Scientists find new way to power electric cars using cobalt

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell developed a technique that uses only water, carbon dioxide and cobalt metal particles that have surface nanostructures measuring billionths of a meter in size, to produce hydrogen on demand at relatively low temperature and pressure and to use to power the next generation of electric vehicles.

According to David K. Ryan, the project’s principal investigator, hydrogen can be used in fuel cells, which combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce electricity at up to 85% efficiency.

“Other investigators have used all kinds of methods to produce hydrogen, such as electrolysis, natural gas reforming and even metals such as zinc, iron and nickel with acids, but not catalytically with cobalt,” Ryan said in a media statement. “The carbonate is involved in the reaction but it doesn’t change or get consumed; it just helps facilitate the conversion of the cobalt metal to cobalt oxide, and this conversion produces the hydrogen and carbon dioxide.”

Chemistry Prof. David Ryan, right, and graduate student Ahmed Jawhari examine a prototype of their invention that produces hydrogen gas cleanly and efficiently. Photo by University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The scientist explained that the experimental setup consists of a stainless steel canister filled with cobalt. A carbonate solution made from carbon dioxide and water is pumped through the canister and then warmed up to about 150 degrees. The solution is also compressed to about three atmospheres, or 45 pounds per square inch, which is about the same pressure as in a car tire.

“Under these relatively low-temperature and modest-pressure conditions, we were able to produce hydrogen efficiently, to nearly 70%. Subsequent work has allowed us to produce hydrogen at greater than 95% purity,” Ryan said.

The researcher explained that in an electric car, the hydrogen from the canister can go directly to the fuel cell, where it is mixed with oxygen from the atmosphere to produce electricity and water. The water can then be looped back into the canister and mixed with the carbonate to form the catalytic solution. The electricity produced by the fuel cell can be used to power the canister’s pump, heater and compressor, as well as the car’s electric motors, rechargeable storage battery and headlights.

“This process doesn’t store any hydrogen gas, so it’s safe and poses no storage or transportation issues. Once you stop the flow of the carbonate solution or release pressure in the reaction chamber, the hydrogen production stops, so hydrogen is produced only as needed,” Ryan said.

The experts suggested that once the cobalt metal in the canister is used up – that is, converted to cobalt oxide – the car driver can swap out the canister with a new one every 300 to 400 miles. The cobalt in the old canister can then be regenerated, using a renewable energy source such as wind or solar.

“So instead of going to a gas station to get a fill-up, you can go to a ‘refueling’ station and get a new canister. You can also bring extras for long trips,” Ryan said.

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Melting gold at room temperature is a thing now

The discovery came as a fluke after the scientists started analyzing the yellow metal to its most intrinsic and smallest components.

First, they placed a small piece of gold in an electron microscope. Then they started observing it at the highest level of magnification and began gradually increasing the electric field to extremely high levels. When they reached the highest electric field, they noticed that the surface layers of gold had actually melted – at room temperature.

“I was really stunned by the discovery. This is an extraordinary phenomenon, and it gives us new, foundational knowledge of gold,” Ludvig de Knoop, a researcher at Chalmers, said in a media statement.


De Knoop explained that what happened was that the gold atoms became excited and under the influence of the electric field, they lost their ordered structure and released almost all their connections to each other.

After seeing this, the scientists ran some theoretical calculations. Such work allowed them to hypothesize the reasons behind gold’s ability to melt at room temperature, which has to do with the formation of defects in the surface layers.

The academics published their findings in a scientific paper that appeared in the journal Physical Review Materials. In the article, they say the results of this experiment open up new avenues in materials science.

“Because we can control and change the properties of the surface atom layers, it opens doors for different kinds of applications. For example, the technology could be used in different types of sensors, catalysts and transistors. There could also be opportunities for new concepts for contactless components,” Eva Olsson, one of the co-authors of the paper and a Professor at the Department of Physics at Chalmers, said.

Source: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, 9/12/2018

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Scotland closer to having its first commercial gold mine

Scotland is one step closer to having its first commercial gold and silver mine as Scotgold Resources (LON: SGZ) said Thursday it had submitted the last application to secure planning permits for its Cononish project, near Tyndrum.

The company, which has decided to liquidate its French subsidiary, said that it had worked with the Trossachs National Park Planning Authority (NPA) to secure all the necessary licences required for planning approval, adding it expects a formal decision soon.

Scotgold is anticipating a number of conditions, but said that it had made the necessary preparations to deal with them “as promptly as possible”.

The company envisions an underground mine with an initial production capacity of 23,500 ounces of gold annually for up to 17 years.

Cononish produced first gold in August 2016 following the launch of an ore processing trial and the plan is now to build a large-scale operation.

Scotgold Resources will do so by reopening an old mine shaft and moving 170,000 tonnes of rock, along with the mineral ore.

The company envisions an underground mine with an initial production capacity of 23,500 ounces of gold annually for up to 17 years.

As many as 52 jobs could be created during production, and the firm has offered nearly £500,000 (about $695K) in payments to support the local community of Tyndrum.

In addition, the company said Scottish Enterprise offered a Regional Selective Assistance grant of £430,000 for the development of the project. Scotgold estimates costs from the first phase of development to total £360,000. However, it noted that extra funds will not have a material impact on the returns.

Once final approval is granted, Scotgold will proceed with the financing for the development, though obtaining the approval of the Park Authority is seen as the key hurdle to cross.

Currently, the small village of Tyndrum is a local tourist destination, known mostly for being at a junction of major transport routes. It’s located in the northern part of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

photo: View of Cononish Mine showing (right to left) stockpiled ore, plant buildings and adit. (Image courtesy of Scotgold Resources.)

source:,  by Cecilia Jamasmie , 18/10/2018

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A gold-hungry bug opens door for more efficient biofuels

Researchers at the University of California – Berkeley have discovered that a bacterium named Moorella thermoacetica produces solar fuels through artificial photosynthesis in a very efficient way when fed with gold.

In a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, the scientists explain that by placing light-absorbing gold nanoclusters inside the CO2-hungry bacterium, they have created a biohybrid system that produces a higher yield of chemical products.

Previous experiments had already turned M. thermoacetica into a tiny photosynthesis machine. Such tests consisted on attaching light-absorbing nanoparticles made of cadmium sulfide to the bacterial membrane exterior, which then resulted in the conversion of sunlight and carbon dioxide into useful chemicals.

However, even though cadmium sulfide has the ability to absorb visible light, it is toxic to bacteria and the nanoparticles had to be attached to the cell membrane “extracellularly,” or outside the M. thermoacetica-CdS system. This meant that some energy was lost in the process of turning CO2 into acetate, a valuable chemical for making solar fuels.

This got the scientists thinking about a better way to improve the bacterium’s ability to produce acetate. Eventually, they turned to nanoclusters made of 22 gold atoms (Au22) and the results were nothing but surprising because M. thermoacetica just loved it.

“We selected Au22 because it’s ideal for absorbing visible light and has the potential for driving the CO2 reduction process, but we weren’t sure whether it would be compatible with the bacteria,” said one of the authors of the study, Peidong Yang, in a media statement. “When we inspected them under the microscope, we discovered that the bacteria were loaded with these Au22 clusters – and were still happily alive.”

The researchers named Au22 “magic gold nanoclusters,” which they also selected because of their ultrasmall size: A single Au22 nanocluster is only 1 nanometer in diameter, which allows each nanocluster to easily slip through the bacterial cell wall.

Yang explained that by feeding bacteria with Au22 nanoclusters, he and his team were able to pushM. thermoacetica to produce 33 per cent more acetate.

This discovery supports UC-Berkeley’s ongoing efforts to find affordable, abundant resources for renewable fuels, and potential solutions to thwart the effects of climate change.”Next, we’d like to find a way to reduce costs, improve the lifetimes for these biohybrid systems, and improve quantum efficiency,” Yang said.

Source:, Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, 18/10/2018

Reference image by Randi Hausken, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Perth Mint unveils Australia’s most expensive gold-diamond coin

Australia’s Perth Mint has unveiled this week the most expensive collector coin in the country’ history — a diamond-encrusted treasure valued at $2.5 million ($1.8m).

Made of 99.99 percent pure gold, the coin features four rare Argyle pink and purplish-pink diamonds. The largest is 1.02 carat.

Named the Discovery Gold Coin, its design was inspired by the holey dollar, which was introduced by governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1814.

From a gemstone perspective, each of the four fancy pink diamonds in the coin’s reverse is accompanied by an original gem identification and authenticity document from Argyle Pink Diamonds. (Image courtesy of Bill Johnston | Twitter.)

The 2kg-coin comes in two parts, an outer ring and a centrepiece emulating colonial Australia’s first official coinage – the historic “holey dollar and dump.”

The coin will be on display at The Perth Mint’s retail store until the end of September, unless a collector with quite a bit of cash to spare snatches it earlier.

Source:, by Cecilia Jamasmie

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Gold recoils amid selloff but may rebound

Gold has fallen to a 20-month low amid sharp EM currency depreciation. At these levels, we believe the gold price may bounce back. Consumer demand is likely to be supportive in H2. And short positioning may quickly reverse should one of the many current macroeconomic risks materialise, increasing investment demand.

Momentum built as gold fell

The gold price lost 3% during the first half of August, a downturn that was exacerbated by gold’s fall below US$1,200/oz – an important technical support level – for the first time since early 2017.

Gold was propelled down by the strength of the US dollar against both developed and emerging market currencies, particularly, a weakening of the Chinese yuan first and Turkish lira later. In fact, the dollar’s strength has been one of the most important drivers of gold’s performance this year as confrontational trade rhetoric and sanctions has so far played in favour of the US. In addition, both the ECB and BOJ have delayed policy rate hikes, increasing differentials between interest rates in the US.

But gold may rebound due to both technical and fundamental reasons:

  • An usually short market
  • Financial market uncertainty remains
  • Natural buyers may step in


Gold’s pullback has been partly driven by dollar strength

Source: Bloomberg, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council, 23rd August 2018

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Egyptian copper’s origin revealed

Two new studies published in the Journal of Archaeological Science unveil where ancient Egyptians got the red metal from.

According to one the studies, led by Frederik Rademakers of KU Leuven in Belgium, there was predominant reliance on relatively local ore from the Eastern Desert and the Sinai Peninsula.

Based on isotope and chemical analyses of 40 metal samples from funerary objects and seven ore samples dating from the Predynastic, Protodynastic and Old Kingdom Periods, the research suggests significant developments in smelting technology that may have been adapted to different ore types.

“The underlying organization of early supply networks, clearly reliant on a variety of mining and production zones, and the development of copper production technology are only slowly revealed through ongoing research,” Rademakers said in a media statement.

The objects he and his team examined belong to the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels.

The second study, carried out by four Czech institutions, analyzed 22 artifacts from the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University in Germany. The objects show similar production technology but diverse origins of the metal, including an Early Dynastic Egyptian object from Abusir that is high in nickel metal, something that is consistent with ores and artifacts from Early Bronze Age Anatolia, in present-day Turkey.

This research confirms that special metals had circulated around the Ancient Near East earlier than previously thought.

In the view of Erez Ben-Yosef, professor at the J. M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University, the studies constitute an important step forward in current knowledge on copper provenance and the subsequent economic, social and cultural insights into ancient Egypt.

source:, by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud | 6 days ago |

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Exports enjoyed double-digit growth in first half of year

Greek exports enjoyed double-digit growth in June and also in the first six months of the year, data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) data has shown.

Expressing optimism that the rising trend will continue for the export sector for the rest of the year, the Panhellenic Exporters Association said it was encouraging to see the reduction in the trade deficit in the first six months of the year even though it increased significantly in June.

ELSTAT data released on Tuesday showed that exports amounted to around 3 billion euros (including fuel products) in June, recording annual growth of 24.8 percent. Excluding fuel, they reached 1.99 billion against 1.78 billion in June 2017, an 11.8 percent increase.

In the first half of the year, exports amounted to 16.44 billion, up 15.7 percent on last year’s figures. Excluding fuel products, the figure came to 10.98 billion, up 12.7 percent yearly. At the same time imports (excluding fuel) dropped 1.6 percent.

Nine of the top ten product categories saw an increase in exports, ranging from 6.8 to 35.7 percent in the first six months of the year. The only category to experience a fall was beverages and tobacco, which slipped 1.2 percent.

June recorded a significant increase in imports. Excluding fuel products, the value of imports in June stood at 3.38 billion, an increase of 12 percent. With fuel products factored in, imports stood at 4.97 billion, an increase of 27.1 percent.

The total value of imports in the first six months of the year amounted to 26.69 billion, up 4.5 percent. Excluding fuel products, imports were up 8 percent on the same period last year.

Including fuel, the trade deficit jumped 30.9 percent in June 2018 compared to the same month last year. Overall, however, the trade deficit decreased by 9.1 percent to reach 10.52 billion, compared to the 11.58 billion recorded in the first half of last year.


source:, 8/8/2018

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Mining is Driving the World’s Leading Innovations, Improving Products and the World

What if you could produce a product essential to countless consumer items, without any greenhouse gas emissions at all? Those are the thought going through the minds of innovators at Rio Tinto, which has been active in the aluminum sector for more than 110 years.

Rio Tinto, Alcoa and Apple are partnering to develop a revolutionary carbon-free smelting process to make aluminum, which produces oxygen and replaces all direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional aluminum smelting process. Combined, Rio Tinto, Alcoa, the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and Apple are investing $188 million (CAD).

In announcing the partnership, Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said, “This is a revolutionary smelting process that can deliver a significant reduction in carbon emissions. It builds on the key role aluminum has to play in driving human progress, by making products infinitely recyclable, stronger, lighter and more fuel efficient. Rio Tinto is proud to work with Alcoa, Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec, to drive an innovation that can transform the industry and our customers’ supply chains.”

“This discovery has been a long-sought goal for the aluminum industry, and this announcement is the culmination of the work from many dedicated Alcoa employees. Today, our history of innovation continues as we take aluminum’s sustainable advantage to a new level with the potential to improve the carbon footprint of a range of products from cars to consumer electronics,” added Alcoa President and CEO Roy Harvey.


source:, July 2, 2018

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Russian scientists discover new mineral

An iron meteorite that was found in 2016 in Buryatia, southern Russia, provided the keys for the discovery of a new mineral called ‘uakitite,’ which is associated with sulfides, schreibersite and magnetite.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Ural Federal University, Novosibirsk State University and the Geological Institute at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science.

Given that the fragments found in the meteorite were extremely small, the scientists decided to obtain data on its crystal structure by using electron diffraction instead of a traditional X-ray analysis.

They found that temperatures of over 1000 degrees centigrade in the meteorite formed troilite-daubreelite associations, one of whose early minerals is uakitite. “It forms isometric (cubic) crystals (in daubreelite) or rounded grains (in schreibersite). The size of uakitite grains is usually less than 5 μm,” reads an abstract presented by the researchers at the 81st Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society.

Structurally, the new mineral is related to carlsbergite CrN and osbornite TiN.

The physical properties of uakitite were difficult to assess due to the tiny sizes of the grains, however, the researchers state that they know it has a yellow and transparent phase with metallic lustre, Mohs hardness is 9-10, it has a light gray colour with a pinky tint in reflected light and its density is calculated 6.128 g/cm3.


source:, by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud

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