130. Honda’s Solid State EV Plan, Lunar Soil Rocket Fuel, The Molecular Computer Dream
130. Honda’s Solid State EV Plan, Lunar Soil Rocket Fuel, The Molecular Computer Dream
Honda aims for a solid-state-powered EV by the end of the decade | Ars Technica (00:53)
Honda is working on what it believes will be the breakthrough that brings solid-state batteries to the market.
Working solo on this technology
Shinji Aoyama, Honda’s global leader of electrification, told Ars Technica:
“In the springtime of 2024, we will start a pilot line (for manufacturing). Then if we can be successful, we believe we can launch a vehicle with a solid-state battery in the latter part of the 2020s. 2029, 2028.”
CEO and president Toshihiro Mibe added that the automaker hasn’t decided which vehicle will be the first to be outfitted with a solid-state battery.
Solid State batteries might be potentially cheaper, safer, charge quicker, and hold more energy per pound, but they also don’t have much of a life span.
As we talked about last week
Dendrites are tiny crystal spikes that form in the lithium metal anodes of solid-state batteries over time.
Honda is trying to solve the issue where the dendrites bore through the electrolyte over time and cause a short circuit during charging, reducing the battery’s life span.
Honda’s solution is to sandwich the solid electrolyte with a polymer fabric keeping the dendrites from forming without sacrificing the battery’s capabilities.
They will roll press the elements instead of stamping, which Honda believes should give the company greater control over the thickness of each battery.
The automaker is still in the early stages of testing these batteries at its facility.
They have to work quickly if they want to be ready for the pilot manufacturing of solid-state batteries in the spring of 2024.
Bruvi Launches Breakthrough Single-Serve Coffee System | Business Insider (06:19)
Bruvi is a startup which recently launched its breakthrough brewing system today, just in time for the holiday season.
U.S. coffee drinkers use more than 17 million single-serve pods annually, the vast majority of which end up in landfills, where they take around 500 years to decompose.
Only about 9% of plastic is recycled and small coffee pods are even more challenging to recycle.
Bruvi‘s B-pods is taking a novel approach to bio-degradable coffee pods by assuming they end up at the landfill.
And designing them to disintegrate when they do.
B-Pods are bio-enzyme infused capsules designed to substantially break down in a landfill more rapidly than untreated plastics through an organic process that leaves no microplastics behind.
Bruvi co-founder Mel Elias, in an interview with TechCrunch, talks on the pods:
“We are convinced here at Bruvi that we have found a very viable alternative, other than recycling, to address the problem of plastic waste by using bio enzyme technology … For consumers who are under the perception that single-serve pod coffee systems are bad for the environment, our aspiration at Bruvi is to ultimately turn this perception on its head and demonstrate that if you really care about the environment but still want to drink specialty coffee, Bruvi is your choice.”
He continues talking on the bio-enzyme portion of their product:
“This is the first time enzyme-infused plastic has been applied to a polypropylene coffee capsule, so this has already been an expensive endeavor for us as a startup … Adding the bio-enzyme admittedly does add a significant enough increase to the actual cost of our pods that would be a disincentive to most. Our social impact mission demands this course of action and so do the consumers we are trying to reach. Simply put, we couldn’t afford not to implement this solution.”
Elias ends off with what his hopes are for the company and their mission:
“Our immediate hope is that the large waste management companies that own or manage the majority of the active landfills in the U.S. today will be more incentivized, and supported by policy and regulation to increase the number of landfill gas to energy projects that are already in place today … We also hope that the use of infused plastics becomes more commonplace across other industries as an alternative solution to plastic waste — it’s a bio enzyme leading to organic fermentation in an anaerobic environment so no microplastics are created as a by-product and that’s another great benefit.”
Scientists Use Actual Lunar Soil Sample To Create Rocket Fuel | Futurism (15:16)
A team of Chinese researchers say they managed to convert actual lunar regolith samples into a source of rocket fuel and oxygen
Allowing for use of in-situ resources to fuel up for their return journey.
The researchers found that the lunar soil samples can act as a catalyst to convert carbon dioxide and water from astronauts’ bodies and environment into methane and oxygen.
Builds on previous research suggesting lunar soil can generate oxygen and fuel, this process can be completed using uncrewed systems, even in the absence of astronauts.
In an experiment, the team used samples from China’s Chang’e-5 mission, which landed in Inner Mongolia back in December 2020 — the first lunar soil returned to Earth since 1976.
The Moon soil effectively acted as a catalyst, enabling the electrocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide into methane and oxygen.
The research concludes, “No significant difference can be observed between the manned and unmanned systems, which further suggests the high possibility of imitating our proposed system in extraterrestrial sites and proves the feasibility of further optimizing catalyst recipes on the Moon.”
But there’s one big hurdle to still overcome: liquifying carbon dioxide
Difficult task, because condensing the gas requires a significant amount of heat,
Still, it’s a tantalizing prospect: an autonomous machine chugging away, pumping out oxygen and fuel for future visitors.
Meta’s AI-powered audio codec promises 10x compression over MP3 | Ars Technica (19:57)
Meta announced an AI-powered audio compression method called “EnCodec” that can reportedly compress audio 10 times smaller than the MP3 format at 64kbps with no loss in quality.
Could improve the sound quality of speech on low-bandwidth connections, such as phone calls in areas with spotty service.
Meta describes its method as a three-part system trained to compress audio to a desired target size.
First, the encoder transforms uncompressed data into a lower frame rate “latent space” representation.
Next, their “quantizer” compresses the representation to the target size while keeping track of the most important information that will later be used to rebuild the original signal.
Finally, the decoder turns the compressed data back into audio in real time using a neural network on a single CPU.
Meta says this AI-powered “hypercompression of audio” could support “faster, better-quality calls” in bad network conditions.
For now, Meta’s new tech remains in the research phase, but it points toward a future where high-quality audio can use less bandwidth, which would be great news for mobile broadband providers with overburdened networks from streaming media.
The Sci-Fi Dream of a ‘Molecular Computer’ Is Getting More Real | MIT Tech Review (24:24)
David Leigh, an organic chemist from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, believes that tiny molecular computers could assemble what we struggle to build in the organic realm.
Like new drugs and plastics with traits so enhanced and precise that they’re out of reach for current tools.
Leigh is confident it is possible:
“It’s absolutely clear that it’s possible because there already is this working example called biology.”
Ribosomes, cellular structures that slide down sequences of mRNA to churn out proteins one amino acid at a time.
A molecular machine would work like a ribosome, in that instructions would be encoded on one molecule, and another one would interpret them.
Researchers like Leigh are building this molecule piece by piece
Developed a “ratchet” molecule in 2007 which was powered by light and could move forward along a molecular track.
So five years ago, they discovered how to nudge these ratchet molecules
Now Leigh’s team combined these innovations to demonstrate that a molecule-sized machine can read as it moves.
Encoded blocks of information on one molecule (the tape)
Designed another to slide down its length (the head).
The head moved along the tape, it would contort into a predictable shape each time it scanned a specific block of information.
Interpreted the information on the tape based on the changes to the shape of the head
It took several hours to move between blocks of information.
The scientists were able to follow along with how the head was changing its shape by reading light shined at the molecular machine.
Found that you can use the fundamental processes of physics and chemistry to relay information at the molecular level.
Lee Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow who was not involved in the study:
“If you could digitally control assembly at the molecular level, and make every single strand bespoke, then you can make amazing materials … But we’re a little bit far away from that. And I’m anxious not to over-promise that.”
The next step forward will be getting his molecular machines to write.