The Cutting Edge: Week 2

August 06, 2014
by Anthony Tempest

The Gigafactory

Tesla, one of the more famous manufacturers of electric cars, has joined forces with Panasonic to help build the world’s largest factory for making electric car batteries. Panasonic, who are a major lithium-ion battery supplier in their own right are to help the electric car manufacturers build a huge battery factory. This is a big deal for Tesla who needed the backing of partners to for funding and technical know-how. According to Tesla, the factory will cost $5 billion, with $2 billion invested by Tesla themselves. To read more, click here.

The impossible space drive

The so called impossible microwave thrusters may not be as impossible as once imagined. A British scientist – Roger Shawyer – has spent many years trying to convince people that his EmDrive, or microwave thruster, has potential. He has built a number of devices, but critics have insisted that it cannot work due to the law of conservation of momentum. A damning conclusion. However, a Chinese team built their own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced enough thrust to be a practical satellite thruster. This work attracted little attention. Enter the US scientist, Guido Fetta, who has also built his own microwave thruster and persuaded NASA to test it out. Against all odds (and law of conservation of momentum), the results were positive! Find out more about how it works here.

More batteries!

As our devices get smaller and more powerful, batteries have to do the same. Researchers at Stanford University have reported a big step towards what is considered the biggest achievement in battery design – a pure lithium anode. We claim to have lithium batteries but that isn’t completely true. We have lithium ion batteries instead, so a pure lithium battery would be a huge boost to efficiency. Find out more here about the challenges facing battery designers and engineers.

The speed of light

The record has been broken for transmission rate over a single fibre cable. At 43 terabits per second, the previous record (32 terabits per second) was shattered by a team at Denmark’s Karlsruhe Institute for Technology. It might seem like a ludicrous number that has no practical use other than to brag, but the rapid growth of the internet and demand for speed makes this research a necessity. A new type of fibre cable was used for this research, which used seven glass cores instead of the conventional one core. This requires the signal to be split prior to transmission and reassembled once receieved. Although this is exciting news, it won’t have an impact on the end users of the internet yet, due to standardisation processes and further testing. Find out more here about the teams achievements in this article.