energy lowered to that of the current collector, the Fermi energy of the lithium anode is higher than that of the thin lithium plated on the cathode current collector," Goodenough said.

Submission + - SDG&E flips the switch on a 2MW flow battery able to power 1,000 homes (

Lucas123 writes: SDG&E has installed its first vanadium redox flow (VRF) battery substation as part of an order by the California Public Utilities Commission for utilities to solicit more utility-scale energy storage. The new substation can store 2MW of electricity, enough to power 1,000 homes for four hours. CPUC is requiring utilities to meet a target of 1.3GW of additional power storage by 2020. The projects are part of a trend involving utilities that deploy battery storage to supplement grid power during peak hours rather than drawing more electricity from generating sources such as coal-fired power plants. In January, for example, Southern California Edison (SCE) flipped the switch on what was the largest lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery storage facility in the world — a substation with 80 megawatt hours (MWh) of capacity. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts massive growth in the energy storage market, first in utilities and then in corporations seeking to reduce their overhead costs, amounting to 45 billion watts (81 gigawatt hours/GWh) of energy storage.

Submission + - Trump's proposed budget would result in big spending cuts for renewables (

Lucas123 writes: The Trump administration's newly released 2018 budget proposal outlining changes to discretionary would likely cut spending on renewable energy. For example, not only does the proposed budget cut the EPA and Energy Department budget by 31% and 6%, respectively, it would also not fund the Clean Power Plan and other climate change programs. With the CPP gone, the U.S. would likely see fewer retirements of coal-fired power plants due to carbon emissions and less impetus for the procurement of utility-grade solar power. The good news for renewables: the budget would not have any impact on the solar investment tax credit, carbon tax proposals or state-based solar subsidies, according to Amit Ronen, director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University. Additionally, renewable energy resources, such as solar panels, have gained too much momentum and aren't likely to be deterred by regulatory changes at this point, according to Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group, a clean energy research firm. For example, even with the dissolution of the CPP, the number of coal-fired generators is still expected to be reduced by about one-third through 2030, or by about 60 gigawatts of capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Meanwhile, wind and solar are by far the fastest growing energy sectors, which indicates an appetite by utilities and consumers that is highly unlikely to be slowed by regulatory changes at the federal level, experts said.

Submission + - Laptop SSD capacity to remain flat as NAND flash dearth causes prices to rise (

Lucas123 writes: Laptop manufacturers aren't likely to offer higher capacity standard SSDs in their machines this year as a shortage of NAND flash is pusing prices higher this year. At the same time, nearly half of all laptops shipped this year will have SSDs versus HDDs, according to a new report from DRAMeXchange. The contract prices for multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs supplied to the PC manufacturing industry for those laptops are projected to go up by 12% to 16% compared with the final quarter of 2016; prices of triple-level cell (TLC) SSDs are expected to rise by 10% to 16% sequentially. "The tight NAND flash supply and sharp price hikes for SSDs will likely discourage PC-[manufacturers] from raising storage capacity," said Alan Chen, a senior research manager of DRAMeXchange. "Therefore, the storage specifications for mainstream PC...SSDs are expected to remain in the 128GB and 256GB [range]."

Submission + - Toshiba plans to ship a 1TB flash chip to manufacturers this spring (

Lucas123 writes: Toshiba has begun shipping samples of its third-generation 3D NAND memory product, a chip with 64 stacked flash cells that it said will enable a 1TB chip it will ship this spring. The new flash memory product has 65% greater capacity than the previous generation technology, which used 48 layers of NAND flash cells. The chip will be used in data center and consumer SSD products. The technology announcement comes even as suitors are eyeing buying a majority share of the company's memory business. Along with a previous report about WD, Foxxcon, SK Hynix and Micron have now also thrown their hats in the ring to purchase a majority share in Toshiba's memory spin-off, according to a new report in the Nikkei's Asian Review.

Submission + - Self-driving cars, trucks may always need a human behind the wheel (

Lucas123 writes: Even as self-driving car technology quickly evolves, technologists and lawmakers are still grappling with a big problem : In the event of an accident, who's to blame? For example, the U.K.'s Department for Transport announced plans this month to require owners of cars with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to carry two-in-one insurance policies: one to cover the person when they're controlling the vehicle and the other for the car when it is in autonomous mode. One glaring problem with trusting autonomous vehicle software to control a one-ton car (or a 16-ton semi-tractor truck) is that each manufacturer programs its product differently from its competitors. And, if a software glitch exists in one vehicle, it exists in the entire line of cars or trucks. André Platzer, who is part of DARPA's High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems project which learns from the military's experience in developing hardened technology for controlling autonomous vehicle system. Platzer believes autonomous vehicles should always have a human being behind the wheel so that in instances where the vehicle is outside of its operating parameters, it can alert the driver to take control. Platzer, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, is also part of a team developing software that would make self-driving vehicles self aware in the sense that the vehicle would know its operating limitations. "The world is a complicated place and that makes the road a complicated place. Most of the time, roads are the same, but every once in a while the situation is a bit different," Platzer said. "Even if you take a million of these scenarios..., you've still not tried all the cases by testing alone."

Submission + - Ford to invest $1B in A.I. startup founded by former Google and Uber employees (

Lucas123 writes: Ford plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence startup that will help develop a virtual driver system for the carmaker's autonomous vehicle coming in 2021. Ford said its relationship with Argo AI, which was founded last year in Pittsburgh, will combine its existing autonomous vehicle development program with Argo AI's robotics and "startup speed" on artificial intelligence software. Argo AI founders CEO Bryan Salesky, and COO Peter Rander are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. Argo AI's team will include roboticists and engineers from inside and outside of Ford working to develop a new software platform for Ford's fully autonomous vehicle, expected in 2021. Ford said it could also license the software to other carmakers.

Submission + - Toshiba will spin off a portion of its memory business to WD (

Lucas123 writes: Toshiba, which invented NAND flash, plans to sell off an as of yet undisclosed portion of its memory business, including its solid-state drive unit, to Western Digital. Toshiba is spinning the business off to WD, a business ally, because it hopes in the long run the Toshiba-WD alliance will enable an expansion in NAND flash production capacity and increased efficiency in storage product development. Toshiba's solvency and fundraising ability are also in trouble because of a $1.9 billion accounting scandal and a multi-billion dollar loss related to a nuclear plant purchase. Last week, Toshiba announced its share price had tumbled 13% after reports that its nuclear power business had lost $4.4 billion. Currently, Toshiba and WD together represent 35% of global NAND flash production; Samsung leads that market with 36% of production. "Toshiba wants to put its memory business in a more stable financial position," said Sean Yang, research director of DRAMeXchange. "Facing mounting operational and competitive pressure, the spun-off entity will be more effective in raising cash to stay afloat or expand."

Submission + - U.S. solar industry power generation jobs pass oil, coal and gas combined (

Lucas123 writes: In 2016, the solar workforce in the U.S. increased by 25% to 374,000 employees, compared to 187,117 electrical generation jobs in the coal, gas and oil industries. Solar employment, which includes both photovoltaic electricity and concentrated solar steam generators, accounts for 43% of the electric power generation workforce — the largest share of workers in that sector. Fossil fuel generation employment now accounts for 22%. In addition to losing ground in employment, net power generation from coal sources declined by 53% between 2006 and September 2016; electricity generation from natural gas increased by 33%; and solar grew by over 5,000% —from 508,000 megawatt hours (MWh) to just over 28 million MWh.

Submission + - Energy storage to grow from 2GW to 80GW in the next decade (

Lucas123 writes: With researchers predicting 378.1GW of new solar and wind generating capacity to be installed globally over the next five years, a staggering amount of battery storage technology will be needed to connect it effectively to grids around the world, and particularly in developing economies. Over the next decade, energy storage capacity in developing countries is expected to skyrocket 40 fold from 2GW today to more than 80GW, according to a new report by the World Bank Group. The report, "Energy Storage Trends and Opportunities in Emerging Markets," indicates the annual growth in energy storage capacity will exceed 40% each year over the next eight to nine years. Those storage technologies include mechanical systems such as flywheels, compressed air or pumped hydro; electrochemical storage, such as lithium-ion (li-on) and flow battery technology; and thermal systems like phase-change technology. Phase-change tech uses materials such as molten salt to store heat from concentrated solar farms for later release in steam generators. An already aging grid infrastructure in many developing nations is also driving the adoption of distributed grid technology and energy storage systems. By 2030, it is estimated that $45 billion will need to be invested to provide universal access to modern electric power — and energy storage is set to play a key role in those investments.


Submission + - Carbon nanotube-based memory poised for commercialization in 2018 (

Lucas123 writes: Nano-RAM, which is based on carbon nanotubes and is claimed to have virtually a limitless number of write cycles and can achieve up to 3.2 billion data transfers per second or 2.4Gbps — more than twice as fast as NAND flash — is now being produced in seven fabrication plants around the world. Fujitsu plans to develop a custom embedded storage-class memory module using a DDR4 interface by the end of 2018, with the goal of expanding its product line-up into a stand-alone NRAM product family. A new report from BCC Research states the NRAM will likely challenge all other memory types for market dominance and is expected to be used in everything from IoT sensors to smartphone memory and embedded ASICS for automobiles.

Submission + - Armatix to introduce 9mm semi-auto smart gun (

Lucas123 writes: The German firearms manufacturer whose .22 caliber iP1 smart pistol caused a backlash from gun advocacy groups who protested stores that planned to sell it, will introduce a 9mm semi-automatic smart pistol. Armatix LLC's new iP9 smart gun will go on sale in the U.S. in mid-2017 and differs from its predecessor in that it will not use an RFID-equipped watch to unlock the gun but instead will have a fingerprint reader that can store multiple scans like a smartphone. The iP9 is expected to retail for about the same suggested retail price as the iP1 — $1,365, which is more than twice the price of many conventional 9mm semi-automatic pistols. Several large U.S. retail stores have already met with Armatix and "not one of them" expressed any concern about the weapon's price, according to Wolfgang Tweraser, CEO of Amratix, who compared the smart guns to Tesla cars. "Always the latest technology comes with a higher price tag. As you make hundreds and thousands of units, then the price will change also," he said. The company also plans to re-introduce its iP1, but this time it will target sales to gun ranges.

Submission + - Smart gun technology evolves but politics may be keeping dev funding scant (

Lucas123 writes: Smart gun development was once hampered by old processing technology as start-ups struggled to find funding, but innovators have found renewed life for projects through the use of today's cheap microprocessor technology and some money through at least one private entity — Smart Tech Challenges Foundation. For example, 19-year-old MIT freshman Kai Kloepfer recently won a $50K grant from the foundation to further develop a semi-automatic pistol with a fingerprint reader. Even stalwart gun manufacturers, such as O.F. Mossberg & Sons firearms, who've had efforts to create a smart guns in the past have found renewed life. Jonathan Mossberg, the great grandson of Oscar Mossberg, who founded the namesake firearms company in North Haven, Conn. in 1919, has created an offshoot company that built a smart shotgun and now plans to make a smart handguns using RFID-style chip technology. But the picture's still not completely rosy. Like other inventors who've developed smart gun technology, Mossberg found seed money difficult to come by for his iGun Technology Corp. and its iGun. Still, between his family's arms business and a machining business he later opened, Mossberg managed to invest about $5 million into developing the weapon. Now, he's tapped out and again looking for investors. But, Silicon Valley may be sheepish to get involved and continued efforts by some lawmakers to force citizens to buy smart guns once they're on shelves have backfired and lead gun owners and lobbying groups to fight any uptake of the technology in the market. Smart gun developers such as Mossberg and Kloepfer are none to happy about mandates and say it's time to get rid of any threat to create them and allow the free market to determine if the technology sinks or swims.

Submission + - Class-action reveals Ford engineers thought infotainment system was unsaleable (

Lucas123 writes: A class-action lawsuit against Ford and its MyFord Touch in-vehicle infotainment system — originally based on a Microsoft platform — has brought to light corporate documents that show engineers at the Dearborn carmaker referred to the problematic technology as a "polished turd" that they feared would be "unsaleable." The documents even reveal Henry Ford's great grandson experienced significant problems with MyFord Touch. In one incident, Edsel Ford was forced to wait on a roadside for the system to reset and could not continue to drive because he was unable to use the IVI's navigation system. The lawsuit describes an IVI screen that would freeze or go blank; generate error messages that wouldn't go away; voice recognition and navigation systems that failed to work, problems wirelessly pairing with smartphones, and a generally slow system. Ford's CEO Mark Fields even described his own travails with the SYNC IVI, referring to it as having crashed on several occasions, and that he was so frustrated with the system he may have damaged his car's screen out of aggravation. The civil suit is expected to go to trial in 2017.

Submission + - Aetna to hand out 50K Apple Watches as well as subsidize them for customers (

Lucas123 writes: Health insurer Aetna said it plans to give employees 50,000 free Apple Watches and subsidize the cost of the mobile device for a select number of its largest customers in an effort to bolster its analytics-based mobile wellness and healthcare management programs. Aetna is working with Apple on several iOS-exclusive health initiatives, starting with integrated health apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch devices that will help users to better "manage their health and increase healthy outcomes."

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