Leading the News
Lithium-Ion Pioneer Develops Improved Battery.
Fortune (3/5) reported 94-year-old John Goodenough, a co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, developed a new solid-state battery formula that is expected to hold three times more energy than the lithium-ion battery, never explode, perform well even at low temperatures, and charge rapidly. He described the battery in a paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science . Goodenough’s creation is still in the early stage of development, which “would normally merit caution, since most ‘revolutionary’ new battery ideas in recent years have turned out to be impractical to produce or unfit for the real world.” Goodenough pioneered what “became the backbone of the mobile electronics revolution,” however, so his work “demands attention.”
Engadget (3/5, Moon) wrote that Goodenough’s technology can charge in “minutes instead of hours,” can withstand more charge and discharge cycles, and “can be manufactured with earth-friendly materials.” The new technology could one day make electric vehicles “more common and change the way we use our gadgets.” Goodenough and his associates, including University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, “are looking to pair up with battery makers who can test their creation in electric vehicles and energy storage devices.”
Popular Mechanics (3/3) said Goodenough’s accomplishment “may be a game-changer for electronic devices,” but battery innovations “have many large obstacles between development and production, so it may be a long time” before the new battery reaches the market. Yet, “Goodenough has already done this once, so it’s hopefully just a matter of time before his solid-state battery is adopted by the industry.”
University Leaders Respond To Trump’s Revised Immigration Executive Order.
The Washington Post (3/6, Svrluga) reports President Trump signed a revised executive order on Monday that eased some provisions from the immigration order he signed in January. The revised order elicited “a mix of relief and deep concern” from university leaders. Association of American Universities’ Lizbet Boroughs said universities were pleased that Iraq was removed from the order and favored its delayed implementation, which will prevent students from being “caught in transit, as they were in January.” She said schools were concerned on the possible chilling effect it “has for international students to come to the United States and America’s ability to remain competitive.” Most schools adopted a watch-and-wait approach on how it will impact student enrollment and faculty recruitment. Association of American Medical Colleges head Darrell G. Kirch, Association of American Universities president Mary Sue Coleman, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities president Peter McPherson, and American Council on Education president Molly Corbett Broad also commented on the updated executive order.
ED Extends Timeline For Gainful Employment Rule Appeals.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (3/6) reports that ED has announced that it is “giving colleges more time to submit appeals regarding data that is connected to the enforcement of the Obama administration’s hotly contested gainful-employment rule.” Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Lynn Mahaffie “said that the action was being taken ‘to allow the department to further review the GE regulations and their implementation.’” The article reports that the move is being seen as a possible indicator that President Trump “will withdraw the rule” and “ease up on the beleaguered for-profit sector.”
Ohio Education Leaders Identify Financial Aid Shortages As College Enrollment Inhibitor.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (3/6) reports the Higher Education Compact and Philanthropy Ohio released a policy paper on college affordability last month. The report acknowledged that Ohio’s tuition caps and freezes have helped the state become a national leader in controlling college costs, but warned its only need-based financial aid program, the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, is significantly underfunded. In the 2013-14 academic year, the state ranked last in the Midwest for need-based financial aid availability. Five years ago, the Higher Education Compact was formed to improve college readiness, access, and completion. Cleveland Foundation education program director Helen Williams said since the compact’s formation, readiness and completion rates increased, but not college enrollment rates. She said the lack of financial aid, and not demographics or student choice, largely contributed to the enrollment decline. She and others with the compact intend to voice their concerns over the financial aid gap to state officials and lawmakers.
California State Lawmakers Focus Heavily On Constituents’ College Affordability Concerns.
The Los Angeles Times (3/3, Mason) reported California state lawmakers introduced more than three dozen bills this year in an effort to increase college affordability. The bills include “proposals to freeze tuition, demystify student loan statements and make textbooks cheaper,” and the heightened attention in the state legislature reflects constituents’ increasing worries about the cost of a college education. Public Policy Institute of California president Mark Baldassare said the issue’s continued visibility could be related to the unusual amount of attention it received during the 2016 presidential race. “This was a year in which people heard a lot of things about the need for college and the need for free community college,” Baldassare remarked. California higher education institutions also considered raising tuition for the first time in six years, further exacerbating concerns about college affordability.
Research and Development
IBM To Expand On Quantum Computing Efforts.
On its website, CNN (3/6) reports IBM announced on Monday that since it expanded public access to its New York quantum computing system in May last year, about 40,000 people conducted more than 275,000 experiments on the system. Also on Monday, IBM released a new application programming interface so developers can create new software integrations between traditional computers and the quantum computing operating system. The company said it considers the high level of public engagement encouraging, and quantum computing division vice president and chief tech officer Scott Crowder said IBM hopes to “make it commercially available for the cloud for people to use” within the next few years. Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase are collaborating with IBM at the IBM Research Frontiers Institute to further advancements in quantum computing.
University Of Dayton Researcher Receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award.
The Dayton (OH) Business Journal (3/3, Subscription Publication) reports the National Science Foundation presented University of Dayton engineering researcher Kristen Comfort with its five-year, $542,000 CAREER award to support her efforts to develop a cellular model that behaves more like a human body. The CAREER award is one of the foundation’s most prestigious, and it supports “the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education.” In a news release, the University of Dayton said Comfort’s groundbreaking “research could lead to better ways to deliver medicine straight to the source of an illness–a malignant tumor or infection–without the cost and ethical concerns of animal testing.” Comfort said her testing method would also shorten the screening time for potential drugs.
NASA Releases GOES-16 Images Of Lightning Strikes.
CNET News (3/6, Kooser) reports that on Monday, NASA released some of the first images of lightning strikes captured by its GOES-16 satellite. The satellite’s first-of-its-kind Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) detects flashes indicating lightning strikes, a capability NASA says “may help forecasters anticipate severe weather and issue flood and flash flood warnings sooner.” USA Today (3/6, Rice) reports that the satellite is providing forecasters the “best views ever” of lightning bolts. Tim Gasparrini, an engineer with Lockheed Martin, which designed the GLM, said that the instrument can take 500 pictures per second and “should revolutionize severe storm forecasting.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the satellite with NASA, said that the instrument is “transmitting data never before available to forecasters.”
IBM Aims To Commercialize Quantum Computing With New Q Service.
Reuters (3/6) reports IBM announced Monday that it is creating a new service, called IBM Q, that aims to build the “first universal quantum computers for business and science.” Forbes (3/6, Tilley) reports that the new service “will run alongside IBM’s other cloud products, such as Watson” and is “intended to help developers solve problems that are not readily addressable with current traditional computers – problems that are exponential in nature.” According to USA Today (3/6, Baig), IBM Systems Senior Vice President Tom Rosamilia said in a press release that even though “classical computers are extraordinarily powerful and will continue to advance and underpin everything we do in business and society,” there “are many problems that will never be penetrated by a classical computer.” Rosamilia adds that in order to “create knowledge from much greater depths of complexity, we need a quantum computer.”
IBM To Start Signing Customers For Quantum Computing Capabilities. The Financial Times (3/6, Waters, Subscription Publication) reports that IBM plans to become the first company to commercialize quantum computing, with executives saying that its research progress warrants signing the first customers.
ARPA-E Backing Work Advancing Power Electronics, Semiconductors.
ClimateWire (3/6, Jacobs, Subscription Publication) reports DOE’s ARPA-E is investing in power electronics, “tiny electrical components” that could lower energy consumption. DOE estimates that by 2030, 80 percent of all electricity could pass through power electronics, “devices that manipulate electricity into usable forms by ramping it up or down or changing its frequency” depending on what it is needed for. To target the limits of current semiconductor materials and surging global demand, ARPA-E launched the Strategies for Wide-Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems (SWITCHES) program in 2013. The program has advanced wide-bandgap semiconductors, vertical gallium nitride semiconductors, and diamond semiconductors that have could have major impacts on the $335 billion semiconductor industry.
Opel Deal Will Allow GM To Redirect Engineering Resources To US.
The Washington Post (3/6, Heath) reports that GM “said Monday that it had agreed to sell its Opel and Vauxhall brands to Peugeot in a $2.3 billion deal, exiting a European market that has not produced a profit in nearly 20 years.” The move comes as CEO Mary Barra “is under pressure to improve the stock price, which was trading at more than $37 a share on Monday, below the $40 when she took over in January 2014.” Though the decision comes with risk, along with relinquishing market share, GM is banking on a strategy of “being less global but more profitable in an auto industry increasingly dependent on software and services,” Reuters (3/6, White) reports.
Automotive News (3/6) reports the sale “will have wide-ranging effects on General Motors as an engineering organization. And some will be positive.” GM will “no longer have to worry about engineering a vast array of vehicles to meet both European and U.S. federal crash and emissions standards” and “can now redirect engineering resources to focus mostly on its core U.S. lineup.”
Engineering and Public Policy
H-1B Expedited Processing Suspension Could Impact Businesses.
In continuing coverage, the Wall Street Journal (3/6, Ballhaus, Subscription Publication) reports on USCIS’ temporary suspension of expedited processing for the H-1B visa. The Journal says that the suspension will begin April 3 and will last for six months, though it notes the suspension does not affect the annual lottery outcome.
Similarly, the San Jose (CA) Mercury News (3/6, May) says regular processing “can be painfully slow,” and that the suspension “will not only affect new workers coming to the country on the H-1B program, but those who already hold an H-1B visa and are changing jobs within the country too,” according to Seattle-based immigration attorney Tahmina Watson.
The Christian Science Monitor (3/6, Kauffman) cites USCIS as noting the suspension is necessary to manage the backlog of applications. This, however, has confused many “who point out that faster processing was cited as a reason for the premium option in the first place.”
Many worry that the suspension is just “the first attempt to dismantle a worker pipeline program President Donald Trump pledged to eliminate while on the campaign trail,” Yahoo! News (3/6) adds. The article adds that the suspension will force “businesses to pay a higher price for labor, due to higher demand for soon-to-be scarce H-1B workers,” and that this is compounded by the travel ban that restricts travel of citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations into the US even if they hold an H-1B visa. CNBC (3/6) says, however, the suspension is “a relatively routine decision that’s happened under administrations past.” This time, the piece notes, “it is missing one key piece of information – a timeline – and that could impact businesses.” Attorney Piyumi Samaratunga is quoted as saying, “At least last year, we knew that by May, the premium track would kick in. It’s fair for them to want a month, because they get this flood of applications and go through the lottery process. Getting a month is reasonable. … [Now] we don’t know if it will be implemented in May or at all.”
WSJournal Argues Against Limiting H-1B Visas. A Wall Street Journal (3/6, Subscription Publication) editorial points out that a growing number of participants in the Regeneron Science Talent Search are the children of immigrants and says that the effort by some Republicans to limit H-1B visas is detrimental for the US economy. The Journal argues that importing high-skilled workers is a long-term investment that creates jobs for American workers and will produce future entrepreneurs who do the same.
Perry Calls National Labs Work “Vital” In Sunday Tweet.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (3/6) reported Energy Secretary Rick Perry tweeted early Sunday morning, “The #NationalLabs are America’s science & engineering treasures. I look forward to promoting their vital work.”
Coal Council To Drill Down On Advanced Technology.
The Washington Examiner (3/6) previews the spring meeting of the National Coal Council, a “federal advisory committee” tasked with offering guidance on coal policy. According to the article, the experts scheduled to speak are expected to advocate in favor of policies which promote the development of clean-coal technology, an approach they argue would complement the actions that President Trump has taken to boost the sector in the short-term. Among other presenters, FuelCell vice president Anthony Leo will discuss his company’s fuel-cell based carbon-capture project and FuelCell’s partnership with Exxon on a natural gas carbon-capture research project. The article mentions that both projects are “being done at Southern Co.’s Barry Plant in Alabama.”
White House Plans To “Close Out” Energy Star, Other Programs.
ClimateWire (3/6, Holden, Subscription Publication) reports a preliminary White House budget proposal would eliminate DOE’s Energy Star program and related programs. According to the blueprint, $5 million would be left “for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs.” The draft instructs the EPA to begin developing “legislative options and associated groundwork for transferring ownership and implementation of Energy Star to a non-governmental entity” and also consider similar transfer opportunities for the remaining partnership programs. Lowell Ungar at ACEEE says “an internal industry label is not going to be as effective” or reliable. Doug Johnson at the Consumer Technology Association, said that while voluntary labeling systems have been the public policy for years, voluntary agreements are “growing in importance in North America and overseas.”
EIA: Wind Power Topped Hydro In 2016.
The Denver Post (3/6, Svaldi) reports the EIA said Monday wind power generating capacity surpassed hydropower last yea, boosted by $13.8 billion in investments. Wind supplied 5.5 percent of US generation in 2016, up from 4.7 percent in 2015. In Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, wind accounts for more than 20 percent of electricity generation. With reservoirs replenishing, hydropower is expected to remain ahead of wind this year even as capacity grows, the EIA forecasts.
White House Mulls Changes To US Biofuels Policy.
Reuters (3/6, Stephenson) reports that the White House is reviewing the “possibility of a key change to US biofuels policy requested by oil refiners and Carl Icahn,” a special advisor to President Trump and part owner in the refining company CVR Energy Inc. Two sources familiar with ongoing discussions said that administration officials “are concerned about potential political backlash from biofuels companies and fuel marketers” if they make the proposed changes.
California Utilities Testing New Techniques To Manage Renewables.
The Wall Street Journal (3/4, Sweet, Subscription Publication) reports that Edison International, PG&E Corp, and Sempra Energy are among California utilities testing new techniques for networking solar panels, battery storage, communication devices, and software as a means of creating “virtual power plants” that can manage green power, feeding it into the grid as necessary. Solar farms in California often generate so much power during the day that wholesale prices are driven to zero, but with electricity needs often spiking after sunset, real-time prices can reach up to $1,000 per megawatt-hour. Tesla is supplying Edison International with batteries for use at more than 100 office buildings and industrial properties across a Los Angeles-area network that will be the world’s largest when finished in 2020. The batteries will provide 360 megawatt-hours in extra power for the buildings and for Edison’s grid, enough to provide energy to 20,000 homes for one day on short notice.
Chicago Math And Science Academy Celebrates Engineering Week.
The Chicago Tribune (3/6) reports Hoover Math and Science Academy in Chicago recently hosted Engineering Week. The organizers offered a range of projects and activities for all grade levels and invited engineers as guest speakers. The events included “a Superstructures assembly, a family STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) night and a Fizzy Fruit assembly in which a mechanical engineer demonstrated a machine he designed that injects carbon dioxide into fruit.”
Eastern Iowa Middle School Students To Compete In First Lego League Championships.
The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette (3/6) reports ten fifth- through seventh-graders from six eastern Iowa middle schools will compete as the “Red Dangerous” team against 107 other teams at the First Lego League world championships this April in St. Louis. Another 109 teams will compete in Houston. More than 29,000 teams from 44 countries participated in the challenge. First Lego League “encourages students to apply engineering, science and math skills to develop solutions to real-world challenges.” To qualify for the world finals, the Red Dangerous team “studied the issue of harmful algal blooms,” or “red tide,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They also built a Lego-based robot to perform various “missions” and designed a presentation related to this year’s theme, “Animal Allies.” Samsung Electronics and Imagination Iowa sponsored Red Dangerous.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Administration Expected To Roll Back CAFE Standards In Coming Week.
• Carnegie Mellon To Propose $23 Million Mixed-Use Building In Pittsburgh.
• Iowa State University Scientists Develop Way To Clean Water With Algae.
• China Builds Largest Deepwater Drilling Rig.
• Ford Developing New 3D Printer For Manufacturing.
• California Utilities Develop Technology To Manage Solar Energy Production.
• Forthcoming Technology-Focused San Antonio High School Reaches Out To Female Students.