Highly Efficient Grid-scale Electricity Storage at Fifth of Cost

Rows of huge tanks full of chemical solutions storing energy generated from massive solar and wind farms and powering whole cities: It’s a landscape that millennials might very well equate with the new normalBatteries will power this new paradigm, and they won’t necessarily all be lithium-ion batteries. The flow battery is staking a claim in the renewable energy world of the future. Flow batteries are definiively the future of energy storage, or at least an important part of it.

What are flow batteries? They are systems of two connected tanks, both containing electrolyte liquids: one with a positively charged cathode and the other with the negatively charged anode, just like a lithium-ion battery. Electricity passes from one electrolyte liquid to the other via a membrane between the tanks.

 

Rechargeable like lithium-ion batteries, flow batteries have longer lives because the electric current flowing from tank to tank does not degrade the membrane. True flow batteries are also called redox flow batteries, after the two reactions they utilize: reduction, or a gain of electrons, and oxidation, or loss of electrons from electrolyte liquid to electrolyte liquid.

Now researchers in WMG at the University of Warwick, in collaboration with Imperial College London, have found a way to enhance hybrid flow batteries and their commercial use. The new approach can store electricity in these batteries for very long durations for about a fifth the price of current technologies, with minimal location restraints and zero emissions.

The scientists enhanced three hybrid flow cells using nitrogen doped graphene (exposed to nitrogen plasma) in a binder-free electrophoresis technique (EPD). Wind and solar power are increasingly popular sources for renewable energy. Unfortunately, intermittency issues keep them from connecting widely to the National grid. One potential solution to this problem involves in the deployment of long-duration battery technology, such as the redox flow battery. Despite its great promise the current costs of this system are a key determining factor to real-world adoption. An affordable grid battery should cost £75/kWh, according to the US Department of Energy. Lithium-ion batteries, which lead the charge for grid storage, cost about £130/kWh. The hybrid flow battery’s total chemical cost is about 1/30th the cost of competing batteries, such as lithium-ion systems. Scaled-up technologies may be used to store electricity from wind or solar power, for multiple days to entire seasons, for about £15 to £20 per kilowatt hour.

https://warwick.ac.uk/

Augmented Reality Headset Protects Doctors From Coronavirus

One of the largest NHS trusts in England is using Microsoft HoloLens on its Covid-19 wards to keep doctors safe as they help patients with the virus. Staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust are wearing the mixed-reality headset as they work on the frontline in the most high-risk area of some of London’s busiest hospitals. HoloLens with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist uses Microsoft Teams to send a secure live video-feed to a computer screen in a nearby room, allowing healthcare teams to see everything the doctor treating Covid-19 patients can see, while remaining at a safe distance.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which includes Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital, says using HoloLens has led to a fall in the amount of time staff are spending in high-risk areas of up to 83%. It is also significantly reducing the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) being used, as only the doctor wearing the headset has to dress in PPE. Early estimates that using HoloLens is saving up to 700 items of PPE per ward, per week.

In March, we had a hospital full of Covid-19 patients. Doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals providing ward care had a high risk of exposure to the virus and many became ill. Protecting staff was a major motivating factor for this work, but so was protecting patients. If our staff are ill they can transmit disease and they are unable to provide expert medical care to those who needed it most, said James Kinross, a consultant surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare? Kinross has been using HoloLens for many years at the hospital. “In one week our hospital trust switched from being a place that delivered acute, elective care and planned treatment into a giant intensive care unit. We weren’t just trying to restructure an entire building, we were trying to redeploy and retrain our staff, while at the same time we had to cope with an ever-growing number of very sick people“We needed an innovative solution. I’ve used HoloLens before in surgery and we quickly realised it had a unique role to play because we could take advantage of its hands-free telemedicine capabilities. Most importantly, it could be used while wearing PPE. It solved a major problem for us during a crisis, by allowing us to keep treating very ill patients while limiting our exposure to a deadly virus. Not only that, it reduced our PPE consumption and significantly improved the efficiency of our ward rounds.”

Rather than put users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them and interact with them using gestures, gaze and voice.

Source: https://news.microsoft.com/

One Injection Reduces Obesity In 4 Weeks

An injection has helped reduce body weight and glucose levels in patients with diabetes and obesity in four weeks. The findings came from a small study in which patients lost on average 4.4kg and the treatment led to substantial improvements to their blood glucose, with some patients’ reducing to near-normal levels.Obesity is a common problem in the UK and it is estimated that one in four adults are obese. One of the most common types of weight loss surgery is a procedure known as gastric bypass surgery, which can be very effective in keeping excess weight off and improving blood sugar levels in diabetics.  However, some patients decide against surgery and the procedure can cause complications such as abdominal pain, chronic nausea, vomiting and debilitating low blood sugar levels.

Previous research by Imperial College London suggested that one of the reasons why gastric bypass surgery works so well is because three specific hormones originating from the bowels are released in higher levels. This hormone combination, called ‘GOP’ for short, reduces appetite, causes weight loss and improves the body’s ability to use the sugar absorbed from eating. Researchers wanted to see if infusing patients with the GOP hormones glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), oxyntomodulin and peptide YY, to mimic the high levels seen after surgery, could aid weight loss and reduce high glucose levelsFifteen patients were given the GOP treatment for four weeks using a pump that slowly injects the GOP mixture under the skin for 12 hours a day, beginning one hour before breakfast and disconnecting after their last meal of the day. Patients also received dietetic advice on healthy eating and weight loss from a dietician.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes can lead to very serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as cancer, stroke and heart disease. There is a real need to find new medicines so we can improve and save the lives of many patients, said Tricia Tan, Professor of Practice (Metabolic Medicine & Endocrinology) at Imperial College London and lead author of the study. “Although this is a small study our new combination hormone treatment is promising and has shown significant improvements in patients’ health in only four weeks.  Compared to other methods the treatment is non-invasive and reduced glucose levels to near-normal levels in our patients”, she adds.

Source: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/

How To Use The Body’s Inbuilt Healing System

Imperial researchers have developed a new bioinspired material that interacts with surrounding tissues to promote healing. Materials are widely used to help heal wounds: Collagen sponges help treat burns and pressure sores, and scaffold-like implants are used to repair broken bones. However, the process of tissue repair changes over time, so scientists are looking to biomaterials that interact with tissues as healing takes place.

Now, Dr Ben Almquist and his team at Imperial College London have created a new molecule that could change the way traditional materials work with the body. Known as traction force-activated payloads (TrAPs), their method lets materials talk to the body’s natural repair systems to drive healing.

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The researchers say incorporating TrAPs into existing medical materials could revolutionise the way injuries are treated.

Our technology could help launch a new generation of materials that actively work with tissues to drive healing,” said Dr Almquist, from mperial’s Department of Bioengineering.
After an injury, cells ‘crawl’ through the collagen ‘scaffolds’ found in wounds, like spiders navigating webs. As they move, they pull on the scaffold, which activates hidden healing proteins that begin to repair injured tissue. The researchers in the study designed TrAPs as a way to recreate this natural healing method. They folded the DNA segments into three-dimensional shapes known as aptamers that cling tightly to proteins. Then, they attached a customisable ‘handle’ that cells can grab onto on one end, before attaching the opposite end to a scaffold such as collagen.
During laboratory testing of their technique, they found that cells pulled on the TrAPs as they crawled through the collagen scaffolds. The researchers tailor TrAPs to release specific therapeutic proteins based on which cells are present at a given point in time.

This is the first time scientists have activated healing proteins using differing cell types in man-made materials. The technique mimics healing methods found in nature. “Creatures from sea sponges to humans use cell movement to activate healing. Our approach mimics this by using the different cell varieties in wounds to drive healing,” explains Dr Almquist.”

This approach is adaptable to different cell types, so could be used in a variety of injuries such as fractured bones, scar tissue after heart attacks, and damaged nerves. New techniques are also desperately needed for patients whose wounds won’t heal despite current interventions, like diabetic foot ulcers, which are the leading cause of non-traumatic lower leg amputationsTrAPs are relatively straightforward to create and are fully man-made, meaning they are easily recreated in different labs and can be scaled up to industrial quantities.

TrAPs could harness the body’s natural healing powers to repair bone

TrAPs provide a flexible method of actively communicating with wounds, as well as key instructions when and where they are needed. This intelligent healing is useful during every phase of the healing process, has the potential to increase the body’s chance to recover, and has far-reaching uses on many different types of wounds. This technology could serve as a conductor of wound repair, orchestrating different cells over time to work together to heal damaged tissues,” said Dr Almquist.

The findings are published in Advanced Materials.

Source: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/