A summary for better understanding – by Green Communities Foundation
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.
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.
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.”
What is the greenBUG bag?
It’s an eco-friendly alternative to plastic garbage bin liners. It is the only one of its kind available that is affordable and responsible, both.
Well, for one, it is made of recycled newspaper and natural glue, at no expense of electricity, water, fuels, or chemicals. It even handles moist kitchen waste well.
Then, on disposal, it does not pose the grave danger that plastic does for thousands of years to the environment and to human health.
So, its raw material is upcycled, its production process is energy- neutral and completely non-toxic, and, after it has served its purpose, it goes back into the environment entirely harmlessly!
OK. What else?
The greenBUG bag is produced by disadvantaged women, to whom this provides valuable supplemental income.
We train them, provide them with productivity tools, buy up their entire production output, and find the market for it. They are paid upfront, thus insulating them effectively from market vicissitudes.
RESPONSIBLE WASTE DISPOSAL
NEEDN’T BE INCONVENIENT
When you buy a pack of greenBUGTM bags:
You buy CONVENIENCE: Now, responsible waste disposal is convenient too!
You buy a product that is:
- GREEN to produce
- GREEN to use
- GREEN on disposal
… UpCycling never got better!
You buy a product that is made by disadvantaged women, who earn valuable supplemental income from this. We have asked them what they use this money for. The most common answer – for their Children’s schooling needs – fees, bags, books, shoes, the occasional candy…
RESPONSIBLE WASTE DISPOSAL
NEEDN’T BE INCONVENIENT
Bengaluru’s world famous eyesore, Bellandur Lake became a headlining act on national and international media, as news reports highlighted how it had caught fire, with foam coming right into pedestrians faces. A change.org campaign demanding an immediate cleanup of the lake has collected over 31,000 signatures so far, while the local authorities have installed water sprinklers around areas where it tends to froth. Yet, the problem doesn’t seem to be solvable until the city’s citizens take accountability to treat their sewage. Actually improving the cities we live in would be a lot easier if we, as individuals, take some steps that don’t just help the environment, but also actually save us a fair bit of money.
Nearly 650 million litres of untreated sewage is discharged into Bengaluru’s vicinity every day, says S Vishwanath of the Bengaluru-based company Biome Environmental Solutions. The firm works on water sustainability solutions in government schools and drought affected areas. He points out that this problem has existed for fifteen years, and it’s only after the foam started hitting the cars and two-wheelers in the city that people took notice. “It was frothing in Vishwavati Valley, where farmers had to deal with this froth since 2000. This is clearly a question of industrial consumption levels of detergents and fatty acids and other stuff which is going into the lakes,” Vishwanath says.
(Also see: Smart Cities Won’t Work Without Smart Citizens)
Vishwanath’s himself harvests water from the roof at the highest level of his home for cooking and drinking, while the water from lower roofs is used for landscaping and gardening. All the grey water (washing machine water and bath water) is funnelled through a series of filtration tanks, where grey water is stored, and plants, algae and bacteria break it down, removing phosphates and nitrates from the water. Guppies are put in so that mosquito larvae don’t breed.
“The fish eat the larvae, and they are also functional indicators. If they start to die, then the water is not getting treated enough,” Vishwanath explains. Eventually, the filtered water is used for in the garden and for flushing the loo below. In theory, this water can also recharge the groundwater. An eco-san toilet installed on the roof recycles urine as fertiliser for plants, while solids are composted in blue drums, so that no human waste goes out of the house.
It’s possible to build an eco-friendly house, with features for rainwater harvesting, solar heating, and using environmentally friendly materials for construction, at around the same per-square foot cost as traditional building methods, experts say. Retrofitting can be a little more expensive, but over time, the saving from consuming less water and electricity won’t just mean a cleaner environment, but also smaller monthly bills.
According to a report, ‘green’ construction can lower energy consumption by 30-50 percent, and lower water consumption by 30-70 percent. Short term planning is a particularly big culprit; a one-star rated gadget like an A/C or geyser might be significantly cheaper than a similar product with a higher energy efficiency rating, but the added electricity it consumes has a real cost, in terms of pollution and your finances over time.
Waste management and chemical pollution are as big an issue as excess consumption. One of the main reasons for Bengaluru’s frothing lakes seems to be our everyday detergent – which has foaming agents, surface active agents, and phosphate. Delara Damania, founder of Bengaluru-based Common Oxenwhich makes natural cleaning agents for the home, points out that even wastewater sludge goes into farms, and comes back into our food. “The fact that nobody is regulating this is just mind-boggling,” she says.
Her startup is built around the problem of eliminating phosphates from household cleaning. “Phosphates on their own are not a bad thing, but they encourage the proliferation of water hyacinths, and other fast-growing weeds, that sort of suck out the oxygen and kill the other aquatic animals, and that’s what spoils the water bodies,” she says.
Vani Murthy, one of Bengaluru’s most active waste management campaigners, is launching a mission to get one million people to compost their green waste at home. “It’s a one week challenge, and is building up to a launch,” she says. “If you could, on your part, take care of that half a kg of waste that you generate, than asking the municipality. That’s one action that can have a direct impact on the future of the planet itself.”
Composting is one action you can do for a better world, she says. “You are dealing with 60 percent of the waste right where it is being generated, converting it into something that is so important for the soil to grow your own food,” Murthy adds. “The safest food is what you grow, because you know what you are putting in there.”
Once you understand the process of aeration, the breakdown of food into micro-organisms, Composting can be a lifetime practice, a gateway to rooftop gardening. Murthy bartered her compost for seeds in her early days, and now she has three terrace gardens growing her own food. The organic terrace gardening group on Facebook has 27,000 members, and out of that, 6,000 to 7,000 are from Bengaluru, she says. They have quarterly events where people bring their produce called Oota from Your Thota.
For the first-time composter, she recommends doing it at zero expense, using an old bucket with some holes in it. “Start off with peels, egg shells, fruit peels. Dry leaves can be added to the compost mix, as it absorbs moisture from the peels and keeps the pile balanced. It does not let the wet waste get compacted,” she says. A composting kit needs a bit of shade, and has to be protected from rain. Cow dung or sour butter milk can be used as a source of microorganisms.
“The basic rule is that it should be well aerated. If it doesn’t breathe, it becomes anaerobic, and that’s when it starts to stink. For aeration, it should not be packed in too compact – it takes a few tries to get the right balance,” she says.
Reducing your energy footprint
If you’re planning to build a green home or live in one, Teri’s Griha Rating Booklet has a bunch of useful parameters to evaluate and rank housing projects by, with a points based rating system based on various criterion. These include factors such as materials used, environmental impact, energy use, water harvesting, low-power devices, 5-star rated electronics, amount of daylight used, surface reflectivity, and cooling.
Teri’s rating system stresses on local sourcing of components – there are somethings that you lose points for – for example you can’t use Italian marble, because it has a higher carbon footprint because of the transportation cost.
Some of the things to look into include insulated walls and roof construction, which can reduce you air conditioning bill in the summer and your heating costs in the winter. Smaller windows will also help – large windows look nice, but turn your home into a greenhouse, which isn’t very suitable in India. You can also look into alternative energy, such as solar panels, and solar heating for water; rainwater harvesting can also make a big impact.
Materials like teak wood, and quarried stone that has to be transported from afar are a bad idea when you’re building a new house. Fly ash bricks and locally sourced materials, design that promotes ventilation instead of air-conditioning, and planning for things like low-flow water and low-energy lighting all add up and make a big impact over time.
Prasanto Roy, who lives in India’s first Teri Griha home, which scored 96 percent overall on their Teri’s ratings, said that building a green home doesn’t come with a significant cost overhead.
“Other houses that have been built in this area cost more than this one, and they don’t even use green features. That is because they have used more expensive finishes, fittings, Italian marble,” he says. “For us, it cost ten percent more per square foot to build this house. There are some savings you get directly in the capex itself, as you need less equipment, and so on.”
Roy’s house is made of two types of fly-ash bricks, which are easily available. Around 70-80 percent of the material was locally sourced. The supply chain for green materials has improved since he built his home, with Teri’s website cataloging the suppliers. “Today, almost everything can be sourced locally, but electronics like controller systems, were imports,” he adds.
“For a typical house, depending on where you are, the one thing to focus on is cooling the home passively, so that you need less active cooling,” he explains. “Go increasingly on to LED lights, and you pick the low hanging fruits – the lights which are always on, and so on. Staircase lights can have motion sensors,” he says, so they will not only be on when needed. “A solar power is a simple enough system to add on, can be paired with an inverter or used directly, a 1 KVA solar panel for around Rs. 1.5 lakhs is a very worthwhile thing to do,” as this can help you reduce your dependence on the grid, and save significant amounts of money over time.
At the same time, low-flow fixtures reduce water waste, and your water bill as well, and rainwater harvesting can be good for the environment and will also reduce your dependence on expensive water tankers, when the municipal supply runs short.
Green Heroes: 86-year-old from Mumbai helps society save 40% on water and power bills
The seven-storey Sea Line housing society at Union Park in Khar (West) is equipped with solar power and a windmill for its electricity requirements, a rainwater harvesting facility that saves 2 lakh litres of water every year and an organic waste recycling technique, which reduces the burden on overflowing landfills in the city.
A decade-long struggle by 86-year-old Navin Chandra has paved way for homegrown answers to waste management, water and power problems through long-lasting, cost-effective and environment-friendly solutions.
The seven-storey Sea Line housing society at Union Park in Khar (West) is equipped with solar power and a windmill for its electricity requirements, a rainwater harvesting facility that saves 2 lakh litres of water every year and an organic waste recycling technique, which reduces the burden on overflowing landfills in the city. The society introduced these green measures in 2005-06 and recovered the costs by 2012.
“The idea was to make the best use of natural resources and safeguard city’s environment,” said Chandra. “When I moved to the apartment in 2000, the whole complex was in a mess, almost an environmental disaster. It took years to convince everyone. But once they reaped the benefits, there was no looking back.”
The couple’s efforts were recognised last month after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis awarded the duo as the ‘best small society’ and ‘clean crusader’ award, one among 7,000 buildings in Mumbai, at an award function organised by a private bank.
With 10 flats, the building has a rooftop solar system consisting of fifty panels and a windmill that powers electricity requirements for all common areas of the building, including an office with six computers. Additionally, a solar water heating system supplies hot water to 40 bathrooms in the building at an average temperature of 60 degrees Celsius.
The renewable energy helps save 60% of the society’s monthly electricity bill. “Prior to the installation of the wind and solar setup, we were spending Rs 18,000 per month, now our monthly bill is not more than Rs 7,000,” said Chandra. “As per our assessment, the renewable energy model has helped us avoid the emission of over 3000kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.”
The complex does not depend upon the civic body for its non-potable water consumption at all. The quarter-of-an-acre rooftop and common areas, act as catchment for rainwater. The water collected is channeled to a borewell with a capacity of 10,000 litres and excess water is used to recharge groundwater.
“In a crisis situation, where we are unable to procure drinking water for the society, we have made alternate arrangements where the stored rainwater is purified with the help of two machines. The cleansed water is directly transported to our drinking water tanks,” said Chandra.
Meanwhile, the society’s complete wet waste is segregated at source, collected from a door-to-door method and recycled into manure at a 3X3 feet vermicomposting pit. Every month, 100kg organic waste is converted into 10kg compost through the use of worms to degenerate the waste.
“In a city where air pollution is a prime concern, treating your own waste not only helps reduce the quantum at dumping grounds but also saves the tax payers’ money by reducing transportation cost of sending daily garbage,” said Chandra.
While the cost of setting up the solar, wind systems was Rs13 lakh, the society spent Rs7 lakh in installing the rainwater harvesting facility and about a lakh for the vermiculture pit. All expenditures were recovered by 2012 and the reduced utility expenses of the society by 40%.
Soon, wastewater recycling initiative at Union Park
Navin Chandra, 86, has developed a blue print to recycle wastewater from an apartment complex for one of the largest public parks at Union Park, Khar (West), which is currently being considered by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation
Wastewater from an eight-storey apartment will be channelled to the park where the park’s bed will be dug up and natural filtration systems such as rocks, stones and red soil will be used to treat the water. An outlet on another end will provide the treated water which can be used for plants and trees.
“After the successful implementation of Chandra’s projects over the last 10 years, several neighbouring apartment complexes got the confidence to follow at least one of the three initiatives. His efforts are an inspiration for residents across all apartments at Union Park as he is consciously working towards reducing a large portion of the city’s carbon footprint,” said Bharati Kakkad, secretary, Union Park Residents Association.
“The municipal corporation and citizens should take note of Chandra’s efforts and push for a decentralised system not only for treating waste but power generation and water supply. In turn, the civic body should respond by providing tax rebates for all those houses that are becoming self-sufficient and safeguarding environment through their efforts,” said V Ranganathan, former municipal commissioner of the BMC.
Deep underground lie stores of once-inaccessible natural gas. There’s a technology, called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that can extract this natural gas, potentially powering us for decades to come. So how does fracking work and why is it a source of such heated controversy? Mia Nacamulli explains the ins and outs of fracking.