Nokia unveils new phone with 35-hour battery

With some manufacturers jamming as many features, services and methods of mobile connectivity as will fit into their newest models of smartphones, it seems as though the latest devices are struggling more than ever to maintain a strong battery life. However, one company is going in the opposite direction, announcing a new phone that will hold its charge for an astonishing 35 days – and it only costs $20.

The Nokia 105, is a bit of a throwback for the Finnish phone producer, which had gained a reputation for producing simple, durable phones before going heavy into the smartphone market in recent years. Like many of its ancestors, the Nokia 105 is marketed as a tough phone with a keypad that is dust-proof and splash-proof. As to features, though, the phone doesn't offer much else.

With a 1.4-inch screen, the Nokia 105 provides little visual feedback for users and features a handful of games and multimedia options. It also lacks a camera. The phone will make calls and send and receive text messages, but that's about it – an unusual concept considering the dominance of smartphones on major markets today.

It's for that exact reason that Nokia is only releasing the phone in smaller, developing countries, as part of an effort to make its devices available to the many people around the globe who wouldn't normally have the money for a cell phone and have only limited access to power sources.

Nokia's move flies in the face of what many cell phone manufacturers are doing. While companies like Apple and Samsung are in a slugfest to find out which one can produce the device that is most aesthetically pleasing and has the most power, it's a fascinating change of pace to see companies like Nokia focusing on a phone's fundamental elements, such as the bonding of battery terminals and thermal management technologies.

Honda to begin bonding aluminum to steel in door panels

After initially struggling with figuring out how to bond aluminum and steel without encountering corrosion issues, Honda has announced that it will be incorporating aluminum into door panels in its models.

In an effort to lower the overall weight of its vehicles to increase fuel efficiency, Honda revealed that it is using a revolutionary new "3-D lock seam" weld that allows them to bond steel and aluminum in the door panels by folding the seam back over and hemming it twice. The automobile manufacturer has been making an effort to use aluminum, which is significantly lighter than steel, in as many instances as it can in new models. According to Honda, the inclusion of aluminum in the production of door panels will lower the weight of the component by 17 percent. The first car to feature this new element will be the North American version of the Acura RLX.

Honda's struggles with the process are no different from any manufacturer that attempts to incorporate methods for joining dissimilar metals into its production process, with common problems including corrosion and attempting to deal with how two different metals handle temperature changes. The latter issue is why thermal management technologies are so important in any production process, so as to deal with the different expansion and retraction rates in the metals, a process that can wreak havoc on any bonding method.

Companies such as S-Bond will be instrumental in the effort to incorporate lighter metals such as aluminum into vehicles without sacrificing the strength and stability that steel provides in a car's frame, but not just in doors. So while Honda appears to have succeeded in figuring out how to bond aluminum in this one particular instance, a bevy of challenges remain for companies attempting to find uses and methods of joining dissimilar metals.

USC researchers announce new battery design with triple the lifespan

By using a breakthrough design for lithium batteries that eliminates one of the main factors for deterioration, particularly in the current generations of lithium-silicon cells, researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a new battery model that boasts vastly improved longevity as well as shortened charging times, as a report published in Nano Research shows.

The revolutionary batteries will be available for use in small electronic devices, cars and everything in between. They will reportedly have triple the life of a conventional graphite-based battery and can be charged in just 10 minutes, according to a release from the University.

The research group, led by USC Viterbi School of Engineering professor Chongwu Zhou, was comprised of a team of graduate students who worked to come up with a solution to a problem faced by nearly all silicon-based batteries on the market today. Currently, the anodes of batteries consist of microscopic-thin sheets of metal – silicon in the case of many newer batters – and create a current by passing lithium ions through the sheets.

However, when the ions pass through the sheets, they force the metal to expand and shrink and, over time, break down. According to the Nano Research report, the USC team scrapped the idea of using sheets all together, instead using a silicon and titanium-based nanotube array structure "that is much more conducive to letting the ions pass through it than the solid sheets.

"It's an exciting research. It opens the door for the design of the next generation lithium-ion batteries," said Zhou, who was instrumental in the design of the arrays, which are less than 100 nanometers wide.

The newly developed array for the battery, which involves both silicon and titanium-based substances, is an example of how bonding dissimilar metals is a vital aspect of developing new energy technologies. Companies such as S-Bond that specialize in the creation of these components will be critical in driving future advances in the industry.

Keeping smart phones cool in a heated competition

As the smart phone market becomes increasingly crowded and competitive, manufacturers are constantly jockeying for the edge in their phone's specs that will push their newest model to the forefront of the market. The biggest showdown in the industry today has emerged between the increasingly popular Samsung Galaxy line and Apple's iPhone. The rivalry between the two companies, though, has focused heavily on screen size rather than the device's features in recent months, with Apple struggling to keep up with its competitors.

Later this month, Samsung is expected to release the Galaxy S4, which will reportedly feature a 4.99-inch screen. Meanwhile, Apple has made attempts to avoid falling behind its competitors with a 4.8-inch screen on its own phone. However, manufacturers have struggled to incorporate the larger screen into iPhone.

Cases such as these are evidence that, even though a company has a design for the newest, groundbreaking phone in mind, the actual production of the device is not so simple. Manufacturers must always consider realities of creating safe and functional hardware, such as dealing with thermal management technologies, while still retaining optimal processing power and features. 

This puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on companies, which are expected to make frequent upgrades to their existing products, with lofty standards placed on the features of each new phone. However, with each new development, there must be corresponding modifications to the device that allow it to handle the increased power. For example, the development of larger screens and more powerful processors is just as important as creating heat sinks that can withstand the increased stress placed upon the device.

While cell phone manufacturers are tasked with the implementation of new features in their new phones, it falls to companies such as S-Bond to develop thermal management solutions that allow such powerful devices to function in such a small package.

Now is the time for advance battery and alternative energy technologies to leap forward

In the month of February we have seen two incidents that have brought the need for advanced battery technologies to the attention of millions of Americans. Earlier this month, sports fans – and fans of funny TV commercials – had their gameday festivities interrupted when a power outage at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, halted the Super Bowl for 34 minutes.

And, more recently, the winter storm playfully named Nemo – reminding many of the animated film “Finding Nemo” – was anything but humorous when hundreds of thousands lost electricity thanks to heavy snowfall and jarring winds. We could even look back a few months further at the outages that lasted for more than a week in some areas following Hurricane Sandy.

Each of these offer strong arguments for a renewed focus on backup power and advanced battery technologies. Not only can they help to avoid the disruption to daily life and major events that come with blackouts, but they also offer a  critical component in the success of alternative energy technologies like solar and wind power installations.

James Greenberger, the executive director of NAATBatt, a trade association representing many companies in the advanced battery technologies industry, recently wrote an article for The Energy Collective. In it, he said that the best and most effective advertisement during this year’s Super Bowl didn’t cost millions of dollars, nor did it last 30 seconds. It was a free 34-minute commercial for better battery and backup power solutions.

“The message that the industry needs to deliver is clear:  While battery backup power systems are by no means a complete solution to power reliability problems, they can provide a margin of power and comfort in moments of grid interruption that would be welcomed and highly valued by millions of American consumers,” Greenberger wrote.

Ultimately, innovative methods for bonding of battery terminals and other power storage technologies can improve the energy efficiency of everything from wind turbines and solar panel installations to eco-friendly cars and more. Could there have been a more effective Super Bowl ad than 34 minutes without power during the biggest sporting event of the year in America?

Battery technologies could bridge gap between electric vehicle expectations and performance

The demand for more alternative energy technologies and efficient, eco-friendly modes of transport is on the rise, as evidenced by the recent fracas between automaker Tesla and The New York Times.

Times reporter John Broder took the Tesla Model S electric car for a test drive to see if it lived up to the hype. In reading his article, one would have to surmise that it fell short – both literally and figuratively.

According to Broder, he charged the vehicle at a charging station in Newark, Delaware, before beginning his journey. The car gave him a 242-mile estimate before another charge would be necessary, which suited him just fine considering the next charging station was 206 miles away in Milford, Connecticut. But, Broder reported that he just barely made it to Milford.

Then, when stopping for the night in Groton, Connecticut, the vehicle told him he had about 90 miles of range left before another charge was needed. When he awoke the next morning however, that number dropped to 25 miles. After using a low-power socket to charge the Model S, the car reportedly died 17 miles short of his destination.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk decried the Times report in a public statement, saying that it was “false” and that Broder did not charge the vehicle to full capacity, that he traveled at speeds substantially over the posted limit and took an unplanned detour through heavy traffic in downtown Manhattan.

Of course, the Times stands by Broder and his account, so we’ll have to wait until Tesla releases the vehicle logs for the journey before it is known exactly what happened. But this example perfectly illustrates how there is a clear desire and demand for electric vehicles not only to work, but to eventually replace their fossil fuel-reliant predecessors.

In order for this to happen, automakers are going to have to invest in innovative battery technologies, including cutting-edge methods for the bonding of battery terminals.

Electric car comes with individual motors for each wheel

Research being done at Ohio State University could foreshadow a new generation of electric cars that weigh half as much as traditional consumer vehicles while making substantial improvements to energy efficiency, traction and maneuverability. And it could all be possible through innovative battery and thermal management technologies.

“With four wheels that turn independently, each with its own built-in electric motor and set of batteries, the experimental car is the only one of its kind outside of commercial carmakers’ laboratories,” according to a recent Tech Briefs article.

The news source added that “conventional cars are much more limited in maneuverability by the transmission and differential systems that link the wheels together mechanically. The four independent wheels of the electric car give drivers greater control and more freedom of movement.”

With each wheel having its own 7.5 kW electric motor and a 15 kW lithium-ion battery pack, motorists will have far greater control over their vehicles if these become commercially available. For example, as the article explained, the car has no traditional engine or transmission because of the wheel-specific electric motors. The resultant reduced weight and the ability to have one wheel brake while others accelerate mitigates risks of fishtailing in wet road conditions.

More and more, we are seeing technology breakthroughs that hinge on advanced manufacturing techniques, like state-of-the-art bonding of battery terminals or heat sink assembly. These processes hold the keys to more powerful and efficient consumer products, clean energy systems and a myriad of other market game-changers.

And even if one project does not ultimately make it big in the business and consumer spheres, the lessons learned during its evolution often help to write the first chapter of the next great success story.

NASA engineers working on lunar excavation robot

Engineers at NASA are developing what they call a blue collar robot that could be the next big step toward a lunar resource processing plant.

The Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot, or RASSOR (pronounced like “razor”), is being designed to excavate soil from the Moon’s surface and then deposit it into a device that would extract water, ice and various chemicals to produce everything from rocket fuel to breathable air for astronauts.

If successful, this would greatly reduce payload weights because many resources could be cultivated on the Moon’s surface rather than transported from Earth. Consequently, the fuel requirements and costs for space missions would see significant reductions.

Paramount to the project’s success is NASA’s ability to build a robot that is “light and small enough to fly on a rocket, but heavy enough to operate in gravity lower than that of Earth.” This is where innovative methods of joining dissimilar metals come into play.

“The lighter you make your robot, the more difficult it is to do this excavating,” said A.J. Nick, an engineer on the RASSOR team.

Positioned at each end of the robot’s body are digging bucket drums whose weight offset one another. In order for them to be able to move as needed and hold 40 pounds of lunar soil at a time, metal joining methods that result in a lightweight body without sacrificing strength and durability are essential.

NASA has already run tests on an initial prototype and is currently at work on a RASSOR 2, which an agency press release says will undergo testing sometime in early 2014.

Once again, DARPA encourages private sector to innovate thermal management technologies

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the research and development arm of the Pentagon. It is responsible not only for some truly mind-blowing technological breakthroughs with both military and civilian applications, but also for facilitating private industry innovation and collaboration. In keeping with that tradition, DARPA has announced a formal solicitation for advanced thermal management technologies as part of a new initiative called ICECool.

The goal is to demonstrate innovative and efficient cooling techniques for “high-performance embedded computing (HPEC) and RF monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) power amplifiers with connective or evaporative microfluidic cooling built directly into the electronic devices and packaging.”

“Essentially, DARPA scientists want to make cooling just as important as any other aspect of chip design, and use embedded thermal management [technologies] to enhance the performance of military electronics,” according to an article in Military & Aerospace Electronics. “Integrating chips with convective or evaporative microfluidic cooling, DARPA officials say, has the potential to speed the evolution of advanced chip integration.”

As the news source points out, one significant hurdle manufacturers have faced in terms of thermal management of electronics is the size and weight of cooling subsystems. Advanced cooling techniques, including but not limited to ones that incorporate thermal management systems directly into chip architecture, are vital for the success of military and private industry initiatives.

With leading minds in both the government and private sector constantly searching for that next big breakthrough, the resulting innovations have the potential to revolutionize the way we build all manner of equipment and how it is put to use in a wide range of applications.

Alternative energy technologies and manufacturing sector feed off one another

The clean energy industry and advanced manufacturing are inextricably linked. In the worst of economic times, both lead to innovation and job creation, while curbing climate change and bringing down the cost of electricity.

John Grant, director of the Next Economy Partnership Project at the New Policy Institute, wrote an article for Ideas Laboratory in which he explained that as clean energy production grows, so does the manufacturing sector in America. At the heart of it all are alternative energy technologies and the breakthroughs that are making them more affordable and more efficient.

Grant cites a recent study conducted by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), which shows that the total installed renewable capacity in the United States doubled between 2008 and 2012.

“Let’s not forget that the 5-year period covered by this study is also the worst five years for the American economy since the Great Depression. Despite these headwinds, the clean energy sector is growing,” Grant said. “This has tremendous implications not only for the economy, but for climate change. According to BCSE, from 2008 to 2012, energy related carbon emissions dropped by 13 percent. Although that’s not enough, it’s a step in the right direction to mitigate the damaging effects of climate pollution.”

Among these critical breakthroughs are advanced solar cell soldering techniques developed by companies like S-Bond, as well as cutting-edge battery technologies the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) is investing heavily in. In fact, the DoE has recently encouraged industry members to actively collaborate on such initiatives.

The bond between clean energy and advanced manufacturing is as strong as the latest active solder and hermetic glass sealing solutions. They combine to reduce carbon emissions, provide millions with more affordable power and create thousands of jobs – all of which fuel economic growth and prosperity.