Li-ion batteries will last 10 times longer and will charge in a tenth of the usual time

Processing power of today's smart phones and their ability to perform multiple functions are truly amazing. However, a general problem of these devices is the battery life that feeds them. They don't even come close to the performance these smartphones.

This is why many of us need to carry around an additional MP3 player, or, as we go by car, a GPS, although the smartphone meets with success of these functions and more.

Now, a new technology created by researchers at Northwestern University, USA, is about to change that. Engineers have made ​​an electrode for lithium-ion batteries - the rechargeable batteries used for most electronic devices - which could provide gadgets an operating range of ten times longer and duration of recharge from outlet ten times faster than normal.

According to statements of Harold H. Kung, coordinator of the project, even after 150 charges, the new type of battery will still be five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today. Promise of American engineers would translate to more than a week of autonomy and a 15 minute full recharge any battery.

Today's batteries are charged through a chemical reaction manifested by lithium ions circulating back and forth between the two ends of the battery, the anode and cathode. When the battery is fully charged and used, the ions travel from the anode through the electrolyte, and reach the cathode. By the time all ions are in the cathode, the battery is low. And when charging, the process is reversed and the ions move from cathode towards the anode.

The proposed electrode combines two chemical processes to remove the two major shortcomings of the Li-ion battery technology: their limited ability to store energy (number of ions stored) and relatively slow charging rate (speed of movement of lithium ions during charging). The electrode eliminates these problems and promises super-batteries for next generation devices.

In the current version, anode - made ​​of thin layers of graphene - can store only one lithium atom for every six carbon atoms. Experienced engineers replaced carbon with silicon, which can handle much more lithium (four lithium atoms to a silicon atom) than carbon. The problem is that silicon expands and contracts during the charging cycle. This soon leads to a loss of ability to recharge the battery.

But the team from Northwestern University solved this difficulty by stabilizing the silicon. Engineers have made ​​this possible by setting silicon between graphene layers, like a sandwich. This maximizes the amount of ions that can cross layers, maintaining flexibility so that the battery assembly is not subject to pressure during charging.

The second problem solved by Kung's team was charging time. This was achieved by creating microscopic holes (10-20 nm) in the graphene layers. They allow ions to move the second and shorter route to the anode, which reduces the load at a fraction of the usual.

Extrapolating the implications of increased autonomy of the batteries for our gadgets, new electrode may contribute to decreasing size batteries for electric cars and a longer life. The technology could be commercially available anytime between three and five years from now.

Messenger probe provides new information about Mercury

Latest observations of the Messenger probe indicate that there is a high density material reservoir inside the closest planet to the Sun: Mercury

Since it entered the orbit of Mercury, a year ago, NASA's Messenger probe has taken nearly 100,000 photographs, it mapped the gravitational field of Mercury and elevation measurements.

Researchers published last week in Science Express new discoveries about the closest planet to the Sun. According to them, the planet's crust is thicker and thinner at low latitudes to the poles, which, together with activity data within Mercury, suggests a liquid outer core. This core radius is 85% of the planet to Earth, where the core is less than 50% of the radius.

However, findings reveal a Messenger mission of ferrous sulphate liquid layer beneath the crust of Mercury.

Regarding Mercury landforms, new study shows changes in elevation smaller than on Mars or the Moon, the most prominent topographic feature in terms of being a bump in a large volcanic plains lying north of the planet.

Analyzing the largest impact crater on Mercury, Caloris, also one of the largest in the solar system (with a diameter of 1500 km), it was observed that his center is far higher than its edges, which shows topographic changes of the planet after its formation, possibly due to tectonic forces.

Based on all these results, in the following period Messenger will make comprehensive measurements of the magnetosphere and exosphere and new observations in periods of high solar activity, in order to elucidate more clearly the mysteries of Mercury.

Origin of life on Earth revealed by new experiments

Scientists have found new evidence that serve to elucidate a long-sought mystery:

Which was the origin of life on Earth

Research confirms that life on Earth is possible due to comets that bombarded our planet billions of years ago, storing essential ingredients for its appearance here.

Jennifer G. Blank, research team coordinator, described experiments in the laboratory with powerful tools and computer models. Scientists have recreated the conditions inside comets at the moment when they hit Earth's atmosphere at a speed of about 30,000 mph and then crashed on the surface.

The research is part of a broad scientific effort that has the goal to understand how amino acids and other ingredients necessary for life on our planet have appeared several billion years ago. Before then, Earth was a barren and desolated planet. Amino acids are the key ingredient of proteins, "brick" core of all life, from microbes to humans.

The research shows that the key to life would have remained intact despite massive shock wave created by comet impact.

"Comets are an ideal body for delivering the necessary ingredients for chemical evolution that led to life. This scenario is ideal, because it includes all the ingredients of life: amino acids, water and energy" added Blank.

Comets are composed of frozen gases, water, ice, dust and rock. These bodies can measure 15 km in diameter or more. Comets orbit the sun in a belt located a long distance of planets in the solar system. Periodically, some comets can escape from that area, becoming visible in the sky.

A few billion years ago, many comets and asteroids bombarded Earth - craters on the Moon are evidence of this event.

Scientific evidence suggests that life on Earth began over 3.8 billion years after Earth was bombarded by asteroids and comets. Before then, Earth was too hot to support life forms. The oldest fossils that provide evidence of life dates back 3.5 billion years ago.

Analysis of samples collected by NASA comet probe confirmed that they contain amino acids. Now, experiments by Blank and colleagues in a NASA research center showed that amino acids were able to withstand impact with Earth. In the experiment, scientists have found that amino acids began to form peptide bonds, the first step towards forming proteins.

Evidence has been presented at the 243-meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society that was founded in 1876.