A method that combines robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify the optimal formulation of the non-aqueous liquid electrolyte solution of a lithium-ion battery is reported in a paper published in Nature Communications. This research could accelerate the development of rechargeable batteries with better functionality, such as faster charging and longer life.
Developing high-performance battery technology is essential for advancing the electrification of transport and aviation. Conventional techniques to discover lithium-ion battery components are time-consuming due to the need for experimentation with many possible material choices and can take years to develop. It has been proposed that one way to accelerate this process is by coupling AI and robots to discover optimized battery components.
Venkat Viswanathan, Jay Whitacre and colleagues designed a robotics platform named ‘Clio’ and combined this with an AI called ‘Dragonfly’. Using these tools, they demonstrate that the system is able to autonomously identify highly conductive non-aqueous lithium-ion battery electrolyte formulations in two working days. They indicate that their approach enables six-times faster electrolyte discovery compared to a random search. The authors tested the electrolyte formulations in commercially-relevant lithium-ion pouch cells to demonstrate fast-charging battery performance against a baseline experiment with a conventional electrolyte composition.
The authors conclude their work can aid the development of high-performance rechargeable batteries and could have implications for energy applications and material science more generally.
Red kites (Milvus milvus) born during a period of drought are disadvantaged throughout life, finds a study of a red kite population in Spain published in Nature Communications. As red kites can live up to 30 years, the findings suggest that extreme climate events can have a long lasting impact on red kite populations, which are declining in some regions.
Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme events, which have an impact on wildlife communities. However, the long-term effects of extreme climate events in early life are largely overlooked in forecasts of climate change impacts. Stressful conditions during early development can have lasting consequences on an individual’s ability to survive and reproduce, and an individual’s resilience to subsequent stressful periods.
Fabrizio Sergio and colleagues investigated the effects of drought in a long-term study population of red kites in Doñana National Park, Spain. The authors found that drought reduced both prey availability and the amount of food provided to chicks by parents, leading to leaner chicks and fewer chicks reaching adulthood in drought years. They also indicate that experiencing drought as chicks did not provide an advantage in surviving subsequent droughts. Even if chicks survived the drought, the authors suggest their survival chances in later years was lower than that of red kites born in years with typical precipitation. They included the long-term effects of drought in population projection models and found that they led to a 40% decline in forecasted population size and a 21% shortening of the time to extinction.
Sergio and co-authors conclude that increasingly frequent extreme climate events may be having greater consequences and eroding populations more quickly than is currently recognized.
A broadly water-saturated environment extends into the Earth’s lower mantle, according to analyses of mineral inclusions trapped inside a rare gem diamond that originates from a depth of 660 km below the Earth’s surface. The findings, published in Nature Geoscience, may improve our understanding of the Earth’s deep water cycle.
Earth is sometimes referred to as a water planet because oceans cover more than 70% of its surface. This ocean water can be transported by hydrated minerals deep into the Earth before it is returned to the surface via volcanic activity — a process known as the deep water cycle. This deep water can affect the explosivity of volcanic eruptions and the nature of seismic activity and plate tectonics. However, sampling and studying the Earth’s deep water cycle has been difficult, as the deepest borehole on Earth reaches just a little over 12 km in depth below the Earth’s surface.
Tingting Gu, Fabrizio Nestola and colleagues studied a gem-quality diamond from the Karowe mine in Botswana that had trapped and protected a sample of the Earth’s lower mantle on its journey from a depth of approximately 660 km to the surface. The authors find evidence for ringwoodite and other hydrous minerals and phases in the diamond, indicating that it formed in a hydrated region of the Earth’s mantle.
The authors conclude that the diamond confirms the presence of mineral-bound water down to, and potentially beyond, 660 km depth in Earth, suggesting broad hydration of this region.
Environment: Human contribution to Middle East’s poor air quality underestimated(Communications Earth & Environment)
More than 90% of fine particle matter air pollution in the Middle East may be generated by human activity, reports an article published online in Communications Earth & Environment. The findings challenge the consensus that natural aerosols, such as desert dust, are the main cause of poor air quality and highlight the importance of reducing emissions to protect human health in the Middle East.
The air quality in the Middle East is thought to be influenced by natural drivers, such as large-scale atmospheric circulation combined with desert and airborne dust. However, previous research has suggested that a large proportion of air pollution is unaccounted for in emissions in this region, which is known to contribute over 15% of global sulfur dioxide pollution and 7.5% of global greenhouse gases. Approximately an eighth of deaths are attributed to air pollution in this region, similar to that of high cholesterol and tobacco smoking. Poor representation of emissions and a lack of observational data have hindered our understanding of the atmospheric composition of the Middle East, and the impacts on human health.
Jos Lelieveld and colleagues combined analyses of observational data collected from research ships sailed around the Arabian Peninsula in 2017 with atmospheric modelling. They estimated that over 90% of hazardous fine particulate matter in this region originated from human activity, such as burning fossil fuels and the petroleum industry. They found that pollution concentrations consistently exceeded the WHO guidelines, and that the percentage of excess deaths resulting from pollution exposure ranged from 5.9% in Cyprus to 15.9% in Kuwait. Comparatively, in the USA and Germany where air quality is better, these percentages were 3.0% and 3.7%, respectively. The adverse health effects of air pollution were found to be particularly severe in Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.
The authors suggest that reducing emissions from human activity in the Middle East would substantially help reduce air pollution and its impact on health, ecosystems, and climate change.