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Cambridge Scientists Develop Quintuple-Power Battery Inspired By Gut Bacteria

A UK-Chinese team of scientists have delivered a prototype for a better battery, which could extend the time between smartphone charges – and it's all inspired by our guts.

Say goodbye to carting your phone charger with you everywhere! ... But not until 2020.


A UK-Chinese team of scientists has delivered a prototype for a better battery, which could extend the time between smartphone charges. What’s perhaps more interesting is this latest innovation was inspired by our guts.

This new lithium-sulfur battery mimics the villi found in the gut, which line the small intestines to absorb nutrients. What’s more, the villi do so by increasing the surface area over which this process of energy absorption can take place—this process is what caught researchers’ attentions. The increase in surface area would allow for improved power density—as much as five times that of the lithium-ion batteries in smartphones, today, researchers estimate. 

"By taking our inspiration from the natural world, we were able to come up with a solution that we hope will accelerate the development of next-generation batteries," said lead author Teng Zhao, a PhD student from Cambridge. "This is the first time a chemically functional layer with a well-organized nano-architecture has been proposed to trap and reuse the dissolved active materials during battery charging and discharging.”

Lithium-sulfur batteries sure look like the successor to the lithium-ion battery. The higher energy density and reduced cost from the use of sulfur are two of the leading reasons, but as with any chemical reaction, this one comes with some side-effects. Many researchers and companies, like Sony, have been working to develop one durable and safe enough for commercial release.

The day of the lithium-sulfur battery is still years away, but on the horizon – Sony believes it can have one ready by 2020.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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A temporary marriage makes more sense than marriage for life

Most marriages end in resentment. Why should longevity be the sole marker of a successful marriage?


 

 

Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt attend the WSJ Magazine 2015 Innovator Awards on November 4, 2015. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WSJ)
Personal Growth

In November 1891, the British sexologist Havelock Ellis married the writer and lesbian Edith Lees. He was 32 and a virgin. And since he was impotent, they never consummated their union. After their honeymoon, the two lived separately in what he called an open marriage. The union lasted until Lees’ death in 1916. 

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Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

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