Chemists Discover Key Reaction Mechanism Behind the Highly Touted Sodium-Oxygen Battery

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Chemists at the University of Waterloo have discovered the key reaction that takes place in sodium-air batteries that could pave the way for development of the so-called holy grail of electrochemical energy storage. The key lies in Nazar’s group discovery of the so-called proton phase transfer catalyst. By isolating its role in the battery’s discharge and recharge reactions, Nazar and colleagues were not only able to boost the battery’s capacity, they achieved a near-perfect recharge of the cell. When the researchers eliminated the catalyst from the system, they found the battery no longer worked. Unlike the traditional solid-state battery design, a metal-oxygen battery uses a gas cathode that takes oxygen and combines it with a metal such as sodium or lithium to form a metal oxide, storing electrons in the process. Applying an electric current reverses the reaction and reverts the metal to its original form.
Credit: University of Waterloo

Courtesy of Science Daily:

Chemists at the University of Waterloo have discovered the key reaction that takes place in sodium-air batteries that could pave the way for development of the so-called holy grail of electrochemical energy storage.

Researchers from the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, led by Professor Linda Nazar who holds the Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials, have described a key mediation pathway that explains why sodium-oxygen batteries are more energy efficient compared with their lithium-oxygen counterparts.

Understanding how sodium-oxygen batteries work has implications for developing the more powerful lithium-oxygen battery, which is has been seen as the holy grail of electrochemical energy storage.

Their results appear in the journal Nature Chemistry.

“Our new understanding brings together a lot of different, disconnected bits of a puzzle that have allowed us to assemble the full picture,” says Nazar, a Chemistry professor in the Faculty of Science. “These findings will change the way we think about non-aqueous metal-oxygen batteries.”

Sodium-oxygen batteries are considered by many to be a particularly promising metal-oxygen battery combination. Although less energy dense than lithium-oxygen cells, they can be recharged with more than 93 per cent efficiency and are cheap enough for large-scale electrical grid storage. Continue reading

£330,000 for a 20-minute speech at a world hunger event? Tony Blair is an inspiration to us all

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Courtesy of Michael Segalov @ The Independent:

Over the weekend, it was reported that Tony Blair pulled out of addressing The World Hunger Forum in Stockholm because his £330k price tag for turning up and talking just couldn’t be met.

According to one source, the food company organising the event, Eat, dropped Blair because “his star power is fast diminishing”. But regardless of whether this is true or not, many agree that he was wrong to ask for such an astronomical payment in the first place. It was apparently going to be given to The Cherie Blair Foundation. So if his claim that he didn’t turn up and speak due to “prior commitments” is true, that’s a real shame; it would have been a huge donation.

But either way, I think it’s time we give the man a break. His impeccable record as a selfless public servant aside, Blair’s approach to life after his Downing Street days display the exact same values that both the government and opposition want us to tattooed on our foreheads: “aspiration” and “wealth creation”.

The next Labour leadership favourite, Andy Burnham, last week suggested “wealth creators must be valued as highly as NHS staff”. Burnham reckons these wealthy people are “everyday heroes”, in which case Tony Blair is basically Superman, creating cash money left right and centre.

Since leaving Downing Street he’s had to deny reports that he has amassed a personal fortune of £100m, and has insisted that it’s closer to £20m – a far more modest amount. But regardless of how many millions he has, Tony’s real message to us all is that we shouldn’t be bothered by those bleeding-heart liberals who think we should be paying a fair level of tax – in fact, a company he set up managed to halve its tax bill to just £300,000 on an income of £14m. Continue reading

Britain’s Secret Terror Deals: ‘Truly disturbing’ BBC Panorama allegations of collusion must be fully investigated, says Amnesty International

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Britain’s Secret Terror Deals: Darragh MacIntyre investigates allegations that the state colluded with paramilitary killers and covered up their crimes

Courtesy of The Belfast Telegraph:

‘Truly disturbing’ allegations, revealed in a new BBC Panorama investigation, that UK security forces colluded with paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland on a vast scale leading directly to the deaths of hundreds of people must be fully investigated, Amnesty International has said.

In the documentary Britain’s Secret Terror Deals, screened on Thursday, investigative reporter Darragh MacIntyre investigates allegations that the state colluded with paramilitary killers and covered up their crimes.

MacIntyre meets the families who have been fighting for decades to uncover the government’s darkest secrets and confronts some of those believed to be complicit.

The murder of Sunday World reporter Martin O’Hagan in 2001 and two massacres, at Sean Graham bookmaker’s in 1992 where five people died, and the killings of nine Protestant men returning from work in Kingsmill village in 1976, are among the cases where state and paramilitary collusion is alleged to have been covered up.

Panorama also revealed an assault rifle used in the Sean Graham massacre in 1992, which police said had been disposed of, ended up on display in the Imperial War Museum.

The weapon was used in the UDA killing of five Catholics in a betting shop on the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast. The police ombudsman has confirmed that the rifle has now removed from the museum for forensic examination. It is linked to other UDA murders during the Troubles. Continue reading

UK Government Goes Full Orwell: Snooper’s Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression

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Courtesy of Techdirt and from the 1984-wasn’t-a-manual dept:

The old joke goes “George Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not a ‘how to’ manual.” But that joke is increasingly less funny as the UK really seems to be doing everything it can to put in place Orwell’s fictitious vision — just a few decades later. Right after the election a few weeks ago, we noted the government’s plan to push forward with its “extremist disruption orders” (as had been promised). The basic idea is that if the government doesn’t like what you’re saying, it can define your statements as “extremist” and make them criminal. Prime Minister David Cameron did his best Orwell in flat out stating that the idea was to use these to go after people who were obeying the law and then arguing that the UK needed to suppress free speech… in the name of protecting free speech. Really.

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.

It’s a fairly amazing speech where Cameron can — within just a few sentences — both argue for the rule of law and that obeying the rule of law should not keep you out of trouble. Continue reading

Fossil Fuels Subsidised by $10m a Minute, says IMF

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Courtesy of Damien Carrington @ The Guardian:

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

US taxpayers subsidising world’s biggest fossil fuel companies
Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, said: “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.”

Lord Stern said that even the IMF’s vast subsidy figure was a significant underestimate: “A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.”

The IMF, one of the world’s most respected financial institutions, said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%. That would be a giant step towards taming global warming, an issue on which the world has made little progress to date. Continue reading