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MM: Cheaper Renewable Energy Storage Using Silicon; Making Drivers Comfortable In Self-Driving Cars

In this episode of Manufacturing Minute, using silicon to create cheaper renewable energy storage and making drivers comfortable in self-driving cars.

Cheaper Renewable Energy Storage Using Silicon

While we continue to expand our use of renewable energy like wind and solar, storing excess energy is the current major challenge facing the industry.

In order for alternative energy to become a long-term viable solution, improvements to our ability to store energy are required so that we can continue to have electricity at night, days when the sun isn’t shining and when the wind isn’t blowing. 

Current battery technology isn’t advanced enough for the job, which is why researchers have been exploring a range of new ideas including a silicon-based solution proposed by researchers from a University in Madrid. 

Their thermal energy storage system uses molten silicon, one of the world's cheapest and most abundant elements β€” second only to oxygen, to store up to 10 times more energy than existing options.

The proposed system involves heating the silicon in a container using either concentrated sunlight or surplus electricity generated by renewable power.

The molten silicon can be isolated from its environment until energy is needed, at which point the heat is converted to electricity.

The key to making the new system work is the use of thermophotovoltaic cells that generate electricity from heat, as well as light with conversion efficiencies of over 50 percent and can produce 100 times more electrical power per unit area.

The team is now looking to commercialize the system and started building a laboratory-scale prototype.


Could this research lead to a solely renewable energy future? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

Making Drivers Comfortable In Self-Driving Cars

Automakers, tech giants and start-up companies eventually believe that fully autonomous driving systems will enable safer, more efficient transportation β€” while allowing would-be drivers to do everything from catch up on work to stream a TV show.

Before that day arrives, however, drivers will need to feel comfortable relinquishing control of their cars β€” and re-taking it at a moment's notice.

Researchers from the University of the West of England recently began conducting studies of the "handover" between driving system and human driver β€” in an effort to develop user-friendly technologies that realize the full benefits of autonomous vehicles.

The tests were conducted in a simulator and prototype vehicle, which operated on private roads at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

Participating drivers were instructed on how to use the car, and researchers measured their reactions to directives to resume driving.

The project was part of the Venturer consortium, a driverless testing program funded by both industry and the U.K. government. 

The data will be used to develop the next testing phase, which will include varied road conditions, intersections and identifying appropriate distances between nearby vehicles.


Will these tests speed up adoption of driverless systems, or will the rapid advance of autonomous technology render the results obsolete? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.