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Industry @ ALS


Toyota Collaborates with the ALS and Molecular Foundry Print
Friday, 18 July 2014 10:41

 

Toyota has been conducting research at the ALS since 2010, using soft x-rays and the expertise and endstations at Beamline 6.3.1 to help them gain insight into the chemistry of electrolytes for use in magnesium-ion batteries. The hope is that the research eventually leads to a fully developed magnesium-based battery technology that would replace lithium ion batteries with essentially twice the energy in the same volume. One of the most valuable developments for Toyota thus far has been simply the proof that soft x-ray spectroscopy is an extremely useful tool for this research. The company hopes to increase the value of their soft x-ray research through a collaborative project with another Berkeley Lab DOE user facility focused on nanoscience research, the Molecular Foundry.

ALS and Toyota scientists at Beamline 6.3.1, from left: ALS Staff Scientist Per-Anders Glans-Suzuki, Toyota Scientist Timothy Arthur, ALS Staff Scientist Jinghua Guo, ALS postgrad Yi-Sheng Liu, and ALS grad student Kaiqi Nie.

“What we’ve learned over the years as we develop more and more of these electrolytes is that they’re extremely complex for magnesium batteries,” says Toyota Scientist Timothy Arthur. “They are such complex systems with unique reactions happening at the interface that we need some additional support to really understand what’s happening.”

Toyota Manager Paul Fanson explains that there’s a certain limit to what Toyota can do with liquid-based samples by just looking at the spectra obtained at the beamline. Toyota wants to accelerate the process by simulating what the spectra would look like and developing new ideas based on those simulations in order to add some validation to their ALS experimental research. To accomplish this, Toyota turned to the director of the Molecular Foundry’s Theory of Nanostructured Materials Facility, David Prendergast.

“Spectroscopy is a technique that was traditionally used to fingerprint materials—you compare materials to a standard and if they match, then you know it’s the same as the standard,” explains Prendergast. “But for new materials, you often don’t have a standard as a reference point, so it’s really vital that you have theoretical support to do some simulation of your proposed model for the system.”

The Foundry’s Theory Facility is able to directly simulate many of the experiments at the ALS with predictive capabilities that enable scientists to revise experiments and complete their research more efficiently. These computationally intensive studies employ molecular dynamics and direct spectral simulations performed on Foundry computing resources and at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), another of Berkeley Lab’s DOE user facilities. The combination of the Beamline 6.3.1 endstation, which is one of a small number of endstations in the world that provides x-ray photons that can “see” magnesium, and the predictive capability of the Foundry is an ideal marriage, says Prendergast.

David Prendergast, director of the Molecular Foundry’s Theory of Nanostructured Materials Facility.

ALS Beamline 6.3.1 Staff Scientist Jinghua Guo hopes that the ALS-Molecular Foundry collaboration accelerates the research and development process for Toyota. The charge and discharge cycles for batteries can take days or months for each material type. “Trial and error is the traditional approach, but this project won’t be based merely on trial and error—the theoretical capabilities of the Foundry will help inform the process,” he says.

A small number of groups in the world are trying to look beyond lithium ion technology to new paradigms in energy storage, says Prendergast. He explains that one route is to look at multivalent ions, and magnesium is a promising material in this area. “Understanding how a magnesium battery works relies on having an understanding at the molecular level,” he says. “We don’t know in full detail the active species that are involved in the battery electrochemistry, but facilities like the Foundry and the ALS are enabling us to unravel this puzzle.”

Toyota’s user project at the Molecular Foundry has just started and they’re already working at ALS to collect data for the collaboration. Recently, Toyota was able to identify for the first time a key magnesium species from their original set of electrolytes. They’ll start by simulating what they believe to be the species with Prendergast, with the hope of adding more validity to what they believe to be a key intermediary for the magnesium deposition process.

Beamline scientist Ethan Crumlin shows beamline capabilities to visiting Toyota scientists and executives.

Arthur and Fanson stress that it’s the relationships Toyota has built with scientists at the ALS and the Foundry that are key to their success. “Because of these folks and the capabilities at the ALS, we’ve gained insight into what’s happening at the battery interface that’s never been seen before with x-ray spectroscopy,” says Arthur.

“Anything in research comes with risk and with the possibility of not being able to solve the challenges,” says Fanson. “ If we’re successful, it could certainly be revolutionary for personal electronics and electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.”

 
ALS Technique Gives Novel View of Lithium Battery Dendrite Growth Print
Thursday, 24 April 2014 09:46

Lithium-ion batteries, popular in today’s electronic devices, could gain significant energy density if their graphite anodes were replaced with lithium metal anodes. But there’s a major concern with substituting lithium—when the battery cycles, microscopic fibers of the lithium anodes (“dendrites”) form on the surface of the lithium electrode and spread across the electrolyte until they reach the other electrode, possibly leading to short circuiting. Researchers have recently discovered that the x-ray microtomography capabilities at ALS Beamline 8.3.2 can give them a novel view of dendrite growth that’s likely to provide the insight needed to stop it.

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IBM Probes Material Capabilities at the ALS Print
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 11:05

vandiumVanadium dioxide, one of the few known materials that acts like an insulator at low temperatures but like a metal at warmer temperatures, is a somewhat futuristic material that could yield faster and much more energy-efficient electronic devices. Researchers from IBM’s forward-thinking Spintronic Science and Applications Center (SpinAps) recently used the ALS to gain greater insight into vanadium dioxide’s unusual phase transition.

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Genentech Uses ALS Crystallography for Therapeutic Antibody Research Print
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 00:00

Genentech has developed a unique one-armed antibody, onartuzumab, which is now in late-stage clinical trials in multiple cancer types. The company used crystal structures obtained at ALS Beamline 5.0.2 to demonstrate the mechanism of action of this unique potentially therapeutic antibody.

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Concrete Industry Benefits from Ancient Romans and the ALS Print
Thursday, 17 October 2013 14:24

New insights into the Romans’ ingenious concrete harbor structures emerging from ALS beamline research could move the modern concrete industry toward its goal of a reduced carbon footprint.

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Moving Industry Forward: Finding the Environmental Opportunity in Biochar Print
Thursday, 12 September 2013 08:41

Using ALS Beamlines 10.3.2 and 8.3.2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently investigating how biochar sorbs environmental toxins and which kinds of biochar are the most effective. The possibilities for widespread use have already launched entrepreneurial commercial ventures.

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TE Connectivity Finds Answers in Tomography Print
Thursday, 22 August 2013 10:50

thumbTE Connectivity  is a world leader in connectivity—the $13 billion global company designs and manufactures more than 500,000 different electronic connectivity products for the automotive, energy, industrial, broadband communications, consumer device, healthcare, aerospace, and defense industries. TE Connectivity has a long-standing commitment to innovation and engineering excellence. Their products help address challenges arising from companies’ need for energy efficiency, always-on communications, and ever-increasing productivity. Recently, a team led by TE’s senior manager of materials development, Dr. Jerzy Gazda, has been investigating how ALS tomography capabilities on Beamline 8.3.2 can help the company develop more efficient connectors.

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ALS Gives Chevron Scientists New Insights into Corrosion Resistance Print
Thursday, 25 July 2013 13:44

In the chemical environments common in energy production plants, steel pipes and equipment can accumulate layers of iron sulfide, some of which are corrosion resistant and provide protection to the steel surface. Understanding how operating conditions affect steel surface layers can improve corrosion rate estimates, decreasing building and maintenance costs, and increasing the safety and reliability of operating plants. Chevron Energy Technology Company (Chevron ETC) is currently studying the link between operating conditions and corrosion properties at ALS Beamline 12.3.2 to determine which corrosion layers form and in what order.

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Enabling Thin Silicon Solar Cell Technology Print
Friday, 21 June 2013 10:49

The effort to shift U.S. energy reliance from fossil fuels to renewable sources has spurred companies to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of their solar photovoltaics (SPVs). But thinner silicon is more susceptible to stress and cracking, leading one researcher from SunPower Corporation to mount a fundamental approach to systematically find stress and enable solutions for next-generation crystalline silicon SPV systems.

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FDA Approves Drug for Type 2 Diabetes Invented with Aid of Protein Structure Data Taken at ALS Print
Friday, 24 May 2013 13:44

In January 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved NESINA for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults as an adjunct to diet and exercise. NESINA was invented by scientists at Takeda California, who used ALS Beamlines 5.0.2 and 5.0.3 to collect x-ray diffraction data.

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Moving Memristor and Neuristor Research Forward Print
Thursday, 21 March 2013 10:01

HP Labs researchers have tackled a decades-old mystery relying on powerful ALS microscopy techniques to better understand the fourth basic circuit element: the memristor. The memristor (short for “memory resistor”) joins the other passive elements—the capacitor, the resistor, and the inductor—to create a device with the ability to “remember” changes even when it loses power. Commercial development based on memristors offers the promise of computing systems with highly advanced energy efficiency and memory retention. Memristor-based memory could be a strong competitor for current flash memory.

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Crystallographic Consulting Brings Research to the ALS Print
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 15:50

crsytallogrpahy consultTom Pauly and Josh Stillwell, managing partners at Crystallographic Consulting, have a rich history as synchrotron users. It is likely because of this that they’re entrusted with the protein crystallography research for about 15 cutting-edge pharmaceutical companies. They conduct most of their research at ALS Beamline 5.0.2.

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Promising Magnesium Battery Research at ALS Print
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 16:59

2013-01-industry-thumbAlternatives to the current lithium-ion-based car batteries are at the forefront of the automotive industry’s research agenda—manufacturers want to build cars with longer battery life, and to do that they’re going to have to find new solutions. One promising battery material is magnesium (Mg)—it is more dense than lithium, it is safer, and the magnesium ion carries a two-electron charge, giving it potential as a more efficient energy source. Magnesium has a high volumetric capacity, which could mean more battery power in a smaller space. However, to bring Mg batteries to the commercial market, researchers must create new electrolytes with improved properties. The x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) facilities at the ALS are vital to understanding the interfaces and active species in Mg batteries.

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Cisco Systems Funds "Whisker" Growth Research at the ALS Print
Friday, 09 November 2012 10:06

whiskerUnderstanding "whisker" growth—the spontaneous growth of long filament-like grains on the leads, or “legs,” of electronic components—is key to manufacturing reliable lead-free electrical and electronic equipment. Cisco Systems, one of the world’s largest networking equipment producers, has provided funding and technical support to a group of ALS users from Purdue University to research the mechanism and driving forces for whiskers, with the ultimate goal of defining effective mitigation measures.
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Wood-Composites Industry Benefits from ALS Research Print
Thursday, 25 October 2012 10:44

Wood scientist and ALS user Jesse Paris is getting an intimate, 3-D view of adhesive penetration in wood-composite structures thanks to ALS Beamline 8.3.2.  He and colleagues at Oregon State University are now using the data he gathered through x-ray tomography scans at the ALS to build a predictive computer simulation model that will allow future researchers to gain information about how certain wood species and adhesive types will interact.

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