We’re always striving to move away from coal and oil to power our world, but Tesla Motors is in a full on sprint, and they want to share their dream with the world. We have all heard the news about the Tesla Powerwall but without a knowledge of batteries it is a bit hard to understand why the breakthrough is so exciting. Let’s take a minute to break it down!
Solar has always been a bit of a pain to manage and set up, but Tesla’s new Powerwall changes all of it. The Powerwall is sleek and efficient while completely erasing the issues of current-generation solar power storage. Up until recently most solar battery back-ups were a string of 4-12 Lead-Acid car batteries to help bridge the gap between peak solar (When your panels get the best sun) and peak electrical demand, allowing you to light your house at night without scraping out the extra change to do so. Some have even upped the battery count to cut out their electrical bill completely.
Why The Old Options Just Don’t Cut it!
Using a bunch of car batteries for solar is a good option, however, it requires some dangerous maintenance and can cause serious damage to you and your environment.
Lead-acid batteries need to be kept full of electrolyte (Sulphuric Acid in Water) to keep the battery performing its best. Many go for “AGM” lead-acid batteries instead to reduce risk in maintenance, but these are much more expensive.
AGM stands for Absorbent Glass Mat. It’s there to soak up the acid solution and prevent it from physically spilling if knocked over.
Even past the maintenance issues, Lead-acid has drawbacks. They work well with solar only because they get the chance to charge and discharge throughout the day which is essential to the batteries life. Even a week with no charge on a lead-acid battery will dramatically reduce its charge. In the case of solar, this is wasted solar power.
Lead-acid loses its charge over time due to the internal electrolysis of the electrolyte (Electricity + H20 = Hydrogen and oxygen gas) and the ambient discharge of whatever material sits under it. Concrete and Metal will do this easily which is why it’s common practice to keep unused batteries on top of something like a wood shipping pallet. In your car’s case, it could lose capacity through the metal of the car, although the entire car is grounded back to the negative post of the battery making this effect go much slower. That plastic tray under there is actually to catch any acid that manages to escape from the battery, so it doesn’t corrode all over your engine bay. Regardless, your battery will absolutely die over time in a car that sits around without being ran.
The Tesla Powerwall Overcomes Major Issues
The Tesla Powerwall has none of these issues – It’s a bank of Lithium-Ion batteries. Not much different from the idea of a large water cooled phone charger, although owning a Powerwall solely to charge your phone is massive overkill. Or not, I won’t judge you.
Before I go into how this works I’d like to explain how reliable lithium-ion batteries are.
Lithium Ion ( Li-Io ) is built in a way where catastrophic failure results in excess heat and an inner seal busting open to safely vent any pressure that might have built up inside. Lithium Polymer, on the other hand, has a tendency to start fires when poked a bit too hard with something sharp.
Usually, Lithium Ion batteries come in prismatic (the flat removable battery in some phones) and Cylindrical, much like the AA battery would be shaped. These cylindrical lithium ion batteries are the most popular in the world. The 18650 (18mm wide, 650mm tall – about twice the size of a AA) is the standardized size. I can almost guarantee that this cell in its many makes and models is present in every mobile lithium-ion application, save for a very few super modern slim laptops. three good examples are lithium drill batteries, most every other laptop battery you’ll ever see, and (at the time of posting) all available lithium golf cart batteries.
Lithium solar battery backups don’t have the issues that a lead-acid backup would. Lithium Ion can sit fully charged for months on end with little to no loss of capacity and don’t require a minute of maintenance after it’s been installed. As for total capacity? Lithium Ion has the highest energy density (power it can hold in a specific size and weight) out of most other commercial energy storage systems available. This means that this Powerwall is much lighter and much more powerful than its solar-bank predecessors. Finer details of the Tesla Powerwall can be found on the Tesla website here.
The Commercial Powerpack!
Tesla also offers a variant of the Powerwall called the Powerpack , which is essentially a power-wall built to use the modules that they place inside of their vehicles. The main change of the “power-pack” is that it’s designed more as an industrial / commercial backup battery to help offset peak times and loads, which means it “shaves off” most of the electrical demand at times of the day where the company using it would otherwise be paying a good portion more. It has much less focus on the solar implementation, but it’s technical specifications show that it’s just as capable as the official powerwall for solar use.
Due to the fine-tuned supply/demand prices that today’s power companies implement, using Tesla’s Powerpack is an incredibly effective way to avoid up-ending the company budget on its power bills. They’re built to order and can be scaled up to a virtually limitless amount of stored energy, although they resemble the size of a refrigerator rather than something that hangs on the wall. The Powerpack uses the same modules as their cars, which means that those who want to start out small can slowly and easily expand their storage capacity over time.
It goes without saying that such high-powered battery backups are invaluable to industries that would need constant power, specifically the medical industry. Hospitals could utilize these backups in conjunction with generators as a “Plan C” for power outages, which could prove essential in saving countless lives in the rare scenarios where hospitals find themselves relying on backup power. Alternately, these are a big attraction to data centers around the world seeing as a power loss could end up with ludicrous amounts of money lost in damage from an outage.
Coincidentally, all of the batteries for Teslas cars and their Powerwall are large arrays of these 18650 lithium-ion batteries manufactured by Panasonic and shipped overseas to us, although plans for a Battery Manufacturing Plant in Sparks, Nevada will make all of Tesla’s products cheaper without cutting any performance – which could eventually dethrone Coal and Oil as the power production standard in the U.S. in favor for solar and wind – because now we can actually store the power that our green technology brings us.
A bright looking future indeed, but we’ll all be waiting awhile to see this possibility come to fruition. Whether or not it ever will is anyone’s guess, but optimism makes sense here. Mr. Musk is putting his money where his mouth is and he’s absolutely not slowing down for anything.
Written by Alexandre Sheets
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour
Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.
In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.
While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.
See for yourself:
Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.
In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.
Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”
Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.