Tag Archives: storage

#MXene for batteries of the future?

At this moment in time, the biggest stumbling block to new, clean, renewable technology is old technology – the tech of the battery – but MXene, and new materials like it, could be the trigger that kickstarts general acceptance of renewable technologies.

Why? Because :

‘While MXene won’t be commercially available or integrated into current technology for about three years, the material has the potential to disrupt current charging tech by rectifying inefficient, long charge times, device deterioration, and systems with relatively short battery lives.’

Now, imagine having vehicle charging ports on every block, like fire hydrants, and electric vehicles capable of recharging their batteries at these port in just a few minutes. In such a scenario, even currently produced electric cars would be convenient enough for general use. Add new car technologies that extend driving range, for example, and you have a world in which there is no reason to have internal combustion engines.

Now think bigger still. Once car batteries become truly efficient, why not extend the technology to the generation of power as well? Tesla already offers storage solutions for electricity generated from renewables. What if these storage batteries become so efficient [and common] that every house or apartment building can afford to generate and store its own power?

Thinking further still, what if all these small, local power plants could talk to each other and shift energy sideways to wherever it’s needed within an entire city?

I may be letting my imagination run away with me, but in such a future, I can see electricity prices coming down and clean air going up. 🙂



Australian invention for the micro-grid

“In distributed power generation, rather than having a massive centralized grid, you’re talking about much smaller micro-grids,” says Moghtaderi. “This system, in the Energy on Demand mode, has been designed for a micro-grid application. So essentially, if you deploy to a retirement village, and you hook it up to natural gas, that retirement village would be entirely independent of the national electricity network, and they can produce their own power and other utilities, 24/7.”

That quote comes from an exciting article I read in New Atlas today. Essentially, an Australian university – the University of Newcastle – and an Australian company called Infratech Industries have together developed ‘…a Chemical Looping Energy-on-Demand System (CLES)’ which not only generates electricity, but can store it as well.

CLES is the brainchild of Professor Behdad Moghtaderi of the University of Newcastle, and could well be the answer to Australia’s energy woes. Despite being a major exporter of natural gas, Australia has somehow mismanaged things so badly that now we are the ones likely to run out of power. It’s happened already in South Australia and is likely to happen in other states as well in the near future.

Tesla has offered to create a battery-powered fail-safe for us before next summer, but I’d much rather see Australia embrace a homegrown product, especially as it could lead to a rapid uptake of distributed power generation. If we get that right, we could export the technology to the rest of the world instead of continuing to rely on the export of resources. We have so much inventive talent here, let’s celebrate if for once instead of forcing it off-shore through lack of interest.

You can find the New Atlas article here:


And now an apology. I’ve been missing in action a bit lately, and it’s due to a number of things. First, my teaching schedule exploded unexpectedly. Second, I’ve been trying to complete the print version of Innerscape, and that has required upgrading some of my most critical software to ensure that the finished product is commercially ‘legal’. [For ebooks I use Storybox, which is fine, but for print I have to use a commercial version of Word, and I only had a ‘Home and Student’ version before]. Finally, I haven’t been well. Since about June last year, I’ve had recurring infections in my teeth which have resulted in having one tooth pulled and root canal treatments on three others.

Despite all the treatments, and the associated cost, I developed another infection last week, and I now have to go see an endodontist. Endodontists are dentists who specialise in root canal treatments [amongst other things]. My first appointment is next week. Until then I’m on antibiotics that hurt my stomach and anti-inflammatories that also hurt my stomach. Not sleeping very well either so…those creative juices just aren’t flowing. I will try to catch up with your creativeness though. 🙂



#Solar powered micro-grid + #Tesla batteries = the future?

Just found this amazing article on New Atlas. It concerns a small island being powered almost exclusively by a micro-grid made up of solar panels and Tesla batteries. The batteries can be fully charged in 7 hours and can keep the grid running for 3 days without any sun at all:

Why do I find this so exciting? Distributed systems, that’s why.

“And what’s that?” you ask, eyes glazing over as you speak.

In computing, which is where I first heard the term, a distributed systems is:

a model in which components located on networked computers communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages.[1] The components interact with each other in order to achieve a common goal.

Distributed computing also refers to the use of distributed systems to solve computational problems. In distributed computing, a problem is divided into many tasks, each of which is solved by one or more computers,[3] which communicate with each other by message passing.[4]


Okay, okay. Here are some nice, juicy examples instead:

  • the internet,
  • your mobile phone network
  • MMOs [massively multiple player online games] like the one I play,
  • virtual reality communities, and even
  • the search for extra terrestrial intelligence [SETI].

There are heaps more examples I could name, but the point is that all these systems rely on the fact that the power of the group is greater than the power of its individual components. In fact, the world wide web could not exist at all if it had to be run from just one, ginormous computer installation.

So distributed systems can be insanely powerful, but when it comes to powering our cities, we seem to be stuck on the old, top-down model in which one, centralised system provides energy to every component in the system – i.e. to you and me and all our appliances.

Opponents of renewables always cite baseload as the main reason why renewables won’t work in highly developed countries. What they don’t tell you is that to create baseload, they have to create electricity all the time. That means burning fossil fuels all the time and creating pollution all the time.

Centralised power generation also does something else – it concentrates the means for producing this energy in one place, so if there is a malfunction, the whole grid goes down. But that’s not all. If all power is produced in one place, it’s all too easy to strike at that one place to destroy the ‘heart’ of the whole system. It can happen. If you read the whole article on New Atlas, you’ll learn that the supply of diesel to the island was once cut, for months. When the diesel ran out, so did the electricity. Now imagine an act of sabotage that destroys the power supply to a city of millions. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’s just a matter of time.

By contrast, distributed processing means that you would have to destroy virtually every component of the system to shut it down completely. A good example of this is our road system. In most areas, if one part of the road is closed for whatever reason, we can still get where we want to go by taking a detour. It may take us a little bit longer, but we get there in the end. Something very similar happens with the internet. Digital information is sent in ‘packets’ which attempt to find the quickest route from point A to point X, usually via point B. However if point B goes down, the packets have multiple alternate routes to get to X. Why should power generation be any less efficient?

In the past, electricity could not be stored, so it had to be generated by big, expensive power plants. That volume of electricity still can’t be stored, but in the future, it may not have to be. I foresee a time when neighbourhoods will become micro-grids, with each house/building contributing to the power needs of the whole neighbourhood. Surplus power generation will be stored in some form of battery system [it doesn’t have to be Tesla batteries, but they obviously work well in distributed systems] to provide power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. More importantly, the type of micro-grid used could be flexible. Communities living inland with almost constant sunshine would obviously use solar, but seaside communities might use wave power, others might use hydro or geothermal.

But what of industry?

I may be a little optimistic here, but I think that distributed power generation could work for industry as well. Not only could manufacturing plants provide at least some of their own power, via both solar and wind, but they could ‘buy in’ unused power from the city. The city, meanwhile, would not generate power but it’s utilities companies could store excess power in massive flywheels or some other kind of large scale storage device. And finally, if none of that is enough, companies could do what utility companies already do now – they could buy in power from other states.

In this possible future, power generation would be cheaper, cleaner and much, much safer. All that’s required is for the one-size-fits-all mindset to change.

Distributed is the way of the future, start thinking about it today. 🙂



Converted bus #TinyHouse

When I was a kid I was fascinated by the idea of Gypsy caravans. Now, I’m fascinated by Tiny Houses, and this converted bus is one of the best I’ve seen!

My favourite part came almost at the end when Andrew demonstrated the storage under the bed. Did you notice the cat? If you didn’t, go back and watch that bit again. It’s hilarious!

Have a happy weekend,



#Cloud storage & #sync.com…….or a positive tech post for a change!

After coping with the security issues of Windows 10, it was such a pleasant surprise to find an ‘app’ that is unabashedly security conscious! And yes, Sync.com, I’m talking about you. But first, a quick word about the problems that sync.com solves: storage, backup and version control.

Normally, when you create a file on your computer, you save it to your computer – i.e. onto the harddrive inside the physical ‘box’. If you’re super organised, you may also save that file to an external harddrive or USB device, as a form of ongoing ‘backup’. Belt-and-braces type people might save that data to a DVD as well, giving them multiple backups in case of disaster.

But all of these various types of storage have one, critical downside – a change made in one copy of the data will NOT be reflected in the other copies. If you have 3 copies of a particular file, you will have to manually update each copy.

There is also another issue that can be a nightmare – version control. Let me give you an example. Every time I work on my WiP [work in progress], I save it to my desktop, and then I copy it to my USB device. The latest version from the desktop always over-writes the version on the USB. Obviously, this is so I always have at least one copy of my work no matter what happens [e.g. the house burns down in a bushfire or some other catastrophe].

But what if I have 2 computers and want to add to my WiP on both?

That is the problem I’ve been struggling with for the last few days: there’s no point having the laptop if I don’t use it for my work, but if I do use it while I’m away from home, how do I keep the versions straight?

My fear is that if I continue with the USB device, sooner or later I am going to get the latest version of the WiP wrong. In a moment of madness or tiredness or distraction, I’ll over-write the wrong copy and then I’ll be up the creek without a paddle. Enter cloud storage.

Like the USB drive or DVD etc., cloud storage saves your files outside your pc, usually in a server on the other side of the world. The file is ‘up-loaded’ to the cloud via your internet connection, and once it’s there, you can access it from any computer device you choose. You can also share that file with others if you wish.

For me, cloud storage means I can work on my WiP at home and have it synced to my laptop so if I go out, I can continue working on the WiP where I left off.

Lovely concept, right?

Unfortunately, the grand-daddy of cloud storage – Dropbox – showed that cloud storage can be hacked, and most reviews I’ve read say their security has not improved much if at all since then. Now, I’m not working on anything ‘naughty’ that I need to hide from anyone, but privacy is very important to me, and I would die if I lost four years worth of work through someone else’s ‘oopsie’. So no Dropbox.:(

I was trawling through the umpteenth review/comparison of cloud storage offerings – there are heaps of them! – when I came across Sync.com. And guess what! The thing that sets sync.com apart from the rest is its security. 🙂 Plus it’s Canadian, so not subject to some of the, um, government sponsored hacking found over the border.

And now for the acid test – does sync.com work?

Yes, yes, it does. 🙂

The two screenshots below show my desktop and the laptop. They’ve been synced via sync.com and the test files I used have shown up on both computers with only a very short delay – approx. 20 seconds or thereabouts.

sync com screenshots

So now I know the system works, and thankfully, getting it to work is really simple too.

How to use Sync.com

  1. First, register for the sync.com free, 5 GB plan: https://www.sync.com/install/
  2. Then download the installer to the first pc. Install Sync to the first pc using the account name you setup in step 1. Part of the setup process is the creation of a folder called ‘Sync’.
  3. Now, download and install the Sync installer to the second pc. Make sure you have a ‘Sync’ folder on the second pc as well.
  4. Drag and drop [or copy/paste] a file into the ‘Sync’ folder on the first pc.
  5. Wait 20? seconds and you will see that the file now appears in the ‘Sync’ folder of the second pc as well.

The Sync presence on your pc is minimal. If you need to do something with the actual app., you can find it inside ‘Show hidden icons’ on your taskbar:

sync taskbar icon

All other work is done on the website itself. Once I’ve worked out how to share files with friends, I’ll detail that in a separate post. For now, I’m really happy with my new way of working.

Last question: was finding and installing Sync as easy or convenient as using the default OneDrive cloud storage app offered by Windows 10?

Simple answer: no. Installing and learning how to use Sync didn’t take me long, but it still required some time and effort on my part, the payoff, however, is more than worth it:

  • I have an excellent cloud storage app.
  • It has excellent security features, and
  • I am in control, not Micro$oft
  • oh…and Sync is free [unless I want heaps more storage]

By contrast, I pay for the ‘convenience’ of Windows 10 by handing Micro$oft my privacy on a plate. No contest.




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