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May 15, 2019

Good Morning,

I've always been a big proponent of battery safety and it looks like U.S. Army scientists are onboard with that, too.

Safety and efficiency are the top priorities in the development of new cathode chemistry - plus it would cut down on their weight. All fantastic improvements!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Speaking of safety, batteries, and power...
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Until Next Time,

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*-- Army researchers improve battery safety with new cathode chemistry --*

Scientists with the U.S. Army have developed a new type of cathode chemistry that makes batteries safer and more efficient.

Currently, soldiers must regularly carry batteries weighing between 15 and 20 pounds. But thanks to a new type of cathode and electrolyte, soldiers could soon be carrying safer and more efficient batteries weighing half as much.

Army researchers were able to boost lithium-ion battery energy density by using a totally aqueous electrolyte. The electrolyte is free of transition metal and boasts high capacity energy storage.

"Such a high energy, safe and potentially flexible new battery will likely give the Soldiers what they need on the battlefield: reliable high energy source with robust tolerance against abuse," Kang Xu, senior scientist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory, said in a news release. "It is expected to significantly enhance the mobility and lethality of the Soldier while unburdening logistics requirements."

By using a completely aqueous electrolyte, researchers were able to pair high-voltage cathodes with low-potential graphite anodes. The new type of anodes enabled halogen conversion-intercalation chemistry.

"The energy output of water-based battery reported in this work is comparable to ones based on flammable organic liquids other than water, but is much safer," said lead researcher Chunsheng Wang. "It gets about 25 percent extra the energy density of an ordinary cell phone battery."

The successful pairing of a graphite-salt composite cathode with a pure graphite anode allowed scientists to keep their battery free of flammable and toxic elements, including cobalt and nickel.

Researchers suggest their new battery chemistry -- detailed this week in the journal Nature -- could be used in situations where battery safety is a priority, such as on airplanes or spacecraft.

"This work is mainly about a brand-new concept of Li-ion cathode chemistry, using the redox reactions of halogens -- Br and Cl in this case -- to store charges, and using their intercalation nature to stabilize their strong oxidizing products inside the interlayer of graphite, forming dense-packed graphite intercalation compounds," Yang said.

*-- Gold helps CT scans pick up the finest surface structures --*

New 4 BelowScientists have developed a new technique for capturing the fine, typically invisible surface structures of biological materials using computer tomography.

When imaging organisms and biological materials, fossilized features or delicate skeletons, CT scans often fail to render the fine surface details. Researchers in Germany managed to solve the problem by coating materials in a thin layer of gold.

The technique has previously been used to enhance scanning electron microscopy, but hasn't previously been coupled with computer tomography.

"Up to now, many delicate surface structures of our research objects could simply not be represented by means of computer tomographic analyses," Peter Ruehr, a doctoral student at the University of Cologne's Zoological Institute, said in a news release.

In order to image fine details, like an organism's bristles or scales, the researchers had to find a way to increase the X-ray contrast. Tests showed gold did the trick.

When scientists compared images of untreated samples with images of samples coated in gold, previously invisible surface features revealed themselves. The gold layer did not interfere with the ability of computer tomography to capture internal anatomical details.

In the lab, scientists showed the use of gold enhanced the CT scans of insects, bird feathers, parts of plants and spider silk.

"We wanted to show that our new approach works not only for certain groups of organisms, but generally expands the methods of modern morphology," Ruehr said.

"The morphological details that can now be visualized can also be used for applications ranging from taxonomy and functional considerations to educational projects in museums," said researcher Markus Lambertz.

The technology, described this week in the Journal of Anatomy, could also be used for quality control testing in commercial manufacturing.

"By combining two already well-established methods for the first time, we have created something completely new," Ruehr said. "This opens up a series of previously closed doors in the three-dimensional evaluation of even the finest structures."