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Researchers create a microscopic game of ‘Pac-Man’

Researchers with the Institute of Micro and Nano Systems Technology in Norway have built a one-millimeter wide recreation of the original Pac-Man maze, all for the lo-fi enjoyment of some microscopic organisms. Rather than 8-bit graphics and pixelated fruit, the researchers built their “game” out of nanostructures that were colorfully lit in the manner of the 1980 arcade classic and then populated with single-celled organisms representing the circular hero. Rather than ghosts, the bad guys here are hungry multicellular creatures out to eat those unsuspecting ciliates.

While there’s no joystick or coin slot, obviously, the three species of microscopic animals are zipping around the maze just fine on their own. And that’s just the point — it was constructed as a way for the researchers to observe the behavioral patterns of the single-cell protozoans and their multi-cellular predators. While the Pac-Man board is obviously far from a natural habitat for these creatures, the walls and channels actually much more similar to real world conditions than an empty and sterile petri dish. With a single cell Pac-Man already happening, what we need next is a controllable nanocar version of Pole Position.

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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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