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Curiosity’s sweeping Mars panorama shows how far it’s come

After over five years on Mars, the Curiosity rover has done a lot of science and taken a few knocks. While trekking up Mount Sharp recently, however, it paused at Vera Rubin Ridge during a rare period of clear weather. There, it used its mast camera to snap 16 images that NASA assembled into a magnificent, ultra-wide-screen panorama (and video, below) that shows its entire trip to date.

The images were taken on October 25th, 2017 during the 1,856th “sol,” or Martian day, when it was clear enough to see mountains some 50 miles distant. NASA notes that the image “has been white-balanced so the colors of the rock materials resemble how they would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.”

NASA annotated Curiosity’s entire trip showing how it went from its initial landing site to Yellowknife Bay, then on to Darwin, Cooperstown and the Kimberly. From there, it hit Namid Dune, ducked and weaved through Murray Buttes, checked out Ireson Hill, crossed the Bagnold Dunes and landed at Vera Rubin Ridge. The image background shows mountains that form Gale Crater’s ridge, and the foreground lower portions of Mount Sharp, which sits in the middle of the 96-mile wide crater.

The rover had used its nuclear-powered motor to climb 1,073 feet when it took the shot on the northwestern ridge of lower Mount Sharp. It traveled 10.95 miles at that point, which doesn’t seem a lot, but the vista shows the obstacles it had to deal with. Next up, the rover will continue its climb up Mount Sharp, checking out regions showing the presence of clay and sulfates. Both of those materials have the potential to harbor micro-organisms.

Source: NASA

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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