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The recent recall of certain Dell and Apple laptop computers due to the overheating of their internal batteries was the largest in the history of consumer electronics. The first recall was in June, when the Sony battery in a Dell laptop caught fire during a conference at a Japanese hotel. Photos of the burning computer spread panic on the Internet.
Now, innovative nanobattery technology developed at Tel Aviv University for fast charge/discharge batteries could provide an alternative source of power for mobile devices, without the fire hazards associated with lithium-based batteries. Over the past years, battery technology has not kept up with advances in semiconductors. As a result, batteries have become the weakest link in the operability of electronic devices.
The increasing popularity of power-hungry mobile devices means that manufacturers must increase battery runtime by packing increasingly more power into smaller packages. Moreover, end users are becoming impatient with the amount of time needed to charge these high-power batteries, resulting in a need to design quicker charging systems. These two characteristics - capacity and speed - have resulted in the development of heavily lithium-loaded batteries that operate at temperatures so high they pose a fire hazard. When overheated, these lithium-ion batteries can burst into flames.
Research teams led by TAU Prof. Menachem Nathan of the Fleischmann Faculty of Engineering and Profs. Emanuel Peled and Dina Golodnitsky of the university's School of Chemistry have developed nanotechnology that could eliminate this fire hazard by preventing overheating. The new device comprises a substantial number of miniature batteries, about 30,000 on an area as small as one square centimeter, all connected in parallel. This provides a high output of electrical power without the risk of overheating.
Their innovative solution combines the low internal resistance of a thin-film battery with the high capacity of regular chargeable lithium batteries. Using ingenuous and proprietary coating technologies, tens of thousands of miniature lithium batteries are laid out in parallel within a half-milimeter-thick, non-conducting substrate. The substrate volume is thus used to increase charge capacity per footprint 80 times more than conventional batteries. Such nanobattery assemblies were tested in the lab for hundreds of charge/discharge cycles without loss of capacity or stability. An extensive patent portfolio covers TAU's nanobattery technology, and it's available for licensing through Ramot, the university's technology transfer arm.
BUMBLE BEES CAN TELL TIME
In a finding that broadens human understanding of time perception in the animal kingdom, researchers have discovered that the bumble bee can estimate the length of time intervals. Although many insects show daily and annual rhythms of behavior, the more sophisticated ability to estimate the duration of shorter time intervals had previously been known only in vertebrates.
The findings are reported by Drs. Michael Boisvert and David Sherry of the University of Western Ontario, and appeared in a recent issue of Current Biology.
Bees and other insects make a variety of decisions that appear to require the ability to estimate elapsed time. Insect pollinators feed on floral nectar that renews with the passage of time, and insect communication and navigation may also require the ability to estimate time intervals.
In the new work, the researchers investigated bumble bees' ability to time the interval between successive nectar rewards. Using a specially designed chamber in which bumble bees extended their proboscis to obtain sucrose rewards, the researchers observed that bees adjusted the timing of proboscis extensions so that most were made near the end of the programmed interval between rewards. When nectar was delivered after either of two different intervals, bees could often time both intervals simultaneously. This research shows that time perception may be found in animals with relatively simple neural systems.
TEENS TO CHINA FOR PHYSICS CONTEST
Sixteen high-school pupils have been chosen to represent Israel at the Physics Olympics in Shanghai, China. They were the winners from among 2,000 pupils at 100 high schools around the country. A total of 35 finalists were prepared and tested at the Judea and Samaria College in Ariel. Hundreds of pupils from 85 countries will participate in the international competition. The Israeli contest, organized by the Technion, is in its 15th year.
ONE GIANT SLIP FORMAN
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration confessed recently that the original film depicting astronaut Neil Armstrong taking his first "giant leap for mankind" on the moon has been lost. The TV version of the July 1969 event has been saved, but the clearer original image has been lost, the London Daily Telegraph reported.
The staff member who is in charge of Apollo 11 images, Stan Lebar, said the tapes were apparently filed and, as personnel retired or died, the location of the recordings was forgotten. "I just think this is what happens when you have a large government bureaucracy that functions for decade after decade," said Keith Cowing, editor of the Web site NASA Watch. "It was not malicious or intentional."
Now some scientists are urging NASA to intensify its search for the film. "For all we know, it's sitting somewhere in a nice, cool dry place, exactly where it should be, but someone's mislabeled a routing slip," Cowling said. "I can't imagine they'd throw this stuff out."