Author: Sue Hill

Sue Hill is the Digital Content Manager for the College of Engineering.

BaTiO3 Glass-Ceramics Composites For High Energy Storage Capacitors

Thursday, February 23 2012 2:00 p.m.
Room 610, M&M Building

Douglas B. Chrisey
Department of Material Science and Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, 12180


Renewable energy sources require large-scale power storage so that their inherently intermittent supply of power can meet demand.  For capacitive energy to have the necessary high volumetric and gravimetric energy storage density this will require the dielectric layer to simultaneously possess a high dielectric constant and a high breakdown strength, e.g., in excess of 10,000 and 1 MV/cm, respectively.  To be a realistic solution for renewable energy storage, it must also be low cost and scalable, i.e., no roadblocks from the laboratory prototype to large scale production, and to achieve the all of the aforementioned requirements we have exploited a glass-ceramic phase.  It is expected that glass-ceramics composites will have higher breakdown strength than that of a sintered ceramic alone, because the glass would displace the air-filled voids.  Due to the dielectric mixing rule, the dielectric constant of the composite mixture will then be limited by the low permittivity of the glass phase in comparison to the ceramic phase.  In our work, we use a glass phase that can undergo a phase transformation into BaTiO3-precipitating glass-ceramic by controlled crystallization (annealing temperature).  The benefit of doing this is that we achieve a higher dielectric constant of composite mixture, due to the additional high dielectric constant BaTiO3 phase, while also improving the high breakdown strength. It was demonstrated that this BaTiO3-precipitaing glass-ceramic and BaTiO3 ceramic composite are promising for improved dielectric properties for high-density energy storage capacitors.

Tech research: Solar power getting less expensive

HOUGHTON – Joshua Pearce wants to change the perception of solar power as a relatively expensive energy source used only in remote locations or by large utility companies, and hopes a recent analysis on the topic he was part of will help dispel that perception.

Pearce, who is an associate professor of electrical engineering and materials science at Michigan Technological University, said the analysis, “A Review of Solar Photovoltaic Levelized Cost of Electricity,” in the December issue of the science publication Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, was begun by himself and colleagues at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and finished after he started at Tech this past summer.

“We had the study mostly done at Queen’s,” he said. “The journal it’s in only prints invited articles.”

The analysis printed in the magazine was a sort of extension of other work he and his Queen’s University colleagues had done, Pearce said.

“My group had done a lot of research on solar power for the Canadian government,” he said.

What that earlier research showed, Pearce said, was that costs for solar power have been dropping, largely due to better solar panel materials.

“We’ve made very significant progress on that,” he said.

Although the individual cells in most solar panels are still crystal based, Pearce said the materials they’re set in are better than the early days of solar panel technology in the 1970s. In the past, water would get into panels, leading to damage of the cells and panels and degradation of power output.

“Now, we have much better polymer backing,” he said.

Many panels have 25-year warranties, Pearce said. Annual degradation of power from a quality panel is 0.1 to 0.2 percent, rather than the previously assumed level of 1 percent or greater.

A relatively new technology involves the production of large sheets of material on which cells are placed in scribes engraved with lasers, Pearce said. Those are cheaper, but generally not as efficient as panels with individual crystal or polycrystal cells embedded in a polymer field.

The cost of solar panels dropped 70 percent since 2009, Pearce said.

After the burst of use of solar power in the 1970s, Pearce said there was a lull, which has since turned around.

“We’re back with industry support,” he said.

Pearce said there are about 100,000 workers in the solar-power industry, now, compared to about 80,000 workers in the coal industry five years ago.

Costs for start-up for solar power are going to vary based on the system used, Pearce said, but panels can be purchased for about $2,000 each.

“A system of a few thousand dollars is in the reach of a typical middle class family,” he said.

Panels with 50-year life expectancy aren’t very far away, Pearce said.

“We’re getting pretty close, now,” he said.

Although battery costs are declining, also, Pearce said the trend by solar-power users is to connect to their local electrical grid, eliminating the need for batteries and lowering the cost of the system.

Depending on variables, including location and type of system, Pearce said the cost for electricity is going to be attractive to many people.

“Solar is already competitive or better than conventional fossil fuels,” he said. “We’re going down (in cost) and we’re only going to continue to go down.”

Pearce said factors in the cost per watt of solar power include location, efficiency of systems, ability to connect to an electrical grid, government tax incentives and the willingness of lending institutions to fund installations of solar systems.

Getting lenders to accept solar power is going to be extremely important to its growth, Pearce said, which is one of the effects he’d like to see from the recently-published analysis.

“Financing matters,” he said.

Pearce said some recent years have shown a 100 percent increase in the use of solar power all over the world.

“It’s massively increasing,” he said.

Those uses include on houses, cottages and even big-box retailers.

Growth in the use of solar power should continue to increase, also, Pearce said.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “I think we’re going to see massive growth.”

Source: Mining Gazette

Design, Analysis, Testing, Filling and Sealing HIP Cans for the Calcine Disposition Project at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory

Friday, February 3, 2012 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Room 610, M&M Building

Dr. Delwin C. Mecham
CWI (Idaho National Engineering Laboratory)


The Calcine Disposition Project (CDP) of the Idaho Cleanup Project (ICP) hasthe responsibility to retrieve, treat, and dispose of the calcine stored at theIdaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC) located at theIdaho National Laboratory in Southeast Idaho.  Calcine is the product ofthermally treating, or “calcining”, liquid high-level or sodium-bearing nuclearwaste produced at INTEC from 1963 to 1998 during the reprocessing of spentnuclear fuel (SNF).  The CDP is currently completing the design of the HotIsostatic Pressure (HIP) treatment process for the calcine to produce a volumereduced, monolithic, glass-ceramic waste form suitable for transport anddisposition.Conceptual design for the CDP requires the design of a large scale HIP canwhich maintains containment of calcine during the HIP treatment cycle. The HIPcan must be filled with calcine and additives and sealed remotely. The HIP cans will undergo approximately 50%volume reduction at a temperature of 1000-1250°C and a pressure of 50-100MPa.  The HIP can’s main function isto provide primary containment of the radioactive calcine material during and after the HIP treatment process.Development of a virtual testing program using high fidelity modeling techniques is required due to the prohibitivecost of full-scale testing using actual HLW calcine.This presentation will  describe current design, analysis, and testing of HIP cans and the design for filling andsealing HIP Cans.  The basic HIP technology is summarized and the remote HIP can fill and seal design ispresented.  Simulation models are developed to establish a virtual testing program using Finite Element Analysis(FEA).   Software packages COMSOL and ABAQUS are being used to analyze the thermal and structural responseof HIP cans during the HIPing process.  The software packages increase the understanding of can deformation andallow for virtual testing before large scale testing of the HIP cans.  This decreases the number of physical HIP cantests needed during the development of a HIP can design.  The models utilize a macroscopic representation of thegranular material “constitutive model” for the material inside the can and a non-linear representation of the stainlesssteel. Initial small scale testing of HIP cans has been performed to benchmark the FEA analysis and providevalidation of the constitutive models used.  Analytic results, test data, and comparisons between them are presented.


Dr. Del Mecham has forty years of experience in the planning and management of large-scale thermal-hydraulicexperiments including the development and application of thermal-hydraulic computer codes for nuclear reactor safety analysis.Dr. Mecham has developed and managed irradiation testing programs and has participated on national and internationalresearch technical advisory boards.  Del received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Utah State University and is aRegistered Professional Engineer in the State of Idaho.  Dr. Mecham serves on the Industrial Advisory Committee forMechanical Engineering at Utah State and holds an Adjunct Professor position at the University of Idaho.