The Lady and the li-ion

Laptops desperately need a better lithium-ion battery. Boston-Power's Christina Lampe-Onnerud says she's got it

14 min read
The Lady and the li-ion
Photo: Chris Mueller

YOUR WORLD increasingly runs on lithium-ion batteries. Chances are good that your phone, laptop, camera, portable music and video players, radios, and game consoles keep going only as long as there are lithium ions churning around inside them. Lithium-ion batteries are getting into your power tools. Soon they’ll even be in your car.

So it’s a shame that after nearly four decades of intensive development, lithium-ion batteries still leave plenty to be desired. They fade fast—although their energy capacity starts out higher than that of any other kind of mass-market battery, it can drop more than 25 ­percent per year in typical applications. And then there are the persistent reports of flameouts: just this January, ­journalists gathered at a Korean hospital witnessed a colleague’s laptop burst into flames. Remember the iPod that burned up in a man’s back pocket, or the Dell laptop that went up in flames at a conference in Japan? Their former owners sure do.

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The James Webb Space Telescope was a Career-Defining Project for Janet Barth

NASA’s first female engineering chief was there from conception to first light

5 min read
portrait of older woman in light blue jacket against dark gray background Info for editor if needed:
Sue Brown

Janet Barth spent most of her career at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md.—which put her in the middle of some of NASA’s most exciting projects of the past 40 years.

She joined the center as a co-op student and retired in 2014 as chief of its electrical engineering division. She had a hand in Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, launching the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, and developing the James Webb Space Telescope.

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4 min read
blue mountain of crystals with an inset of molecules on a pink background
Srabanti Chowdhury/Stanford

High-power radio-frequency electronics are a hot commodity, both figuratively and literally. The transistors needed to amplify 5G and future 6G signals are struggling to handle the thermal load, causing a bottleneck in development. Engineers in the United States and England have teamed up to demonstrate a promising solution—swaddling individual transistors in a blanket of thermally conductive diamond to keep them cool.

“Thermal issues are currently one of the biggest bottlenecks that are plaguing any kind of microelectronics,” says team lead Srabanti Chowdhury, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. “We asked ourselves ‘can we perform device cooling at the very material level without paying a penalty in electrical performance?’”

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Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.