World’s First Rechargeable Cement Battery Could One Day Power Cities

The cement batteries have an iron-coated carbon fiber mesh that acts as the anode layer on top of a conductive cement-based mixture sandwiched by a nickel-coated carbon-fiber mesh cathode layer. The team added a small amount of short, electroplated carbon fibers to the cement mix to make it conductive.  

For many years, researchers have pushed for more sustainable building materials, but the Chalmers group started working on futuristic building materials several years ago. 

Research of concrete batteries is rare. The few previous efforts to make cement-based batteries weren’t rechargeable, and the output was meager. 

The batteries from Chalmers have a lower average energy density than commercial batteries, 7 watt-hours per square meter (or 0.8 watt-hours per liter). However, the researchers believe their battery still outperforms previous concepts by more than 10 times.

The applications are many, including powering LEDs, providing 4G connectivity in remote areas, and even supporting infrastructure monitoring systems. For example, they could use solar panels to power sensors used to detect cracking or corrosion.  

The ability to help monitor infrastructure seems particularly timely as a massive crack in the Interstate 40 bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee shut down the major thoroughfare. Luckily, a routine inspection caught the “significant fracture,” but concrete batteries could one-day power sensors on parts of the bridge that are crucial for its integrity.

The proof of concept was still relatively small. The sample size was smaller than the multimeter, so it will take a bit of scale to get it to a 20-story building. 

When it comes to alternative energy, what is one of the biggest arguments? Where are you going to store peak time power to be used during downtimes? The answer could be as simple as a massive battery building created to power our concrete jungles. 

The Swedish Energy Agency funded the research, and the findings were published in the scientific journal Buildings.

Image Credit: iStock

Credit: Thomas Insights

Energy Unleashed by Volcanic Eruptions Deep in Our Oceans Could Power All of the United States

Eruptions from deep-sea volcanoes were long-thought to be relatively uninteresting compared with those on land. While terrestrial volcanoes often produce spectacular eruptions, dispersing volcanic ash into the environment, it was thought that deep marine eruptions only produced slow moving lava flows.

But data gathered by remotely operated vehicles deep in the North East Pacific and analyzed by scientists at the University of Leeds, has revealed a link between the way ash is dispersed during submarine eruptions and the creation of large and powerful columns of heated water rising from the ocean floor, known as megaplumes.

These megaplumes contain hot chemical-rich water and act in the same way as the atmospheric plumes seen from land-based volcanoes, spreading first upwards and then outwards, carrying volcanic ash with them. The size of megaplumes is immense, with the volumes of water equivalent to forty million Olympic-sized swimming pools. They have been detected above various submarine volcanoes but their origin has remained unknown. The results of this new research show that they form rapidly during the eruption of lava.

The research was carried out by Sam Pegler, from the School of Mathematics and David Ferguson, from the School of Earth and Environment and is being published today (April 21, 2021) in the journal Nature Communications.

Together they developed a mathematical model which shows how ash from these submarine eruptions spreads several kilometers from the volcano. They used the ash pattern deposited by a historic submarine eruption to reconstruct its dynamics. This showed that the rate of energy released and required to carry ash to the observed distances is extremely high — equivalent to the power used by the whole of the USA.

David Ferguson said: “The majority of Earth’s volcanic activity occurs underwater, mostly at depths of several kilometers in the deep ocean but, in contrast to terrestrial volcanoes, even detecting that an eruption has occurred on the seafloor is extremely challenging. Consequently, there remains much for scientists to learn about submarine volcanism and its effects on the marine environment.”

The research shows that submarine eruptions cause megaplumes to form but the release of energy is so rapid that it cannot be supplied from the erupted molten lava alone. Instead, the research concludes that submarine volcanic eruptions lead to the rapid emptying of reservoirs of hot fluids within the earth’s crust. As the magma forces its way upwards towards the seafloor, it drives this hot fluid with it.

Story credit: University of Leeds

DOE Investing $128 Million Toward Cutting Solar Costs 60% by 2030

On March 25, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) shared that it has set a new goal of cutting the cost of solar energy by 60% by 2030 and that it is putting $128 million toward lowering costs, improving performance, and accelerating the development of technologies used. 

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm noted that solar is already cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels in many parts of the country. She added that the new funding will help bring more affordable clean energy to the national power grid, create jobs, and put the U.S. on track to accomplish the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of having the U.S. powered by 100% clean energy by 2035.

The new solar energy cost reduction target is 5 years earlier than the DOE’s previous goal. Currently, the average U.S. solar kilowatt-hour costs 4.6 cents, and the 60% reduction goal would bring that cost down to 3 cents/kWh by 2025 and 2 cents/kWh by 2030.

The DOE said that by 2035, traditional solar panels could provide between 30% and 50% of the U.S. electricity supply. The new funding will support innovative advancements in perovskites and cadmium telluride — two key materials used to produce solar cells. 

Here’s a breakdown of where that $128 million in funding will go:

  • $40 million will be devoted to advancing perovskite research and development
  • $20 million will support the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in advancing cheaper cadmium telluride thin-film solar technologies
  • $3 million will form the Perovskite Startup Prize — a new competition aimed to speed entrepreneurs’ path to commercializing perovskite technologies
  • $33 million is devoted to the advancement of projects in concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), which captures heat from sunlight and converts it to energy that spins turbines or powers engines
  • $25 million will be utilized to demonstrate a next-generation CSP power plant, built by Sandia National Laboratories.

Additionally, the DOE has made $7 million available for projects that would increase the lifespan of silicon-based photovoltaic systems from their current 30 years to 50 years, which would lower the cost of energy and cut down on waste.

Image Credit: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Story credit: Thomas Insights 

AfDB approves €8 million technical assistance grant to support preparation of Ruzizi IV Hydro Power Project in the Great Lakes region

Ruzizi IV is projected to produce 287 MW of electricity and exploit the Ruzizi River’s full hydropower potential

The Board of Directors of African Development Bank Group ( has approved an €8 million grant drawn from the European Union’s Africa Investment Platform (EU-AIP) to support the preparation of the Ruzizi IV Hydropower Project.

The plant will be situated on the Ruzizi River between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and will supply electricity to the DRC, Burundi and Rwanda.

When completed, Ruzizi IV is projected to produce 287 MW of electricity and exploit the Ruzizi River’s full hydropower potential. Two power plants are already in operation: Ruzizi I produces 29.8 MW and Ruzizi II, 43.8 MW; a third, Ruzizi III, with a projected 147 MW output is under development with Bank support.

The project will provide electricity to millions of households, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises and industries, thereby improving the living conditions of the regional population. Greater and more reliable access to electricity will also improve the quality of basic social service delivery including health, education, and improved security.

“The African Development Bank played a major role in structuring and raising financing for Ruzizi III, and the lessons learned will be used to successfully develop and implement Ruzizi IV. The use of renewable and affordable electric power will help to reduce poverty, unemployment, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, as well as stabilise security in the Great Lakes region,” said Batchi Baldeh, the Bank’s Director for Power Systems Development.

The €8 million grant approval follows a $980,000 grant approved end-2018 by the New Partnership for Africa Development’s Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF), which is a multi-donor Special Fund hosted by the Bank, to co-finance this technical assistance.

Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV meets the goal shared by Burundi, DRC and Rwanda to optimise exploitation of their energy resources by integrating electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. The project falls within the overall regional energy market framework being developed by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (NELSAP) and the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP).

Ruzizi IV also aligns with the Bank’s High 5 priority to “Light up and power Africa”, as well as the Bank’s strategy on regional integration, and specifically, development of regional energy infrastructure. 

Bangladesh Receives $185 Million World Bank Financing for Renewable Energy

The government of Bangladesh has signed a $185 million financing agreement with the World Bank to add about 310 MW renewable energy generation capacity, which will contribute to reliable, affordable electricity and cleaner air.

The Scaling-up Renewable Energy Project will focus on utility scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and rooftop PV to expand new markets in renewable energy generation it the country. The project will establish the country’s first large-scale 50MW grid-tied solar PV generation plant in Feni district, implemented by the Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh (EGCB). To fill the gap in the long-term domestic financing market for renewable energy, the project will also support the Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (IDCOL) to manage a Renewable Energy Financing Facility for both rooftop and utility scale solar PV. It will also help Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) identify sites for large-scale projects and promote new net metering policy for rooftop PV.

Since the last decade, the World Bank has helped Bangladesh increase access to electricity in rural areas through renewable energy. Today, Bangladesh has one of the world’s largest domestic solar power program that serves about one-tenth of the country’s population,” said Dandan Chen, Acting Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “Now, we are going one step further to help Bangladesh expand renewable energy generation on a larger scale. With strong collaboration between the public and private sector, we hope the project will help meet the growing energy demands of the population.”

The project will help unlock private investment and will aim to raise up to $212 million in financing from the private sector, commercial banks, and other sources.

“The project will be important for Bangladesh to tap into its potential for renewable energy generation. Further, it will help reduce a substantive amount of CO2 emissions per year, which is in line with the country’s nationally determined contribution to the Paris climate agreement,” said Monowar Ahmed, Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Government of Bangladesh.

The $185 million credit also includes a $26.38 million loan and a $2.87 million grant from the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF) of the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds (CIFs). The credit from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), has a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period, and an interest rate of 1.25 percent with a service charge of 0.75 percent. The SCF loan has a maturity of 40 years, including a grace period of 10 years with a service charge of 0.1%.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then the World Bank has committed more than $30 billion in grants, interest-free and concessional credits to Bangladesh.With this project, the Bank’s ongoing support in the energy sector totals close to $2.4 billion, covering generation, transmission, and distribution, including renewable energy.

Mini Grids for Half a Billion People: Market Outlook and Handbook for Decision Makers

Mini Grids for Half a Billion People: Market Outlook and Handbook for Decision Makers is the most comprehensive study on mini grids to date. It provides policy makers, investors and developers with insights on how mini grids can be scaled up.

A solar Power house at WAYO ATINGAGORME in Ghana providing inhabitants of the Island. Photo: John Deyegbe/Resolution Ltd

The report also takes stock of the global mini grid market and industry, analyses costs and technological innovations and shows the importance of micro-finance and income-generating uses of electricity.

Over the past decade, mini grid costs have declined significantly, while the quality of service has increased. The per kWh cost of mini grid electricity is expected to decrease by two thirds by 2030.

Reaching the remaining unserved population, including those connected to frail and overburdened urban grids, or living in remote areas and fragile and conflict environments, will require strong policies, increased private financing andcomprehensive approaches to national electrification planning – which consists of main grid extensions, mini grids, and off-grid solar systems.

Estimates show that to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, 40 percent of all installed capacity will have to come from mini grids. At present the total mini grid investment in countries with low levels of electricity access in Africa and Asia totals $5 billion.

In addition to being cost-efficient, mini grids have many other benefits. They have positive environmental impacts: 210,000 mini grids powered by solar energy would help avoid 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions globally.

They also offer national utilities a win-win solution in the electricity sector by paving the way for more financially viable future grid expansion. By the time the main grid arrives, significant demand for electricity would already exist and customers would have greater ability to pay through the generation of productive uses made possible by mini grids.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Spotlight on Bonthe

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

The eroding sea-face wall is a concern for the people of Bonthe

In January 2015, during the Ebola outbreak, I arrived in Bonthe Sherbro Island, Southern Sierra Leone, leading a team of young reporters covering districts that were recording 42 days without any Ebola case. Bonthe District was the only district that did not record a single Ebola case throughout the deadly outbreak. But the once powerful Island was suffering from a much more severe man-made disease relating to political neglect, rejection and dejection. The frustration of the almost 10,000 inhabitants was summed by their exuberant Mayor Layemin Joe Sandi in his call for an ‘urgent Cabinet decision’ to rescue Bonthe District from its predicament (see:

Four years later, I traveled to Bonthe with NGO SEND Sierra Leone to officially launch a project for safe drinking water for 50 remote communities in the Sherbro Islands of Dema and Sittia chiefdoms. Now that there’s a new President of Sierra Leone who happens to hail from Bonthe District, I ask Mayor Sandi what is the mood in the island and what has changed in the essential areas of political administration, education, health, economy, security and sports.


At the moment the District Officer who used to be at the Mattru Jong chiefdom has relocated. We have started interfacing with the different organizations in communities and this is laudable and encouraging.

In terms of hearing our voice and central government hearing our plans, it has changed. Now we go to offices, they listen and attend to us positively; for example, the Ministry of Works and the Sierra Leone Roads Authority. When we take the concern of the sea face wall, in-township road project on the poor way it was done, they have changed the entire concept. They are doing a different work in terms of the topography we have. As I am talking to you know, the sea face wall and in-township road projects are ongoing but the only challenge we have at the moment is the landing of materials because it is a riverine area. This is slowing down the implementation and our fear now is whether they are going to complete the projects on time if this challenge continues.

The Ministry of Social welfare is equally doing well for us in the delivery of services from the Council.

We want to take good advantage of the current political will and fix the issues affecting Bonthe as the District Headquarter Town.


Bonthe is a fine place to promote education. Council has launched the Free Quality Education Program (FQEP) and the support is coming from the government. Books have been distributed to schools but more is yet to be actualized. Schools that are supposed to receive subsidies are getting that but our biggest challenge is that the school buildings are colonial in nature.

But if the scheme is to succeed, then government should pay more attention to teachers and also infrastructure because when a child has a comfortable environment to learn, then he/she will learn faster.

The greatest challenge in the Sherbro Island has been water and the water we are drinking has a lot of salt in it. The water resembles clay. There is no school with WASH facilities not to talk about good toilet. We are advocating to the Ministry to provide us with wells to solve the problem of water.


We have been doing well in the area of health and Council has been collaborating effectively with CUAMM (Doctors with Africa) Sierra Leone because their response in the hospital is great as they have strengthened it with a blood bank, solar lights, funds for fuel and lubricants which complements our efforts and ensure that things are working in the hospital.

They are also providing referral services for pregnant women and that has reduced maternal mortality in the municipality. As a Council, we are ensuring that if the organization is doing all of these, we make sure that food is in the hospital throughout. Also, we have ensured that we provide essential drugs that are not in the hospital free-of-cost for especially pregnant women, children under-five and the aged.

Council is also providing support to the doctors. I was reliably informed that government has been paying housing allowances for doctors but nothing has been working in that direction. Interestingly, Council has been paying for housing for doctors.

Also, we will start providing tea and other incentives for nurses, especially those who are not on salary, who stay late at night with pregnant women so that they will be motivated to do more.

The monthly cleaning introduced by President Maada Bio has made Bonthe one of the cleanest places in the country. Council is engaging 1,100 youths with all of them receiving Le40,000 each. A total of Le44, 000,000 is being injected every first Saturday into the community.

Council has further purchased cleaning tools and motorbikes for monitoring during the cleaning exercise. We ensure the total involvement of all 18 Sectional Heads to add up to the team of Council Staff and Councilors who ably supervise the monthly cleaning exercise. Six million Leones for coordination is used to motivate them and fuel provided for bikes to facilitate the monitoring process.

Additionally, Council and the people of Bonthe Sherbro Island are happy and grateful to the ngo SEND Sierra Leone and their donors for their just-launched project which seeks to ensure our people have clean drinking water and other WASH facilities.


The solar street lights have outlived their usefulness but we have been able to attract 200 modernized street lights, although we actually need more.

Economic opportunities

At the moment, economic activity is very poor which is why we are advocating for us to go into tourism because we believe that we can turn around the economy. Because of the low income earners we have in the district, we have low quality and substandard goods in the market. The fish processing sites we have are still not been utilized. We are working with the Fisheries ministry to ensure that they are fully operationalized.

Honestly, the economy of Bonthe is nothing to write home about and having infrastructure in place is a basic requirement in tourism.

Our sources of revenue are taxes, house rates and market dues but to get the people to honour these obligations is a huge challenge for Council. If we want to implement the law to the letter, then it will be a problem. The population size of Bonthe is almost about 10,000.

We want Dema and Sittia to be part of Bonthe. We are being faced with the actualities of the day and Council should be able to generate its own revenue to sustain it.


In the area of sports, we have been collaborating with SLADEA and their Bread for the World project has constructed a perimeter fence around the football field. It has been there for a while with no one to assist us. We have taken the issue to the Sport ministry and they have pledged to work collaboratively with Council to have a mini stadium with a football field.


We are still deprived in the area of security. The police barracks is still here empty, with no police officers. At the moment, we only have 10 police officers to man the entire municipality and the entire Sherbro islands of Dema and Sittia. We are expecting the police to have their presence everywhere to ensure control of crime.


We have challenges with other institutions but what is stressing the Council so much is staffing. Staffs are sent to us on punishment grounds. We have let the local government service commission know that if they send any staff now on punishment grounds, we will reject them out rightly. We think transfer should be fairly done and staff should not be made aware that they are being transferred to far away Bonthe on punishment grounds as they will not give their best. Every staff in the local council family should be given a fair opportunity to taste of every environment in this country and not special staff for special councils. Some of them who are currently here on punishment come in some time once a week and that undermines the operation of the Council as well as service delivery and writing of reports. We see it as a disservice to the Council and the country as a whole.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association (DEJA-SL).