Xcience Newsletter May 2017


The world’s largest floating photovoltaic (PV) facility (pictured) has been connected to the local power grid. Located in the city of Huainan in the Anhui province, the 40-megawatt facility was manufactured by Sungrow Power Supply Co. The floating grid has been constructed over a flooded former coal-mining region. This is the second such facility in the region following the opening in 2016 of a 10 sq. mile area 20MW facility, the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park. With the increase in PV manufacture, the cost of solar power is predicted to fall by one third by 2020, with price parity with coal predicted within a decade.


The craze to develop a flying car has been joined by Toyota, who are supporting ‘Cartivator’ a start-up developing a 2.9 metre long vehicle. The project is being undertaken by 30 young volunteers under the supervision of Masafumi Miwa from Tokushima University. The aim of the project is to have a prototype flying by 2018 and to commercialise in time to light the Olympic torch at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. According to its Zenmono crowdfunding page, the car will be able to take off from any public road and fly at a speed of 62 mph, at a height of 10 metres above ground level.  


Rapid charging of batteries is a widely pursued goal by researchers. Work recently published by Prof John Cushman of Purdue University has developed a technique for replenishing the electrolyte in a cell with a charged liquid, a concept analogous to refueling with petrol. The science is based around redox reactions in immiscible fluids, the liquid being ‘charged up’ for example using a PV panel or wind farm. Prof Cushman has set up a company to exploit his invention - IFBattery LLC.


Magnetic materials are widely used in applications such as memory devices, where faster and smaller are always key targets. A team led by Prof Xiaodong Xu at the University of Washington and Prof Pablo Jarillo-Herrero at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered magnetism in a monolayer of Chromium Triiodide. The work, publised in June 8th edition of Nature, used the technique of sticky tape to detach a single layer. The magnetic effect was seen in a monolayer and trilayer but not in a bilayer, indicating an anti-ferromagnetic ordering. Although the bulk CrI3 material is ferromagnetic, it does not always follow that a monolayer will show the same behaviour. Future work will examine the potential for exploiting heterogeneous layered materials.