Capturing Carbon and Making Airplanes from It

Climate scientists have tracked the growing percentage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, and noted a correlation between that rise and global warming.  Scientists from Michael Mann to Benjamin Santer have measured the changes in CO2 levels against climate change, with 97 out of 100 climate scientists accepting that human activities and rises in CO2 (and other greenhouse gases such as methane) are affecting our overall climate.

Not to start an argument about this matter, this entry looks at a novel method of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and using it to make possible carbon materials that would be used in aerospace and other components.  The question of carbon removal usually includes some method of storing it.  Futurism.com has a great overview (too large to display here) that shows those methods.

Molten carbonate, heated by sunlight or coming hot from a smokestack, can form solid carbon, a basis for usable fuels

One enterprising group of scientists avoids the costly and difficult means of carbon storage and instead focuses on retrieving carbon and turning it into carbon wool, a usable fiber that could form future fuselages and wings, or bicycle frames and automobile bodywork.  Many researchers, including Dr. Stuart Licht at George Washington University, have attempted to convert atmospheric carbon into fuels. In fact, Licht’s research lab has worked on many possible ways to deal with carbon and turn it into useful products.  We’ve reported on Dr. Licht’s work before.

Forming solid carbon on an electrode, one of the steps in the STEP process

One problematic aspect of making fuel from carbon is putting the carbon back into the atmosphere when combustion takes place.  Making carbon-based solid materials is both a way of storing carbon and getting a useful product in the process.

Dr. Licht’s latest efforts use sunlight to power the machinery, and make a kind of carbon nanotube “wool” that can be crafted into carbon fibers.  Part of the charm of the process is using naturally-available forces to clean the skies and make a desirable, high-value product worth $100,000 per ton according to Licht.

Carbon wool manufacturing is an extension of the STEP process.  Schematic representation of new synergistic pathways to form a high yield of macroscopic length CNT “wool” by electrolysis in molten carbonate. Middle: Prior C2CNT syntheses were dependent on a zinc coated steel cathode, a pure Ni anode, and a low current pre-electrolysis activation step. An intermediate, new C2CNT electrolysis removes the requirement of a zinc coating leading to the exploration of a variety of new cathode substrates. Right side: The optimized C2CNT pathway utilizes Monel cathodes and Nichrome anodes, molten electrolyte equilibration for 24 h, and the electrolysis is conducted directly without pre-electrolysis activation steps. This pathway produces a high yield of macroscopic length CNT wool. Left side: experimental cell configuration used in these C2CNT experiments.  Illustration from the Licht Research Group

Compacting CO2 into carbon nanotubes makes for an efficient means of storing the carbon.  Licht’s team also found that the means of production can be compact.  “The team calculated that an area equal to only 4% of the Sahara Desert would be sufficient to bring atmospheric CO2 concentrations back to pre-industrial levels in ten years, and that a wind speed of 1 km per hour would be sufficient to deliver that CO2 to those STEP (solar thermal electrochemical process (STEP) CNT plants”

Schematic representation of an ocean-based solar thermal and photovoltaic field to drive both water purification and C2CNT splitting of CO2 to useful products. Johnson et al.

Placed in a salt-water setting, as shown in the illustration, the STEP system would split CO2 into useful products and purify the water.  The multiple outcomes for this process would make it a welcome addition to sunny coastal areas all over the earth.  This promising technology should hearten anyone looking forward to clearer skies and cleaner water – as well as an inexpensive source of high-tech building materials.

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Two companies, DeLorean and Neva, are joining the race to elevate people above the highway rush hour.  They will join over a dozen others, including some incredibly well-financed efforts.  Right now, though, their efforts seem mostly to be computer-generated imagery.

DeLorean Aerospace Skips Roads

DeLorean, remembered for a starring role in the Back to the Future movie franchise, promised to take Marty McFly places where, as Doc Brown proclaimed, “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need… roads!”  The DeLorean DR-7 gets teased in a very short Vimeo video

DeLorean’s web site prompts more questions and provides few answers, but eVTOL News, the on-line publication of the Vertical Flight Technical Society, provides patent drawings that illuminate the dark corners.  The text explains, “Paul DeLorean, the CEO and chief designer at DeLorean Aerospace (and nephew of US automotive legend, John DeLorean), filed a patent in 2012. The current DR-7 is a tandem-seat aircraft with ducted fans fore and aft along the aircraft centerline.”

20 feet in length and wingspan, the DR-7’s wings can fold to 7.5 feet (for possible trailering?).  Power studies and simulator data show an expected top speed of 240 mph with a fixed-pitch set of rotors.  A variable-pitch option could allow 300 mph.  Efficient cruise would be in the 150 mph range.  Prices would start at $250,000 for the fixed-pitch version.

Having rolled out of the garage, DeLorean DR-7 waits for owner to unfold wings and go commuting

It’s intended to be a personal commuter aircraft, combining high speed and an autonomous control system with the ability to lift off in a constrained space.  It’s the DR-7 because of the six variants at various scales tried before reaching the current level.  DeLorean says it’s not a “flying car,” but a VTOL-capable airplane propelled by a push-pull propulsion system.  Both propellers can pivot to allow vertical ascent or descent, with the fuselage suspended between them like a hammock.

eVTOL News explains that the DeLorean “vehicle uses a unique and robust gimbal system to direct thrust in 360 degrees, providing roll and yaw control while hovering, and yaw in forward flight, eliminating the need for a conventional rudder and the associated drag.”  Because vectoring reportedly remains consistent from hover through forward flight, control mixing is not needed.  Apparently the fuselage provides additional lift In airplane mode, aids stall resistance and allows a smaller wing area.  The airplane can be flown as a normal aircraft if there is a power failure.

According to eVTOL News, DeLorean “’…recently finished our proof-of-concept testing and engineering hand-off model (bootstrapped and angel funded) and have just begun to seek funding for the piloted prototype.  We are in discussion now with a few established manufacturers to build this prototype and anticipate its construction within a year.’”

Neva Aerospace AirQuadOne

A European consortium, “Neva Aerospace is…based in the United Kingdom. It partners with key clients, technology suppliers, and financial institutions to develop technologies for unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), unmanned air cargo (UAC), aerial robotic platforms (ARP), and electric aviation. It owns a portfolio of patents and technologies which are among the most advanced worldwide. As of January 2016 Neva Consortium counts 5 companies with more than 100 people.”

They show computer images of aerial robots that could be helpful in dangerous situations, perhaps retrieving materials from radioactive environments, for instance.

Interestingly, their video for their projected human-carrying vehicle is merely a series of still renderings with a female narrator explaining its features.

Both robotic and personally-flown versions have several large thrusters and a collection of small thrusters to power and guide them along.  This makes for possibly nuanced control, but a level of complexity greater than that of say, eHang or Vahana.

All their videos seem to be computer-generated except for this one, showing a four-rotor machine being tested first in a large indoor area and then outdoors.

The management team showed up at the Paris Air Show in July and showed their small drones, but did not seem to have a full-scale AirQuadOne on display.

Skeptically Summing Up

So far, neither of these firms seem to have an actual vehicle on hand.  All their materials are computer images with sometimes very slick production values (and sometimes not).  These are both on your editor’s “wait and see list” until we see some working prototypes.  A friend noted a great many of these video only presentations hope to lure investors.  Wait for the in-flight results before getting too excited or tossing money their way.

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Ionic Materials, A Woburn, Massachusetts-based company, claims to have crafted a battery with an alkaline solid-state electrolyte that successfully resists punctures, cuts and other injuries.  It doesn’t burst into flames like many lithium-based batteries.  In demonstrations, the battery survives 9mm and 25-caliber bullets.

A more personal attack takes place with a screwdriver and paper cutter.

When a “conventional” lithium battery suffers such assaults, the liquid electrolyte leaks and sometimes causes a short circuit, channeling all the energy into the flammable liquid.  Remember recent hoverboard and airline incidents and a spate of smart phone meltdowns to make you more than a little nervous about the cell phone in your pocket or tablet nearby.  Such thermal runaways on a small airplane are absolutely unacceptable.

Ionic Materials claims to have overcome this issue and promises performance improvements over existing chemistries.  ”We have created a solid polymer that conducts ions at room temperature, a world first.  This new material produces immediate benefits for battery manufacturers. Safety becomes possible. New battery chemistries are enabled. Costs are reduced.”

The electrolyte material can conduct 1.3 milliSiemens per centimeter (mS/cm) – better – according to a corporate comparison, than liquid electrolytes, and especially better than other solid electrolytes, which do not perform as well as lower temperatures.

Ionic claims its material allows use of more reactive anodes and cathodes, and can produce a cell with up to five Volts.  This would cut down the number of cells necessary for a pack, reducing the number of connections to achieve a given output voltage.

The company has been working on projects funded by a recent $3 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) grant from the Department of Energy.  This will enable Ionic “to focus on the development of a polymer electrolyte and Lithium/Polymer interface to enable Lithium cycling and development of solid intercalation cathodes.”

Ionic Materials sees its products being used in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and grid storage systems.  The promised advantages of the solid-state cells are enough to raise our hopes.  Let’s hope they are successful in fulfilling them.

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Instant Hydrogen?

Researchers at the U. S. Army’s Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, announced what they call a “groundbreaking discovery – an aluminum nanomaterial they designed produces high amounts of energy when it comes in contact with water, or with any liquid containing water.”

Reportedly “during routine materials experimentation,” the team observed a bubbling reaction when they added water to a nano-galvanic aluminum-based powder.  The rapid and spontaneous hydrolysis of water did not require a catalyst came as a surprise to the researchers.

Scott Grendahl, a materials engineer and team leader, explained, “The hydrogen that is given off can be used as a fuel in a fuel cell.”  Unlike most water splitting, this is a one-step process, adding water to the special powder.  Dr. Anit Giri, a physicist in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate at the lab, explains, “In our case, it does not need a catalyst.  Also, it is very fast. For example, we have calculated that one kilogram of aluminum powder (plus an unspecified amount of water) can produce 220 kilowatts of energy in just three minutes.”

Usually, the catalyst takes time to produce a reaction, and often researchers have to increase the temperature of the materials, electrify things, or use additional chemicals – sometimes toxic.  Giri adds that the 220 kilowatts per kilogram is, “…a lot of power to run any electrical equipment.  These rates are the fastest known without using catalysts such as an acid, base or elevated temperatures.”

Grendahl comments, “We just take our material, put it in the water and the water splits down into hydrogen and oxygen.  There are other researchers who have been searching their whole lives and their optimized product takes many hours to achieve, say 50 percent efficiency.  Ours does it to nearly 100 percent efficiency in less than three minutes.”

In a demonstration, Army researcher Anthony J. Roberts powers a radio-controlled toy tank with hydrogen harvested from a unique chemical reaction. Scientists and engineers have found a way to split hydrogen and oxygen quickly and without a catalyst resulting in high amounts of energy. (Photo: U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The powder could be 3D printed, allowing vehicles to feed off their very structure and self-destruct at the end of a mission.  Patrols out on assignment could simply add water to the nano-material powder to recharge mobile devices.  Civilians would probably appreciate being able to generate power by just adding water.

Certainly the high power output and ease of use (in a more refined product, probably) would make this a handy way to carry additional potential energy in one’s vehicle or backpack.  This could be an exciting development to follow.

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MGM Compro is a Czech company that seems to have a motor on half of every light electric airplane flying today.  Their motors have powered Airbus’s electric Cri-Cri (four 15-kilowatt units), the firm’s e-Fan, Ruppert Composite’s Archaeopteryx, e-Volo’s Volocopter, and any number of motorgliders and light sport aircraft buzzing quietly over Europe, and soon, America.

Certification in Europe

Certification is usually the route to wide acceptance of a new motor, proof that the unit has passed some rigorous tests and is suited for use in aircraft.  As Martin Dvorsky, Managing Director for the firm reports: We are really proud to announce that [the] MGM COMPRO complex propulsion unit just obtained [a] CERTIFICATE OF AIRWORTHINESS issued by [the] Slovak Federation of Ultra Light Aircraft. This certificate means that the glider and its system has positively passed all the safety and flight tests and can be legally operated by LSZ license holder (UL license counterpart).”

Note the clever motor and propeller folding and retraction system.  This is particularly important on an ultralight sailplane with a narrow center of gravity range.

GP Gliders can now register and sell the GP SE Velo 14 aircraft equipped with the MGM Compro electric propulsion unit.  Because of reciprocal agreements with other countries, the airplanes and their power units can also be sold in Australia, the United States of America, and pretty much any country in the world.

The certification required 18 months of testing and paperwork, which included an examination of the aircraft and power plant, operating manuals and other things engineers usually want to avoid (written from 34 years’ experience in working with engineers).

On Display at Oshkosh With a Different Kind of Motorglider

Brian Carpenter, designer and builder of the EMG-6 motorglider, has been testing various entries into the small airplane motor arena.  He thinks that the MGM Compro REX 30 might just suit his needs.  Martin Dvorsky was able to deliver one in time for AirVenture 2017.

Brian was obviously happy with his choice, but as usual, prudent in his approach.  Part of this comes from selling an experiment craft with an experimental motor.

EMG-6 at AirVenture 2017, sporting MGM Compro REX 30 motor behind cockpit

”The whole goal of this is to have a perfectly matched, reliable, electric motor system that can be basically bolted in the aircraft with minimal knowledge about electric power plant systems. We will document the installation and testing of this powerplant system from day one.  You [will be] apprised of all of our difficulties as well as successes. These guys have been doing this for quite some time now and are starting to become one of the leaders in the industry. They have a whole series of successes on other aircraft and looking through the documentation for the motor, controller, BMS, etc. it’s obvious that they know what they’re doing.”

Martin’s firm explains that its Complex Electric Propulsion Units consist of the motor, controller, charger and battery management system, the essentials to getting airborne (batteries not included).

MGM Compro Complex Electric Propulsion System – matched components ready to be hooked up and go flying

Noting that timing did not allow an operational unit to be shown as AirVenture this year, Brian makes a commitment for the next.  “I can make you this promise though, next year we will have a flying electric EMG-6 at the air show come hell or high water.”

Brian provides the data he supplied to MGM Compro.  Note the specifications are based on the custom windings used by MGM to match the EMG-6’s performance criterial.  His 750 pound gross weight airplane will cruise at 60 mph with a 3,000 rpm cruise setting while 12-16 kilowatts.  The MGM motor will swing a 48-inch three-bladed propeller with a 24-inch pitch.  The motor should be able to provide a maximum 4,200 rpm and 50 foot-pounds of torque.

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eSpirit of St. Louis Runs at Oshkosh

One of the biggest thrills this year at Oshkosh was getting to see Eagle Flight Research Center’s DA-36 run its YASA electric motor.  Eagle Flight, an outgrowth of Erik Lindbergh’s Powering Imagination program he’s been pursuing for the last several years, aims to create quiet electric aircraft that will carry sight-seers over National Parks and Monuments.  Such flights would not disturb people or wildlife below, and would give a Gabriel’s eye view of the most pristine places in our country.

International Approval

His ideas have met with international support.  As noted on the YouTube video of their meeting, “… Flavia Schlegel (Assistant Director-General (ADG) for the Natural Sciences) at UNESCO in Paris… gave an enthusiastic endorsement of our eSpirit of St. Louis electric aircraft development program!”

Your editor became aware of the project when he spoke at the Powering Imagination Symposium at Seattle’s Museum of Flight in 2015.  Erik told of his work with students at Embry Riddle Aeronautic University (ERAU) in preparing the airplane as a demonstrator for quiet flight.

Embry Riddle’s EFRC describes the plane this way: “A lightweight, battery-powered aircraft called the eSpirit of St. Louis, which could demonstrate the promise of clean, quiet flight over a pristine region as early as this summer. The airplane’s name commemorates the 90th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, and the beginning of the Golden Age of Aviation.  Outfitted with a fully electric propulsion system, the eSpirit is a Diamond HK-36 donated by Lockheed Martin Skunkworks. A crowd-funding campaign is underway to help Embry-Riddle students, under Anderson’s supervision, put the finishing touches on the eSpirit of St. Louis.”

FAA Approval

Two years after Erik’s presentation at the Museum of Fight, the team was able to run the motor for the crowd and have Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta sit in the cockpit while project lead Tianyuan (Tony) Zhao managed the throttle.

Tony Zhang runs to eSpirit’s motor for FAA Administrator Michael Heurta

The base airframe’s 67-pound yokeless and segmented armature motor (YASA) was developed by Oxford University and puts out a maximum 150 horsepower at 800 Volts. It spins an MT variable-pitch propeller for up to one-and-one-half hours, if the student’s fund-raising effort can reach its goal.

Friend of the Editor Mary Maxwell meets Erik Lindbergh

Battery packs weigh a little over 12 pounds each, and consist of a total of 2,520 cells; 12 serial by seven parallel cells each in 30 packs.  The total weighs 370 pounds with cooling and integration.  Individual cells are 3,500 mAh each and can be run at 2.8 (discharge rating) for takeoffs.  Students designed the structure and battery management systems on each pack.

Battery pack contains 84 cells, weighs 12.33 pounds.  The team needs 30 to be airborne for 1.5 hours

Erik will act as Project Ambassador for the next few years, while faculty advisor Dr. Pat Anderson works with students on using the e-Spirit as a test bed for further development and on other projects.  These will include a hybrid turbine-electric propulsion system that will “…reduce the noise, emissions and operating costs associated with commercial aviation,” with goals of “Developing a nine-passenger hybrid turboprop aircraft by 2025 and a large hybrid-electric jet by 2035.”

The team has other projects, including a VTOL drone that converts to flying horizontally like a conventional airplane.  Anderson has worked with students on their 2011 entry in the Green Flight Challenge and continues to work with graduate students on challenging projects.  Erik Lindbergh thinks his efforts will pay off.  “Dr. Anderson is developing a comprehensive pathway for clean, quiet flight that will, in the next five years, change the way we move around the planet.”

Anderson’s research team is now also focused on developing an On-Demand Mobility (ODM) personal air vehicle. The Hybrid Electric Research Consortium’s industry and government partners currently include Airbus, Boeing, GAMA, GE Aviation, Hartzell, UTC Aerospace Systems, Argonne National Laboratory, Rolls-Royce and Textron Aviation.

The goal of all electric and hybrid-electric propulsion research at the Eagle Flight Research Center is to reduce fossil fuel consumption and resulting greenhouse gas emissions, improve aviation efficiency, and advance the aerospace industry. “Embry-Riddle student researchers are playing a major role in shaping the future of aviation,” Anderson said.

Chip In to Charge up the E-Spirit

Students are running a crowd funding program to purchase the batteries that will make eSpirit soar and complete finishing touches on the airplane.  Your editor is making a small contribution and invites everyone to chip in with a cell’s worth or two.

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Apologies But Returning Soon

Your editor betook himself to Oshkosh and had a great time for two days, but had to skip the third because of health issues.  We will be back on track later today.

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The Green Speed Cup, held every year except for 2016 since 2011, is measure of an airplane’s efficiency, using a formula from the competition’s web site.  “The scoring will be very simple. The aircraft that flew with the best ratio of fuel-consumption per distance and speed will win the competition. The scoring of each competitor will be related to the winner. The winner gets 1000 points for one day.”

According to Robert Adam, one of the organizers of the Cup, “We had a fantastic Green Speed Cup (and rightfully but reasonably prods your editor for not covering the results sooner.)  Luka Znidarsic from LZ Design won with his “front electric sustainer” Ventus glider. He had to close the gap between battery range and the given task range, but he managed with great success.  In our overall statistics of the last 6 cups, he put the e-Genius quite far behind him.”

Ventus sailplane powered by Front Electric Sustainer (FES) designed by winning pilot Luka Znidarsnic

Winning against e-Genius is a formidable accomplishment, since that and Pipistrel’s HY-4 (formerly G4) are acknowledged Green Flight Challenge winners, and both have gone on to stretch the boundaries of economic performance since their 2011 wins.

He marvels at the FES system.  “That little folding propeller system is just fantastic, revolutionary.  With the electric motor, you can within seconds just add a little power to the aircraft and be a glider again seconds later. It apparently enable[s use of] much more energy of the atmosphere in combination with an efficient propulsion, which must finally result in the statistics above.”

Green Speed Cup rules allow soaring when possible to achieve greater “fuel” economy.  A high-performance sailplane such as Ventus can take advantage of that, and use its small motor to speed between thermals or other lift sources.

Second place D39 with akaflieg pilot Holger Massow

The winning combustion class entry saw Holger Massow from the Akaflieg Darmstadt defend his championship from the last cup (2015) in the school’s D-39, a low-wing motorglider.  A Stemme S12 crew, flying for the first time in the event, “improved a lot throughout the competition.”

Scoring showed each craft’s performance relative to a Prius, the common measure of efficiency these days, saw the winning Ventus as 26 times more fuel efficient than the Prius.  Even though hobbled by technical issues, the e-Genius outdid the reference Prius by 6.28 times.  Since it’s a two-seat airplane, it might have counted as being 12.56 times more efficient by Green Flight Challenge rules.  All competitors averaged 2.55 times the fuel efficiency of a Prius, most making better speed in the process.

Total scores for all competitors in the 2017 Green Speed Cup.  See the Green Speed Cup’s web site for details about scoring and the theories that help achieve high scores

It would have been exciting to see more electric craft competing.  Robert reports, “Unfortunately we’ve lost some quite interesting competitors, most of them due to technical issues / permits. Greenelis was unable to compete, the e-Genius had a genset failure some 70 percent down the way to the competition and returned home on batteries on a two-day trip. The Risen ultralight was unable [to compete] due to paperwork.

“We are motivated to see all of them, and even more electric aircraft in the upcoming Cup 2018.  There is time for many potential entrants to get motivated.  The seventh Green Speed Cup will be held June 8th through 10th, 2018 in Strausberg, just east of Berlin.

See all photos from this year’s event here, and pictures from all Cups here.

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A “novel” manganese and sodium-ion-based material might be a contender for the more universal lithium-ion batteries that power our mobile devices and make us mobile in electric vehicles.  Developed by the University of Texas at Dallas in collaboration with Seoul National University, the new material is said to offer “a potentially lower-cost, more ecofriendly option to fuel next-generation devices and electric cars.”

Worldwide distribution of lithium, often in countries at odds with US interests

Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, professor of materials science and engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, thinks battery cost is a “substantial issue.”  It may become more of one with electric vehicle production growing from the existing global electric car stock of two million vehicles in 2016 to a projected nine-to-20 million (as reported by the International Energy Agency) by 2020 and between 40 and 70 million by 2025.  This rapid growth will put an added burden on finding and extracting lithium, since the mineral exists in relatively small amounts in sometimes isolated places.

Correction added July 21: More common, “Manganese is a chemical element with symbol Mn and atomic number 25. It is not found as a free element in nature; it is often found in minerals in combination with iron. Manganese is a metal with important industrial metal alloy uses, particularly in stainless steels.”  (Wikipedia, which would have corrected your editor just as alert reader Howard Handelman did:

Regardless of cost and ease of extraction (from seawater in some cases), sodium has the drawback of being 20-percent less energy dense than lithium.  This means 20-percent lower energy output or 20-percent less run time on an electronic device, which might be a deal breaker in many applications.

Dr. Cho takes an Edison-like approach to sorting out a solution to this shortcoming.  He questioned, “We used our previous experience and thought about these issues — how can we combine these ideas to come up with something new to solve the problem?”

The research team’s sodium-ion design, which retains the high energy density of a lithium-ion cathode, replaces most of the lithium atoms (green) with sodium (yellow). The layered structure of the new material also incorporates manganese (purple) and oxygen (red).

The research team explains business as usual in a conventional lithium-ion cell: “A battery consists of a positive electrode or cathode; a negative electrode, or anode; and an electrolyte in between. In a standard lithium-ion battery, the cathode is made of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and oxygen, while the anode is made of graphite, a type of carbon. When the battery charges, lithium ions move through the electrolyte to the anode and attach to the carbon. During discharge, the lithium ions move back to the cathode and provide electric energy to run devices.”

Dr. Cho noted the difficulty in previous attempts to substitute manganese oxide in such batteries.  “There was great hope several years ago in using manganese oxide in lithium-ion battery cathodes to increase capacity, but unfortunately, that combination becomes unstable.”

In the team’s new design, sodium replaces most of the lithium in the cathode and manganese replaces the more expensive cobalt and nickel.  Dr. Cho thinks the sodium-ion material is more stable than lithium, but retains its high energy capacity.  He believes it’s scalable, enabling its use in commercial-sized production.

The team used “rational material design” for their studies, turning first to computer simulations to find promising atom configurations before making and testing the material in the laboratory.  Dr. Cho thinks the approach is as important as the material.

“When Thomas Edison was trying to develop a light bulb, he tried thousands of different materials for the filament to see which ones worked. To solve very important engineering problems in society today, we need to develop lots of new materials — battery materials, pollution control materials and others. Edison was perfecting one item — the light bulb — but we have so many more technological needs. We don’t have time to keep trying to accidentally find the solution.”

The team published a paper about the new material in the journal Advanced Materials.

Co-authors of the study are lead author and graduate student Duho Kim and Dr. Maenghyo Cho, both at Seoul National University in Korea. The research was funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of Korea.

Certainly a battery that is cheaper is desirable, but it remains to be seen whether the 20-percent differential in energy density can be overcome.  As always, further research will help sort that out.

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We’re looking forward to seeing progress in electric aircraft, and this year may be an opportunity to see real breakthroughs.

Two from Pipistrel

Besides its regular lineup of high-quality aircraft, Pipistel will have two Alpha Electro trainers on display in their display area.  This is the first time these aircraft will be seen in America, and they’ll be at the right of AirVenture’s main entrance gate in sites 86 and 87.

Right where they were last year – inside the main gate and to the right

According to Pipistrel, the CAFE Foundation’s Electric Aircraft Symposium will feature,“The General Distributor of Pipistrel for USA, Mr. Michael Coates, [who] will speak about certification and Mr. Paolo Romagnolli, Pipistrel’s R&D Flight Test Engineer, [who] will speak about flight testing electric aircraft.

In the Ultralight Area

Mark Beierle will display and fly Bravo, Richard Steeves’ e-Gull.  This red, white and blue gem features a power system made from Zero Motorcycle components and boasts an impressive rate of climb and exceptional short field capabilities.

Richard Steeves flying his e-Gull Bravo from his home field in Wisconsin

Another ultralight, the EMG-6 developed over the last few years by Brian Carpenter of Rainbow Aviation/Adventure Aircraft, will show off the REX 30 MGM-Compro motor from the Czech Republic.  The units, with their matching controllers, power dozen of different types of aircraft in Europe, from paramotors to Light Sport Aircraft.  This should be a good matchup with Brian’s design.

Brian Carpenter flying EMG-6 with Plettenberg sustainer motor. MGM-Compro will allow self-launches

Personal Sport Aircraft

A little heavier item, the Merlin Personal Sport Aircraft (PSA) will be on display, and Don Lineback promised your editor that his electric motor and battery packs will be on display alongside.  Think of PSAs as being a single-seat LSA, with similar operating and regulatory simplicity.  Chip Erwin’s company, Aeromarine LSA, also makes the Zigolo ultralight, which has been electrically powered.

Merlin PSA will be powered electrically soon, according to Chip Erwin

Work Horses on Land in the Air

WorkHorse will display their SureFly hybrid two-seat helicopter, designed to be easy to fly and easy on the environment.  It shares a great deal of technology with the firm’s stepvan and W-15 Pickup.  Working with United Parcel Service (UPS), they have a drone that can deliver packages from the stepvan, extending the hybrid van’s outreach without using extra fuel.

WorkHorse Surefly hybrid helicopter and W-15 pickup

Embry Riddle Brings It

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University will stage the popular drone racing competition daily between 3:00 and 5:00 p. m.  According to their announcement, “Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) will hold a sUAS  (small Unmanned Aerospace System) Challenge during AirVenture July 20-26. The event will take place inside the netted Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Drone Cage … daily using quadcopters supplied by Hobbico and Multicopter Warehouse. The event is open to the public, ages 10 and older, on a first-come first-served basis and is limited to 15 participants per day. Each day will be treated as its own competition. Participants may register for the competition prior to the event by returning a completed registration form via email to thirtyad@erau.edu, or the day of the event at the Embry-Riddle Experience display spanning booths 49, 50, 59, 60 and 61 at Air Venture. EAA will award daily prizes and trophies to the top finisher.”

Embry Riddle’s  innovations in electric flight go further.  Turn to Beth Stanton’s article in the May, 2017 Sport Aviation, “Turning No into Yes,” for an examination of ERAU’s philosophy and exciting outcomes.  The University’s Eagle Flight Research Center’s products include a collaboration with Eric Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh’s grandson, to create a clean and quiet e-Spirit of St. Louis; work with a Hybrid Electric Aircraft Consortium to craft motors for a nine-passenger hybrid electric turboprop airplane; the Heurobotic UAS VTOL drone; an on-demand aerial vehicle that could replace a car, and a Navion converted to simplified fly-by-wire control that could be applied to general aviation craft.

How many of these innovations will be on display at Oshkosh remains to be seen, but ERAU always has their best and brightest on the field.

SolarShip, Zenith Aircraft to Merge Talents

SolarShip, a Canadian airship maker, is teaming with Zenair to combine their solar-powered inflatable with a Zenair CH-750 STOL aircraft.  According to the partners, “This new aircraft will provide extreme short take-off and landing (XSTOL) capability enabling pilots to take-off in areas without runways. The aircraft is recharged by either a battery swap or electric vehicle rechargers. It will not use any fossil fuel and will be available as a bush plane, float or amphibious [vehicle].”

We hope they’re able to have at least a representation of this product on display.

We hope to see displays from Israel’s EViaton, Randall Fishman’s Electra-FlyerBye Aerospace‘s Sunflyer, Joby AviationPhoenix Air USA, and maybe even the elusive Zee Aero.  Apologies to anyone we’ve left out, but we’ll report on things from Oshkosh or shortly after returning home.

Hope to see you there!

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