Monthly Archives: September 2016

A new carbon composite

This composite can be viewed as a substitute to assembling two separate components that could aid electric vehicles by constructing bodywork which stocks power too, thus saving up on space as well as weight.

‘Multifunctional structural energy materials hold great promise in enabling more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly technologies, as they will make a considerable difference in terms of how we store and deliver energy in the future,’ says Guihua Yu, an energy storage specialist at the University of Texas in Austin, US.

Milo Shaffer of Imperial College of London, UK, is of the idea that carbon based materials are the base of various structural composites as well as electrochemical devices. He created a material that combined the strength and stiffness of structural carbon fibers and the ionic conductivity of activated carbon.

A crucial part of the study revolved around increasing the surface area of structural carbon fibers for usage as supercapacitor electrodes. The surface area and specific capacitance could be increased by three orders of magnitude formation of highly porous carbon aerogel around the fibers and this provided added benefits to its mechanical properties.

Shaffer confirms that the main challenge of the study arrived in the form of multifunctional electrolyte which needs to combine mechanical properties with ionic conductivity – two essentially inverse concepts. A balance in the performance levels was achieved by coming up with a bicontinuous structure consisting of an epoxy resin for its mechanical properties and an ionic liquid for purpose of ionic conduction.

The composites have a laminated nature and this helps energy storage devices like for instance lithium ion batteries, and the like. The question remains – ‘Why a supercapacitor then?’ Batteries have a lot of issues with volume expansion and therefore it is a tad bit difficult to make these devices well structured. Shaffer explains, ‘which is why we found supercapacitors interesting; you can have a useful energy function but don’t necessarily have any volume change.’

There is something else that needs a mention too: the power density of the material – which happens to be lower than the current technologically advanced supercapacitors. Nevertheless, Shaffer is conscious of the shortcomings of the material and the development of such a system is no easy task.

Defuse Hackers

Technology can often have its own disadvantages: vulnerability to cyber threats and of course hackers is definitely one of them. This has begun to apply to car technologies as well. Vehicle security is crucial and car companies want to ensure that hackers are kept away from their customers.

Tesla Motors in this respect has begun hiring the best hackers in the industry who will be outperforming ones who are not the best hackers in the respective industry. This means that hackers not related to the automotive industry, will not be able to crack codes easily, anymore. The recent programming conference attended by the company (Def Con security conference) in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA was in line with its hacker recruit. Kristin Page, Tesla’s security expert, recruited the automotive industry’s best talent. He was inclined to employ binary code-adroit tech experts.

There arises a possible question as to why is Tesla losing its sleep over this?

Two incidents sparked off such aggressive hire.

In the first case, a Model S owner was able to crack into his own car’s systems and access a non-standardized web browser on the car’s large, 17 inch display central screen. Somehow, Tesla was warned of the incident and ended up sending a warning letter to the car owner, regarding suspension of the vehicle’s warranty if such activities persisted. The customer did comply but this definitely raised some issues.

In the second, one of the most bizarre incidents, a Chinese tech conference called SyScan put up a cash prize of $10,000 challenging tech nerds to hack into the Model S’s computer system to take control of some major and significant functions of the car make. In this contest, one group managed to remotely activate the car’s headlights, horn, and sunroof. Needless to mention , that Tesla was in real anguish. It wanted to secure its electronically dependent vehicles, at the earliest.

Bypassing the computer firewall of the Model S may be more damaging than a non-standardized web browser or let’s say an unruly sunroof. Tesla is a rolling computer that sends updates to the car through the web and this makes it vulnerable to be remotely located, and controlled partially by way of a simple laptop.

Tesla has begun believing in the “know your enemy approach” and is certainly trying to look at preventing hackers from wirelessly taking command on its electronically potent vehicles.

Brings in recession fears

The world is in a pitiful state in the wrap of debts and deflationary forces.


It has been a crucial year for Australia’s once extremely booming car industry. A series of bad news for the Australian car market: last May Ford had announced its decision to shut down all manufacture in Australia, and next in line was General Motors in December to announce the same.


Toyota, will gradually shut down its assembly lines by 2017 emphasizing that the slow death of car manufactures in Australia could be a sign of warning for an impending recession. Toyota revealed that is was heartbroken to initiate a shutdown in the southern state of Victoria while condemning the Australian dollar for its rigidity.


Around 2,500 Toyota workers will lose their jobs. The economic impact however will be much far-fetched than can be imagined at the moment with a huge unemployment rate in the automotive supply sector and even farther than that. This can completely wipe off AU$21bn (US$19bn) from the national economy, leaving as many as 2000,000 jobs at risk: even sectors from transport, logistics and other business services.


“We are now really starting to experience some of the worst [economic] conditions that other nations such as Britain and parts of Europe have faced,” says associate professor John Spoehr, executive director of the Australian Workplace, Innovation and Social Research Centre at the University of Adelaide.


According to him the states of Victoria and South Australia which are primarily into manufacturing, might be engulfed in recession soon enough.


“This is the death of the car making industry as we know it,” he told the BBC, adding that the impact on the workforce would most definitely be “terribly dislocating as a greater number of people experience long-term unemployment from which they find it difficult to recover”.


“We should have recognised some time ago that the future of assembly manufacture in car making was limited and we should have prepared for this day” – Prof Roy Green UTS Business School .


The Labor party is of the opinion that Australia could now witness the next Great Depression, post the 1930s.The government makes it clear, given the situations, that it is working out a plan to aid workers who might be affected by such recession.


So what can possible happen to the 50,000 people, come 2017?


Research studies, purely academic, suggest that one-third of the total unemployed by this turn of events in the car manufacturing sector, will never work again. However there could be some hope for several others, according to Professor Roy Green, the Dean of the Business School at the University of Technology, Sydney.