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Oxford University’s current 130-Nm electric wheel motor. Oxford has set a of goal peak torque of 500 Nm (368 lb-ft) from a single 25-kg future-generation electric motor.

A rendering of micro-scopic carbon “nanorods” with infused sulfur, which make for a good lithium-sulfur battery cathode.

MIT materials scientist Christopher Schuh stands next to a truck bumper coated with a new nickel-tungsten alloy that aims to replace chrome plating. Technology startup Xtalic coated the bumpers of several trucks in a fleet to test the material and process.

Re: Research items

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Testing Oxford’s EV motors
Oxford University’s electric wheel motors are scheduled to undergo a series of road tests later this year. The trials will indicate whether the motors have the stuff to power a concept four-seat, plug-in coupe—the ULEnV (Ultra Low Energy Vehicle)—that UK-based Delta Motorsport (www.delta-motorsport.com) plans to enter in the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, a contest to develop a production-ready 100 mpg vehicle. Oxford’s 13-kg (28-lb.) electric motor ramps up 130 Nm (95 lb. ft) of torque, reaching peak power of nearly 50 kW.

The motor was adapted from the mule Oxford developed for the retro (at least in styling) Morgan LifeCar, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell concept shown at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. Since then, Oxford has gathered more funding to focus the motor on high-performance electric vehicles.

“We’ve optimized the materials and design so that the motor is lighter and more effective, giving half the volume and twice the torque

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Lithium (Sulfur) Battery
The lithium-sulfur battery may be nearing prime time. Scientists at the University of Waterloo (Canada) say their composite material could set the stage for a lithium-sulfur battery capable of storing and delivering more than three times the power of the more celebrated lithium-ion battery.

What’s held back the cheaper sulfur-based battery, say the researchers, was the inability to keep the electrically active sulfur in close contact with a carbon conductor. The researchers tried out mesoporous carbon, a material that has 3- to 4-nanometer sized channels. When they melted the sulfur and poured it into the channels, it solidified into nanofibers. The resulting carbon-sulfur composite was used as the cathode, which served as the positive electrode of the test battery, which at least theoretically, could reach energy density of 2,600 watt hours per kg.

“I think that automotive applications for this technology could be viable in the future, especially with improvements to the material that we are currently working on,” says Waterloo Professor Linda Nazar who led the research, published in the online issue of Nature Materials.

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How MIT Rolls: Greener, Cheaper, Chrome-ish
The economic meltdown did the same to the aftermarket chrome rims industry. But they may spin again with the less pricey nickel-tungsten alloy, for which MIT scientists devised a cleaner, cheaper and more durable plating process.

Christopher Schuh, MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering, says just like chrome, nickel-tungsten can be electroplated, but in a far more efficient way. The plating technique builds off the original process from the 19th century, but uses repeated current pulses, which allows the material to be applied in multiple layers in a single step. The details of the chemistry are secret, as startup firm Xtalic Corp. of Marlborough, MA, is commercializing it. Thus far, they’ve coated a variety of substrates, including steels, brass, bronze, copper, aluminum and some plastics. Early durability tests show the material exceeding that of chrome.

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