Forget about fuel, electric cars are the way to go ahead into the future. At least, if you believe what visionary Elon Musk has to say. Yes, this is the same Elon Musk who founded PayPal, surged ahead with the SpaceX company, the largest private company to aspire to touch the great beyond and is also the CEO of Tesla Motors – the world’s leading makers of electric cars. Now, Tesla introduces a Supercharger – a brilliant imposing monolith structure capable of charging a Model S sedan from nothing to full charge in under an hour!
Musk’s great plan is to have these Superchargers at regular intervals, first within America and then all across Europe. When electric cars become the norm, rather than the outcasts that they are today, these will allow them to travel virtually unlimited distances all around the globe.
Making power and giving it back too!
The Superchargers will themselves be powered by solar power and purely solar power. Tesla Motors calculates that the solar panels will be able to generate more power than what the cars might use and thus will be able to feed power back into the power grid, answering the questions of a lot of critics that the fuel-powered substitutes will actually be sucking in a lot more power than what meets the eye. Not anymore, says Musk. By giving power back to the power grid, Tesla has ensured that the day of the electric cars is not very far into the future.
Six Superchargers have already been installed across California and two of them are running off of the power grid. More are expected the follow the trend. The Supercharger will charge at 100 kilowatt and this means that the Model S sedan, the highest battery capable car marketed by Tesla Motors, will be fully charged in under an hour, starting from nothing! Elon Musk says it better:
What it means is that you can drive for three hours, stop for less than half an hour, recharge, and be ready to go again
Musk’s next target is to get these Superchargers across the U.S. in the next two years and enter Canada in the next half a decade or so. Docking in space with the International Space Station or building a giant charger ushering in the future – Elon Musk does it all! Nikola Tesla would’ve been proud!
Here is a video from the unveiling of the Supercharger:
It is the holy grail of many physicists. Nuclear fusion, the process of fusing two atomic nuclei together to form a single heavier nucleus, could turn the energy industry on its head. You see nuclear fusion everyday. Just look up at that bright ball of fiery gas in the sky and you’ll see what I mean. The process that occurs everyday on the sun is called nuclear fusion and its by-product is enormous energy. The problem with trying to replicate the process here on earth is that we haven’t been able to reach the “break even” point, which is the point where the amount of energy produced by the reaction exceeds the amount of energy it takes to start it. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have succeeded in a dry-run experiment that draws us one step closer to nuclear fusion power.
Pictured above, a cylindrical tube called a “liner” is subjected to intense electromagnetic pressure by the labs “Z” machine thereby causing it to implode. The process is called MagLIF (Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion). The tube is intended to eventually be filled with nuclear fuel called deuterium (AKA heavy hydrogen). In theory, if the liner can maintain its cylindrical integrity while being crushed by the incredible magnetic pressure, it should essentially squeeze these deuterium atoms in a manner that would create a fusion reaction. The problem is to find the sweet spot to make this happen. If the liner is too thick, then it will take too much energy to produce the reaction. If it is too thin, then the liner will be ripped to shreds before the reaction can take place. The cylindrical beryllium liners fared pretty well in the recent experiments. Researchers plan to perform a couple more MagLIF concepts in experiments this December, which will incorporate lasers to preheat the core fuel to put more energy into the experiment prior to the magnetic pulses, and additional coils at the top and bottom of the liner to keep possible fuel elements from leaking out. They hope to test the full concept by the end of 2013.
If the word is energy’, the adjective to go with it is small’. Electrical engineers at the University of Michigan have built a device that takes up less area than a cent and can produce electricity from vibrations. In doing so, they have created a machine with the highest efficiency per unit are than any other machine ever built.
The secret to the design is the use of an ultra-small piezoelectric crystal. Piezoelectric materials have the property that they can produce electrical power is they are subjected to mechanical stress. Thus, if such a crystal is vibrated, it will send out tiny electrical signals. This is expected to find wide application in wireless sensor networks.
The major USP of this device is that it is completely wire-less. Says Erkan Aktakka, a developer in the team:
If one were to look at the ongoing life-cycle expenses of operating a wireless sensor, up to 80 percent of the total cost consists solely of installing and maintaining power wires and continuously monitoring, testing and replacing finite-life batteries.
The active crystal sector of the device measures a mere 27 cubic mm. The energy produced by this tiny energetic heart is then used to charge a small powerful capacitor. The system works at 155 Hz, which is the vibration frequency for most electronic devices, with a generous bandwidth of 14 Hz.
The device is to be exhibited by the researchers at the 16th International Conference on Solid State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems to be held in Beijing in June.
The device is expected to be mass produced in a very short time. The potential is immense. This will be virtually indispensible for medical devices like pace-makers.