Researchers achieve a 10x supercapacitor energy density breakthrough

Supercapacitors can charge almost instantly, and discharge enormous amounts of power if needed. They could completely erase the Achilles heel of electric vehicles – their slow charging times – if they could hold more energy. And now Chinese and British scientists say they’ve figured out a way to store 10 times more energy per volume than previous supercapacitors.

A team split between University College London and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has released a study and proof of concept of a new supercapacitor design using graphene laminate films and concentrating on the spacing between the layers, the researchers discovering that they could radically boost energy density when they tailored the sizes of pores in the membranes precisely to the size of electrolyte ions.

Using this design, the team says it’s achieved a massive increase in volumetric energy density. Where “similar fast-charging commercial technology” tends to offer around 5-8 watt-hours per liter, this new design has been tested at a record 88.1 Wh/l. The team claims it’s “the highest ever reported energy density for carbon-based supercapacitors.”

That figure is toward the high end of what a typical lead-acid battery stores, but while lead-acid batteries charge very slowly and offer fairly low power density, the supercapacitors can charge very, very quickly and offer massive power densities around 10 kilowatts per liter.

In addition, the supercapacitors appear to have a long service life, retaining 97.8 percent of their energy capacity after 5,000 cycles, and they’re very flexible, performing almost exactly the same when bent 180 degrees as when they were lying flat.

There is a but. There is always a but. Indeed, there’s three big buts here, beyond the fact that this is still at the research proof of concept stage.

The first is that these supercaps are still far less dense than a top-shelf lithium EV battery. Closest estimate I can find on what Tesla is running is a 2018 estimate of 877.5 Wh/l, which would mean a supercap would have to be 10 times the size of a Tesla battery pack to offer the same range. Not gonna happen. Mind you, EVs won’t have to offer 430-mile (700 km) range figures once they’re even quicker to top up than a petrol car. The vast majority of car use would easily be less than 100 miles (160 km) in a day, and a short stop every hour and a half on a long trip might be no big deal for many drivers.

What’s more, we’ve written before about the extraordinary things you can do when you pair lithium batteries with supercapacitors in a hybrid arrangement. This kind of density development could increase the amount of supercapacitor you might be able to run in such a setup, further maximizing the benefits.

The second issue: supercapacitors tend to leak energy rather than storing it very well. You might find your EV out of power if you leave it off the charger for a week or two. Although to be fair, when they charge so fast, you might not mind.

And the third issue: this thing is made of graphene, everyone’s favorite wonder-material which is set to revolutionize everything from electronics to mosquito protection to aviation to hair dye to concrete to running shoes to bulletproofing to loudspeakers and every other field it’s been researched in… But to date, nobody’s producing it in mass commercial quantities at a price that makes huge graphene superconductor cells feasible.

Still, the researchers are optimistic. “Successfully storing a huge amount of energy safely in a compact system is a significant step towards improved energy storage technology,” said senior author and Dean of UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Professor Ivan Parkin (UCL Chemistry). “We have shown it charges quickly, we can control its output and it has excellent durability and flexibility, making it ideal for development for use in miniaturized electronics and electric vehicles. Imagine needing only 10 minutes to fully-charge your electric car or a couple of minutes for your phone and it lasting all day.”

UK street artist D*Face talks advertising, skating, and punk rock

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Liz Ohanesian of the LA Weekly, who is a former Boing Boing guestblogger, shares with us an interview she just did with D*Face, in which the British street artist talks about advertising, punk rock, anonymity and more. LA Weekly photog Shannon Cottrell did a slideshow as well, documenting his latest mural, which went up on the side of Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City, where his solo show opens this weekend.

WTF is ORM? Xeni talks social media scrubbing on NPR’s “Tell Me More”

I joined NPR’s “Tell Me More” show yesterday for a primer on so-called Online Reputation Management services; companies that offer to help people and businesses protect their online image and repair ruined reputations. Do they work, and are they worth it? Audio here. (duration: 7’01”) . Oh, hell, why bury the lede. My #1 tip for online privacy, as revealed in this clip: If you’re drunk and naked at a party, stay away from cameras.

Followup: Reports of cellphone tracking prompt concern in Congress

Politico today reports an update related to a BB item earlier in the week: A NYT story (sparked by this story in a German newspaper) “revealed the extent to which Deutsche Telekom tracked and stored location data for one German politician.” Congresscritters Ed Markey and Joe Barton read the Times piece, and were so upset, they “fired off letters Tuesday afternoon to top carriers AT&T;, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, asking them to detail the kind of cellphone location data they collect, how they collect it, how the data is stored and for how long. More here. (via EFF)

Not so much cellphones as tracking devices: a surveilled day in the life of German politician Malte Spitz

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Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet.”Interactive map here, article here, in Die Zeit (English). A related New York Times item is here.

US military’s “gratuitously harsh treatment” of Manning condemned by NYT, WaPo, LAT, ACLU

A growing number of news organizations and civil liberties groups are condemning the Department of Defense’s “gratuitously harsh treatment” of Bradley Manning, a young Army intelligence specialist charged with downloading thousands of US government documents and passing them on to Wikileaks.

For the past nine months, Manning has been imprisoned in a military detention facility at Quantico, Virginia. He has not yet had a trial, or been convicted of any crime. From the New York Times editorial:

Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama’s support to do so.

His conditions in solitary confinement include being forced to strip naked and appear before military officers, presumably of either gender.

Manning’s supporters plan a series of demonstrations on March 19 and 20, to protest the government’s treatment of the accused whistleblower.


ACLU: “Letter To Defense Secretary Robert Gates Says Pentagon Confinement Standards Must Comply With U.S. Constitution

Los Angeles Times: “Punishing Pfc. Manning

Washington Post: “Pfc. Bradley Manning doesn’t deserve humiliating treatment

New York Times: “The Abuse of Private Manning

Continue reading “US military’s “gratuitously harsh treatment” of Manning condemned by NYT, WaPo, LAT, ACLU”

StartingPage now returns Google search results, privately

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Google and other search engines track what users search; over time, the data collected can be pretty revealing, so much so that the DOJ wants access. For the most part, privacy policies are only as good as the lawyers backing them, and “law of the land” can trump anything. And all of that adds up to worrisome prospects for all of us.

But what if no data were collected to begin with?

That’s the approach Starting Page is taking. Starting today, they claim to serve as a sort of middle-man between you and Google that keeps no records or data on their own at all. So even if they were subpoenaed by, say, the DoJ, they’d have none of your search data to hand over. And all Google knows is someone made a search from Starting Page, but there’s no way for them to know whose searches are whose. Starting Page even has a Firefox plugin that uses HTTPS for the browser search bar.

EFF obtains docs that reveal when authorities can get your data from social media companies

The Electronic Frontier Foundation today posted analysis of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act which show how various popular social media companies handle requests for user data from authorities. The issue became a focal point earlier this month when the US Department of Justice obtained a court order for records from Twitter on users affiliated with WikiLeaks. The EFF’s Jennifer Lynch writes:

We received copies of guides from 13 companies, including Facebook, MySpace, AOL, eBay, Ning, Tagged, Craigslist and others, and for some of the companies we received several versions of the guide. We have combed through the data in these guides and, with the Samuelson Clinic’s help, organized it into a comprehensive spreadsheet (in .xls and .pdf) that compares how the companies handle requests for user information such as contact information, photos, IP logs, friend networks, buying history, and private messages. And although we didn’t receive a copy of Twitter’s law enforcement guide, Twitter publishes some relevant information on its site, so we have included that in our spreadsheet for comparison.

The guides we received, which were dated between 2005 and 2010, show that social networking sites have struggled to develop consistent, straightforward policies to govern how and when they will provide private user information to law enforcement agencies. The guides also show how those policies (and how the companies present their policies to law enforcement) have evolved over time.

For example, the 2008 version of Facebook’s guide explains in detail the different types of information it collects on its users, but it does not address the legal requirements necessary to obtain this data. In contrast, the 2009 version groups this information into three categories (basic subscriber information, limited content, and remaining content) and describes, under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the different legal processes required to obtain the various data. However, the 2010 version merely says that the company “will provide records as required by law.” Facebook doesn’t explain why it changed its language from year to year. While the 2010 guide’s language may allow the company to be flexible in responding to requests under a complicated and outdated statute, it does so through a loss of transparency into how it handles these requests.

Social Media and Law Enforcement: Who Gets What Data and When? (eff.org)

Previously: US orders Twitter to hand over account data on Wikileaks and multiple Wikileaks supporters