Inventor Introduces New Technology for Fast-Charging, Noncombustible Batteries

AUSTIN, Texas — A team of engineers led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.

Maria Helena Braga

Pictured: Maria Helena Braga.

Goodenough’s latest breakthrough, completed with Cockrell School senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, is a low-cost all-solid-state battery that is noncombustible and has a long cycle life (battery life) with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge. The engineers describe their new technology in a recent paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted. We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries,” Goodenough said.

The researchers demonstrated that their new battery cells have at least three times as much energy density as today’s lithium-ion batteries. A battery cell’s energy density gives an electric vehicle its driving range, so a higher energy density means that a car can drive more miles between charges. The UT Austin battery formulation also allows for a greater number of charging and discharging cycles, which equates to longer-lasting batteries, as well as a faster rate of recharge (minutes rather than hours).

Today’s lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes to transport the lithium ions between the anode (the negative side of the battery) and the cathode (the positive side of the battery). If a battery cell is charged too quickly, it can cause dendrites or “metal whiskers” to form and cross through the liquid electrolytes, causing a short circuit that can lead to explosions and fires. Instead of liquid electrolytes, the researchers rely on glass electrolytes that enable the use of an alkali-metal anode without the formation of dendrites.

The use of an alkali-metal anode (lithium, sodium or potassium) — which isn’t possible with conventional batteries — increases the energy density of a cathode and delivers a long cycle life. In experiments, the researchers’ cells have demonstrated more than 1,200 cycles with low cell resistance.

Additionally, because the solid-glass electrolytes can operate, or have high conductivity, at -20 degrees Celsius, this type of battery in a car could perform well in subzero degree weather. This is the first all-solid-state battery cell that can operate under 60 degree Celsius.

Braga began developing solid-glass electrolytes with colleagues while she was at the University of Porto in Portugal. About two years ago, she began collaborating with Goodenough and researcher Andrew J. Murchison at UT Austin. Braga said that Goodenough brought an understanding of the composition and properties of the solid-glass electrolytes that resulted in a new version of the electrolytes that is now patented through the UT Austin Office of Technology Commercialization.

The engineers’ glass electrolytes allow them to plate and strip alkali metals on both the cathode and the anode side without dendrites, which simplifies battery cell fabrication.

Another advantage is that the battery cells can be made from earth-friendly materials.

“The glass electrolytes allow for the substitution of low-cost sodium for lithium. Sodium is extracted from seawater that is widely available,” Braga said.

Goodenough and Braga are continuing to advance their battery-related research and are working on several patents. In the short term, they hope to work with battery makers to develop and test their new materials in electric vehicles and energy storage devices.

This research is supported by UT Austin, but there are no grants associated with this work. The UT Austin Office of Technology Commercialization is actively negotiating license agreements with multiple companies engaged in a variety of battery-related industry segments.


Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles

Plastic was identified in 93 percent of the samples included in the study, which included major name brands such as Aqua, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino

The world’s leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny plastic particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process, according to a major study across nine countries published Wednesday.

“Widespread contamination” with plastic was found in the study, led by microplastic researcher Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia, according to a summary released by Orb Media, a US-based non-profit media collective.

Researchers tested 250 bottles of water in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand, and the United States.

Plastic was identified in 93 percent of the samples, which included major name brands such as Aqua, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino.

The plastic debris included polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make bottle caps.

“In this study, 65 percent of the particles we found were actually fragments and not fibers,” Mason told AFP.

“I think it is coming through the process of bottling the water. I think that most of the plastic that we are seeing is coming from the bottle itself, it is coming from the cap, it is coming from the industrial process of bottling the water.”

Particle concentration ranged from “zero to more than 10,000 likely plastic particles in a single bottle,” said the report.

On average, plastic particles in the 100 micron (0.10 millimeter) size range — considered “microplastics,” — were found at an average rate of 10.4 plastic particles per liter.

Even smaller particles were more common — averaging about 325 per liter.

Other brands that were found to contain plastic contaminated included Bisleri, Epura, Gerolsteiner, Minalba and Wahaha.

Experts cautioned that the extent of the risk to human health posed by such contamination remains unclear.

“There are connections to increases in certain kinds of cancer to lower sperm count to increases in conditions like ADHD and autism,” said Mason.

“We know that they are connected to these synthetic chemicals in the environment and we know that plastics are providing kind of a means to get those chemicals into our bodies.”

– Time to ditch plastic? –

Previous research by Orb Media has found plastic particles in tap water, too, but on a smaller scale.

“Tap water, by and large, is much safer than bottled water,” said Mason.

The three-month study used a technique developed by the University of East Anglia’s School of Chemistry to “see” microplastic particles by staining them using fluorescent Nile Red dye, which makes plastic fluorescent when irradiated with blue light.

“We have been involved with independently reviewing the findings and methodology to ensure the study is robust and credible,” said lead researcher Andrew Mayes, from UEA’s School of Chemistry.

“The results stack up.”

Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer for North America at Oceana, a marine advocacy group that was not involved in the research, said the study provides more evidence that society must abandon the ubiquitous use of plastic water bottles.

“We know plastics are building-up in marine animals, and this means we too are being exposed, some of us, every day,” she said.

“It’s more urgent now than ever before to make plastic water bottles a thing of the past.”

Relief for 50 non-residental societies

Supreme court rejects I-T department’s claim, gives relief to 50 non-residential societies in Mumbai

In a major relief to over 50 societies of the non-residential premises in Mumbai, the Supreme Court has struck down the Income Tax Department’s claim of tax which they collect as charges for non-occupancy, transfer, common amenity fund and certain other charges.

The Income Tax Department had appealed against the Bombay High Court dismissing its claim over such receipts as being taxable as business income, generating profit and surplus having an element of commerciality. Societies like Mittal Tower Premises, Mittal Court Prem-ises, Venkatesh Premises, Sea Face Park Society New Maker Chamber had claimed that their receipts were exempt from income tax based on the doctrine of mutuality.

In a judgment delivered on Monday, the bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Navin Sinha dismissed the Income Tax Department, upholding the Bombay High Court’s verdict that its claim was based on the notification issued by the state government on 09.08.2001 under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 is applicable only to cooperative housing societies and has no application to a premises society which consists of the non-residential premises. It also noted that there was no profit motive or sharing of profits among the members as the surplus was used for providing better facilities to the members.

The Income Tax Department had based its case on the ground that receipt of non-occupancy charges by the society from its members beyond 10% of service/maintenance charges permissible under the notification dated 09.08.2001 stands excluded from the principle of mutuality and was taxable. The order was upheld by the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) but struck down by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal holding that the said notification did not apply to premises society. The High Court even set aside the finding that payment by the transferee member was taxable. The respondent societies’ case was that the charges collected by them were for general maintenance a the premises and other facilities and general amenities to the members and the fact that the members who were not self-occupying may have to pay at a higher rate was irrelevant so long as the receipts were utilised for the benefit of the members as a class.

Click Here for the full judgement

Insurer must alert client in case of premium default

Case Study: Nagu Gouda worked as assistant teacher at a school under the Karnantaka government’s block education officer (BEO). He took a policy of Rs 1.25 lakh under LIC’s Salary Saving Scheme, which provided that the employer would deduct and remit monthly premium to LIC.

The last premium was remitted in August 2009. Later, Gouda took ill and was on leave without pay. So premium could not be deducted. Gouda died on July 20, 2010. His widow, Seeta, made a claim under the policy, but LIC refused, saying the policy had lapsed due to unpaid premium.

Seeta filed a complaint in the district forum against LIC and the BEO that the employer couldn’t remit premium as Gouda was on leave without pay and Gouda should’ve been told to pay instead of letting the policy lapse. She alleged that failure to intimate Gouda to pay was ‘deficiency in service’.

LIC said Gouda’s premium for last 10 months was not remitted by the BEO or by Gouda. It said the policy had lapsed and the claim was rightly repudiated. LIC sought dismissal of the complaint.

The district forum held LIC and the BEO jointly and severally liable to settle the claim. It ordered payment of the sum assured with accrued bonus and 9% interest.

LIC challenged this order, but its appeal was dismissed by Karnataka State Commission. LIC approached the National Commission and contended that Gouda alone was responsible for failure to remit premium, and that the BEO as employer could not be held liable as Gouda had opted for premature retirement on June 30, 2010. LIC also said that Gouda had given that he would be responsible for consequences of non-payment of premium.

The National Commission observed that LIC and the employer have a duty to inform the employee.

By its order, the National Commission said there was deficiency in service Thus, he ordered holding the employer and LIC jointly liable to settle the claim was upheld.

Conclusion: The employer and LIC have to inform the insured about default in payment of premium under Salary Savings Scheme.

(The author’s e-mail is jehangir.gai.columnist@

Jehangir B Gai

Hint of new Aadhaar deadline?

The Centre on Tuesday assured the Supreme Court that the government was open to extending beyond March 31 the deadline for linking Aadhaar cards with bank accounts and mobile phones.

“We have extended the deadline in the past too. We can do it again. Let’s see how the hearing proceeds. If required, we can do it again,” attorney-general K.K. Venugopal told a five-judge constitution bench.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, is dealing with a slew of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar law.

The attorney-general gave the assurance during the closing hours of the day’s hearing in response to pleas made by senior advocates who felt the hearing might extend beyond March 31.

Although not officially stated, there are indications that the deadline could be extended till May 31 or even beyond as the hearing of the case may go on for another month. Thereafter, such benches usually reserve the judgment. The verdict may be pronounced a month later or in July after the summer vacation.

Policy to scrap 15 yrs old vehicles almost finalised

India will soon come out with a policy to scrap vehicles that are more than 15 years old, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today.

The policy aims at curbing rising vehicular pollution in the country.

“We have almost finalised the scrapping policy for vehicles with NITI Aayog,” the road and transport minister said.

Vehicles completing 15 years or more would be scrapped, the minister said without giving more details.

Gadkari said India is bound to become the hub for the automobile industry and the prices were bound to be cheaper as scrap could be used for the production of auto parts among other things.

“Raw material for vehicles will be cheap … plastic, rubber, aluminium and copper – all generated from scrap will be used for auto parts generation besides other things,” the minister said.

Earlier, the Road, Transport and Highways Ministry had sent a concept note on Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Programme (V-VMP) to the Committee of Secretaries on creating an ecosystem for voluntary scrapping and replacement of old polluting vehicles.

Gadkari had earlier said that the PMO is keen on the proposal and once it is implemented, pollution would be checked considerably as 65 per cent of the pollution is caused by heavy vehicles that are more than 15 years old.

As per an earlier proposal, a relief of about Rs 5 lakh was to be provided to people who purchase a new commercial vehicle of about Rs 15 lakh, if they surrender their over 15-year old commercial vehicles.