Carbon Foam: The Key Ingredient of a Better Battery?

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

A lighter, greener, cheaper, longer-lasting battery. Who wouldn't want that?

Tech researchers are working on it. Actually, their design is a twist on what's called an asymmetric capacitor, a new type of electrical storage device that's half capacitor, half battery. It may be a marriage made in heaven.

Capacitors store an electrical charge physically and have important advantages: they are lightweight and can be recharged (and discharged) rapidly and almost indefinitely. Plus, they generate very little heat, an important issue for electronic devices. However, they can only make use of about half of their stored charge.

Batteries, on the other hand, store electrical energy chemically and can release it over longer periods at a steady voltage. And they can usually store more energy than a capacitor. But batteries are heavy and take time to charge, and even the best can't be recharged forever.

Enter asymmetric capacitors, which bring together the best of both worlds. On the capacitor side, energy is stored by electrolyte ions that are physically attracted to the charged surface of a carbon anode. Combined with a battery-style cathode, this design delivers nearly double the energy of a standard capacitor.

Now, Tech researchers have incorporated a novel material on the battery side to make an even better asymmetric capacitor.

Their cathode relies on nickel oxyhydroxide, the same material used in rechargeable nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride batteries. "In most batteries that contain nickel oxyhydroxide, metallic nickel serves as a mechanical support and a current collector," said chemistry professor Bahne Cornilsen, who has studied nickel electrodes for a number of years, initially with NASA support. A few years ago, the team had a chance to experiment with something different: Cornilsen suggested replacing the nickel with carbon foam.

Carbon foam has advantages over nickel. "It's lighter and cheaper, so we thought maybe we could use it as a scaffold, filling its holes with nickel oxyhydroxide," said Tony Rogers, associate professor of chemical engineering.

Carbon foam has a lot of holes to fill. "The carbon foam we are using has 72 percent porosity," Rogers said. "That means 72 percent of its volume is empty space, so there's plenty of room for the nickel oxyhydroxide. The carbon foam could also be made of renewable biomass, and that's attractive."

But how many times can you recharge their novel asymmetric capacitor? Nobody knows; so far, they haven't been able to wear it out. "We've achieved over 127,000 cycles," Rogers said.

Other asymmetric capacitors have similar numbers, but none have the carbon-foam edge that could make them even more desirable to consumers.

"Being lighter would give it a real advantage in handheld power tools and consumer electronics," said Rogers. Hybrid electric vehicles are another potential market, since an asymmetric capacitor can charge and discharge more rapidly than a normal battery, making it useful for regenerative braking.

The group has applied for a patent on its new technology. Chemical engineering professor Michael Mullins is also a member of the research team. Graduate students contributing to the project are PhD graduate Matthew Chye and PhD student Wen Nee Yeo of the chemical engineering department and MS student Padmanaban Sasthan Kuttipillai and PhD student Jinjin Wang of the chemistry department.

The research is funded by the US Department of Energy, the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative, the Michigan Tech Research Excellence Fund and the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.

Tech Start-up Wins BioScience Showcase in Detroit

by Jennifer Donovan, director, public relations

Jim Baker, director of Technology and Economic Development, led a start-up company based on technology developed at Michigan Tech to top honors in the Emerging Bioscience Showcase at MichBio in Grand Rapids this week.

Kalamazoo-based Aursos Inc. is a company established to commercialize a treatment for osteoporosis and other bone disorders based on research by Associate Professor Seth Donahue (Biomedical Engineering) on black bear parathyroid hormone. Bears hibernate for months without suffering a loss in bone density, and Donahue has linked that natural resistance to the bears' parathyroid hormone.

Aursos won the Showcase Award, a $10,000 package of professional services from Biotechnology Business Consultants LLC, the accounting firm of Doeren Mayhew, the law firm of Honigman, the product development firm Keystone, the pharmaceutical planning and business development firm Pharmacision and free membership in MichBio.

Companies from the US and Canada were among the finalists. The showcase is a highlight of MichBio, the Michigan Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual meeting.

Students Honored by American Chemical Society

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

The American Chemical Society has recognized the ACS Student Chapter with a Commendable Chapter Award.

The chapter was cited for its involvement in multiple activities, including judging the area science fair; conducting a lab inventory for the chemistry department; participating in National Chemistry Week and in Science Night, an event sponsored by the Western UP Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education; and more.

"I'd like to thank the national chapter for this honor," said chemistry senior Gregg Hasman, president of the group. "It's been very exciting for us to get involved in outreach, not only on campus, but also in the elementary schools. It might even attract more students to Michigan Tech in about a decade."

Paul Charlesworth, an associate professor of chemistry, is the chapter advisor. "Gregg has been a dynamic leader, and the entire group has been very enthusiastic," he said. "This is the first year they participated in Orientation, and a huge number of people were at their demonstrations. They are doing really well."

Department chair Sarah Green also praised Hasman's efforts. "Gregg has really revitalized this group in the last few years. He has simultaneously effused the group with new enthusiasm, and better organization, and better budgeting," she said. "And he's doing succession planning so the next president won't have to start from scratch.

"For me, the group has provided dependable help for open house and Preview Day events, and has been promoting chemistry across and beyond campus," Green added. "This is the first year they did an Orientation event."

The chapter was also recognized for its recruitment efforts. A majority of chemistry majors, including most first-year students, are now members.

The chapter will be recognized in the November/December issue of the magazine In Chemistry and at the ACS Student Chapter Award Ceremony to be held at the 243rd ACS National Meeting in San Diego, Calif.

Career Services Announces Company Weekly Visits

Companies routinely come to campus to interview and recruit students throughout the year, and Career Services will announce those visits each Friday. Direct your students to for future interviewing and recruiting opportunities.

Coming next week are the following:

Tuesday, Nov. 8--Consistacom

Thursday, Nov. 10--ArcelorMittal

"The Best Tap Dancer in the World" Coming

submitted by Bethany Jones, marketing manager, Rozsa

Next weekend, the Rozsa will present Savion Glover, whom Gregory Hines, himself a tap dance legend, called "the best tap dancer to have ever lived." Glover will perform at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12.

Glover is the man behind the dancing feet of "Happy Feet," and he won a Tony for his work with Spike Lee on "Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk."

"Savion Glover: Bare Soundz" is a concert-style performance showcasing tap as an acoustical instrument. Using a style that Glover christened as "free-form and hard-core," Glover will perform with breathtaking simplicity and profound rhythmic joy.

According to Rozsa Director Susanna Brent, "The arts help to define our American identity and preserve our heritage. Tap dance is a distinctly American art form, and Savion Glover is the master of this craft--the best of the best. Glover's tap transcends the cliche--top hat and cane. It beckons more to that other great American tradition, jazz."

Free from the cumbersome trappings of older styles of tap dance, the Bare Soundz trio, led by Glover, takes tap dance to a high art. No stranger to the spotlight, Glover has appeared on Broadway, in film and on television, including on "Dancing with the Stars."

Bare Soundz is playful and sophisticated, unique and engaging, and Savion Glover is an American treasure.

The event is sponsored by the James and Margaret Black Endowment.

Tickets are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors and $20 for students.

To purchase tickets, call 487-2073, go online at , or visit the SDC Ticket Office. SDC box office hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday–Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m., Sunday. The Rozsa box office is closed during regular business hours and will only open two hours prior to showtime.

Both Tech Hoops Squads Tabbed No. 1

by Ian Marks, assistant director, athletic communications and marketing

Both basketball teams were picked to finish No. 1 in Great Lakes
Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Divisions Media Poll. Tech also had four players, Sam Hoyt, Emma Veach, Ali Haidar and Mike Hojnacki, earn preseason honors.

The women's team, which finished as the NCAA Div. II Runner-Up last season, earned 174 points and 23 first-place votes. Grand Valley State was picked second with 145 points and one first-place votes.

"It's an honor to be regarded that highly by the league," said head women's coach Kim Cameron. "This is a new year, and we have to compete every night in a really competitive league."

Sam Hoyt earned first-team All-GLIAC preseason honors after averaging 11.9 points per game and a team-high 80 assists last season. The Arkansaw, Wis., native also earned NCAA Elite Eight and GLIAC Tournament Team honors and All-GLIAC North Division Second-Team honors.

"Sam did a great job leading the team at the end of last season," said Cameron. "We will look to her again this season for her leadership."

Emma Veach also earned first-team All-GLIAC preseason honors. She was the GLIAC Freshman of the Year for Grand Valley State in 2008-09 and All-GLIAC first team as a sophomore for the Lakers. The Grand Haven, Mich., native sat out last season due to conference transfer rules.

"This is a great honor for Emma after sitting out last season," said Cameron. "We are excited to see her in action this season."

The men's team earned 156 points and 12 first-place votes. Grand Valley State was picked second with 151 points and 11 first-place votes.

"Preseason polls don’t mean a lot," said head coach Kevin Luke. "If the voters are going to pick us first, we are going to work hard enough to be first."

Ali Haidar earned first-team All-GLIAC preseason honors after averaging 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The Windsor, Ont., native also grabbed a league-high 187 defensive rebounds and earned All-GLIAC North Division First Team honors last season.

"Ali earning preseason honors is based on his performance last year. He definitely deserves it, but he is going to have to play like it night in and night out."

Mike Hojnacki was named a second-team All-GLIAC preseason selection after earning first-team preseason honors last season. The Milwaukee, Wis., native averaged 15.1 points and 5.4 rebounds last season.

"Mike is kind of our "X" factor this season. If teams are going to focus on Haidar, Mike is going to have the opportunity to fill the scoring and rebounding void left when teams focus on Haidar."

Both teams will make their home debuts Saturday, Nov. 12. The women will host Madonna at 1 p.m., and the men will entertain Minnesota- Duluth at 3 p.m.

Biological Sciences Seminar

Associate Professor Victor Busov (SFRES) will present "Molecular Mechanisms of Trees' Growth, Development and Adaptation to Environment" at 2 p.m., Friday Nov. 4, in M&M U113.

CEE Seminar

CEE will host a talk by alumnus Jim Bury '84, director of engineering at Putzmeister, at 7:35 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7, in Dow 641. Bury will discuss concrete pumping and placement, including design requirements and case studies for dams, tunnels, bridges and the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world.

For more information, contact Associate Professor Tess Ahlborn (CEE) at 487-2625 or at .

EPSSI Seminar

James Pankow, a professor of chemistry and civil and environmental engineering at Portland State University, will present a talk, "Predicting Levels of Organic Particulate Matter (OPM) in the Atmosphere--Progress and Problems," at 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7, in M&M U113.

Refreshments will be served. To arrange to meet Pankow, contact Associate Professor Judith Perlinger (CEE) at 487-3641 or at .

Savvy Entrepreneur Addresses Team Building

A "Savvy Entrepreneur" panel discussion, "Building A Great Team," will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the conference room of the Advanced Technology Development Complex.

A networking social begins at 5:30 p.m., and the panel discussion follows from 6 to 7:45 p.m.

This panel will help businesses starting out or with limited resources by addressing the following:

* What you can do to attract and retain the talent that you need to compete in this highly competitive world.

* Negotiating equity positions.

* Learn how to build awesome teams that match your current stage of business development and your current funding status.

* Learn steps for supporting highly creative and innovative team environment.

Bring your questions and thorniest challenges to this program to advance your technology entrepreneurship skill set.

The event is sponsored by Michigan Tech's Office of Innovation and Industry Development, the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance and the School of Business and Economics. The event is free, and the public is welcome.

For more information, contact John Diebel at 487-1082 or at .

CTLFD Workshop

The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Faculty Development is conducting a workshop, "Connecting with Students in an Online Environment," from noon to 12:55 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17. Lunch will be provided to those who register by Monday, Nov. 14.

It's becoming increasingly clear that online, blended and other forms of electronically-meditated instruction are here to stay. Practitioners report that one of the challenges associated with these forms of pedagogy is creating a sense of presence with students. In this workshop, we'll survey innovative practices being developed by a variety of educators facing this challenge.

Register for this workshop by contacting the CTLFD at 487-2046 or online at registration. Once you register, you will receive an email confirmation, which will give you the location and a reminder about the date and time.

Teaching at Tech: Coming to Mind

by William Kennedy, director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Faculty Development

Continuing our exploration of James Zull's second book on brain-based learning, "From Brain to Mind: Using Neuroscience to Guide Change in Education," the author raises an issue that is salient in most progressive STEM pedagogical research circles. Carl Wieman, Eric Mazur and many others argue that present STEM teaching and testing methods make it all too possible for many students to successfully progress through their degree programs without achieving the sort of deep and durable understandings that will enable them to actually think and act like a scientist, engineer or mathematician. In short, these
investigators suggest that we currently teach students what to think, but not how to think.

Zull suggests that learning how to think deeply involves repeatedly exposing students to experiences that they find interesting and engaging--those experiences that encourage extended reflection and integration. Part of the challenge to create engaging learning experiences for students is that many of them have learned, through dismal experience, that their school lessons are highly artificial, rather obtuse, and not reflective of anything they encounter in "real life."

Another obstacle involves the academy's obsessive desire to divide ideas up into subjects and disciplines when almost all real-life challenges require the application of interdisciplinary perspectives. Yet, another barrier to creating learning experiences that require integration springs from the teachers' obsessive desire to "cover the material" at all costs. Taken together, artificiality, the obsessive compulsion to
separate and categorize, and the frenetic desire to cover all the bases discourage the development of the sort of deep, enduring, well-integrated understanding that typifies expert thinking.

As a result, Zull proposes a radical rethinking of the postsecondary educational model. He writes, "School actions should come from student thinking. They should be generated by the mind of the learner ... I believe that ownership is the most significant and effective aspect of learning. If I want to learn something, I will make it mine."

Zull adds that he would craft a system where students would develop and test their own theories, propositions and explanations, rather than sitting passively and trying to guess which of the teacher's pearls of wisdom will appear on the test.

Hitting on many of the same themes as Carl Wieman and MaryEllen Weimer, Zull argues that we should reduce the cognitive load on students to more properly reflect the natural limits of their short-term memory systems and address the counterproductive "dependency" of students by shifting some of the control and initiative to learn from the teacher to the student.

Summing up, Zull concludes this section of the book by offering a list of changes that might improve the lasting impact and cognitive development of our students. He suggests that we should design courses that demonstrate the risks and rewards of categorizing ideas versus building relationships among ideas from different domains; give more time for thinking and integration and discard increasingly frenetic attempts to mention everything in a superficial way; discard fixed classes and lockstep schedules and move to more flexible learning designs; work to shift responsibility and control to students as they exhibit the capacity to direct and assess their own learning; and help students learn to solve problems in which they have some ownership and native interest.

On the Road

Tim Colling, director of the Center for Technology and Training (CTT), a unit of the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute, attended a meeting of the Straits Area Council of the County Road Association of Michigan on Nov. 1 to give a presentation on the science of traffic control devices to county road commission engineers and elected officials.

The presentation discussed how traffic control devices (signs, signals and markings) can add or detract from traffic safety, based on how they are applied in the field, and Colling gave best practices for successful installation.

On Oct. 27, Colling attended the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Conference to speak about lessons learned from his participation in an international study on managing pavements. During the study, he and nine other colleagues from around the country traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Netherlands and England and met with fifteen transportation agencies from ten countries to determine best practices for managing paved roads.

CTT staff members Christine Codere (senior project manager, training and operations) and Enneesa Ewing (technical writer) attended the same conference, which they helped plan, set up and execute. Codere spent six months as a member of the planning committee for this conference.