Reasearch seeking new energy storage systems and energy production systems continues.  Technology races after raw research, seeking better materials and using them in increasingly smaller and smaller systems will enable computers to work better and longer between charges and create more efficient transportation systems as well as generating energy using less irreplaceable resources.  I always maintain that the best of our culture comes from scientists and engineers just like some of the scariest and deadliest parts of our culture come from the same, often identical, people.  


University of Miami physicist develops battery using new source of energy

Researchers at the University of Miami and at the Universities of Tokyo and Tohoku, Japan, have been able to prove the existence of a “spin battery,” a battery that is “charged” by applying a large magnetic field to nano-magnets in a device called a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ). The new technology is a step towards the creation of computer hard drives with no moving parts, which would be much faster, less expensive and use less energy than current ones. In the future, the new battery could be developed to power cars. The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Nature and is available in an online advance publication of the journal….

“We had anticipated the effect, but the device produced a voltage over a hundred times too big and for tens of minutes, rather than for milliseconds as we had expected,” Barnes said. “That this was counterintuitive is what lead to our theoretical understanding of what was really going on.”


Looking at the diagram provided with this article, we see the uppermost element being used for these batteries is…hang onto your US Eagles: GOLD.  Often, people say, gold has no industrial use.  But obviously, it does.  It so happens, we use cheaper materials because they are cheaper, not because gold can’t be used.


Many years ago, my father actually toyed with the idea of using gold-plated surfaces for energy production in the earliest solar systems.  This was rather amusing because the price of gold was regulated at this time and was a very cheap $36 an ounce.  About a month later, Nixon suddenly shocked everyone when he announced he was cutting the gold/dollar connection entirely and gold was going to be sold on the open markets to any Americans [it was pretty much illegal before then].  


The price of gold shot upwards and my father dropped his plans.  Well, it certainly amuses me to see it coming back in this particular system.  Let’s look at the other components of this proposal:



At the RPI institute, I worked for a while in the computer chip fabrication lab.  I had to deal with the various chemicals because I was in charge of chemical handling protocols.  It is always fun to look at the Periodic Table of Elements when dealing with manufacturing processes for building energy systems.  The various compounds being used to develop this particular battery system are mostly the same which are used when designing computer systems in general.


Periodic Table – Periodic Table of Elements


1.  Gold – Periodic Table

What is Gold?
Gold is gold colored. 
HAHAHA.  It is the most malleable and ductile metal known. There is only one stable isotope of gold, and five radioisotopes of gold, Au-195 being the most stable with a half-life of 186 days. Gold is used as a monetary standard, HAHAHA–once upon a time, that is.  Now, paper performs this function very poorly, I may add, in jewelry, dentistry, electronics. Au-198 is used in treating cancer and some other medical conditions. Gold has been known to exist as far back as 2600 BC. Gold comes from the Anglo-Saxon word gold.  Its symbol, Au, comes from the Latin word aurum, which means gold. Gold is not particularly toxic, however it is known to cause damage to the liver and kidneys in some. 

2,  Manganese – Periodic Table

What is Manganese?
Grey brittle metallic transition element. Rather electropositive, 
This is the important feature, by the way— combines with some non-metals when heated.  This is why it is used with arsenic, for example.  Discovered in 1774 by Scheele. 

3,  Arsenic – Periodic Table

What is Arsenic?
Metalloid element of group 15. There are three allotropes, yellow, black, and grey. Reacts with halogens, concentrated oxidizing acids and hot alkalis. Albertus Magnus is believed to have been the first to isolate the element in 1250. 

4,  Periodic Table – Periodic Table of Elements

What is Aluminum?
Silvery-white lustrous metallic element of group 3 of the periodic table. Highly reactive 
Another important aspect when one is trying to have reactions in a sandwiched system, for example— but protected by a thin transparent layer of the oxide which quickly forms in air. There are many alloys of aluminum, as well as a good number of industrial uses. Makes up 8.1% of the Earth’s crust, by weight. Isolated in 1825 by H.C. Oersted. 


It is very interesting, this tidbit of information.  Aluminum is inside volcanoes, for example.  It is in meteorites.  The history of the formation of matter in the Universe is fully of mysteries.  

Aluminium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Meteoroid fragments, after departure from their parent bodies, are exposed to intense cosmic-ray bombardment during their travel through space, causing substantial 26Al production. After falling to Earth, atmospheric shielding protects the meteorite fragments from further 26Al production, and its decay can then be used to determine the meteorite’s terrestrial age. Meteorite research has also shown that 26Al was relatively abundant at the time of formation of our planetary system. Most meteoriticists believe that the energy released by the decay of 26Al was responsible for the melting and differentiation of some asteroids after their formation 4.55 billion years ago.


Gold is formed in the vast explosions of giant supernova stars, for example. Cosmic rays are produced by supernova explosions. So gold and aluminum both are the byproduct of supernova blasts, one is the result of the actual event and the other is from the effects of the explosion hitting something else.

Perhaps much of the earth’s elements were due to a massive supernova/exploding black hole event over 5 billion years ago. If this is true, then all of our neighboring planets and perhaps, a number of moons, are likewise. The gravity pools of the gas giants makes tapping their mineral resources nearly impossible. But this is not a problem with asteroids nor the various moons. Right now, it is easier and cheaper to exploit these resources here on earth.

One of the early plans of the L-5 space colonization movement was to use lunar resources to build space systems since things would be easy to ‘drop’ from the moon into the earth’s gravity pool and then capture it part way down at an Lagrange orbit and use it for manufacturing space colonies.


 Feldspars, the most common group of minerals in the Earth’s crust, are aluminosilicates. Native aluminium metal can be found as a minor phase in low oxygen fugacity environments, such as the interiors of certain volcanoes.[8] It also occurs in the minerals beryl,cryolitegarnetspinel and turquoise.[7] Impurities in Al2O3, such as chromium or cobalt yield the gemstones ruby and sapphire, respectively. Pure Al2O3, known as Corundum, is one of the hardest materials known.


Garnets are easily found in the dry riverbeds of Arizona. Even sifting through the sand in our school playground could reveal garnets. There was one stream next to Kitt Peak that had so many garnets, we called it ‘Garnet Wash’. There was also turquoise lying about Arizona which is why the natives used so much of that beautiful azure stone for jewelry.


Although aluminium is an extremely common and widespread element, the common aluminium minerals are not economic sources of the metal. Almost all metallic aluminium is produced from the ore bauxite (AlOx(OH)3-2x)…..


Although aluminium is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth’s crust (believed to be 7.5 to 8.1 percent), it is rare in its free form, occurring in oxygen-deficient environments such as volcanic mud, and it was once considered a precious metal more valuable than gold. The Washington Monument was completed, with the 100 ounce (2.8 kg) aluminium capstone being put in place on December 6, 1884, in an elaborate dedication ceremony….At that time, aluminium was more expensive than silver, gold, or platinum.


A common theme here is how the value of things change and how they are also connected with many other things which creates or destroys their value. Also, the element of magic is important: all things used to create value are also magical.  Aluminum was hard to ‘find’ and then, extract, so it became valuable.  


Due to its lunar associations, it was doubly magical.  Many cultures put ‘valuable’ materials on domes, towers or other religious sites.  It is actually funny that aluminum became so common, so cheap.  This is because energy for smelting this difficult metal became very easy.  Today, smelters have to be located where energy is cheap, such as Iceland, for example.  For they need electricity to make aluminum.


Indeed, one of the most interesting interfaces between using aluminum to create electrical systems of various sorts is, the need to use immense amounts of electricity in the refining process, itself!  So long as generating electricity is ‘cheap’, making aluminum is easy, too.  But if we fail to create enough electricity, the whole business vanishes, even as there is still raw materials available.  It is most certainly, an artifact of our modern systems.



Gallium – Periodic Table

What is Gallium?
Soft silvery metallic element, belongs to group 13 of the periodic table. The two stable isotopes are Ga-69 and Ga-71. Eight radioactive isotopes are known, all having short half-lives. Gallium Arsenide is used as a semiconductor.  
Another way this new ‘battery’ is actually very closely allied with the entire spectrum of computer components and systems.  Corrodes most other metals by diffusing into their lattice. First identified by Francois Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875.

Gallium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elemental gallium does not occur in nature, but as the Ga (III) salt, in trace amounts in bauxite and zinc ores.  In other words, this element is part of the smelting process for creating aluminum.  If we look at the periodic table above, we see that it is directly below aluminum and right next to zinc.   A soft silvery metallic poor metal, elemental gallium is a brittle solid at low temperatures. As it liquifies slightly above room temperature, it will melt in the hand. Its melting point is used as a temperature reference point, and from its discovery in 1875 to the semiconductor era, its primary uses were in high-temperature thermometric applications and in preparation of metal alloys with unusual properties of stability, or ease of melting; some being liquid at room temperature (Ga-In eutectic, 75% Ga, 25% In, mp = 15.5°C)…

gallium metal easily alloys with many metals, and was used in small quantities in the core of the first atomic bomb to help stabilize the plutonium crystal structure.[3]


It is also very interesting that this is part of the systems used to create the equivalent of a supernova-style explosion.  The energy properties of nuclear bombs is connected to our attempts at creating power systems that give us greater and greater energy from smaller and smaller sources.  More about that later.


The battery in this story uses galliumIIIarsenide,  a very toxic material.  Arsenic is found in nature and leeches into water systems and is, in large quantities, deadly to humans.


Arsenic – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The word arsenic is borrowed from the Persian word زرنيخ Zarnikh meaning “yelloworpiment“. Zarnikh was borrowed by Greek as arsenikos, which means masculine or potent. Arsenic has been known and used in Persia and elsewhere since ancient times.[3]As the symptoms of arsenic poisoning were somewhat ill-defined, it was frequently used for murder until the advent of the Marsh test, a sensitive chemical test for its presence. (Another less sensitive but more general test is the Reinsch test.) Due to its use by the ruling class to murder one another and its potency and discreetness, arsenic has been called the Poison of Kings and the King of Poisons.[citation needed]

During the Bronze Age, arsenic was often included in bronze, which made the alloy harder (so-called “arsenical bronze“).


Arsenic can kill us but it is also an important compound going back, over 4,000 years.  Bronze is the first step towards the harder metals which characterize all major civilizations.  Due to the intensive energy needs for creating and shaping steel, it doesn’t come along until a civilization can create enough energy to dig it up and smelt it.  

When I was a child, I used to take a magnet to the dry riverbeds around Kitt Peak and prospect for iron.  It was mixed in with the silicate-based sands just like the garnets which came from aluminum-based rock formations.

Arsenic was also used to make women look pale.  Like modern boxtox injections, a deadly horror is introduced to beautify vain people.  I don’t recommend any of these fiendish ‘beauty aides.’  Best to embrace Life and let Age dignify our faces.



Gallium(III) arsenide – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is a compound of two elements, gallium and arsenic. It is an importantsemiconductor and is used to make devices such as microwave frequency integrated circuits (ie,MMICs), infrared light-emitting diodeslaser diodes and solar cells….

Silicon has three major advantages over GaAs for integrated circuit manufacture. First, silicon is abundant and cheap to process. Si is highly abundant in the Earth’s crust, in the form of silicate minerals. The economy of scale available to the silicon industry has also reduced the adoption of GaAs.

The second major advantage of Si is the existence of silicon dioxide—one of the best insulators. Silicon dioxide can easily be incorporated onto silicon circuits, and such layers are adherent to the underlying Si. GaAs does not form a stable adherent insulating layer.

The third, and perhaps most important, advantage of silicon is that it possesses a much higher hole mobility. This high mobility allows the fabrication of higher-speed P-channel field effect transistors, which are required for CMOS logic. Because they lack a fast CMOS structure, GaAs logic circuits have much higher power consumption, which has made them unable to compete with silicon logic circuits.

Unlike silicon cells, GaAs cells are relatively insensitive to heat. On the other hand, GaAs has an absorptivity so high it requires a cell only a few micrometers thick to absorb sunlight (crystalline silicon requires a layer 100 micrometers or more thick) [6]….


So we don’t forget what this story is about, the energy-storing system proposed by these researchers is being used as a SPACER by a thin layer of this material.  Below the nano particles made from manganese and arsenic is another sandwich layer of the same spacer material, this time, as a MATRIX, I suppose, due to its proximity to the nano particulate matter?


Another important application of GaAs is for high efficiency solar cells. Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is also known as single-crystalline thin filmand are high cost high efficiency solar cells.

In 1970, the first GaAs heterostructure solar cells were created by Zhores Alferov and his team in the USSR.[7][8][9] In the early 1980s, the efficiency of the best GaAs solar cells surpassed that of silicon solar cells, and in the 1990s GaAs solar cells took over from silicon as the cell type most commonly used for Photovoltaic arrays for satellite applications. Later, dual- and triple-junction solar cells based on GaAs withgermanium and indium gallium phosphide layers were developed as the basis of a triple junction solar cell which held a record efficiency of over 32% and can operate also with light as concentrated as 2,000 suns. This kind of solar cell powers the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which are exploring Mars‘ surface. Also many solar cars utilize GaAs in solar arrays….

The toxicological properties of gallium arsenide have not been thoroughly investigated. On one hand, due to its arsenic content, it is considered highly toxic and carcinogenic. On the other hand, the crystal is stable enough that ingested pieces may be passed with negligible absorption by the body. When ground into very fine particles, such as in wafer-polishing processes, the high surface area enables more reaction with water releasing some arsine and/or dissolved arsenic. The environment, health and safety aspects of gallium arsenide sources (such astrimethylgallium and arsine) and industrial hygiene monitoring studies of metalorganic precursors have been reported.[12]. California lists gallium arsenide as a carcinogen[13]


Once again, we see the materials used for the battery system is the same used in energy production systems.  This shouldn’t surprise us.  This is a new application.


Beryllium – Periodic Table

What is Beryllium?
Grey metallic element of group 2 of the periodic table. Is toxic and can cause severe lung diseases and dermatitis. Shows high covalent character. It was isolated independently by F. Wohler and A.A. Bussy in 1828. 

Now, on to magnetic properties of this battery proposal:


GaMnAs – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Although there are a number of different magnetic semiconductors, in the short time since its invention (Ga,Mn)As has become the most popular and widely studied for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is based on the world’s second favourite semiconductorGaAs, and as such is readily compatible with existing semiconductor technologies. Secondly, many dilute magnetic semiconductors (DMSs), such as the majority of those based on II-VI semiconductors, are only paramagnetic.[1] (Ga,Mn)As, on the other hand, is ferromagnetic, and hence exhibits hystereticmagnetisation behaviour. This memory effect is of importance for the creation of persistent devices. A third key feature of (Ga,Mn)As is that not only do the manganese atoms provide a magnetic moment, each also acts as an acceptor, making it a p-type material. The presence ofcarriers allows the material to be used for spin-polarised currents. In contrast, many other ferromagnetic DMSs are strongly insulating[2][3] and so do not possess free carriers. When all these factors are taken together, (Ga,Mn)As appears to be an exceptionally good candidate as a spintronic material.

Below is a study from thee years ago about using these compounds for ‘spin’:


2006 study—-

Fabrication and Characterization of MnAs/GaAs Heterostructures  

for Studies of One-Dimensional Spin Transport 



David Toyli 

Physics, University of Minnesota 


MnAs is an attractive material for use in studies of ferromagnet/semiconductor heterostructures. Its room- temperature ferromagnetic properties and its ease of growth by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) on arsenide semiconductors have motivated its use as a source of spin-polarized electrons in experiments in the field of spintronics [1]. In this work we present results on the fabrication and characterization of MnAs/GaAs nanowires. Freestanding nanowires with diameters down to 75 nm were fabricated and magnetic force microscopy (MFM) studies of nanowires with diameters down to 100 nm were conducted. Future experiments utilizing these nanostructures will provide information on the influence of geometrical confinement on the transport of spin- polarized electrons. Recent experiments on electron spin dynamics in InGaAs lateral channels have demonstrated one-dimensional electron spin dynamics in channels an order of magnitude greater than the electron mean free path [2]. The structures fabricated in this work could be used to do electrical spin transport experiments to further understand the effects of reduced dimensionality on spin- polarized transport in semiconductors.



I just wanted to include this to show how a vast array of researchers and scientists move concepts along various paths. How they all end up being used, eventually, is up to whoever understands previous research and then tries new applications.  The team researching this battery system were quite surprised to see what happened when they introduced energy into it.  The long period of energetic response was not expected but was very exciting.  


This is why they are postulating that this could be a very marvelous energy storage/energy creation complimentary system.  The small size of these ‘battery/energy generation systems is a boon to anything needing energy for computational purposes, the applications are endless and will be thoroughly explored, I’m certain.


Now, for a bit about spintronics:


Graphene Holds Promise For Spintronics

(Feb. 15, 2008) — Graphene is a nanomaterial combining very simple atomic structure with intriguingly complex and largely unexplored physics. Since its first isolation about four years ago researchers suggested a large number of applications for this material in anticipation of future technological revolutions. In particular, graphene is considered as a potential candidate for replacing silicon in future electronic devices….

While spintronics requires magnetic materials, graphene is non-magnetic itself. However, when a single graphene layer is cut properly, e.g. using lithographic techniques widely used in the current semiconductor technology, electron spins are theoretically predicted to align at the edges of graphene. This amazing property of graphene has attracted considerable attention giving rise to new designs of spintronic devices proposed by theoretical researchers. 

However, there is a gap between the theoretical models and the real prototypes of such devices. The problem lies in the fact that such edge spins form a truly one-dimensional system. It is known that one-dimensional systems are very sensitive thermal disorder destroying the perfect arrangement of spins.

This brings us to another recent story about energy from this week:

Lasers to create mini sun in hunt for clean energy – Times Online

Within the next fortnight, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California will fire 192 separate laser beams capable of generating 500 trillion watts – 1,000 times the power of the US national grid – for a fraction of a second. The energy pulse will be concentrated on a tiny pellet of hydrogen in an attempt to mimic the reactions that take place inside the sun….

In France, work has begun on building the £8 billion Iter fusion project, which uses magnetic fields rather than lasers to create the conditions for fusion. However, Iter’s first “burn”, or reaction, is not expected until 2022. A British-led fusion project, the high power laser programme (HiPER), is expected to build a reactor at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire by 2020. The fusion process mimics reactions that take place inside the sun. Unlike nuclear fission reactions – in which atoms are split apart – the fusion process squeezes atoms together under enormous pressures and temperatures until they fuse, releasing huge quantities of energy.

From the day Nixon visited China until today, the Chinese were very interested in laser technology.  Lasers are like anything we use: it is dangerous is mishandled, great if we use it wisely.  There is quite a push to create ‘infinite’ energy. I fear, this quest is like anything that involves the Goddess of Infinity.  


These things tend to drive us insane and lead us into a death-spiral.  We can’t help it.  Give us anything infinite and we will try to see if it can be infinite.  Fusing atoms has its dangers just like splitting atoms.  Stars are dangerous entities, quite frankly.  


Below is a twenty year old laser energy system that tried to do the same general thing as the present scientists are attempting:






An ignition system for internal combustion engines which minimizes or eliminates problems associated with conventional spark ignition arrangements, the ignition system comprises a laser energy generator (9) which is arranged to supply laser energy continously at an energy level less than that needed to initiate combustion with the energy level being spiked in timed sequence and delivered to the combustion chambers (35) of the engine, the system further including optic means (39) for focussing the pulsed laser energy at predetermined points within the combustion chambers whereby the focussed laser energy is sufficient to ignite any combustible charge within the combustion chambers, the pulsed laser energy being delivered through a purging chamber (12) to the respective combustion chambers with a purging gas being continuously supplied to the purging chamber (12) to prevent combustion gases flowing towards the laser optic means (39).


SpringerLink – Journal Article


Investigation of laser energy conversion into plasma x-rays in the system Iskra-4

S. A. Belkov1, A. V. Bessarab1, G. V. Dolgoleva1, N. V. Zhidkov1, A. I. Zaretski1, G. A. Kirillov1, G. G. Kochemasov1, A. V. Kunin1, N. N. Rukavishnikov1, N. A. Suslov1 and S. A. Sukharev1

(1)  All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics, 607200 Arzamas-16, Nizhni Novgorod Region, Russia

Received: 11 March 1992  

Abstract  We present results of experimental and computational investigation of laser plasma emission in the soft x-ray spectrum. Plasma has been produced by irradiating a gold target with subnanosecond pulses at the first and second harmonics of an iodine laser. It has been shown that approximately half of the absorbed laser energy is converted into soft plasma x-rays.

Laser power is one of those things that lead to a sort of madness.  We see it used all the time in sci-fi movies and stories, of course.  It is borderline magical.  Zapping things with light is god-business. X-rays are a byproduct of stellar explosions and the inner workings of stars.  As we grapple with the raw materials of interstellar destruction, we have to remind ourselves of how dangerous this all is.  Just to keep perspective.  Here is a classic example:


American Chronicle | DARPA orders ‘fridge-sized’ laser energy cannon

American weaponry researchers have awarded a $21m contract for the design and development of a 150-kilowatt energy weapon, high-powered enough to blast missiles out of the sky yet light enough to be carried by a jet fighter.   The cash-in the newly-inked deal goes to Textron Defence Systems, who will in return “fabricate and test a Unit Cell Module for a 150 kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LWS) and develop a critical design for the 150kW LWS”.

The Pentagon immediately thinks of how to use things so they can have Death Stars.  This is why I am always having mixed feelings about technological advances.  Just as I benefit from the wonderful world of modern computers, our very lives are threatened by these same things!  So I am very pleased about the new energy/battery systems and worried about the laser energy proposal.






P.O. BOX 483

BERLIN, NY 12022

Make checks out to ‘Elaine Supkis’





Filed under energy, gold



  2. speedupcomputer007

    Interesting article. Good Read.

  3. Elaine,

    I love your column, have been reading daily for years, keep up the good work.

    Please stay away from the science business, you don’t sound so sage in this domain.


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