Self-Healing Material for Electrical Circuits

This material has tremendous potential for damage tolerant electrical circuits.
See the article below and video with info on the Carnegie Mellon University research.

https://www.impomag.com/videos/2018/05/mm-self-healing-material-keeps-circuits-running?et_cid=6356044&et_rid=54744345&type=cta&et_cid=6356044&et_rid=54744345&linkid=MM%3a+Self-Healing+Material+Keeps+Circuits+Running

In an iconic scene in Terminator 2, the T-1000 is peppered with holes from shotgun blasts only to quickly heal himself much to the dismay of our heroes. Now, what once seemed like science fiction decades ago could soon be a reality.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have created a material that can spontaneously heal itself after extreme mechanical damage while maintaining an electrical current.

The material is made up of liquid metal droplets suspended in a soft rubber. Once damaged, the droplets rupture and form new connections with nearby droplets. The result is rerouted electrical signals without interruption.

Researchers put their discovery to the test by severing, puncturing and otherwise damaging the material all the while the electrical current continued to flow to the clock on the other end, without interruption.

Researchers say the new material could be used in a variety of applications from bio-inspired robots to human-machine interactions to wearable computing. It could also be used in power and data transmission.

 

Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Inter Partes Review (IPR)

From Fish & Richardson Legal Alert
May 10, 2018:

In short, this Ruling results in changes for IPRs at the PTAB.  If the PTAB is to institute an IPR on any Ground in a Petition, it must institute on all grounds.

Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Inter Partes Review (IPR)

Implications of Oil States Energy Services and SAS Institute

As the most-active firm practicing at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), we are proud to have shared in our clients’ successes over the years. Fish was one of the first firms to file a post-grant petition in 2012, and since then we have enjoyed being a part of the growth of this important area of legal practice. As a Diamond Seed Funder of the PTAB Bar Association, and through our events and webinars, we have met and spoken with many of you, and we would like to take this moment to express our thanks for your continued support. The past two weeks have been exciting as we learn about the implications of Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC and SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu. Below are our analyses of these opinions, as well as links to resources you may find helpful as you, too, plan for the future.

As for future proceedings, the PTAB has issued guidance on the impact of SAS indicating that “the PTAB will institute as to all claims or none” and “if the PTAB institutes a trial, the PTAB will institute on all challenges raised in the petition.” The guidance further indicates that for pending trials where partial institution has occurred “the panel may issue an order supplementing the institution decision to institute on all challenges raised in the petition.” And, if a supplemental institution decision is issued, “the panel may take further action to manage the trial proceeding, including, for example, permitting additional time, briefing, discovery, and/or oral argument, depending on various circumstances and the stage of the proceeding.”

 

Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, et al.,
584 U.S. ____ (2018), 2018 U.S. LEXIS 2630.

Oil States addressed two separate constitutional challenges to inter partes review (IPR): (1) whether IPR violates Article III of the Constitution because it allows an administrative agency—not Article III courts—to extinguish a patentee’s rights; and (2) whether IPR violates the Seventh Amendment because it allows administrative judges, rather than juries, to adjudicate validity. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Circuit, holding that IPR does not run afoul of Article III or the Seventh Amendment. The majority opinion was penned by Justice Thomas, who many thought would find IPR unconstitutional based on his dissent in B&B Hardware, v. Hargis Indus., 135 S. Ct. 1293 (2015), where he opined that decisions of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) revoking issued trademark rights should not have a preclusive effect in a subsequent trademark infringement suit. Justice Thomas was joined in Oil States by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Breyer authored a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Justice Gorsuch, author of the majority opinion in SAS, filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts.

As to the Article III challenge, the majority found that “[i]nter partes review falls squarely within the public-rights doctrine,” and therefore resides inside the scope of Congress’ authority to assign adjudication to entities other than Article III courts. Slip op., 6. In reaching this conclusion, the opinion reasons that patents are “public franchises” granted by the government to bestow upon the patent owner the right to exclude. Slip op., 7. According to the majority, “[i]nter partes review involves the same basic matter as the grant of a patent,” and “[s]o it, too, falls on the public-rights side of the line.” Slip op., 8. Like other public rights, patent claims are granted subject to the qualification that they may be reexamined and canceled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Slip op., 9-10.

The opinion addresses prior decisions recognizing patent rights as “private property of the patentee” by noting that “those case(s) were decided under the Patent Act of 1870” and are “best read as a description of the statutory scheme that existed at that time.” Slip op., 10-11. Such precedents, therefore, “do not resolve Congress’ authority under the Constitution to establish a different scheme.” Slip op., 11.

The opinion also dismisses arguments based on historical practice in 18th-century English courts of law, finding that the framers of the Constitution were also aware of a Privy Council proceeding resembling IPR, and yet there is no evidence that the framers sought to preclude such a proceeding. Slip op., 12-14. The opinion similarly disposes of arguments citing the historical adjudication of patent validity in American Article III courts, stating: “That Congress chose the courts in the past does not foreclose its choice of the PTO today.” Slip op., 14-15. Separately, the opinion reasons that similarities between procedures used in IPR and Article III courts do not lead to a conclusion that the PTO is exercising judicial power. Slip op., 15. While IPR includes features of adversarial litigation, it does not make binding determinations as to liability between the parties and therefore remains a matter solely involving public rights. Slip op., 15-16.

In concluding its Article III discussion, the majority opinion emphasizes the narrowness of its holding, expressly leaving open three issues: (1) whether infringement actions can be heard in a non-Article III forum; (2) whether IPR would be constitutional absent review by the Federal Circuit; and (3) whether retroactive application of IPR to pre-America Invents Act (AIA) patents is permissible under the Constitution. Slip op., 16-17.

The opinion only briefly addresses the Seventh Amendment challenge, finding it resolved by the Article III challenge because “when Congress properly assigns a matter to adjudication in a non-Article III tribunal, “the Seventh Amendment poses no independent bar to adjudication of that action by a nonjury factfinder.” Slip op., 17.

Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, authored a short
concurring opinion clarifying that the majority opinion should not be read in a manner
that categorically excludes adjudication of private rights other than by Article III courts.
Concur, 1.

Justice Gorsuch, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, authored a dissent analogizing a patent to a “personal right—no less than a home or a farm” and, therefore, finding that right properly revocable “only with the concurrence of independent judges.” Dissent, 2. The dissent characterizes IPR as a scheme that, while well-intended, “represents a retreat from the promise of judicial independence.” Dissent, 3. From this premise springs concern that a bureaucratic regime is subject to capture by “[p]owerful interests” in such a manner that “the losers will often prove the unpopular and vulnerable.” Dissent, 3. The dissent then embarks on a lengthy discussion of history and precedent, much of which is addressed by the majority opinion, to support its conclusion that the character of patents is such that, once issued, they may be revoked only by Article III courts. Dissent, 3-12.

SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu, et al., 584 U.S. ____ (2018), 2018 U.S. LEXIS 2629.

In SAS, the Supreme Court addressed the question of whether 35 U.S.C. §318(a) requires the Board to issue a final written decision as to every claim challenged by the petitioner, or permits adjudication of only some of the challenged claims, as the Federal Circuit held. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit, holding that the Board must decide the patentability of all of the claims the petitioner has challenged. The majority opinion was penned by Justice Gorsuch (the author of the dissent in Oil States ) and joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. Justices Ginsburg and Breyer authored dissents joined by Justice Sotomayor and, in part, by Justice Kagan.

The majority found that “the plain language of §318(a) supplies a ready answer” to the question presented. Slip op., 4. The text of §318(a) is “both mandatory and comprehensive,” expressly stating that “the [Board] shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any claim challenged by the petitioner.” Slip op., 4 (original emphasis). In the majority’s view, the word “shall” imposes a nondiscretionary duty, and the term “any” means “every.” Slip op., 4-5. Thus, §318(a) “means the Board must address every claim the petitioner has challenged.” Slip op., 5 (original emphasis). The opinion finds no support in the text of §318(a) to support the director’s claimed power of “partial institution,” and explains that “what can be found in the statutory text and context strongly counsels against the Director’s view.” Slip op., 5.

Starting with pre-institution statutes §311(a) and §312(a)(3), the opinion gleans “that Congress chose to structure a process in which it’s the petitioner, not the Director, who gets to define the contours of the proceeding.” Slip op., 6. And, from comparison with the sister ex parte reexamination statute, it is clear that Congress purposefully departed from a regime in which the director has authority to conduct review and investigation of issued patents “[o]n his own initiative, and at any time.” Slip op., 6 (citing 35 U.S.C. § 303(a)).

As to the institution statute, §314(b), the opinion explains that the director is charged with determining “whether” to institute, which “indicates a binary choice—either institute review or don’t.” Slip op., 7. “Nothing suggests the Director enjoys a license to depart from the petition and institute a different inter partes review of his own design.” Slip op., 7. The opinion rejects the director’s contention that §314(a) authorizes claim-by-claim institution, finding instead that “it simply requires him to decide whether the petitioner is likely to succeed on ‘at least 1’ claim.” Slip op., 7. From here, “the Director need not even consider any other claim before instituting review.” Slip op., 7. Again, comparing the inter partes review statute in §314(a) to the comparable ex parte re-examination statute in §304, the majority opined that Congress knew how to grant claim-by-claim and ground-by-ground authority but deliberately chose not to. Slip op., 7-8. The extent of the director’s discretion under §§314(a) and 314(b) relates to the question of whether to institute review and excludes what claims that review will encompass. Slip op., 8.

As to the remainder of the statute, the opinion notes that §316(a)(8) instructs the director to adopt regulations governing the patent owner’s response to the petition, rather than a response to the director’s institution notice. Slip op., 8. Finally, §318(a) “categorically commands” that all claims be addressed in the Board’s final written decision. Slip op., 9. “In all these ways, the statute tells us that the petitioner’s contentions, not the Director’s discretion, define the scope of the litigation all the way from institution through to conclusion.” Slip op., 9.

The opinion discards the director’s assertion that “linguistic discrepancy” between §314(a) and §318(a) afford the implicit power to institute fewer than all challenged claims. Slip op., 9. According to the majority, the difference in language between these provisions is “fully explain[ed]” by §316(d)(1)(A), which permits the patent owner to cancel challenged claims during the proceeding. Slip op., 9-10.

Having fully vetted the statutory text, the opinion moves on to address the director’s policy argument that “partial institution is efficient because it permits the Board to focus on the most promising challenges and avoid spending time and resources on others.” Slip op., 10. This too was unpersuasive to the majority, which viewed policy considerations of this sort as more appropriately addressed in Congress. Slip op., 10. The opinion further disposes of the director’s suggestion that his office should be afforded deference with respect to its interpretation of an ambiguous statute, under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). Slip op., 11. For the many reasons discussed above, the opinion finds the statutory text “deliver[s] unmistakable commands,” leaving “no room . . . for a wholly unmentioned ‘partial institution’ power[.]” Slip op., 12.

Lastly, the opinion rejects the director’s invocation of Cuozzo Speed Techs., LLC v. Lee, 136 S. Ct. 2131 (2016), for the proposition that institution decisions are final and nonappealable. Slip op., 12. Here, the opinion re-emphasizes both the narrowness of the holding in Cuozzo and the Court’s prior proclamation that “§314(d) does not ‘enable the agency to act outside its statutory limits.’” Slip op., 13.

Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, authored a one-page dissenting opinion criticizing the majority’s reading of §318(a) as “wooden” and potentially subject to circumvention if the Board simply denies institution on all claims and details which claims have merit. Op., 1. The petitioner could then refile a new petition including only those claims receiving a favorable review in the first instance. Op., 1. Thus, the dissent asks “[w]hy [] the statute [should] be read to preclude the Board’s more rational way to weed out insubstantial challenges?” Op., 1.

Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan (in part), authored a full-throated dissent, finding the statutory text of §318 ambiguous because it “contains a gap just after the words ‘challenged by the petitioner.’” Op., 8. The dissent observes that, under Chevron, an agency is granted leeway to enact rules that are reasonable in light of the text, nature, and purpose of an ambiguous statute. Op., 8-9. According to the dissent, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has done so in this instance, and therefore its rules should not be disturbed. Op., 10.

Resources:

Guidance on the Impact of SAS on AIA Trial Proceedings
USPTO – Chat with the Chief on SAS
Looking Ahead: Practical Implications of Oil States Energy Services and SAS Institute
Post-Grant Oil States Podcast

 

 

 

CPU Trends: Apple is moving on from Intel because Intel Is Not Innovating

CPU Trends:  Apple is moving on from Intel because Intel isn’t moving anywhere

http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwnd7tijg

From TheVerge April 3, 2018
https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/3/17191986/apple-intel-cpu-processor-design-competition

Excellent commentary & graphic on Intel chip evolution

A report from Bloomberg this week has made public something that should already have been apparent to tech industry observers: Apple is planning to replace Intel processors in Mac computers with its own chips starting sometime around 2020. The two California companies have enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership ever since Apple made the switch to Intel CPUs with the 2006 MacBook Pro and iMac, but recent trends have made the breakup between them inevitable. Intel’s chip improvements have stagnated at the same time as Apple’s have accelerated, and now iPhone systems-on-chip are outperforming laptop-class silicon from Intel’s Core line. Even if Intel never cedes its performance crown, the future that Apple is building will invariably be better served by its own chip designs.

Apple’s decision to ditch the world’s most popular CPU line for laptop and desktop computers may seem radical, but there are a number of key factors that actually make it obvious and unavoidable.

Intel’s stagnation

Attend any major tech exhibition and you’ll find Intel announcing or reannouncing mildly improved processors. Whether you’re at IFA in Berlin, CES in Las Vegas, or Computex in Taipei, the spiel is always the same: the future is wireless, battery life matters to everyone, and there are a lot of people with five-year-old PCs who might notice a difference if they buy a new Intel-powered computer. It’s all painfully incremental and out of sync with Apple’s product cadence. Apple will give you, at most, two years with an iPhone before enticing you into upgrading, whereas Intel is trying to convince people with PCs that are half a decade old to do the same.

In the past, Intel could rely on microarchitecture changes one year and production process shrinkage another year to maintain its momentum of improvement. But the infamous Moore’s Law sputtered to an end back in 2015. Intel is approaching the limits of what’s possible to achieve with silicon, and it hasn’t yet figured out its next step. The chart below, compiled by AnandTech, illustrates Intel’s predicament well. Notice how long the 14nm process node has endured, the question marks next to the release window for 10nm chips, and the almost total absence of a future road map. In previous years, Intel’s ambitious plans would be known well in advance. (The company hasn’t grown more secretive; it just doesn’t seem to have any secrets left.) And without the power efficiency gains that come from building smaller chips, Intel just can’t compete with ARM processors designed for efficiency first.

Apple’s ambition

If there’s one unifying theme to define everything that Apple does, it’s integration. From integrating components on a logic board to integrating an entire ecosystem of Apple devices like the iPhone, Macs, AirPods, and HomePod to integrating supply and distribution lines under its centralized control. Apple started designing its own iPhone chips because it didn’t want to be dependent on Qualcomm. A year ago, it started making its own graphics processors to shed its reliance on Imagination Technologies. Apple also created its own Face ID system, acquired the maker of its Touch ID system, and it was recently reported to be secretly developing its own MicroLED screens for the Apple Watch.

Apple will tell you that it’s obsessed with delighting the consumer, crafting elegantly designed objects, or some other lofty aspiration, but the company’s overriding ambition is to control every last minute aspect of its products. The Intel chips that have been at the heart of MacBooks and Macs for over a decade aren’t minute; they’re central to how each computer can be designed and engineered. Apple has stuck with them for so long because of Intel’s once-insurmountable lead, but the way we use computers is changing, the workloads on a CPU are changing, and Apple’s A-series of chips are better designed to handle that new world of computing. Plus, the iPhone has shown the advantages of designing hardware and software in harmony, requiring smaller batteries and less RAM than comparable Android rivals.

The iOS laptop

Apple’s macOS, the operating system that runs on Intel’s x86 architecture, is now legacy software. This may sound like a blunt allegation to make, given that Apple still sells plenty of MacBooks and iMacs, but the development of that OS within Apple seems to have halted entirely. Today, macOS feels like it’s in maintenance mode, awaiting a widely anticipated change that will produce a unified iOS and macOS operating system, with iOS taking precedence.

Mobile computing has firmly established itself as the predominant mode of use these days, and that trend will only grow more pronounced in the future. Apple’s primary software focus is rightly fixed on iOS, which happens to run on ARM instructions, not Intel’s x86. So, if Apple is indeed intent on bringing iOS up into its less-portable computing line, and if it has chips that offer comparable performance to Intel’s consumer CPUs (which it does), why not build all of that on top of its own processor? Whether it’s presented as a new-age iPad Pro or MacBook Air, a device that combines the strengths of iOS and the convenience of a clamshell design with a generous touchpad is something a lot of people would love to have. By pursuing this course of action, Apple gets to scratch its vertical integration itch while sating existing demand.

The mobile office

The thing that makes it possible for Apple to even contemplate running its lithe mobile operating system on its more powerful computers is the way our computing habits are changing. Not only are we using mobile devices more often than desktop ones for entertainment, but we’re now doing most of our work on phones as well. You can be a professional photographer with just a Pixel 2, for instance. The phrase “phoning it in” certainly has a whole different ring to it in 2018 than it did at the beginning of this decade.

As investment and development dollars continue flowing into the dominant mobile platforms — Android and iOS — it’s logical to expect that every useful desktop application that hasn’t yet been adapted to them already is on its way there. Sure, Intel is likely to retain its dominance at the very high end of computing, but for the vast majority of people and situations, iOS will soon be able to provide all that users want. And once the software reaches that point, Apple will want to match it with hardware that’s powerful and ergonomic enough to take advantage.

iPad Pro 9.7

It’s not just Apple that’s moving away from Intel processors. Google has been hiring and dabbling with its own custom chip designs, and Microsoft and Qualcomm this year started pushing Windows on ARM as an alternative to the typical Intel-powered laptops. The whole technology world is moving to developing and designing for mobile applications first, and Intel’s desktop roots keep holding it back from being competitive in that expanding market.

Apple’s moving on because Intel’s standing still.

 

 

Patent Dispute Trends: Patent Litigation Down 26 Percent While IPR Up 22 Percent in Q1 of 2017

Patexia.com reports continuing reduction in the filing of suits for patent litigation and continuing increase in the filing of Inter Partes Review (IPR).

Detailed information and graphs on these trends are provided in the Patexia.com article including year-over-year from 2015 on to 2017Q1.  The 2017Q1 data shows:

“In the first quarter of 2017 we saw a continued decline in patent litigation. The district court litigation was down 26 percent to 1,012, compared to 1,346 in Q4 of 2016. And it was down 5 percent year over year (1,067 in Q1 of 2016). For the same period, Inter-Partes Review (IPR) was up 22 percent to 550, compared to 448 in Q4 of 2016. This increase was even sharper year over year. IPR saw a whopping increase of 64 percent in Q1 2017 versus Q1 2016, which saw 335.”

One key statistic related to the IPR process:  “IPR activity per quarter was at an all-time high in Q1 2017. Since its inception in September 2012, IPR has been gaining popularity as a tool to challenge the validity of patents in lawsuits or licensing deals. …”

Related to patent litigation cases:  “Patent litigation in district courts was at its lowest level since 2011. Although the litigation has dropped to pre-AIA levels, it is worth mentioning that post-AIA numbers are generally magnified because of joinder rules. …”

 

 

 

Stanford Again Tops “Most Innovative Universities” Rankings – A Perspective

Having attended Stanford University myself for both a Master’s and PhD in Mechanical Engineering, I always feel a strong sense of pride when I see an article like this one related to “Most Innovative Universities”. Stanford is an amazing place, with so many “best in class” academic capabilities across many diverse fields. However, it is the medicine, science and engineering achievements that always catch my eye. When you look at how Stanford people have conceptualized and developed programs like the Medical Device Innovators series, the idea is always to break down the walls and collaborate across disciplines to identify needs, understand how they might be accomplished, and then develop devices and procedures to meet the goals.

The other thing that I look at is the number and diversity of fabulously successful companies and ideas that have come out of Stanford. The Silicon Valley ecosystem of top Universities, interest and drive to commercialize, and Venture Capital makes the entire area unique.

Here is the article by Thomson Reuters:

Stanford Again Tops “Most Innovative Universities” Rankings

Palo Alto, Calif. — Stanford University again tops this year’s newly released Reuters Top 100 ranking of the world’s most innovative universities, which aims to identify institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and help drive the global economy. MIT and Harvard round out the top three. The second annual rankings use proprietary data and analysis tools from Thomson Reuters to examine a series of patent and research-related metrics. “Stanford held fast to its first place ranking by consistently producing new patents and papers that influence researchers elsewhere in academia and in private industry,” the news serve wrote. The complete rankings are at the link below.
http://www.reuters.com/most-innovative-universities-2016

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Phones are Burning/Exploding!!

Two weeks after releasing the Galaxy Note 7 SmartPhones, Samsung is literally and figuratively fighting fires!  They have now recalled the roughly 2.5 Million Galaxy Note 7 that have been distributed (about 1 Million phones sold).  This is clearly a serious safety and reliability issue that should have been identified before any shipments started.  Not only is there the cost associated with the recall, replacement, possible personal injury and property damage, Samsung stock has taken a hit that knocked $2 Billion off of its market value!  The market can be massively punishing and unforgiving for mistakes like this one.

To date, 35 reports of fire/explosion issues have been received by Samsung.  Samsung believes that the problems are confined to fewer than 0.1% of the phones.  Based on a population of 2 Million phones, this would indicate the problems apply to less than 2000 phones.  This is a huge number of failures and a 99.9% reliability (even if the reliability level is even this high) is an unacceptable level in the consumer products world.

We expect these products not only to function reliably but also to be safe.  Battery fire issues with hoverboards in late 2015 basically tanked the sales of that product.

Additional details including the press release can be found here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/09/02/samsung-note-7-recall-millions-of-phones-to-be-replaced-after-ba/

note7-exploded-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8

Concussion Mitigation in Pro Football with Advances in Helmet Technology

Pro Football players in the NFL are bigger, faster, and stronger than ever before.  All of these characteristics increase the acceleration, force, and energy associated with contact between players.  When this contact occurs to the head it can translate into a concussion or just contribute to an ongoing series of cumulative smaller injuries.

Evidence is mounting that concussions or cumulative injuries have serious long-term effects.  This long-term effect applies not only to football, but also things like battlefield blast loading and similar events.

Discussion on sensor technology and helmet improvements.
Reference articles with further information:

 

 

Liam – the Apple Robot that Disassembles an iPhone in 11 seconds!!

Besides designing, manufacturing, and selling iPhones, Apple is now taking them apart also!  Apple is making a major push to be more green and that means recycling as much as possible the components that go into their phones and other products.

One way that they are trying to reach that lofty recycling goal is by developing highly automated robots to facilitate the disassembly.  The first one on the scene is Liam.  Liam is truly an amazing beast!

Liam is a 29-armed robotic creation that can totally disassemble an iPhone 6 in 11 seconds!!  Now that is fast!  That gives about 350 phones disassembled each hour, or 1.2 Million phones per year (assuming no lunch breaks and no maintenance!!).  You need a few “Liams” to put a dent into the iPhone supply out there.

A great article on this very impressive robotic technology was recently published on Mashable .  Mashable has published some photos and videos (though not at real time!).

image

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Energy Storage for Renewable Energy Sources is Essential

Renewable energy sources such as Wind and Solar vary significantly in the output power level throughout the day. The peak output from Wind and Solar will generally not align with the peak power demand on the grid from home and business users. Further, the peak output is based on factors such as wind velocity and hours of sunshine that vary widely and that cannot be controlled by the system operators.

From the Design News Article on Dec.29, 2015 written by Charles Murray and entitled: Renewable Energy’s Secret Weapon

As the world moves toward a grand vision of renewable energy, an underappreciated reality is dawning: You can’t do it without storage.

The reason is deceptively simple: Wind turbines can’t produce power when the wind doesn’t blow; solar cells can’t do it when the sun doesn’t shine. Without some form of backup, those intermittent renewable sources can’t play in big numbers on the grid, unless the world is willing to accept instability and blackouts.

That’s where batteries — farm loads of them — could play a role. With coal and nuclear plants rapidly falling out of favor, energy storage is becoming more important, and batteries are increasingly being viewed as the most logical solution. “If you flash forward into the future, we are all going to need an inexpensive way to store lots of energy,” said Jeff Chamberlain, executive director for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research.

 

Wind Turbine Generator

Racking up Energy

Even among the world’s most knowledgeable energy engineers, no one knows for sure when storage will become critical. Virtually all agree that today, with wind and solar accounting for only about 6% of the US’s power, the time hasn’t arrived yet. But as the number rises — to say, 20% or 30% of the overall power produced — the need will grow. “The curves seem to cross at about 20%,” Chamberlain said. “We know this because Hawaii has exceeded that limit and it is wreaking havoc on their grid.”

Battery farms are seen as a “balancing resource” for the grid, which is why they’re starting to pop up around the world. NEC Energy Solutions , for example, recently sold more than 60 MW of its GSS battery storage systems in the central US, had a hand in developing a 2.4-MW grid energy storage site in Orange County, Calif., and installed an 11-MW system to support a wind farm on the island of Maui. Similarly, Saft delivered its Max+ 20M Intensium battery storage systems to an electrical cooperative in Kotzebue, Alaska, and is providing another system to store electricity at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. It also has teamed with the Kauai Island Park Cooperative in Hawaii to supply lithium-ion batteries into a 12-MW solar energy park.

One common embodiment of such energy storage systems is the so-called “containerized” solution — that is, a trailer full of batteries that can be installed in an urban parking lot or on a rural mountainside. NEC’s system, for example, uses modular, battery-based storage racks in containers measuring as long as 53 ft and weighing up to 140,000 lb. Known as the GBS line, they can store up to 4 MWh of energy and offer up to 4 MW of power. Similarly, Saft’s Intensium Max line can offer as much as 1 MW with continuous discharge power of 500 KW in a unit weighing 16.5 tons.

Material scientists are also developing alternative chemistries for the grid. Ambri Inc., for example, uses pizza-box-sized cells made from three chemical layers — a liquid salt electrolyte sandwiched between a high-density liquid metal and a low-density liquid metal. Ambri’s battery, which operates at 400C, can store up to 1.2 MWh. Others are also looking ahead to new technologies: Ecoult’s UltraBattery, for example, employs an ultracapacitor inside a lead-acid battery chemistry. Also, NEC has entered into an agreement with Eos Energy Storage LLC to produce a zinc hybrid cathode battery.

“In stationary power, there are a number of alternative chemistries that have seen some adoption,” said Lux Research energy analyst Dean Frankel. “But in the past year or so, the majority of systems that have been proposed and installed in the US have been lithium-ion.”

Still, the possibilities are compelling for storage systems of all types. A 2015 forecast from Lux Research predicted that stationary energy storage would rise from about a $1 billion market today to $6 billion by 2020. “We don’t believe there is just one solution to every storage application,” said Roger Lin of NEC Energy Solutions.

Distributed Grid

Indeed, the breadth of potential solutions is emerging, not only in the form of varying chemistries, but also in the format of the storage source. In May, Tesla Motors made its play for the storage market by rolling out a product that can be mounted on a garage wall near a home’s electrical panel. The company said that the unit, known as the Powerwall, is part of Tesla’s effort to wean the world off fossil fuels.

“This is within the power of humanity to do,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “We have done things like this before. It’s not impossible.”

Tesla’s product, which employs lithium-ion battery technology, measures 34 x 51 x 7 inches and costs $3,500 for a 10-kWh of storage. Tesla said it also plans to sell bigger battery blocks for use in commercial and utility applications. Blocks containing 100-kWh of storage could be grouped to create larger systems offering as much as 10 MWh, Musk said.

  1. Energy Storage Growth Projections

Lux Research predicts that stationary storage will rise from a $1 billion market in 2015 to more than $6 billion in 2020.
(Source: Lux Research)

Experts say that either format — home storage or utility-sized systems — can serve as viable grid solutions. “You can think of solar on an individual’s roof as a distributed power plant on the grid,” said Chamberlain of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. “That’s where we are headed in the future.”

Pronouncements such as those have created a sense of optimism in the storage community, which is why the Energy Storage Association now counts such names as GE Energy Storage, LG Chem, Parker Hannifin, Johnson Controls, Hitachi Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin Advanced Energy Storage, Mitsubishi Electric Power, Samsung, Sharp, and many others among its members.

That’s not to say all is rosy for battery makers. Grid storage is still a nascent market, still struggling to find its way. In 2014, A123 Systems divested itself of its grid storage division. And in 2015, Ambri announced that it had cut a quarter of its staff and had backed off its plans to ship its first commercial grid storage products in 2016. News reports indicated that the company’s engineers were experiencing problems with the battery’s high-temperature seals. Ambri isn’t saying when its first products will finally reach the market.

Still, experts are steadfast in their belief that battery storage will eventually be needed for the electrical grid. “When there’s high demand, there can be a mismatch between the production of electricity and the use of electricity,” Chamberlain said. “During those milliseconds, batteries can act as a buffer.”

Grid storage proponents see it more optimistically. The batteries are more than a buffer, they say. They’re a key to a new way of life. “Once we’re able to rely on renewable energy sources for our power consumption, the top 50% of the dirtiest power generation resources could retire early,” Tesla Motors said in a prepared statement. “We could have a cleaner, smaller, and more resilient energy grid.”