Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rare glassy metal discovered in battery performance research

New research describes the evolution of nanostructural lithium atoms (blue) depositing onto an electrode (yellow) during the battery charging operation. 
Materials scientists studying recharging fundamentals say they have made an astonishing discovery that could open the door to better batteries, faster catalysts and other materials science leaps.

Scientists from Idaho National Laboratory and University of California San Diego scrutinized the earliest stages of lithium recharging and learned that slow, low-energy charging causes electrodes to collect atoms in a disorganized way that improves charging behavior. This non-crystalline “glassy” lithium had never been observed, and creating such amorphous metals has traditionally been extremely difficult.

The findings suggest strategies for fine-tuning recharging approaches to boost battery life and — more intriguingly — for making glassy metals for other applications. The study appeared online this week in Nature Materials.

Charging knowns, unknowns


Lithium metal is a preferred anode for high-energy rechargeable batteries. Yet the recharging process (depositing lithium atoms onto the anode surface) is not well understood at the atomic level. The way lithium atoms deposit onto the anode can vary from one recharge cycle to the next, leading to erratic recharging and reduced battery life.

The INL/UCSD team wondered whether recharging patterns were influenced by the earliest congregation of the first few atoms, a process known as nucleation. “That initial nucleation may affect your battery performance, safety and reliability,” said Gorakh Pawar, an INL staff scientist and one of the paper’s two lead authors.

Watching lithium embryos form


The researchers combined images and analyses from a powerful electron microscope with liquid-nitrogen cooling and computer modeling. The cryo-state electron microscopy allowed them to see the creation of lithium metal “embryos,” and the computer simulations helped explain what they saw.
In particular, they discovered that certain conditions created a less structured form of lithium that was amorphous (like glass) rather than crystalline (like diamond).

“The power of cryogenic imaging to discover new phenomena in materials science is showcased in this work,” said Shirley Meng, who led UC San Diego’s pioneering cryo-microscopy work. The imaging and spectroscopic data are often convoluted, she said. “True teamwork enabled us to interpret the experimental data with confidence because the computational modeling helped decipher the complexity.”

A glassy surprise


Pure amorphous elemental metals had never been observed before now. They are extremely difficult to produce, so metal mixtures (alloys) are typically required to achieve a “glassy” configuration, which imparts powerful material properties.

During recharging, glassy lithium embryos were more likely to remain amorphous throughout growth. While studying what conditions favored glassy nucleation, the team was surprised again.
“We can make amorphous metal in very mild conditions at a very slow charging rate,” said Boryann Liaw, an INL directorate fellow and INL lead on the work. “It’s quite surprising.”

That outcome was counterintuitive because experts assumed that slow deposition rates would allow the atoms to find their way into an ordered, crystalline lithium. Yet modeling work explained how reaction kinetics drive the glassy formation. The team confirmed those findings by creating glassy forms of four more reactive metals that are attractive for battery applications.  

What’s next?

The research results could help meet the goals of the Battery500 consortium, a Department of Energy initiative that funded the research. The consortium aims to develop commercially viable electric vehicle batteries with a cell level specific energy of 500 Wh/kg. Plus, this new understanding could lead to more effective metal catalysts, stronger metal coatings and other applications that could benefit from glassy metals. Read more about this research: https://inl.gov/article/discovery-of-rare-glassy-metal/

Commercial real estate transactions | 07.27.2020

Commercial real estate transactions reported July 27 by TOK Commercial:
  • The Radley Group leased 1,000 square feet of office space located at 2285 E. 25th Street in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
  • Helix Auto, LLC leased 3,865 square feet of retail space located at 555 N. Yellowstone in Idaho Falls. Brent Wilson and Brian Wilson of TOK Commercial represented the landlord. Shane Murphy of Venture One Properties represented the tenant.
  • Rebound Financial renewed their 525 square feet of office space located at 626 S. Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
  • Tolsma USA leased 1,000 square feet of office space in the Colonial Plaza, located at 1276 S. Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.

Friday, July 24, 2020

INL seeks partners in lunar power system development

Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, is seeking information from leaders in the nuclear and space industries to develop innovative technologies for a fission surface power system that can be operated on the moon.

The request for information can be viewed here. Responses are sought by Sept. 8. After receiving responses, INL will issue a request for proposal.

Sponsored by NASA in collaboration with DOE and INL, the request for information seeks partnership on technologies and approaches to test and validate an FSP design that can be built and deployed on the moon, and used for subsequent missions, such as to Mars.

“Idaho National Laboratory has a central role in emphasizing the United States’ global leadership in nuclear innovation, with the anticipated demonstration of advanced reactors on the INL Site,” said Dr. John Wagner, associate laboratory director of INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate.

“The prospect of deploying an advanced reactor to the lunar surface is as exciting as it is challenging, and partnering with the most forward-thinking companies in the private sector and national laboratory system will help us get there.”

For more information on the RFI, interested parties may contact Aaron Weston at aaron.weston@inl.gov.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Idahoan Foods offering 10,000 free face coverings today

Idahoan Foods has joined forces with the city of Idaho Falls to donate and distribute thousands of cloth face coverings and packaged potatoes to the local community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drew Facer, CEO of Idahoan Foods, accepted the invitation from Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot to take part in the CEO Pay it Forward Challenge. CEO Pay It Forward began in Boise and is aimed at assisting non-profit organizations during the COVID crisis. When he heard of VanderSloot’s challenge, Facer contacted Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and they devised a plan that would reach deep into the community.

“Several days ago, I had read an article regarding Mayor Casper and the city’s deliberation concerning the use of face coverings,” Facer said. “Knowing that face coverings are now being required in many public settings, we worked together on a plan to donate 10,000 face masks throughout the community. Because Idahoan Foods is a critical infrastructure company, we have the ability to source large quantities of personal protective equipment, making this possible. Our city is well deserving and provides a great service to our community, and working with our local officials seemed to be a natural fit.”

The company is donating 10,000 anti-microbial, cloth face coverings to city residents. Distribution is today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside the company’s headquarters, located at 900 Pier View Drive in Snake River Landing, and again from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., or while supplies last. Undistributed masks will be donated to schools and public offices.

In addition to the face coverings, Idahoan is also donating several thousand packages of their signature “Buttery Homestyle Mashed Potatoes” to residents who come pick up masks. Both the face coverings and potatoes will be distributed on a “first-come, first-served” basis and will be given out with a limit of five per resident. Idahoan is making a further donation of over 4,500 pouches of potatoes to the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket. Idahoan Foods' total contribution amounts to just over $37,000.

 “Although Idahoan is an international name in the food production industry, it also happens to be one of our great local community business partners,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, to have a business step up to provide face coverings and product to so many of our residents is inspiring. A donation like this is just a remarkable thing and we are grateful for their generosity.”

The one-size-fits-all cloth face coverings are non-certified but are washable and said to retain their antimicrobial properties for up to three washings, according to Idahoan, and can continue to be used as a regular face covering with normal washing and care.

To keep the CEO Pay it Forward Challenge alive, Facer further stated, “It is my privilege to challenge two people to continue this great effort. The first is Clint Tavenner, the managing partner of Cooper Norman and the second is Chet Taylor, CEO of EVO Automation. I know both of these men well and believe they will make a significant impact as they Pay it Forward. We love the fact that our company is built within communities that serve each other.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Making Golf a Year-round Thing | Bob Gretz, Bob's Indoor Golf

Bob Gretz and his children enjoying
a nice day in eastern Idaho.
When Bob Gretz's wife informed him that they were moving from Washington, D.C., to Idaho Falls to be closer to family, he immediately investigated what eastern Idaho would offer him in the way of golfing.

Learning that there were only about seven months of the year in which golfing was feasible he started to panic, wondering what he'd do without his daily golfing “fix.” This led to him to investigate the availability of indoor golf facilities, and he found the area lacking.

“One of the reasons it's so cool is because of this market. I started looking at some numbers and there are 6,000 regular golfers in Idaho Falls, and the number of rounds they put in the seven-month season is really big. I figured there had to be a need to put in an indoor golf facility,” he said.

Gretz's prior career was in corporate America, in the waste management business. He admits he didn't see himself doing this at this point in his life. “It's fun,” he said. “I have really gotten more people who are saying thanks for doing this instead of 'Why are you doing this?' The people are fun,” he said.

The facility is for anyone, novice to expert. “The worst part about public golf is the constant feeling of someone behind you, staring you down. It's stressful,” he said. "This facility allows new learners to practice and get comfortable with the game before getting on the real course. It also allows experts to come and perfect their game."

Opening the business was a leap of faith, he said. Although he didn't have financing secured he went ahead and signed a lease on the space. He was able to find a bank that supported his vision. “Sink or swim,” he said.

Gretz is grateful that he has had a lot of family and friends who have pitched in and helped, from his wife painting the wall murals to his daughter taking care of the books and his son-in-law coming from Colorado to put together the putting green.

“The first winter was better than we anticipated," he said. By mid-February we were seven days a week, pushing 12 hours. And then COVID hit,” he said. “We are doing a day at a time things right now.”

He believes that that the pandemic has really pushed people to buy local. He's seen individuals really supporting local business.

The facility not only houses golf. The East Idaho Cornhole Association uses the space for cornhole practice and events. It is also a place where you can bring your business associates and do team building events with the simulators or putting practice. There is a conference room available, too.

There were unanticipated challenges starting the business. Gretz said there were unanticipated price points he bumped up against, as well as challenges with his beer and wine license. The advantage of it just being him running the business means he's been able to make adjustments quickly.

Gretz has also faced physical challenges. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 10 years ago. “I don't let it be a barrier," he said. "When the end of the day comes around I'm pretty worn out. I have to pace myself. Everyone here knows it and understands it. This is one of the most unbiased populations I've ever lived in. They watch out for me. It's nice. It's a pain in the butt dealing with any kind of handicap, but it gives you a look into how other people have to live. There are people worse off than you.”

Although the corporate world is steady, Bob wishes he would have left it long ago and started a business. He believes in being involved in the business and being present for the customers to see him. His vision for the business is to continue to grow his clientele and be here for those starved for golf all year round. 


For more information on Bob's Indoor Golf go to their website at https://www.bobsindoorgolf.com/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/bobsindoorgolf/.