Much Ado About Batteries

OSU researchers are making strides in the important area of energy storage—as the need to switch over to renewable energy increases, the world needs more efficient ways to store that energy. The technology may also mean much longer-lasting batteries for mobile devices.

The journal Batteries and Supercaps the researchers have published their new findings focused on a battery’s cathode build. The cathode stores energy via a chemical reaction in a metal-air or metal-oxygen environment. The researchers believe that cheaper and better storage will make power sources like wind and solar much more viable and affordable options at both the power grid and home level.

Renewable energy sources don’t emit carbon dioxide, however many sources (again wind and solar are good examples) are always producing energy to be capture, thus when it is being made in abundance (a sunny or windy day) there needs to be an efficient and long lasting way to store that energy.

OSU, like companies, scientists and governments from all over the world are working on such storage solutions. Some solutions include large lithium-ion batteries. These would be bigger versions of those batteries used in many electric and hybrid vehicles. Other solutions involved batteries literally the size of a big box store using a metal called vanadium. The Ohio State researchers solution is just one of many humanity will need to push forward into the future.

OSU Study’s Energy Consumers and Time Savings Programs

A new study has found that consumers who use programs intended to conserve energy during peak hours rely mostly on their intuition about how much money they’re saving rather than any facts from their bills.

Real savings for energy consumers who used these programs, things like turning off the air at peak hours or doing laundry at non-peak hours, were indeed real, but less than perceived.

The study appears in the journal Nature Energy

Time use programs are based on a simple principle, that you pay more for energy when it is in demand and then less when usage dips. These programs try to encourage consumers to better align their usage with the supply and demand concept. An example would be encouraging consumers to shift heavy usage to the day time when solar energy is available and use decreases.

Rates are affected by several factors that these programs try to align for consumers such as time of day, day of the week and season of the year.

The study found that the programs are effective, however while consumers were sometimes motivated by other factors, like saving the environment, the impact of these changes on their energy savings were the biggest factor in whether or not they continued with a time use program.

Past research has demonstrated that consumers generally don’t have a good understanding of their bills versus electricity use and that this plays that this disconnect likely has much to do with how they interact with such programs.

OSU Arrives at the Future, in a Bright Blue Bus

A bright blue bus is making its way around the Columbus campus of The Ohio State University. The bus is more than a way for students to get around campus; it’s a research platform that could lead to a cleaner campus of the future.

Friday was the first trip around campus for a new hydrogen fuel cell bus. It’s part of the Campus Area Bus System fleet and is on loan from the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority for one year.

Hydrogen fuel cells essentially convert hydrogen into energy to power the bus. The exhaust of the bus is water – as opposed to greenhouse gases. hydrogen fuel cells can be recharged quickly and can run all day. The Center for Automotive Research has installed a hydrogen fueling station at its Kinnear Road location.

The bus serves a research purpose as well. CAR researchers are collecting data on the bus’s performance at Ohio State to share with interested scientists. That transportation research fits with the university’s role as the lead research partner on the Smart Cities initiative. Last summer, Columbus won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge.

So more than just a strange blue bus on campus, it’s one piece of a long-term effort to help people get around in a cleaner and more efficient way.

OSU Recearchers Study Empty Space

Researchers who are looking for new ways to probe the nature of gravity and dark energy in the universe have adopted a new strategy: looking at what’s not there.

In a paper to appear in upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters, the international team of astronomers reports that they were able to achieve four times better precision in measurements of how the universe’s visible matter is clustered together by studying the empty spaces in between.

Paul Sutter, study co-author and staff researcher at The Ohio State University, said that the new measurements can help bring astronomers closer to testing Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes how gravity works.

Sutter likened the new technique to learning more about Swiss cheese by studying the holes. The voids, he pointed out, are only empty in the sense that they contain no normal matter. They are, in fact, full of invisible dark energy, which is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

OSU Researcher Lay Down Roots for New Wind Energy Technology

In a recent issue of the Journal of Sound and Vibration, researchers report that they’ve uncovered something new about the vibrations that pass through tree-shaped objects when they are shaken.
Specifically, they’ve demonstrated that tree-like structures made with electro-mechanical materials can convert random forces—such as winds or footfalls on a bridge—into strong structural vibrations that are ideal for generating electricity.

A project at The Ohio State University is testing whether high-tech objects that look a bit like artificial trees can generate renewable power when they are shaken by the wind – or by the sway of a tall building, traffic on a bridge or even seismic activity. New tools for harvesting wind energy may soon look less like giant windmills and more like tiny leafless trees.

The idea may conjure images of fields full of mechanical trees swaying in the breeze. But the technology may prove most valuable when applied on a small scale, in situations where other renewable energy sources such as solar are not an option, said project leader Ryan Harne, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State, and director of the Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research.

The “trees” themselves would be very simple structures: think of a trunk with a few branches—no leaves required. The project takes advantage of the plentiful vibrational energy that surrounds us every day, he said. Some sources are wind-induced structural motions, seismic activity and human activity.

Early applications would include powering the sensors that monitor the structural integrity and health of civil infrastructure, such as buildings and bridges. Harne envisions tiny trees feeding voltages to a sensor on the underside of a bridge, or on a girder deep inside a high-rise building.