Power of the machine: New battery provides robots with more power

Good Thursday afternoon, readers. Today’s cleantech headlines contain a slew of research in different stages of development. Higher education institutions and federal government-supported entities are leading the charge, along with private sector partners. We start with an often popular topic: robots.

Today’s headlines:

🤖 ROBOTS: A new, rechargeable zinc battery that integrates directly into a robot could provide up to 72 times more power, and it is made with more environmentally friendly materials, according to University of Michigan researchers. Battery energy density often limits robot performance and lifespan, and the ability to increase energy capacity grows more important as robots become smaller.

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INFRASTRUCTURE: Cellulose, a plant cell component, could replace a petroleum-based binding agent in asphalt and improve the performance of pavement, according to research from South Dakota State University. The discovery could lead to the development of more sustainable and cost-effective pavement materials.

A catalyst material used to covert ethanol into butene-rich mixed olefins, which can then be readily processed into aviation fuels. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

EVs: National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers studied travel demand in Detroit, Austin, Miami, Washington, DC., when examining how an influx of electric vehicles could affect energy load in the coming years. They determined that shared automated electric vehicles have highly flexible charging loads, and shifting the time of charging results in lower power costs without affecting users’ mobility.

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WATER: Argonne National Laboratory researchers created water filtration membranes with a light-activated coating to allow them to clean themselves to prevent clogging, which happens frequently with this type of membrane and prevents proper functioning. The membranes are often used at water treatment facilities, semiconductor manufacturing sites, and within the food and beverage industry.

Artist rendering of a self-cleaning water filtration membrane. Image by Argonne National Laboratory.


  • A first-of-its kind aluminum device enhances the capture of carbon from fossil fuel plants and other industrial facilities. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee developed and 3D printed the device, which lowers the amount of heat produced and the manufacturing cost compared with other methods.
  • Boulder, Colorado, will be taking on a project that marries solar energy and food production. Live crops will be planted in the solar garden to test how solar panels’ protective cover and shade might improve agricultural production. This could have implications for demonstrating new approaches to leverage agricultural land and keep soils productive.
  • A research partnership between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil is working to create low-emissions fuels, including fuels derived from algae.
  • Texas A&M University is working to develop a sustainable building material made from soil for use in 3D printing buildings and other structures. The innovation would reduce waste and lessen the construction sector’s notoriously large environmental footprint.
Structure 3D printed from soil. Credit: Aayushi Bajpayee

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