March R&D Round Up

E-mail Melanie Martella

This month a superbattery, an improved amplifier, and better light sources.

Bring on the Superbattery!
Faster-charging lithium ion batteries may be in our future if MIT researchers Gerbrand Ceder and Byoungwoo Kang have anything to say in the matter. According to a paper in Nature, the two have discovered a way to drastically improve lithium iron phosphate's power rate. They discovered that the slowness in charging and discharging the lithium iron phosphate material was because the lithium ions couldn't move through it rapidly enough, even though modeling told them that the ions should be moving very rapidly indeed. According to "Re-engineered battery material could lead to rapid recharging of many devices" from the MIT News Office, the researchers gave the material a new surface structure that allows the lithium ions to move very quickly over the surface until they can find a tunnel into the bulk material. The result is a battery capable of being fully recharged within seconds rather than minutes. As an added bonus, the revamped batteries also stand up better to repeated charging and recharging.

An Amplifier That Sneers at Temperature Extremes
Electronics, as a general rule, are like Goldilocks: They don't like it too hot or too cold. And if the electronics are intended for use in space, then they need to be protected from the radiation and the wide temperature variations characteristic of that challenging environment. Now, electrical engineers at the University of Arkansas have built an amplifier capable of operation in a space environment without needing protection from radiation and temperature extremes. According to "Amplifier gets 'extreme' makeover", from the EE Times UK, the fully differential amplifier was made in a commercially available semiconductor process and uses common-mode feedback circuits on both the input and output stages for easier fine tuning and a higher quality output signal.

Laser Light Sources Catching a Wave?
Rogue light waves, the photonic cousin to rogue waves at sea, may herald brighter and more stable white light sources. Daniel Solli, Claus Ropers, and Bahram Jalali from UCLA have investigated what causes rogue light waves within supercontinuum (SC) light. SC light, produced from laser pulses injected into optical fibers and crystals, is very broad-spectrum white light that maintains a laser's directionality and brightness, which makes it very, very useful. Unfortunately, it's also unstable and hard to control. Or rather, that used to be the case. The researchers found how to provoke a rogue light wave within SC light and also discovered that the rogue waves actually stabilized the SC light and dropped the amount of energy required to generate it in the first place. This opens the way to SC light's application in optical ADCs and super-fast cameras. To learn more, read "Engineers Ride 'Rogue' Laser Waves To Build Better Light Sources" courtesy of Science Daily.