Science, Archaeology, Geology, Paleontology, Astronomy, Space, Technology, new products

Making sodium-ion batteries that last

Lithium-ion batteries have become essential in everyday technology. But these power sources can explode under certain circumstances and are not ideal for grid-scale energy storage. Sodium-ion batteries are potentially a safer and less expensive alternative, but current versions don’t last long enough yet for practical use. Now, scientists have developed an anode material that enables sodium-ion batteries to perform at high capacity over hundreds of cycles, according to their report in the journal ACS Nano.

For years, scientists have considered sodium-ion batteries a safer and lower-cost candidate for large-scale energy storage than lithium-ion. But so far, sodium-ion batteries have not operated at high capacity for long-term use. Lithium and sodium have similar properties in many ways, but sodium ions are much larger than lithium ions. This size difference leads to the rapid deterioration of a key battery component. Meilin Liu, Chenghao Yang and colleagues wanted to find an anode material that would give sodium-ion batteries a longer life.—More…

By American Chemical Society - Sunday, February 19, 2017 - Full Story

Virtual reality demonstrations showcase a technology with plenty of potential

The term "virtual reality" has been around for years, and for about the same length of time we’ve been promised that it’s the next big thing we’ll have in our lives.

Like so many technological promises, however, it’s been mostly vapourware when it comes to consumer products, with only a few baby steps taken on the journey to immersive virtual worlds for us to play in. But it appears to be coming, and if a couple of demonstrations I attended over the past couple of months are any indication, there should be some really cool stuff available over the next few years.

I can also see such technology being very handy when it comes to training (why read a dry textbook or suffer through an insufferable lecturer when you can "experience" something first hand?) and in other applications.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, February 19, 2017 - Full Story

Squishy supercapacitors bathed in green tea could power wearable electronics

Wearable electronics are here — the most prominent versions are sold in the form of watches or sports bands. But soon, more comfortable products could become available in softer materials made in part with an unexpected ingredient: green tea. Researchers report in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry C a new flexible and compact rechargeable energy storage device for wearable electronics that is infused with green tea polyphenols.

Powering soft wearable electronics with a long-lasting source of energy remains a big challenge. Supercapacitors could potentially fill this role — they meet the power requirements, and can rapidly charge and discharge many times. But most supercapacitors are rigid, and the compressible supercapacitors developed so far have run into roadblocks. They have been made with carbon-coated polymer sponges, but the coating material tends to bunch up and compromise performance. Guruswamy Kumaraswamy, Kothandam Krishnamoorthy and colleagues wanted to take a different approach.—More…

By American Chemical Society - Saturday, February 18, 2017 - Full Story

What’s on Your Mind?

Never mind! Soon it may not matter anymore what you say or write as science will be able to detect what you TRULY THINK, just by looking at your brain activity! Now, think about that for while!

As The Argus reports, the new technology researched by two University of Cambridge neuroscientists “...includes whether brain scanning should be used for a Minority Report-style justice system in which ‘criminals’ are singled out before they commit any crimes.” The Mirror pipes in with the headline “Pioneering brain scanning technology could allow scientists to read people’s minds.”

My guess: George Orwell (1903-1950) would be fascinated by the speed of development. His (1949) futuristic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is rapidly becoming outdated and obsolete.

By Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser - Sunday, February 12, 2017 - Full Story

Vapourizers offer handy portable and/or party performance - usually

Marijuana - whether medical or not - is inching its way toward broader legalization across North America, and perhaps around the world.  This could lead people who are interested in imbibing but not keen on inhaling carcinogens to look at vapourizer technology, much in the way some tobacco smokers are moving toward e-cigarettes as a way to ingest their favourite herbs cleanly and with less telltale odour than they get when smoking the evil weed (whichever evil weed it might be)

Late last year I did a column outlining in its most basic terms the issue of marijuana use, and in the process I introduced a few of the popular vapourizers available on the marketplace today.  In that column I assembled a group of baby boomers I know, folks who’ve been "imbibing" the still-illegal substance for decades and who are (surprisingly to some folks, I’m sure) productive members of society who just happen to enjoy the odd toke. They provided me with valuable insight and opinions, most of which were very positive of the vaping experience.

On the heels of that column I was sent samples of a couple of other - and very different from each other - vapourizers, so over the past few weeks I reassembled my panel to get their impressions (and no, Rich Little wasn’t one of them) of these new units, one of which had the potential to be the slickest little portable they’d seen. The other vapourizer isn’t portable at all, but my panellists discovered it has its own joyful positives that made it a real, well, hit.

Let’s get the more negative review out of the way first.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, February 11, 2017 - Full Story

LG makes a cool roll-up keyboard and a flexible cell phone

Continuing a theme from a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been playing with - I mean reviewing seriously - a couple of products that might be good places to drop some of that after-holiday cash you may have left over or received as a gift.

This time, it’s a pair of products from South Korea’s LG, which is probably best known for TV’s and appliances, but which is also a big player in the mobile device market. And these two products fit securely in that niche: a nifty Bluetooth keyboard and a fully featured cell phone that even offers virtual reality capability (for an extra cost, of course).

By Jim Bray - Sunday, February 5, 2017 - Full Story

It’s about Time…

Rock hounds” (like myself, in younger years) are searching the ground for any type of crystals, like crystals of quartz, that are found in many places on earth. For example in New York State they can occur as “Herkimer diamonds”, or in the Alps, occasionally as brown or nearly black appearing “smoky quartz,” also known as “morion,” and so on.

Smoky quartz crystal (5 cm length) from the Austrian Alps, collected by and photo by the author.

By Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser - Sunday, February 5, 2017 - Full Story

OPPO’s new UDP-203 adds 4K Ultra HD to its universal player line

Note:  this column has been updated to correct some erroneous info I let slip through in my rush to get the final edit done yesterday. My apologies to readers as well as to Oppo Digital for screwing up the original info regarding the dual HDMI outputs.

Oppo Digital is back with a new universal player and, in the company’s grand tradition, it’s a winner.

The UDP-203 takes all that was great about the company’s BDP-103, and there was plenty, and adds 4K UHD and HDR capability. Along the way it also got a classy new interface and a remote control that, while it looks pretty much like the BDPs’ that came before it, now lights up when you grab it - a really handy feature.

By Jim Bray - Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - Full Story

Of routers and smart plugs and mice (oh, my!)

It’s a new year and if you have any money left over from the Christmas giving season - or if you have some gift dollars burning a hole in your pocket - there are innumerable tech solutions on which you can blow the cash, from a new router to a new mouse, and lots in between.

Let’s look at a couple of items I’ve been playing with for a while now, starting with the TP-Link AC3200 Wireless Tri-band Gigabit Router. It’s a unit that looks like a cross between an unidentified flying object and my home town’s football stadium with its tall towers supporting a giant Bose speaker over the mid field stripe.

By Jim Bray - Friday, January 13, 2017 - Full Story

Audio-Technica cuts the cords on turntables

It doesn’t offer a USB interface to let you rip your vinyl but, despite that, Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60-BT turntable may be the most flexible platter spinner I’ve ever seen.

That’s because it can be used wirelessly,  thanks to its built in Bluetooth interface, and it also has its own built in phono preamp that lets you use it with receivers and/or preamps that may not have one built in.

Heck, if it had the USB interface it would probably be perfect!

Well, it could be a tad more robust, but what do you want for a suggested retail price of $179 USD? My last turntable was a heavy duty semi-pro direct drive unit that, if I remember correctly, sold for about $450 CAD back in the mid-1970s - so in today’s dollars I’d have to get a second mortgage to afford it!

By Jim Bray - Saturday, January 7, 2017 - Full Story
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