Out of 26 million Texans, you may have an idea to change the world. You may have had several ideas to change the world. But only a tiny minority of you pushed through the U.S. Patent office from application to successful patent. We've seen Texans change the world many times over. Jack Kilby did it with Texas Instruments in 1958 with the integrated circuit, causing the start of the digital revolution, which, in part, is why you can read these words over your electronic device.
Over the last few years, Texas Business has brought its feature: Texas Business Patent of the Day. This list is of the ones that were either extremely clever, odd or strange. One thing becomes apparent from these patents and the patent that runs daily in Texas Business—Texans have a unique mind set.
Though the history of the Corn Dog is disputed, the State Fair of Texas claims to have introduced the Corny Dog sometime between 1938 and 1942. As a paean to that invention that now sits in the freezer section of every grocery store in the southwest, here are the fried foods the State Fair of Texas has introduced, or tried to introduce, in the last seven years.
Don't get caught up with John Wayne religion. For one thing, he's not Texan. He's in some fine movies involving Texas, most notably The Searchers, but none of his movies can make the best cut of Texas movies. Here's the short list.
Unsung Texas Business Journalists Mention that one is a reporter, and there's a spark of interest. Mention that one is a business news reporter, and watch the eyes glaze over. Except to the players, business and economic journalists are unappreciated. While many wish to become sports reporters when they grow up, most do not realize that business journalists cover the Real Game. Mention that reporter covers business, and watch the eyes glaze over. A toast to these below on the short list and the numerous unnamed ones slogging away. Full Story » TexasBusiness.com
Best Texas Mexican Food: The Short List No, we're not going to debate the difference between Tex-Mex, Mex-Tex, Mexican and Texican food. Just know these establishments are the pinnacle of Texas Mexican fare. No brag, just fact. Full Story » TexasBusiness.com
Best Texas Burgers Texas Burgers. . While a hamburger is merely sustenance and gratification for a meal, the memory a good Texas burger can give rise to Homeric odes. The short list. Full Story » TexasBusiness.com
A sponge formed from a solid wafer of silicon helps the material realize its potential to hold 10 times the amount of lithium ions than current materials used in rechargeable batteries. The material was developed by Rice University and Lockheed Martin.
Texas Business reports: HOUSTON—Researchers at Rice University and Lockheed Martin reported this month that they’ve found a way to make multiple high-performance anodes from a single silicon wafer. The process uses simple silicon to replace graphite as an element in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, laying the groundwork for longer-lasting, more powerful batteries for such applications as commercial electronics and electric vehicles.
The work led by Sibani Lisa Biswal, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice, and lead author Madhuri Thakur, a Rice research scientist, details the process by which Swiss cheese-like silicon “sponges” that store more than four times their weight in lithium can be electrochemically lifted off of wafers.
The research was reported online this month in the American Chemical Society journal Chemistry of Materials.
Silicon – one of the most common elements on Earth – is a candidate to replace graphite as the anode in batteries. In a previous advance by Biswal and her team, porous silicon was found to soak up 10 times more lithium than graphite.
Because silicon expands as it absorbs lithium ions, the sponge-like configuration gives it room to grow internally without degrading the battery’s performance, the researchers reported. The promise that silicon sponges, with pores a micron wide and 12 microns deep, held for batteries was revealed in 2010 at Rice’s Buckyball Discovery Conference by Thakur, Biswal, their Rice colleague Michael Wong, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry, and Steven Sinsabaugh, a Lockheed Martin Fellow. But even then Thakur saw room for improvement as the solid silicon substrate served no purpose in absorbing lithium.
In the new work, they discovered the electrochemical etching process used to create the pores can also separate the sponge from the substrate, which is then reused to make more sponges. The team noted that at least four films can be drawn from a standard 250-micron-thick wafer. Removing the sponge from the silicon substrate also eliminates a limiting factor to the amount of lithium that can be stored.
The team also found a way to make the pores 50 microns deep. Once lifted from the wafer, the sponges, now open at the top and bottom, were enhanced for conductivity by soaking them in a conductive polymer binder, pyrolyzed polyacrylonitrile (PAN).
The product was a tough film that could be attached to a current collector (in this case, a thin layer of titanium on copper) and placed in a battery configuration. The result was a working lithium-ion battery with a discharge capacity of 1,260 milliamp-hours per gram, a capability that should lead to batteries that last longer between charges.
The researchers compared batteries using their film before and after the PAN-and-bake treatment. Before, the batteries started with a discharge capacity of 757 milliamp-hours per gram, dropped rapidly after the second charge-discharge cycle and failed completely by cycle 15. The treated film increased in discharge capacity over the first four cycles – typical for porous silicon, the researchers said – and the capacity remained consistent through 20 cycles.
The researchers are investigating techniques that promise to vastly increase the number of charge-discharge cycles, a critical feature for commercial applications in which rechargeable batteries are expected to last for years.
Co-authors of the paper are postdoctoral researcher Roderick Pernites, alumnus Naoki Nitta and Lockheed Martin researcher Mark Isaacson.
The work was supported by the Lockheed Martin Advanced Nanotechnology Center of Excellence at Rice.
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