Researchers at MIT have found a way to improve the performance of lithium-air batteries by fabricating the nanowires that form the batteries' cathodes using a genetically modified virus that captures metal molecules -- in this case manganese oxide -- from water and then binds them into structural shapes (see figure and video, below). The resulting nanowires are much rougher and "spikier" than those grown using conventional chemical means and offer a dramatically increased surface area, yielding advantages in stability and rates of charging/discharging, as well as easier fabrication. (See "Better batteries through biology?" for more details.)
MIT researchers have found a way to improve the performance of lithium-air batteries -- which offer promise for eventual use in electric vehicles -- by fabricating the nanowires that form the batteries' cathodes using a genetically modified virus rather than by growing them through conventional chemical means. (See full-size image.)
A portable fuel cell for charging and powering USB-compatible portable consumer electronics has been launched by UK-based Intelligent Energy. The device, called Upp, combines hydrogen, provided by its fuel cartridge, with air to produce electricity, with water vapor as a byproduct (see figure and video, below). Initially to be available in Africa, Upp is claimed to be able to deliver at least one week of charge to the most demanding smartphones.
The $199 Upp personal energy device is a portable hydrogen fuel cell that claims to provide at least one week of charge to even the most power-hungry smartphones.
A report from research firm Navigant Research forecasts that new PV solar capacity will grow to 73.4 GW by 2020 from 35.9 GW in 2013, more than doubling. The report, "Solar PV Market Forecasts," sees solar PV becoming cost competitive with retail electricity throughout a significant portion of the world, with the Asia/Pacific region leading the way, as the costs of the technology continue to decline.
In product news, Intersil has introduced a dual-channel/dual-phase digital DC/DC controller that delivers fast transient response without the need for compensation. The ZL8800 has an output voltage range of 0.54V to 5.5V operating from input voltages from 4.5V up to 14V.
Power Integrations announced a family of ICs combining two-switch-forward and flyback power supply controller ICs with integrated high-voltage MOSFETs. The HiperTFS-2 devices are suited for high-power applications that require both a main power converter up to 586 W peak, and a standby converter up to 20 W. The company also announced IEC CTL DSH 1080 certification for its CAPZero automatic X-capacitor discharge IC.
A new multi-chemistry battery charging controller from Linear Technology is designed to efficiently transfer power from a variety of sources to a system power supply rail and a battery. The LTC4020 operates from a 4.5V to 55V input with up to a 55V output.
An LED driver technology called smartXite from Dialog Semiconductor is claimed to directly support wireless connectivity and light sensor control, and allow easy integration into lighting control systems. The first device in the family, the iW6401 digital processor IC for off-line LED driver modules, is offered as a highly versatile "one size fits all" platform for multiple dimming interfaces.
Cadence Design Systems has introduced a power integrity analysis engine designed to meet the needs of next-generation chip design. The Voltus IC Power Integrity Solution is claimed to use massively distributed parallel execution to achieve power analysis 10 times faster than competing solutions.
Finally, XP Power has introduced a series of 800W and 1500W programmable AC/DC power supplies that can offer constant current output down to almost zero volts. The HDS series offers a typical efficiency up to 93 percent and a power density of greater than 10W per cubic inch.