Here are a few useful tidbits that may prove useful at a New Year’s Eve party!
A striking new bottle developed by Owens-Illinois, Inc. for cachaca spirit maker Yaguara has debuted in Brazil. The bottle was created for the new ultra-premium spirit through a design partnership between renowned UK stained glass artist Brian Clarke, the O-I Covet team, and Yaguara. The new bottle creates a differentiated shelf presence to support Yaguara’s high-end positioning for its cachaca brand in the global market. Cachaca is a high proof, cane-based spirit and the national spirit of Brazil. The bottle, which reflects Brian Clarke’s artistry, is made at O-I’s Soacha, Colombia, plant. Covet is O-I’s collection of luxury packaging products. More than one billion liters of cachaca were consumed in 2011, according to International Wine and Spirit Research 2012. This is more than twice the global consumption of gin and four times the consumption of tequila. Cachaca is forecast to be among the fastest-growing categories of all spirit categories according to IWSR, with the fastest growth happening in Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as tequila climbed from the national spirit of Mexico to the world-wide stage over the past 15 years, cachaca is poised to make its mark on the global scene. Yaguara is currently available in Brazil and is one of the featured products in the holiday gift baskets of Emporio Santa Maria, Sao Paolo’s exclusive food emporium market. Yaguara intends to export this product to North America, Europe and Asia.
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a way to microscopically view battery electrodes while they are bathed in wet electrolytes, mimicking realistic conditions inside actual batteries. While life sciences researchers regularly use transmission electron microscopy to study wet environments, this time scientists have applied it successfully to rechargeable battery research. The results, reported in December 11’s issue of Nano Letters, are good news for scientists studying battery materials under dry conditions. The work showed that many aspects can be studied under dry conditions, which are much easier to use. However, wet conditions are needed to study the hard-to-find solid electrolyte interphase layer, a coating that accumulates on the electrode’s surface and dramatically influences battery performance. When the team charged the battery, they saw the silicon electrode swell, as expected. However, under dry conditions, the electrode is attached at one end to the lithium source — and swelling starts at just one end as the ions push their way in, creating a leading edge. In this study’s liquid cell, lithium could enter the silicon anywhere along the electrode’s length. The team watched as the electrode swelled all along its length at the same time.
Advanced energy storage systems are highly desired to fill the gap between currently available battery systems and high performance electronic devices or even electric vehicles. As the commonly-used lithium ion battery systems are approaching their theoretical energy density value, lithium-sulfur batteries are a promising candidate, exhibiting much higher theoretical energy density at 2600 Wh/kg (around 3-5 times that of the lithium ion batteries). However, the practical applications of lithium-sulfur batteries are hindered by the complexity of this electrochemical system, especially the insulate nature of sulfur and the so called “shuttle effect”, which means the diffusion and reaction of the cathode intermediate polysulfide with the anode side. Researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing, led by professors Qiang Zhang and Fei Wei, developed a new strategy to build ultrastable lithium-sulfur batteries based on an ion selective membrane system. With this new membrane system, the cyclic degradation of the cell was significantly reduced to 0.08 % per cycle within the first 500 cycles. Meanwhile, the coulombic efficiency of the battery can also be improved by around 10 %, which may greatly benefit the energy efficiency of the battery system. The team has published their findings in a recent issue of Energy & Environment Science.
Scientists, including Raymond Shaw and his colleagues at Michigan Technological University, wonder where snow comes from, particularly in pristine places like the Arctic. For those delicate, six-sided crystals of ice to form, they need a nucleus, a speck of dust, where water molecules can cling and order their structure as they freeze. Yet, over the Arctic, where the atmosphere is very clean and the ocean is covered with ice, sometimes it snows interminably. According to Shaw, the atmosphere is purged of those particles within a few hours, leading him to ask how is it possible for snow to fall for days at a time. His team discovered that as the number of snow crystals increases, their mass soars by a power of 2.5. “Our first guess would have been that if you triple the number of crystals, you triple the mass,” said Shaw. “It turns out to be a much stronger relationship than that.” For example, if you triple the number of crystals, the mass goes up by a factor of 16. Simply put, the more crystals you have, the bigger they are. Their model hinges on the idea that ice crystals are forming on atmospheric particles that were previously thought to be useless for making ice crystals. Those “inefficient” nuclei are behind those big crystals that show up during heavy snowfalls.
Asteroids (or comets) whose orbits bring them close to the earth’s orbit are called near Earth objects. Some of them are old, dating from the origins of the solar system about four and one-half billion years ago, and expected to be rich in primitive materials. They are of great interest to scientists studying the young solar system. Others, of lower scientific priority, are thought to contain minerals of potential economic value. NASA is interested in sending a manned mission to a near Earth object. The NASA Asteroid Robotic Retrieval Mission concept involves capturing an asteroid and dragging it onto a new trajectory that traps it in the Earth–Moon system for further investigation. The current mission design requires the target asteroid to have a diameter of seven to ten meters, and object NEO 2009BD is a prime candidate. It was discovered on January 16, 2009, at a distance from the Earth of only 0.008 AU (one AU is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun). Its orbit is very Earth–like, with a period of 400 days, and it be close to the Earth–Moon system again in late 2022 when the proposed capture would take place. The problem is that the size of the NEO 2009BD is uncertain, and thus its density and composition are also uncertain. The uncertainty arises because it was detected at optical wavelengths; they measure reflected light, which is a combination of both an object’s size and reflectivity.