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Top power news in 2017

Feature articles |
By Nick Flaherty

In January, the Tesla battery gigafactory in Nevada started production ramping up to supply both electric cars and home storage power packs, courtesy of technology from Panasonic. At the same time a startup in Cornwall, UK, raised funding to be be main source of lithium in Europe for batteries, filtering the metal from water.  

In February researchers at Harvard developed a flow battery for grid storage that lost just 1% of capacity in 1000 cycles, implying a lifetime of decades and reducing the capex costs for power operators.

Supercapacitors continue to be of interst, particularly with new materials such as graphene opening up higher energy densities. Skeleton Technologies launched its supercap-based starter for vehicles in March, part of its move to dominate supercapacitor supply through a new factory in Desden.  At the same time Analog Devices completed its acquisition of Linear Technology, a move that nine months later has seen Linear move to being a brand within Analog.  

May highlighted the dominance of the top four gallium nitride companies in the booming market, a story that continued to show up in following months Later in the year saw much more focus on GaN from companies such as Texas Instruments.
June saw an exclusive follow up with the CEO of Skeleton Technologies as well as a strange power outage at London Heathrow airport. Details of the problems at Bristish Airways were vague, although the final explanation seemed to balme a workman for unplgging a server rack and then plugging it back in again. The promised report never appeared either, highlighting the poor data centre management strategies in place. 

Supercapacitors were seen at the top of the list again in July, this time in a coin cell format that could replace batteries in the Internet of Things, while supercapacitors themselves were being challenged by a new materail called MXene. This could allow batteries to charge in a matter of seconds and provide the benefits of both supercapacitors and battery storage.

September saw significant interest in Lightricity, a UK startup with backing from Sharp, that had developed a highly efficient solar cell technology and is moving to production, as well as Dyson’s announcement of its electric car project and plans for a battery factory. 

The following month saw the news that Apple had bought a high speed wireless power company in New Zealand. However the more popular story saw the results of research into ARM’s Trustzone power management software and hardware and potential vulnerabilities.

November saw the start of a new European project building an aluminium-sulphur battery that could take on lithium ion with higher eneergy densities, while December saw Formula One technology supplier Williams working with Airbus on a new generation of battery systems for high altitude unmanned aircraft.  


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