All posts by Daniel Davies

Cheaper, cleaner and with five times more energy: Researchers discover new method for building zinc-air batteries

Lithium-ion batteries could soon be replaced as the power source of choice in electronic devices as researchers have discovered how to build rechargeable zinc-air batteries.

Zinc-air batteries are batteries powered by zinc metal and oxygen from the air, which, thanks to the global abundance of zinc metal, are much cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries and can also theoretically store five times more energy  than that of lithium-ion batteries.

Zinc-air batteries  are also much safer and more environmentally friendly.

Featured image courtesy of the University of Sydney

However, their widespread use has been hindered by the fact that, up until now, recharging them has proved difficult. This is due to the lack of electrocatalysts that successfully reduce and generate oxygen during the discharging and charging of a battery.

In the journal Advanced Materials, researchers from the University of Sydney have outlined a new three-stage method to overcome this problem.

“Up until now, rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been made with expensive precious metal catalysts, such as platinum and iridium oxide. In contrast, our method produces a family of new high-performance and low-cost catalysts,” said the study’s lead author Professor Yuan Chen, from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.

University of Sydney researchers used a new method – creating bifunctional oxygen electrocatalysts – which allowed them to build rechargeable zinc-air batteries from scratch.

The researchers also replaced precious metal catalysts with low cost variations, which were produced through the simultaneous control of the composition, size and crystallinity of metal oxides in earth-abundant elements such as iron, cobalt and nickel.

The study’s co-author Dr Li Wei, also from the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, said trials of zinc-air batteries developed with the new catalysts had demonstrated excellent rechargeability – including less than a 10% battery efficacy drop over 60 discharging and charging cycles of 120 hours.

“We are solving fundamental technological challenges to realise more sustainable metal-air batteries for our society,” Chen added.

Premier League you’re having a laugh? Facebook could use its new Watch platform to screen Premier League football

Facebook will soon launch a platform for original video content, called Watch, and speculation has already begun that it could soon become home to Premier League football.

The media giant has already announced that it wants it Watch platform to feature “a wide range of shows, from reality to comedy to live sports”, and with the current contract for the Premier League’s broadcast rights set to finish at the end of the 2018/19 season, Facebook could be set to muscle in on Sky and BT Sport’s current deal.

“This move is far more than just the creation of a new tab on Facebook. This is effectively the launch of Facebook TV and I think we can count on this being the first step toward the social media giant broadcasting its own original content,” said Dror Ginzberg, co-founder & CEO of Wochit.

“A key approach will also be to broadcast live sports events too. Previously, sports, like the Mexican football league, had been broadcast on Facebook Live, but the new Watch tab is the natural home for this now. We may see Facebook finally become a player in the race to broadcast the Premier League when the rights are up for auction next year.”

Image courtesy of charnsitr / Shutterstock.com. Featured image courtesy of By @cfcunofficial (Chelsea Debs)

Amongst the documentary series and reality shows set to be available upon Watch’s launch, the platform will also broadcast one Major League Baseball (MLB) game per week.

A similar arrangement could see Premier League football screened on Facebook. Although, any plans to broadcastEngland’s top division wouldn’t come cheap. The current contract is worth a staggering £5.136bn, which gives Sky access to 126 matches, while BT gets to show 42 games per season on its sports channels.

“We’re thrilled to work with MLB to enable baseball fans on Facebook to watch live games and connect with friends and fellow fans around the action, no matter where they live in the U.S., and are excited to help the league continue to reach new audiences on our platform,” said Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, when Facebook and the MLB’s partnership was announced in March.

Image courtesy of Peter Woodentop

Facebook says it plans to roll out access to Watch to a small group of US users first before allowing access to the rest of the US and international audiences.

The media company imagines that its Watch platform will have content from both professional creators and from regular people within its own community.

To help inspire creators, Facebook has agreed to fund some shows that are examples of community-oriented and episodic video series.

One such example is, Returning the Favor, which is a series hosted by Mike Rowe where he finds people doing something extraordinary for their community, tells the world about it, and in turn does something extraordinary for them. Candidates are nominated by Mike’s fans on Facebook.